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Author Topic: Haiti's Political Crisis Plunges Its Capital Into Chaos  (Read 1259 times)

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Mr E

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patrick jane

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It's a mess for sure.

The last time I went down there was a good amount of this chaos.  I was picked up directly from the airport by an ambulance to offer some semblance of cover for the dangerous trip across Port au Prince to the hospital compound.  We were stopped at a barricade of burning tires and a school bus sideways across the road and there were rocks being thrown at us as we crept along the roadways.  At the roadblock a little man with a big gun came to the driver's window where money was given in exchange for 'safe' passage.  He hopped up onto the running boards and hanging off the side of the ambulance he accompanied us to the next roadblock on the other side of the downtown area, where we paid yet another 'fee.'

Just a few months ago, one of the docs I work with was taken hostage for four days until a ransom was paid.  These kinds of incidents are more and more common these days.  I'm scheduled to go down again in the coming days.
Be careful buddy, I will pray for a safe and smooth trip. God bless you.

patrick jane

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patrick jane

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A Haitian police officer asks a woman to move away from a gate at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Friday.




https://www.npr.org/2021/07/10/1014936971/haiti-asks-for-us-troops-after-president-assassination



Haiti's Interim Leader Is Asking For U.S. Troops To Help With Security






PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's interim government said it asked the U.S. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare for elections in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse's assassination.

Amid the confusion, hundreds of Haitians gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince pleading for a way out of the country. Women carried babies and young men waved passports and ID cards as they cried out, "Refuge!" and "Help!"

"We definitely need assistance and we've asked our international partners for help," Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday. "We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation."

The stunning request for U.S. military support recalled the tumult following Haiti's last presidential assassination, in 1915, when an angry mob dragged President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam out of the French Embassy and beat him to death. In response, President Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines into Haiti, justifying the American military occupation — which lasted nearly two decades — as a way to avert anarchy.

But the Biden administration has so far given no indication it will provide military assistance. For now, it only plans to send FBI officials to help investigate a crime that has plunged Haiti, a country already wracked by gaping poverty and gang violence, into a destabilizing battle for power and constitutional standoff.

On Friday, a group of lawmakers announced they had recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti's dismantled senate, as provisional president in a direct challenge to the interim government's authority. They also recognized as prime minister Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had selected to replace Joseph a day before he was killed but who had not yet taken office or formed a government.

One of those lawmakers, Rosemond Pradel, a former secretary general of Haiti's provisional electoral commission, told the AP that Joseph "is neither qualified nor has the legal right" to lead the country.

Joseph expressed dismay that others would try to take advantage of Moïse's murder for political gain.

"I'm not interested in a power struggle," said Joseph, who assumed leadership with the backing of police and the military. "There's only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that's through elections."

More details emerge of President Jovenel Moïse's assassination
Meanwhile, more details emerged of a killing that increasingly has taken the air of an murky, international conspiracy involving a shootout with gunmen holed up in a foreign embassy, a private security firm operating out of a cavernous warehouse in Miami and a cameo sighting of a Hollywood star.

Among those arrested are two Haitian Americans, including one who worked alongside Sean Penn following the nation's devastating 2010 earthquake. Police have also detained or killed what they described as more than a dozen "mercenaries" who were former members of Colombia's military.

Some of the suspects were seized in a raid on Taiwan's Embassy where they are believed to have sought refuge. National Police Chief Léon Charles said another eight suspects were still at large and being sought.

The attack, which took place at Moïse's home before dawn Wednesday, also seriously wounded his wife, who was flown to Miami for surgery. Joseph said he has spoken to the first lady but out of respect for her mourning has not inquired about the attack.

Colombian officials said the men were recruited by four companies and traveled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic. U.S.-trained Colombian soldiers are heavily sought after by private security firms and mercenary armies in global conflict zones because of their experience in a decades-long war against leftist rebels and powerful drug cartels.

Some of the men had posted on Facebook photos of themselves visiting the presidential palace and other tourist spots in the Dominican Republic, which shares Hispaniola Island with Haiti.

