By Marco Werman, The World, Nov, 22, 2021
Two missionaries who were being held hostage for ransom in Haiti have been released after more than a month. A Haitian gang had seized a group of 17 people from the US and Canada, including several children.
Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement Sunday saying it could not give the names of those released, why they were freed or other information.
“While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the 15 people who are still being held," the Ohio-based group said.
The US state Department has, so far, had little to say about the release. US officials have been closely watching the situation in Haiti since last summer, when Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.
Monique Clesca, a retired United Nations development official based in Port-au-Prince, also works with a group called the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis. Clesca spoke with The World's host Marco Werman about the steps needed to ease the ongoing problems in Haiti.
Marco Werman: This notorious gang called 400 Mawozo had seized these individuals, including an infant. And, at least, initially demanded $1 million per hostage. What do we know, Monique, about this partial release?
Monique Clesca: Well, we know very little about this partial release. What I can say is, I think, we're very happy that at least two people got their freedom and I hope that the others will be released immediately.
The FBI and State Department have officials in Haiti. What were their roles in negotiating with the gang for these two people and their release?
The Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH) has not shared any information. The US Embassy has not shared any information. And the FBI has not shared any information, as we know. So, we are really in the dark about this. But the point I want to make is, people are being kidnapped all the time in Haiti. It is mind-boggling, it's heartbreaking, whenever you think of, "I'm going to step out of the house," you immediately wonder, "will I be able to get back home?" because there are so many kidnapings. So, this is very unfortunate that these were Americans, but [the] French have been kidnapped and the Haitians are being kidnapped every day, morning, noon and night. So, this is a nightmare.
I mean, that's a really good point. For Haitians, this is a daily problem, isn't it?
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
How would you describe US policy in Haiti right now?
This crisis is so deep that if it's somebody else who finds a solution, we will go back to the crisis. It's time for us to just sit together and work out what our problems are and what we ask for the US really, is to give us the space, to give us the time and to give us solidarity, so that we can feel comfortable and move forward with the solution that we have put forward. As you know, I'm part of this commission, trying to find a Haitian solution to the crisis. And we worked very hard trying to get together different sectors of the population, and we have put an accord, which is called the Montana Accord on the table, that has kind of a roadmap in terms of services, as well as a governance structure. So, it is up to us, Haitians, to find a solution and we have one on the table, so we can come together.
Do you think the US has a coherent foreign policy toward Haiti?
I don't think it did for a very long time, because I don't think anybody quite knew what the US wanted. But I think there is a move now toward listening to Haitian voices. There is a move to let us step back to do this, even though there is still some incoherence, because returning the migrants to Haiti, while you were saying that Haiti is gang-infested, while you are saying, "do not come to Haiti," ... the US has even asked Americans who are in Haiti to immediately leave the country. So, there is some incoherence here.
You were referring, of course, to the Haitians earlier gathered at the US-Mexico border a couple of months ago, many of whom were deported back to Haiti.
Exactly. There were about 8,000 who were deported back, and that, to us, was really incoherent. And I hope that that will stop.
Monique, some Democrats in Congress have called for the US to make a course correction in Haiti. What would that look like?
Well, the course correction in Haiti looks like, first, leave us so we can chart our path forward, and this is what we have done with the Montana Accord. Second, talk to the different parties and encourage us to continue the dialogue that we are carrying. Third, remind the government that the US and other international actors have been put there. .. remind them that it is their responsibility to provide security and government services for Haitians, men and women and children. And fourth, then, talk to the police that the US has been supporting for a number of years. Remind them also that you must protect and serve the Haitian population.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. AP contributed to this report.
Posted Dec. 11, 2021