Once a relatively small criminal operation that operated in the countryside and trafficked in stolen cars, the gang expand its criminal activities in the chaotic months following the president’s assassination, said Mr. Jean, the human rights group director. By forging alliances with other armed groups, it was able to control an area stretching from the east of Port-au-Prince to the border with the Dominican Republic — a territory so vast that the police are unable to pursue gang members.
Three Recent Crises Gripping Haiti
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The abduction of U.S. missionaries. Seventeen people, including five children, associated with an American Christian aid group were kidnapped on Oct. 16 by a Haitian gang as they visited an orphanage. The brazenness of the abductions has shocked officials. The whereabouts and identities of the hostages remain unknown.
The aftermath of a deadly earthquake. On Aug. 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 2,100 people and leaving thousands injured. A severe storm — Grace, then a tropical depression — drenched the nation with heavy rain days later, delaying the recovery. Many survivors said they expected no help from officials.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. A group of assailants stormed Mr. Moïse’s residence on July 7, killing him and wounding his wife in what officials called a well-planned operation. The plot left a political void that has deepened the nation’s turmoil as the investigation continues. Elections that were planned for this year are likely to be delayed until 2022.
“The police are in a situation of powerlessness,” Mr. Jean said.
The 400 Mawozo gang accounted for 60 percent of the kidnappings from July to September, Mr. Jean said. They are held responsible for kidnapping five priests and two nuns this year, and are also believed to have killed Anderson Belony, a well-known sculptor who had worked to improve his community, according to local news reports.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the State Department was working with the F.B.I., the Haitian national police, churches and other groups to get the hostages released. But he noted that the kidnappings were “also indicative of a larger problem, and that is a security situation that is, quite simply, unsustainable.”
Mr. Blinken said the United States would continue to support the Haitian police and community programs in their efforts to stem gang violence. “But it’s a very challenging, and long-term process,” he said.
Gangs have gained so much power that they have taken on a nearly institutional role in some communities, said Mr. Vorbe, the political party leader, substituting for the police or providing basic services like road cleaning.
“They have stepped in for the state,” he said.
The growing gang presence, and now the attack on a group of missionaries, have cast a pall over other aid organizations and projects in the country.
In Fond Parisien, about 20 minutes from where the kidnapping took place, is another mission project called Redeemed Vocational School, which teaches trades like auto mechanics, sewing, and computer skills. The group had been planning to build a larger school building, but the violence has made it harder to travel and get supplies, said Kenlyn Miller, 46, the chairman of the school’s board in Gambier, Ohio.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Children on their way to school, street vendors selling their wares, priests mid-sermon — few Haitians, rich or poor, are safe from the gangs of kidnappers that stalk their country with near impunity. But the abduction this weekend of 17 people associated with an American missionary group as they visited an orphanage shocked officials for its brazenness.
On Sunday, the hostages, five of them children, remained in captivity, their whereabouts and identities unknown to the public. Adding to the mystery was a wall of silence from officials in Haiti and the United States about what, if anything, was being done to secure their release.
“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the missionary group, Christian Aid Ministries, an Ohio-based group founded by Amish and Mennonites that has a long history of working in the Caribbean, said in a statement.
The authorities identified the gang behind the kidnappings as 400 Mawozo, an outfit infamous for taking abductions to a new level in a country reduced to near lawlessness by natural disaster, corruption and political assassination. Not content to grab individual victims and demand ransom from their family members, the gang has taken to snatching people en masse as they ride buses or walk the streets in groups whose numbers might once have kept them safe.
President Jovenel Moïse. Violence is surging across the capital, where by some estimates, gangs now control roughly half of the city. On a single day last week, gangs shot at a school bus in Port-au-Prince, injuring at least five people, including students, while another group hijacked a public bus.
According to the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights, which is based in Port-au-Prince, this year alone, from January to September, there were 628 people reported kidnapped, including 29 foreigners.
“The motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one,” said Gèdèon Jean, executive director of the center. “The gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function.”
That means the missionaries are likely to emerge alive, he said
“They are going to be freed — that’s for sure,” Mr. Jean said. “We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate.”
abducted 10 people in Croix-des-Bouquets, including seven Catholic clergy members, five of them Haitian and two French. The group was eventually released in late April. The kidnappers demanded a $1 million ransom, but it is unclear if it was paid.
Haitians have been driven to despair by the violence, which prevents them from making a living and keeps their children from attending school. In recent days, some started a petition to protest gang violence, singling out the 400 Mawozo gang and calling on the police to take action. But the police, underfunded and lacking political support, have been able to do little.
Transportation workers called a strike for Monday and Tuesday in Port-au-Prince to protest insecurity — an action that may turn into a more general strike, with word spreading across sectors for workers to stay home to denounce violence that has reached “a new level in the horror.”
“Heavily armed bandits are no longer satisfied with current abuses, racketeering, threats and kidnappings for ransom,” the petition says. “Now, criminals break into village homes at night, attack families and rape women.”
