We can no longer ignore Haiti’s descent into chaos

Saturday's kidnapping of 16 American missionaries makes Haiti a U.S. priority



October 19, 2021 - 9:34 AM

Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande in an effort to flee the hostilities at home on Sept. 20, 2021. (John Moore/Getty Images/TNS)

Haiti’s spiraling mayhem, florid lawlessness and humanitarian meltdown were predictable following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. In a country already crippled by governmental dysfunction, the vacuum of political legitimacy and authority after that murder left a breeding ground for anarchy.

The mess was largely ignored by the Biden administration, which has been preoccupied with other crises, until the kidnapping Saturday of 17 missionaries — a Canadian and 16 Americans, including five children — near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Now the maelstrom in the hemisphere’s poorest nation is no longer ignorable.

Kidnapping is so prevalent that predatory gangs which routinely seize individuals and groups for ransom are now said to control half of Port-au-Prince. One of the more notorious of them, 400 Mawozo, is responsible for the missionaries’ kidnapping; earlier this year it grabbed five priests and two nuns and demanded $1 million for their release. They were eventually freed.

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