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Extremism in the Dominican Republic

By Jean H Charles

The big Caribbean tour bus left the bucolic village of Petionville in Haiti towards Santo Domingo, some one hour late; the custom border’s papers must be filled and put in proper order before departure. It took another hour to meander into the crowded streets of Port au Prince until we get into the main international highway leading to the Dominican Republic. The water level near the lake Azuei has risen several inches higher, forcing the government to pierce into the rocky mountain to create a new road. It is an unfinished one, causing more bottlenecks.

At the border, on the Haitian side, everybody must step out of the bus with their luggage for inspection. It was fast and courteous since we were travelling with a group of mayors and the national coordinator of the Political Platform Repons Peyizan; as such we received official courtesy of special handling. On the Dominican side, five minutes later it was the same operation, everyone must get out of the bus with their luggage. The customs officers there were openly soliciting bribes. I refused to pay. Later I found out that my luggage was confiscated by some border supervisor on the allegation that I failed inspection. Luckily my enterprising Dominican who helped me with my luggage confronted the uniformed bandit inspectors.

I prepared my presentation for the ominous day; I traveled with a delegation of mayors, political leaders from Haiti to take part in the commemoration of the death of Jean Jacques Dessalines on October 17, 1806. It was organized by the Federation of the Haitian organizations in the Dominican Republic. It is a first for the Haitian Dominican Diaspora in spite of the fact that it is some one million strong. It took that long for that Diaspora to feel secure enough to call on the brethren from Haiti to come and share together the remembrance that makes a Haitian person proud that he is part of a lineage that has produced epic stories that changed the face of this earth.

Extensive preparation took place; the auditorium at the University of Santo Domingo was properly reserved. Diplomats and government officials were invited but, all of sudden, the very day of the event, the rector of the University called to cancel the presentation. A group of Dominican anti-Haitian extremists had manifested their resentment of having the Haitian hero, Jean Jacques Dessalines, remembered in the land of Juan Pablo Duarte.

The delegation from Haiti went anyway to the university to visit with the rector and make amend to the attendees. There, we were confronted with a group of vociferous Dominicans hurling insults and threats at the delegates. But for the strong support of the student security cordon, we could have been hurt by the demonstrators.

The University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, along with Harvard University in the United States, is the oldest venue of learning in the Western Hemisphere; elegantly rebuilt and renovated, it is an oasis of higher learning where tolerance, civility and scholarship presides. The students were surprised and embarrassed by the violence exhibited by a small group of extremists that stopped the free flow of cultural exchange.

I would have understand the resentment against Jean Pierre Boyer, the third president of Haiti, who conquered the Dominican Republic, closed the university and treated both Haitians and Dominicans in a niggardly manner. Jean Jacques Dessalines was a liberator, eager to break the chains of slavery whenever it was seen. In fact, its first constitution proclaimed that all people, Indian, black or white slaves are to be set free as soon as they could set foot on the soil of the Republic of Haiti.

Alexander Petion helped Simon Bolivar to regroup and win independence for the entire Latin America. The same Jean Pierre Boyer helped Greece to acquire its independence.

The Dominican Republic is experiencing a critical corner where it must turn towards full emancipation for all its citizens and residents to reach a higher plateau in its economic development. A visit to Santo Domingo will indicate that the Dominican Republic has arrived. Large streets with imposing buildings give the impression that you are either in Minneapolis or in Toronto in autumn. The signals of success are visible everywhere, in the supermarkets filled with goods and people choosing the best from every corner of the globe. And in the joie de vivre of the people as soon as the weekend arrives!

Yet there are pockets of poverty discerned in the many se vende /for sale signs I have seen on the real estate market in Santo Domingo. It could also be seen on the road from Haiti to Santo Domingo; the towns close to the borders are desolate and are different from vibrant cities like Azua or Bani.

The economy of the Dominican Republic is now strongly linked with the economy of the Republic of Haiti; the resemblance is akin to the linkage of the United States to Canada or rather the United States to Mexico. Both countries must synergize their resources to take off without bumps and turbulence.

We took refuge after the incident at the university in the headquarters of presidential hopeful Fidel Santana of the Frente Amplio movement. He and his staff were very hospitable in helping us to endure the trauma of the violent discriminatory practice endured at the university. If and when he succeeds in taking power in 2016, he promised to work together with Haiti in making sure the wings of the same bird named Ayiti by the Haitians or Hispaniola by the Dominicans fly elegantly to its summit with the people on both sides of the border secured in their corner.

The United States had to undergo the revolution led by Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson to become a true united nation from sea to shining sea. South Africa went through the same process with Mandela and De Clerk. The Dominican Republic and Haiti will become true sister-sister nations when the leadership on both sides of the fence will understand that the valuing of human resources is the greatest gift given to earth by the Creator, nurturing, shepherding and developing that resource is the fastest way to full economic, social and political development for any nation.

A small group of extremists cannot stop the irreversible course of history. We shall overcome!

Source: Caribbean News Now

Category: DR News |

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Last updated October 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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