Haiti PM warns gang leaders amid missionary hostage situation
By James Blears
Former neuro-surgeon Ariel Henry, who’s been Prime Minister for just three months, faces a titanic political uphill struggle.
He’s racking his brains to pull back Haiti from the brink of a crumbling precipice overhanging a seething pit of lawlessness and disorder.
On the one side, an ultimatum from Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier, who leads the G9 gang, warning he’ll only allow fuel shipments safe passage to come inland from the docks of the capital, Port Au Prince, if Henry quits.
Due to chronic fuel shortages, Haiti is figuratively: "All at sea."
On another side lies the volatile, impulsive and unpredictable Wilson Joseph, who’s the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang.
It’s kidnapped seventeen Christian missionaries, including five children, one of whom is an eight-month-old baby.
He’s becoming impatient that his million dollars-per-person ransom demand, adding up to seventeen million, isn’t being promptly met, in exchange for the lives of these US Citizens and one Canadian.
In a chilling social media post, he’s starkly threatened: "I swear by thunder if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I’ll put a bullet in the heads of these Americans."
Application of the law
In response to these double edged, two pronged menaces, Prime Minister Henry, in a nationwide broadcast insists on putting down their lawlessness.
"If they don’t cease their wrongdoing, the law will apply to them!” he says. “Their only options are jail and death, if they don’t change their profession. No real solution to the country’s problems will emerge, if we don’t fortify ourselves with the courage to fight and eliminate this scourge."
Washington has sent a specialist task force from the State Department and the FBI to diffuse dangerously welling tensions, helping beleaguered Haitian Authorites to try and negotiate the safe release of the missionaries.
The situation of Haiti is balanced on a veritable knife edge.