Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Zika on its way

I have not been well really since the chikungunya.

 That must be about two years now although it is hard to tell time here for me without the change of seasons. The pains in my joints have not really left me,  just as some had predicted might happen,

 Dona Gloria, my neighbor who has 25 years on me, stops in front of the bars on my ground floor apartment on her way to the market and we rub our respective wrists and complain about our ankles.

 Now there is another virus on the way. One that attacks new bornes. Called Zika. It gives them tiny heads. The women and girls are being told not to get pregnant.

But the Catholic Church, which rules here under the Papal Nuncio, forbids the use of contraceptives (ah yes, you think that they use them? that the machos spend their money on latex? that they take showers with raincoats? think again)

and abortion is prohibited in all cases.. well I think that there has been a bit of flexibiltiy,. perhaps if a ten year old mother is going to die.. something like that.

this is a bitchin hard island.. let me tell you

and if you think this side is hard..


the other side of the place

is really hit hard..

one blow ..

after another
after another

after another

they are trying to have elections

Puerto Rico is sinking - Puerto Ricans are coming HERE to look for work!
Cuba is being sold back to the sugar barons
and the Dominican Republic is sending Haitians back across the border to sit and starve. Pretending that they are white men.

Well,. Actually.. That is a pretty good imitation of a white man.,

They certainly learned from the best of them.

Everyone tries to imitate democracy

because uncle sam says democracy is the way to go.. well used to say that until Cizens United said that plutocracy was better

but now that we have

president trump

barnum bailey


who are we

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Camino de Santiago

The deaf mutes file through churches
along the walled ramparts
on the camino of Santiago de Campostello
listening for the voice of god
At the end
carry signs
"The birds sing to earn their crust"
In Santo Domingo
Long ago
The bells fell silent
Traded to the English for cannon balls
The pope sends
Pedophile Polish priests

Children wail

Monday, April 20, 2015

The continuing issue of Statelessness

The non profit Institute on Statelessness provides this useful background piece on the issues now facing the more than 200,000 persons and their descendants whom the international community considers "stateless" while the Dominican Republic considers them "Haitian".

Many of these persons were brought under contract to cut cane under arrangements between governments, many were also trafficked 

NOTE . There are probably more than ONE MILLION Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The VAST majority of them were NOT born here and have NO CLAIM to citizenship.
Many more were simply born here at Dominican hospitals.. an estimated 10,000 pregnant Haitians a year come to take advantage of the advanced medical assistance. The Dominican Republic takes very good care of these women, even bringing them from the border up to five hours away,  by ambulance,  These children used to be able to have a tenous claim on citizenship,,, which was litigated in international courts,,, but their parents were not legal, considered in transit,

The Dominican Republic is a small and poor nation and has come under great attack from many nations, from human rights groups, from Haitians, from all sorts of activist,.

But it is only a small portion of the Haitian Dominicans.. or DominicanHaitians..who can make any sort of claim to legal rights to Dominican papers.

It is important that those who are actually concerned for those who are at RISK here take the time to understand ALL sides of the issue. And that includes the United States, the DR CAFTA treaty, the deal with the sugar cane producers.... all.. all ..all... alll....

I ask for a bit of attention here as a member of the Vincini family now owns one of the major newspapers, There is a lot of fear being built up here in the country.. fear of a pacific invasion by Haitians, fear that the international community is pressuring the Dominican Republic to unite with Haiti. Generally .. FEAR.

So, the more people who can hold this in the Light.. the better,

The following is from the Institute Report....

