SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—Manuel Dandré recounted a case of the injustice suffered by Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Haitian parents of two girls had permanent residency in the Dominican Republic. Both children were Dominicans because they met the constitutional criteria that their parents be in regular migratory status at the moment of their birth in Dominican territory.
“In spite of this, the girls were detained,” Dandré, a lawyer, told this reporter. “The father had to go on a motorcycle to catch up with the bus that was transporting them.” With the intervention of United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and UN-affiliated International Organization For Migration (IOM), the deportation was prevented at the border.
Unfortunately, that is but one case where a family was not broken apart. From January to November 2022, UNICEF had counted more than 1,800 unaccompanied children expelled to Haiti from the Dominican Republic, often without documents to prove that they were Haitians. In the midst of this situation, Dandré provides legal assistance through two organizations that assist Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, the Sociocultural Movement of Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA) and the Jacques Viau Network.
A record-breaking 154,333 Haitian immigrants were expelled in 2022. That’s more than triple the yearly average of the period between 2017 and 2021. The Dominican government’s campaign of mass deportations is the latest episode in what human-rights advocates, and social and political activists, describe as a strategy to deepen racial discrimination.
Deportations Continue Unabated
United Nations officials had called in November for an end to the mass expulsions of Haitian citizens. However, Dominican President Luis Abinader responded the deportations would not only continue, but would be accelerated. Abinader also issued decree 688-22, which creates a special police unit to target immigrants and orders the immediate expulsion of immigrants living on state or privately owned lands. This definition coincides with the reality of the Bateyes, communities established in sugarcane regions for migrant Haitian workers and their families.
On Nov. 19, the U.S. embassy issued a travel alert according to which travelers to the Dominican Republic “reported being delayed, detained, or subject to heightened questioning at ports of entry and in other encounters with immigration officials based on their skin color.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped the entry of raw sugar and sugar products produced by Central Romana Corporation, which operates in the eastern part of the country, stating it had found indicators of forced labor.
The Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ response stressed that the “humanitarian, social and political” crisis in Haiti “seriously affects the national security of the Dominican Republic.”
“The Dominican government would never have imagined such serious insinuations about our country, whose population evidences in its skin color a wide melting pot of races,” added the official note.
Central Romana, owned by the Cuban-American Fanjul family, replied that CBP’s remarks “do not reflect the policies and practices of Central Romana.”
Extorting Relatives of Detainees
Dandré, born in 1960, is himself one of the more than 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent affected by a denationalization policy initiated in 2004, when the migration law defined immigrants without visas as persons “in transit,” to exclude their children from acquiring Dominican nationality at birth. This policy culminated in 2013 with Constitutional Court ruling 168-13, which retroactively applied the criteria of the 2004 General Law of Migration to all born after 1929. Widespread international condemnation ensued. After litigation, Dandré regained documents certifying his Dominican citizenship.
Dandré told this reporter about a 16-year-old girl who was detained by the police and taken to the immigration detention center in the town of Haina, on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, where she was held for nine days. The law prohibits the detention of minors, pregnant women and elderly people in immigration proceedings, but such violations of the law are frequent, he said.
“The Haina detention center is overcrowded and in terribly unsanitary conditions,” Dandré explained. “If a detained person has relatives who bring food, the officers demand payments to deliver it—they extort them.”
When it was imminent that the court would order the release of the girl, she was handed over to another institution, the National Council for Adolescence and Childhood, which carried out her expulsion to Haiti.
“She should never have been taken to Haina, where most of the detainees are men,” Dandré pointed out.
‘Dehumanization’ of Haitian People
Ana Belique is one of the young leaders of the Movimiento Reconocido, which fights for the restitution of Dominican nationality to the people affected by ruling 168-13.
“In 2004, the new Migration Law was made and, in 2010, the Constitution was changed. Both changes are strategically designed to limit the rights of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic,” Belique pointed out.
A statement signed by Movimiento Reconocido and dozens of Dominican and Haitian organizations describes this strategy as the imposition of systematic racial discrimination, warning about the risks of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
Belique has first-hand knowledge of cases of foreigners who have suffered discrimination because they “look Haitian.” She mentions Caribbean and African exchange students, as well as the case of two black U.S. citizens besieged by neo-Nazis and National Police officers in Ciudad Juan Bosch, a suburb in the eastern part of Santo Domingo, five months ago.
“What worries me most about the current campaign of mass deportations is the dehumanization against Haitian people,” Belique added.
