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Haitian gang leaders charged for kidnapping of US citizens

Photo: NBC News

| By AFP |

The United States on Monday unsealed criminal charges against Haitian gang leaders involved in the kidnappings of Americans and offered up to $3 million for their capture.

Three of the seven Haitians indicted are accused of involvement in the 2021 kidnapping of 16 Christian missionaries and their families near Port-au-Prince.

Lanmo Sanjou, 29, Jermaine Stephenson, in his late 20s, and Vitel’homme Innocent, 36, are charged with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking.

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Sanjou and Stephenson are allegedly leaders of the 400 Mawozo gang, while Innocent was described as a leader of the Kraze Barye gang.

The Justice Department offered a $1 million reward for the capture of each of the three men, who are believed to be in Haiti.

Five of the hostages were released, and the rest escaped in December 2021 after being held for two months.

Jean Pelice, an alleged member of the 400 Mawozo gang, was brought to the United States in May to face charges in connection with the kidnapping.

Another alleged 400 Mawozo leader, Joly Germine, has also been extradited to the United States to face charges for his role in the hostage-taking.

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Charges were also announced on Monday against four other Haitian gang leaders for the kidnappings of five other US citizens in Haiti.

The victims were released after ransoms were paid.

“The charges unsealed today are a reminder of the FBI’s ability to reach criminal actors overseas when crimes are committed against US citizens,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

“The FBI, with our federal and international partners, will continue to pursue anyone who targets Americans for hostage-taking or other violent crimes -– wherever they are.”

The UN Security Council last month agreed unanimously on a sanctions regime targeting the gangs terrorizing the population in Haiti.

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After failing to reach consensus on sending an international force to the crisis-hit nation, members adopted a resolution directly targeting the gangs that have seized control of the main port and blocked fuel deliveries.

The United States last week imposed sanctions on two top Haitian politicians, former Senate President Joseph Lambert and former senator Youri Latortue, accusing them of being longtime drug traffickers.

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International

Food prices send hunger soaring in Latin America: UN agencies

Photo: AP News

| By AFP |

Rising food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean caused the number of people going hungry in the region to rise by more than 13 million between 2019 and 2021, a United Nations report said Tuesday.

The report by three UN agencies said the region was particularly vulnerable to the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine due to a high reliance on wheat, maize and fertilizer imports.

“The number of people in the region suffering from hunger increased by 13.2 million to 56.5 million,” read the report, released at a press conference in Santiago, Chile.

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In addition, moderate or severe food insecurity affected 267.7 million people — 40.6 percent of the region’s population — in 2021. 

This is “far above the world average” of 29.3 percent, said the report.

“The rise in food inflation and extreme poverty is one of the factors behind the increase in food insecurity and hunger,” said the report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the FAO, food insecurity refers to a lack of regular access to healthy and nutritious food.

“The heavy reliance on imported fertilizers, and fluctuating food prices, have an unavoidable negative impact on livelihoods — mainly of the rural population — and access to healthy food,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director-General.

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International

Colombia landslide kills 34

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

Heavy rains in northwest Colombia sent a wall of earth crashing onto a winding road, swallowing up a bus and other vehicles and killing 34 people, emergency services said Monday.

The landslide Sunday evening prompted a large rescue effort, with dozens of people in hard hats using backhoes and excavators to dig through the earth looking for victims.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management said the fatalities included eight minors and that nine other people were injured in the disaster in the remote town of Pueblo Rico.

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The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, and traveled 270 kilometers (170 miles) before being hit by the landslide as it passed through the Andes mountain region, civil defense officials said.

Colombian media reported that a child had survived and was pulled from the arms of its mother, who did not make it.

One survivor said the bus driver had at first managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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The country has declared a national disaster over the rains linked to the exceptionally long La Nina weather phenomenon, which cools surface temperatures and is currently causing drought and flooding around the globe.

Today, the landslide “puts this town in mourning, tomorrow it could be in another area, because we really have many unstable areas in the country, and the rainy season has not ended,” said Javier Pava of the UNGRD.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said last week the La Nina conditions could last until February or March 2023.

In Colombia, the phenomenon has also caused crop damage, compromising food supplies and leading to soaring prices.

In July, three children were killed in northwestern Colombia when a landslide buried a rural school. In February, 14 people died in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains in central-western Risaralda province.

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International

At least 27 killed in Colombia landslide: president

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

At least 27 people were killed when a landslide engulfed a road in northwest Colombia, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles, said President Gustavo Petro on Monday.

“It is with sadness that I must announce that, so far, 27 people, including three minors, have lost their lives in the tragedy” that struck on Sunday in a remote area of the Pueblo Rico municipality, Petro wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, the president reported three dead, as dozens of rescue workers searched for survivors.

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One survivor said the driver of the bus managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, civil defense officials said.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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