Jessica Gervais wants her baby.
The infant, Godson Joseph, became Haiti’s latest murder victim Monday when he was killed during a gang ambush just east of the capital near the Haitian-Dominican Republic border in the farming community of Ganthier.
A notorious gang linked to several protection rackets, rapes and assassinations and known as 400 Mawozo sprayed the minibus they were traveling in with bullets as Gervais, 19, cradled her sick child, who was headed to a hospital in nearby Fond-Parisien.
Everyone was injured by the shots except for Gervais, while little Godson’s life was cut short at four months old when a bullet pierced his back.
“He hasn’t even been baptized yet,” an inconsolable Gervais said.
The driver of the minibus in Monday’s attack said at least two passengers, including the infant, were killed. Speaking to the Miami Herald on condition of anonymity because he fears for his life, he said the attack happened sometime after 6:30 a.m. as he was speeding along the road in hopes of avoiding the gang. He was soon forced to slow down by a vehicle blocking the roadway.
“I heard someone say, ‘Stay here,’” the driver said.
As he prepared to comply, the driver, 21, said shots were fired and one of the vehicle’s 10 passengers screamed for him to “go” because someone had been shot. As he took off in the direction of the police station, a bullet pierced his arm and shoulders as the gang continued to spray the vehicle with bullets.
Gervais, 19, said she doesn’t know why God spared her life and took that of her child. A justice of the peace came and took a report. Though she pleaded for his body, the baby was transferred to a local morgue, where they are asking her to pay $180 to claim the body, which the unemployed mother says she doesn’t have.
“I had decided because the child had not yet been baptized, I wasn’t going to do a funeral for him or bury him in a cemetery. I was going to put him in a wooden box and bury him at the back of my house,” she said. ”I just don’t have the means.”
Never, she said, did she imagine becoming a victim of Haiti’s gang rampage.
At least 116 Haitians have lost their lives to gang violence, mostly in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince region, during the first six months of this year, according to statistics compiled by human rights groups. In July a pregnant woman was shot last week in the Boston area of the Cité Soleil slum. A music video showing her forehead covered in blood, her pregnant body lying on the ground, went viral on social media networks.
Also in July a centenarian who recently celebrated a birthday was killed, as well as an 8-month old baby in the Norway, Belekou, district of Cité Soleil who was killed by a well-known gang member. After the child’s parents went public with their grief, they were threatened by the gangs, who have also threatened journalists and human rights advocates in recent days.
“Up until now, they are living in a situation of insecurity where they can’t even take the first steps so that the case can be brought before the justice system,” said Jacques Letang, president of the Haitian Bar Federation, who is representing the parents of 8-month-old Merrydyna Fleurimont. “I contacted the justice of the peace for Cité Soleil so that he could do an investigation at the site where the child was killed and he stated his inability to go. He said even the police had abandoned the area.”
The fact that there has been no investigation or even an autopsy three weeks after the killing, Letang said, shows the indifference of the government when it comes to guaranteeing the security of its citizens.
“You don’t sense a will on the part of the authorities to address this situation and to discourage the bandits and gangs that are wreaking havoc on the population,” said Letang, who is also part of a collective that has been demanding justice for the victims of last year’s La Saline massacre, in which two government officials and a former police officer were implicated but haven’t been charged. continue reading