Danse Petro: State of Siege

Last week was an ordeal for many persons in Haiti, from the actual state of siege that affected Petit Goave to residents of Lalue and Avenue Lamartiniere in Port-au-Prince being subjected to thick clouds of smoke from burning tires not only blocking traffic, but causing persons all kinds of problems trying to breathe. In Cite Soley, guns seemingly woke up from a short slumber to terrorize residents who had to take cover, refraining from normal day to day activities. All areas of the country continue to suffer from large mounds of garbage, hindering traffic and smoldering in some cases causing all kinds of problems breathing. Champs de Mars has been in a virtual state of siege, with militants battling police, cars getting damaged by rocks thrown at them and people having to scurry around because of the violence and the tear gas. Ti Blan, a militant from the group on Champs de Mars was assassinated and his fellow militants are accusing the government and they promise retaliation. Drivers have learned to avoid the area around the School of Ethnology because of barricades and frequent rock throwing incidents.

Haiti is in a state of siege because ordinary people are trapped between kidnappings, demonstrations because of those kidnappings and bad governance, and gangs ruling vast areas with no police to counter their actions. De facto president Jovenel Moise recently told the UN that he had dismantle 64 gangs out of the one hundred active criminal groups he had catalogued. It was a blatant lie because even the police had not made such an announcement and no gang leader had been arrested. Rather the opposite because as part of the ransom they received, the gang called Mawozo, which operates between the capital and the border with the Dominican Republic, got some of their members who were in jail released in exchange for the priests and the nuns kidnapped a couple of weeks earlier. This kidnapping was a warning to the Catholic Church hierarchy to stay out of politics and stay away from joining forces with the opposition and the captive population. Churches, schools and activities of the church stopped in protest, as many other schools joined in the closure all last week. Finally, the priests and nuns were released when a ransom was paid and gang members were released from jail.

So the de facto president tried to blame the kidnappings on opposition leaders by saying that the taking of persons was 80 % political in essence. First, how does he know that, since the police has not arrested anyone, and the courts are paralyzed from a recent strike anyway. We have to ask if Jovenel has direct contact with the kidnappers in order for him to have such information. Second, we have to ask why those political leaders who are sponsoring the kidnappings are not facing justice, or at least in jail for nearly two years without being tried, like former Depute Arnel Belizaire. Third, maybe Jovenel is just saying that to have an excuse to put more opponents in jail without a trial, like Arnel Belizaire and some militants from Champs de Mars, busted in the war going on there.

The police seems powerless in the face of the increase in kidnappings of persons in the population. All over Haiti persons are taken and ransoms are paid, causing financial ruin for those taken along with their friends and family members, especially those living abroad who must contribute to free a loved one. Curiously, in the vast majority of cases only Haitian persons of modest means have been taken. Back in the days of Martelly, kidnap victims were mostly well to do business persons with businesses who could afford to pay big money. Nowadays even poor street merchants are taken by gangsters who demand astronomical amounts of money for their release. A driver who is working for the Tax Office – DGI – was kidnapped this week, and because of that enraged fellow employees staged a strike, while they barricaded Avenue Christophe where the main office is located. In a curious and somber anecdote heard on the radio, many witnesses related that there was an attempted kidnapping in their neighborhood. The kidnappers got spooked when persons in the area started to stop them from taking the person, so they escaped in their car. Two brave citizens gave chase on a motorcycle, but a police squad composed of members of the specialized unit BOID gunned down the chasing citizens on the bike, allowing the bandits to escape escape. More than three persons who were there testified the same thing, and the reporter graphically described the victims laying in a pool of blood. Were the police acting as cover? Or was it a mistake? The police issued no statement about the incident, and two more people died trying to fight against kidnapping. It is an example of not only the police not fighting the kidnappers, but perhaps being in cohort with them, working together to keep de facto president Jovenel Moise in power by terrorizing the population. So, as he said, the kidnappings are politically motivated by those in power.

Change needs to happen because conditions are worsening and persons are becoming desperate in the face of the Ogre. Life in Haiti nowadays is a struggle to just survive because no one is truly living there, just surviving in almost all cases.

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