Conflicts & War

Haitian authorities remain silent on kidnapped missionaries

By Maria Montecelos

Port-au-Prince, Oct 23 (EFE).- Saturday marked a week since 17 North American missionaries and their families were kidnapping by one of Haiti’s most feared gangs, yet authorities remain silent on developments in a case that has already led to the resignation of the country’s top cop.

The combination of fear of crime and a worsening fuel shortage left the streets of Port-au-Prince largely empty, while the only information on efforts to free the captives comes from Haitian and foreign media.

The 16 United States citizens and one Canadian abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang are affiliated with Christian Aid Ministries, based in the US state of Ohio.

Gang members intercepted the van carrying the 12 adults and five children as they were returning from a visit to an orphanage in Ganthier, an area on the outskirts of the capital.

Both the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have sent investigators to Haiti to work on the case with local authorities, though the White House insists that Washington will not negotiate with the kidnappers, who are said to be demanding a ransom of $1 million per captive.

The absence of effective institutions has enabled gangs such as 400 Mawozo to terrorize the residents of slums on the fringes of Port-au-Prince.

In June, 19,000 people in neighbors dominated by the gangs fled their homes.

A significant part of Ganthier is effectively under the control of 400 Mawozo, who earlier this year began to target churches and clergy, including a group of 10 people – two of them French nationals – who were kidnapped in April and ultimately freed.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced this week that Leon Charles stepped down as director of the National Police after less than a year in the post.

Apparently, the kidnapping of the Christian Aid missionaries was the final straw for Charles, who had been facing questions since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, brutally slain in his own home despite the presence of a large security detail outside the residence. EFE mmv/dr

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