The sister of one of the dead suspects, Duberney Capador, told the AP that she last spoke to her brother late Wednesday — hours after Moïse's murder — when the men, holed up in a home and surrounded, were desperately trying to negotiate their way out of a shootout.

"He told me not to tell our mother, so she wouldn't worry," said Yenny Capador, fighting back tears.

It's not known who masterminded the attack. And numerous questions remain about how the perpetrators were able to penetrate the president's residence posing as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, meeting little resistance from those charged with protecting the president.

Capador said her brother, who retired from the Colombian army in 2019 with the rank of sergeant, was hired by a private security firm with the understanding he would be providing protection for powerful individuals in Haiti.

Capador said she knew almost nothing about the employer but shared a picture of her brother in a uniform emblazoned with the logo of CTU Security — a company based in Doral, a Miami suburb popular with Colombian migrants.

The wife of Francisco Uribe, who was among those arrested, told Colombia's W Radio that CTU offered to pay the men about $2,700 a month — a paltry sum for a dangerous international mission but far more than what most of the men, nonommissioned officers and professional soldiers, earned from their pensions.

Uribe is under investigation in the alleged murder of an unarmed civilian in 2008 who was presented as someone killed in combat, one of thousands of extrajudicial killings that rocked Colombia's U.S.-trained army more than a decade ago.

CTU Security was registered in 2008 and lists as its president Antonio Intriago, who is also affiliated with several other Florida-registered entities, some of them since dissolved, including the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy, the Venezuelan American National Council and Doral Food Corp.

CTU's website lists two addresses, one of which is a gray-colored warehouse that was shuttered Friday with no sign indicating who it belonged to. The other is a small suite under a different company's name in a modern office building a few blocks away. A receptionist at the office said Intriago stops by every few days to collect mail and hold meetings. Intriago, who is Venezuelan, did not return phone calls and an email seeking comment.

"We are the ones who are most interested in clarifying what happened, so that my brother's reputation does not remain like it is," said Capador. "He was a humble, hard-working man. He had honors and decorations."

Besides the Colombians, among those detained by police were two Haitian Americans.

Investigative Judge Clément Noël told Le Nouvelliste that the arrested Americans, James Solages and Joseph Vincent, said the attackers originally planned only to arrest Moïse, not kill him. Noël said Solages and Vincent were acting as translators for the attackers, the newspaper reported Friday.

Solages, 35, described himself as a "certified diplomatic agent," an advocate for children and budding politician on a now-removed website for a charity he started in 2019 in south Florida to assist resident of his home town of Jacmel, on Haiti's southern coast.

He worked briefly as a driver and bodyguard for a relief organization set up by Penn following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed 300,000 Haitians and left tens of thousands homeless. He also lists as past employers the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. His Facebook page, which was also taken down following news of his arrest, features photos of armored military vehicles and a shot of himself standing in front of an American flag.

Calls to the charity and Solages' associates went unanswered. However, a relative in south Florida said Solages doesn't have any military training and doesn't believe he was involved in the killing.

Prime minister says Moïse had earned numerous enemies
Joseph refused to specify who was behind the attack, but said that Moïse had earned numerous enemies while attacking powerful oligarchs who for years profited from overly generous state contracts.

Some of those elite insiders are now the focus of investigators, with authorities asking that presidential candidate and well-known businessman Reginald Boulos and former Senate President Youri Latortue meet with prosecutors next week for questioning. No further details were provided and none of the men have been charged.

Analysts say whoever plotted the brazen attack likely had ties to a criminal underworld that has flourished in recent years as corruption and drug trafficking have become entrenched. The growing power of gangs displaced more than 14,700 people in Haiti last month alone as they torched and ransacked homes in a fight over territory.

"This country has nothing to offer," said 36-year-old Thermidor Joam, one of those thronged outside the U.S. Embassy on Friday. "If the president can be killed with his own security, I have no protection whatsoever if someone wants to kill me."

Prosecutors also want to interrogate members of Moïse's security detail, including the president's security coordinator, Jean Laguel Civil, and Dimitri Hérard, the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace.

