FBI Issues Warning to Americans Thinking of Traveling to Caribbean Country

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
April 26, 2023Americas
FBI Issues Warning to Americans Thinking of Traveling to Caribbean Country
A man walks on a beach close to the the city of Jacmel, 95 km (about 60 miles) south-west of Port-au-Prince, on Sept. 26, 2018. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning to American citizens not to go to Haiti amid a surge of violence and kidnapping.

“While we understand that there are strong ties between Haiti and South Florida, before traveling there one should consider the trauma and financial costs of being kidnapped not only to themselves but to their family and friends as well,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Liz Santamaria told the Miami Herald this week.

Last month, two U.S. citizens were kidnapped in Haiti when they visited the country to see relatives and attend a local festival. Jean Dickens Toussaint and his wife, Abigail Toussaint, were released earlier in April after spending a month in captivity.

The U.S. State Department currently advises Americans not to go to Haiti due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnappings. The highest-level “Do Not Travel” warning is in effect for the country.

“Kidnapping is widespread, and victims regularly include U.S. citizens,” the agency warns. “Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked. Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Victims’ families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.”

If an American citizen decides to go to Haiti for any reason, the agency included a large number of recommended actions that a traveler should take. That includes avoiding demonstrations or crowds, traveling in groups, and not driving through roadblocks.

NTD Photo
A woman walks past a barricade amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2023. (Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters)

“Arrange airport transfers and hotels in advance, or have your host meet you upon arrival,” it also says.

“Do not provide personal information to unauthorized individuals (i.e. people without official uniforms or credentials) located in the immigration, customs, or other areas inside or near any airports. If you are being followed as you leave the airport, drive to the nearest police station immediately. Travel by vehicle to minimize walking in public.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the FBI’s national press office for comment.

Out-of-Control Violence

This week, reports and videos showed alleged gang members being beaten and burned alive by groups of so-called vigilantes in Port-au-Prince, the capital city.

An Associated Press reporter said he saw 13 bodies burning in the streets of the capital this week. AP photos, too, showed what appeared to be bodies smoldering under burning tires while a crowd of people watched.

Police officers pulled over a bus and confiscated weapons before the suspects were “unfortunately lynched by members of the population,” said the Haiti National Police in a statement, according to reports. It’s unclear how the mob of people captured the suspects and why the police did not intervene.

“I applaud the considerable and meritorious efforts of the National Police to restore order and peace in our cities and neighborhoods,” Prime Minster Ariel Henry wrote in French on Monday night, without mentioning the vigilante executions or unconfirmed reports and videos of cannibalism. “There is still a lot to do.”

NTD Photo
Bystanders look at the bodies of alleged gang members that were set on fire by a mob after they were stopped by police while traveling in a vehicle in the Canape Vert area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 24, 2023. (Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo)

“It was 3 a.m. The gangs invaded us. There was shooting, shooting. This neighborhood is a peaceful area, all the people in the surrounding area are peaceful citizens,” a local resident told the AFP news agency.

“If the gangs come to invade us, we will defend ourselves, we have our own weapons, we have our machetes, we will take their weapons, we will not run away,” another 15-year-old Haitian local told AFP.

Another, 37-year-old Jeff Ezequiel, told The Associated Press that “we are planning to fight and keep our neighborhood clean of these savages. The population is tired and frustrated.”

Since the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse in mid-2021, violence and lawlessness in Haiti—considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—has spiraled out of control. Criminal gangs, including an organization reportedly led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, have taken over vast swaths of Haiti, including Port-au-Prince.

“Gang expansion into areas previously considered safe … has been alarming,” said the United Nations Security Council in a report released on Tuesday.

Reported killings from January to March 31 have risen by more than 20 percent compared with the last quarter of 2022, and 637 kidnappings have been reported so far this year, an increase of 63 percent compared with the last three months of 2022, the report stated.

Meanwhile, Haiti’s National Police has been decimated in recent years. The country only has 1.2 officers per 1,000 inhabitants of more than 11 million people, while “the police remain under resourced and face overwhelming odds in their struggle to keep gangs from tightening their grip on the country,” the U.N. report stated.

This week, amid the violence, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the immediate deployment of an international armed force to Haiti and said that violence in Port-au-Prince “has reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict,” AFP reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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