Racist attacks in Dominican Republic

By MARTY GOODMAN

 There has been a new wave of racist attacks on Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent inside the Dominican Republic (DR). The latest was the racist expulsion of 300 Haitians and Haitians of Dominican origin in the Ortega community in Moca.

All Haitians in Moca were blamed for the April 8 death of a motorcyclist, Carlos Jose Gomez Nunez, and driven out of town with sticks and clubs by racist goons.

In a widely circulated video of the Moca incident, a Haitian woman is thrown to the ground by racist thugs, Haitians are beaten, a young man’s dreads are cut by a mob and a home is completely trashed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGgGmjNJ-IE).

The violence followed the hanging, KKK style, of a Haitian shoeshine worker, Henry Claude Jean, last Feb. 11 in the midst of a downtown park in Santiago, the DR’s second largest city. The same day, a Haitian flag was burned by a group in another part of the city. In response to the hanging, on Feb. 25, 10,000 angry Haitians protested in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince, attacking the DR embassy and other targets.

Some 500,000 out of the 9 million population of the DR are considered Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian origin. The Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, situated to its west.

The current wave of racism has been spurred by a series of racist immigration laws and policies that began in 2006. Essentially, immigration rules catch many Haitian workers or Dominicans of Haitian origin living in the DR in a racist Catch 22. Authorities refuse Haitians birth certificates and other documentation, while demanding documents to register as citizens.

A racist Supreme Court decision in 2013 ruled that those without papers—going back as far as 1929!—were “in transit” and stateless. After an international human rights outcry, a 2014 law created a pathway to citizenship. Yet, only 5% registered, others lacked documentation, didn’t bother, or perhaps feared retaliation. Amnesty International estimates that as many as 110,000 qualify.

Simply put, Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian origin, face possible mass deportation in June 2015.

Racist violence in the DR has been encouraged by a ruling class that has, for many decades, proclaimed Dominicans superior to Haitians—despite the fact that some 11% of Dominicans are considered Black and that, of those, most are of Haitian origin. Dubbed “anti-haitianismo,” the ideology was first introduced by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961), who was trained by the U.S. Marines during the first U.S. imperialist occupation of the DR (1916-24). He himself was part Haitian. In 1937, Trujillo killed up to 20,000 to 30,000 Haitians in five days—many with machetes—the most brutal massacre in so short a period in recorded history up until that time.

Trujillo’s successor, the U.S.-backed dictator Joaquin Balaguer, a staunch opponent of the Cuban revolution, retained racism as a state ideology. Balaguer, trained by the U.S., fought against a nationalist uprising alongside the U.S. Marine invasion of 1965, which drowned Dominicans—and a number of Haitian partisans—in blood. In addition to their deep-seated racism, both Trujillo and Balaguer ruthlessly attacked leftist opponents.

For many years, capitalists and politicians on both sides of the border made big money in the official and unofficial trade in what amounted to Haitian slave labor. Cutting sugar cane, under brutal conditions—a situation dubbed “modern-day slavery by human rights advocates—was once the single most common occupation for Haitian workers in the DR, but construction and service work has gained ground.

Not simply a product of dictatorship, racism is the ideology of Dominican capitalism, dividing the Haitian and the exploited Dominican workers by race. The post-Balaguer “democrats” likewise conducted waves of mass expulsions of Haitians, often accompanied by racist violence and sometimes murder. In the last 20 years or so, at least 20,000 Haitians were expelled from the DR.

Although the cheap labor they provide is needed by Dominican capitalists, Haitians are scapegoated for the miseries of the impoverished Dominican workers, especially during an economic crisis—just as immigrants are in the U.S.

Both the Haitian and Dominican governments ruthlessly pursue the anti-worker austerity economic model demanded by the U.S.-dominated World Bank. The Dominican government still enjoys a “most favored trade status,” and receives millions in U.S. military and police equipment and training from Washington’s “Merida Initiative” under the guise of an anti-drug program, despite gross human rights violations.

U.S. and international solidarity with the anti-racist struggle in the DR must grow. An anti-imperialist observation of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 U.S. Marine invasion of the DR took place on April 24 at Word-Up bookstore in New York City. To a full house of mostly young Dominicans and a number of Haitians, speaker after speaker of both nationalities slammed U.S. imperialism and racism in the Dominican Republic. More solidarity activists, anti-racist activists, and U.S. trade unionists need to follow their example!

Photo: A man in the Dominican Republic holds racist sign: “Defend your homeland! There can be no mixing between Dominicans and Haitians.” By Tony Savino / Socialist Action