Christian Aid Ministries’ compound in Haiti overlooks the bay of Port-au-Prince, in a suburb called Titanyen.
On a visit there Sunday, three large delivery trucks could be seen on the sprawling grounds surrounded by two fences reinforced with concertina wire. Chickens, goats and turkeys could be seen near small American-style homes with white porches and mailboxes, and laundry hung out to dry.
There was also a guard dog and a sign in Creole that forbid entry without authorization.
Because the area is so poor, at night the compound is the only building illuminated by electric lights, neighbors said. Everything else around it is plunged in darkness.
The Mennonites, neighbors said, were gracious, and tried to spread out the work they had — building a new stone wall around the compound, for instance — so everyone could earn a little and feed their families. They would give workers food and water and joke with them. And Haitians would often come in for Bible classes.
Usually, children could be seen playing. There are swings, a slide, a basketball court, and a volleyball court. It was very unusual, neighbors said, to see it so quiet. Sundays, especially, it is bustling.
But not this Sunday.
Andre Paultre, Oscar Lopez, Ruth Graham, Patricia Mazzei and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.
NECOCLÍ, Colombia — For decades, the Darién Gap, a roadless, lawless stretch of jungle linking South America to the north, was considered so dangerous that only a few thousand people a year were daring, or desperate, enough to try to cross it.
But the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic in South America was such that in the first nine months of this year, Panamanian officials say, an estimated 95,000 migrants, most of whom are Haitian, attempted the passage on their way to the United States.
They made the journey in shorts and flip-flops, their possessions stuffed in plastic bags, their babies in arms and their children by the hand. It’s uncertain how many made it — and how many didn’t. And yet tens of thousands more are gathered in Colombia, eager for their turn to try.
Del Rio and thrusting the Biden administration into a crisis, were just the leading edge of a much larger movement of migrants heading for the jungle and then the United States. People who had fled their troubled Caribbean nation for places as far south as Chile and Brazil began moving north months ago, hoping they would be welcomed by President Biden.
“We very well could be on the precipice of a historic displacement of people in the Americas toward the United States,” said Dan Restrepo, the former national security adviser for Latin America under President Barack Obama. “When one of the most impenetrable stretches of jungle in the world is no longer stopping people, it underscores that political borders, however enforced, won’t either.”
The Darién, also known as the Isthmus of Panama, is a narrow swath of land dividing the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Parts are so inaccessible that when engineers built the Pan-American Highway in the 1930s, linking Alaska to Argentina, only one section was left unfinished. That piece — 66 roadless miles of turbulent rivers, rugged mountains and venomous snakes — became known as the Darién Gap. Today, the journey through the gap is made more perilous by a criminal group and human traffickers who control the region, often extorting and sometimes sexually assaulting migrants.
a growing number of migrants had begun to brave the corridor, a journey that can take a week or more on foot. But after the pandemic, which hit South America particularly hard, that surge has become a flood of desperate families. At least one in five of those who crossed this year were children, Panamanian officials said.
As the number of migrants arriving at the U.S. border grew, the Biden administration retreated from a more open approach to migration embraced in the president’s first days in office to a tougher stance with a singular goal: deterring people from even attempting to enter the United States.
said in September. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.”
But the warning is unlikely to turn back the tens of thousands of Haitians who are already on the road.
On a recent day, there were about 20,000 migrants in Necoclí, in Colombia. And there are up to 30,000 Haitian migrants already in Mexico, according to a senior official in the Mexican foreign ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“They’ve already started the journey, they’ve already started to think about the U.S.,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. “It’s not that easy to turn that off.”
On a recent morning, Ms. Alix and Mr. Damier woke their children before dawn in the small home they’d been sharing with a dozen other migrants. Their turn had come to board the boat that would take them to the edge of the jungle.
In the darkness, Ms. Alix threw her backpack over her shoulders and strapped Vladensky to her chest. In one hand she carried a pot of spaghetti, meant to sustain them while it lasted. Her other hand reached out to her toddler, Farline.
On the beach the family joined a crowd of others. A dockworker handed a large life vest to Ms. Alix. She draped it over Farline’s small body and climbed into the boat. Aboard: 47 adults, 13 children, seven infants, all migrants.
“Goodbye!” yelled a man from the boat company. “Have a good trip!”
Government officials are largely absent from the Darién. The area is controlled by a criminal group known as the Clan del Golfo, whose members view migrants much as they view drugs: goods they can tax and control.
Once the migrants step off the boats, they are met by smugglers — typically poor men in the area who offer to take them into the jungle, starting at $250 a person. For an extra $10 they will carry a backpack. For another $30, a child.
Farline and her family spent the night in a tent at the edge of the jungle. In the morning, they set out before sunrise, alongside hundreds of others.
Soon, a vast plain became a towering forest. Farline clambered between trees, following her parents. Vladensky slept on his mother’s chest. Other children cried, the first to show signs of exhaustion.
As the group crossed river after river, tired adults began to abandon their bags. They clambered up and then down a steep, muddy slope, only to stare up at the next one. Faces that were hopeful, even excited, that morning went slack with exhaustion.