III. AMERICAS Statelessness is a ‘smaller’ problem in the Americas than in other parts of the world in terms of absolute numbers. UNHCR reports a total of 210,032 persons under its statelessness mandate in the Americas, almost all of whom are found in a single country, the Dominican Republic. There also does not appear to be a serious issue of known but unmapped situations of statelessness, such as that which exists in Africa. Only one further country in the Americas has been identified as presenting a significant, but as yet unquantifiable, problem of statelessness. Table 4: Countries in the Americas with over 10,000 stateless persons or marked with * Dominican Republic 210,000 Bahamas * As mentioned earlier in this report, an important reason for this low number of stateless persons is the principle of jus soli which is common to the countries in the western hemisphere: by granting nationality to all persons born on the territory, regardless of parentage or other circumstance, any situation of statelessness fades away automatically with the next generation enjoying birth-right citizenship. As discussed next, the two counties in which statelessness has surfaced as a real problem are those in which restrictions have been placed on the jus soli conferral of nationality. Dominican Republic UNHCR reported figure (end 2013): 210,000 Statelessness in the Dominican Republic (DR) concerns persons of Haitian descent. Until 2010, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic granted nationality automatically to any person born on Dominican soil, with only the limited exception of children whose parents were diplomats or ‘in transit’ in the country at the time. Individuals born in the country thus acquired Dominican nationality, whether their births were recorded in the Civil Registry or not. In practice, this THE WORLD’S STATELESS 73 narrow exception has long been applied in such a way as to deny many children of (presumed)128 Haitian descent access to Dominican nationality, often leaving them stateless – despite an Inter-American Court ruling which condemned these practices.129 The General Law on Migration adopted in 2004 expanded the ‘in transit’ exclusion for jus soli citizenship to children born to parents considered as ‘nonresidents’, which is understood to include temporary foreign workers, tourists and students, among other categories. A 2005 ruling of the Dominican Supreme Court further expanded this exception to include all individuals without proof of lawful residence. This expanded definition of the ‘in transit’ exception was then enshrined in the new Dominican constitution adopted in 2010. Most recently, in 2013, the DR’s constitutional court ordered that this new interpretation of ‘in transit’ be applied to all individuals with Dominican citizenship born in the DR to migrant parents (i.e. retroactively, as far back as 1929). This process resulted in the arbitrary deprivation of nationality on a massive scale. Those affected are left stateless because Haiti has prohibited dual nationality until 2012130 so those who enjoyed Dominican nationality could not also be Haitian. There are no exact figures on how many Dominicans of Haitian descent are affected by this series of amended laws. A survey jointly conducted by the National Statistics Office and the UN Fund for Population (UNFPOA) estimated that 209,912 individuals were born in the DR of Haitian migrants.

131 This matches the UNHCR figure of 210,000 stateless persons in DR at the end of 2013. The figure, however, captures only the first generation of persons of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic. Given that the retroactive stripping of nationality affected individuals who were born in the country as far back as 1929, a far larger number of persons lost their entitlement to Dominican nationality because their parents or grandparents are considered never to have possessed it. For instance, Juliana Deguis Pierre, whose case before the constitutional court figures at the centre of the current problems, has four children herself. If Juliana is no longer considered 128 Often determined arbitrarily or on the basis of racial criteria. 129 Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic, Series C, Case 130, 8 September 2005. 130 Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Haiti: Dual citizenship, including legislation; requirements and procedures for former Haitian citizens to re-acquire citizenship (2012-January 2013), 8 February 2013, HTI104293.E. 131 See above, note 69. 3 GLOBAL STATELESSNESS STATISTICS 74 Dominican, they also lost their nationality– yet only she appears in the statistic of 210,000 persons under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate. It is not possible, at present, to estimate the size of the further population affected – i.e. the second, third or even fourth generations born in DR who were also stripped of their nationality – but the fertility rate in the Dominican Republic is reported to be 2.8 children per woman.132 Thus, while there are also some recent legislative developments that look set to allow an estimated 10% of those affected to regain their Dominican nationality, the assessment of civil society groups is that statelessness actually threatens a far larger number of people in DR and the data reported is significantly underestimating the problem. O

Friday, April 17, 2015

Money Laundering

The banks are out of peso coins again.

The farmacia just handed me back the five peso coin that I had given them when the clerk asked if I had a peso for the bill. I saw that one side of her tray was filled with individually wrapped cough drops which are given when the change is one or two pesos.

I knew this peso shortgage was my fault since I had a jar of them at home.

I promised I would bring them back to the store.

So I went home, counted out an even hundred of the heavy, metal coins, worth 2.23 US cents each.  Some of them are trading on ebay for as much as .99 US.

They are very large, probably the size of a US quarter if memory serves me, which it often does not. And perhaps like most metal coinage in the world today, it is most likely worth more by its metal content than it is as currency.

