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During its recent visit to the Dominican Republic in the first week of December 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a judicial instrumentality of the Organization of American States (OAS), conducted an investigation in Dominican Republic, of the impact of  ”Sentencia 168/13″ by the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic.  Mr. Miguel Ceara Hatton, a prominent Dominican economist, testified before the IACHR. This is the translation of his statement before the IACHR


Statement to Inter-American Human Rights Commission by Economist Miguel Ceara Hatton

miguelSince almost the beginning of the 16th Century the island of Santo Domingo was forsaken by Spain, this abandonment turned into the depopulations of the 17th Century, which gave origin to the French occupation in the northwest of the island and eventually to the creation of the French colony of Saint Domingue which turned into the richest French colony during the 18th Century.

Those riches were created around sugar production, organized under the plantation system on the basis of an intense and cruel slavery.  That cruelty was a constituent part of the system of plantations, because it was the only way possible that a few thousand white proprietors could live in the middle of almost 500,000 thousand slaves.

In the meanwhile the Eastern part of the island, the Spanish portion languished under the most absolute poverty with an economy based on contraband and wood cutting.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, Haitian independence was proclaimed in 1804, with the most profound social and racial revolution in the Americas, while on the Eastern part, it transitioned from a French to a Spanish territory, but within the framework of abandonment by the colonial powers to be occupied by the Haitians in 1822, which in the most part were well received due to the generalized poverty on the Eastern side.  Nonetheless, in the measure that the occupation was prolonged and the expectations of the population were not met, a separatist movement was generated which was consummated in 1844.  At that moment Haiti was a country of almost half a million inhabitants and Dominican Republic barely surpassed some 100,000 inhabitants.

The rest of the 19th Century was of great vicissitudes for both countries.  Haiti was organized around a farming economy, especially coffee production, and having to pay a heavy price, for having been the first country of slaves which became independent while Dominicans organized themselves around tobacco, and the lumber and cattle industry.  Afterwards during the last quarter of the 19th Century, the sugar industry began to develop based on plantations but within the framework of a capitalist economy.

Thus is how the 20th Century begins, with Haiti having three times the Dominican population but within economic developments that began to reverse roles.  The Dominican economy was accelerating, being moved basically by the sugar industry, while the Haitian economy was losing momentum, due to its predominant association with the farming economy and the coffee cycles.

In the second decade of the Twentieth Century both countries are occupied militarily by the U. S., establishing iron fist military dictatorships on both countries but with different economic results.

In the Dominican Republic a production infrastructure developed and sugar production became consolidated, while in Haiti the economic results of the occupation were more faint and surpluses were used to pay the debt.

In that regard already in 1916, Dominican Republic had a commercial exchange with the world that was 1.5 times greater than Haiti’s commercial exchange with the world, but Dominican Republic had a real GNP which was 1.4 times more than the Haitian GNP, and it was exporting to the world 2.3 times more and importing 1.4 times more than Haiti. These differences in economic activity levels explained the migrant flow of Haitians towards Dominican Republic.

The sugar industry had impressive growth.  This industry was initially of foreign property, and later during the 1950s it changed hands to Dictator Trujillo and finally was under the State in 1961.  This industry massively employed Haitian migrant workers (“braceros), which became immobilized and under the control of the large sugar plantations, while producing all types of injustices and exclusions, the visible part of which remains under the “batey” system.

It is towards the end of the 1930s with the killings of several thousands Haitians under the Trujillo dictatorship, when there is an active buildup of the Dominican identity as a negation of that which was Haitian.  When the “white race of Dominicans” is in opposition to the Haitian “black race”, Catholicism is in opposition to Vaudoux (Voodoo), and that which is Hispanic to that which is African. That ideology reinforces the decadea of 1940s and 1950s, with attempts by Trujillo to “make the race more white” by promoting European immigrations.

Nevertheles, during the following decades (from the sixties towards the end of the eighties) this subject becomes diluted, at least as part of the public debate, those racist elements were incorporated within Dominican culture, basically expressed as an anti-Haitianism.  Anti-Haitian tension on the Dominican side remained latent with the exception of sporadic outbursts of isolated border conflicts, and in other cases, conflicts of a larger scope were produced, involving both governments with threats that became louder but afterwards would subside.  It was a “cordially tense” relationship.

After almost a century of immigration which was essentially undocumented, practically three generations of Dominicans were produced which were descendants of immigrants.  Those Dominican sons and daughters of migrant workers (“braceros”), became subject to the sugar “batey” rules, becoming vulnerable to all sorts of injustices and exclusions, under an extreme poverty habitat.

The Dominican sugar industry crisis during the 1980s, started to modify the aforementioned scenario, since immigration was linked to farming not associated with the sugar industry and it penetrated the urban zones, most of all in construction activity and the informal urban sector.  On the other hand, Dominican society became more open and plural, with the consequence of the immigration phenomenon becoming more visible. The population of Haitian descendants, born within the national (Dominican) territory, was fully assumed itself to be Dominican, as the majority of them became documented according to practices at that time.

In 1994 the ideology of anti-Haitian nationalism and racism rises again, but this time brought forward by President Balaguer who invented a supposed fusion plan for the island, pointing out that Jose Francisco Pena Gomez, the opposition leader and of Haitian origin, was the instrument for said purpose.

That “ultra-nationalist and racist” vision of the Haitian question becomes reinforced during the 1996 electoral campagin, but this time by the hand of the “Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana” (PLD-The Dominican Liberation Party), along with ultra-right groups associated with that party that brought forth xenophobia as part of the political campaign.  In the following years, the PLD never distanced itself from ultra-right wing nationalists which more and more imposed a conservative agenda.

It was in this way that Immigration Law 285-04 pretended to not recognize three generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent, reinterpreting the transit concept of Article 11 of the 2002 Constitution, under which irregular immigration was in “transit.”

This interpretation was the object of an appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice in 2005 legitimated the interpretation of “transit”, as the condition of non-resident immigrants, converting “people in transit” thousands of immigrants and their children that had three generations residing in the country.

In 2005, the ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Jean and Bosico set case law whereas: First, a person’s migrant status cannot be a condition for the granting of nationality by the State, Second, that the migrant status of a person is not transmitted to their children, and Third, that the condition of birth in the country is the only one to be demonstrated for the acquisition of nationality.

Notwithstanding, the Central Electoral Board in 2007 started to deny and/or remove documents from the population of descendants, which by right were Dominicans by birth.  Identification documents were taken away from them, and birth certificates were not being delivered to them and in general, through bureaucratic means, the condition of Dominican citizens was being erased from thousands of descendants of immigrants.

Under such conditions, in 2010, the constitutional reform established new criteria to grant Dominican citizenship, under which the children of irregular immigrants could not benefit from Dominican nationality, but recognized that those who at that moment had Dominican nationality could continue exercising that right.

In 2013 the Constitutional Tribunal handed down an interpretation in extremis, and made retroactive that constitutional precept, under which it de-nationalizes in practice thousands of descendants of immigrants from 1929 onward.

The aforementioned demonstrates that, Ruling 168/13 of the Constitutional Tribunal, is the product of a long chain of social and economic exclusions, violations of the juridical system in matters of law, and in general, it is a reflection of a regime of social exclusion under which Dominican society lives, but which has come to the extreme with Dominicans of Haitian descent.


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.