The Kidnapping Conundrum

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, December 17, 2006.
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Victim If the kidnappings in Haiti have proven nothing else, it shows that no one is safe and that left unaddressed, stability and ultimately development will not take place.

Gangs have brazenly announced they would be targeting women and children. True to their word, there has been an upsurge - culminating in the abduction of a bus of school children as well as a temporary abduction of a Senator that was resolved fairly quickly.

Senators, children, even market women are at risk. There is much blame to go around. Deportees from the United States? Gangs? Opportunists? All of the above?

To any extent, it is clear that the Prèval government has not been able to bring kidnappings under control. Purging the police force of corrupt elements may have been necessary but also may have contributed to the prevalence of the problem.

What is to be done? Reintegrating gang members into society was given a shot but has fallen by the wayside. Indications seem to be that Prèval would like the UN to take a more aggressive approach against the gangs. But the Minustah force will forever be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Stand by and they will be accused of doing nothing to stabilize a chaotic environment, engage the gangs in the densely populated slums of Port au Prince, and innocent civilians will die - which ultimately stirs up further resentment against the UN.

It’s not an enviable situation to be in. Until Port au Prince has a strong and accountable police force that can work side by side with the UN, or independently when necessary, we are unlikely to see this problem resolved.

We invite you to blog on this subject, as it is one of the most serious issues facing Haiti today. It has exacerbated the brain drain, chased away investment, and has exacerbated an environment of lawlessness. To resolve this present problem, it may benefit us to look at past precedents - how did Argentina, Chile, and other Latin Americas resolve their kidnapping situations? The answers may benefit Haiti.

The past has not nothing to

The past has not nothing to do here just history, the actual time lived there are so hard and the people needs helps to lead this situation, because they have enought problems to add this one too.


mr.president you should have more protect around haiti because many people are getting kidnapped and we would like a decrease of it thankyou.


It would be a good start for the Haitian governement to take responsibilities for the current situation. It is bad policy to sit and talk with kidnappers and then blame the situation on deportees and drug trafficking. Jamaica has the highest number of deportees from the States but their security situation is way better than that of Haiti. The Dominican republic is also a transit country for drug trafficking and came in second place with the number of deportees from the US, Yet, it does not have this insecurity problem. Insecurity in Haiti is first and foremost a political matter. Those gangs leaders are former lavalas activists that were armed to defend the lavalas regime. Now, they are using those weapons to make money. That is why the current governement know who is doing the killing. Now they have to decide between the future of the nation or the life of their former allies.

An Authority figure is needed

I have to disagree with the statement that restoring the FADH or removing governement or the death penalty would worsen things in Haiti. This country needs an authority figure that instills the fear of breaking the law and currently that doesn't exist. In addition, the sense a patriotism and good citizenship needs to be reinstated with whatever means possible for the children, daughters and mothers of Haiti to be able to live in peace. We are far from political maturity or democracy, but its not unforeseeable to have a peaceful and stable country. The army and a stronger governement can be a start. Now, our lives are ruled by gansters that cannot be stopped.

Haiti is worth saving

Bring in Rudy Giuliani as a consultant -- If he could clean up NYC in a short number of years, imagine what he could do for Haiti! Get the US troops out of Iraq (where we have no buisness being anyway and clearly they do not want our help -- I lived there -- they resent Americans more each day) and bring those troops and that cash to Haiti where they DO want our help. The land is no good for farming any longer. There needs to be a clear plan to clean up the garbage from the streets, get clean water flowing, provide electricity, and of course, education for ALL children -- without it costing an arm and a leg. If the streets are safe, US companies that are sending factories/resources to China, India, etc., could send a few to Haiti instead. I was recently in Haiti and I marveled at the kindness of the people and the beauty of the land. This is NOT a lost cause, but because it is an island it is being ignored. The people of Haiti cannot protect themselves any longer, they need our help. Not just our money, but our guidance. I, for one, will be there to help. After our visit to Haiti, my husband and I have become involved with ATPIN -- Aid to the People in Need. Hopefully, if things look up, people will value their lives more and protect themselves during sex. AIDS is a major problem in the country also. But, with a land full of beautiful people, beautiful land and warm, gorgeous water, it is by no means a lost cause.

