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Worsening Abduction Crisis Rocks Haiti, Further Stalls Long Overdue Elections

Dieu Nalio Chery
Haitian high school students in Port-au-Prince protest the abduction and killing of teenager Evelyne Sincere last month.

The international community is pressuring Haiti to hold long overdue parliamentary elections. But the country is dealing with an out-of-control kidnapping wave.

Many healthcare workers went on strike in Haiti this week to protest the government’s inability to stop a plague of ransom abductions. Yet another medical worker — a hospital intern in Port-au-Prince — was kidnapped over the weekend and freed Sunday evening when a ransom was paid.

Afterward, Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe admitted the problem has reached a national crisis level. Human rights groups say 10 people were abducted in Port-au-Prince in the past week and at least four cases are reported nationwide every day.

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Activists accuse Haiti’s police of involvement in the ransom kidnapping rings. The police deny that charge, but many cases have involved kidnappers wearing police uniforms.

The crisis hit a flashpoint last month when Port-au-Prince high school student Evelyne Sincère was abducted and killed when no ransom was paid on time. Her corpse was left in a trash heap on the side of a road.

The insecurity emergency makes it harder for the government to hold parliamentary elections that should have been held more than a year ago.

Last week a group of European, North American and Latin American diplomats in Haiti, known as the Core Group, called for President Jovenel Moïse's government to make "accelerated preparations" for the elections, to "urgently publish an electoral calendar" and "speed up the distribution of national identity cards."

Some Haitian critics of Moïse — who’s ruling by decree with no legislature in place — say he’s using the criminal crisis as an excuse to stall the vote.