HAITI.- Haiti is one of the countries with the highest kidnapping rates in the world and the situation has worsened since last year.
As of September 2021, more than 600 kidnappings had been registered, compared to the 231 that occurred in the same period the previous year, according to CARDH data.
According to this organization, a large part of this rise in kidnappings is the direct responsibility of 400 Mawozo, who yesterday kidnappedhe Agricultural and Commercial Attaché of the Dominican Republic in Haiti, Carlos Guillén Tatis.
The group, whose name in Spanish means “the 400 inexperienced men,” operates in the eastern district of Port-au-Prince, where they frequently carry out kidnappings, vehicle theft and extortion of businessmen, according to authorities.
This criminal group is one of around 150 that terrorize the Haitian capital every day.
They are gangs that have gained more ground by taking advantage of the delicate situation of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The fragility of the institutions and the political crisis aggravated by the assassination in July of President Jovenel Moïse has created an even greater breeding ground for the empowerment of these gangs.
Each gang operates in different neighborhoods and districts, often fighting each other for control of various criminal activities.
In Port-au-Prince alone, the presence of these gangs has forced almost 20,000 citizens to flee their homes and has generated chaos in public services.
Some of these gangs have formed alliances and created more powerful organizations, notably the so-called “G9 y Familia”, described as “a criminal federation” of nine of the strongest gangs in Port-au-Prince.
How are the kidnappings?
The victims of the kidnappings are usually both Haitians and foreigners and for them ransoms are demanded that often exceed the annual earnings of an average Haitian.
One of the modus operandi of 400 Mawozo is the collective kidnapping of both private and public vehicles, explains the CARDH.
who leads the band
Almost a year ago, Haitian police issued an arrest warrant for a man named Wilson Joseph, the alleged leader of 400 Mawozo.
The warrant charged Joseph with murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, and hijacking cargo trucks.
The supposed leader is also known by the nickname “Lanmò Sanjou”, which means “death without day”.
The gang known as 400 Mawozo (400 Rookies) rose to worldwide fame for the kidnapping of 17 North American Mennonite missionaries for whom they held a ransom. The missionaries were released in small groups without the authorities of the United States or Haiti ever admitting that they paid the ransom, but also without having confrontations with the gang.
Alleged links to politics
Obtaining money in exchange for ransoms, extortion, drug sales and arms trafficking are considered the main motives behind the Haitian gangs’ offensive.
However, some analysts have also linked this rise in crime to the turbulent political class.
In July, a government report said there were “political and electoral issues” behind the violence.
“Certain political parties establish client networks with armed groups in order to gain or maintain power,” according to an excerpt from the report.
Local media have also reported testimonies denouncing that some of the perpetrators of the kidnappings have used government-registered vehicles.
The band called «G9 y Familia»
Haiti’s most feared crime boss is called Jimmy Cherizieralthough it is better known as Jimmy “Barbecue”.
According to him, because his family ran a grilled meat business; according to some witnesses of the Haitian violence, because he is used to burning the houses and the corpses of his victims.
Although he started out as a police officer, today he is the leader of the so-called G-9 and Familyan alliance of some of the most dangerous gangs in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The G9 and Family have contributed to the chaos that has taken over the Caribbean country, aggravated after the assassination last July of its president, Jovenel Moïse.
The disappearance of the leader seems to have angered “Barbecue”, which is now threatening to throw his organization into a «revolution” against the “corrupt” political elite of the country.
Born in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, neither the sanctions that the United States has imposed against himnor any authority in his country have so far served to stop him.
From cop to criminal
Already in his time as a police officer, Cherizier crossed the line that separates both sides of the law.
He is credited with participating in the deaths of nine civilians who fell as part of what was presented as an official operation against the mafias in Grand Ravine, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, in November 2017.
According to Jeremy McDermott of the Insight Crime organized crime think tank, “The Haitian police is penetrated by elements of the gangs and there are groups that act outside the law”.