In early October 2007, (in a rebuke of Diómedes Espinal de León, the bishop of the Mao-Montecristi diocese, in the Northwest of the Dominican Republic) Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez stated that Trujillo bears sole responsibility for the 1937 massacre and that the Dominican people owe no apology to Haitians for that event.
To this day, governing elites allied to the extreme right-wing big landowners and sugar plantation capitalists in the Dominican Republic are using brutally repressive measures to oppress, exploit and periodically expel a large Haitian immigrant population. For the most part, these immigrants came over as migrant workers and have stayed on.
They number from half a million to one million, according to various estimates. For the most part, they have little or no legal status, and their children, born in the Dominican Republic, are denied birth certificates and Dominican citizenship. This has created a permanent source of cheap labor, conveniently cast aside and subjected with total impunity to the worst abuses.Dead Migrant Workers in a Dominican Morgue
Massive expulsions of Haitian immigrants have been on the rise in recent years. The most recent surge in deportations started when Haitian immigrants, migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent were scapegoated after 3 Haitians were hastily accused of the murder of a Dominican merchant, Maritza Nuñez, in Hatillo de Palma, in the northern province of Monte Cristi, on May 9, 2005. In the ensuing pogrom, at least three Haitian immigrants were lynched and many more were severely beaten.
According to Dominican authorities, an average of 20,000 immigrants are forcefully repatriated every year. Most are brutally rounded up by army and police, forced to abandon all their belongings and trucked to the border where they are dumped.
Families are separated without any chance of reunion. The Dominican government pursues this expulsion policy under the guise of the “illegality” of the vast majority of Haitian immigrants. However, the Dominican government also systematically denies these immigrants the right to any process to legalize their status (even those who are born in the DR), and moreover, every year, as thousands of Haitian immigrant workers are repatriated, thousands more are recruited across the border to replenish the low-wage labor supply for the bateyes and the construction sites, jobs commonly frowned upon by native Dominicans.
There is a de-facto collusion between Dominican and Haitian authorities to maintain this trafficking in cheap labor, fueled by the expulsions. It is reported that some high-level officials on both sides of the border are paid for each Haitian repatriated and each Haitian brought in.
This fraudulent commerce in cheap labor also sustains a number of intermediaries and is fraught with corrupt and abusive practices. It is an example of the collusion between the dominant business interests and the governments of both countries to constantly drive down wages throughout the island.
On the Haitian side of the island, the thousands of migrant laborers who emigrate each year are an important safety valve in the face of a chronic structural unemployment rate of about 60% and the continued degradation of agricultural production. The continued recruitment of Haitian migrant workers is a testimony to the utter bankruptcy of the development policies of the Haitian ruling classes and the so-called international community, which is currently engaged in a long-term occupation and tutelage of Haiti.
Recently, the plight of Haitian immigrant workers in the Dominican Republic has become the subject of an international campaign. The International Human Rights Tribunal has ruled in favor of two children born to Haitian parents in the Dominican Republic, demanding that they be granted equal legal status and citizenship.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign against the massive expulsions of Haitians and their systematic exploitation in the Dominican Republic. A photographic exhibition, “Slaves in Paradise” by Céline Anaya Gautier, a Franco-Peruvian photographer, exposing the misery of sugar cane workers has been touring internationally. A few films have also come out on the same subject, “The Price of Sugar” (Bill Haney), “ Sugar Babies” (Amy Serrano), “Child Slaves” (Karen Kramer), “Batey Zero” (Gérard Maximen), “Sucre Noir” (Michel Reignier), “Le Batey” (Yves Langlois), “L’empire du sucre” (Brian McKenna) and “Haïti Chérie” (Claudio del Punta). These films are also touring internationally, often as part of forums organized around this issue.
In New York, protests (including Dominican progressives) have been held in front of the Dominican Consulate and in front of the UN. Monthly informational pickets are still being held in front of the Dominican Consulate, on the first Thursday of every month, between 5:30 and 6:30 PM (see website).
