Why we must help Andrés Michel: A Review and re-echoing of Amy Bracken's MUST READ articles
Haitian immigrants and their children in the Dominican Republic are thetargets of police stops, denial of official documents, decapitations, attacks by angry mobs, arbitrary expulsions and even lynchings. Since the June 17 deadline to register for legal papers, DR officials reported that more than 66,000 Haitians without papers had voluntarily self-deported by August 6. But, Human Rights Watch reported that DR authorities rounded up and deported people who should have been allowed to stay — people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. Human Rights Watch maintains the DR"military and immigration authorities have repeatedly profiled Dominicans of Haitian descent, detaining and forcibly expelling them, even when they possess valid Dominican documentation."
Living and witnessing to Haiti life under US occupation, white supremacy and our advocacy work to end the suffering, requires toughness, resilience, and shield. But if you're human, this photo of an emaciated 75-year old Andrés Michel living on a DR sugar plantation will make you dissolve in hurt. His story will stop your heart. The DR is spending millions so you'd let Michel die like this – see the Andrés Michel photo.
Andrés Michel_Boycott Domino Sugar. The DR is spending millions so you'd let Michel die like this. Andrés Michel, 75, lost an eye cultivating cane meant for the sugar company Central Romana. Michel still works the fields, but for a different company. Photo Source: Aljazeera
The Dominican Republic has hired at $127,000 per month a public relations firm and for more than a million dollars, US lobbyists to spin their systemic oppression of Haitian laborers and their racist denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent going back to 1929 as an "immigration policy," not as acts of state violence taking away rights of citizens who legally acquired this right or migrants who were never given official papers the better to exploit their labor and keep them afraid and vulnerable.
"More than a million dollars for Steptoe & Johnson to lobby the U.S. Congress is not enough for the Dominican Republic. It has reached out to MWW, a public relations and reputation building company for a contract through early next year….MWW's work for the Dominican Republic also includes messaging, media training, and developing and implementing a plan to engage analysts and US opinion leaders "to craft the reputation of the Dominican Republic and influence official decisions." — Dominican government hires PR firm to rebuild reputation
For, over a decade the Ezili Network has been Haiti's public relations firm. Every day, we monitor all articles written on Haiti. When appropriate we respond with the non colonial narrative to debunk the demonization, restore and strengthen Haiti's image, judge the predators. In contrast with mainstream media's mostly racist chorus-line on Haiti, Ezili's HLLN continually extend that Haiti has one of the lowest violence rates in the Western Hemisphere (although its rising in direct proportion to the number of years of foreign military domination and their shadowy NGO presence in Haiti). Extend that Haiti has billions of dollars in natural resources. Explain the economic and strategic reasons the US occupies Haiti and built its largest embassy in the Western Hemisphere in Haiti. The non-colonial narrative on Haiti is a big part of HLLN's advocacy and justice work.
When an article, report or news story stands out, in its colonial spin and misinformation or in its brilliance in conveying the Haiti situation, we've been sure to provide criticism, denunciation or great praise and encouragement as the case may be. A two part Aljazeera article, written by Amy Bracken, move us to use our platform to strongly re-echo the voices of the Haitians that Amy Bracken let speak. It's not often that this happens. That the voiceless speak through a contextualized article written by a foreigner, without the regular white savior racism. Ms. Bracken and her photographer, brilliantly show, what's hidden behind the headlines in terms of the human cost and indignity that's associated with the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic, and the insult to injury that denationalization of Haitians, who have sustained the Dominican economy and growth for a century, gives life to.
Haitian Blood is Your Sugar! Help stop DR racism and injustices. Tell Obama to stop forgiving DR slavery and illegal actions.
"Even when workers are injured on the job, their medical leave might not be covered. Seventy-five-year-old Andrés Michel lost an eye cultivating cane meant for Central Romana (owned by the Fanjul brothers (Domino Sugar) more than two decades ago. He was injured when the hoe he was wielding sent a rock into his eye. Sitting on the bed in his tiny, one-room, cement home, holding a pocket-sized Bible in heavily calloused hands, he says the company paid for his medical bills, but didn't provide compensation for the work he missed or for his reduced productivity. He says he still works, now for a colono, from 6 a.m. to noon daily, but can't make ends meet. With no family in the DR, he relies on friends for food. After the interview, he asks the Al Jazeera team if it can spare 50 cents."
Will big money, the Vicini Group, the Fanjul sugar barons and US corporatocracy throw out, buy, as usual, the Obama Administration's conscience, in the name of helping Haitians with these types of "jobs?" Will US profit and big-business interests continue to override human right and dignity?
Divest, Sanction and Boycott the Dominican Republic
Tell the Dominican oligarchs and corrupt politicians, they can't PR this! That is what seven U.S. Senators who wrote to Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry about the Dominican Republic expulsions did. The seven US senators did the math, pointed out that even by the DR's own records,146,300 DR acknowledged legal citizens of Haiti descent are subject to expulsion. They wrote, in effect that the, Regularization Plan and Special Law 169-14, implemented to mitigate the 2013 denationalization ruling and which had a June 17 deadline, "does not encompass the full range of individuals with a legitimate right to remain in the country." Individuals, we add, like 75-year old Andrés Michel and other such denationalized or purposely denied DR documentation and made illegal peoples.
