by Marty Goodman / June 2005 issue of Socialist Action
NEW YORK—On May 23 some 100 rallied outside the Dominican Republic consulate here in an emergency protest against ongoing racist terror against Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.
Since May 9, five or more Haitians have been murdered, at least three of whom were lynched in a style reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S. South.
Hundreds of others were forced to flee Dominican mobs armed with guns, machetes and clubs.
Haitians and Black Dominicans, many of whom sought refugee with Dominican police and army forces, were rounded up in mass expulsions. The expulsions have totaled over 4000 so far.
The anti-Haitian hysteria began with the May 9 murder of Maritza Nuñez, a Dominican storekeeper in the northwestern town of Hatillo Palma, and the arrest of four Haitians. Leonel Fernandez, president of the Dominican Republic (DR), which shares Hispañola island with Haiti, said the ethnic cleansing was “the right move” and called for respect for DR “sovereignty.”
The majority of Haitians living in the DR are impoverished workers, many of whom were lured to work in sugar plantations called “bateys.” Human rights
organizations have denounce the brutal conditions in bateys as “modern day slavery.”
Daniel Simidor, a prominent New York Haitian activist and member of the Grassroots Haiti Solidarity Committee, which initiated the May 23 protest, told
the rally, “Fernandez is a demagogue. Its not a matter of sovereignty, its a matter of human rights.
“The Haitian government is just as bad, just as corrupt. The [Haitian] government didn’t even have the nerve to demand human rights for those deported. They are both puppet governments. It’s a matter of dividing
the working class on both sides of the border so they can beat the minimum wage in the DR and in Haiti.”
A new organization of Dominican activists in the mostly Hispanic Washington Heights area of upper Manhattan was organized in response to the racist
attacks. The Dominican Coalition of Solidarity with the Haitian Community in the Dominican Republic mobilized to attend the rally and leafleted their
community to gather support.
The coalition issued a statement addressed to President Fernandez that called on the president to “recognize that the Haitian community ... [is] part of
the Dominican Republic’s reality and that no amount of racism, prejudices, discriminations, and xenophobia will cause them too leave the country. It denounced the anti-Haitian attacks as “a very well orchestrated national campaign.” The statement was hand-delivered by a joint Haitian-Dominican delegation that met with consulate representatives.
Despite the widespread involvement of Dominican officials and military personnel in the racist campaign one vice-consul maintained that “all we know
is what we read in the press.”[!]
The Dominican ruling class has a long history of whipping-up anti-Haitian racism as a scapegoat for the poverty of Dominican workers. In 1937, Dictator Rafael Trujillo massacred 35,000 Haitian sugar-cane cutters in a single day, a grisly world record. Mass expulsions of Haitians are common: 35,000 in 1991,
5000 in 1996, 25,000 in 1997, and up to 20,000 in 1999.
Despite the DR’s gross violation of international human rights agreements against racist labor practices and deportations, the U.S. maintains the DR’s historic trade status as a “most favored nation” and provides the Dominican army with massive aid.
However, Dominican workers have responded to their dire economic situation with general strikes directed against austerity programs dictated by the
U.S.-controlled World Bank. Currently, the Bush administration is promoting the DR-CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement), which will intensify
attacks on all workers in the DR and promote more sweatshops.
Unity is needed between Haitian and Dominican workers. This must begin with the militant defense of Haitians, something reformist leaders have refused to do.