Support this government - no return to the FAD'H

We should be aware that there is a campaign or campaigns to undermine the Preval/Alexis government (and rally support for the return of the Army, the FAD'H), and that many of the kidnappings, gang violence, 'student demonstrations', rumours about the president's ill health, and much of the media reporting, are all part of this campaign or campaigns. Reading between the lines of recent Haitian media reports gives an indication that the PNH is now having some success in thwarting the kidnappers, and also that the public at large is also engaged in the effort to stop them. The kidnappers must be arrested and sentenced. If the judicial and prison systems cannot do that, then inevitably the people will apply their own justice. The PNH's efforts should be encouraged, and the 'doom and gloom merchants' should hold their tongues. The collapse of this government, bringing in the death penalty, and restoring the FADH, will not make things better - they will make things much worse...

Joining together

I have made several trips to Haiti in the last few years as a volunteer for a charity active in the Plateau Central. We have spent well over one million US dollars on water, sanitation and housing. We no longer spend any time in Port au Prince on our trips to Haiti. Many of our trips have been cancelled. Some in our group talk of helping in another country where we can travel and be safe. We need our volunteers to travel, becuase they return to the US and raise so much more for the effort. There are so many US and Canadian Haitians. I have seen estimates of 3 million or more. You could represent a true force if you would begin to join together. Funds should be raised and used as leverage seeking additional matching funds. Lobbying should be considered to seek further assistance for the country. I am not certain there is a solution, but if there is one to be found the only group that may be able to find it are the Haitians living in Canada and the US. Your voice will be listened to, you have a far better perspective. I weep for the Haitians in need. There are many organizations that would join forces with committed, charitable, visionary US and Canadian Haitians.

We as Haitians need to help ourselve

I think the assisstant from other countries will help rebuild Haiti a great deal however I also think the Haitians in Haiti need to stop being selfish and help themselves. We have a lot to offer. we have great beaches, we have great places in Haiti that can attract tourist, the land Haiti is sitting on can produce great fruits, food, and other things but instead of using what we have and the millions of dollars we are getting from other countries to build businesses, start trading with those countries we rather give the money away to the rich people in Haiti to make them richer and don't feed the poor. Beside Preval all the president in the past after Jean-Claude Duvalier take whatever money was offered to help Haiti and make themselves or their friends rich. they didn't do anything for Haiti. Because of that the poor people that leaves on $2 a day have to fight to get recognized. " you can't help someone who don't want to be help" well Haitian have to want to change in order for any other country to help Haiti change.

foreign mercenaries to deal with the gang violence

I think the way to solve the insecurity problem is for the haitian gov't to hire some foreign mercenaries to kill and destroy these gangs since they are all concentrated in certain areas of port-au-prince. give the women, children,and everyone who cares about their lives 24hrs to evacuate.. GO in and kill them and yes some civilians lives may be lost but the country can't go on like this.. I can't even return to my own country for fear of being kidnapped or raped. it just makes no sense.. once we get rid of some of the bad elements, everyone else will get in line.. is this the best way.. probably not, but it's an idea that's crazy enough to work.. those guys are just plain old terrorists and you just can't negotiate with terrorists..

Water, Electricity, Houses, Hospitals, Schools, Food, Jobs

I dont know that any of these can be sustainably accomplished without security. 25 years ago, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were on roughly the same level. Corruption was/is an issue in both countries, but the more Haiti became impoversihed, the more its politicians benefited. Successive governments became, as Paul Farmer puts it, "kleptocracies". Haiti's resources were drained. Haitians and Dominicans alike wanted to come to the United States to become financially secure, and then return to their countries to make a difference. Dominicans continue to do that, but it is a much harder sell for Haitians living in the United States and especially for those who have families. I dont think that we can count on most of them to ever return to Haiti for any extended period of time. In some ways, Haitian Americans may be able to do more good in the United States for Haiti, particularly when it comes to engaging American policy makers on local, state, and federal levels. The Cubans have been able to influence national and international politics through their activism in just one state. Haitians have a strong presence in three important American States: Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. Haiti needs its Diaspora more than ever before. Ideas on how to encourage their ongoing involvement are welcome!


hi, i felt the same way as an American Citizen when i went back home to visit .it was a shame the way the country had run down.the world have turn their back on us .our resources have vanished ,haiti has no more to give or to get .therefore 1+1 can not be equal 2,the reason is we have nada to give back .it s only the good heart diaspora can change the country .more doors must be open,and a diferent approach must follow before any change can take place. these priority needs should look first. WATER ELECTRICITY HOUSE HOSPITALS SCHOOL FOOD JOBS

Israel's response to hijackin

Israel's response to hijackings decades ago comes to mind ... the hijackers landed, the Israeli forces blew the doors off the plane, boarded it, then killed all the hijackers, along with a number of civilians. Innocent lives were lost, but hijackings to Israel stopped completely.

