PORT-AU-PRINCE – The kidnapping of an elderly man in the Delmas 19 neighborhood in Haiti’s capital led to a spontaneous protest on Tuesday by the victim’s neighbors, which ended with the dispersion of some 150 people by the Haitian police using tear gas.
The victim of the kidnapping is 74-year-old Vienne Dwane, a shopkeeper who residents see as a father figure.
According to testimonies, he was taken away by individuals dressed in police uniforms on Monday afternoon.
The kidnapping has provoked the indignation of the community, which took to the streets after the incident.
Dozens of people chanted “Down with kidnapping” and “If they don’t release Doyen, we’re going to take fire,” while other protesters torched tires under the watch of a police patrol unit, which initially merely observed the scene.
The burning barricades grew in considerable size with the constant arrival of more material for the fire, which produced thick, black smoke.
Police reinforcements arrived an hour or so later at the scene where, apart from the burning of tires, the atmosphere was calm.
Unknown to those present due to the thick smoke, they were preparing to launch tear gas.
The demonstration was instantly dissolved and the crowd ran up the street.
Once away from the toxic air, the demonstrators began throwing objects at the police, who were also trying to remove the burning barricades from the street.
Before the abrupt end of the protest, some demonstrators took advantage of the circumstances and the presence of the media to attack the government of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, thereby mixing the issue of kidnappings, which have increased over the last year, with the political crisis in the country, exacerbated by the alleged coup attempt that the leader denounced on Feb. 7.
“The country’s government is establishing a dictatorship. We young people say we can’t live like this. We have a resident of the area of Delmas 19 who was kidnapped, we say we cannot take it any longer,” a young man told EFE.
Another kidnapping was reported on Tuesday evening in a statement issued by Port-au-Prince’s bar association, which expressed its distress over the kidnapping of Nasha Saint-Fleur, a member of the entity, in an “act of banditry” perpetrated in the morning in the capital city’s Babiole district.
The statement said that city council denounces the increase in kidnappings, which also affects a population that previously was not the subject of kidnappings, and requests police authorities to conduct operations to free Saint-Fleur.
Criminal gangs have made kidnappings a lucrative business that does not discriminate potential victims on the basis of age, sex or social status.
This has led to major social unrest in Haiti, in addition to the political tension already prevalent in the country.
The authorities do not provide official figures on the number of kidnappings, which often go unreported by the victims’ families for fear of reprisals amid threats by the captors warning them against going to the authorities or media.
National Network for the Defense of Human Rights director Mary Rosy Auguste Ducena estimates that there are more than five kidnappings a day based on the information available, although the organization does not have data on the number of people kidnapped.
She also noted that, although cases occur throughout the country, the communities of Delmas and Petionville in Port-au-Prince are the most targeted.