Haiti: Kidnappers Protest Political Persecution


March 28, 2007: So far this year, police and UN peacekeepers have arrested over 400 members of criminal gang members. This has led to a sharp drop in kidnapping and other crime. The anti-gang effort has eliminated the custom of gangs openly controlling neighborhoods, usually from a headquarters in a local school or other public building. Some of the gang leaders have fled to the countryside, but police have gone after them. As the power of the gangs declined, people have been more willing to inform on gangsters. The gangs are trying to protect themselves by accusing the UN of playing politics. Most of the gangs backed former prime minister Aristide, and the gangsters accuse the UN of being anti-Aristide by attacking the gangs. This get some play among leftist supporters of Aristide in North America, Africa and Europe, but doesn't get much traction in Haiti itself.

March 15, 2007: Despite the economic disruption of the gangs, the economy keeps going partially because of all the money sent back by migrants. This amounts to some $1.6 billion a year, or about a third of the GDP. About 65 percent of the migrant remittances comes from Haitians in the United States. On the down side, it's the presence of this money that encourages the kidnappers, for they know which families are regularly receiving money from migrant kin. This propels some 20 percent of the population into something of a middle class. Kids can go to school, and there's money to set up small businesses.

March 1, 2007: UN peacekeepers arrested 142 gangsters in February, breaking up many known gangs and markedly reducing the number of kidnappings.

December 22, 2006: A major raid in the capital turns into a major gun battle, with over 30 dead.

December 15, 2006: The UN will make a major and sustained effort against the criminal gangs in 2007. Breaking the power of the gangs will, it is believed, reduce the kidnapping and robbery which has paralyzed the capital.


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