The Dominican Republic’s racist President is once again scapegoating Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent for his government’s terrible economic policies. This time, his target is poor pregnant women.
Originally published on the site of the Socialist Movement of Workers of the Dominican Republic
The government of billionaire Luis Abinader has once again unleashed a hunt for the henchmen of the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) against Haitian and Dominican pregnant women of Haitian descent. On July 20, hundreds of repressive agents were deployed in the hospitals of Higüey and Verón, in the province of La Altagracia, in the Hospital Materno Infantil San Lorenzo de Los Minas in Santo Domingo and in the Hospital Maternidad Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia of the National District, among others. Dozens of women were arbitrarily detained, as evidenced in numerous videos captured by relatives of the victims and other witnesses.
The illegal detention of Haitian and Dominican pregnant women of Haitian descent was initiated by Abinader at the end of 2021, generating a wide repudiation. The Minister of Health, Daniel Rivera, said that the arrests of Haitian pregnant women made Dominican women feel "more comfortable." The current attacks of the DGM on hospitals generated rejection, from the Magaly Pineda Feminist Forum to the ultra-conservative bishop Jesús Castro Marte, who condemned in their own way the government's violence against pregnant women. Days earlier, in a joint statement, several leftist and anti-racist organizations denounced that the actions of the DGM violate the laws and the Dominican constitution on a daily basis. The immigration detention of pregnant and lactating women, infants and elderly people is prohibited by the regulations of Migration Law 285-04. The director of Amnesty International for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas, echoed local complaints and warned that "violence against Haitian pregnant women in hospitals in the Dominican Republic constitutes acts of torture, a crime under international law."
We are facing a criminal government.
Right-wing lies prepared the new attack on Haitian pregnant women
The president of the Duartiano Institute, former judge Wilson Gómez, whose political record includes having organized neo-fascist mobilities called "patriotic marches," called on July 18 to the authorities to charge Haitian immigrant women for health services. On the same day, drawing a misogynistic distinction between “our women” and “the Haitian women in childbirth,” Minister Rivera declared that Dominican women were forced to move to private clinics due to the presence of Haitian women in hospitals. Rivera also blamed the immigrant community for the cases of cholera that have been registered in the country. This incitement to hatred does not pass without consequences. Already on July 14, at the request of local calieses, there was an attack by the DGM on several communities of Barahona, resulting in 146 people arrested, some with decades living in the country. Then the repressors demolished the homes, in an obscene ostentation of power and arbitrariness.
Abinader's government systematically lies, falsifying the dimensions of the alleged economic burden of medical care for Haitian pregnant women. In 2021, Minister Rivera stated that 10 billion pesos per year were invested in the medical care of Haitian pregnant women, approximately 7% of that year's health budget. This year was even more exaggerated, stating that 14% of the health budget was spent on that concept. In June of this year, Deputy Minister of Health José Matos stated that in 2023 the State would invest between 35 and 41 billion pesos in medical care for foreigners, both in childbirth and emergency care and other areas of medical care.
These figures have no hold in reality. They are obscene lies at the service of the Dominican government's policy of racial hatred, as will be demonstrated.
Much less than 1% of the health budget is spent on the births of immigrant women
In November 2021, while the first campaign of arbitrary detentions of Haitian pregnant women was being carried out, the Socialist Movement of Workers made a calculation of the state investment in the care of childbirth of immigrant women, taking as a reference the amount offered by the then director of the Nuestra Señora de Altagracia Maternity Hospital, of an expenditure of 7,000 pesos per vaginal birth and 11.5 thousand pesos per cesarean section. It was estimated that the investment of the entire year 2021 in the medical care of these births would be less than 300 million pesos, well below 1% of the annual public health budget, which then exceeded 148 billion pesos. Today we have more data that allows us to consolidate that characterization.
In 2022, 37,864 births by Haitian women were registered in public hospitals, according to official figures, a modest increase of 6% compared to the previous year. That figure represents 23% of the total number of births in the country during the year, of Dominican and foreign mothers, which were 161,068. While 76,169 Dominican women gave birth in hospitals, about 40% of Dominican mothers give birth in private clinics, not because the beds in hospitals are occupied, but because the health system has been gradually privatized for decades by the LDP and PRM governments, through the private insurance system, the ARS. The Abinader government has continued to finance private health while cutting the public health budget, which currently stands at 2% of GDP, that is, half of the minimum investment ordered by Law 1-12 of National Development Strategy. Abinader and Rivera cut more than one hundred billion pesos to public health per year, while using the immigrant community as a scapegoat and falsely blaming it for the precariousness of public health!
As Haitian and Dominican women of denationalized Haitian descent do not have medical insurance, due to the oppression to which they are systematically subjected under Dominican capitalism, which includes the exclusion of formal work and contracts with health insurance, they must almost always resort to public hospitals. The statelessness situation that affects thousands of Dominican women of Haitian descent also implies that some of them may be erroneously registered as Haitian when seeking medical care in hospitals.
