Infographic on arms flows from the United States to Haiti via the Dominican Republic. Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2023 (Photo: Dania Acevedo)
The Dominican Republic continues its policies of deporting Dominicans of Haitian descent, and discriminating against Black Dominicans, and it does so with the permission of the United States. The Dominican government also has a history of doing business with Haitian oligarchs who destabilize that nation.
Originally published in Haïti Liberté.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to Santo Domingo in April ratified the strategic nature of the Dominican regime's subordination to the United States and resolved disputes that arose in 2022, when the U.S. Customs Authority suspended sugar imports from Central Romana due to its imposition of forced labor on thousands of Haitian and Dominican workers of Haitian descent. and the issuance of a travel advisory advising African Americans to take precautions against Dominican immigration operations based on racial profiling. Sherman ended his visit by brazenly calling on Americans to do tourism in the Dominican Republic and describing the Dominican regime as a "vibrant and energetic democracy."
It is no secret that the American company Central Romana, whose main owners are the Fanjul brothers, of Cuban-American origin, has built its sugar empire with the complicity of the Dominican state, based on semi-slavery and more violent work, practices preventing the union organization of workers, expelling them from their homes, keeping the bateyes in conditions of social and economic marginalization. with precarious access to public services and health, to which is added the racist policy of successive Dominican governments to deny access to their pensions to the workers of this sugar company and others, including the CAIE of the oligarchic Vicini family and the Consorcio Estatal Azucarero (CEA). The sanction against Central Romana comes after decades of complaints and hundreds of protests from sugarcane workers and communities. Since the Dominican Republic continues to benefit from the largest quota of U.S. sugar imports with preferential tariffs, the primary beneficiary of the sanction against Central Romana has been its competitor CAIE, whose anti-worker practices do not differ substantially.
As for the racist campaign of mass deportations by the Abinader government, it reached a record number of more than 171,000 deportations in 2022, almost entirely Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Black Dominicans are frequently arbitrarily detained, even if their detention does not result in exile. There are also documented abuses against U.S. citizens, including dual citizens, Africans and other countries, who are subjected to attacks by immigration authorities who assume that all blacks are Haitians until proven otherwise.
The violence of this campaign was such that it did not skimp on the detention of pregnant women in hospitals, as well as boys and girls going to their schools in school uniforms, expelled from the country without the company of their families. Illegal home invasions also abounded. The regime systematically violates its own laws and constitution when it comes to persecuting the Haitian immigrant community, presented as an alleged threat to Dominican national security by President Abinader and his Minister of the Interior, Jesús Vásquez.
Shared agreements and values
Sherman, on behalf of the Biden administration, said his "alliance" with Abinader is based on "shared values." Undoubtedly, Biden and Abinader believe in American political tutelage and military and economic dominance of the Caribbean. For this reason, the Dominican government's main request to Sherman during his visit, as has been expressed previously at all Ibero-American, UN and OAS meetings, or in conversations with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, has been the invasion and military intervention occupation of Haiti.
However, it is well known that there are hesitations in US and Canadian imperialism about the interventionist formula to be applied against the Haitian people. The imperialist invasion and occupation from 2004 to 2017 failed, resulting in the current political, economic and social decomposition, within which armed gangs flourished and developed alliances with sectors of the rotten PHTK regime. In this military occupation of Haiti, the United States has been able to rely on MINUSTAH, composed mainly of troops provided by pseudo-progressive Latin American governments such as Lula of Brazil, Argentine Kirchnerism, Evo of Bolivia, Mujica of Uruguay, Correa of Ecuador, Bachelet of Chile, among others. Today, Lula does not seem willing to lead a new invasion.
Biden and Trudeau responded to Abinader's constant complaints that the Dominican Republic should apply sanctions to Haitian businessmen and politicians linked to gangs. The Dominican regime, because of its subordination to the United States, collaborated in the development of the Haitian crisis, from supporting the 2004 coup to authorizing large-scale arms trafficking to gangs, mainly weapons from the United States that cross Dominican territory en route to Haiti.
