US Bars Former Haitian PM Lamothe from Entering Country, Citing Corruption

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The US State Department has barred former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe from entering the US over what it said was his “involvement in significant corruption”.

The United States on Friday blocked former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe from entering the US over what it said was his “involvement in significant corruption” involving the alleged misuse of tens of millions of dollars.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who announced the sanctions against Lamothe, said the politician “misappropriated at least $60m from the Haitian government’s PetroCaribe infrastructure investment and social welfare fund for private gain”.

“Through this corrupt act and his direct involvement in the management of the fund, he exploited his role as a public official and contributed to the current instability in Haiti,” Blinken said.

PetroCaribe, a deal with Venezuela intended for Haiti’s rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake, had temporarily provided the Haitian government with cheap fuel. It, however, foundered and became linked to a scandal over the alleged mismanagement of the resulting funds, with claims of corruption sparking massive protests in recent years.

Blinken said the sanction is a part of “a series of actions that promote accountability for those who foment violence, block life-saving humanitarian support, and enrich themselves at the expense of the Haitian people.”

Lamothe, who also served as minister for planning and external cooperation, resigned from his position as prime minister in December 2014 following weeks of violent anti-government protests calling for elections and for him and then-President Michel Martelly to step down.

A close ally of Martelly, Lamothe had been tasked with overseeing Haiti’s recovery following the 2010 earthquake. But he became a target for Martelly’s opposition, who decried the former prime minister who had been in office for just over two years as corrupt.

Canada sanctioned Lamothe last November alongside Martelly and another former prime minister, Jean Henry Ceant, as part of measures targeting alleged backers of armed gangs in the country.

At the time, Lamothe was quoted in Canadian media as saying that Canada was misinformed and he intended to defend himself in court.

Haiti, home to over 11.4 million people, has been besieged by gang violence and political instability. Heavily armed gangs are now thought to control large parts of the Latin American country, displacing tens of thousands amid a worsening humanitarian crisis that the UN said could put 100,000 children at risk of starving to death.