In the last ten years kidnapping has become common in Haiti. Usually, young children of richer people are taken and held for ransom. It has made Haiti a dangerous place to live, work and visit.
Now, the nation is addressing the problem. A wealthy businessman has been charged with kidnapping the adult children of a business rival. His arrest changed things.
First, it showed that the Haitian National Police were able to investigate and charge a rich person with a crime. Before, the police were thought to be incompetent and corrupt.
Second, the investigation found many present and former police officers engaged in criminal activities, including kidnapping.
Third, the arrests showed that light-skinned Haitians could be violent criminals. The common belief was that Haitians with darker skins were more prone to violent crime.
The businessman, from the wealthy family, is Clifford Brandt. He had the children of a rival auto dealer kidnapped for a $2.5 million ransom. The children were rescued. Investigation showed that Brandt headed a large criminal enterprise in kidnapping, illegal arms trafficking, and laundering money.
Haitians saw the arrests along class and racial lines. A cab driver said, “They are always blaming us for kidnapping, but I have always known some wealthy and powerful people were involved all along.”
A businessman said, “You always assumed that kidnapping did not have a face,’’ said a businessman who negotiated his kidnapped son’s release after eight days in the summer of 2008. “Now it has a face.’’
The big question in Haiti is whether this is the start of the stabilization of the country.