On Dec. 2, representatives of social organizations met with Dominican Attorney General Miriam German.
Among the complaints they presented regarding human rights violations against the immigrant community were the murders of Joel Lolo and Delouise Estimable. Joel, a 18-year-old construction worker, was shot in the head by an immigration agent during a warrantless raid on his home in Las Matas de Farfan in March, while Delouise was beaten to death in a truck in the northern province of Valverde in July.
Little more than a week later, an illegal raid took place of the offices of the Dominico-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA), one of the organizations represented in the meeting with the Attorney General. In a joint statement, social organizations denounced that raiding agents wore military intelligence uniforms.
‘To This Day, I Am Without a Pension’
Meanwhile, thousands of Haitian sugarcane workers who arrived in the country between the 1960s and 1970s, like Belique and Dandré’s parents, have organized in the Union of Sugarcane Workers (UTC) to demand the payment of their pensions. Around 15,000 sugarcane workers have been waiting, many of them taking to the streets for years. Some have passed away without the state recognizing their claim. On Dec. 7, they rallied again in front of the Ministry of Labor in Santo Domingo, to demand an end to forced labor in Central Romana.
“I joined in 1972, I worked in Altagracia, in the State Sugar Council,” recounted retired sugarcane worker Yega Fabián. “When I went to the sugar mill they gave me a machete, a sack and sent me to cut cane. I applied for the pension in 2012. To this day, I am without a pension. I have six children and 13 grandchildren. All of them have an identification card, but not me.”
The protest, to the traditional cry of “No sugarcane workers, no sugar,” was marked by news that another retired Haitian sugarcane worker, Lico Alerté, had died early that morning.
Alerté never received his pension.
Vladimir Fuentes is the pen name of a freelance journalist based in the Dominican Republic.
Mobilizations took to the streets of Colombia on April 28 in a national strike to protest social injustice and aggressive tax reforms proposed by the Iván Duque government. Student movements, trade unions, young peoples’ organizations, feminist groups, and indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ movements marched, blocked roads and held cultural activities in urban centers and rural territories throughout the country, exercising their right to peaceful protest. But the state wasted no time in responding with violent repression, especially in major cities such as Calí, Bogotá, Palmira and Popayán.
Watch to understand what is happening in Colombia #SOSColombiaEnDictadura #soscolombia #Colombia #AlertaRojaEnColombia pic.twitter.com/v0FdocxS6g
— Victor (@victor4nj) May 8, 2021
Although the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, isolated incidents of looting and violence have been used as an excuse for using excessive force against protesters. Media discourses around “good protesters” and “bad protesters” legitimize this response. Widespread reports of infiltrators are being used to provoke violence and looting, as has been the case in previous strikes in the country. Armed forces reportedly have stood by and allowed looting to take place, only to later respond to such incidents with violent repression.
Rather than heeding the demands of the citizens against the tax reform and social injustice, the state has responded with militarization, turning peaceful demonstrations into scenes of war. Helicopters circle above protest points and communities, while tanks thunder through narrow city streets.
This breaks my heart to see this. What kind of government sends a FUCKING HELICOPTER TO SHOOT CITIZENS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.
🆘🇨🇴🙏🏽 #Prayforcolombia #SOSColombiaNosEstanMatando #SOSColombiaEnDictadura #ColombiaAlertaRoja #COLOMBIAINREDALERT #ColombiaResiste pic.twitter.com/tevBbcnCtC
— 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐞𝐞 𝐊✯ (@Truee_K) May 5, 2021
Several cities are occupied by four armed state actors:
Instead of seeking to pacify the situation and protect citizens, these forces have increasingly threatened security, peace and human rights.
Flagrant Human Rights Abuses
Countless videos recorded by protesters and onlookers circulate daily on social media, showing cases of police brutality, indiscriminate shootings, and the use of tear gas inside barrios that contain children and elderly people. Over the past few days, the violence has taken on a new face in Calí, with the presence of plainclothes police officers and reports of unmarked cars carrying out drive-by shootings against protesters.
Bogotá-based non-governmental organization Indepaz reports the following occurred between April 28 and May 8:
Reports are circulating of people being arrested and denied information of their destination, violating their rights to due process and exposing them to the risk of arbitrary detention, cruel and inhumane treatment, and forced disappearance.
