The beheading of Carlos Nerilus, a Haitian citizen, in presence of a jubilant mob in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of Buenos Aires is a natural outcome of a campaign in the Dominican Republic media calibrated toward fomenting anti-Haitian sentiment (antihaitianismo) among that country’s population. Barbaric and inhumane treatments of Haitians living in the DR, which shares the Island of Hispaniola with Haiti, are so pervasive and tolerated by the authorities that rapes, fatal beatings, expropriations, and even illegal deportations of children of Haitian descent are rarely reported in that country’s media.
Simply put, anti-Haitians diatribes in Dominican newspapers are reminiscent of those in Germany’s during the 1920’s and 30’s in which Jews were made the scapegoats for that country’s misfortunes following the Great War (1914-18). History tells us what happened next. Upon the ascension of Hitler as Chancellor on January 31, 1933, the Jews were hunted down, beaten, imprisoned, expropriated and ultimately exterminated in specially-built death camps. Coincidentally in the 1930’s, while Jews were being gazed at Auschwitz, Sobibòr, Treblinka and other Nazi death camps, Haitians were also being slaughtered by the thousands throughout the DR. At the end of their torments, what was left of the world Jewry recovered and adopted the slogan “Never again”, but much of the world never heard of Trujillo’s atrocities and the Haitian nation became a self-depreciating entity.
In 1999, when the OAS Inter- American Commission on Human Rights ruled that children born of Haitian parents in the DR were entitled to that country’s citizenship, Dominican authorities derided the order. In the ensuing debates, a Dominican newspaper, El Caribe, sarcastically proposed that the US, Canada, France and Spain accept to each nationalize the half million Haitians they would like the DR to nationalize. Even the head of the Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic, Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez, supported his government strident anti-Haitian policy by declaring “It is not a matter of being anti-Haitian, it is a matter of being Dominicans”. Contextually, nothing offends a dark-skinned Dominican more than being called Negro, which implies that he or she is genetically of the same stock as their despised Haitian counterparts, even though an authoritative study by the CUNY Dominican Institute concluded that 90% of the DR’s population is of African ancestry.
Last October, when I wrote a column titled “How to stop Haiti’s slow descent into irrelevancy” in which I tried to explain the perfidious attitude of the Dominicans toward Haitians, a Dominican, a certain Mr. Cruz, lambasted me for writing what he called “a piece of garbage that will be ignored by Dominicans and he hopes that the Lord will find it in his grace to forgive my shameless soul”. That was not the end of it, for Mr. Cruz went on to say “as Dominican, he dreams of a Haitian-free DR, but as this point his dream cannot be realized and when the Neo-Duartianos eventually take control of the government in the DR, things will take a dramatic turn”. To put it in perspectives, the inhumane treatments of Haitian citizens in the DR are incremental steps toward achieving the Neo-Duartianos’ cherished dream of settling that score.
It is not a coincidence that poor and destitute Haitians are treated as sub-humans in the DR. Even within the confines of their own country, they are often referred as “rats or cocorats” by elected officials, politicians and media personalities. Against all odds, the DR has become the premier tourist destination for the Haitian elite and a growing number of Haiti’s middle-class and members of the Diaspora, despite the fact that the armed rebellion, which led to the overthrow of Haiti’s constitutional government and the occupation of the country by the U.N in 2004, was planned and executed in the DR.
One subject rarely mentioned in the twisted relations between Haiti and the DR is the 1929 Borno-Vasquez understanding delimiting the borders between the two countries, which was illegal and could never withstand the test of time because Haiti was then under U.S occupation (1915-34). Thousands of bilingual Haitians living within the once undefined border areas suddenly became stateless citizens and, in 1937, 30.000 of them were slaughtered under an explicit order of DR strongman Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-61) whose own mother was incidentally half-Haitian. The accord was signed by Louis Borno (1922-30), a member of the mulatto elite that has consistently acted against the interests of the nation. More to the point, a country that ceased to be sovereign did not possess the legal authority to sign treaties with others. Hence the need to revisit this historical aberration, which is the genesis of the limbo the 1.5 mil of Haitians living in the DR find themselves in today.
One should never underestimate the power of a few to lure the majority into the dark corridors of collective insanity, for evil intents are contagious. Since its epic struggle for freedom (1791-1803), Haiti has fallen into a web of intrigues, suspicions, animosities and deceit that turned the once proud nation into a bunch of cowards and impenitent collaborators. To paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche: “Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule”. Considering the endless persecution of Haitians by the DR and the great powers, and Haiti’s political and traditional elite’s acquiescence to it, one could argue that Nietzsche’s collective insanity theory may be responsible.