Yes, I know it is very easy to sit here in relative comfort and security and talk about "acceptable losses" in the slums of Haiti. But one thing is not debatable ... this is the only response the gangs will ever understand or respect.

U.N. Takes Action Against Gangs

More of this kind of action is necessary:

Many in Haiti will decry this attack, of course. But, remember that the gangs ignored the plea for peace through disarmament, and have continued their reign or terror, almost completely unchecked.

My hope is that another raid is planned, and another one after that, and yet another until order is restored.

Zero Tolerance Redux?

I agree with you entirely that people are fed up. I remember when Aristide, I believe in 2001, declared a zero tolerance policy on crime. This really wasn't modelled after the "broken windows" approach of Mayor Giuliani that focused on enforcing even minor infractions of the law, to counter a culture where people felt lawlessness prevailed. Zero Tolerance, as it was interpeted, basically endorsed vigilante justice. For a month or so, Port au Prince was very safe and with (comparatively) few violent incidents. The policy fell apart when it became clear zero tolerance did not apply to police, politicians, or anyone else in a position of power. Haitians have never had a fair and effective justice system. In the rural communities, as a result of not having institutions, Haitians are remarkably civil and have learned how to address, or at least mitigate, conflicts in a communal manner. Port au Prince is different though. Its a dangerous city and survival takes precedent. People want change but, without security, development is not going to take place. As devastated as Haiti is, each day that goes by is a lost day that could be spent on rehabilitation of the environment and reconstruction of the country. I dont know the solution nor what will happen next, but it is clear that Haitians are frustrated and angry. This is a problem so large that the police, UN forces, civil society, Haitian government ministries, and the international community all have roles to play.

Yes, They've Had Enough

I work with mission groups which bring construction and medical teams to Haiti. While these groups can't do much to help with permanent solutions to the political and economic problems, they can dramatically improve the living conditions for a surprising number of people.

It is heart-breaking to realize the vast amount of aid and resources that are no longer coming into Haiti because of these security issues. Medical clinics, feeding programs, constructions teams ... many simply can no longer justify risking the lives of their people by continuing to travel to Haiti. Entire support and relief organizations have been forced to abandon their work in Haiti, and you see their buildings and facilities standing empty everywhere.

I was surprised when I found myself feeling encouraged by the news this past week of the "lynch mob" that showed up at the police station to try to take the kidnapping suspects at the police station. I am not condoning mob violence, that is not my point.

I was encouraged since it is clear that they have had enough. Since the gangs operate in the open, the mob knew these men personally, knew their guilt first-hand, and were demanding justice.

But justice is something they will never see from the corrupt police force and judicial systems that is in place today.

The only real solution to the gang violence and kidnappings is this kind of public reaction.

Then, the only real answer to lynch mobs in the street is a justice system that actually works.

This is a mess!

This is a mess! As a Haitian-American i am embarassed and ashamed of my people. We have outgrown slavery, why Haitians have this invisible chains tie at their ankle. We are enslaving each other, and hurting each other, and we can't blame the white man this time, for this mess. how long ago we gained our independence? Then, why are we enslaving each other? For instance, my Dad just past away, last week friday (Dec.15,06) i can't even go to Haiti to assist his funeral. Everyone, are begging me not to come down there it is very bad. it sad that you can't go on vacation, you can't visit your families for emergency reason, etc. What's so alarming is that, the kidnappers (rebels) are vagabonds and poor, their victims are as well poor. And they are asking a ransom from $5000 to $150,000 US Dollars. How unrealistic! Even US middle-class can afford that! The kidnapping situation has veered from a different level of kidnapping to a money making business. For Example, I hear that, if you have already been kidnap, the kidnappers issue you a card, (must carry at all times)that other kidnapping groups can kidnapped you twice. Some Haitain people are so desperate, poor, finiancialy unstable, that kidnapping are their only solution. The Haitian govenement need to recruit, hire new police and place military soldiers on the street 24/7, to help slow down this situation, until it eradicate.

I dont know enough about past

I dont know enough about past of the other countries you mentioned to comment or offer suggestions from their past. I do know the recent kidnappings have made it even more worrisome for my family to venture to Haiti. We have relatives there that we like to visit at least once a year, we often wonder if we are prime targets as American citizens. I continue to hope the rate of kidnappings decrease to prevent further isolation from visitors.

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