More than a week after she was kidnapped, a Cuban doctor is still being held for ransom in Haiti, where violent gangs keep disrupting essential services.
Daymara Helen Pérez Alabedra was kidnapped eight days ago while on her way to Port-au-Prince, according to a fellow physician, who didn’t want to be named. Pérez was traveling on a public bus along with other passengers when gang members grabbed her in the neighborhood of Martissant. The gang-plagued community at the southern entrance of the capital has been the site of deadly clashes that have forced the displacement of over 19,000 Haitians from their homes since June.
“She was the only one who was kidnapped,” the doctor said.
The doctor said the gang initially asked for $1 million ransom, and then $100,000, which they negotiated down. Eventually, a ransom of $10,000 was paid, but Pérez was not released.
This is not unusual in Haiti, where gangs seeking to get as much as they can will often hold victims even after payment is made.
A spokesperson with Haiti’s national police could not immediately confirm Pérez’s abduction, which has made headlines in the local press.
According to her Facebook page, Pérez is originally from Las Tunas, an eastern Cuban province, and was living in Grand Goâve, a rural community south of the capital in the commune of Léogâne. A generalist, she has spent the past three years in Haiti and worked at Notre Dame Hospital in neighboring Petit-Goâve.
Pérez’s kidnapping marks the second time a hospital in the area has been hit by the country’s gang crisis. Last Wednesday, a gang in Martissant stole a $38,000 generator meant for Léogâne’s Sainte Croix Hospital while it was being delivered. Both the drivers were kidnapped and eventually released before being told to come back with ransom money if they wanted the generator and their vehicle.
The heist forced the hospital to close due to the lack of power. On Monday, Rev. Jn Michelin St. Louis, the director of the hospital, said that as of Thursday he had stopped accepting new patients and the facility is trying to find hospitals in the region to accept seven babies in the neonatal ward.
While the majority of Haiti’s kidnapping victims are Haitians, foreigners have also been abducted. In October, 16 Americans and a Canadian missionary were kidnapped after visiting an orphanage east of the capital. The last of the group was released in December after two months in captivity.
Two Cuban technicians were also kidnapped in Port-au-Prince in December and were released earlier this month, a source with knowledge of the kidnapping who did not want to be identified told the Miami Herald. Cuban authorities have not commented on their release, nor did they report the kidnapping of the doctor. The Cuban Embassy in Washington did not reply to a request for comment.
The director general of Haiti’s’ health ministry, Dr. Lauré Adrien, denied reports in the Haitian press that the kidnapping of Pérez has led to the Cuban government pulling 78 of its doctors from the country. Adrien said that, according to information obtained from the head of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Haiti, there was a long-scheduled charter flight that left Port-au-Prince with 28 people on board. The list includes 18 members of the medical brigade whose mission had come to an end and another 10 who went on vacation.
“There have been no departures of 78 Cuban professionals,” said Adrien, adding that there are about 300 members of the Cuban medical brigade working in Haiti, where they provide essential health services mostly in rural communities.
Adrien said the ministry condemns the kidnapping of Pérez and wants her released as soon as possible.
“Regardless of the victim, such an act is reprehensible,” he added.