“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will prefer to kill these Americans,” Joseph says in the video. “I will put a bullet in the heads of each of them.”
The Washington Post was not immediately able to verify the authenticity of the video. Analysts and local media said it was recorded Wednesday at a funeral for slain gang members.
Joseph, wearing a large gold cross on a chain, blames national police chief Léon Charles for the gang members’ deaths. Samuel Madistin, a lawyer and chairman of the board of directors of the human rights group Fondation Je Klere, said police killed the gang members this month as they responded to an attack on a business belonging to a prominent former lawmaker.
“I cry water,” Joseph says in the video. “I will have you cry blood.”
Charles resigned as chief of the national police on Thursday, according to local media. Prime Minister Ariel Henry named Frantz Elbé, another police official, to replace him.
Haiti faces several calamities: The still unsolved assassination in July of President Jovenel Moïse, a deadly earthquake in August that left thousands homeless and a surge in kidnappings that has targeted people from all walks of life and prompted a general strike this week.
Charles faced criticism for his investigation into the assassination and his inability to fight the gangs effectively.
The hostages from Christian Aid Ministries spent their sixth day in captivity on Thursday. The group, which includes 16 Americans and one Canadian, was returning from a visit to an orphanage near Port-au-Prince on Saturday when their vehicle was ambushed.
The captives range in age from 48 years to 8 months. They come from Amish, Mennonite and Anabaptist communities in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and the Canadian province of Ontario.
Christian Aid Ministries on Thursday observed a day of prayer and fasting. A spokesman read a letter from the families of the hostages.
“We thank Him that He is God, and ask Him to hear our prayers and bring our families home,” spokesman Weston Showalter read. “We also pray that the light of God’s love might shine out against the darkness of sin, that the gang members might be freed from their bondage to sin and experience freedom in Jesus Christ.”
Later Thursday, the group said it was aware of the video and would not comment “until those directly involved in obtaining the release of the hostages have determined that comments will not jeopardize the safety and well-being of our staff and family members.”
Madistin said Joseph’s threats should be taken seriously.
Representatives of the State Department and the FBI are in Haiti trying to secure the release of the group, U.S. officials said this week, and President Biden has been receiving regular briefings on their efforts. The United States has a policy of not paying ransoms for hostages.
“We have been working closely with the Haitian national police to try to build their capacity, as well as help put in place programs that can effectively deal with the gangs,” deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday. “But it’s a very challenging and long-term process. … It is absolutely essential that this security dynamic change.”