They would make a  wonderful necklace, Holding one feels like finding sunken treasure. I usually make a practice of dropping them on the grass, under the huge sacred ficus trees,for the shoe shine boys, the drunks,the begger ladies.

Nevertheless, I had acquired a full jar.

I am mindful that I have a national reputation to preserve here. One of my dearest friends here has said more than once "The Americans are not like the Europeans. When an American says he will do something, he does it. With the Europeans, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe just another glass of wine."

So I felt a certain sense of national honor was at stake here so I did not stop to make lunch but went right to work, laundering the money.

First in "Acer" - detergent
 Rinse.. ah..the dirty water...!!
Then in "Cloro" -
Ah... the sparkling coins.....!
Then dried on a dish towel.

Then placed in one of my rewashed zip lock bags, on its last legs.

On the way to the Farmacia, I thought what to do with the $2,20, which was, after all, completely "found" money. It is the exact price of the Plato del Dia, a mound of rice and beans, a side of fresh cole slaw, two small pieces of chicken in a delicious sauce, far more nourishing than any Happy Meal.

There were two of the regular "shoe shine" boys on the corner but they looked very well nourished playing under the tree with the remnants of a take out container so someone had already given them lunch.

Then, just on cue, arrived Manolito, who is our resident homeless wanderer, Although he could probably qualify for some sort of diagnosis, and sometimes does get drunk and obnoxious on holidays, ussally he only approaches and states that he is hungry. Folks who are not from the neighborhood are afraid of him but none of us are. He will walk alongside me, ask about my dog, ask how my friends from Las Terrenas are.

Reminds me that he has not eaten today.

"Tengo Hambre"

I squeezed the bag of washed pesos in my hand.

"Espere, Manalito".

At the Farmacia, the laundered pesos were greated as a belated Christmas gift. One can only imagine.. those one and two pesos.. over the course of a day for a business, ..that adds up....

 And.. well.. imagine.. the Gringa had.. WASHED them..
After all, I said, you are a Farmacia.. you cannot be passing out dirty money.

When I lived in Haiti,many years ago, the linen gourdes that I got for change in the market place in St Marc were so dirty that I often could not discern the denomination. I would always take them home and wash them.

I did the same for the pesos that were in circulation in Las Terrenas, from the fruit and veggie stands.

I guess I have been laundering money for a long time.

So - national reputation upheld  My word is my bond.
money laundered and in circulation

Street wanderer given lunch

life purpose fulfilled for the

God is good

Friday, February 27, 2015

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day  here in the Dominican Republic which means primarily that there is ano ther long weekend, flags are hanging from balconies and windows, and Haitians are frightened.

The Dominican Republic celebrates its independence from Haiti, in 1844, after a 22 year occupation, despite the fact that the DR went back under the protection of Spain after that and had to fight to get independent again. It is the only country in the hemisphere to celebrate its independence from another colony.

Relations between the two nations which share this island have never been good.. not quite as bad perhaps as the Greeks and the Turks on Cyprus, although I have not been there so do not know for sure, But let us say that they may have been stranded on the same island together for the last 500 years but they are not friends.,

Recently things have deteriorated. The DR changed its constitution from jus solis (except for children of transients,,read  Haitians.. even if you have been here three generations) to jus sanguinis, Then it institutited a Supreme Court to say what the  Constitution meant. (Since the DR changes its Constitution every legislative term, the Constitution here; like the laws, seem just a suggestion

Then, just to make it very clear to the international community that it did not want to hear any more about it from the international community, particularly the Jesuits who kept mounting cases against the government, ditto the US, Canada and France, the DR withdrew from the Central American Human Rights Court, with the words, We are a sovereign nation and will decide who is and is not a citizen.

With the possibility that as many as 200,000 persons having lost their rights to Dominican citizenship, and powerful Dominican diaspora voices such as Julia Alvarez and Junot Diaz raised against it, the current wildly popular President Danilo Medina, announced that there would be a plan for the regularization of all foreigners. All the registration books were reviewed back decades. Less than 100,000 national identity cards (cedulas) were deemed false and removed. Then the Plan was unveiled.

