Gang members in Haiti on Friday kidnapped 38 people as they were riding in minibuses out of the capital Port-au-Prince, bound for the south of the country, the head of a drivers’ association told AFP.
“Two buses had just been filled with passengers bound for Miragoane,” a town some 62 miles (100 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince, “when the guys from Village de Dieu seized them,” said Mehu Changeux, president of the association of owners and drivers of Haiti, referring to one of the capital’s slums controlled by a powerful gang.
“Each bus had 18 people, in addition to the drivers,” Changeux said, without saying if ransoms had been demanded.
The mass kidnapping came as Haiti find itself in the grip of armed gangs, whom police have failed to confront.
Since June 1, 2021, Haitian authorities have lost control of the only road connecting Port-au-Prince to the southern half of the country, with a section of some 1.5 miles (two kilometers) under the sway of armed gangs.
It was on this road, at the western exit of the Haitian capital, that the 38 people were abducted. Changeux insisted his organization “always asks drivers not to take this road until the state has restored security.”
But that caution is a luxury that the city’s poorest inhabitants cannot afford, since traveling by the only alternative route, which is not suitable for motor vehicles, costs much more, in particular, because of unofficial tolls.
“There continue to be some buses that take the risk because some passengers do not have the economic means to pay for transport by the mountain road,” said Changeux.
Last weekend, three young Turkish women were released after a month in captivity. They had been kidnapped by the criminal gang that controls the entire region east of Port-au-Prince, up to the border with the Dominican Republic.
This gang, which hijacked the bus in which they were traveling from Santo Domingo, still holds five other Turkish nationals.
In the month of May alone, at least 200 kidnappings were recorded by the UN, overwhelmingly in Port-au-Prince.