Haitians Work on Sugar Plantations Under Conditions Amounting to Forced Labor

We go along with Democracy Now! correspondent Juan Carlos Dávila to the Dominican Republic, the place many Haitian migrants and their descendants work on sugar plantations beneath situations amounting to pressured labor and reside in closely underresourced communities generally known as bateyes. Many bateyes shouldn’t have electrical energy or working water. We communicate to native residents and members of the Reconocido motion, which fights for the rights of Haitians within the Dominican Republic, concerning the staff’ inhumane therapy and their lack of authorized standing within the nation, in addition to about efforts to enhance dwelling situations within the bateyes, comparable to an initiative spearheaded by the Puerto Rican environmental group Casa Pueblo to put in photo voltaic panels within the communities. “The proper of power needs to be for everybody,” says Casa Pueblo’s govt director, Arturo Massol-Deyá, who shares how his group is working in solidarity with batey residents to disrupt the cycle of poverty and put together for local weather adaptation.


This can be a rush transcript. Copy is probably not in its last type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we flip now to have a look at the Dominican Republic and the plight of sugar plantation staff, together with many Haitian migrants, who reside beneath dire situations.

Final yr, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from the one of many main Dominican sugar firms, Central Romana, which sells its merchandise in the US beneath the Domino model. On the time, the U.S. authorities mentioned it had uncovered, quote, “indicators of pressured labor.” One U.S. official decried the corporate’s practices as, quote, “inhumane.”

Many Haitian migrants work 12 to 14 hours for lower than $2 a day, whereas dwelling in communities generally known as ”bateyes”, a few of which shouldn’t have working water or electrical energy. Properly, the Puerto Rican environmental group Casa Pueblo has been trying to enhance dwelling situations within the bateyesby putting in photo voltaic panels in a few of the communities. Democracy Now! correspondent Juan Carlos Dávila just lately traveled to the Dominican Republic to speak with native residents dwelling within the communities because the photo voltaic panels have been being put in. These are a few of their voices.

EPIFANIA ST. CHALS: [translated] My title is Epifania St. Chals. I’m Dominican of Haitian descent. I’m the coordinator of the Reconocido motion right here within the area of Seibo.

Previously years, these two governments had a labor settlement with the neighboring nation of Haiti. The labor accords that they created introduced seasonal farmworkers and the cane cutters to the Dominican Republic to work as cutters and harvesters of sugarcane. The state realized that a budget labor of Haitian seasonal staff was helpful to the Dominican financial system. This culminated within the building of bateyes, cities of sugar plantation staff. These plantations have exploited these low-cost laborers and compelled Haitian seasonal staff into a contemporary type of slavery.

If the sugar plantation cared concerning the life expectancy and dignity of staff, they might push to enhance the employees’ high quality of life. The employees who reside inside bateyes are the uncooked materials of the corporate. As you may see, individuals in these bateyes have lived for greater than 100 years with out electrical energy. We’re within the twenty first century. This has made an already discriminated inhabitants much more susceptible.

Casa Pueblo visited to strategize on learn how to implement photo voltaic power for the bateyes right here within the Dominican Republic, principally within the east. The panels have been additionally put in within the areas of Batey 50 and Batey Brador.

The native authorities shouldn’t be occupied with enhancing individuals’s high quality of life. They’re not occupied with serving to this inhabitants have entry to schooling or to have a greater life, so the federal government can maintain exploiting them. The corporate has profited from the cane cutters and seasonal farmworkers, who’ve lent their fingers, energy and sweat to work the sugarcane fields.

ARTURO MASSOL-DEYÁ: [translated] Right this moment we’re working to alter this actuality with out the assistance of politicians. We’re implementing a sustainable energetic mannequin and establishing a brand new instance of how bateyes needs to be within the Dominican Republic.

YONNY RENÉ: [translated] My title is Yonny René. I’m a part of the Reconocido motion. My dad and mom are Haitians. They migrated from Haiti. They’re sugarcane cutters. They’re despatched to distant areas of the Dominican Republic to work.

Each individual right here works instantly with the Central Romana. They face extraordinarily harmful working situations. They pay pensions that they later don’t obtain. They’re pressured to work although they’re sick, together with individuals of their sixties and seventies. They should maintain chopping sugarcane as a result of they don’t get their pensions, though they’ve paid for them. They don’t have the proper to good healthcare. They don’t have entry to public well being companies. Dominicans don’t welcome Haitians. They even kick them out of hospitals.

JONATHAN CASTILLO: [translated] As a result of slope of the roof, we needed to place the photo voltaic panel pointing this fashion, as a result of the solar will shine this fashion. I couldn’t put them within the different route, as a result of the panel is not going to obtain ample direct daylight.

FRANKLYN DINOL: [translated] My title is Franklyn Dinol. I’m from the Higuera neighborhood, which belongs to the Santa Lucía district. I’m a social activist and human rights defender. I’m a part of a Reconocido motion, a motion of Dominicans of Haitian descent.

As you may see, the bateyes are communities that don’t have public companies, comparable to water or electrical companies and different necessary assets. Think about the importance of claiming that with this challenge, bateyes are going to lastly have entry to electrical energy. Individuals right here haven’t even had the chance to learn to use a pc. Neighborhood members right here don’t know learn how to use phrase processor software program. College students don’t have entry to computer systems, tablets or telephones and can’t entry an online browser to search out data, all of that are important for the job market or college. We’re additionally fixing that drawback additionally by bringing photo voltaic power panels. We’re sending a robust message to firms and native officers.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from Haitian migrant sugar plantation staff within the Dominican Republic. Particular because of Democracy Now! correspondent Juan Carlos Dávila. These individuals reside in communities missing electrical energy, however photo voltaic panels are actually being put in by the Puerto Rican environmental group Casa Pueblo, Home of the Individuals, which is a previous winner of the Goldman Prize.

We’re now joined by Casa Pueblo’s govt director, Arturo Massol-Deyá, who’s again from the Dominican Republic, now in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It’s nice to have you ever with us, Arturo. Discuss extra concerning the situations they face, the businesses they’re working for, like Dominican sugar firm Central Romana, which sells its merchandise in the US beneath the Domino model, and what you probably did within the Dominican Republic.

ARTURO MASSOL-DEYÁ: Properly, that is an unimaginable state of affairs. It’s exhausting to imagine that individuals are dwelling beneath these circumstances, particularly authorized migrants that have been dropped at the Dominican Republic to work on the formal financial system. They’re producing, in a really profitable company, sugar for the nation and for exportation, but these individuals are working beneath pressured situations by design. Once you receives a commission solely $4 or much less per ton of sugarcane reduce, you’re pressured to work for longer instances. You’re pressured to convey your loved ones members to assist enhance your survival revenue. And but, they don’t have minimal situations for dwelling requirements — no working water, no electrical energy. And that is heartbreaking to see this taking place. As well as, they don’t acknowledge their authorized standing — no paperwork. And so they can’t migrate. They can’t transfer ahead and enhance their high quality of life.

What we determined to do was to have interaction. Charity shouldn’t be sufficient. Charity perpetuates actuality. We determined to take motion in solidarity with the bateyes and with Epifania St. Chals, and we went there to put in two models in two separate bateyes, to put in a freezer for his or her meals. Now they’ll produce ice to protect a few of their meat and enhance their eating regimen. There’s a brand new cultural middle. They’ve a TV station, a small type of cinema for leisure for the neighborhood, lighting. Now they’ll recharge their equipments and enhance, to point out that that actuality could be reworked straight away, instantly. It’s very simple. And the proper of power needs to be for everybody, particularly within the Caribbean, by which local weather adaptation is extraordinarily necessary.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Arturo, may you discuss considerably concerning the function of the federal government of the Dominican Republic by way of defending migrant staff or not defending them? Clearly, Central Romana shouldn’t be solely a serious sugar producer, however it’s additionally the location of some of the costly resorts within the Caribbean, the place vacationers from Europe and the US come there to a five-star resort.

ARTURO MASSOL-DEYÁ: They’ve the political and the economical energy to affect the federal government. And the federal government, typically they mentioned they’re going to be defending the rights of this inhabitants, and but they’ve the immigration police abusing and creating a way of worry inside everybody in Dominican Republic, particularly in the event you’re from Haiti. They don’t seem to be. They’re principally haunting individuals in that nation, not from Venezuela, not from different locations, Black people who they assume, they imagine, they don’t have paperwork, and they’re thrown into Haiti, again. So, the federal government shouldn’t be doing their half. They’re not fulfilling their duty. They’re doing the alternative, contributing to this human violation disaster. The discrimination isn’t just discrimination, Juan. We’re speaking about excessive situations of discrimination to this inhabitants. And one thing must be finished.

We noticed the embargo happening final yr from the U.S. from sugar being introduced from Dominican Republic. And it’s symbolic. It’s not taking place. It’s not doing something. The market has been rearranged. Now the Central Romana is taking good care of the home demand for sugar, and the opposite firms are sending sugar to the U.S. like on regular days. It’s a joke. Not even the native authorities, the U.S. authorities, they’re backing up with their actions what’s going on with Central Romana and the discrimination to the Haiti populations and their descent, first, second, third, fourth generations of people who have been born, raised, which were working for 40, 50, 60 years for Central Romana, and but they don’t have the fundamental dwelling situations, they usually don’t get acknowledged their civil proper to be within the Dominican Republic, both.

AMY GOODMAN: And at last, Arturo, in the event you can simply remark — we simply have 30 seconds — on having this entry to sustainable energy, not counting on the native authorities and the privatization of energy?

ARTURO MASSOL-DEYÁ: Properly, I feel that the alternate options are on the market, however it looks like the federal government and the company needs to maintain them with out energy. It’s a imply of management. We’re involved concerning the safety of Epifania St. Chals and the individuals from Reconocido and likewise from the individuals from the neighborhood that participated, really, within the set up of those photo voltaic panels. So, we wish to maintain accountable the federal government and the company for the protection of all of them. Now we have to alter this actuality, and the alternate options are accessible.

AMY GOODMAN: We wish to thanks a lot for being with us, Arturo Massol-Deyá, govt director of Casa Pueblo, Home of the Individuals, chatting with us from Puerto Rico, simply again from the Dominican Republic. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for becoming a member of us.

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