Those who were born here would have 90 days to present themselves and all sorts of papers, birth certificates, neighbors testimonies, education records.. to the Junta Electoral. It takes an entire day just to pay the electric bill here. And you have to pay it even if you never get one because they will shut off the electricity the day after the cut off day and you will not know when that is because you did not get a bill. Well, you have to live here to understand that. But for those of us who do live here.. 90 days did seem a bit of a joke for people who had never had papers and perhaps could not read.

Then those who have been in the country for years but have no cedula, have until June to complete a process much like a Chinese menu. This looks easy enough, welcoming to those whether they entered legally or illegally. Bring a bank certificate, a lease, receipts for $300 of goods, records of employment ,, one or two out of seven.. lots of chances,. we will be flexible,

But, it has turned out that the rate of success for the first 100 days has been .002%, which many suspect could not have occurred by chance. Applicants are being required to have "all seven" rather than the two specified. Documents must be validated by an attorney at a cost of up to $25 each. Applicants are asked to return five or more times with missing documents.

Two weeks ago a Haitian was hung in a public park in Santiago. There was a small riot during which the Dominican flag was burned,

Yesterday, in recognition of Dominican independence day, there was a march in Port au Prince Haiti which was, organizers insist, to be a peaceful demonstration. Yet at the end of the demonstration, someone was able to penetrate the Dominican consulate and lower their flag and raise the Haitian one.  Among the spectators, marchers, were two former Presidential candidates.

The Dominican government has said that it will deport all foreigners without proper documentation at the end of the Regularization Plan in June. There are 450000 foreigners here, up to 85% of them Haitian, the majority of whom do not have valid visas.

Haiti is the second largest export market for the Dominican Republic.

President Danilo has said today in his speech that the time for the Plan will not be extended,

Later tonite there will be fireworks. They will compete with the sound of the mangos falling on the roof of the carport like cannons.

Tomorrow, the Haitians will be back at work remodelling the Jaragua Hotel next door.

So it should be very interesting to see what will happen in June when the better part of 400000 Haitians are set to be deported.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Build it and they will come

They are "redoing"the Zona Colonial, which is an UNESCO World Heritage site. There were the usual foul ups which we expect here, things that make life interesting. Archaelogists complained  that some of the excavations to bury the electric lines and repair the streets were damaging the footings of the precious 16th Century buildings. Bloggers with cameras reported that workers on the public gate to the Parque Independencia were, in fact, Haitian.  And then geologists observed that the black mold which had covered the old stones had not been treated or removed and would therefore seep right through the new plaster work in a couple of years.

I saw the new plaster work the other day. A bit of black mold could improve it, give it that Colonial look.

The new highway from the all inclusive resorts in Punta Cana has been completed so that bus loads of tourists can come and visit easily in one day. It is supposedly only two hours one way. And they do want the Zona, with all the trinket shops, art shops, little restaurants, and historic sites to be ready. They have already done a wonderful job in getting the garbage picked up on schedule.

Pretty soon, there will be a lot more buildings opening up for sale.

And pretty soon New Yorkers will be here.

I know it. I am a New Yorker myself.

When I first moved to Asheville, North Carolina, in 1990, I could have dropped into a coma in the middle of main street on Friday at 5 PM and no one would have found me until Monday. But, I said, ::Beware, Asheville, the New Yorkers will be here.

Now, the downtown condos start around $300,000 and there is a street fair almost every weekend in the summer.

For me, Asheville was over run by just the same sort of NY style commercialism that overtook.. well.. New York.. Gone is the Greenwich Village of my youth. Gone the Times Square. Gone the street people. Gone the Jane Jacobs ideal of a city on the stoops.

And they are not in Asheville either.

But here.. well, not in the Zona because that is already too pricey.. but HERE in Gazcue.. there is still a neighborhood.  Huge old trees whose roots have cracked the sidewalks, primary schools whose noise fills the streets, delis and colomados who deliver everything. And the thrashing Caribbean Sea as a daily meditation spot.


Only if you are died in the wool urban. If your deepest criminal streak is jaywalking.. if your favoirte pastime is people watching... if you do mind gas fumes, truck horns and chaos.. soot.. and here. piles of garbage.. and street dogs.. and young boys posing as shoe shiners.. asking for money..

and Hookers.. let us not forget the Ladies of the Night.