A woman in a leopard-print dress fainted. A crowd formed. A man gave her water. Then they all rose, picked up their bags and began to walk.
Today, after all, was just day one in the Darién, and they had a long journey ahead.
Julie Turkewitz reported from Necoclí, Colombia; Natalie Kitroeff from Mexico City; and Sofía Villamil from Necoclí and Bajo Chiquito, Panama. Oscar Lopez contributed reporting from Mexico City, and Mary Triny Zea from Panama City.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The first Haitians deported from a makeshift camp in Texas landed in their home country Sunday amid sweltering heat, anger and confusion, as Haitian officials beseeched the United States to stop the flights because the country is in crisis and cannot handle thousands of homeless deportees.
“We are here to say welcome, they can come back and stay in Haiti — but they are very agitated,” said the head of Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva. “They don’t accept the forced return.”
Mr. Bonheur Delva said the authorities expected that about 14,000 Haitians will be expelled from the United States over the coming three weeks.
An encampment of about that size has formed in the Texas border town of Del Rio in recent days as Haitian and other migrants crossed over the Rio Grande from Mexico. The Biden administration has said it is moving swiftly to deport them under a Trump-era pandemic order.
On Sunday alone, officials in Haiti were preparing for three flights of migrants to arrive in Port-au-Prince, the capital. After that, they expect six flights a day for three weeks, split between Port-au-Prince and the coastal city of Cap Haitien.
Beyond that, little was certain.
“The Haitian state is not really able to receive these deportees,” Mr. Bonheur Delva said.
The Haitian appeal for a suspension of deportations appeared likely to increase the pressure on the Biden administration, which is grappling with the highest level of border crossings in decades.
President Biden, who pledged a more humanitarian approach to immigration than his predecessor, has been taking tough measures to stop the influx, and the administration said this weekend that the Haitian deportations are consistent with that enforcement policy.
But the migrants are being sent back to a country still reeling from a series of overlapping crises, including the assassination of its president in July and an earthquake in August. Only once since 2014 has the United States deported more than 1,000 people to the country.
As the sun beat down Sunday in Port-au-Prince, more than 300 of the newly returned migrants milled close together around a white tent, looking dazed and exhausted as they waited to be processed — and despondent at finding themselves back at Square 1. Some held babies as toddlers ran around playing. Some of the children were crying.
Many said their only hope was to once again follow the long, arduous road of migration.
“I’m not going to stay in Haiti,” said Elène Jean-Baptiste, 28, who traveled with her 3-year-old son, Steshanley Sylvain, who was born in Chile and has a Chilean passport, and her husband, Stevenson Sylvain.
Like Ms. Jean-Baptiste, many had fled Haiti years ago, in the years after the country was devastated by an earlier earthquake, in 2010. Most had headed to South America, hoping to find jobs and rebuild a life in countries like Chile and Brazil.
Recently, facing economic turmoil and discrimination in South America and hearing that it might be easier to cross into the United States under the Biden administration, they decided to make the trek north.
From Mexico, they crossed the Rio Grande into the United States — only to find themselves detained and returned to a country that is mired in a deep political and humanitarian crisis.
In July, the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated, setting off a battle for power. A month later, the impoverished southern peninsula was devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, and the Caribbean nation’s shaky government was ill-equipped to handle the aftermath.
According to a United Nations report released last week, 800,000 people have been affected by the quake. A month after it struck, 650,000 still need emergency humanitarian assistance.
Many of the migrants who stepped off the plane Sunday have little to return to.
Claire Bazille left home in 2015, and had a job cleaning office buildings in Chile’s capital, Santiago. It wasn’t the dream life she had left Haiti to find, but she got by, even sending money home to her mother each month.
When Ms. Bazille heard that it was possible to enter the United States under the Biden administration, she left everything behind and headed north, joining other Haitians along the way.
On Sunday, she was put on a plane and returned to where it had all begun for her.
Only now, Ms. Bazille’s family’s home in Les Cayes had been destroyed in the earthquake. Her mother and six siblings are living in the streets, she said, and she is alone with a small child, a backpack with all their belongings, and no prospect of a job.
“I don’t know how I will survive,” said Ms. Bazille, 35. “It was the worst decision I could have taken. This is where I ended up. This is not where I was going.”
At least a dozen of the migrants said they felt tricked by the United States. They said they had been told by uniformed officials that the flight they were getting on was bound for Florida. When they learned otherwise, some protested but were placed on board in handcuffs, they said.
“I didn’t want to come back,” said Kendy Louis, 34, who had been living in Chile but decided to head to the United States when construction work dried up. He was traveling with his wife and 2-year-old son, and was among those who were handcuffed during the flight, he said.
The Assassination of Haiti’s President
The director of migration and integration at the Haitian office of migration, Amelie Dormévil, said several of the returnees told her they had been cuffed by the wrists, ankles and waist during the flight.
