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Haiti’s newsreel: Chaos continues

The cascade of negative press and bad news continues to cripple the nation, with last week witnessing one of the most daring prison breaks with more than 400 inmates at the public prison in Croix-des-Bouquets breaking out and at least 25 people killed. According to the government spokesperson, Frantz Exantus, the mutiny in the prison was meant to free all the prisoners on the fateful Thursday night, February 25, 2021. Taking stock of the damage, the Secretary of State for Communication said that there were 1,542 inmates at the prison and during roll call the following day, some 1,125 inmates have been accounted for leading to the earlier report that some 400 of them might have escaped. Of those mortally wounded, there were six (6) inmates, the Director of the Prison, the divisional Inspector Paul Hector Joseph. Other victims are innocent civilians attacked and killed by the escapees. The police have said to arrest 60 of the mutineers as they flee and are actively looking for some 200 more. The justice department is working to identify the victims. Meanwhile, the notorious Village-de-Dieu gang leader, Arnel Joseph, who also escaped was killed in Estère, in the Artibonite Department when he opened fire on a police check point. All forensic checks have confirmed that it was indeed him. The government is forming three separate commissions to look into the prison mutiny; an internal investigation will be done to find out what went wrong internally, the DCPJ will look into who will be brought to justice, and finally, the Prison authorities will look into the cause of the mutiny and those implicated. While calling on the people to be patient with them until they conclude their investigations, the government is asking the people’s help in pointing out gang members and bandits who plan to sow terror in the country.

Meanwhile in a special meeting with the Conseil Supérieur de la Police Nationale (CSPN), President Jovenel Moïse called for measures ranging from the creation of a new anti-kidnapping unit, to controlling the country’s finances and the security companies in the country. During the meeting which he chaired himself, the President said he has information on the masterminds behind the spate of kidnappings in the country but before taking any actions against them, he wants to be sure he has solid proof. The head of police promised to put all resources at the disposal of the creation of this new security outfit. Another measure planned to help stem the epidemic of kidnapping that has plagued the country, on top of the multiple other ills, is the creation of an anti-kidnapping unit to strengthen the anti-kidnapping unit that currently exists within the DCPJ. This new unit will comprise of public entities such as the Secretary of State for Public Safety, the Ministry of Interior, and all other entities working in intelligence and public safety, under the leadership of the Director General of the National Police. The president further instructed the financial institutions and their watchdogs, the UCREF, ULCC, BRH and the Minister of Finance to follow the movement of certain funds with legal tools to trace the money and thereby help halt the kidnappings. He also spoke of the stepping up of inspections at the ports and all entries into the country, citing the ports in Saint-Marc, Cap-Haïtien, and the port at Lafiteau where most of the illegal arms and munitions are smuggled into the country.

Talking about kidnappings, the popular pediatrist Dr. Ernst Paddy was killed on Sunday February 28, 2021 during an attempted kidnapping in which he may have resisted and fought back his attackers, in front of his clinic in Chemin des Dalles. He was said to have gone to the clinic with another individual to pick up some instruments to come home to attend to a patient who came to his home for treatment. It was when the companion went to open the door to the clinic that she heard shots and saw the assailants pulling the doctor out of his car. So far, no witnesses have come out to say what they may have seen or heard. In the meantime, residents of Mariani, in the Gressier commune have set up barricades Monday on the streets paralyzing traffic in the area to demand the release of one their own, Jean Marc Condestin, owner of a gas station who was kidnapped a day earlier.

Back to the ports and points of entry to the country, the Dominican Republic is proposing to build a wall along the border with their neighbor to curb drugs, arms, and human trafficking along the points of entry. In his first address to Parliament, to present his administration’s accomplishments marking the Independence Day on Saturday, February 27, 2021, President Luis Abinader spoke of the need to strengthen the security of the various entry points between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, by building a separation wall between both countries to ensure full border protection. The government will build a double perimeter fence in the most conflicting border posts with motion sensors, facial recognition cameras, radars, and infrared detection systems. According to him, within two years, his administration plans to put an end to illegal immigration, drug trafficking and stolen vehicle trafficking that has long plagued the sister nation. While not directly addressing the recent kidnapping of two Dominican nationals in Haiti, President Abinader spoke of signing an agreement with his Haitian counterpart during the first months in office to support the identification of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Aside from this agreement which is deemed unprecedented, the Dominican president praised his determination to maintain mutually beneficial relations with Haiti, through the sale of energy and building of maternity clinics on the Haitian side of the border, with the contribution of the international community and in coordination with the Haitian government. Building the facilities on the Haitian side of the border will help to prevent overwhelming of the health facilities within the Dominican Republic. Plans to start the wall will begin later this year.

Finally, President Jovenel Moïse just announced, on his way from the Grand’Anse Department, that port operators have reimbursed US$10m of the purported US$19m owed for the past 20 years. While boasting about the ultimatum he gave them, he concluded that information reaching him has shown that partial payment has been made; taking them only 15 days to pay a public debt they refused to pay in the past 20 years. He was satisfied that his strategy of publicly naming names may have borne fruits by forcing them to pay up or be publicly shamed. He later made a veiled threat to the port operators to pay back the remaining US$9m or he will revoke their license.

Dela Harlley

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