For myself, I kinda like the Red Light Districts.. but it is not for everyone

And tell any Dominican abroad that you live in Gazcue and he will say, ah Rica.. because we also have some of the finest old house, best apartments, and Trees... Ah the Trees..

I walk to the market, and the grocerty boy with the cart follows me home, stopping on the way as I pick up fruit from the fruit seller, flowers from the flower lady, ripe avocados from Christina. When I lived on the third floor, he walked up with the groceries.

You bet I tip large.

So yes, you can live here.. just like in old New York.

Yes you can live on a generous Social Security check.

Two bedroom condos in Gazcue start at about $75000. Every once an a while there is a full elegant house in the 400k and up region.  Maintenance costs start around $50 a month. There are no taxes for property under $150lk

Many of the older apartments have small rooms for live in maids, called "cuartos de servicos":, large enough for a single bed, with its own toilet and shower.

No Medicare, though.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


With the circulation of the petition for the Lawyer's Guild to cancel their scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic,  I begin to wonder if Haitians and their supporters are not falling victim to a deliberate disinformation campaign because, really, there is nothing that would please many in the  DR more than for all of you "Haitian sympathizers" than  to simply stay away from here.

 Certainly I have been invited to leave more than once.

And to keep on talking about the TC court decision and the sugar cane workers as if this were a new issue - as if it had not been litigated already in the InterAmerican Court for 10 years, as if it were not - in the end - clearly a matter of national sovereignty-- and as if every constitution since 1929 had not had the category "in transit" in it. (and the answer to that query is that being illegal for 80 years does not make you legal)

Perhaps it is the first time that some are hearing about the "in transit" clause. Perhaps some do not know about Sonia Pierre or the film "The Price of Sugar" and how Father Hartley was expelled and the Vincini family tried to have the film banned from being shown in the US. But lots of us do.

So why is there this uproar now? Why is there no talk about the opportunity? Doesn't anyone speak Spanish? Aren't any of the NGOs sending out announcements? WHY NOT?

Keeping you focused on the injustice of the "in transit clause", and mourning the dead of the 1937 massacre, , will keep you from examining the Actual decree of the President which deals primarily with the 53,000 with questionable cedulas (13,000 of Haitian descent) and  with the bulk of the 435,000 HAITIANS - and other illegal immigrants - who live here.

As well, of course, with all those who, over the years, have been thwarted in getting their papers. Estimates are that 15% of Dominicans - of complete Dominican descent - do not have papers, primarily because of the poverty of their parents.

The decree sets out the how they go about getting their papers.

 But no one seems to be reading the decree. No one seems to be translating it into Kreyole. (or even English - which is odd -- it is almost as if the DR does not object to this publicity) 

Everyone just seems to be saying how bad things are for the Haitians here - how racist and xenophobic it is, how hard life is for them.... And so, perhaps, they will just self deport. That will certainly easy the growing tensions here. That is, of course, the fondest dream of the Dominicans nationalists. For many, there are simply far too many Haitians here already. 

Even the Human Rights Delegation of the InterAmerican Court came here and then issued a report saying the TC ruling was unjust. Now be clear.. this has zero impact. Zero. The DR has been in that Court on this issue for years (google is your friend). They will pay the fine. They will then tighten their constitution and immigration requirements again -- as they just did. If one reades the TC decision - which few have done, I am sure (as it is 150 pages long and in Spanish, after all! as one Haitian official complained), you will note that the case is already well prepared for presentation at an international level.

It is the right of any sovereign country to determine its own rules on citizenship.  Can anyone disagree with that?

Now Haitians here have a 15 month window in which to attempt to become legal. So their supporters, instead of studying and translating the decree into easy to understand Spanish and Kreyole, coming to the DR with volunteers to help register the Haitians who are eligible, are calling for a total boycott of the Dominican Republic.

This certainly helps someone's agenda but it is not that of the vulnerable Haitian diaspora on the ground here.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Amnesty for illegal residents of the Dominican Republic

This was my post this morning to the Corbett List - the Haitian English list serv - in response to a poster....

