Haitian gangs kidnapped 17 US Christian missionaries and their family members, including women and children, in the capital Port-au-Prince this Saturday (16), according to the American newspaper The New York Times.
Haitian authorities said the missionaries were kidnapped as they left an orphanage. They were going by bus to drop off part of the group at the capital’s airport before heading to other parts of the country.
Kidnappings have become a common tool for criminal groups to raise money in recent years in Haiti, but Saturday’s act, against such a large group of Americans at once, drew attention for its boldness, according to officials heard by the newspaper.
The violence has spread through the capital Port-au-Prince, which already has half the city controlled by gangs, according to estimates. Last Monday (11), gangs shot at a school bus and injured five people, including students. On the same day, another bus was hijacked in the city.
Two recent events have heightened tensions in a country already traumatized by its turbulent history. In July, President Jovele Moïse, under whom allegations of authoritarian escalation fell, was murdered at home by a group of mercenaries — 48 people, including 18 Colombians and 2 Americans of Haitian origin, were arrested. The episode sparked protests, with shortages of supplies and cases of street violence.
The country’s attorney general, Bed-Ford Claude, added the prime minister, Ariel Henry, to the list of suspects. According to Claude, phone records indicated that the prime minister had communicated at least twice with Joseph Badio, one of the main suspects of involvement in Moise’s murder, on the night of the crime. In response, Henry removed the prosecutor from office and accused the authorities of carrying out “distraction maneuvers to create confusion and prevent justice from doing its job calmly.” The general elections, initially scheduled for September, have been postponed to the end of 2022.
In addition to the assassination of the president, Haiti saw its social situation worsen after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead and nearly 400 injured on 14 August. The earthquake, which hit the southwestern part of the country with greater intensity, also shook urban infrastructure. More than 130 thousand homes had their structure compromised. As a result, the country has become a symbol of the migration crisis on the US-Mexico border, with thousands of Haitians seeking refuge.