Armed police have threatened lawyers and human-rights defenders when inquiring about missing people at police stations. The international community woke up to the seriousness of the situation when, on May 3, members of a humanitarian mission including UN and state representatives were attacked by armed police while waiting to enter a police station in search of missing people. On April 7, as a humanitarian mission was taking place north of Calí with the presence of Senator Alexander Lopez, a drive-by shooting took place, injuring one person and killing three.
The Racialization of State Repression
The violence and repression has a disproportionate impact on Black communities, only mirroring Colombia’s ongoing internal armed conflict. For example, 35 of the 47 murders Indepaz reported took place in Calí, home to South America’s second-largest Afro-descendant population. No surprise that structural and systemic racism are deeply ingrained in Calí. Many of the most aggressive cases of state violence have been carried out in neighborhoods with majority or significant Afro-descendant populations, treating communities as enemies of war. Historically, these barrios have suffered socio-economic exclusion, further entrenched by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism and state violence. Many barrio residents already were victims of forced displacement, having fled the armed conflict in the majority Afro-descendant regions of the northern Cauca Department, in which Calí is located, and the Pacific coast.
While official statistics do not reveal the proportion of Black victims in this current wave of police brutality due to a lack of disaggregated data, photos of victims clearly show the disproportionate impact on young Afro-descendant men.
En Puerto Tejada Norte del Cauca el ESMAD ataca a los manifestantes que marchan pacíficamente, denunciamos el abuso de autoridad y violación a nuestros derechos #SeValeProtestar #ParoNacional28A #ResistirNoEsAguantar@DefensoriaCol @ONUHumanRights @FranciaMarquezM pic.twitter.com/WsPKoKqa4c
— PCN (@renacientes) April 28, 2021
Racial profiling not only underpins state violence, but is central in the denial of state responsibility and impunity. Already, discussions around existing gang violence and urban conflicts are being used to question whether many of these young men participated in the protests or were delinquents killed in the context of the everyday violence in their communities. This discourse no doubt seeks to reduce the numbers of protest-related deaths, simultaneously justifying the deaths of young Black men. The first death registered in Calí took place in the majority Black barrio, Marroquin II, where a 22-year-old man was killed. But the military later denied his death was related to the protests.
Militarization, Imperialism and the Protests
The current situation in Colombia cannot be understood in isolation from the wider armed conflict and the ever-deepening neoliberal agenda supported and sustained by the United States and multinationals that feed off Colombia’s natural resources. U.S. imperialist interests in the region have been clear since the late 19th century, with the attempted invasion of Colombia’s neighbor, Panama, in 1885 and the start of the Panama Canal project in 1904. In 1948, the Organization of American States was created during a meeting in Colombia.
Colombia has been the strategic point for Washington’s political, economic and military operations in recent decades. Thanks to U.S. technical and logistical support, Colombia is now one of the greatest military powers in the region. With the 1999 signing of Plan Colombia and the 2002 Patriot Plan, U.S. military presence and influence has only deepened.
Further, U.S. military support has always depended on state policies that benefited U.S. imperial interests. For example, in 2009 the United States signed an agreement with the Uribe Government to be able to operate from seven Colombian military bases. Although this agreement was blocked by the Constitutional Court, the Santos government later arrived at alternative bilateral agreements. These enabled access and use of the bases in practice, and further facilitated the fruitless and dangerous strategy of spraying the herbicide, glyphosate, on illicit crops. All of this sustains the ideology of the “internal enemy” and the terrorist threat that underpinned the original emergence and expansion of paramilitarism in the 1980s.
It is precisely this paramilitarism model the Colombian state is using in the context of the current protests, particularly in Calí, where state agents, often without proper identification, collaborate with civilians to shoot and kill protesters from high-end cars. The Indigenous Guard, accompanying the protests in Calí, have suffered several attacks of this kind, most recently on May 9, when eight people were wounded.
This violent state repression is yet another consequence of imperialist intervention and the extractivist neoliberal project that uses militarism to eliminate a historically racialized population it considers residual as well as a threat to the capitalist, white-supremacist order.
Esther Ojulari is a human-rights and racial-justice activist and sociologist. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of London, writing on transitional justice and reparations for the Afro-descendant people in Colombia. She worked for eight years as a consultant in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Afro-descendant rights. Esther is currently Regional Coordinator in Buenaventura, Calí and Northern Cauca for the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES). She is a member of several Afro-descendant and African-led international networks and coalitions.
