Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kidnapping. What, us worry?

It's probably not a good sign when we bump into Barbara at the Miami airport, and she says, "Did you hear we were kidnapped?" Barbara is a fifty-something women who facilitates adoptions in Haiti and gallivants around the world selling water purifications systems. With her bold and brash manner, her big auburn hair and her blue muumuus, Barbara is a novelist's idea of what an American who lives in a place like Haiti is like.

Barbara tells us that her guy Johnny, a Haitian, and she were driving on Airport Road when they were accosted by guys with guns. Barbara ran for it and made it, but they got Johnny and took him to Cite Soleil, where they also took another of our friends, who was kidnapped in October. Barbara said this crime happened in full view of UN troops, who did nothing to prevent it, other than shoot out the tires of her SUV.

Barbara and others on the opposite end of the political spectrum think the UN troops should go, Barbara because they aren't doing anything , like stopping kidnappings that happen under their noses, and the others because the troops are enabling the killing of innocent, poor people or in some cases killing people themselves. I'm afraid that if the UN weren't here, the violence and instablility would collapse the country even further, what with the incompetence and corruption of many of the police and the weak legal system. So I'm for the UN staying at least for now; maybe I wouldn't feel the same if I lived in Cite Soleil, a violent slum of 200,000 that has been cordoned off.

But anyway, I digress (get used to it). The kidnappers contacted Barbara and told her they wanted $10,000 for Johnny. Barbara said they'd give them a $1,000, and they agreed. The money was delivered, and Johnny was released. However, he didn't have a cent on him for a tap tap ride, so the kidnappers gave him $10 Haitian. I guess they wrote it off as a business expense. Though some of the kidnappings may be politically motivated, most seem to be cash raising expeditions. Our friend who was kidnapped in October, began praying and his kidnappers joined in. He was released after about a day.

I don't mean to minimize kidnapping by describing it in such a Keystone Cops kind of way. It is obviously a scary, serious crime and not all of the victims in Haiti have fared as well as our two acquaintances. The news reports from Haiti lately have indicated that kidnapping and other violent crimes have decreased. The American embassy, which pulled out its non essential staff earlier in the year, just had them return. Hearing these stories from people we know makes me wonder how accurately the news reports what is going on in Haiti. One thing is for sure, though: for better and worse, in its violence and in its everyday life, Haiti is a wacky place and that's what this post is meant to illustrate. We are always very careful.

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