To operate, the bandits are using motorized fishing boats, making things much faster for them
It was three o’clock in the afternoon on June 23, 2023, when the « La vie des enfants » boat, loaded with goods and a hundred passengers aboard, left the Jérémie wharf headed for the commune of Arcahaie.
A light breeze swept the horizon, and « during the journey, the waters were not rough, » says Holdy, a passenger on the boat.
« La vie des enfants » was accompanied by two other smaller boats, « Pa Prese di sa » and « Maranatha, » which were sailing a little further behind.
Suddenly, around five o’clock, a dinghy containing several masked and heavily armed men appeared and began chasing one of the two boats.
The « La vie des enfants » crew members tried to speed up when a passenger alerted them about the presence of the armed men chasing the first boat. However, their efforts were in vain because the boat was overloaded with goods and passengers.
Quickly, the first two boats were captured and forcibly diverted by the armed gang members, until they reached the vicinity of the Minoterie, an area under the control of the « 5 Secondes » gang from Village de Dieu.
Read also : Gangs Engaging in Piracy of Boats in Haiti.
Next, came the turn of the sailboat « La vie des enfants. » The passengers were clearly distraught as five masked men boarded the longboat. Three of them confiscated all of the phones. After conducting searches, they assaulted Captain Bereno Louis.
The passengers were clearly distraught as five masked men boarded the longboat.
Around seven o’clock, « the bandits entered their stronghold with us, in the Minoterie area, » recounts Holdy, who also remembers hearing gunshots during the brutal murder of Captain Bereno Louis. His body was burned in the vicinity.
The passengers spent the night in the gang’s stronghold. The next day, they were all loaded onto one of the sailboats heading for Arcahaie around noon.
The « La vie des enfants » vessel was destroyed by the gang members nearly two months after the incident. Daniel Pierre, the boat’s owner, reveals that he « spent 150,000 gourdes [in vain] to recover the boat. » The gang’s inflexibility leaves this family man, who has been engaged in coastal trade since 1997, with no other recourse.
« The goods aboard could be valued at 650,000 gourdes, » says Kervens Lubin, the sailboat’s captain.
Around seven o’clock, the bandits entered their stronghold with us, in the Minoterie area.
This is not an isolated incident. Members of the infamous « 5 Secondes » gang, dissatisfied with their control over the Martissant route leading to the south of the country, are violently pursuing and kidnapping an increasing number of small sailboats heading to Carrefour or Arcahaie, according to interviews conducted by AyiboPost in the coastal sector.
The attacks are increasing as overland routes become less and less passable due to gang violence.
To operate, the bandits use motorized fishing boats, which greatly increase their operational speed in a context where regular boats are slow and often loaded with goods, explains Gilbert Guichard, an inspector with the Haitian Coast Guard.
According to witnesses, the bandits also possess binoculars to spot boats from a distance.
At least 53 people have fallen victim to piracy during this quarter, accounting for 35.33% of kidnapping cases in the country during this period.
« At first, kidnappings were occurring in Cité-Soleil. But at a certain point, when the Coast Guard services began to monitor the area, the bandits shifted their operations to the Minoterie area, » explains Gilbert Guichard.
In 2023, several notable cases were recorded by the Haitian Maritime and Navigation Service (SEMANAH).
These include, among others, the attack on the sailboat « Dye Inosan » in February 2023, the kidnapping of « Pa prese di sa » in April 2022, and most recently, in June, the hijacking of the three aforementioned sailboats.
SEMANAH admits that it is powerless. « The institution doesn’t have an armed force; it is the responsibility of the Coast Guard to take action, » says Érold Champagne, its coordinator of territorial representations.
The Coast Guard is also powerless. Gilbert Guichard notes that they lack effective means and equipment to patrol the seas. The inspector cites, among other things, a persistent lack of fuel and malfunctioning patrol boats.
Read also : Pirates Illegally Fish in Haiti
Jean-Marie Djouly, the wife of the late Captain Bereno Louis, learned of her husband’s death around three o’clock in the morning on June 24, 2023. « When I heard the news of his death, » the mother of three children tells AyiboPost, « I felt like I was losing my sanity. »
Today, Jean-Marie Djouly must rely on the generosity of some relatives to support her children.
English translation by Sarah Jean.
© Cover image : MINUSTAH
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