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'Swearing by Thunder:' the Haitian Kidnapping Crisis – The Good Men Project

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December 5, 2021 by Leave a Comment
 
The situation in Haiti has become increasingly volatile. Following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and a massive earthquake, which impacted large portions of the southern part of the country and killed thousands, lawlessness is rampant. As if these situations are not difficult enough, the repartition of thousands of Haitian migrants from the United States has added to the chaotic conditions on the ground. All these circumstances have led to the breakdown of law and order. It has emboldened gangs in the country. These organizations have literally terrorized the population through abductions for ransom. The latest episode in this unpredictable drama involves the kidnapping of 16 American citizens and 1 Canadian national.
On October 16th nongovernmental organization workers (NGOs) associated with Christian Aid Ministries were visiting an orphanage in Crois des Bouquets, a northeast suburb of Port-Au Prince. As the bus traveled north to Titanyen, it was hijacked by members of the 400 Mawazo Gang. The kidnappers abducted 14 adults and 3 minors. The majority of the abducted were Americans. One of the abducted group members was a Canadian national. The NGO is based in Ohio. Most of the kidnapped are from Amish, Mennonite, and conservative Anabaptist communities in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada. The gang has demanded 17 million for the release of the hostages. It has also released a video in the Wilson Joseph, the gang’s leader  threatened Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the head of Haiti’s National Police Ariel Henry. In the video, Joseph said: “I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans.”
The deterioration of Haitian society is evident in the proliferation in kidnappings. More than 628 kidnappings have taken place since January 1st. 221 abductions have occurred in recent months. According to UNICEF, more than 71 women and 30 children have been abducted in the first eight months of this year.
The kidnappings have drawn international attention. Their repercussions have reverberated throughout Haiti. Protestors have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince. They shut down a neighborhood and called for action regarding domestic unrest and fuel shortages. In addition to kidnappings, gangs in Haiti have also been associated with other activities designed to disrupt the country. They are blamed for blocking gas distribution terminals and hijacking fuel supply trucks. This has led to fuel shortages. Haiti’s major gas supplier Digicel Haiti announced that 150 of its 1500 branches lack diesel fuel.
Haitian workers have also joined the protests. Thousands of workers have taken to the streets. They are  protesting  the declining security posture in the country. The strikes started on Monday and were instigated by local labor unions and other organizations. They have led to the closure of local businesses and schools.
The situation is the country has led to the resignation of Leon Charles, head of the National Police. He has been replaced by Frantz Elbe on Thursday night. The FBI has joined efforts to negotiate the release of the hostages. Early Saturday morning, they made direct contact with the 400 Mawzo gang.
 

This post was previously published on Historian Speaks.
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Filed Under: Featured Content, Social Justice
Stephen G. Hall, PhD is the founder and publisher of Historianspeaks.org. He is a trained Historian and former Section Editor. He specializes in African American intellectual history. He is the author of A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Writing in Nineteenth Century America (UNC Press, 2009). Follow him on Twitter @historianspeaks
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