According to Haitian security officials, 17 Christian missionaries from America and their family members, who had children, were abducted by a gang in Port-au-Prince on Saturday.
The details of the abduction remain unclear, but local officials said the missionaries were abducted from a bus heading to the airport to drop off some members of the group before heading to another destination in Haiti.
Haiti has been in political ups and downs for years, and abductions of the rich and the poor are alarmingly common. But even in a country accustomed to widespread lawlessness, the kidnapping of such a large group of Americans has shocked officials for its shamelessness.
Violence is on the rise across the capital, Port-au-Prince. According to some estimates, gangs now control about half of the city. On Monday, gangs opened fire on a school bus in Port-au-Prince, injuring at least five people, including students, while another public bus was also snatched by a gang.
Security has collapsed as the country’s politics has collapsed. Protesters outraged by widespread corruption demanded the ouster of President Jovenal Moss two years ago, which effectively crippled the country. The stalemate prevents patients from being treated in hospitals, prevents children from going to school, prevents workers from going to the rare jobs available, and even cuts off electricity in some parts of the country.
Since then, gangs have become more assertive. They act arbitrarily, kidnap children on their way to school, and are priests in the middle of providing their services.
In July, Mr. The country’s political unrest intensified after the assassination of Moses at his home, a murder that remains unresolved. The few remaining officials in the country soon began fighting for government control and the factionalism continued for months, with officials accusing each other of plotting to assassinate the president.
The abduction comes a day after the UN Security Council extended its mission to Haiti by nine months in a unanimous vote on Friday. Many Haitians have been urging the United States to send troops to stabilize the situation, but the Biden administration is reluctant to boot.
A State Department spokesman had no comment on Saturday night’s abduction in Haiti.
Some parts of the Haitian capital, where the abductions took place, are so dangerous that many residents have fled, leaving the once glittering streets almost abandoned. Many have surrendered near the roads, with some pedestrians getting out during the day.
Gangs have also kidnapped poor street vendors, and when they find nothing in their wallets, gang members sometimes claim that they sell things like radios and refrigerators in their homes. Earlier this year, a class of students gathered to raise money to pay a ransom for fellow students.
Haiti is reeling from one crisis after another this year.
The first was the massive protests that crippled many parts of the capital earlier this year. Haitians, angry that President Jovenal Moss is refusing to resign, took to the streets to demand daily power cuts, a change in the food crisis and corruption.
In July, tenants stormed his home at midnight, killing him and injuring his wife. The killings create a political vacuum that has plagued Haiti for months with unrest and violence threatening to push one of the world’s most troubled countries further into lawlessness.
Accustomed to instability for a long time, the Haitian people have pushed its resilience to the limit. Just a month after the massacre, a powerful earthquake hit the nation. The .2.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the country in 2010 and brought back memories of the quake that killed more than one million people. Haiti has not yet recovered, or the outbreak of cholera brought on by UN peacekeepers.
Chaotic and violent years have increased the trend of kidnappings, which has added more fear to daily life.
Armed gangs have taken more control of the streets, terrorizing poor neighborhoods and forcing thousands to flee, even kidnapping schoolgirls and church pastors in the middle of their services. Poverty and hunger are on the rise, with many citizens accusing government members of enriching themselves and depriving the population of even the most basic services.
These crises have fueled immigration to South America and even the United States, where Haitians seeking asylum have come to the southern border.
Christian churches play a central role in Haitian life. For many Haitians, the only source of help throughout their lives, in the absence of strong government institutions, is the church, a part of Haitian territory from the European colonial era and the era of slavery.
The history of extreme poverty, constitutional party violence, epidemics and ineffective government has exacerbated the struggle of Haiti’s 11 million people.
Those struggles have strengthened the importance of the church as a source of help, education and stability for many in the country, which has no other social security net. French slave owners have made Catholicism the official religion of Haiti and have tolerated it even after the slave revolt and Haiti’s independence, a belief that many Haitians deeply adhere to.
But Haiti, as the world’s first black independent nation, adopted Catholic customs and blended with local customs, creating a unique faith for the nation that many are proud of.
Churches became a major feature of communities across the country, gathering places, praying for shelter, and receiving food and education. These demands have intensified as the once rich Caribbean – which has fallen into poverty in the last 100 years – as a country. U.S. internal intervention, which attacks and supports political coups and dictatorships, deepens the frustration.
Religious charities have played a key role in raising funds for the victims of a devastating earthquake this year. The Catholic Relief Service, for example, has sent teams to Les Kayes, Haiti and surrounding areas to provide clean water, sanitation, shelter and emergency supplies. A major community of Haitian expatriates receive grants for earthquake relief from Catholic charities in Miami Archdiocese.
Kidnappings have long been a disaster in Haiti, where anyone from a vegetable seller to a foreign trader is kidnapped for a ransom of hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
The threat of kidnapping has increased as armed groups have taken more control of the streets, terrorizing poor areas and forcing thousands to flee, even kidnapping schoolgirls and church priests in the middle of their service. Poverty and hunger are on the rise, with many accused members of government accusing the people of enriching themselves without providing even the most basic services.
Haitians have described the threat of abduction as a constant threat that complicates many aspects of daily life, with the risk of acquiring simple tasks such as buying gas or going to the grocery store.
“They can kidnap you at any time; They don’t need to know who you want to kidnap, “said Annette Telemark, a 72-year-old Haitian who now lives in New York. “They kidnap everyone, rich or poor.”
“I was suffering in Haiti because I did not have the least freedom. Whenever I had to go out, I would think of kidnappings, gangs in the streets, ”he added.
Most of the victims are middle class and working people. Their families often end up negotiating with the abductors without going to the police, who have a long history of corruption and who are sometimes involved in their own abductions.
In April, the gang kidnapped five Roman Catholic priests and two nuns.
Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Max Leroy Messier said in a statement at the time, “For some time, we have witnessed Haitian society enter hell.”
Haitians are making dangerous journeys to the southern border of the United States this year due to various crises in the country, including earthquakes, presidential assassinations, floods and factional violence.
In September, thousands of Haitians gathered in a makeshift camp in a Texas border town, witnessing border patrol agents on horseback pushing some of them across the Rio Grande. It criticized Democrats and questioned President Biden’s decision to deport Haitians to the border.
Haitian government officials have protested that they do not have the resources to help those being flown back from the United States. Daniel Foote, a senior U.S. ambassador to Haiti, has resigned over what he called “inhumane” and “contradictory” policies.
Over the past decade, many Haitians have sought refuge abroad, especially after a devastating earthquake in 2010. Some who have traveled to South American countries, including Brazil and Chile, have decided to move to the United States this year. Some said they believed immigration policies had relaxed since the resignation of President Donald J. Trump, particularly Mr. Biden is already in the country after increasing security for Haitians.
But for those who arrived in the Texas border town of Del Rio, where thousands of people had gathered, it became clear that their expectations of a warm reception were wrong.
Nevertheless, many continue on a dangerous journey, crossing the lawless Darian Gap, an expanse of roadless jungle that connects South America to the North. Panamanian officials say an estimated 5,000,000 migrants, most of them from Haiti, tried to cross that dangerous portion in the first nine months of this year.
“Because we take this risk We have children, ”Vladimir Demire, a Haitian immigrant who was crossing the Darian Gap with his family, told the New York Times.