Haiti's president says he will serve out his term despite rising violence, poor economic performance and months of protests over unresolved allegations of corruption in his predecessor's administration.
President Jovenel Moise pledged in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday to respect the findings of a commission investigating the corruption allegations.
"It takes a lot of courage to stay in power, but I am pledging to you to have the courage to continue moving forward,'' Moise said, saying he would resist pressure to resign.
Moise was named in two reports resulting from a corruption investigation by judicial authorities into the spending of funds from Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan government program that provided subsidized oil to Caribbean nations. Protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent months in demonstrations prompted by the findings of widespread fraud in government contracts awarded to contractors to build roads, buildings and administer social programs.
Moise was described as receiving potentially improper payments as a private contractor to build a road in northern Haiti before he became president.
The audits revealed millions of dollars of aid money siphoned off by contractors for shoddy and substandard work, like an overpass built over busy Delmas avenue that cost more than $30 million, but should have cost around $2 million.
Once revealed, the extent of the corruption sparked widespread protests and street violence, and calls for Moise to step down.
Moise has refused to resign, though he promised to criminally charge anyone found by the audit board to have stolen funds from the government.
"Of course we must know the truth and the truth about this investigation must be released. That is very important. The investigation must reveal the truth so that justice can be served and the guilty jailed. Those who misspent the government's money, they should be arrested and locked up,'' Moise said Wednesday.
The protests, economic downturn and increasing insecurity and gang-related crime have made Moise's political future uncertain despite his determination to stay in power.
Moise said he was not concerned about more allegations of his involvement in potentially improper contracting, saying: "The judicial audit does not involve the executive branch. This is a concern of the judicial branch."
The president insisted that Haiti must move beyond the crisis and let the judicial process play out.
"We must go beyond talking about the survival of the government, because political stability in Haiti is the most important thing for us,'' he said. "If the opposition wants power they must participate in democratic elections and win the vote of the people.''