After the first plane carrying the deportees landed, the first to climb out were parents with babies in their arms and toddlers by the hand. Other men and women followed with little luggage, save perhaps for a little food or some personal belongings.
Amid confusion and shouting, the Haitians were led for processing at the makeshift tent, which had been set up by the International Organization for Migration.
Some expressed dismay at finding themselves back in a place they had worked so hard to escape — and with so few resources to receive them.
“Do we have a country?” asked one woman. “They’ve killed the president. We don’t have a country. Look at the state of this country!”
Haitian officials gave them little cause to think otherwise.
Mr. Bonheur Delva said “ongoing security issues” made the prospect of resettling thousands of new arrivals hard to imagine. Haiti, he said, cannot provide adequate security or food for the returnees.
And then there is the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am asking for a humanitarian moratorium,” Mr. Bonheur Delva said. “The situation is very difficult.”
After the earthquake in August, which killed more than 2,000 people, the Biden administration paused its deportations to Haiti. But it changed course last week when the rush of Haitian migrants crossed into Texas from the border state of Coahuila, Mexico, huddling under a bridge in Del Rio and further straining the United States’ overwhelmed migration system.
The deportations have left Haiti’s new government scrambling.
“Will we have all those logistics?” Mr. Bonheur Delva said. “Will we have enough to feed these people?”
On Sunday, after being processed, the migrants were given Styrofoam containers with a meal of rice and beans. The government planned to give them the equivalent of $100.
After that, said Mr. Bonheur Delva, it will be up to them to find their own way.
Natalie Kitroeff contributed reporting from Mexico City.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The commander in charge of guarding the Haitian president’s home quickly became a suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month when his security team inexplicably melted away, enabling hit men to enter the residence with little resistance and kill the president in his own bedroom.
But current and former officials say that the commander, Dimitri Hérard, was already a suspect in a separate case that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has pursued for years: the disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of cocaine and heroin that were whisked away by corrupt officials only hours before law enforcement agents showed up to seize them.
Now, some international officials assisting with the investigation into the president’s assassination say they are examining whether those criminal networks help explain the killing. Haitian officials, including the country’s prime minister, have acknowledged that the official explanation presented in the days after the assassination — that Mr. Moïse was gunned down in an elaborate plot to seize political office — does not entirely add up, and that the true motive behind the murder has not been uncovered.
Haiti is a major transit point for drugs heading to the United States, and American and United Nations officials say the trade flourishes through an array of politicians, businesspeople and members of law enforcement who abuse their power. Now, current and former officials say that Mr. Hérard has long been a focal point of the investigation into one of the biggest drug trafficking cases the D.E.A. has ever pursued in Haiti.
detained in connection with the assassination. The president’s widow has angrily demanded to know what happened to the dozens of guards Mr. Hérard commanded, and why none of them were killed when assailants stormed her home on July 7, wounding her and shooting her husband dead on the floor beside her.
they said they were rebuffed.
“The port is an open sewer,” Mr. Greco said.
Van Williams, another United Nations anti-narcotics supervisor based in Haiti at the time, agreed.
“There was very little importance placed on the docks, which I found very strange,” Mr. Williams said. “Corruption in Haiti from the top on down is so rampant.”
report earlier this year. Only five people have been convicted of drug trafficking in Haiti, and the government did not classify corruption as a crime until 2014, the report added.
as the killers stormed the house, pleading for help. Phone records and Mr. Hérard’s initial testimony also showed that Mr. Moïse had called him at 1:39 a.m. on the night of the killing. But Mr. Hérard and his unit never engaged the hit squad at the residence, instead mounting a roadblock some distance away, according to his initial police testimony.
reprimanded the D.E.A. for its handling of the Manzanares case and for not doing more to clean up Haiti’s ports.
“I went through hell, speaking the truth and trying to do the right thing,” said Mr. McNichols.
Anatoly Kurmanaev in Port-au-Prince and Julian Barnes in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
storm was projected to pass over or near Haiti on Monday, the center said in an update on Saturday afternoon, adding that people on the island should monitor the path of Grace, and that tropical storm warnings for Haiti and other nearby islands could be required later on Saturday or on Sunday.
Over Haiti, the storm could dump four to seven inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches, the center said, adding that heavy rainfall could lead to flooding and potential mudslides on Monday and into Tuesday.
Before the center’s afternoon update, Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the center, said the earthquake could increase the chance of mudslides.
“It could have shifted some of the ground and soil, which could make mudslides more common,” he said.
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the center, said the storm was not expected to make landfall in Haiti, which means the center of the storm wouldn’t cross over the island itself.
However, he said, “rain is centered all around the storm, so the center won’t mean a whole lot.”
Grace is expected to strengthen over the next couple of days, and then weaken by Monday or Tuesday, the center said.
Grace, which is the seventh named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, follows several days of floods and power outages unleashed this week by Fred.
A magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday morning. It was stronger than the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country in 2010. The United States Geological Survey said the quake struck five miles from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes in the western part of the country, about 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Seismologists said it had a depth of seven miles. It was felt as far away as Jamaica, 200 miles away.
