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In the April 17, 2019 photo, Jennifer Jean sits with her family in the living
room of her home, lit only by camping lantern, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Since the blackouts started Jean’s fl edgeling catering business has cratered,
making it impossible to do basic activities.
Associated Press / Dieu Nalio Chery
Without Venezuela’s oil, Haiti
struggles to keep lights on
By Ralph Thomassaint Joseph
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) —
When her daughter was 4 years old,
Jennifer Jean started a small catering
business in Bourdon, a lower middleclass
district of the Haitian capital.
Starting with the occasional wedding
or corporate meeting, she grew
the business into a venture that earned
her as much as $1,000 a month, enough
to pay bills and send her now-teenage
daughter and her 7-year-old son to a
good private school.
Then the blackouts started, making
it impossible to do basic activities.
Without refrigeration, she now has to
buy ice on the street to keep her prepared
“Back in the day you were able to
take your car out any time of night, 1
am or 2 am,’’ said Jean, who is thinking
of migrating to the United States. “Now
all the streets are dark. You just don’t
know what you are going to run into.”
Through the Venezuelan aid program
known as Petrocaribe, Haiti once
received roughly 60,000 barrels of oil
a day under favorable terms that beat
anything on the open market. More
than half the costs of the oil, which
came at a heavily discounted price, were
repayable over 25 years at a 1% interest
rate, allowing the government to supposedly
use the windfall for economic
development. In exchange, Haiti reliably
backed Venezuela against the United
States in regional forums such as the
Organization of American States.
But as President Nicolas Maduro’s
government has struggled with plunging
petroleum production and a cratering
economy, Venezuela has stopped
sending billions in subsidized oil to
countries throughout Central America
and the Caribbean, including Haiti,
where the end of cheap oil has meant a
sharp reduction in power.
Meanwhile, Haiti’s Bureau of Monetization
of Development Aid Programs,
or BMPAD, quickly ran into its own difficulties.
After starting to buy oil on the
global market, the bureau said this year
that it had run out of operating funds
and stopped regularly delivering fuel
needed by power station operators to
keep the lights on.
Now, much of Haiti’s population
enjoys electricity for just three hours
Nighttime activity has ground to a
halt as armed robbers hold up street
merchants or break into people’s homes
in darkness. Gas stations have gone
empty for days, making it nearly impossible
for many Haitians to get to work,
run errands or take their kids to school.
Hospitals are forced to rely on backup
“We can’t find gas for our vehicles.
Our clients can’t come to us. Sales are
down in every sector,” said businessman
Reginald Boulos, whose investment
group runs major supermarkets
and car dealerships.
The fuel crisis is helping push Haiti’s
economy dangerously close to recession.
GDP growth in 2018 was 1.5 percent —
less than half what the government
expected. Economists say this year will
likely be the same. Annual inflation has
also reached an estimated 17%, while
a gallon of gasoline sells on the black
market for between $6 and $12.
Fuel distributors are reimbursed by
the state to the tune of about 27 cents
for every subsidized gallon of gasoline
sold to customers. That helps keep
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