Boycott Dominican Republic products
In this corporate era of influence peddling, the DR lobbying and PR naturally has the inside track. Obama's State Department practically announced the DR's right to make these expulsions.
"'I want people around the world to see how people work in the cane fields, said José, "how people are killing themselves working so hard.' He lives with his father, who cut cane for 50 years and retired without a pension or savings. José tried cutting cane when he was 15, but it was too hard, he says, and he only lasted a season.The workers start at 6 in the morning and end at 6 in the evening, José says. They are supposed to go inside to rest and eat lunch when the sun is hottest, but some work straight through. It's a matter of survival: "Here, you work to eat. You aren't working so you can get some new pants," he says. "If you're sick, you need to borrow money to solve your problem, because what you make is only enough to eat…""–See, Blood, sweat and sugar: Trade deal fails Haitian workers on DR plantations and A sweet deal: The royal family of cane benefits from political giving by Amy Bracken, Aljazeera.
Are we going to let some fancy public relations company, hired by DR oligarchs or a corrupt and racist DR government, erase our knowledge of 75-year old Andrés Michel's pain. Or, muffle the egregious injustice and indignities, José's father, who is denied his pension, after 50-years of working in the hell that's the sugar plantations in the DR?
Obama not remainsilent, but do the right thing and withhold US aid and funds to the Dominican Republic military forces as requested by 560 former peace corpvolunteers, denounce the denationalization laws, implement trade sanctions to show seriousness and enforce the labor laws under the 2007 Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement ("the DR-CAFTA").
I write to advocate for this and to ask for help on behalf of the individuals – Pierre, José and Andrés Michel, whose life stories we get a good glimpse of, in the Amy Bracken article. What will you do? I'm a lawyer, but the Dominican Republic withdrew from the human rights court! This, like the deportations without due process and expulsions, could not happen without US blessing.
Baseball Academies in the Dominican Republic: From Sweatshops To Big Business- Photo source: Minor League Ball
HLLN has human rights collaborators in the DR who could, if they had more resources to share, give some relief to, at least, Andrés Michel. So let us know if you'd like their information and to concretely take this on. We will facilitate as best as possible.
Imagine 50 years of making Domino Sugar owners super fat and wealthy. 50 years of servicing the US sugar markets. 50-years where the DR government deducted monies from, for instance, José's father's weekly wages as tax to support the DR economy and supposedly, in part, to put money away for his pension. Today the DR has denationalized people in Michel, José and Pierre's category, voided their pension with a 2001 change in social-security law to exclude immigrants without proper documentation. Require folks like Pierre, José and Andrés Michel to PROVE they're legally in the country, when it's well known the DR has generally refused to provide such documentations. Pierre has cut cane since 1981. The DR government managed to find him legal enough to deduct from his weekly cane-cutter's pay. But now refuses to pay him the pension he's paid into, stripped him of all basic rights and his son also, who was born in the DR.
If we, who have greater access, mobility, passports, a home and who eat decent meals everyday, won't speak up for Andrés Michel, José and Jonas Pierre, than our silence condemns us.
No matter how many fancy PR machines and lobbyists the DR pays to re-image their state violence, we must speak up for Andrés Michel, José and Pierre and their families. They're too beat down and without access to do it for themselves.
"It's hard for cane workers like Jonas Pierre and Andrés Michel to challenge such power. Their demands are basic but remain unmet. Pierre has repeatedly taken a bus to the capital to demand his pension, so he can retire and his sons can stop working in the fields, but he has still not received it. Michel says he'd like better treatment from management, but when he presented his employer with the medical report showing he had lost his eye on the job and asking for compensation, they turned him down, saying it was too late. So now, he says, "I'm just living my life as I can." —See, Blood, sweat and sugar: Trade deal fails Haitian workers on DR plantations and A sweet deal: The royal family of cane benefits from political giving by Amy Bracken, Aljazeera.
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– Human Rights Watch has reported that authorities rounded up and deported people who should have been allowed to stay — people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents. The report cited more than 60 cases of such arbitrary arrest and said that "military and immigration authorities have repeatedly profiled Dominicans of Haitian descent, detaining and forcibly expelling them, even when they possess valid Dominican documentation."
– "The United States funds the Dominican military and provides millions of dollars in development and humanitarian aid. US Border Patrol agentsmonitor the Haitian-Dominican border. In the face of this gross human rights violation, the US should consider withholding some forms of aid to the Dominican Republic."
Dominican Republic: Start of Deportations "The United States is aware of the decision by the Dominican Republic to begin deporting persons who are deemed illegally present in the country. We recognize the prerogative of the Dominican Republic to remove individuals from its territory who are present without authorization." – Statement from Obama's State Department