"If you are responsible for the president's security, where have you been?," Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude was quoted as telling French-language newspaper Le Nouvelliste. "What did you do to avoid this fate for the president?"

Lori Bolinger

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Major quake in Haiti yesterday...got the news from a missionary who lives in the area and from my Haitian friend who still has relatives in Haiti...they are getting rocked so hard, many prayers for Haiti.
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Lori Bolinger

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As of the AM over 700 confirmed dead and a tropical storm heading their direction...Haiti is just getting beaten to death by all kinds of stuff.
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patrick jane

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https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/haiti-missionaries-kidnapped-cam-gang-1-million-ransom.html








Haiti Negotiates with Gang over $1 Million Ransom for Each Kidnapped Missionary








Christian Aid Ministries requests prayer for 17 captive Christians, including five children ages 15 to 8 months.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Negotiations stretched into a fifth day seeking the return of 17 members of a US-based missionary group kidnapped over the weekend by a violent gang that is demanding $1 million ransom per person.

The group includes five children whose ages range from 8 months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom amount included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

The abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group. It said a Haitian driver was abducted along with the missionaries, bringing the total to 18 people taken by the gang.

The Haitian official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday in a call to a leader of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) shortly after the abduction.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group said, adding that the missionaries—who were returning from visiting an orphanage when they were abducted—worked most recently on a project to help rebuild homes lost in a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti on August 14.




Yesterday, CAM asked for prayer, stating:

Today, we again commit our workers to God’s care. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). Pray that our workers could respond to hatred with Jesus’ love, overcome the spirit of fear with faith, and face violence with a genuine desire to bless their oppressors.

We request prayers for the Haitian and American civil authorities who are working to resolve this situation. We believe the command of the Bible in I Timothy 2:2-3—“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Responding to the recent wave of kidnappings, workers staged a protest strike that shuttered businesses, schools, and public transportation starting Monday. The work stoppage was a new blow to Haiti’s anemic economy. Unions and other groups vowed to continue the shutdown indefinitely.

In a peaceful demonstration Tuesday north of Port-au-Prince, dozens of people walked through the streets of Titanyen demanding the release of the missionaries. Some carried signs that read “Free the Americans” and “No to Kidnapping!” and explained that the missionaries helped pay bills and build roads and schools.

“They do a lot for us,” said Beatrice Jean.

Meanwhile, the country’s fuel shortage worsened, with businesses blaming gangs for blocking roads and gas distribution terminals.

Hundreds of motorcycles zoomed through the streets of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday as the drivers yelled, “If there’s no fuel, we’re going to burn it all down!”

One protest took place near the prime minister’s residence, where police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd demanding fuel.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the FBI was “part of a coordinated US government effort” to free the missionaries. The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince was coordinating with local officials and the hostages’ families.

“We know these groups target US citizens who they assume have the resources and finances to pay ransoms, even if that is not the case,” Psaki said, noting that the government has urged US citizens not to visit Haiti.

It is longstanding US policy not to negotiate with hostage takers, and Psaki declined to discuss details of the operation.

The kidnapping was the largest of its kind reported in recent years. Haitian gangs have grown more brazen as the country tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people.

Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group included six women, six men, and five children. “Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus,” it stated. “Before the kidnapping, their work throughout Haiti included supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable.”

A sign on the door at the organization’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, said it was closed due to the kidnapping situation.

News of the kidnappings spread swiftly in and around Holmes County, Ohio, hub of one of the largest populations of Amish and conservative Mennonites in the United States, said Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in nearby Millersburg, Ohio.

Christian Aid Ministries is supported by conservative Mennonite, Amish, and related groups that are part of the Anabaptist tradition.

The organization was founded in the early 1980s and began working in Haiti later that decade, said Steven Nolt, professor of history and Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The group has year-round mission staff in Haiti and several countries, he said, and it ships religious, school and medical supplies throughout the world.

“We greatly appreciate the prayers of believers around the world, including our many Amish and Mennonite supporters,” said CAM. “The Bible says, ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’ (James 5:16).

