Nearly three months to the day when an early morning text message alerted me to a presidential assassination, a ping close to midnight on Saturday, Oct. 16th brought more shocking news: the brazen abduction of 16 Americans and 1 Canadian in Port-au-Prince by the gang known as 400 Mawozo.
I’ve heard from many of you concerned about me and Have Faith Haiti, and this brief note confirms that we’re OK. Shocked, but not surprised. And on high alert with additional security — as we have been for some time.
The violent protests that called for the resignation of former Haitian president Jovenel Moïse in 2019 had already begun to frighten away NGOs and service groups; the pandemic only exacerbated resources. Orphanages have been attacked, most recently in April in Croix-des-Bouquets. But it’s not just outsiders: ordinary citizens are kidnapped and held for ransoms that families can ill-afford to pay.
Some of Haiti’s latest tragedies have made the headlines, but countless undocumented crimes are just part of daily life.
Last year, I wrote about my own encounter with the danger outside our gates:
On a ride from the Toussaint Louverture airport to our orphanage in December, an angry group of protesters, wandering down a major street, spotted our van. Since we were the only thing coming or going on that block, they decided to rush it. A huge rock was thrown at the windshield. In an instant, men were screaming and jumping on the hood and the roof and the grabbing at the doors.
Fortunately, when our mission’s Haitian director jumped from the car and screamed that we were with an orphanage and were only trying to get to our children, the anger subsided, and in time the protesters merely rode on our vehicle as we continued on, past burning tires and closed shops. The men screamed at no one in particular. I think they just wanted their voices heard.
The journey to the airport earlier today was spared harassment. This time.
Top image: A man drives his bike around burning tires ignited following a call for a general strike by several professional associations and businesses to denounce the insecurity in Port-au-Prince on October 18, 2021. A nationwide general strike emptied the streets of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Monday with organisers denouncing the rapidly disintegrating security situation highlighted by the kidnapping of American and Canadian missionaries at the weekend. The kidnapping of 17 adults and children by one of Haiti’s brazen criminal gangs underlined the country’s troubles following the assassination of president Jovenel Mose in July and amid mounting lawlessness in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. (Photo by Richard PIERRIN / AFP)