[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#1108: Dominicans and Haitians Unite to Protest in New York City - FWD (fwd)

Subject: Dominicans and Haitians Unite to Protest in New York City - FWD

                HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                      November 24-30, 1999
                          Vol. 17, No. 36


Nov. 20 was a day of dueling demonstrations. In New York, over
300 Haitians and Dominicans rallied to denounce the crackdown of
the Dominican government on Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian
origin in the Dominican Republic over the past three weeks. At
the same time in Santo Domingo, a government-backed march
applauded the crackdown and called for a continued foreign
occupation of Haiti.

The New York action, called by a coalition of Haitian and
Dominican organizations named the "Justice Committee for Haitians
and Haitian-Dominicans in the Dominican Republic," took place in
front of the Dominican Consulate in a bustling Times Square.
Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists stopped to watch and ask
questions about the demonstration, which received extensive media
coverage, especially from Spanish-language press. The
demonstrators chanted slogans in both Spanish and Creole and
waved Haitian and Dominican flags. The fraternity on display lent
a joyous air to the rally, despite the angry calls by all for

"This rally shows that this is not a problem between the Haitian
and Dominican people," said Maxime Thesulmé, one of the Haitian
demonstrators. "The problem is the racist policy of the Dominican
ruling class and government."

Over the past three weeks, thousands of Haitians and Dominicans
of Haitian descent have been expelled from the Dominican Republic
in a manner that has been brutal, arbitrary, and in violation of
Dominican and international law. Darker skinned workers have been
rounded up and beaten by soldiers and policemen, loaded into
trucks, and dumped at the border, without any deportation hearing
or even a chance to collect their belongings. In the process,
soldiers have separated parents from their children in violation
of international law.

In some cases, the deportations have turned deadly. Some
deportees told Reuters that one man who tried to retrieve his
belongings was beaten to death by soldiers last week. On Sunday,
Dominican soldiers may have beaten another man to death with
wooden clubs, according to the Nov. 22 El Nacional, a Dominican

"In some cases, the soldiers steal the deportees' things, like a
small motorcycle or whatever little money they have on them,"
said Sonia Pierre of the Movement of Haitian-Dominican Women
(MUDHA) in Santo Domingo. "Deportees also lose their shacks and
animals like chickens and goats."

The crackdown has shocked Haitians the world over. A
demonstration took place in front of the Dominican Embassy in
Haiti on Nov. 18. Notes of protest have been issued from Gonaïves
and Cap Haïtien. Haitians in "bateys" (sugar cane camps)
throughout the Dominican Republic have held large meetings and
rallies. In Florida on Nov. 19, 300 demonstrators rallied in
front of Miami's Dominican Consulate from 12 to 2:30 p.m. A
delegation - including well-known activists Farah Juste, Marlène
Bastien, Lavarice Gaudin, and radio journalists Johnny Césaire
and Ernst Antoine Jean - was received by the the Vice Consul. As
they read statements of protest in both English and Spanish, some
participants broke down in tears.

In New York on Nov. 20, a delegation of Haitians and Dominicans
from the Justice Committee, before a battery of press, also
presented their demands to the New York Dominican Consul
Bienvenido Perez in his office as demonstrators churned in the
street below. "We want the Dominican government to stop the
massive deportation which has been undertaken and which violates
the Dominican constitution," said Wilson Spencer, a Dominican
activist, on behalf of the Justice Committee. Ray Laforest, a
Haitian unionist with the Committee, echoed this demand:
"Haitians in the Dominican Republic have the right to be treated
as members of the human race."

Consul Perez dismissed the charges of brutality and illegality as
"isolated cases" which "can even happen in big countries" and
claimed the Haitians rights and Dominican laws were being
respected. To prove that he bore no anti-Haitian sentiments, he
produced a photograph from his wallet. "Before anything, I want
to show you a photo of my child, whose name is Toussaint
Louverture, in homage to the historical figure who means so much
to us," he said. "This shows the solidarity that we have always
had with the Haitian people."

But then he read a statement which portrayed Haiti as a pathetic
mess, unable to govern or feed itself. He criticized the
"international community" for its "irresponsible tendency to
abandon the country of Toussaint Louverture to its fate, without
fulfilling its commitments."

The text, not so ironically, was identical to one being read
simultaneously in Santo Domingo at an officially sanctioned anti-
Haitian demonstration. The march was principally organized by the
three largest Dominican parties: the Dominican Revolutionary
Party (PRD), the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), and the
ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). The xenophobic nature of
the march was captured in one of its main slogans: "Conserve
Dominican Nationality." In recent weeks, the Dominican elite,
military high command,  and Catholic hierarchy, led by Cardinal
Lopez Rodriguez, have launched a demagogic campaign contending
that there is a "silent invasion" of Haitians which will soon
eclipse the Dominican identity. The Nov. 20 demonstration was
supposed to build support for the deportation of Haitians and
their Dominican-born children, but fell far short.

