Haitian politician Eric Jean Baptiste killed in apparent gang attack

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A prominent leader of a Haitian political party was killed in a terrorist attack in the capital on Friday, the latest in a growing security crisis in the Caribbean nation.

Eric Jean Baptiste, a lottery business executive, and a security guard were killed in Laboule 12, a leafy hill station in Port-au-Prince, when gunmen opened fire on their car, officials said. Jean Baptiste, 52, led the center-left Assembly of Progressive National Democrats Party and once sought the presidency of Haiti.

Mr. Ricardo Nordain, a party worker, said that Mr. Jean Baptiste’s car, which was loaded with weapons, overturned after being hit.

“He represented a lot,” Nordain said. “His killing shows that we have no leadership in this country.”

Gangs have existed in Haiti for a long time, but their power has grown in recent years amid serious erosion of democratic and security institutions. The United Nations said this month that the violence in the city has displaced about 96,000 people and that the terrorists have used violence to terrorize the local population.

Haitian terrorists use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter to recruit and threaten

Laboule 12 is part of a gang called Ti Makak. The gang was involved in the assassination of a former Haitian senator this year. Three policemen were also killed there last month. The conflict that started in 2020 involves a land dispute between Ti Makak and a military group supported by Jean Mossanto Petit, a businessman.

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The Haiti-Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights said in a report last month that Ti Makak is doing a lot of shootings and kidnappings to strengthen his position in the war. When asked if Jean Baptiste had conflicts with the gang, Nordain said, “Honest people always have conflicts with criminals.”

Nordain said Jean Baptiste helped provide food, school supplies and clean water to people in need and was running a pilot project with a law enforcement agency in Jacmel, a port town in southern Haiti.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry offered his condolences to Jean Baptiste’s family on Saturday.

“The brutal killing of political leader Eric Jean Baptiste by his bodyguards has caused chaos in Haiti,” he said in a tweet. “We strongly condemn this heinous crime against a patriotic, moderate politician committed to reform.”

Haiti is facing health, security and political problems that threaten chaos and which led Henry to call on the international community to use the military to restore peace.

The G9 rebel group has for weeks blocked access to the ports and the Varreux oil refinery, the source of 70 percent of Haiti’s oil, forcing businesses and hospitals to reduce their hours or close and putting access to food and safe drinking water between them. the resurgence of cholera which has killed many people.

Cholera has re-emerged in Haiti as rebels cut off access to water, hospitals

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Thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest insecurity and the Henry government. Critics say he has been slow to advance new elections to replace President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated last year, so he can remain in power.

The protests followed the government’s announcement that it would freeze oil prices, sparking anger in the impoverished country where inflation is around 30 percent and 4.7 million people are facing severe hunger.

A regional leader said that the problems that have affected the country are “less than a civil war.”

The United States imposed visa restrictions this month on Haitians it says are involved in terrorism, including financial and political aid, and the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution imposing an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on Haitian gang leaders.

The warrant named Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer who headed the G-9 terrorist organization, as one of his main targets. The United States imposed sanctions on Cherizier, also known as “Barbecue,” in 2020 for his role in leading “brutal, violent attacks in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince.”

Henry’s request for a foreign security force has been highly controversial – both in Haiti and abroad.

The US is backing off sending international troops to Haiti, he says

The country has a long history of dealing with foreign countries, which critics say has deeply undermined the country. In the last such intervention, UN peacekeepers faced allegations of rape and the organization apologized for its role in a cholera outbreak that killed 10,000 people.

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Some Haitians believe that Henry, who has been accused of inaction on security issues, is seeking foreign aid to stay in power. China’s envoy to the United Nations this month questioned whether such a force would be supported by the Haitian people – or would instead lead to unrest.

The United States has called for an international military force, led by another country, to be sent to Haiti to remove the oil blockade and deal with the humanitarian crisis, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Canadian officials last week to discuss the issue.

A Canadian delegation went to Haiti in recent days to conduct an “assessment mission” of humanitarian and security issues, but Canadian officials have not commented on whether the country would join or lead the military force offered by the United States.

Meanwhile, humanitarian and security emergencies continue to grow.

Roberson Alphonse, a well-known Haitian journalist with the newspaper Le Nouvelliste, was kidnapped in his car this week by assailants. He is recovering. In one of his last tweets, Jean Baptiste mentioned the attempt on Alphonse’s life.

“The life expectancy of people in Haiti is 24 hours,” he said. “Who will follow?” Will he have the same luck?”

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