Friday, May 8, 2009

Dominican Republic's Violence Against Haitians: Time to Act, Not Just Condemn

May 8th, 2009

by Wadner Pierre-

A Haitian man was beheaded on May 1 in the Santo Domingo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires as onlookers applauded. Some reportedly used their cell phones to film the murder.

According to news reports. the murder was in reprisal for the beheading of Dominican man - a crime allegedly perpetrated by a Haitian national who remains at large.

The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti share the island of Hispaniola. Approximately 1 million Haitians live in the DR - typically doing the most arduous and undesirable work available in agriculture and construction. They are regularly subjected to mob violence and other abuse.

Haiti's foreign minister, Alrich Nicolas, called the lynching "barbarous" and delivered an official protest to the Dominican authorities. I am much more impressed by an open letter sent to Haitian President Rene Preval, which I published on my blog,

A Haitian woman who lives aboard, asked the Preval's administration to act, not only to condemn. Indeed, we must press the Dominican Republic for reparations for its many crimes against Haitians.

The DR allowed itself to be used as a staging ground for rebels who helped overthrow Haiti's democratically elected government in 2004. In 1994, when the US finally ordered Haiti's military government to step down, the DR provided refuge to many of its most notorious members. Most infamously, there was the Parsley Massacre of 1937.

That year, that US backed dictator of the DR, Rafael Trujillo, decided to unilaterally redraw the boundary between the countries. Between 18,000 to 35,000 Haitians were massacred. A US brokered agreement obliged the DR to pay about $29 per officially recognized death. Shortly after the killing spree, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull said that Trujillo "is one of the greatest men in Central America and in most of South America."

I cry out for my fellow Haitians who have been mistreated for so long in the DR. As a Haitian, I carry with me the abuse and humiliation that my brothers and sisters have accumulated for so long in the neighboring republic. The Haitian government should go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and demand justice for thousands that had been murdered and abused. Today with our supposedly democratic government, and with all the human rights groups that exist, it doesn't seem like too much to ask.

We share this island with our brothers and sisters in the DR. Racism destroys our ability to live in peace with one another. I wish Dominicans would explore why there is so much hatred of us in their country. In fairness, during the early 1800s Haitian troops invaded the DR - unsuccessfully attempting to deny foreign powers a base from which to attack Haiti. Today, Haiti has no army at all. In fact, the Aristide government provoked hostility in the DR by disbanding Haiti's army and thereby denying the DR's military a credible reason to exist.

Like this Haitian woman, I am tired of counting our corpses in the DR. Our government must use this case to put an end to the targeting of Haitians in the DR once and for all.

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