As a result of this campaign, reactionary forces in the Dominican Republic have launched a counter campaign to denounce their denunciation as a vast anti-Dominican plot. Attempts have been made to bribe and/or intimidate the media into a more favorable coverage. “Happy” bateyes have suddenly begun to show up in media reports (i.e. Haitian Times…), and members of Dominican consulates show up at events exposing these injustices to intimidate organizers and participants.
Father Pierre Ruquoy and Father Christopher Hartley, two Catholic priests who spent decades in the Dominican Republic working for the rights of the immigrant workers in the bateyes, were both subjected to death threats and other forms of pressure, and finally forced to leave the country by the high hierarchy of the Church.
Sonia Pierre, a Dominican of Haitian descent who heads MUDHA, an NGO engaged in the struggle for the rights of Haitian Dominican women, was recently threatened with loss of citizenship for speaking out on these issues.
Sadly, reactionary forces in the Dominican Republic have greatly out voiced the Dominican progressive movement, which on the whole has remained conspicuously silent on this issue. The Dominican progressive movement has allowed the debate to be framed in nationalist terms, upholding the rights of a sovereign state to defend its borders, to regulate its policies and to deport illegal immigrants, albeit in a humane manner.
The challenge we face today is to debunk this nationalist problematic. We cannot allow the issues to be distorted in such a manner. The issue of immigrant labor, from a progressive working class point of view cannot be a matter of national sovereignty.
National sovereignty in this context is nothing but ruling class propaganda to protect capitalist interests by pitting workers against each other in their policies of divide and conquer and promote imperialist hegemony.
Quite obviously, as they collaborate with each other to exploit us to the extreme, the ruling classes of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic have shown over and over again that they care much more for their profits than for their “nation.” These are the same “nationalists” who repeatedly sell out their nation, sign “Free Trade” agreements and mortgage their country’s economy to the IMF, the IDB, USAID and the World Bank. These are the same “nationalists” who readily welcome foreign intervention to protect their interests.
As workers, we must demand justice and equality for all of us, or face the downward spiral of competing in the “Free Market” against the most exploited and the most abused.
In the age of capitalist globalization, capital knows no borders. Dominican and Haitian capitalists invest on both sides of the island to take advantage of our exploitation.
We too, as workers, must reject the artificial borders of nationality that have been placed on us to perpetuate our exploitation. The very language we use to phrase the issues has been compromised. Why do we speak of “Haitians” in the Dominican Republic when we are dealing with 5% to 10% of the population? Why do we speak of “Haitians” when dealing with workers who have resided in the Dominican Republic for over twenty years? Why do we speak of “Haitians” when we refer to their children born in the Dominican Republic? Why do we speak of “Haitians” when we refer to workers who have produced a considerable portion of the social wealth in the Dominican Republic? Clearly these workers are not “Haitians”. They are immigrant workers. Just as workers here in the US who emigrate from other countries are immigrants. They are simply labeled Haitians because it is a convenient way to isolate and discriminate against them while exploiting them and denying them any rights.
That is why, based on the same convictions that drive our demand for amnesty, legalization of status and the end to the persecution of all undocumented immigrants here in the United States, we also raise the same demands with regards to Haitian immigrants and migrant workers in the Dominican Republic. We must raise the same demands in defense of immigrant workers rights all over the world. Just as we battle here in the US for the rights of all immigrants, including those from the Dominican Republic, we must also stand up for the rights of immigrant workers the world over, including Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
The challenge we all share is to debunk entrenched anti-haitian racism as it persists today in the Dominican Republic, through the united struggle for our common rights and interests as a class. That is why, as workers, we must embrace the commonality of our condition: a common exploiter, a global imperialist system; a common quest, a world free from exploitation.
Originally Dominicans and Haitians were one people. We have been divided by colonialists, and reactionary ruling classes have pitted us against each other to reap their profits from our exploitation. The only hope for our future lies in the coordinated revolutionary popular struggle on both sides of the island, under working class leadership.
¡Sí, se puede! • Yes, we can! • Wi, nou kapab!
Related Link: http://fowomouvriye.org/