In the News: Exploitation of Workers in the Dominican Republic’s Sugar Fields Continues

by Cassandra Waters. Originally posted at AFL-CIO Now

US Department of Labor Report on Dominican RepublicOn Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a report in response to a complaint brought under the free trade agreement between the United States and the Dominican Republic, known as the Central America Free Trade Agreement–Dominican Republic (CAFTA–DR), which detailed severe worker abuse on sugar plantations. The vast majority of sugar workers are Haitian or of Haitian descent. Most are undocumented, leaving them particularly vulnerable to extreme exploitation. The DOL’s report confirms ongoing, systematic abuses, including the use of child and forced labor; hazardous working conditions; wage theft; denial of medical, pension and other benefits if the worker is undocumented; routine violations of minimum wage and overtime rules; and retaliatory firings against union activists and workers who attempt to mount legal challenges against their employer. Unfortunately, this is not news to anyone familiar with the issue—the industry has been under fire for decades and has been the subject of multiple studies and media reports.

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In the News: Aristide supporters protest in Haiti

Originally posted in The Guardian

Thousands mark anniversary of ex-president’s ousting in 1991, with some calling for current president to resign.

Port-au-Prince protestRiot police in Haiti have broken up an anti-government demonstration by thousands of people to mark the anniversary of the ousting in 1991 of the former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A handful of protesters responded by setting ablaze barricades that blocked a major thoroughfare through the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince.

Critics of the current president, Michel Martelly, gathered under a heavy police presence on Monday morning and marched through the capital’s shanties, all Aristide strongholds. Some demonstrators demanded that Martelly resign because of corruption allegations, while others protested over the absence of elections. Riot police fired teargas at the demonstrators after they left the approved route.

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In the News: Dominican ruling strips many of citizenship

by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez and Danica Coto. Originally published at boston.com

DR-mapSANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — The Dominican Republic’s top court on Thursday stripped citizenship from thousands of people born to migrants who came illegally, a category that overwhelmingly includes Haitians brought in to work on farms.

The decision cannot be appealed, and it affects all those born since 1929.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling says officials are studying birth certificates of more than 16,000 people and notes that electoral authorities have refused to issue identity documents to 40,000 people of Haitian descent.

The decision, which gives the electoral commission a year to produce a list of those to be excluded, is a blow to activists who have tried to block what they call “denationalization” of many residents.

“This is outrageous,” said Ana Maria Belique, spokeswoman for a nonprofit group that has fought for the rights of migrants’ children. “It’s an injustice based on prejudice and xenophobia.”

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In the News: A Hero in Haiti

by Pooja Bhatia. Originally posted at ozy.com

Mario Joseph of BAI
Mario Joseph of BAI

To know Mario Joseph is to wait for Mario Joseph. You will wait for him to return from a last-minute hearing, to stop barking into one of his two mobile phones, to wrap up a meeting that started an hour late. And you will wait because Joseph, managing attorney at the NGO Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, is the best human rights lawyer in Haiti, a country where human rights are honored mostly in the breach. From dawn till dusk, clients gather on his office’s bougainvillea-laced terrace: brave women going after rapists, homeless Haitians evicted from post-quake tent camps, cholera victims seeking reparations.

Joseph’s eyes are often red-rimmed from lack of sleep, but his suits are sharp, his ties are sumptuous and his shoes and fingernails are buffed till they shine. With his percussive Creole and typically stern countenance, Joseph can be intimidating. It’s easy to forget that he was raised in rural poverty by a single mother who couldn’t read, and that he managed to get a law degree only through a series of flukes and his own determination. If fate had had its way, Joseph would have been like the millions of Haitians who never attend school, never see a doctor and live on less than $2 per day.

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In the News: New Case of UN Peacekeeper Rape in Haiti

Originally posted at The Sentinel

MINUSTAH Base in KapayisyenLEOGANE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) – An 18 year old woman, pulled over while traveling on Route National 2, in the town of Leogane, Saturday, was raped and sodomized by a soldier of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. This is the latest of chronic crimes of sexual violence committed by UN peacekeepers in Haiti.

Currently hospitalized in Petit-Goave, Police Inspector Wilson Hyppolite said 18 year-old R███████ L████ born in Port-au-Prince, on June 28, 1995 is allegedly a victim of rape by a Sri Lankan soldier.

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In the News: Haiti a step closer to having army again

by Trenton Daniel, Associated Press, Sept.16, 2013

Army project of Michel Martelly 4In a small ceremony in the farming village of Petite Rivere de L’Aritibonite, Defense Minister Jean-Rodolphe Joazile greeted the first 41 recruits who recently returned from eight months of training in Ecuador. They will be the first members of a national military force that the government of President Michel Martelly wants to revive.

Joazile said they will spend three months working alongside Ecuadorean military engineers among the rice fields in central Haiti to repair roads and work on other public service projects in their impoverished country, which was hit by a devastating earthquake three years ago.

“Haiti’s needs are not in the infantry but in technical service,” Joazile said in an earlier interview. “The country is in a state of reconstruction. We need mechanics.”

Almost all of those in the new unit are recent high school graduates. They include 30 soldiers, 10 engineers and one officer and will report to the Defense Ministry. They won’t carry weapons for now but could carry handguns, in three to four years, if either the recruits pay for the weapon themselves or the government receives financing to do so, Joazile said in an interview last week.

“If the authorities give them permission, it’s not a problem,” Joazile said.

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