Harrinson Cuero Campaz is a Afro-Colombian rights activist. He is a Ph.D. candidate writing on sustainability in urban and regional planning for biologically and culturally diverse territories. He is a social activist and member of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, or Black Communities Process). Harrinson currently works as regional representative of Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) and as a coordinator for the formulation of the Special Territorial Plan of the District of Buenaventura 2021-40.
All of Haitian society is in revolt.
A mambo and hougan—the traditional voudou priestess and priest—lead ancestral ceremonies before rallies take the streets and block the central arteries of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, and other Haitian cities and towns. After one of their members was kidnapped, leaders of the Protestant Church directed its congregation to halt all activities at noon on Wednesday and bat tenèb. Bat tenèb, literally “beat the darkness,” is a call for all sectors of Haitian society to beat pots, pans, street lights and anything else as a general alert of an emergency. A Catholic church in Petionville held a mass with political undertones against the dictatorship. When marchers from outside took refuge from the police inside the church, the Haitian National Police tear gassed the entire congregation.
Ti Germain, a well-known Lavalas activist, was hauled away by President Jovenel Moïse’s henchmen for protesting in the downtown Chanmas Plaza last week and has not been seen since. Peasants come together to form self-defense units against land grabs by the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK, or Haitian Bald Headed Party) and their foreign backers before mobilizing in the streets themselves. With the spiritual hymn of resistance blaring from a sound truck, “A fight remains a fight. My sword is in my hand, I’m moving forward,” tens of thousands of protesters move toward police lines guarding the Delmas 96 entrance, which seals off the Haiti of the 0.01 percent from that of the 99.99 percent.
Showdown: the police, the ruling class & imperialism vs the Masses of People 🇭🇹 Which side are you on? #Haiti 🇭🇹 pic.twitter.com/sxRhwaDN90
— Danny Shaw (@dannyshawcuny) March 29, 2021
Chanting “The People Poetry Revolution!”, young writers and poets took to the streets on May 3 calling for a Haiti where youth have a future. A cultural worker, Jan Wonal, asserts, “They [the imperialists] fashion themselves the messengers of art, literature, history of art. So, for us, cultural revolution against cultural imperialism is an imperative.”
All of Haitian society is in revolt.
Who Cares About Haiti?
CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the full gamut of mainstream media outlets have paid scant attention to this social insurrection. The headlines—if they mention Haiti at all—have focused on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Biden regime’s deportation of Haitians to the “civil unrest” of Haiti. The anti-neoliberal rebellion goes unmentioned.
According to one protestor at a mass demonstration, “If we were Hong Kong, Taiwan or in any country the U.S. lists as an enemy, there would be everyday coverage of our movement.”
Solidaridad con el pueblo haitiano 🇭🇹 #Haití Que viva el internacionalismo! pic.twitter.com/YviAUzrxXu
— Danny Shaw (@dannyshawcuny) March 28, 2021
The corporate press only mentions Haiti in the context of a natural disaster, a deadly disease or chaos. Millions of people in motion in a U.S. neocolony like Colombia, Chile or Haiti are not deemed newsworthy. The dominant narrative is people in the streets protesting is not a revolt, but a “political crisis.” It is not convenient for a neocolony to make noise and rise up against the empire’s handpicked lackeys and puppets.
In response to the media whiteout, Haitian intellectual Patrick Mettelus emphasized, “Our national liberation struggle is first and foremost a battle of ideas; it is an informational war. How can we counter the dominant narrative and show what is good, beautiful, encouraging and hopeful from our homeland?”
Showdown: Haiti vs. Imperialism
Ignoring months and years of widespread anger, Moïse continues to say resigning is not an option. The United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS) agree the U.S.-backed despot has another year remaining in his presidency, even though the 1987 Constitution stipulates his term ended on February 7. Former president Jean Bertrand Aristide called the UN, OAS and United States “the troika of evil” for the heavy-handed role they have played in Haiti’s historic destiny. This alone explains why Aristide was twice the victim of coup d’etats orchestrated by these neocolonial forces.
Moïse went before the United Nations General Assembly on February 24. In a 28-minute display of arrogance, the tone-deaf puppet patted himself on the back for supposedly carrying out ongoing socio-economic reforms. Adding insult to injury, Moïse now intends to brazenly overturn the 1987 constitution. This constitution was the result of consultations among hundreds of local committees representing all sectors of society一women, peasants, poor neighborhoods, etc.一coming together on the heels of the 1986 dechoukaj (uprooting) that overthrew dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Enshrined in the constitution is protection of Haitian cultural and economic sovereignty, and women’s empowerment, among other democratic rights. Today, these same sectors, representing the vast majority of Haitian society, are taking to the streets against Moïse and his dictatorial scheme to overturn the people’s constitution.
