SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
The kidnapping of 16 American missionaries and one Canadian in Haiti underlines the power that criminal gangs wield in the country and has many asking where the country is headed. Kidnappings have exploded at an alarming rate amidst the country’s political and economic turmoil. Authorities in Haiti have so far remained silent about this abduction. Meanwhile, a nationwide general strike was called today to protest the growing wave of kidnappings. Yvens Rumbold is the director of communications for Policite, a public policy think tank in Haiti, and joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
YVENS RUMBOLD: Thank you for having me.
MCCAMMON: What is the reaction there in Haiti, first of all, to this latest kidnapping of this group of mostly American missionaries?
RUMBOLD: Well, you know, the kidnapping of both sort of Americans is a shock to all of us the same way, you know, busloads of Haitians have been kidnapped, our rights have been violated for God knows when, especially for the last two years. And, like, every day, we know someone who is being kidnapped. Like, I’m in the (unintelligible) in the southern part of Haiti. And one of my colleagues who is on the field with me – one of her cousins has been kidnapped, like, two days ago. So, yeah, this is a very, very difficult situation for the Haitians and for anyone who is visiting Haiti right now because we don’t know what can happen.
MCCAMMON: When you last spoke with us in July, you told us that you barely were leaving your house because of the deteriorating security situation. A few months later, has that changed at all for you?
RUMBOLD: It’s getting worse, you know, now. The south of Haiti, where I am right now – it’s, like, maybe two hours or three hours by car from Port au Prince. Now, we couldn’t take the car. We were supposed to drive to go to the south, but we had to take a plane because of exactly the situation. And my family, my friends and my colleagues – they are all saying, Yvens, don’t go out. If my friend was kidnapped using my car because – the morning he was kidnapped, he drove me to the airport because I was going to New York. And in the same day at night, he was kidnapped in my car.
MCCAMMON: I’m curious. Living in an environment where this is so commonplace, what do people do when someone’s kidnapped? I mean, it occurs to me that there must be sort of a protocol at this point.
RUMBOLD: Yeah. Unless you have really strong ties to the national police, they’re not going to contact the police. They’re not going to contact the authorities. They’re going to wait for the kidnappers to call the family of the person who was kidnapped. They are afraid that someone in the Haitian police may say to the kidnappers that, you know, we have been contacted by the families. And my friend – they asked for, like, $300,000 to release him. Of course, we didn’t have that money, so we had to negotiate. Like, everybody had to chip in.
MCCAMMON: Do you ever – given all this, do you ever think about leaving the country?
RUMBOLD: Well, you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I think I’m in some sort of denial because I don’t want to go. I can count – from my close friends, almost all of them have left. And those who stayed – they are thinking of leaving. But there is no way that 11, 12 millions of Haitians are going to leave Haiti and then they’re going to be coming in a country. So we need to find a solutions for our problems here. So that’s why I want to be part of the solution. I don’t want to just leave. Not every one of us has the chance to leave.
MCCAMMON: How hopeful are you that this situation can be brought under control? And what do you think it will take?
RUMBOLD: Well, I think it will take a lot of courage from a group of Haitians, not the ones that are actually in power because I don’t think they can solve the situation. So we need, of course, a new police force with us to be able to bring justice. You cannot just decide to erase everything that has happened in Haiti. But we need the police to be vetted. We need the police to be well-trained, and we need more police officers. Of course, you need the political will to do that. And if you don’t have the political will, you won’t be able to solve the situation.
MCCAMMON: That’s Yvens Rumbold with the public policy think tank Policite in Haiti.
Thank you so much for talking with us.
RUMBOLD: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST: