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Dominican Government Faces Global Outrage As Videos Emerge
Videos posted online showing roaming, armed mobs chasing, beating and torturing Haitian migrants and their descendants under the watchful eyes of soldiers and police have contradicted Dominican statements that the migrants have "left voluntarily."
"I couldn't believe how disgusting and uncivilized those people are until I watched those videos," was the way, John Edmond, a protester at a Boston rally for Dominicans of Haitian descent, put it the other day.
"Those images made me sick."
In one of the videos -- shot with a cell phone -- an angry, machete-wielding mob numbering about three dozen could be seen hunting for Dominicans of Haitian descent or anyone Black in the eastern part of the island. The hunt, which began in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, quickly spread to other cities with sizeable Haitian population, including Santiago.
Escorted by both police and uniformed soldiers, the mob could be seen dragging, beating and spitting on a captured woman while uniformed police and soldiers looked on.
In another clip, a young guy could be seen lying on the ground in obvious pain, surrounded and taunted by a heavily armed mob. He was repeatedly burned with his own cigarette lighter, while someone reached out, grabbed part of his hair, braided in dreadlock, and clipped it.
"This is the most crucial evidence that the Dominican Republic's campaign against its own people under the guise of immigration enforcement has nothing to do with immigration,"
"It is aimed at ridding the country of its black population by exiling them to Haiti, which is predominantly and overwhelmingly black."
The videos have punched several contradictory holes in Dominican officials' testimony before a panel of Organization of American States (OAS) as well as other official statements saying all of the migrants, including Black Dominicans of Haitian descent who have crossed the border recently have done so "voluntarily."
"How can it be 'voluntary' when you have a armed mob, including police and soldiers, beating, dragging and burning people alive?" asked Santiago.
Of particular concerns, human rights organizations say, are the fate of thousands of Black Dominicans who have ended up in a country they know little or nothing about. In fact, Dominican authorities have made no distinction between Haitian migrants and Black Dominicans, often lumping the two groups together in an attempt to confuse the public.
"The Dominican government likes to present this conflict as one involving Haitian migrants. This is misleading,"
He noted that the "people affected by the government's plans are not only Haitian immigrants but also Dominicans of Haitian descent."
"These are people who may have never been to Haiti. They speak Spanish. Yet the Dominican Republic is on the verge of deporting them anyway," he said, adding: " Imagine how shocking it would be if the U.S. announced that second- and third-generation American Latinos had to go back to their grandparents' home countries -- within weeks. That is basically what is happening in the Dominican Republic."
His characterization mirrors the case of Francisco Tito, who was born to third generation immigrants brought in by the Dominican government under what historian say were shady deals with successive Haitian dictators to work the sprawling sugar cane fields.
These descendants, along with their children, speak absolutely no French or Creole, the two official languages most spoken in Haiti and have no ties to neighboring Haiti other than the color of their skin, according to critics.
As decades passed and with an ostensibly deep-rooted reluctance of Dominican authorities to issue birth certificates to children born to Haitian parents, these people, including Tito, have been pushed to the margin of society, taking mostly menial jobs as a result of their lack of education.
How Mr. Tito is expected to make it and survive in a country known as one of the world's poorest, with crumbling infrastructure, is anyone's guess. "I have nobody here and can't even sleep at night," he said in an exclusive interview.
Sensing trouble, Dominican authorities whose rhetoric has instigated this mob violence has unleashed an aggressive diplomatic initiative aimed at blaming neighboring Haiti for the crisis.
But despite a hastily called meeting by Dominican officials with foreign ambassadors to starve off growing international and diplomatic condemnation of the country's crackdown, the Dominican government continues to be dogged by serious allegations of racism, discrimination and mob violence aimed at its minority population.
"Call it what you want, I choose to call it genocide," stated Edmond.
Meanwhile, Dominican president Danillo Medina dismissed international criticism of his country's action, insisting he will not be swayed by roaring calls for a tourist boycott of the Caribbean island nation.
"You can be sure that our sovereignty will not be put in question, not for one tourist more or one cent more in investment,"
Pundits and historians alike have described the Dominican Republic's so-called "Repatriation Plan" as a direct modern-day response to Haiti's invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1822 and its subsequent occupation until 1844 under Haitian president Jean Pierre Boyer.