The U.S. Tsunami Warning Center reported a tsunami threat because of Saturday’s earthquake, but later rescinded it.
Aftershocks rippled through the region, the U.S.G.S. said, including one at magnitude 5.1.
What is the death toll?
More than 300 people were killed and 1,800 injured, according to Jerry Chandler, the director general of the Civil Protection Agency. An untold number of others were missing.
Among the dead was the former mayor of Les Cayes, Gabriel Fortuné, who was killed when the hotel he owned collapsed during the quake, according to a local journalist who knew him, Jude Bonhomme.
What parts of Haiti were affected?
Two cities, Les Cayes and Jeremie, located in Haiti’s southern peninsula, have reported major devastation with people caught under rubble and buildings collapsed. Phone lines were down in Petit Trou de Nippes, the epicenter of the quake. No news emerged immediately from that city, leaving Haitian officials to fear for the worst.
The full extent of the damage and casualties is not yet known. But doctors said hospitals were overwhelmed.
A building housing medical students, hospital interns and two doctors had collapsed, trapping those who were most needed to provide aid, said Dr. James Pierre, a surgeon at the general hospital of Les Cayes, also known as the Hospital Immaculée Conception.
The State Department’s internal assessment of the earthquake was bleak. Up to 650,000 people experienced “very strong” tremors with an additional 850,000 affected by “strong shaking,” leaving thousands of buildings at risk of damage and potential, eventual collapse, according to the assessment, shared by a State Department official.
What does this mean for the country?
This earthquake could not have come at a worst time for Haiti, which is still recovering from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 220,000 people and leveled much of Port-au-Prince. The southern peninsula, where the earthquake hit, is also still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, which hit the country in 2016.
The country of 11 million is also recovering from political turmoil. Haiti has been in the throes of a political crisis since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7, and the government is not financially equipped to take care of repairs.
Archdeacon Abiade Lozama of a regional Episcopal Church in Haiti was welcoming teachers and parents to discuss plans to return to school on Saturday when the earthquake struck Les Cayes. Everyone ran outside, looking for an open space free of trees or buildings that could collapse.
He said he walked from the school to the town center and saw only a handful of houses that did not have damage.
“The streets are filled with screaming,” he said. “People are searching, for loved ones or resources, medical help, water.”
Les Cayes was hit hard by Saturday’s earthquake, which came about a month after the assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, forced the country into a political crisis.
“People are sitting around waiting for word, and there is no word — no word from their family, no word on who will help them,” he said. “When such a catastrophe happens, people wait for word or some sort of confidence from the state. But there’s nothing. No help.”
Archdeacon Lozama had planned for a joyous day to discuss pandemic reopenings but that was derailed.
“Today was supposed to be a day of hope, of meetings with teachers and students to plan for returning to school,” Archdeacon Lozama said.
In Jérémie, another area hit hard by the quake, the collapse of an old cathedral— a Haitian landmark —was a chilling throwback to 2010, when a cathedral in Port-au-Prince, the capital, was destroyed during an earthquake that has scarred the nation since.
That cathedral, which has yet to be restored, is a symbol of the many devastations the country has faced and of the government’s inability to help its own population, one of the most destitute in the world.
The main supermarket in Les Cayes collapsed, leaving the population of about half a million with dwindling supplies and worries that eventually there would be looting and fighting over basics like drinking water. The local hospitals — already underfunded — were overwhelmed with casualties.
The magnitude-7.2 quake snapped the underground pipes of Les Cayes, flooding the streets.
Dr. Fatima Geralde Joseph said she tried to rush over to the clinic where she works to start helping, but she could not cross the flooded streets and eventually had to return home.
Others interviewed said there were aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.2 every 10 minutes, setting off panic among the population.
When Gepsie Metellus got the news from a cousin on Saturday morning that a powerful earthquake had rocked Haiti, she made a panicked call from her home in Miami to her husband, who had traveled to Port-au-Prince on Thursday for a visit.
As she dialed his number, her thoughts returned in terror to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti 11 years ago.
“It’s taking me back to visions of 2010,”said Ms. Metellus, executive director of Sant La, a Haitian neighborhood center in Miami. “We’re just bracing ourselves, just bracing ourselves for really terrible news.”
She was able to contact her husband, who was safe, but for some, the agony of not knowing the fate of their loved ones continued through the day.
Members of the Haitian diaspora in the United States spoke on Saturday of making anxious calls to relatives and friends in the Caribbean nation, and U.S.-based aid organizations were struggling to assess the scope of the damage and to connect with their people on the ground.
“All circuits are busy — circuits are really, really overwhelmed right now,” said Elizabeth Campa, an adviser with Zanmi Lasante, a health care provider in Haiti, and a sister organization of the Boston-based organization Partners in Health.
“We are still trying to desperately get a hold of the staff,” said Skyler Badenoch, chief executive of Hope for Haiti, a U.S.-based organization that works to reduce poverty in Haiti. By Saturday afternoon, the organization had been able to account for 45 of its 60 staff members in Haiti. Of those who reported themselves safe, many had experienced major damage to their homes.