It continued:

Join us in prayer that God’s grace would sustain the men, women, and children who are being held hostage. In a world where violence and force are seen as the solution to problems, we believe in God’s call to Christians to “…not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Pray that those being held hostage could find strength to demonstrate God’s love. The kidnappers, like all people, are created in the image of God and can be changed if they turn to Him. While we desire the safe release of our workers, we also desire that the kidnappers be transformed by the love of Jesus, the only true source of peace, joy, and forgiveness.






Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press journalists Matías Delacroix in Port-au-Prince, Matthew Lee in Washington, Peter Smith in Pittsburgh, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Julie Carr Smyth in Berlin, Ohio, contributed to this report. Additional reporting by CT.

patrick jane

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The sign outside Christian Aid Ministries in Titanyen, Haiti, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/haiti-missionaries-kidnapped-christian-aid-ministries-threa.html








Haiti Gang Threatens to Kill Kidnapped Missionaries over Million Dollar Ransoms






Christian Aid Ministries asks for prayer as the families of the 16 Americans and one Canadian detained state, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A US religious organization whose 17 members were kidnapped in Haiti asked supporters on Friday to pray and share stories with the victims’ families of how their faith helped them through difficult times as efforts to recover them entered a sixth day.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries issued the statement a day after a video was released showing the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang threatening to kill those abducted if his demands are not met. Haitian officials have said the gang is seeking $1 million ransom per person, although they said it wasn’t clear if that includes the five children in the group, the youngest being 8 months old.

“You may wonder why our workers chose to live in a difficult and dangerous context, despite the apparent risks,” the organization said. "Before leaving for Haiti, our workers who are now being held hostage expressed a desire to faithfully serve God in Haiti."

The FBI is helping Haitian authorities recover the 16 Americans and one Canadian. A local human rights group said their Haitian driver also was kidnapped.

“Pray that their commitment to God could become even stronger during this difficult experience,” Christian Aid Ministries said.

The video posted on social media shows 400 Mawozo leader Wilson Joseph dressed in a blue suit, carrying a blue hat and wearing a large cross around his neck.

“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,” he said in the video.

He also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Haiti’s national police chief as he spoke in front of the open coffins that apparently held several members of his gang who were recently killed.

“You guys make me cry. I cry water. But I’m going to make you guys cry blood,” he said.




An aerial view of Christian Aid Ministries headquarters in Titanyen, Haiti, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.


At the White House on Friday, US press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped questions about whether the Biden administration would look to halt deportations of Haitians to their home country or consider adding a US military presence on the ground in response to the missionaries’ kidnappings.

“We are working around the clock to bring these people home,” she said. “They are US citizens, and there has been targeting over the course of the last few years of US citizens in Haiti and other countries too … for kidnapping for ransom. That is one of the reasons that the State Department issued the warning they did in August about the risk of kidnapping for ransom.”

Psaki spoke a day after a couple hundred protestors shut down one neighborhood in Haiti’s capital to decry the country’s deepening insecurity and lack of fuel blamed on gangs, with some demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The streets of Port-au-Prince were largely quiet and empty on Friday, although hundreds of supporters of Jimmy Cherizier, leader of “G9 Family and Allies,” a federation of nine gangs, marched through the seaside slum of Cité Soleil.

“We are not involved in kidnapping. We will never be involved in kidnapping,” Cherizier, known as Barbecue, claimed during a speech to supporters.

As they marched, the supporters sang and chanted that G9 is not involved in kidnappings. Some of them were carrying high caliber automatic weapons.

“This is the way they are running the country,” Cherizier, who is implicated in several massacres, said as he pointed to trash lining the streets with his assault weapon.

Amid the worsening insecurity, the prime minister’s office announced late Thursday that Léon Charles had resigned as head of Haiti's National Police and was replaced by Frantz Elbé. The newspaper Le Nouvelliste said Elbé was director of the police departments of the South East and Nippes and previously served as general security coordinator at the National Palace when Jocelerme Privert was provisional president.

