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#5160: This Week in Haiti 18:27 9/20/2000 (fwd)
From: "K. M. Ives" <email@example.com>
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
September 20 - 26, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 27
WHO’S BEHIND THE ATTACK ON FONKOZE?
FONKOZE (Fondasyon Kole Zepòl) is an unconventional bank. It is
non-profitit, makes loans to the very poor, and is governed and
operated by grass-roots organizations.
Founded in 1995, FONKOZE calls itself “Haiti's Alternative Bank
for the Organized Poor,” meaning peasant organizations, women's
collectives, cooperatives, credit unions, Ti Machann (women
street vendor) groups, and religious communities. With about
8,000 savings accounts, 16 branches, 120 employees, and $1.6
million in loans out, it “assists grass-roots organizations in
making the transition from political to economic activity by
providing financial and technical services to its members,”
according to the bank’s web page, and “is dedicated to building a
democratic economy in Haiti by strengthening organizations,
providing them with the capital and training they need to mount
successful income-producing businesses.”
Who could be against such a noble mission? Who would kidnap a
FONKOZE employee with the sole demand that the bank shut itself
On Wed., Sep. 6 at about 2:30 p.m., nine men dressed in police
uniforms and one in plainclothes presented themselves at the door
of FONKOZE’s main office on Ave. Jean Paul II in Port-au-Prince.
They told the bank’s three armed security guards that they had
come to inspect gun licenses and wanted to see the person
responsible. But on entering the bank, they carried out a holdup.
They made staff and customers lie face down on the floor.
Witnesses had noticed that the police uniforms were very new. Too
new, some thought in retrospect. Most Haitian police uniforms are
rather worn and shabby.
Once they had secured the bank’s first floor, they asked an
employee to lead them to the second floor to the bank officer in
charge, whom they asked for by name. When they entered her
office, “she saw that our employee had his hands up,” explained
Ann Hastings, FONKOZE’s director in Haiti. “She thought they were
there to arrest one of our employees. But instead they sat down
and told her to open the safe.”
They asked for the woman in charge of the safe by name as well.
Several of them were light-skinned, and they were very
professional. They emptied the safe of its contents -- “surely
much less than they were expecting,” Hastings said -- and went
through the purses of some of the people on the floor.
On leaving the bank, the robbers asked by name for Amos Jeannot,
a 29-year-old well-trusted bank courier, whom they then abducted,
beating him as they loaded him into the large Honda jeep they
Two days later, on Fri. Sep. 8, at about 10:30 a.m., the bank
received a phone call with a strange ransom demand. “If Ann
[Hastings] doesn’t close FONKOZE, we won’t release Amos.” Then
the caller hung up.
The demand remains ambiguous to Hastings and others at FONKOZE.
“We don’t really even understand their demand,” Hastings said.
“What do they mean close down? For how long? What operations? Do
they want us to close down all 16 branches or just some of them?
Why do they want us to close down? Our biggest problem is that we
need contact with these people so we can find out what they want
and negotiate with them.” Unfortunately, FONKOZE has not heard
from the kidnappers since the demand.
The day after the crime, Hastings, who had been fundraising in
New York, flew down to Haiti with FONKOZE Board member Charles
Horwitz. On the weekend they met with the assistant police chief.
“He was young and polite, but didn’t offer us much hope,” Horwitz
told Haïti Progrès. “The police came Wednesday and took all the
statements and information from our staff, but when we saw him on
Saturday, he didn’t seem to know anything. We had sent all kinds
of faxes and questions to [Police Chief Pierre] Denizé, but he
didn’t even seem to have a copy of those. It looked like a Mickey
Hastings says, however, that on Friday, Sept. 15, she received a
visit at FONKOZE from “very high-placed” police investigators.
“We were pleased with their professionalism, and the
information they took,” Hastings said. “But they arrived 9 days
after the event! But now I believe they will get down to
business.” Hasting notes, however, that the police lack many
basic investigatory resources, such as vehicles.
Hastings said that they have many good leads in the crime. The
bank employees managed to get the license number of the bank-
robbers’ jeep – C-6262 – and gave it to the police. “All they
could verify was that it was not from Port-au-Prince, and not
Petionville, but they couldn’t tell us where it was from,”
Hastings said. “What’s the point of licensing a car if you can’t
identify who the owner is?”
FONKOZE does not know if Amos is alive. The kidnappers have
offered no proof and visits to the morgue have proved fruitless.
Who could be behind this bizarre robbery and kidnapping? “When
you have a bank, there are a million people who might want to get
you: disgruntled borrowers, disgruntled staff, etc.,” Horwitz
said. “But when you have ten cops or thieves posing as cops, how
can a disgruntled employee arrange that?”
Uniforms, radios, weapons, vehicles: it is clear that the
criminals have some capital behind them. This suggests the
culprits might even work for one of FONKOZE’s “competitors.” “It
could be one of the banks,” Horwitz speculated. “After all, we
have more offices in the country than the big banks. And the sole
demand that we close down the bank is very weird.”
On the morning of Sep. 19, residents from Amos Jeannot’s
neighborhood of St. Martin threw up burning tire barricades to
demand his immediate release.
Meanwhile, a group of his friends and family in coordination with
FONKOZE’s chapter in Washington have set up the “Fund to Free
Amos” which is offering a reward of 50,000 gourdes to anyone who
provides information leading to Amos’ safe return. The number in
Haiti to call is 556-3910.
FONKOZE has also been leading a campaign to have people send
letters and faxes to President René Préval and Denizé to demand
action on the investigation of this crime. Hastings says the bank
has received hundreds of faxes, e-mails, and calls of solidarity
from seven different countries.
For more information or to send messages of support contact:
Leigh Carter, executive director, Fonkoze USA, 212-667-1277 or
email@example.com or in Haiti, Ann Hastings at (509) 221-7631 or
Special note for our Internet version: On Thursday, September 20,
Amos Jeannot’s body was identified at the Port-au-Prince morgue.
A morgue employee told the person who identified the body that it
had been there for three days. It also appeared that the victim
had been tortured before being killed with a gunshot to the head,
the identifier said. A $10,000 reward will soon be announced for
the person who provides information for the successful arrest and
conviction of Amos Jeannot’s killers.
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Please credit Haiti Progres.