the essential The fragile Haitian government was facing a new crisis on Sunday after the kidnapping the day before by a gang near Port-au-Prince of seventeen missionaries and members of their families, sixteen US nationals and one Canadian, their religious organization said.
In a desperate message to a WhatsApp group at the time of the events, the message said, according to the daily, one of the 17 called for ‘help, according to the Washington Post, citing someone familiar with the details of the case.
On Saturday, sixteen Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped while traveling east of the capital, where armed gangs proliferate taking advantage of a security vacuum and a political crisis made worse by the July assassination of President Jovenel Moses.
According to a Haitian security source, the gang called “400 mawozo” hijacked several vehicles traveling on highways they control, kidnapping American and Canadian citizens as well. than an as yet undetermined number of Haitians.
Police “unable” to confront gangs
“The police are unable to confront the gangs which are organizing themselves more and controlling more and more territories, in the metropolitan area (of Port-au-Prince) but also in the provincial towns”, lamented Gédéon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights.
“Nature abhors a vacuum, so gangs take advantage of it to strengthen themselves”, he added, explaining the proliferation of gangs by “the absence of the State”. Asked by AFP, the Haitian police did not wish to react.
The religious organization of which the kidnapped missionaries are members specifies in its press release that they were returning from a visit to an orphanage when they were abducted with members of their families.
American authorities have so far confined themselves to saying that “the well-being and security of American citizens abroad (was) one of the State Department’s highest priorities.”
“We are aware of this information and have nothing to add at this time,” repeated a State Department spokeswoman on Sunday.
Haiti is classified as a country in the red zone by the United States government which advises its nationals not to go there in particular because of the numerous kidnappings, specifying that “the victims regularly include American citizens.”
Before the kidnappings were committed on Saturday, professional associations and businesses in Port-au-Prince called for an indefinite strike from Monday to protest against the climate of growing insecurity.
In April, ten people including two French religious had been kidnapped 20 days by the gang “231 mawozo “in the same region.
The armed gangs, which for years have controlled the poorest neighborhoods of the Haitian capital, have extended their power over Port-au-Prince and its surroundings where they are increasing the number of villainous kidnappings.
More than 600 cases were identified in the first three quarters of 2021 against 231 at the same period in 2020, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights. Demanding ransoms sometimes exceeding a million dollars, gangs are quick to demand decades of wages from families living below the poverty line.