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#2589: Dominican coffee harvest hurt by deportations of Haitians (fwd)


WIRE:02/27/2000 12:15:00 ET
Dominican coffee harvest hurt by deportations of Haitians
JARABACOA, Dominican Republic (AP) _ It's coffee harvesting time  in   
the Dominican Republic, a key time  for an industry critical to  the
country's rapidly developing economy.But there's no one to do the work.
In the wake of extensive deportations of Haitian workers here 
illegally, coffee growers say it's hard to find Dominicans willing  to
take their place.                 
"Dominicans do not want to pick coffee," said Andres Freites,  owner of
Cafe La Joya, a high-end producer for the European and  North American
gourmet coffee markets. "We have good climate,  earth, water to wash   
and sun to dry the coffee. But the one thing  that is scarce is labor."
The coffee industry normally brings in $160 million a year,  according
to government figures, but a large part of the winter  harvest has been
lost this year due to the lack of workers, the  Coffee Growers Union of
the North said.  "I understand that the fields have been stripped of   
Haitian  labor by Dominican authorities," said Antonio Chong Candelario,
an  official with the trade group.He said about 30,000 Haitians had 
been expelled in recent months.  Government officials would not confirm
the total expulsions,saying only that 5,000 were deported in     
November. Asked about deportations, Immigration Secretary Danilo Diaz 
would only say: "Every month roughly 2,000 Haitians attempt to  cross
the Dominican Haitian border illegally and a proportional  number is  
repatriated. There are some months where the numbers are  higher."  
Leonard Valverde, director of the coffee trade group, said  expulsions
and tighter border policing had cut deeply into a  Haitian
coffee-picking work force that normally numbers about  35,000, more than
twice the number of Dominicans in the industry.  Chong Candelario said
the trade group was negotiating with the  government on ways to resolve
the problem and bring in Haitians  officially.  Tension over Haitian
workers has caused considerable friction  between the two countries that
share the     Caribbean island of  Hispaniola. Creole-speaking Haiti  
occupies the overcultivated and  degraded westernthird, with the
Spanish-speaking Dominicans on the more verdant eastern portion.       
Far poorer than their neighbors, Haitians have flocked into the 
Dominican Republic for work this century _ sometimes invited,  sometimes
not. The Dominican economy uses cheap Haitian labor for  sugar and
coffee cultivation and for construction. Haitians work for as little as
$50 a month, a quarter the average wage for  Dominicans.  There have
been brutal anti-Haitian campaigns in the past, the  worst being the
1937 slaughter of 20,000 people ordered by dictator  Rafael Trujillo on
the border around what is known as the Massacre  River.             
Today, 1 million to 1.5 million Haitians live here, at least  half of
them illegally, and the presence of so  many has unsettled  the 8
million Dominicans. The  result has been a step-up in  deportations and
other steps to make life difficult for illegal  residents.             
Haitians say the crackdown was ordered to curry favor with  voters
because there are elections this year. In December, Haiti's government
accused the  Dominican Republic  of expelling as many as 5,000         
undocumented Haitians without even  allowing them to collect their
belongings. The Dominicans claimed they followed proper procedure, but
promised to be more careful  about human rights.  At a coffee plantation
along Lake Enriquillo in the mountainous  west, a few Haitians were
visible during a recent visit. They  worked silently, walking in long 
straight lines as they pushed  rakes that turned the coffee beans over
to dry. Others shoveled dry  coffee beans into shacks.  A foreman,
Agustin Encarnacion, said he managed to persuade  Dominican army
officers to let the workers stay. Lula,a Haitian woman around 50 years
old, said she had been working on coffee plantations for four        
years. She worked quickly,plucking the red cherries using her thumbs and
forefinger. She is  paid 60 pesos_ about $3 _ for each 70-pound box of
coffee beans."There are 114 steps between picking and drinking    
coffee.It is very labor intensive," said Encarnacion. "People
(Dominicans) do  not want to do the work." Freites, the Cafe La Joya
owner, said the Haitians are hard workers who come to earn money for
their families back in Haiti and mostly want to return home.          
"We are stabbing ourselves," he said of the deportation  crackdown. "We
have to learn how to live with these people."