The Haitian prime minister had to flee an event in memory of revolutionary founding father Jean-Jacques Deslin on Sunday when members of an armed gang arrived and opened fire.
The incident happened just a day after a bus full of missionaries and their families was hijacked by gang members in Port-au-Prince. 17 members of a US-based missionary group were reportedly on their way to the airport when they were abducted. US officials and Haitian authorities are trying to secure his release.
Annual ceremonies in memory of Haiti’s first emperor, Deslin, were scheduled in the Pont Rouge area of Port-au-Prince, where the leader was assassinated in 1806. Under Desline, Haiti became the first country to abolish slavery.
Prime Minister Henri Ariel and his security also could not reach the spot as Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherzier and members of his gang allegedly chased them away and instead carried out the commemoration ceremony. Cherzier is the head of the G9 gang, a group of nine Haitian gangs based in Port-au-Prince.
A video of the incident shared on social media on Sunday showed several SUVs believed to belong to Mr Ariel and his security details, except at Pont Rouge, as gunshots were heard in the background. was giving
Cherzier was later seen paying floral tributes and paying his respects to Deslaine. He was seen wearing a white suit and shirt, which is Haiti’s dress code for officials on national holidays.
On Sunday, several members of Cherzier’s gang were seen wearing T-shirts with a picture of former Haitian President Jovenel Mosse, who was assassinated in July, with the words “Justice for Jowell” on them.
More recently, Cherzier tried to fill the power void left by the assassination and also called for revolution in June. The gang leader has also reportedly collaborated with Mosey’s Tate Kale party in the past.
Cherzier has been under US Treasury sanctions since 2018 since his role in the La Saline massacre, which is considered the worst genocide to rock Haiti in the past decade. More than 70 people were killed over a period of four days by local gangs or Haitian authorities in an attempt to suppress anti-corruption demonstrations.
Cherzier was reportedly employed as a police officer at the time. He was soon fired from his job and an arrest warrant was issued in his name.
According to investigative journalism organization Insight Crime, he also participated in an alleged anti-gang campaign in 2017 that led to the extrajudicial killing of at least nine civilians in the Grand Ravine neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
In November 2019, Cherzier and members of four other gangs – Delmas 6, Bes Nan Chabon, Creche Dieff and St Martin Street Gang – set fire to several houses and killed at least 24 people.
According to the US Treasury website, during 2018 and 2019, Cherzier “led armed groups in coordinated, brutal attacks in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood”. Most recently, in May 2020, he led armed gangs in a five-day attack in several Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods, killing civilians and setting houses on fire.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Haiti