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.