by Thomas Péralte (Haiti Liberte)
Haitian authorities have captured another alleged member of the kidnapping ring headed by Haitian elite businessman Clifford Brandt. Haitian immigration officers arrested Mathurin Kerwens Jacques at the border town of Malpasse on Nov. 20 as he tried to cross into the Dominican Republic. Jacques was taken to the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) in Port-au-Prince.
Brandt was arrested on Oct. 22, 2012 after he confessed to kidnapping two children of another elite Haitian family, the Moscosos. Fourteen other alleged members of Brandt’s ring have since been arrested, including Marc-Arthur Phébé, the head of President Michel Martelly’s counter-ambush (CAT) team and a close personal friend of the president.
The police were reportedly looking for Jacques, who was wanted in connection with several crimes.
Despite the arrest of alleged kidnappers working close to or inside the National Palace, for over three weeks President Martelly said nothing publicly about the case. Finally he made a statement last week while traveling in Europe. “This is the first time in Haiti that we have dismantled bandits on this scale,” Martelly said during a meeting with EU representatives. “I’ll tell you bluntly, this network is stronger than the state itself, to the point that before my arrival here in Europe, I made a formal request to the United States of America and France to get assistance. Because this network, if it decides to overthrow the Government, it can do it in a minute.”
Meanwhile, in Haiti, questions continue to swirl around the extent of the Executive’s involvement with the kidnapping ring. “The National Palace is involved up to its neck in the kidnapping case of Brandt et al,” said Pierre Esperance, the director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), which released a detailed in-depth report on the Brandt case on Nov. 13.
Esperance also denounced the Palace’s attempts to influence justice in the case. “If the political authorities prevent justice from doing its work in this case, RNDDH will have to publish another report,” he said.
Esperance also charged that all measures have been taken by the Executive to win the release all the police officers implicated in this case, which he said exposes the links between the Haitian bourgeoisie and Haiti’s highest authorities.
The RNDDH reported that an official identity card issued by the National Palace’s security was retrieved identifying Clifford Brandt as an “Adviser to the President.” In a press conference last week, Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles released an enlarged photograph of the card. Palace spokesman Lucien Jura called the card a fake.
Whatever the case, the wider Haitian public believes that criminals are working in and are sheltered by the National Palace. “The advisers are kidnappers, the criminals are in the National Palace!” chanted students demonstrating on Nov. 21 to demand justice for Damaël D’Haïti, a college student majoring in economics whom police shot dead during a Nov. 10 protest. “The drug-dealers, they are in the National Palace!”
Clifford Brandt (above), scion of one of Haiti’s wealthiest families, is accused of heading a kidnapping ring. This week, Mathurin Kerwens Jacques, another alleged Brandt confederate, was arrested at the border.