As kidnappings continue to soar in Haiti, UN staff, diplomats and missionaries are increasingly being abducted. The resulting international outcry may be just what those responsible are looking for.
Several recent incidents have shown this trend. On June 21, a Chilean missionary was released after having been held for almost two weeks by a gang in Port-au-Prince. His kidnappers demanded a ransom of $100,000 for his release although it is unclear if this has been paid.
A month earlier, on May 23, the driver of Helen La Lime of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) was abducted, although no ransom demand was received, according to a report from the Haiti-based Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (Centre D’analyse et de Recherche de Droits de l’Homme - CARDH).
And in early May, Carlos Guillen, a Dominican diplomat, was kidnapped while driving from Port-Au-Prince to the Dominican border, and released four days later.
Additionally, kidnappings have been carried out using vehicles with BINUH markings and diplomatic license plates, found.
SEE ALSO: Haiti's Kidnapping Crisis Grows Ever More Desperate in 2022
These were just the tip of the iceberg. “There were three incidents in which United Nations personnel and their dependents were kidnapped and another in which one national staff was killed in crossfire between gangs,” the United Nations confirmed in a June 13 publication.
Statistics collected by CARDH indicate that 40 foreigners were kidnapped from January-June 2022, compared to 53 in all of 2021. Overall, kidnappings in the first six months increased 171 percent compared to the same period last year.
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While Haiti’s kidnapping crisis has long prioritized international envoys and their Haitian staff, there may be more to it than simply seeking higher ransoms.
According to CARDH, these high-value targets are also allegedly useful to gangs, and their political backers, by gaining international attention which can then be used to gain more resources and funding.
“Kidnappings…often coincide with moments of political struggle,” read the CARDH report. This can then be used “to force the international [community] to give resources to the police and [to give] the latitude to the government to act on insecurity.”
While there is no smoking gun proving that any specific kidnapping was done in order to raise an international response, the current spike in kidnappings coincides with Haitian police receiving a lot of new equipment.
On June 28, police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers said the police would soon use new equipment worth $12 million to attack gang members currently occupying the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince, which houses the Supreme Court. More than a week on, such an attack has not happened, despite the Palace of Justice having been taken over by the 5 Seconds (5 Segond) gang almost a month ago.
In May, Haitian police received a pledge from South Korea for more equipment and training, while in April, Prime Minister Ariel Henry handed over 14 new off-road vehicles to police squads.
SEE ALSO: Haiti Kidnappings Target Foreigners in Evolution of Security Crisis
Additionally, in a June briefing of the UN Security Council, BINUH head Helen La Lime asked for more funding for Haitian law enforcement.
Such a glut of money, vehicles and firearms for Haitian police come despite multiple recent examples of police officers and government officials either openly supporting the country’s most powerful gangs or being full-fledged gang members.