In a 2019 blog post, an unnamed member of the Ohio-based group described a harrowing escape from a group of men near Port-au-Prince airport.
A man dressed in black stopped the truck while shouting for money, the author wrote. “In a few seconds, there were two of them, then three, over and over. There were countless large weapons coming in both front windows. Someone pulled a knife but there were so many weapons in the way that he could’ have little scratches. Do nothing more than that.”
“We tried to keep going, but they were jumping on the back of the truck, piled on the hood and hung all over the truck,” he wrote, adding that the air smelled of alcohol. The driver “turned the truck over and tried to speed up again, but we hit a big rock that wasn’t visible with all the bodies on the hood. The men tried to cut the tires of the truck, but failed.”
“I don’t even know how we eventually got out, but we escaped without firing a shot. I think some people were quite satisfied with the loot they managed to get, and to fight amongst themselves over it. Took back.” He has written.
More warning signs were to come. According to another post on the same blog, in 2020, the group’s home base in Titanayne, a village north of Port-au-Prince, received threats from a local gang.
“Gangs fighting each other break up quiet nights with rapid gun fire. CAM bases in Haiti have been targeted by local gangs. While demanding money and food, they vandalize CAM vehicles and seriously threaten,” it read.
In the same year, the group’s annual report stated that political unrest had forced American workers out of Haiti for nine months, before returning them.
Members of a family, who were with a young child when they were taken hostage, arrived in Haiti earlier this month.
He has been kept captive for four days.
The hostages of the missionaries have demanded $1 million per hostage, totaling $1.7 million – and have so far stuck to their demands. “The kidnappers are warned about the harm to the hostages and what the consequences may be for them [if that were to happen]. But they are not affected by those warnings,” said Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitl.
The 400 mavozo, which according to a Haitian security source has up to 150 members, is a group notorious for kidnapping and largely controlling the Croix des Bouquets. Five priests and two nuns, including two French nationals, were first abducted in the same area in April and later freed for ransom.
Global attention to the Haitian pandemic
Hundreds of kidnappings have been reported in Haiti since the beginning of the year, but the latest incident involving missionaries from the US and Canada has brought the country’s security crisis into the global spotlight.
And in a city of nearly one million residents, almost everyone has their own grim story to tell, with stories of kidnappings and attacks as rife as the poverty and political instability it inspires.
Chrysner and Marilyn, a married couple from Port-au-Prince, were kidnapped in January – confiscated when they left their local church. When they sat in the kidnappers’ car, with a hood over their heads, they could think of only one thing: you either come back home or you don’t come back at all.
For five sleepless days, the couple waited in a small room where they were given water and food only once a day.
Since January, there have been at least 645 kidnappings, rarely involving foreigners. Of the total kidnappings this year, 42 were by foreigners, and 4 were foreign residents, according to the Port-au-Prince non-profit Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights (CARDH).
Data from global risk consultancy Control Risk found a 550% increase in kidnapping cases in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Port-au-Prince resident Jean Guardi Jean told Granthshala coverage that this week’s abduction of American missionaries speaks volumes about the way the world values Haitian lives.
“The kidnappings have been happening here for so long, then why hasn’t anyone talked about it? Why is the world talking such a big deal about foreigners? It’s because they are more important,” he said.
‘Gangs have become more influential actors’
More than 15,000 people fled their homes in the capital this summer due to mass violence and massive arson. Life in Port-au-Prince is affected by skyrocketing inflation, frequent blackouts, and food and fuel shortages, largely due to gang activity closing major distribution routes.
“Gangs have become more influential actors, putting pressure on the interim government,” said Alan Zamoa, analyst at Control Risks for America. Capital as a result of a gang truce.
On Sunday, the grip of gang activity was laid bare, as Prime Minister Ariel Henri was forced to backtrack on plans to lay a wreath for the leader of the Haitian Revolution, Jean-Jacques Deslain – a national holiday commemorating his death. – During a memorial in Pont Rouge, an area controlled by a coalition of gangs known as the G9.
Zamayoa says several factors are at play.
While “security forces are overwhelmed and unwise,” he said criminals in recent years “have gained access to lethal weapons such as semi-automatic rifles, which are much more powerful than police equipment.”
Zamayo explained that in addition to those factors, “collusion with police agents and politicians, as well as impunity, abounds.”
All of this contributed to the gang’s ability to “exercise territorial control” over areas of the capital, said Nicola White, director of Control Risk.
“They may hold multiple victims at the same time because they don’t have constant, credible pressure to end cases quickly or prudently,” White said. These factors have “enabled a significant increase in kidnappings.”
But the Haitians have had enough. Just before the kidnapping of the missionaries, the Haitian transport union called for an indefinite strike that began on Monday to protest the rise in kidnappings, among other issues.
Credit : www.cnn.com