An important fact to destroy the government's racist propaganda about the alleged budgetary overload is to compare the 161,068 total births, of Dominican and foreign mothers, of 2022 with the average of previous years. Between 2015 and 2020, that average was 179,080 births per year. The budgetary burden for childbirth care is not increasing.
How much do the births of Haitian immigrant women cost the State? Of the 37,864 deliveries of Haitian women in hospitals in 2022, 12,262 were by cesarean section and 25,602 were vaginal. Applying an estimated cost of 7.5 thousand pesos and 12 thousand pesos respectively, applying an adjustment of around 5% for inflation with respect to the calculation cited last year, we would have an investment of 339.1 million pesos. A very small figure that represents 0.2% of the health budget, of 137.8 billion pesos in 2022. Even if we take the estimate made by a right-wing and furiously anti-Haitian think tank, Funglode, and apply an inflation adjustment, we would have an amount of 466 million pesos, 0.3% of the 2022 health budget. Funglode's study estimated that in twelve years, between 2010 and 2021, barely 688 million pesos were invested in childbirth of immigrant women, despite the fact that their estimate of the cost per childbirth is much higher than that made by officials of the current government and the past government. There are discrepancies in the calculations and estimates made by different experts, but none comes close to the lies that the government pours to the media. This shows that the grotesque lies of the government have a political intention, aligned with its neo-trujillist ideology.
The births of immigrant women are paid with the taxes of the immigrant community itself
One of the most repeated statements from the right and by those who support Abinader, is that the taxes paid by Dominican people finance medical care for Haitian pregnant women, because immigrants supposedly do not pay taxes. This is another lie of the racists.
According to the director of the National Institute of Migration, there are currently about 700,000 immigrants of Haitian origin, which represents approximately 6.5% of the country's population. A small figure compared to the approximately 1.6 million Dominican emigrants living in the United States, the Spanish State and other countries, a diaspora that, according to other calculations, may be higher, but that at least represents 15% of the Dominican population.
In 2022, the Dominican State collected 159.2 billion pesos for ITBIS, a regressive consumption tax that is charged to the entire population. As the working class of Haitian origin suffers terrible levels of capitalist overexploitation and denial of their labor rights, their level of consumption is lower than the average consumption of the population. But even underestimating their contribution to ITBIS and that only 2% of this collection corresponds to what Haitian immigrants pay, we would be talking about 3.2 billion pesos, almost ten times more than what was invested in attending to childbirth of immigrant women in hospitals. That's not counting other taxes that immigrants also pay every day, such as taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol, on income, fees for immigration procedures, etc.
Haitian immigrant work contributes, according to some estimates, more than 5.4% of the Dominican GDP, producing huge amounts of wealth in agricultural areas, construction, services and all areas of the economy. The nominal GDP of the Dominican Republic in 2022 stood at 114 billion dollars. That means that, according to that estimate, more than 6 billion dollars correspond to the contribution of the Haitian immigrant workforce. In other words, about 338 billion pesos, a thousand times more than the investment in the births of immigrant women!
The immigrant community is not a burden on the Dominican State. The bourgeois state and the capitalist class, as well as the economic and repressive policies that Abinader applies, deepening inequality and oppression, are the real burdens that the working class, Dominican and immigrant alike bear.
By way of comparison, let's look at some burdens that the Dominican government places on our shoulders. Tax exemptions exceed 310 billion pesos in 2023, benefiting the capitalist class disproportionately. Payments corresponding to foreign debt, a debt that fuels corruption and capitalist businesses, exceed 253 billion pesos in 2023. Military spending for 2023 is projected at 49.9 billion pesos. The false police reform and the useless border fence have budgeted 4 billion pesos and 2.5 billion pesos, respectively. In 2022, 6.37 billion pesos were spent on government advertising. The barrels and chests, for the clientelism of the members of Congress, exceed 1.2 billion pesos. While, as we have said, the investment in guaranteeing the human right to health for immigrant women, was between 339 and 466 million pesos in 2022 and this year will probably be similar.
"The truth will set you free." We know that the government and the right lie and we have a way to prove it. Now it is our turn to organize ourselves, mobilize, defeat infamy and impose truth and dignity on the streets of the Dominican Republic.
No more mass deportations!
Freedom to all pregnant and lactating Haitian women now!
No more arbitrary arrests, raids and racist violence!
No to apartheid in the Dominican Republic!
For the right to health, against fascism and racism, unity of the entire working class!
The Socialist Movement of Workers of the Dominican Republic is a socialist organization that is committed to the self-organization of the working class and its mobilization for the conquest of rights and the dispute of political power.