M. St Louis - you may prefer to simply dismiss me as a "Dominican apologist" rather than 
address any of the issues in my posts. Just as many prefer to rail against the Tribunal 
Court decision and the rights of a sovereign country to determine its own citizenship requirements.
That is your prerogative.  And I am just as reviled on the Dominican forums for being a Haitian 
apologist. So perhaps that means that I am doing something right.

 For the record, I have been a freelance journalist here, focused, in part on Haitian issues. and the leading voice on on Haiti. I make an effort to see both sides of the story. 

The recent decision has nothing to do with the current administration of Haiti,, nor with trade but with the ongoing cases against the DR in the InterAmerican Court and the revision of their constitution from jus solis to jus sanguinis. So do not blame Martelly. It is the massive influx of Haitian immigrants which has pushed this issue.

Of course, none of the trade issues helped - certainly not the way that Haiti conducted itself over the chicken and egg boycott - based on erroneous information. But the issue of illegal immigration and the children of illegal immigrants in the DR is long standing.

Many have read the TC decision. Many have commented. Few have reported that the census of the 
cedulas has been done and about 54,000 have found to be questionable. Among these were Americans
French, Germans, and Chinese, and  13,000, were Haitian.

The President has announced a plan for the regularization of all those foreigners who are in the country illegally. This has received almost no coverage except to say that it is complicated. Yes, it is. There are categories for those who entered legally, for those who entered illegally, for those who were born here. All have different requirements to obtain their papers. Here is the decree

Those who were born here are to be given special assistance. 

The Haitian consulates here - for the very first time - are now issuing birth certificates. Not in Santo Domingo but at least in Santiago, Higuey, and Dajabon, so that those who are here without any papers whatsoever can at least start the process.

This is an amnesty on all illegal foreigners- for those who entered illegally and those whose parents never had proper papers (who themselves were deemed "in transit" as was defended by the Dominican government in InterAmerican Court as far back as 2004). This is an opportunity for all Haitians now in the Dominican Republic to regularize their status here, if they meet certain criteria.It also applies to the many foreign tourists who entered legally but overstayed their 30 day visa.

Now it will be up to you, you Haitians of education, to decode the citizenship requirements for the Dominican Republic. I, for one, am simply tired of hearing rerun of the Parsley Massacre of 1937 while 435,000 Haitians lose an opportunity to get papers here and send home remittances.  

As far as I have seen, all that the Haitian diaspora.. and the NGOs here (and the international press, really) have done is to decry the decision as racist and xenophobic. 

Basta Ya. 

Haitians are the only ones here who are allowed work visas from the Dominican Republic for $300 a year. 
For this, they must return to Port au Prince every year and have it renewed. This makes them permanently in transit.  Fair?

To work here, other foreigners must go through a far more lengthy process, with apostilled birth certificates costing $300, apostilled police records costing the same, a Dominican guarantor, proof of income or financial stability, and medical checks. This gives temporary residence which must be renewed in two years, with fees attached mounting to $500. Then comes permanent residency which must be renewed every ten years, with fees attached. 

Haitians who are here are free to go through the same process and get their cedulas, if they are able.

The recent census reported that there are about 450,000 Haitians here. I doubt that many of them are legal - in that they have Haitian passports and Dominican visas.or registered cedulas as foreigners. 

They will now have 15 months, til Feb 2015, to regularize their status. They will have to show that they have links to the Dominican society - that they studied here, or a lease on an apartment, or have employment here, or have a child, or live with a Dominican,  or a bank account, or furniture, or a combination of the above. 

The ruling is complicated because it gives a lot of options -- don't have this? Ok,, how about a letter from the Neighborhood Association? A letter from the Church?  They have to show that they are literate in Spanish. (OK.. this is going to be hard since a lot of them may not be literate in any language).  

I have not yet heard reports on how it is going since only the sugar companies and some of the resorts in Punta Cana have complied - registering about 900 Haitians and other foreigners. No mention in the press about how these companies had been in defiance of the law up to now but merely a brazen admission that these people "would now be paid more".  It is illegal here in the Dominican Republic to hire undocumented workers but it is known that even the government does it.

