Kidnappings Plague Residents Across Haiti

Alfred de Montesquiou, AP, Dec. 25, 2005

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Quesnel Durosier walked out of a bank with $3,500 tucked into his sock, buoyed by thoughts of his upcoming wedding. Seconds later, a car cut him off, gunmen sprang out and shoved him into the car along with a woman passer-by. What followed was a nightmare of torture and death threats for these latest victims of a wave of attacks that has made impoverished Haiti the kidnapping capital of the Americas.

Everyone is a target—schoolchildren, foreign aid workers and pedestrians—in the upscale and heavily guarded Petionville district of the capital, where Durosier and the unidentified woman were snatched.

Tourists are not targeted, but only because they are virtually nonexistent.

Police and an 8,860-strong U.N. peacekeeping force have pledged to restore security, which evaporated after the February 2004 rebellion that toppled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But kidnappings have skyrocketed, and as Jan. 8 presidential and parliamentary elections approach, stemming the kidnappings is an “absolute priority,” said Damian Onses-Cardona, the U.N. spokesman in Haiti.

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Eight to 10 people are abducted every day in this Caribbean nation of 8 million, more than any other country in the Americas, said Judy Orihuela, an FBI spokeswoman in Miami. That surpasses even Colombia, which for years has had the world’s highest kidnapping rate.

Since April, 28 U.S. citizens have been reported kidnapped in Haiti, Orihuela said.

“In the last year or so, it’s just exploded down there,” Dick Hildreth, a security consultant, said in a telephone interview from his office at Corporate Risk International in Fairfax, Va. The company advises its clients to hire bodyguards while visiting Haiti, or avoid it altogether.

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