By Onz Chery |Onz@haitiantimes.com

The three men kidnapped on Feb. 20, 2021 posing for a picture. Junior “Ti Nèg” Augusma sits between the two Dominicans. Photo via Tripfoumi.com.

The three men kidnapped while working on a film were released over the weekend after Dominican and Haitian government officials and supporters reportedly became involved. 

Two Dominican technicians who were part of a Muska Group film crew and Junior “Ti Nèg” Augusma were held for a week starting Feb. 20 in Port-au-Prince. Videos of them bathing, drinking liquor, shopping and crying while in captivity went viral. 

It is not yet clear what role each government played in freeing the men. However, Dominican President Luis Abinader told reporters last week that his officials were working to secure their release. Muska Group, the film production company, told Radio Magik9 that the Haitian government negotiated the team’s release. 

Once freed, according to Augusma, the men were transported in a pickup then transferred to a black Toyota Land Cruiser Prado driven by Magalie Habitant, a well-known supporter of President Jovenel Moïse and former director of the Metropolitan Solid Waste Collection Service (SMCRS).

Habitant denies the government’s role and said “concerned people” were involved in an interview with Radio Magik9. Habitant said she picked up the three men after they were released and dropped them off at a judiciary police station where they were interrogated for two days.

Her involvement immediately drew suspicion from observers.

“Magalie Habitant clearly confirmed it was a kidnapping that the government was in control of,” Theriel Thelus, a political analyst, posted on Facebook. 

On Monday, President Jovenel Moïse shared a list of measures that officials will start putting into practice to combat the ongoing kidnapping-for-ransom crisis. 

The Ministry of Finances and Justice was given specific instructions to trace the money bandits make from kidnapping residents, Moïse said in the speech.

Moïse also recommends strengthening the country’s ports, particularly in Saint-Marc and Cap-Haitien, where illegal weapons often enter and leave the country, according to Le National.

Email me at onz@haitiantimes.com
Onz Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and ESNY before joining The Haitian Times. Onz is also a Report for America corps member.

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