I will be interested to learn, as I intend to do shortly, if any of the groups that are working with the Haitian diaspora here are intending to help them get their papers. Or whether, as I sadly suspect, the plan is to spend the next 15 months reliving the Parsley Massacre. 

As far as I can see, the literate Haitian diaspora has done nothing to help the Haitians here. I have seen only protest marches and petitions to overturn a Supreme Court ruling, accusations of racism, and exaggerations. As in for example, one or two pieces about "forced" migrations from the incident in Neyba, which was one of mob violence from which 200 Haitians sought police protection and an escort from the border. One hopes that this scene is not repeated in other border regions.

It would be useful to see a summary translation of the decree start coming out on FaceBook in Kreyole. There is a large and literate Haitian population here- university students, for example- who could do much to assist those who are not so fortunate, if they were encouraged to do so. It would be such a welcome change to see Haitians helping the Haitians here take advantage of this opportunity, instead of simply accusing the Dominican Republic of xenophobia and racism. 

What I fear is that that population here - the educated Haitians, the University students, for example, who may in fact be eligible for permanent papers here under this amnesty, will do nothing, as the leaders are simply decrying the court decision. Many of the leaders are in NGOs who get funding for decrying, after all. And instead of helping the construction workers, for instance, they will just continue their studies. Then the window will close.  And deportations will start in earnest.  

And whose fault will that be?



Friday, November 29, 2013

Behind the "deportations"

Musings from an armchair journalist.. stuck in the Capital.. longing for a field assignment......

Neiba is small city, perhaps 50,000 inhabitants, located in a valley between two mountain ranges and several rivers and an overflowing brackish below sea level level which is home to one of the world's endangered species, the American crocodile. The crocodile has more international supporters than the farmers of Neiba, who rely primarily on the traditional crops of coffee and plantains and whose land is being eroded by the mysterious rise of the waters of the lake.

The only advantage that Neiba has over other small towns is that it is one of the few places where grapes can be grown. Grapes, along with apples, used to be imported only at Christmas and have come to mean luxury, Christmas all year, to the Dominican people. Now, there are local, rather than just imported grapes for consumption. There is even a small local wine industry.

Neiba is also home to many Haitian immigrants as are all the mountains of the southwest. Where there is a coffee harvest, there are always Haitians who come to work to pick the beans, just as they go to the cities to build skyscrapers. And the mountain ranges are so vast, and so very inhospitable for those who do not know how to live without electricity and water, that those who do not know how to do so have not usually bothered these Haitians. No one goes to hunt them down and deport them, no one arrests them while they were working. The Haitians have simply been left in peace.

But things have tipped now on the balance of how many Haitians are in the Dominican Repubic. There are never figures on how many illegals are here. Even though their skin hue may be exactly the same, as it is in many areas such as Samana and the south, Dominicans and Haitians swear that can always tell one another apart, even just by the walk, or perhaps the dress, or some instinct. 

The balance tipped. The fire ignited. And the pot boiled over in Neiba when someone killed a seventy year old local Dominican couple, coffee growers, at their home. Killed them by machete, which is known as a Haitian weapon because Dominicans use guns. Guns are the weapon of choice here in the Dominican Republic. It is against the law to carry a concealed weapon, so it is common to see a man riding on his motor cycle with a pistol in his belt. It is to be assumed that most home owners have a gun in their homes. 

Just as it is  assumed that anyone who is killed with a machete (hacked to death would be phrase used whether or not that was true) was killed by a Haitian. So, when that older couple was killed, a younger Haitian, probably a Haitian who worked for them, who may or may not have had anything to do with killing, was knifed to death by a Dominican mob. Knives are a weapon without nationality. At first the reports were that he was lynched. But lynching is not Dominican style public justice, it is Haitian style. 

Over 200 Haitians in the town, with or without proper passports or visas,sought refuge from mob violence in the police station.  A few days later they were escorted to the Haitian border, about an hour away, and returned to their homeland.  Now the police have the name of the actual murdered and have asked the Haitian authorities that he be extradited to face trial and justice here in the Dominican Republic, which will most likely be a very safe option for him as there is no death penalty here, and he has taken away the source of livelihood for these 200 people and their families and most of the other Haitians in Neiba and his life will be in danger in Haiti.

