Some want a commission examining Haiti’s endemic corruption. Others want a plan on how to feed people in a nation where many go hungry. Then there are the pressing issues of joblessness and education, earthquake-battered infrastructure and women’s rights.
As political mayhem continued to buffet Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, a group of Haitian activists said it was daring to dream the seemingly impossible: an ambitious plan to rebuild the ravaged country from the ground up.
“This is a horrible trauma. It makes us feel smaller and more vulnerable,” said Magali Comeau-Denis, speaking to a large group of journalists gathered in the back of a restaurant in Pétion-Ville, an upscale suburb of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, on Tuesday.
An outspoken businesswoman and restaurant owner, she spoke on behalf of a group of more than 100 civil society organizations, among them human rights groups, religious groups, the bar association, feminists, artists and farming collectives.
They had been meeting for four months, before Mr. Moïse was shot to death last week at the foot of his bed. They were grappling with challenges that have now become even more daunting. Now, members of the group say they hope the killing of the president will serve as a long-overdue catalyst for change.
While they are still hammering out their plans, Ms. Comeau-Denis was emphatic about one thing: less fighting and more collaboration. As their country is ensnared by a power struggle to run Haiti, she said her group was determined for the people of Haiti not to be forgotten. “Together, we can become a force,” she said.
Among the group’s biggest concerns is corruption, and members said they wanted an inquiry into how foreign aid had been squandered in Haiti. Three damning reports by the country’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes revealed in lengthy detail that much of the $2 billion lent to Haiti as part of a Venezuela-sponsored oil program, PetroCaribe, had been embezzled or wasted over eight years by a succession of Haitian governments.
The call by Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, for the United States to send troops to Haiti to help stabilize the country has drawn loud criticism from the civil society leaders, who do not want foreign forces to step in. The issue of foreign intervention is especially sensitive in a former slave colony that has suffered historically under the repression of colonial powers like France. The United States has sent troops into Haiti several times, and occupied the country from 1915 to 1934.
“We have racist whites who want to impose their own solution,” said Josué Mérilien, an activist who fights for better conditions on behalf of teachers.