Group of missionaries from the US and Canada have been kidnapped in Haiti for a month

The kidnapping in Haiti of a group of North American missionaries and their families, 17 people in total, completed a month this Tuesday, a case that highlighted the growing power of armed gangs at a time of great instability in the country.

The group of religious and their families, including five children, was captured on October 16 in the Croix-des-Bouquets area, on the outskirts of Prince Port, when he returned to the Haitian capital after visiting an orphanage.

The missionaries are held hostage by the 400 Mawozo gang, one of dozens of gangs that they have become strong in the slums of Port-au-Prince and that, in this case, they have specialized in collective kidnappings to finance themselves.

The Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) congregation, to which the group belongs, 16 of them Americans and a Canadian, reiterated in the last hours his call to the community to remain patient and continue with the prayers.

"Many people, including CAM administration and government authorities, are working diligently to bring our loved ones home safely."said the organization in a statement posted on the website of the congregation, based in Ohio (USA).

Official silence

Since the kidnapping became known, the silence of the Haitian authorities regarding the case has been total and the only official information has come from Washington and Ottawa.

In his last communication on the case, on November 5, the US Government reported that he has received proof of the life of some hostages.

The White House has said and reiterated that it will not negotiate with the captors, who are asking for a ransom of 17 million dollars, one for each of the kidnapped, although it sent an FBI team to Haiti to handle the case.

The Center for Analysis and Research in Human rights (CARDH), an NGO that has specialized in monitoring kidnapping cases, revealed that the 400 Mawozo are also demanding the release of one of their leaders, who is serving a sentence in the National Penitentiary.

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"The thing is complicated. It appears that 400 Mawozo demands Yonyon’s release in return. It appears that Yonyon is leading the negotiations from prison."CARDH director Gédeon Jean told Efe on Tuesday.

Gunfights with the gang

The moment of greatest uncertainty occurred last Friday, when there was an intense shooting between the Haitian Police and members of 400 Mawozo in the Croix-des-Bouquets area.

The Police did not recognize that the shooting had occurred until this Monday, when the spokesman for the body explained that it was an exchange of shots in a police check, in which he assured that there were numerous injuries in the ranks of the armed gang.

According to local media, one of the gang’s leaders, known as Gaspiyaj, would have been killed, although the authorities have not confirmed or denied this information, nor have they explained if there is any relationship with the kidnapping of the missionaries.

Uncontrolled kidnappings

Indiscriminate kidnappings have become commonplace in Haiti and have skyrocketed especially in recent months, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, which occurred on July 7 and caused great instability in the country.

CARDH has counted 803 kidnappings between January and the end of October, including 54 foreigners from four countries, although according to Gédeon Jean, it is very rare for hostages to spend a month in the hands of kidnappers.

Precisely this Monday, three Dominican truckers were released, who remained in captivity for six weeks in Haiti, without having transcended the circumstances of their release.

According to CARDH, these bailouts are usually resolved by paying a ransom, even in the case of Americans, even if their government refuses to open the wallet. "In practice, it is always the family that pays the ransom"sums up Jean.

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