When I lived in Las Terrenas, a popular Frenchman was macheted to death by his former young Haitian lover whom he had dropped and left with nothing. The lover came back with a friend, killed the Frenchman, and stole his high end motorcycle. The local police started questioning the local Haitians to find out where the Haitian had gone. The rule, which I was told, was that if you are seen talking with the Dominican police after a crime here, your family in Haiti will be killed. There are very few Haitians in the Dominican prison system. These particular Haitians were found. The family of the Haitian who was seen talking to the police in Las Terrenas were all killed.

But there were 200 Haitians who were voluntarily in police custody in Neiba and only killer. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pro Haitian, Pro Dominican

Last week someone on one of the Haiti list servs called me an apologist for Trujillo, the Dominican dictator who murdered some 40,000 Haitians. This was in marked contrast to the ususal rants against me on the Dominican list servs where I am regularly invited to move to Haiti. So I am clearly doing something right in my ability to irritate all and everyone.

The Dominican Constitutional Court just handed down a decision which has sparked protests at Dominican Embassies all over the world and garnered protest letters from the Haitian government and the United Nations among others.

I seem to be alone in not being concerned about the outcome for the 700,000 persons who are potentially affected by the decision. Perhaps because I have read the decision which it seems to me most of the people who are writing about in the press have not. Perhaps because I have been aware that there has been a problem with this issue for a long time. that the children of illegal immigrants here are NOT entitled to Haitian citizenship, and NOT entitiled to Domnican Citizenship and that the problem was only going to grow.

It is, of course, somehow, so much easier to be on Haiti's side on everything. Because they are just the underdog in everything. And I usually am. Not this time.

It is not the fault of the Dominican Republic that the majority of the illegal immigrant who come here.. some say a million to date.. but who can tell?.... have no papers whatsoever. Nor is it the Dominican Republic's fault that they come.

Yes, it is the fault of the Dominican Republic that the gates at the border are wide open twice a week for market, with no papers checked,. because they want the trade. But the border is long and porous. And there will always be economic refugees from a poor country to a wealthier one. And since the earthquake, it has been from a much poorer country to a wealthier one.

But the DR is not a wealthy country. It still hovers just above poverty. One cannot drink the tap water. Schools are only for four hours a day. Unemployment is massive. Salaries are low. Visas to other countries are heavily restricted.

It is in no position to accept waves of unskilled, uneducated, undocumented workers.Without documents, there is no way to even begin the path to citizenship. So rather than protesting at the Dominican Embassies, would it not perhaps be more useful for some of the Haitian diaspora groups to volunteer in Haiti as census takers and help get everyone their birth certificates or identity cards?

The DR is taken to the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights, the Hague of the hemisphere.. and subjected to the scrutiny of the world for its treatment of the Haitians. Everyone screams at them "racist" "xenaphobe" . After the last decision in 2004, the DR changed its constition to jus sanguinis from jus solis, and made it even more clear what it meant by persons "in transit".. i.e. "illegal". More outcrys.

Yes, well. I know Haitians who work for half of what Domnicans work for. That is true. Is that racist? is that xenophobic?  or is that just taking advantage of illegal migrant laborers?  Dominican workers are upset about that. That is capitalism.. That is exploitation.

There is also an elimentt here that says  "you have a problem, blame the Haitians"

 But Haiti is the DR's second largest trading partner, accounting for one fourth of her trade. And this is an island. No way out. Sharks all around. Cuba on one side, US Coast Guard on the other. So these two nations, who have been doing a live rendition of a Russian novel for 500 years, are going to have to work it out.

The Haitians who are not here seem to think that the Dominicans all hate them. But the Haitians who are here mostly want to stay, not because they love it here but because there is work here.

The ruling of the Constitutional Court directed the Electoral Council to make a list of all those whom they thought might have Dominican identity papers which are in question and then it directed the Executive Branch to come up with a solution to the issue, on how to regularize the status of these persons. Both were directed to complete this within a year.

But there are lots of folks, I guess, who get paid for screaming at Embassies. Or perhaps that is all they know how to do.