Once a relatively small criminal operation that operated in the countryside and trafficked in stolen cars, the gang is expanding its criminal activities in the chaotic months following the assassination of the president, said Mr Jean, director of the advocacy group. human rights. By forging alliances with other armed groups, he was able to control an area stretching from eastern Port-au-Prince to the border with the Dominican Republic – an area so vast that the police are unable to prosecute them. gang members.

“The police are in a situation of powerlessness,” said Mr. Jean.

The 400 Mawozo gang accounted for 60% of kidnappings from July to September, Jean said. They are held responsible for the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns this year, and also allegedly killed Anderson Belony, a well-known sculptor who had worked to improve his community, according to local media.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the State Department was working with the FBI, Haitian National Police, churches and other groups to secure the release of the hostages. But he noted that the kidnappings were “also indicative of a larger problem, and that it is a security situation which is, quite simply, unsustainable.”

Mr. Blinken said the United States will continue to support Haitian police and community programs in their efforts to stem gang violence. “But it’s a very difficult and long-term process,” he said.

The gangs have gained so much power that they have assumed a quasi-institutional role in some communities, said Mr Vorbe, the leader of the political party, substituting for the police or providing basic services like cleaning the roads.

“They replaced the state,” he said.

The growing presence of gangs, and now the attack on a group of missionaries, has cast a veil on other aid organizations and projects in the country.

At Fond Parisien, about 20 minutes from the kidnapping location, is another mission project called Redeemed Vocational School, which teaches trades like auto mechanics, tailoring, and computers. The group had planned to build a larger school building, but the violence made it harder to get around and get supplies, said Kenlyn Miller, 46, chairman of the school’s board in Gambier, Ohio.

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