"The march was a complete failure," said Sonia Pierre.. "They
were expecting 200,000 but barely had 600. Despite all the money
they spent to promote it, most people didn't go. It proves that
the Dominican people did not agree with the march. They don't
believe that Haitians are such a danger."

In the eyes of many, like the National Popular Party (PPN) in
Haiti, the anti-Haitian campaign is really part of a larger
campaign to keep Haiti under foreign military occupation now that
the 500 remaining U.S. troops are due to withdraw by January and
300 U.N. troops on Nov. 30. (Canada and the U.S. are now trying
to engineer a three-month extension of the U.N. Security Council
mandate for the U.N. troops until next February). Hence the
principal slogan of the Santo Domingo march: "Haiti is the
Responsibility of the International Community."

The text of the "nationalist" march, which was the same as that
read "in the name of the Dominican government" by the Consuls in
New York and Miami, stated that the Dominican government is
"conscious of the grave risks that this situation creates for the
peace and stability of our country, the island of Hispaniola, and
the Caribbean region." It called for "a solid multilateral
agreement on the future of Haiti, which will keep a situation of
conflict from arising." While calling on the international
community to take Haiti in hand, the same text castigates as an
attack on sovereignty the "unacceptable pressures to limit the
legitimate right of the State to repatriate illegal Haitians in
its land."

Last month, the OAS published a report deeply critical of the
"physical abuse, human rights violation and mass deportation of
Haitians" by Dominican authorities. The OAS also took the
position that all children born to Haitians in the DR had a
constitutional right to Dominican citizenship.

"Now they are talking about sovereignty!" exclaimed Sonia Pierre.
"You can't talk about sovereignty when you are calling for the
invasion another country. They want an intervention to take place
in Haiti -- that's what the Cardinal asked for -- where the
Dominican Republic would take part."

Meanwhile, the refugee crisis is far greater than the Haitian
government is letting on, according to Mme. Pierre. Dominican
soldiers are dumping people over the border at night and in
remote places, she says. Her teams along the border estimate that
more than 26,000 Haitians have been expelled over the past three
weeks, not the 5,000 put forth in Haitian government figures. "We
can appreciate that the Haitian government has no policy for
receiving people and now it wants to minimize the problem," she

She visited Anse à Pitre on Nov. 21 and found "1,500 people, who
have no idea where to go. " She said the situation was similar at
all the border crossings.

Despite the continuing deportations, Sonia Pierre says the
worldwide protests, and the New York demonstration in particular,
have helped. "We deeply thank the New York community for their
demonstration, because it had a big impact here," she said. "It
has made the Dominican authorities think twice."

On Nov. 23, the Dominican government announced that deportations
have been suspended. "They are just stopping for a few days
during the international summit of Africa, the Caribbean and the
Pacific in Santo Domingo, which culminates Nov. 26-27," explained
Sonia Pierre. "After that, they will start right up again."

Haitian and Dominican diplomats have twice failed to meet on the
crisis, creating tensions between the two governments. Two weeks
ago, the Dominican foreign minister snubbed a request by his
Haitian counterpart for an emergency meeting, saying he was too
busy. Then on Nov. 19, Jeanne Bernard Pierre of the Haitian
Migration office did not show up for a pre-arranged meeting with
her Dominican counterpart, Danilo Diaz, in the border town of
Jimani. He sat waiting for 4 hours.

Until now, demonstrations have focused on the brutal treatment of
Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans in the DR. This is natural since
no one can be unmoved by such suffering and injustice. But behind
this clearly orchestrated anti-Haitian campaign may lie a more
insidious end: the continued occupation of Haiti. As the last
foreign troops prepare to leave Haiti, the Haitian people must
remain vigilant for the maneuvers of the Pentagon and CIA, which
have close ties to the Dominican military and a deep aversion to
the prospect of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide returning
to power in Nov. 2000 elections.

The signs of war are clear. Dominican troops remain massed on the
border. The Nov. 20 Santo Domingo march trumpets that Haiti is a
threat to the "peace and stability" of the island and region. The
Dominican government calls on the "great centers of world power"
not leave the "Dominican Republic to carry alone the solution for
the grave problems of the Haitian people." Meanwhile, the
government, Catholic hierachy, and mainstream media prepare
public opinion for war by saying that the Dominican Republic must
"defend itself."

Nonetheless, the Haitian and Dominican people have been waging
parallel struggles against neoliberalism, repression, and cut-
backs. Their links and common causes are many. The current
campaign against Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans is coming from
the ruling circles of Dominican society, not the Dominican
people, as the demonstrations of Nov. 20 clearly show.
Ironically, the elite's campaign may end up bringing the Haitian
and Dominican people closer together, rather than dividing them
as intended.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.