Eye on the Caribbean

Haiti – Dominican Republic : Santo Domingo in state of alarm attempts to find the support of the OAS


mercredi 6 juin 2007

Translated from French by Menno Ernst

Tuesday 5th June 2007

By Karole Gizolme and Anne Lescot

Revived by AlterPresse

With the kind permission of www.gensdelacaraibe.org

On the XXXVIIth summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Panama, the Dominican minister of foreign affairs, Carlos Morales Troncoso, will lay down, this Tuesday 5th June, a resolution condemning what he defines as a "slander campaign" against his country, the event Slaves in Paradise, which will be held in Paris as from 15th June.

A photo exhibition, a symposium and the projection of documentaries denounce, indeed and once again, the inhuman exploitation of Haitian sugar-cane cutters in the Dominican Republic for over almost a century. The major topic of this summit of the OAS approaches energies for a durable development.

Whereas ethanol, distracted from the cane sugar, represents a new source of revenues for the Dominican Republic, the question of human rights of which the "braceros", Haitians in this country who work on the cane plantations, are deprived of cannot be ignored. The situation of Haitian immigrants has already been brought under the attention of the members of the OAS last year by the annual regional seminary of the people of African prosperity.

The request for resolution of condemnation by the OAS, that Manuel MoralesTroncoso wishes to be adopted, will follow the complaint deposited at the French embassy in Santo Domingo last May 17th by the chamber of deputies.

But, what can the French authorities really do against an initiative of the civil society that will know how to mobilize media and partners around a denunciation in several forms and reviving facts already known.

Whe are no longer in the year 1938, when Jacques Roumain was arrested in Paris on demand of the Dominican authorities for having condemned the complicity and the responsibilities of Haitian and Dominican heads of state in the massacre of 15.000 Haitians during the Dominican campaign (1)...

We are in the year 2007 now and on May 9th of this year the French president Jacques Chirac recalled again that France has to “mobilize itself against this [trafficking in human beings] infamous deed.” A trafficking that implies as well the services of migration and of Dominican personalities, sugar-refinery owners, Haitian diplomats and smugglers of human beings. It’s a traffic of laborers transported clandestinely in tourist busses with tinted windows, according to Espacinsular of 26th May 2006.

Numerous articles, international news agencies (Libération, Alternatives économiques, Courrier international, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle Figaro, Elle Magazine, Nova, La Croix, VSD, Marianne, Le Pélerin magazine, RFO radio and tv ...) and documentaries (the most recent ones have been transmitted by France 2 and RFO relays the event) denounce the horrible and inhumane living conditions of thousands of laborers. And these days the picture of an Haitian sugar-cane cutter, recently arrived in the Dominican Republic, bare chest, forms part of a billposting campaign in the corridors of the Parisian subway.

On the local level the Dominican press (Listin diario, El Diario, Clave Digital, Diario Dominicano, El Viajero Digital, Dominicanos Hoy... ) act in response and produce an amount of articles that condemn an “attempt to damage the tourist image” of this part of the island. Though it wasn’t the purpose or the objective of the organizers, it probably will be the consequence anyway.

Several reports of international organizations, of which the most recent is the one of Amnesty International (March 2007), preceding by those of UNDP, Human Rights Watch and also of Christian Aid, Catholic Institute for International Relations (CICR)/IPSOS (2) and of the US Department for Human Rights (3) are feeding the actions of the Haitian and Dominican civil societies.

Dominicans living in Paris, and others who specially made the trip, have come to “defend” their country because they think it has become a victim of “slander” and they point, during the debate which was organized after the projection of documentaries that “the Dominicans equally live in poverty”.

With the difference that « the Dominicans are unemployed and that the cane cutters work almost 12 hours a day, for a miserable salary, suffering from starvation”, specifies Amy Serrano, the director of The Sugar Babies.

The organizers of Slaves in Paradise have received letters of the law firm Patton Boggs, informing them of the prosecutions that would be undertaken against the producers of The Price of Sugar in case of projection of the film. The responsible of the MK2 cinemas has received an appeal himself from a French advocate employed by the government of Leonel Fernandez approached as spokesperson of an federation of associations (not identified to date) threatening him with a lawsuit.

What matters is that the event Slaves in Paradise is encircled by partners insensitive to intimidation. Among them the city of Paris, Amnesty International, le Collectif 2004 Images, Libération and the chain of MK2 cinemas of which we know we can count on their engagement to sensible subjects.

At the summit of the OAS, with these reports, documentaries, pictures, witnesses, commitments of international organisms available, what are the counter arguments of Carlos Morales Troncoso, minister of foreign affairs and additionally for a long time shareholder of offending sugar refineries of the Central Romana, in the east of the Dominican Republic ?

The position of the Dominican Republic is totally different to the one of Brazil, that faces the same problem of slavery on its sugar fields. In the meantime, in stead of denying these circumstances, Brazil undertakes action against the forced labor and has, in March 2006 in the state of Ramanhao, sentenced ranch owners to pay compensation to the salaries and to the state. (5) The government has established a national commission for the eradication of slavery work (CONATRAE) in 2003 and has launched a national action plan against forced labor.

« By examining the Brazilian design, specifies Roger Plant, expert of the International Labor Office, we notice now projections in other Latin American countries who intensify their action against forced labor.”

Peru, Paraguay and Brazil enlist against forced labor. Not the Dominican Republic. Or at least not yet. The summit of the OAS should allow these four countries to meet and to clearly talk about this subject.

Karole Gizolme and Anne Lescot

The photo exhibition stands until 15th June 2007 at Passage Piver, number 5, Paris 11th – see www.gensdelacaraibe.org Report of Amnesty international : "République dominicaine. Une vie en transit – La situation tragique des migrants haïtiens et des Dominicains d’origine haïtienne" – Public Document of 21st March 2007- http://web.amnesty.org/library/inde...

See also the internet site Espacinsular http://espacinsular.org/ specialized on Dominican-Haitian relations and the best documented articles on the illegal trafficking of Haitian labourers.

(1)" Mid-April, on demand of the Quai d’Orsay, on complaint of the legation of the Dominican Republic, Jacques Roumain and Pierre Saint-Dizier, manager of the journal Regards, are arrested and accused of flagrant insults to a foreign head of state. The cause was an article of Roumain, “La Tragédie haïtienne”, being published in the edition of November 18th 1937 of the journal (i.e. 5 months earlier), who accused the Dominican dictator of genocide and the president Sténio Vincent of complicity. It was the last time that a French journal had been prosecuted for “flagrant insult to a foreign head of state”.

From the biography of J. Roumain by L F Hoffmann, put online by the site Ile en Ile.

(2) The Catholic Institute for International Relations(CICR)/IPSOS – www.ciir.org/shared_asp_file... -

(3) The US Department for Human Rights – http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrp...

(4) http://www.ipsnews.net

(5) http://www.ilo.org/global/About_the... Press_releases/lang—fr/WCMS_069169