Matt Bush, FISM News
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration is “looking at every possible option” to rescue the American hostages being held in Haiti at a press conference on Wednesday, giving a sliver of light in an otherwise harrowing situation.
After deploying three FBI agents the day after the kidnapping, the United States has sent “a significant number of law enforcement specialists and hostage recovery specialists to work closely with the ministry, the families and the Haitian government to try to coordinate and organize a recovery,” according to Sullivan.
Sullivan declined to give more details on specifics of recovery efforts saying it was a “delicate situation” but believes that the White House has put the pieces in place for a “successful conclusion.”
Sullivan was answering questions in regard to the Oct. 16 kidnapping of a group of missionaries. The group includes an eight-month-old baby, four other children, six men, and six women that were in Haiti working with Ohio-based “Christian Aid Ministries” to help children at a local orphanage.
To make an already difficult situation worse, Haiti is in the midst of a political and social crisis. In July, sitting President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home. In August, a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Les Cayes, Haiti. Currently, protesters and rioters fill the streets, a gas shortage has crippled much of the nation, and armed gangs control more than half of the capital city.
It was into this environment and under a Level 4 travel advisory from the State Department that these missionaries entered Haiti. It was also in this environment that the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang said in a recent video that if his ransom demand was not met, he would kill each member of the Christian group. The kidnappings highlight the current chaos in the country, where people are desperate and gangs are operating with impunity and without fear.
Many Haitians and Americans living in Haiti were hoping for a swift and decisive response from the American government, but Biden has yet to publicly address the situation even though the hostages have now been in captivity for nearly two weeks . Raymond Pierre-Louis, a Haitian who lives just outside of Port Au Prince said, “Regarding the situation of death in Haiti, I believe the US has been way too tolerant of this evil.”
In the press conference, Sullivan said that the president is getting daily updates on the situation and that he is “especially concerned about the well-being of the children, the youngest of whom is eight months old.”
The American expatriate community in Haiti is large. Many American have moved to Haiti to work with aid and relief organizations, and many Haitian-Americans have moved back to the country in recent years as well. One missionary warned against succumbing to the kidnappers’ demands, stating, “paying any ransom sets a bad precedent and puts a target on the backs of all other Americans doing work in Haiti.”
Situations like these are delicate, and Sullivan’s response was intentionally vague. The next few days will be critical in terms of getting these hostages released and back home, but it is equally important to do it in a way that preserves US-Haiti relations while keeping Americans in Haiti safe both now and in the future.