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7655: This Week in Haiti 19:4 4/11/01 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
April 11 - 17, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 4
INTERNATIONAL DELEGATION INVESTIGATES TENSIONS
ALONG HAITIAN-DOMINICAN BORDER
Discovers Increased Violence & Systematic Deportations
An eight-member delegation of US-based human rights activists,
religious leaders and journalists urgently calls attention to the
rising violence against Haitian immigrant workers in the
Dominican Republic and to a new, more refined approach of
Dominican authorities seeking to camouflage what remain brutal,
arbitrary, and illegal deportations.
"Authorities apparently want to give the impression that violence
and deportations along the border are down," said the Rev. Lucius
Walker, head of Interreligious Foundation for Community
Organization (IFCO) and delegation member. "In fact, we found
that they are up, but more cleverly disguised. There are daily
constant deportations all along the border, which has lowered the
profile but not the pain."
The delegation found that Dominican soldiers routinely extort
money from merchants and shoppers which visit the Friday and
Monday markets in the northwestern town of Dajabon. The
government of Hipolito MejiÓ has turned a blind eye to this
corruption, although it is at the root of much of the region's
During its six-day visit, the international delegation learned
that mass deportations have taken on a new form. Instead of
sporadic waves of massive expulsions, involving large-scale
military operations in rural areas coupled with media fanfare,
Dominican authorities have scientifically systematized its
flagrantly illegal repatriation practices.
According to Dominican human rights groups as well as Dominican
and Haitian officials, the round-ups of Haitian workers now occur
routinely around the country, not just in agricultural zones in
and around coffee or sugar plantations. The delegation learned
that Dominican authorities are targeting new Haitian immigrant
communities, especially in urban areas.
Military and immigration officials said this week that they have
expelled some 12,500 workers to Haiti in the last month alone.
This figure represents a significant increase in previous monthly
totals, say many human rights groups that the delegation
interviewed. Based on figures cited by the Dominican army,
deportations during the latter half of 2000 averaged 10,000 per
The Haiti Support Network delegation visited the border towns of
Dajabon and Barahona, inteviewed human rights activists in
Santiago and Santo Domingo, and traveled to half a dozen bateys
located outside Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Barahona. The
delegation found the following:
1) The level of violence and extortion directed against Haitian
workers and merchants has risen dramatically in the last month,
particularly in the northwest border area. There, Dominican
soldiers shot and killed three Haitians in the month of March
alone. The delegation witnessed the effects of this violence,
interviewing one mother of eight in the Dajabon hospital who was
severely beaten for refusing to pay a bribe.
2) Under the new Mejia government, expulsions have become more
systematic while at the same time more discreet. Based on the
reports of local human rights groups, Haitian deportees, and our
own observations, there was an average of 300 people deported
everyday from Dajabon from April 5 to 7. Following the migration
patterns of Haitian workers from agricultural labor to urban-
based production, the deportations are increasingly spreading to
towns and cities across the country.
3) The conditions in the bateys are worsening as privatization
takes hold. The exploitation of braceros has grown while their
living conditions, already horrific, have deteriorated. For
instance, the delegation found that cane cutters are no longer
being paid according to the weight of the cane cut. Instead, cane
bosses arbitrarily estimate the amount of cane cut and pay
according to whim. More generally, the delegation learned that
neo-liberal policies in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic,
such as lowering tariffs and privatization, are increasing
pressure on rural farmers to uproot and search for work
4) The delegation was impressed to learn that Haitian-Dominican
solidarity was robust and growing. Thousands marched on the
streets of Ouanaminthe in Haiti and Dajabon in the Dominican
Republic in a day of solidarity and reflection last Thursday. The
delegation learned also of the closing of the Haitian-Dominican
border in Jimani by Haitian and Dominican truck drivers
protesting violence by the US-backed Dominican military.
5) The delegation was troubled to learn of the growing role of
the US government in training and supporting the Dominican
military under the guise of a "war on drugs." We fear that
Washington may at some point seek to advance its agenda through
the Dominican military, the only armed force remaining on the
island of Hispaniola. US financial and technical support only
encourages the inhumane polices which the Dominican military
enforces against the Haitian and Dominican people.
"Knowing that the U.S. has military invaded both the Dominican
Republic and Haiti four times, we are concerned about the
influence the Pentagon might exercise over the Dominican Army,"
said Dan Coughlin, a journalist and delegation member. "Mass
deportations can be used to destabilize Haiti. As political
tensions continue in Haiti, we will be carefully watching for
danger signs along the border."
The Haiti Support Network (HSN) is a coalition of groups and
individuals dedicated to supporting the democratic rights of the
Haitian people in Haiti and around the world. It has conducted
several delegations to Haiti since its founding in 1995. It is
based in New York City.
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