The abduction of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti drew the world’s attention to the reality of Haiti where gangs have taken over the city.
Foreign media such as The New York Times and The Guardian reported on the 17th (local time) that the criminal organization that kidnapped 17 members of the Christian Aid Ministry in Haiti the day before was ‘400 Mawajo’. Haiti police said the group, which means ‘400 inexperienced men’, has committed crimes such as kidnapping, robbery, and extortion of merchants in the Croix de Bouquet area.
The New York Times reported that ‘400 Mawajo’ was one of the first organizations to commit kidnappings in Haiti. The gang is controlling an area in the suburbs of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where members of a missionary organization have been kidnapped. For months, he has been engaged in armed struggles with rival gangs and terrorism by kidnapping businessmen and police officers. Earlier this year, he was accused of kidnapping five priests and two nuns. There is also a history of shooting a bus, killing a child, and raiding a church. He was also blamed for the murder of famous sculptor Anderson Belloni, who worked to alleviate local poverty.
The Guardian said that there are currently over 90 powerful gangs such as ‘400 Mawajo’ in Haiti, controlling half of Port-au-Prince’s territory. The gang’s activities are estimated to cost Haiti more than $4 billion annually.
Haiti gangs began to flourish in the slums of the 1990s. The gangs have been known for their illegal businesses such as drug trafficking and trafficking, but politicians have used them to expand their influence rather than get rid of them. Local politicians have partnered with criminal gangs to assassinate opponents and mobilize protests, and gangs have become more deeply rooted in society. The Guardian explained that the current armed forces of Haiti gangs are sometimes better than those of the Haitian police.
Since then, violent crime, terrorism, and natural disasters have occurred in Haiti, and the number of criminal organizations has increased rapidly. As the number of gangs increases, it is becoming more common for them to compete with each other or join forces to become bigger. The Guardian pointed out that, as it is no longer possible to increase profits due to smuggling and drug business, the number of criminal organizations reaching out to kidnapping crimes has increased significantly in recent years.
The New York Times reported that Kroydesbuquets, one of the areas controlled by gangs, has turned into a ghost town with many residents fleeing gangs. All street vendors in India were shut down due to gang threats. Churches once considered a safe haven are also being targeted by gangs. Clergy are also becoming victims of kidnapping crimes.
Locals were sick of the gang’s violence that made a living and kept their children out of school, and they complained. “The armed gangs go beyond demanding ransom for kidnapping,” the residents said in the petition. Transporters were also targeted by kidnappings and threatened to strike. There are also speculations that the already unstable economy will falter even more due to the strike by transport companies.
Last week, high-ranking US officials visited Haiti and promised help to strengthen security, but to no avail. In just a few days, 17 members of an American missionary organization were kidnapped. According to a recent report from the Port-au-Prince-based Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, 628 people were kidnapped from January to September this year, including 29 foreigners. The New York Times noted that in the past, Haiti gangs were reluctant to kidnap US citizens for fear of retaliation by the US government, but the gang’s crimes are getting bolder day by day.