The leader of the Haitian gang, which police say is holding 17 members of a kidnapped missionary group, has threatened to kill them if his demands are not met.
In a video posted on social media Thursday, Wilson Joseph, the alleged leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, said: “I swear on the thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans.”
Joseph also threatened the prime minister, Ariel Henry, and the chief of the Haitian national police, Léon Charles, while speaking in front of coffins that apparently contained several members of his gang who were recently assassinated.
“You make me cry. I cry water. But I’m going to make them cry blood, ”he said.
Earlier this week, authorities said the gang was demanding $ 1 million per person, though it was not immediately clear if it included all five children in the group, including an eight-month-old baby. Sixteen Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped, along with their Haitian driver.
Earlier Thursday, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said the families of the abductees are from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada.
Weston Showalter, a spokesman for the religious group, read a letter from the families of the hostages, in which they said, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love their enemies.”
The group invited people to join them in praying for the kidnappers, as well as the abductees, and expressed their gratitude for the help of “people who have knowledge and experience in dealing with” such situations.
“Pray for these families,” Showalter said. “They are in a difficult situation.”
On the same day that the missionaries were kidnapped, a gang also kidnapped a Haitian university professor, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Citizen Protection Office, which has an ombudsman appearance. He also noted that a Haitian pastor kidnapped earlier this month has not been released despite a ransom being paid.
“Criminals … operate with total impunity, attacking all members of society,” the organization said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters blocked roads and burned tires in the Haitian capital to denounce a serious fuel shortage and increased insecurity and to demand the resignation of the prime minister.
The scattered protest took place in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
In addition to the kidnappings, the gangs are also accused of blocking gas distribution terminals and hijacking supply trucks, which authorities say has led to a fuel shortage.
Many gas stations are now closed for days at a time, and the fuel shortage is so severe that Digicel Haiti’s CEO announced Tuesday that 150 of its 1,500 branches across the country have run out of diesel.
“Nothing works!” complained Davidson Meiuce, who joined Thursday’s protest. “We are suffering a lot.”
Some protesters raised signs, including one that read: “Down with the high cost of living.”
Protesters clashed with police in some areas, and officers fired tear gas that mixed with dense black smoke rising from burning tires that served as barricades.
Alexandre Simon, a 34-year-old English and French teacher, said he and others were protesting that Haitians faced such dire situations.
“There are a lot of people who can’t eat,” he said. “There is no work … There are many things that we do not have.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism