[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
25554: Wharram - news - Haitians say kidnappers may have political agenda Police think Aristide backers want to disrupt economic recovery and stop elections (fwd)
From Bruce Wharram <email@example.com>
July 2, 2005, 5:58PM
Haitians say kidnappers may have political agenda
Police think Aristide backers want to disrupt economic recovery and stop
By CAROL J. WILLIAMS
Los Angeles Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Maryse Gilbert's cell phone lighted up with her
husband's number at 7 a.m., half an hour after he was kidnapped in front of
the private high school he founded nearly three decades ago in the upscale
neighborhood of Pacot.
"It was one of the kidnappers, and he told me, 'Your husband was very
arrogant so we had to shoot him in both legs,' " Gilbert recalled of the
June 1 conversation. "Then he told me: 'Usually we don't put bullets in
people's legs. We put them in their heads.' "
Jean-Gerard Gilbert was put on the line just long enough to confirm that he
was indeed wounded and that his wife should do as she had been instructed:
Deliver $200,000 in cash to the kidnappers by noon.
As with other sky-high demands made by gangsters who have snatched hundreds
of victims in the past two months, the abductors agreed to settle for
significantly less: $15,000.
Unlike most other recent cases, however, Gilbert didn't surface after the
ransom payment. His wife thinks he is dead.
A diabetic with hypertension, he either bled to death from his wounds or
went into a diabetic coma before the medications sent along with the money
could reach him, she speculates.
"Everybody is afraid," Maryse Gilbert said from the garden of her suburban
home. "I'm even more afraid now that I'm alone with my kids."
Police officials insist that armed supporters of exiled President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide are behind many of the kidnappings. In the past nine
months, their violent uprising and subsequent Haitian police retaliations
have killed more than 700 people and sown an atmosphere of paralyzing
Gangland shootouts have taken their toll mostly in the capital's teeming
slums. The kidnapping wave, by contrast, has targeted politicians, doctors,
businesspeople, foreigners and even those thought to have access to a few
Fatalities have been few, but the abductions have spurred an exodus of the
middle class, shuttered businesses and stalled efforts to hold elections
this fall that could restore constitutional order.
Gessy Coicou, inspector general for the Haitian National Police, contends
that the kidnapping wave is a strategic ratcheting up of the violence by
pro-Aristide gangsters to disrupt economic recovery and prevent the
"It's not being done just to get money," Coicou said. "Witnesses tell us the
same story in the same words every time, that the kidnappers said they will
continue doing this 'until our chief comes back.' "
The U.S. State Department warned Americans in late May against travel to
Haiti and evacuated nonessential embassy personnel. The Peace Corps pulled
out its volunteers in mid-June.
Streets once jammed with traffic are now eerily abandoned.
Restaurants and cafes in the well-to-do suburb of Petionville have cut
nighttime hours or closed for summer.
"I've never seen Haitians like this before," said Ettore di Benedetto, an
International Crisis Group analyst who has lived in Haiti for seven years.
"Everyone is being targeted now."
HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: World
This article is: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/3250209