The great Dominican businessmen have benefited from a trade balance between the Dominican Republic and Haiti that leans in favor of Dominican exports in a ratio of nearly 98-2. And this bourgeoisie has also historically been enriched by the super-exploitation of Dominican and Haitian workers. In addition, there are direct links between Abinader and Haitian tycoon Gilbert Bigio. Both appear in the Pandora Papers leaks, and when, after Sherman's visit, Abinader finally bowed to pressure and issued sanctions against a list of Haitians identified by the United States as gang links, Bigio was excluded, as were former President Martelly and former Prime Minister Jean Henri Céant.
Bigio owns the Chevron-Texaco service station network in the Dominican Republic through the GB Group. Pablo Daniel Portes, who is financial advisor to President Abinader, is also the regional CEO of the GB Group and the legal representative of the group of companies before the stock exchange.
These facts serve to understand the hypocrisy of Abinader and his Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez, when they claim that the "international community", by not invading Haiti, would "overwhelm" the Dominican Republic with the crisis of the neighboring country. This idea of a "globalist" plot to impose a "Dominican solution to the Haitian crisis" is frequently evoked, not only by Abinader, but also by ultra-right sectors, including the so-called "Patriotic March", a movement with clear fascist elements led by the Duartiano Institute, a state institution. Abinader has tried to defend the most fanatical anti-Haitian and give impetus to projects such as the border wall, which aims to cover half the border between the two countries.
Abinader and its officials also present the presence of Haitian pregnant women in the country as an unbearable budgetary burden and as a danger of "invasion of the womb," a local formulation of the racist and far-right conspiracy theory of the "great replacement." The Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores de la República Dominicana has shown that public health expenditure represented by the births of Haitian women represents less than 1% of the public health budget, which is in deficit for other reasons, mainly due to Abinader's decision not to allocate to public health the 4% of GDP required by Dominican law, preferring to finance the private health sector.
Abinader no longer limited itself to murdering Haitian workers inside Dominican territory, beginning to carry out attacks on Haitian border territory, such as its criminal attack on the village of Tilory. The irony is that the so-called "vibrant and energetic democracy" that commits these crimes on Haitian soil, the one that alleges that it is Haitian violence that can pass into the Dominican Republic, and uses this alleged risk to persecute even Haitian students, mostly enrolled in private universities.
Abinader's virulent racist rhetoric and policies have precedents such as the genocide ordered by dictator Trujillo in 1937. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 thousand Haitians and Dominicans with black skin were murdered by the regime's henchmen. Trujillo's talk of "peaceful invasion," "Haitianization," and "defending sovereignty" continues to be replicated today. In the 1990s, these speeches were used against social democratic leader Peña Gómez, some of whose grandparents were Haitian. Peña Gómez was a leader of the PRD, the predecessor of Abinader's PRM, but it is the same PRD that used its majority in the Senate in 1997 to declare the author of the racist campaigns, former dictator Joaquín Balaguer, as a "promoter of democracy". Abinader took this practice of simultaneously raising the flag of Balaguer and Peña Gömez to new extremes, while continuing to impose the denationalization of about two hundred thousand Dominicans of Haitian descent, now stateless.
One island, one big yola
If the racism of the Dominican regime tries to deny that the majority of the country's population is of African descent, official xenophobia tries to hide that it is a country of net emigration. The Institute of Dominicans Abroad (INDEX) estimated its February 2 estimate at 8.2022 million Dominican emigrants. More than one in four people have to live outside their country in the absence of social rights, low wages, lack of freedom of association, criminal offences, violence and police brutality. The routes that thousands of Dominicans take to the United States and Puerto Rico, crossing the Caribbean Sea in precarious boats, or crossing from Darién to Mexico in the face of all kinds of dangers, as well as other migrants from Central America and the Caribbean, demonstrate the unwavering will of many people to seek a future that the Dominican capitalist regime denies them.
A reality similar to that affecting Haitian emigrants and other countries in the region. Last February, at least two Dominicans died in a horrific bus accident while traveling from Mexico to the United States. Haitian and Dominican migrants have also died trying to reach Puerto Rico in small boats.
Haitian and Dominican socialists must continue to demonstrate how common enemies we have in our respective capitalist classes and US imperialism. It is in the interest of local capitalists and imperialists to divide us. Our liberation depends on our ability to confront them together and forge bonds of solidarity, as in 1965, when Dominican and Haitian internationalist fighters took up arms together against the Yankee invaders.
Babyson Pierre is a Haitian activist and member of the International Workers' Unity-Fourth International.