PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The fate of an American nurse and her daughter kidnapped in Haiti last week remains unknown Tuesday as the U.S. State Department refused to say whether the abductors made demands.
Around 200 Haitians had marched in their nation’s capital Monday to show their anger over an abduction that’s another example of the worsening gang violence that has overtaken much of Port-au-Prince.
Alix Dorsainil of New Hampshire was working for El Roi Haiti, a nonprofit Christian ministry, when she and her daughter were seized Thursday. She is the wife of its founder, Sandro Dorsainvil.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that Dorsainvil was working in the small brick clinic when armed men burst in and seized her. Lormina Louima, a patient waiting for a check-up, said one man pulled out his gun and told her to relax.
“When I saw the gun, I was so scared,” Louima said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to see this, let me go.’”
Some members of the community said the unidentified men asked for $1 million in ransom, a standard practice of the gangs killing and sowing terror in Haiti’s impoverished populace. Hundreds of kidnappings have occurred in the country this year alone, figures from the local nonprofit Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights show.
The same day Dorsainvil and her daughter were taken, the U.S. State Department advised Americans to avoid travel in Haiti and ordered nonemergency personnel to leave, citing widespread kidnappings that regularly target U.S. citizens.
The violence has stirred anger among Haitians, who say they simply want to live in peace.
Protesters, largely from the area around El Roi Haiti’s campus, which includes a medical clinic, a school and more, echoed that call as they walked through the sweltering streets wielding cardboard signs written in Creole in red paint.
“She is doing good work in the community, free her,” read one.
Local resident Jean Ronald said the community has significantly benefitted from the care provided by El Roi Haiti.
Such groups are often the only institutions in lawless areas, but the deepening violence has forced many to close, leaving thousands of vulnerable families without access to basic services like health care or education.
Earlier this month, Doctors Without Borders announced it was suspending services in one of its hospitals because some 20 armed men burst into an operating room and snatched a patient.
As the protesters walked through the area where Dorsainvil was taken, the streets were eerily quiet. The doors to the clinic where she worked were shut, the small brick building empty. Ronald and others in the area worried the latest kidnapping may mean the clinic won’t reopen.
“If they leave, everything (the aid group’s programs) will shut down,” Ronald worried. “The money they are asking for, we don’t have it.”
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller wouldn’t say Monday if the abductors had made demands or answer other questions.
“Obviously, the safety and security of American citizens overseas is our highest priority. We are in regular contact with the Haitian authorities. We’ll continue to work with them and our US government interagency partners, but because it’s an ongoing law enforcement investigation, there’s not more detail I can offer,” Miller wrote in a statement Monday.
In a video for the El Roi Haiti website, Alix Dorsainvil describes Haitians as “full of joy, and life and love” and people she was blessed to know.
Dorsainvil graduated from Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts, which has a program to support nursing education in Haiti. Dorsainvil’s father, Steven Comeau, reached in New Hampshire, said he could not talk.
In a blog post Monday, El Roi Haiti said Alix Dorsainvil fell in love with Haiti’s people on a visit after the devastating 2010 earthquake. It said the organization was working with authorities in both countries to free her and her daughter.
“Please continue to pray with us for the protection and freedom of Alix and her daughter. As our hearts break for this situation, we also continue to pray for the country and people of Haiti and for freedom from the suffering they endure daily.”
AP journalists Megan Janetsky in Mexico City and Pierre Richard Luxama in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.