Speed Reads

Dirty business

Haitian gang asks $1 million ransom for each of the 17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries it kidnapped

The gang that kidnapped 16 American and one Canadian Christian missionaries on Saturday wants $17 million in ransom for their return, Haitian official said Tuesday. "The demand was made to the country chief of the Christian Aid Ministries," Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told The New York Times. "Often these gangs know these demands cannot be met," he added, "and they will consider a counteroffer from the families. And the negotiations can take a couple of days sometimes, or a couple of weeks." The FBI is involved in the negotiations. 

Gangs have long been a problem in Haiti, but they have become more powerful, brazen, and ramped up their abduction business since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and the natural disasters that followed the political disaster. 400 Mawozo, "the gang controls the area where the missionaries were abducted in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince," has "sown terror" in the area for several months, and it "accounted for 60 percent of the kidnappings from July to September," the Times reports, citing a local human rights advocate, Gèdèon Jean. The gang has kidnapped priests, nuns, doctors, rich people and poor. 

"Once a relatively small criminal operation that operated in the countryside and trafficked in stolen cars, the gang expand its criminal activities in the chaotic months following the president's assassination," the Times reports, and "by forging alliances with other armed groups, it was able to control an area stretching from the east of Port-au-Prince to the border with the Dominican Republic — a territory so vast that the police are unable to pursue gang members." Gang members carry out their crimes with impunity and often don't even bother to hide their faces or locations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department is working with the FBI, Haitian national police, churches, and other organizations to get the hostages released, but the abductions are "also indicative of a larger problem, and that is a security situation that is, quite simply, unsustainable."