In recent years, kidnappers have grown comfortable in Haiti as they went from abducting street vendors to doctors, babies, entrepreneurs, pastors, and now, groups of white foreigners. Top row from left to right: Evelyne Sincère, Dr. Jenny Edouard Pierre; center: Father Michel Briand; bottom row from left to right: Wolf Hall, Pastor Jean Ferret Michel

PORT-AU-PRINCE — When Jason “Zeke” Petrie lived in Port-au-Prince between 1991 and 2012, there seemed to be an unspoken rule even as crime increased. That white people were untouchable. 

The rule is proven outdated after two weeks ago, when members of the gang kidnapped the missionaries — 16 Americans and one Canadian, including several children — in Croix-des-Bouquets, a commune of Port-au-Prince, Oct. 16. The FBI and Haitian authorities have since been in touch with the kidnappers, who are demanding $17 million for the missionaries’ release, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“This is a new Haiti,” said Petrie, who is white and now lives in Ohio. “This whole thing about 'Oh, you don’t touch the blan,' that’s changed. Haitians are done with that inferior mentality. And the blan are finding out.”

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. 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 Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.