Commissioner Jean Monestime of Miami-Dade County said he had fielded calls all day from constituents desperately trying to reach family members in Haiti.
“People are still in disbelief that Haiti is experiencing yet another disaster,” he said, adding that he and other Haitian American elected officials were working to organize response efforts.
“What the assessment has been so far in terms of casualty and the effort for search and rescue — there’s not much that we are learning as of yet,” Mr. Monestime said.
For those watching anxiously from the U.S., the political turbulence in the weeks following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti raised additional concerns about the prospect of recovery from Saturday’s earthquake.
“All this against the backdrop of a country where gangs are running amok, a country with no functioning government,” said Ms. Metellus, adding,“Everyone’s feeling this collective sense of anxiety, of frustration, of fear, of déjà vu.”
With phone lines down and roadways disrupted or gang-controlled, news organizations and emergency officials scrambled to try to gain access to the parts of Haiti damaged by a powerful earthquake on Saturday morning. Port-au-Prince, the capital, is 80 miles west from the quake’s epicenter, near Les Cayes — and some four and half hours away by car.
The flight time from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes is only 30 minutes. News services like The Associated Press tried to get reporters on medical or charter flights to document the state of the stricken region.
News photographs and reports began filtering through by Saturday afternoon, but in the interim, social media became a pivotal source of information about the earthquake’s devastation, supplying images and videos.
One video being picked up by multiple reporters and media outlets online shows the destruction of multiple houses and buildings as people try to help those that might be caught under the rubble.
#NEW: Images reveal mass destruction following the 7.2 earthquake in #Haiti. Similar in strength to the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 160,000 people in the Caribbean country in 2010, according to a study. pic.twitter.com/1RYFlv31af
— Leonardo Feldman (@LeoFeldmanNEWS) August 14, 2021
The posts show people still in their pajamas or bath towels, out in the street seeking safety after fleeing violently trembling homes. Entire three-story buildings were flattened to eye-level. One video showed a group of men sifting through rubble to try to extract someone buried beneath.
This is not the first time that social media has filled an urgent news role in the Caribbean. Climate change has caused stronger storms and hurricanes that hit the area with more force, and suffering and paralyzing hits to infrastructure often hit social media first.
Social media platforms also have sometimes served as a communications network, where families could connect with loved ones when phone lines went down and learn about relief efforts, according to reporting from The Pulitzer Center.
That was true during Hurricane Maria in 2017 and also in 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 220,000 people.
Hours after the earthquake hit Haiti, the Biden administration, the United Nations and private relief agencies that operate in Haiti promised urgent help.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris received a briefing on Saturday morning about the Haiti earthquake while they were at a meeting discussing Afghanistan, according to the White House. The president authorized an immediate response, The Associated Press reported, and named the USAID administrator, Samantha Power, as the senior official coordinating the effort.
Ms. Power said in a Twitter post that USAID was “moving urgently to respond” and that experts were on the ground assessing damage and needs. In a tweet, the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, said that the U.N. “is working to support rescue and relief efforts.” There was no outline of what the responses might look like as damage on the ground continues to be evaluated and the death toll continues to rise.
“While it will take days to assess the full scale of the damage, it is clear that this is a massive humanitarian emergency,” said Leila Bourahla, Save the Children’s Haiti country director. “We must respond quickly and decisively.”
UNICEF, a branch of the U.N., said in a statement that it was working with government and non-goverment organizations to evaluate what was needed. The agency said it has offices in the south of Haiti and staff members on the ground were making assessments in order to prioritize urgent needs and provide assistance to affected populations. Much of the assistance right now seems to be medical.
Nonprofit organizations like Community Organized Relief Effort, or CORE, which was founded by Sean Penn in 2010 after another earthquake hit Haiti, are also on the ground. CORE deployed two teams Saturday, one of which is a mobile medical team, according to a statement from the organization.
But getting aid to those who need it in Haiti isn’t easy. An influx of foreign aid and peacekeeping forces after the 2010 earthquake appeared to only worsen the country’s woes and instability. The international community has pumped $13 billion of aid into the country over the last decade, and instead of the nation-building the money was supposed to achieve, Haiti’s institutions have become further hollowed out in recent years.
The aid has propped up the country and its leaders, providing vital services and supplies in a country that has desperately needed vast amounts of humanitarian assistance. But it has also left the government with few incentives to carry out the institutional reforms necessary to rebuild the country, allowing corruption, violence and political paralysis to go unchecked.
After a powerful earthquake hit Haiti early Saturday, the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center initially reported a tsunami threat and warned of waves between three to 10 feet high.
The threat was then rescinded.
A video circulating on social media showed residents of Les Cayes fleeing a flooded street, splashing through murky, knee-deep water, but it wasn’t clear what caused the flooding.
Earthquakes with a magnitude between 6.5 and 7.5 generally do not produce deadly tsunamis, but they can cause a small sea change level close to a quake’s epicenter, according to the United States Geological Survey.
