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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."