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Haiti: Kidnapping, as a business

Kidnapping, as a business, is reaching epidemic proportions across the country, making both civilians and the authorities at a loss of how to address it. While innocent civilians bear the brunt of this sordid activity, there is no indication that the authorities have control over the issue and there seems to be no clear plan in place to address the issue. But to add fuel to fire, President Jovenel Moïse, blamed the spate of kidnappings on opposition leaders, whom he accused of instigating the latest wave of kidnappings across the country in recent weeks. While in Jacmel as part of the carnival celebrations the president accused the opposition claiming the kidnappings are only another strategy put in place by the opposition, just like “pays lok” which unfortunately did not achieve its stated goals. Mr. Moïse seized the occasion to castigate his opponents that both kidnapping and “pays lok” are not good for the country, calling on the radical opposition to come up with concrete and viable projects to win the hearts of the people. He went on to appeal to the opposition, stating that nothing will be gained by fighting his brothers and sisters in the opposition. Such declarations are coming one week after the national police supposedly put in place a new strategy to combat the kidnappings, though they are unable to determine if any dents have been made in the problem and who the perpetrators are. This complicates the issue and renders the President’s declarations irresponsible. In face of such a pressing and worrying issue, blaming the problem on the opposition presupposes at the minimum, the President is aware of who is at the root of the insecurity in the country, therefore able to solve the issue, else these declarations are at best irresponsible and at worst, forcing the opposition to defend itself, making it unlikely they would come to the negotiation table.

 

The police who are overwhelmed with the insecurity in the country, especially the increasing kidnappings in the capital and have reactivated their response strategy, known as operation iron curtain, L’ Operation Rideau de fer, with increased searches and patrols in the most affected neighborhoods. The goal of the operation is to provide additional help to police stations in dangerous neighborhoods to fight crime and stem the tide of the kidnappings and gang activity, and eventually for the PNH to take control of the security situation in the country. A reinforcement of some 1870 police officers from the police headquarters, special unit and judicial police have been activated to assist in those embattled precincts and to conduct searches of cars with tinted windows and suspected individuals. So far, it appears the reactivation is bearing fruit, at least, in the visible presence of the police in the streets, a sign that can reassure the public. The first assessment of the operation last Saturday claimed that approximately 1566 vehicles, including 1345 motorcycles have being searched at the special checkpoints across the metropolitan area. Some criminals have also been apprehended in the act of committing their crimes. From Operation “Toile d’Arraignée to “Rideau de fer”, Police Commissioner Rameau Normil intends to mobilize the police to apprehend those causing mayhem in the capital. Though there’s no palpable decrease in the level of insecurity across the nation.

 

Hundreds of police officers took to the streets of Delmas to protest what they call their right to form a union. The march led by the organizer, Yanick Joseph was peaceful all the way to the police headquarters, where she read out their grievances, which included improving the police insurance policy, better working conditions and debit cards. While this march was largely peaceful, a group of police officers in red T-Shirts were seen in Petionville on a different agenda. This group was alleged to have set fire to stands set for the upcoming carnival in Champs de Mars, including the grand-stand where the mayor of Port-au-Prince will be observing the carnival festivities. Eyewitnesses recounted how the people invaded the grounds, forcing art dealers to pack up their wares and run away, throwing Molotov cocktails onto the stands just erected for the carnival. The police at the Champs de Mars said this is a new phase in their demands on the authorities to organize a union and plan to disturb the upcoming carnival if the police headquarters did not meet their demands. The firefighters who are located not too far from the public park did not show up well until over an hour, by which time the stands have been engulfed. Security personnel from the National Palace had to be deployed to calm the situation.

 

In response to this incidence, Police leaders fired five (5) police officers including the union leader Yanick Joseph, for soiling the honor of the force, revolt and sedition.  Other officers dismissed include Abelson Gros Nègre, Inspector Jean Elder Lundi, Gédéon Monbrun and Yens Lamarre. This destruction now puts into jeopardy the much-anticipated carnival slated for February 23 through 25, 2020 under the theme “Ann pote kole pou Ayitidekole”. Given degrading socio-economic and political climate in the country, coupled by the insecurity, some question whether the carnival will be successful.

In other news, more than 400 cultural and historic artifacts have been returned to Haiti following an investigation by the FBI’s unit responsible for tracking cultural objects. In all, 479 objects were recovered in the largest operation by the team that investigates the theft of cultural and historical artifacts. A ceremony was held in the presence of the outgoing Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin, the US Ambassador Michele Sison and the head of the Haitian Bureau of Ethnology, Erol Josué. The US Ambassador pledged US$720,000 for restoration work on some of these artifacts.

Meanwhile in the US, the trump administration is secretly planning to send specially trained ICE enforcement officers from the southern borders well as to other U.S. cities such as San Francisco; Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, Newark, New Jersey, Chicago and New York to help local ICE officials  enforce the administration’s immigration policy. This move is the administration’s attempt at face-off with these cities, which are called sanctuary cities because they refuse to cooperate in enforcing what they see as inhumane immigration crackdown. In its response, New York City is launching a campaign to remind people that it remains committed to protecting the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers. As such, all New Yorkers who need support are encouraged to call 311 and say “ActionNYC”. Other measures taken by NYC include a hotline 1-800-354-0365 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m to receive free and safe immigration legal help. People are encouraged to share information with friends and family and also check out KnowYourRights, a site that details what your rights are in the event of an immigration enforcement encounter. All others who feel lonely, sad and anxious can call 1-888-NYC-WELL or texting WELL to 65173 to get connected to free, confidential mental health support.

Dela Harlley

 

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