At the time, the upstarts of the borough’s anti-industrial food revolution were looking for any category they could disrupt through local ingredients or handmade production. Brooklynified beer, chocolate and pizza were gathering hype as well as space on store shelves. Yet frozen dessert remained a maltodextrin wasteland.
“We were like, ‘Why is there no great artisan ice cream in New York City?’” Ms. Dundas said.
Ms. Gallivan said there was a “eureka moment” when the women started craving the kind of ice cream that existed in Boston, “where there’s this amazing ice cream tradition.” In New York, “there was like Tasti D-Lite and Baskin-Robbins — nothing worth the calories, as my mom would say.”
Blue Marble’s overarching concept, like that of so many Brooklyn brands, was lofty and vaguely European, featuring “elemental” flavors sourced from upstate farms with unimpeachable organic pedigrees and no candy or breakfast cereal. If the flavorings leaned pious rather than juvenile, crass marketing it was not: Ms. Gallivan, leveraging her expertise in international aid, set up ambitious satellite projects in Haiti and Rwanda, the latter of which continues 10 years on.
And the ice cream was good.
“It’s in the chew,” said Thomas Bucci Jr., a fourth-generation ice cream maker whose Rhode Island factory “co-packs” pints for Blue Marble and other brands. Good ice cream, he said, “has a certain bite, as opposed to the big guys, where it’s just air — it doesn’t even melt.”
To get that texture, Mr. Bucci said, “you can spend $20-30,000 a week on milk and cream alone.” He added — emphatically — that there were no shortcuts.
Compromises beckoned, however, as Blue Marble began racking up successes in its early years, including partnerships with JetBlue and Facebook.
“It’s really hard in a place like New York to not start compromising, because things are expensive and they eat into your margins,” Ms. Gallivan said. Blue Marble refused to cut corners, she said, in the belief that “ultimately quality ingredients and the best ice cream will prevail.”
MIAMI — With her elbow shattered by gunfire and her mouth full of blood, the first lady of Haiti lay on the floor beside her bed, unable to breathe, as the assassins stormed the room.
“The only thing that I saw before they killed him were their boots,” Martine Moïse said of the moment her husband, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, was shot dead beside her. “Then I closed my eyes, and I didn’t see anything else.”
She listened as they ransacked the room, searching methodically for something in her husband’s files, she said. “‘That’s not it. That’s not it,’” she recalled them saying in Spanish, over and over. Then finally: “‘That’s it.’”
The killers filed out. One stepped on her feet. Another waved a flashlight in her eyes, apparently to check to see if she was still alive.
retired Colombian commandos, a former judge, a security equipment salesman, a mortgage and insurance broker in Florida, and two commanders of the president’s security team. According to the Haitian police, the elaborate plot revolves around a 63-year-old doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who officials say conspired to hire the Colombian mercenaries to kill the president and seize political power.
But critics of the government’s explanation say that none of the people named in the investigation had the means to finance the plot on their own. And Mrs. Moïse, like many Haitians, believes there must have been a mastermind behind them, giving the orders and supplying the money.
were being hollowed out.
Mr. Moïse was also locked in battle with some of the nation’s wealthy oligarchs, including the family that controlled the nation’s electrical grid. While many people described the president as an autocratic leader, Mrs. Moïse said her fellow citizens should remember him as a man who stood up to the rich and powerful.
And now she wants to know if one of them had him killed.
“Only the oligarchs and the system could kill him,” she said.
Dressed in black, with her arm — now limp and perhaps useless forever, she said — wrapped in a sling and bandages, Mrs. Moïse offered an interview in South Florida on the agreement that The New York Times not reveal her whereabouts. Flanked by her children, security guards, Haitian diplomats and other advisers, she barely spoke above a whisper.
She and her husband had been asleep when the sounds of gunfire jolted them to their feet, she recalled. Mrs. Moïse said she ran to wake her two children, both in their early 20s, and urged them to hide in a bathroom, the only room without windows. They huddled there with their dog.
Her husband grabbed his telephone and called for help. “I asked, ‘Honey, who did you phone?’” she said.
“He said, ‘I found Dimitri Hérard; I found Jean Laguel Civil,’” she said, reciting the names of two top officials in charge of presidential security. “And they told me that they are coming.”
But the assassins entered the house swiftly, seemingly unencumbered, she said. Mr. Moïse told his wife to lie down on the floor so she would not get hurt.
“‘That’s where I think you will be safe,’” she recalled him saying.
It was the last thing he told her.
A burst of gunfire came through the room, she said, hitting her first. Struck in the hand and the elbow, she lay still on the floor, convinced that she, and everyone else in her family, had been killed.
None of the assassins spoke Creole or French, she said. The men spoke only Spanish, and communicated with someone on the phone as they searched the room. They seemed to find what they wanted on a shelf where her husband kept his files.
“They were looking for something in the room, and they found it,” Mrs. Moïse said.
