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Dominican Republic’s ethnic cleansing

FREDDIE ALLEN | 7/6/2015, 8:06 a.m.
A Dominican Republic court order threatens to force more than 200,000 Dominican-born Haitians from their homes in an effort that ...
Tears flow from the face of Jean Thezon, 26, after being deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti along with girlfriend Milene Monime, 16, and their 2-month-old son, at the border crossing in Malpasse, Haiti, June 17. Overcome with emotion, Thezon said he had lived in the Dominican Republic since age 4 and didn't know where his family would go in Haiti. Rebecca Blackwell

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A Dominican Republic court order threatens to force more than 200,000 Dominican-born Haitians from their homes in an effort that many human rights watchers have called modern-day ethnic cleansing.

Just days after the Rachel Dolezal episode captivated America and a few days before the mass murder of nine church members studying the Bible in Charleston, South Carolina, the June 15 deadline expired for Dominican-born Haitians to request residency papers proving their citizenship in the Dominican Republic, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stateless.

Media outlets have reported that the government has announced plans to start deportation efforts, deploying the military and transport vehicles in neighborhoods where Dominican-born Haitians live. The Dominican government officials also said that they would allow undocumented foreigners to begin the path to become naturalized citizens in the future.

Ron Daniels, the president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a group that advocates for social, economic and political equality for marginalized people in the United States and around world, said that the treatment of Dominican-born Haitians, especially those working on the sugar plantations, is a festering cancer on the island of Hispaniola.

“It’s really a schizophrenic relationship between the government of the Dominican Republic and the government of Haiti to ensure that Haitian migrants work in the sugar fields,” Daniels said.

Bill Fletcher, a global justice activist, writer and the host of The Global African on Telesur-English, said that the tension between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola dates back to the 18th century when French and Spanish colonists imported African slaves to the island to harvest sugar cane.

“After the successful slave rebellion on French-ruled western part of the island, Haiti declared its independence from France in 1804. Then in 1822, the Haitians invaded the Spanish-ruled east, in their minds, to unify the island and to end slavery,” Fletcher said.

Haitian military forces occupied what is now the Dominican Republic for more than twenty years. After their own war for independence, the Dominicans won their freedom from Haitian rule and declared their sovereignty in 1844.

“There was a tension that existed and a deep suspicion that existed on the island of Hispaniola,” Fletcher said. “That tension ratcheted up with the regime of Rafael Trujillo.”

Fletcher called Trujillo a perfect example of a self-hating mulatto and some historians claim that he even wore makeup and hair dyes in effort to appear more European.

“Trujillo ruled from 1930-1961 and he focused on the Haitians in much the same way that Hitler focused the Jews,” Fletcher said.

Trujillo’s solution to the Haitian problem in the Dominican Republic culminated in the Parsley Massacre of 1937. Historians estimate that 10,000 to 25,000 Haitians, many of them Dominican-born and living on the border between the neighboring countries, were executed under orders from Trujillo’s government.

Trujillo served as president until 1952 and continued to rule the country after he left the office, wielding power through his military ties under a succession of paper presidents. In 1961, Trujillo was assassinated while traveling near Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, ending his long and brutal reign.