Nikese Toussaint was at church, so she didn’t see the text message from her sister. All she knew at that point was that their brother and his wife, who live in Florida, had landed safely in Haiti to visit ailing relatives and prepare for Rara, a colorful and boisterous festival born out of the dark days of slavery. It wasn’t until Toussaint got home and her sister followed up the unread text with a phone call that she learned her warnings had materialized: their brother, an accountant; his wife, a social worker; and another person were snatched off a public bus amid a surge in gang-related kidnappings, the AP reports. Toussaint took a deep breath. Not again, she thought. Seventeen years earlier, gangs had kidnapped two of her cousins in the capital of Port-au-Prince. They were eventually released but remain traumatized.
This time, the gang that kidnapped her brother, his wife, and another person is demanding $200,000—each. “How are we ever going to come up with that money?” Toussaint asked the AP in a phone interview Monday from the US. The kidnapping occurred March 18, and since then, her brother, Jean-Dickens Toussaint, has been allowed to make only two brief calls. All his family knows is that he and his wife, Abigail Michael Toussaint, are tied up. The phone calls are too brief to find out if they are being given food or water or treated generally well, Nikese Toussaint said.
Gangs stopped the public bus they were on as it tried to cross Martissant, considered ground zero for ongoing violence that has worsened since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The gangs apparently noticed the suitcases in the bus and zeroed in on the couple, who have a nearly 2-year-old son, and the person accompanying them on the trip, Nikese Toussaint said. The family paid someone they trusted $6,000 to give to the gang, but the money vanished. It's not unusual for gangs in Haiti to refuse to release kidnapping victims even after they've been paid, but Toussaint believes it was a scam. Toussaint said her family is in touch with the FBI, which is helping with the case.
(Read more Haiti