In recent weeks, two collective kidnappings have been registered in Haiti. After the death of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti has suffered a wave of crimes and kidnappings throughout the country, which have severely affected the local population.
The situation in Haiti is critical. Despite the fact that two hostages were released a few days ago, insecurity terrorizes the country and the Central American region.
Haiti is currently recovering from the political crisis generated by the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, and from an earthquake in August. In addition, the Haitian State does not have the capacity to effectively address these problems and the increased violence. In fact, the Haitian Armed Forces have not been able to control the territory and prevent the proliferation of armed gangs.
The power of the Haitian criminal gangs can be evidenced in situations such as the blocking of the country’s fuel supply. After Moïse’s death, gangs such as G9 and Family blocked Terminal Varreux, the country’s largest oil terminal. This blockade restricted access to fuel across the country to destabilize the government, impact the nation’s electricity grid, and threaten citizens’ lives and wellbeing. The gangs are so powerful that the blockade only ended due to a truce between the G9 and Family and the local government.
Overall, security and public order in Haiti are worrisome. An estimated 165 gang factions operate in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and these gangs have carried out numerous kidnappings in 2021 alone.
The first mass kidnapping occurred on October 16th, when 17 members (12 adults and five children) of a U.S.-based missionary group were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang, which controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area east of Port-au-Prince. According to authorities, the missionaries were kidnapped when en route to visit an orphanage and carry out humanitarian aid. The gang has demanded a $17 million ransom, $1 million per hostage.
In addition, on November 21st 2 of the 17 kidnapped missionaries were released. However, only after FBI agents, Haitian authorities, and the anti-kidnapping unit of the national police negotiated with the kidnappers for more than one month.
The second mass kidnapping occurred on November 23rd, when an armed gang kidnapped 15 passengers from a bus in northwestern Haiti. Authorities have indicated that the gang is asking for a large sum of money to release the hostages, although the exact ransom amount remains unknown.
As of late, the number of kidnappings in Haiti has increased exponentially. So far in 2021, nearly 800 kidnappings have been reported in Haiti. In fact, The Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH) notes that at least 782 kidnappings were reported this year, up until October 16th, compared to 796 cases in all of 2020, without taking into account unregistered cases.
What’s Next for Haiti?
Due to the weak presence and lack of territorial control by the Haitian State, the power of the gangs, the criminal governance in certain areas of the country, the increased crime rate, the difficult economic climate, and mounting social tensions, crimes, such as mass kidnappings, are likely to persist.
Public order and security will only stabilize once security forces, such as the Haitian National Police, are reinforced and improved, allowing them to effectively confront the gangs and regain control of the country. Furthermore, after the death of President Moïse, political power needs to be reorganized to effectively address the ongoing security challenges.
For this reason, the country has experienced events such as the new Haitian cabinet, which will be made up of members of the opposition, the impending delivery of 19 police vehicles and protective equipment to the Haitian police by the United States, and more actions by the armed forces to restore order. These planned actions and events are expected to reduce violent crimes, such as kidnappings, and improve security conditions, throughout Haiti.
Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow
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