Monday, November 13, 2006

As Fernández addresses Washington, expulsions of Haitians continue in DR

Haiti’s Radio Kiskeya yesterday reported that more than 800 Haitians have been deported from the Dominican Republic in the preceding four days, bringing the total of Haitians, legal and illegal, deported from that country this year to over 25,000. As I demonstrated in my June 2005 article for Newsday, “Thousands of Haitians are expelled by Dominicans,” these expulsions are often carried out in an extremely brutal and arbitrary fashion and often respect neither the letter nor the sprit of Dominican law and the statutes it sets down for immigration, repatriation and appeal.

As these actions were taking place, Dominican President Leonel Fernández, in statements made at Counterpart International's headquarters in Washington DC, said that, regarding Haiti’s security and economic development, that Haitian President René Préval "cannot do it alone ... we hope Haiti can turn around economically. There is a need for infrastructure. The World Bank and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) need to perform on their pledges for Haiti."

Of course, who could argue with that? But who could also argue that Fernández, who rode a wave of such hope and optimism to victory in the Dominican elections of 2004, has played a rather cynical and double game when it comes to the Haitian question in the Dominican Republic, talking of development on the international stage while at home presiding over a sustained campaign targeting Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans with little or no regard for due process or human rights, dubbed Operation Vaquero (Operation Cowboy), an ugly moniker which speaks of the de-humanization that Haitians working the Dominican Republic are subjected to by politicians and officials at the local level. It is a trend that Fernández himself has, at best, passively presided over and at worst actively encouraged, though the jury is still out on that one.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti need to address their linked destinies in an honest and non-demagogic way. For Haiti, that means that its political class will have to behave in a responsible and competent way that it has never seemed to master in the country’s 200 year history, so more Haitians are not forced to seek economic sustenance in neighboring countries where they are met by exploitation, brutality and racism. For the Dominican government, it means not wearing one face abroad, where it talks of development and the international interest, and another at home, where it is content to fan the flames of xenophobia and bigotry as a diversion from its own failings.

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