NEW YORK – The gruesome killing of a Haitian man in the Dominican Republic has spurred angry protests and condemnation throughout Haiti as Dominican officials vow to get to the bottom of the case.
A popular organization, “Aba Satan” said to be close to Lavalas Family party staged a series of protests last week in front of the Dominican consulate in Petion-Ville to demand justice for the man, Carlo Nerilus.
Nerilus was killed about two weeks ago in the Dominican Republic because a mob wanted to venge the decapitation of a Dominican man.
“We are here to demand justice for our brothers who are being killed every day in our neighboring republic,” said Tony Philistin, a spokesman for the organization.” Philistin urge that the rights of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are respected.
The Nerilus incident opened sore wounds between the two countries that have been at odds for more than a century. Haiti’s brutal occupation of the Dominican Republic has been followed by periods of massacres and mistreatments of Haitians living the Spanish speaking side of the island of Hispaniola share by the two countries.
About 150 protesters massed outside the walled compounds of the neighboring country’s embassy and nearby consulate, but Haitian police prevented them from entering. U.N. peacekeepers with riot gear waited nearby but did not enter the fray.
Some protesters shoved pictures of the decapitated body of Nerilus, a migrant worker whose body was found the week prior, into the faces of Haitian police. “Justice for Carlos!” they shouted as they pushed at the human barricade.
They broke a window at the embassy and burned a makeshift Dominican flag. The embassy’s sign was carried to the consulate, jumped on, defaced and thrown at the building as diplomats looked on from inside.
The protesters also chanted slogans against President Rene Preval, whom they criticized for his silence following the attack.
“Every time they kill four or five of us Haitians, we do nothing. That is why they keep killing us!” one protester shouted.
Dominican officials downplayed the protest, with the Foreign Ministry describing the slaying as an “incident between individuals” related to the previously unsolved murder of a Dominican businessman.
Police Maj. Jose Lluberes said Nerilus’s slaying was meant to avenge the businessman’s death, but no evidence has been presented that the Haitian migrant was involved.
Dominican Prosecutor Miguel Morfe said a man identified as Confesor Reyes has been charged in Nerilus’ killing, with involuntary homicide and possession of an illegal weapon. A judge has ordered him to remain in prison for three months while authorities investigate.
Reyes’ attorney, Isaias Matos, said his client is innocent and argued unsuccessfully against his detainment. It is unclear what kind of evidence police have against Reyes.
Haitian officials question whether Dominican police could have prevented Nerilus’ killing.
The neighboring countries have a bitter history. Dominicans mark their independence from the 1844 end of a Haitian occupation, while last week’s protesters invoked the 1937 Dominican massacre of at least 10,000 Haitian migrants and dark-skinned Dominicans caught up in immigrant raids.
An estimated 1 million people of Haitian descent live in the Dominican Republic. Many suffer violence and discrimination, including the denial of citizenship to their Dominican-born children.