She said she did not know what it was.
“At this moment, I felt that I was suffocating because there was blood in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “In my mind, everybody was dead, because if the president could die, everybody else could have died too.”
The men her husband had called for help, she said — the officials entrusted with his security — are now in Haitian custody.
The Assassination of Haiti’s President
And while she expressed satisfaction that a number of the accused conspirators have been detained, she is by no means satisfied. Mrs. Moïse wants international law enforcement agencies like the F.B.I., which searched homes in Florida this week as part of the investigation, to track the money that financed the killing. The Colombian mercenaries who were arrested, she said, did not come to Haiti to “play hide and seek,” and she wants to know who paid for it all.
In a statement on Friday, the F.B.I. said it “remains committed to working alongside our international partners to administer justice.”
Mrs. Moïse expected the money to trace back to wealthy oligarchs in Haiti, whose livelihoods were disrupted by her husband’s attacks on their lucrative contracts, she said.
Mrs. Moïse cited a powerful Haitian businessman who has wanted to run for president, Reginald Boulos, as someone who had something to gain from her husband’s death, though she stopped short of accusing him of ordering the assassination.
Mr. Boulos and his businesses have been at the center of a barrage of legal cases brought by the Haitian government, which is investigating allegations of a preferential loan obtained from the state pension fund. Mr. Boulos’ bank accounts were frozen before Mr. Moïse’s death, and they were released to him immediately after he died, Mrs. Moïse said.
In an interview, Mr. Boulos said that only his personal accounts, with less than $30,000, had been blocked, and he stressed that a judge had ordered the release of the money this week, after he took the Haitian government to court. He insisted that, far from being involved in the killing, his political career was actually better off with Mr. Moïse alive — because denouncing the president was such a pivotal part of Mr. Boulos’s platform.
“I had absolutely, absolutely, absolutely nothing to do with his murder, even in dreams,” Mr. Boulos said. “I support a strong, independent international investigation to find who came up with the idea, who financed it and who executed it.”
Mrs. Moïse said she wants the killers to know she is not scared of them.
“I would like people who did this to be caught, otherwise they will kill every single president who takes power,” she said. “They did it once. They will do it again.”
She said she is seriously considering a run for the presidency, once she undergoes more surgeries on her wounded arm. She has already had two surgeries, and doctors now plan to implant nerves from her feet in her arm, she said. She may never regain use of her right arm, she said, and can move only two fingers.
“President Jovenel had a vision,” she said, “and we Haitians are not going to let that die.”
Anatoly Kurmanaev and Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince.
CAP-HAÏTIEN, Haiti — Heckled by protesters and surrounded by phalanxes of heavily armed guards, foreign diplomats and Haitian politicians attended the funeral of Haiti’s assassinated president on Friday, a tense event that laid bare a fractured nation’s problems instead of providing an opportunity for healing.
Less than a half-hour into the funeral, foreign dignitaries including an American delegation led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, departed over safety concerns set off by gunshots fired outside the event. White House officials said that the delegation members were safe and that they had flown back to the United States, cutting the trip short.
questioned and taken into custody.
Trou-du-Nord, and later began his entrepreneurial career from Port-de-Paix, where he became president of the Chamber of Commerce.
That he was killed far away in Port-au-Prince inflamed old divisions between the less developed north and the country’s capital and economic center. It also deepened the rifts between the country’s small elite — historically stemming from the descendants of lighter-skinned Blacks who were free before the revolution — and its destitute majority.
“It comes back incessantly in all the history of Haiti,” said Emile Eyma Jr., a historian based in Cap-Haïtien, speaking of the resentment felt by northerners.
“What is dangerous is that both the question of color and the question of regionalism are weaponized for purely political reasons,” he said, distracting from the country’s fundamental problems of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
Harold Isaac, Zachary Montague and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.
The risk of allowing decisions to be guided by foreign powers, he said, was further unrest. Most political parties in the country won’t accept this decision, Mr. Lambert said, and “Haiti will continue on this spiral of instability.”
The Core Group was set up in 2004 after a coup, as part of the U.N. stabilization mission, said Jake Johnston, a research associate for the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. Since then, he said, it has become a “de facto fourth branch of government.”
The Core Group’s role in the reshuffling of Haiti’s government came as slap in the face to the Commission, a gathering of civil society groups and political parties with more than 150 members who held marathon meetings over the weekend to publicly work out the kind of transitional government they wanted.
The scene was one of participatory democracy, with debates and votes on propositions including how long the transitional government should last and what form it should take.
Mr. Jean-Baptiste, a participant, said that Mr. Joseph’s resignation on Monday made little difference to him, pointing out that Mr. Joseph and Mr. Henry, like Mr. Moïse, came from the same political party, the ruling Bald Head party, or P.H.T.K.
“We can’t accept that P.H.T.K. will continue to lead the country,” Mr. Jean-Baptiste said on Monday, “with the gangs, with the massacres, with the looting of state coffers. It’s not possible. We want to finish with the regime of Jovenel Moïse.”
Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.