The reformist wing of the opposition has propped up a transition president, Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis, who has been in hiding since February 7, in fear of persecution of Jovenel’s National Intelligence Agency (ANI). Ruling class families such as the Vorbe/Boulos faction, which supported Jovenel (and Michel Martelly before) have now turned on Moïse and want to replace him without systemic change.
Kidnappings have reached epic proportions. The djaspora (Haitians in the diaspora) are afraid to travel back home. The Center for Human Rights Research and Analysis reported 157 kidnappings in the first three months of 2021. This lawlessness is representative of a society that has lost all confidence in Moïse. The most oppressed layers of society have been overwhelmed by the weak gourde (1 U.S. dollar equals 87 Haitian gourdes), widespread joblessness and no hopes for a dignified future. According to the UN’s World Food Program, half of Haiti’s 10.7 million people are undernourished. This bleek social reality has pushed the most castaway to resort to armed violence and taking hostages.
The fundamental demand of the popular sectors is a “sali piblik,” or a united transition away from dictatorship and neocolonialism that involves and empowers the masses of Haitian people.
While the corporate media silences Haitian voices, the Committee for Mobilization Against Dictatorship in Haiti (KOMOKODA), Leve Kanpe, the U.S./UN Out of Haiti Coalition, and other diaspora and anti-imperialist organizations across the United States and the world are standing with the historic Haitian rebellion.
“The ‘Core Group’ is a cabal of predatory countries and institutions created by the United States of America after the overthrow and kidnapping of President Aristide in 2004 to give a veneer of international legitimacy to their domination over Haiti,” KOMOKODA stated as the group protested May 3 in front of the French embassy in Port-au-Prince, “Join us as we stand in solidarity with the Haitian people, who are in the streets fighting for their liberation and their emancipation.”
Danny Shaw is a professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at the City University of New York. Since the most recent rebellion began on February 7, he has traveled to Haiti twice to stay with the mass anti-imperialist movement. A Senior Research Fellow at the Center on Hemispheric Affairs, Danny is fluent in Haitian Kreyol, Spanish, Portuguese and Cape Verdean Kriolu.
Dear Toward Freedom readers:
This week, Toward Freedom’s Board of Directors bids farewell to guest editor Charlotte Dennett, welcomes Toward Freedom’s new editor, Julie Varughese, and extends a heartfelt thanks to Sam Mayfield who stepped down as President of Toward Freedom’s Board of Directors in December, 2020.
Charlotte Dennett stepped in as Toward Freedom’s guest editor last October. Her decades-long experience as a scholar, author and activist allowed Charlotte to seamlessly step into the position serving Toward Freedom’s mission, “to publish international reporting and incisive analysis that exposes government and corporate abuses of power, while supporting movements for universal peace, justice, freedom, the environment, and human rights.”
Charlotte contributed not only her editorial and writing skills, but also her great depth of geopolitical knowledge, as well as her enthusiasm for working with other writers. She went above and beyond the call of duty to mentor new writers, guiding them through the editing process, which resulted in the publication of many articles about places and issues not covered by any other English-language media. You can read Charlotte’s reflections about her time as guest editor here. Thank you, Charlotte!
Earlier this month, Julie Varughese came on board as Toward Freedom’s new editor. Julie comes to us having worked as a newspaper reporter, video producer and communications professional in a variety of settings. She has been working with the Black Alliance for Peace since its inception, supporting their impressive growth over the past four years. Julie’s strong writing, editing, video, graphics and social media skills will be a boon to Toward Freedom as we expand and grow to serve a more diverse audience and cover different parts of the world. This past week, Julie edited and published stories on Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Palestine, and drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Please drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or suggestions. Welcome, Julie!
Sam Mayfield led the organization during a period of transition in our operations, finances, and governance, with a clear vision and commitment to high-quality reporting and analysis of global events and grassroots movements from an anti-imperialist perspective. Her principled leadership, strong work ethic, and experience as a reporter and filmmaker were invaluable as we navigated multiple challenges over the past several years. Thank you, Sam!
Check out towardfreedom.org for all the latest, and expect to see increased presence of Toward Freedom stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the coming weeks.
Thanks to you Toward Freedom readers for your continued support!
On behalf of the Toward Freedom Board of Directors,
Copyright Toward Freedom 2019
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