“We would like for public peace to be restored, that we return to normal life and that we regain our way to democracy,” Henry said.

Weston Showalter, spokesman for the religious group, has said the families of those kidnapped are from Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist communities in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Ontario, Canada. He read a letter from the families, who weren’t identified by name, in which they said, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped and expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

“Pray for these families,” Showalter said. “They are in a difficult spot.”

The organization later issued a statement saying it would not comment on the video “until those directly involved in obtaining the release of the hostages have determined that comments will not jeopardize the safety and well-being of our staff and family members.”

The gang leader’s death threat added to the already intense concern in and around Holmes County, Ohio, where Christian Aid Ministries is based and which has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Amish, conservative Mennonite, and related groups. Many members of those groups have supported the organization through donations or by volunteering at its warehouse.

“These kinds of things erase some of the boundaries that exist within our circles,” said Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Millersburg.

“Many people in the community feel helpless, but they also realize the power of prayer and the power of our historic theology,” he said, including the Anabaptist belief in nonresistance to violence.

The same day that the missionaries were kidnapped, a gang also abducted a Haiti university professor, according to a statement that Haiti’s ombudsman-like Office of Citizen Protection issued on Tuesday. It also noted that a Haitian pastor abducted earlier this month has not been released despite a ransom being paid.

“The criminals … operate with complete impunity, attacking all members of society,” the organization said.

UNICEF said Thursday that 71 women and 30 children have been kidnapped so far this year — surpassing the 59 women and 37 children abducted in all of last year. “They represent one third of the 455 kidnappings reported this year,” the agency said.

“Nowhere is safe for children in Haiti anymore,” Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement. “Whether on their way to school, at home or even at church, girls and boys are at risk of being kidnapped anywhere, at any time of the day or night.”

Kidnappers in Haiti usually demand “an exorbitant sum of money” as ransom and “quote unreasonably high amounts, knowing that the family of the hostage will negotiate down,” Dieumeme Noelliste, professor of theological ethics at Denver Seminary, told CT, citing local sources. “Ransoms are normally paid.”

He said while hostages have lost their lives in past kidnappings, in recent incidents gangs “seem to elect not to harm their victims, preferring to wait until a settlement is reached with the hostage’s family and friends.”

Noelliste, who recently advised CT on how Haitian Christians were impacted by the recent earthquake and assassination, has not heard of a “slowdown in missionary activity and presence in Haiti” following the dual crises. Meanwhile, he said, “Haiti has been reeling under this gang violence and the kidnapping problem for months now.

“They have posed violent acts and mayhem even to churches all over the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Just a couple of weeks ago, they attacked the iconic first Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince which is located a stone’s throw from the presidential palace, killing one of its deacons and taking his wife hostage,” he told CT. “I serve on the board of one of the leading seminaries in Haiti. The gangs have forced the school to flee its 70-year-old campus. They have been occupying it for months.

“But none of this made the news here [in the US]. This week’s attack makes the news because it is perpetrated against US citizens,” he said. “My hope is that this incident will result in the tackling of a problem that has caused so much suffering to the already stressed Haitian people.”

“The kidnapping of 17 Christian volunteers is a high-profile story,” Edner Jeanty, executive director of the Barnabas Christian Leadership Center, told CT. “It is unfortunate that it is also presented as the kidnapping of American citizens, as if American Christian lives mattered more than lives of Haitian Christians or the life of any human being created in the image of God.”

Noelliste also noted the lack of a “prophetic voice” in Haiti.

“The church, by and large, thought that as long as it had the ‘freedom’ to preach a truncated gospel, it could remain quiet from the political domain,” he told CT. “Yes, it did a lot of work in social services, and this did much good. But the so-called apolitical stance allowed injustice and corruption to permeate the structures, the institutions, and the social systems of the country unchecked.

“Now not even what the church thought it had under wrap—the freedom to operate unrestrained in the spiritual domain—is guaranteed. Christians are afraid to go to church because they fear for their lives.”

Associated Press writers Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aamer Madhani in Washington, D.C., Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, and Peter Smith in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

 

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