Who is behind the kidnappings in Haiti? A summary of a video essay by Jean Saint-Vil

Picture: Jean Jafrikayiti Saint-Vil

By Travis Ross, Canada-Haiti Information Project, July 6, 2022

On December 20th, 2021 author, analyst, & activist Jean Saint-Vil posted a video to his Facebook page. In the presentation, Saint-Vil argues that some of Haiti's oligarchs, namely Alain Zuraik and Gilbert Bigio, are financing the persistent rash of kidnappings for ransom. 


Hundreds of Haitians have been kidnapped for ransom

Saint-Vil says "you would be hard pressed to find a single person of Haitian origin, whether inside Haiti or in the diaspora, who cannot identify a person who was kidnapped recently. Most Haitians suffer from insomnia. we cannot sleep at night. we know the hundreds of people in the Haitian community who have been kidnapped, and sometimes murdered". 

"This is not a normal situation. Haiti has never known this type of organized, structured, kidnapping, over such a long period of time."

Saint-Vil doesn't think the cause of these kidnappings to be a mystery.

He points out that neighborhoods such as the waterfront in Martissant have been virtually abandoned because of these kidnappings. Many of the people from these formally middle-class neighborhoods now live abroad but maintain ownership of their homes in Haiti. Often, poor family members from other parts of Port au Prince move into these abandoned houses.

It is these Haitians that are targeted for kidnapping. The “400 Mawozo” gang, who are notorious for kidnapping Haitians, ransom them for a million dollars per person. When the victims families cannot pay, the victims are murdered. 

The 400 Mawozo gang, who have been featured prominently in the mainstream media recently for allegedly kidnapping 17 Christian Missionaries, have been running a  kidnapping operation for several years. Many victims have been released once the ransom is paid.


Who is paying the ransom money?

Saint-Vil notes that the ransom money comes from family members living outside Haiti in the diaspora. He claims that the kidnappers are intentionally "decapitalizing middle-class and poor Haitian families who have relatives living and working in New York, Montreal, Chile, Dominican-Republic. 

Upon paying the ransoms, these families, whether inside Haiti or in the diaspora, are left in financial ruin. They empty their own savings and collect money donated from within the various communities in the diaspora, to pay the ransom and free their kidnapped family members. And when they cannot collect enough money to cover the ransom, the kidnappers then extort them further and force them to sell their family homes in Haiti.

Consequently, hundreds of families are being forced to sell their property in Haiti to come up with enough money to cover the ransom demands. Saint-Vil calls this process "forced gentrification" and points out that this process cannot happen without the heavy weaponry that is imported illegally through privately owned ports in Haiti.


Who is financing the “forced” gentrification?

Saint-Vil the asks the question: who is buying these properties once the kidnappers have forced them to sell? So far, no investigation has taken place.

"How do young men [members of 400 Mawozo] who are from an impoverished community in Haiti ... manage millions of dollars? Saint-Vil asks. “Where is that money? That money must go in a bank - somewhere. Who own the banks in Haiti? It just so happens that the same people who own the banks in Haiti own the private ports where the guns enter the country. And we do not need to speculate. There are many reports in recent years where illegal weapons were caught in Haiti’s largest port, Port Lafito, owned by Gilbert Bigio.”

To understand the connection between Haitian oligarchs like Gilbert Bigio & Alain Zuraik and the 400 Mazowo gang, Saint-Vil focuses the discussion on notorious gang leader Arnel Joseph, who was murdered after being broken out of prison in February 2021.

Saint-Vil explains that Arnel Joseph was allegedly hired by the government of Jovenel Moise. In the video, he lays out the evidence that Arnel Joseph was supported by the Moise government. 

Arnel Joseph claims to have been hired by Gilbert Bigio, the richest person in Haiti, to kidnap Haitians and hold them for ransom. Arnel Joseph demanded one million dollars in ransom to release a kidnapped Haitian. An amount that is simply impossible for an average Haitian to raise inside Haiti. If the families of the victims could not pay, the victim was murdered.

Saint-Vil notes that Arnel Joseph has never kidnapped a single millionaire. The targets of these kidnappings are always average Haitians.

Saint-Vil goes on to point out that Arnel Joseph was hired by former President Michel Martelly to protect his various properties from protestors. He also points out that the recent report by Maria Abi-Habib for the New York Times, that connects former President Michel Martelly to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, leaves out key details. Specifically, the involvement of Haitian oligarchs like Gilbert Bigio and Alain Zuraik who hold American citizenship were omitted from the article.

Saint-Vil also notes the omission of names such as_____________?? (timestamp 22:20) of Haitians tied to Martelly. He suggests that this is because they have links to the DEA - the American Drug Enforcement Administration. 

There is a direct connection between Arnel Joseph and the 400 Mawozo. Saint-Vil alleges that the prison break that happened on February 27, 2021 was organized to free Arnel Joseph from prison. He then met with the leaders on 400 Mawozo and was murdered the day after.

Saint-Vil suggests Arnel Joseph was murdered so the connections between Martelly, Bigio and other oligarchs and the 400 Mawozo would not be revealed. 

Port au Prince is awash with American-made guns

Little to no attention has been placed on how these arms are smuggled into Haiti. The Ports in Haiti are owned by Haiti's wealthiest citizens. The arms themselves are American and are almost certainly being imported directly from the USA into Haiti through these privately owned ports, Saint-Vil explains. This kidnapping operation is dependent on the regular flow of arms and munition from the USA. And that these arms and munitions must be coming through the privately owned ports. Ports owned by oligarchs such as Bigio and Zuraik.  

He goes on to point out the overt racism in how mainstream media outlets report on these kidnappings. Over the past several years hundreds of Haitians have been kidnapped. While the kidnappings has been reported on by the Mainstream media (MSM), details are rarely covered and personal narratives ignored. In the case of the 17 missionaries who were allegedly kidnapped by the 400 Mawoso and miraculously escaped by foot, the MSM maintained a focus on the narrative for weeks, while providing no serious scrutiny of this narrative, that many Haitians believe is manufactured.  

There is good reason for skepticism. Illegal arms smugglers have used Missionary work as cover before. Saint-Vil reminds us of the case of James White Glenn who, according to AP, was caught smuggling in "assault weapons, munitions, and grenade launchers ...under cover of the Protestant mission he work[ed] for." This occurred in 2003 in preparation for the coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. White was arrested, but released soon after, under pressure from the USA government. He is now in prison for sexually assaulting children


At the end of the presentation, Saint-Vil pleads with members of the Haitian diaspora and citizens of Canada & the USA to put pressure on their governments to stop the illegal flow of assault weapons and other arms into Haiti.


Posted July 6, 2022