REP. PELEGRIN CASTILLO SEMAN’S OCTOBER 20, 2013 SPEECH ON THE PANEL FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL’S RULING NO. 168-13’S IMPLICATIONS FOR THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.
Before all, I would like to thank the Dominican Committee of International Solidarity to Haiti, of which I am a founding member, for organizing this important and timely event on the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling no. 168-13 and its implications for the Dominican Republic. On a personal note, I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to participate in this panel alongside such distinguished guests and friends, experts in Dominican-Haitian relations.
My participation here today will not cover the legal aspects that have already been so splendidly and efficiently covered by the prominent jurists in the first segment of this event. I would however like to focus my intervention in some of the least covered dimensions of this topic that to my opinion are key in understanding decades-long ongoing processes in the island of Santo Domingo. These processes, on their own, endanger the sole existence of the nation as well as the peace and stability of the Caribbean region.
No one with public responsibilities and a minimum level of information has the right to be naïve. What is being debated today is not the question of who has the right to Dominican citizenship, but an issue of higher importance: Who defines nationality?. Is it the powers of the State? Who has the constitutional right to decide this? Or do the NGO’s and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights? For the past fifteen years, said agencies have embarked on manipulative disinformation campaigns that have aimed to impose a contrary vision to the one adopted by the branches of the state.
Furthermore, what is being defined in this debate is whether the Dominican Republic will end up assuming the responsibility of becoming the ultimate solution to Haiti’s most acute problems, and with this, consolidating its role of pivotal state. The acceptance of an imposed national minority, albeit “Dominican” by judicial standards, yet politically and culturally responsive to powers from abroad, implies the mediatization of its sovereignty, and a loss of its capacity of self- determination. Due to these circumstances, the time to act and function like a state is now or we risk being treated worse off than a colony.
This is a moment for a call for national unity, defined stances, and firmness on behalf of those with leading positions. The Constitutional Tribunal’s 168-13 ruling should be supported by all Dominicans, not because it is the decision of the competent branch of the state, but because it expresses a will to procure just, rational and humane solutions to the immigration and civil registry problems that have been caused by weaknesses and flaws in our institutions. Ruling 168-13 effectively protects the rights of immigrants while at the same time defines an International guideline that public entities should observe as a way to lawfully, constitutionally and sovereignly answer the before mentioned problems.
We are not however surprised by the adverse reactions to ruling 168-13. We have spent over twenty years researching the most intricate aspects of this complex issue, as well as working on diverse initiatives, especially in the international sector.
I would like to share with you a personal anecdote that is key in understanding the mixed reactions that ruling 168-13 has provoked. Back in 1999 I was chosen to lead a delegation of representatives that was part of the official Dominican delegation attending the first Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing against the Dominican Republic in San Jose, Costa Rica.
It was largely disturbing for all the Dominicans present in that hearing, to observe how this International organism, which has been demonstrated to be largely influenced by the powers that be in the United States, to begin its presentation with a showing of a video titled “Dominican Republic, the Caribbean Apartheid”. The state that amongst all others has been the most open, tolerant and supportive with Haitian strife, was being blatantly stigmatized before an international tribunal as being guilty of committing crimes against humanity. The presentation of case 12,189 was no better than the latest fraud built around William Medina Ferreras or Winet Jean. Nonetheless, the ridicule was not only limited to this, the IACHR would formally admit its strategic objective by petitioning the Court, via an actio popularis, the forbidding of the Dominican Republic to rule on any matter of Haitian migratory control, regardless of the alien’s legal or illegal status.
Their petition was based on the argument that the Dominican Republic was incapable of exercising migratory and border controls, nor citizenship registrations that respected human rights regulations. The IACHR obviously dismissed the petition but many other posterior actions on behalf of both the Committee and the Court have been aimed at preparing the scene for actions of similar nature.
The IACHR strategy is best understood when one knows that the US State Department, influenced by important politicians and legislators insists, year to year, in refusing to acknowledge the rulings of the Dominican state in regards to who is considered a Dominican citizen and the required conditions to acquire Dominican nationality. I myself had the privilege to comment and refute OAS Ambassador Cento’s address, where he blatantly insisted on confusing the terms “undocumented” with “statelessness”. I sustain that if there were sincerity within the sector that so radically and militantly opposes decision 168-13 of the Constitutional Tribunal, if there were truly an honest desire to arrive at finding solutions to the immigrants’ problems, they would be willing to work in the executing of the “Immigration Regularization Plan” that has been lawfully established since the year 2004 and would in turn be supporting the only formula that can guarantee that those who have been wronged by being granted fake documents, can acquire their citizenship by lawful naturalization.
As a matter of fact, since the immigration law came into effect, we drafted a proposal to the Immigration National Council to complement the “regularization plan” with a modification to the naturalization law, that would allow a foreign students in the Dominican Republic access to Dominican citizenship in an expedite and affordable way. I specifically recall how as we held constitutional discussions on the matter we proposed an effective formula that would expedite this process.
If both the energies and resources that have been aimed at combating and frustrating the coming into effect of the Immigration Law and the Regularization Plan had been dedicated to the resolving of these issues, most these problems would have been resolved years ago.
Unfortunately, these actors’ hidden agendas- luckily not so hidden anymore as their actions and attitudes have the more surely been revealing- is a very different one: to relieve the Dominican state, by way of International imposition of its sovereign attributes in the areas of immigration, of exercising citizenry and border control. This is the only explanation to the excesses in disinformation, lies, and manipulations regarding this ruling.
If one were to analyze the publications in the local and international media, all generated by NGO’s and a group of journalists deeply and organically involved with them, one would confirm our statements. It has been said that we are implementing an “apartheid regime”, that we have committed “civil genocide”, that there exists among our two countries “xenophobe and anti-haitian proclamations”, all added to the preceding complaints of “massive deportations”, and even “killings”, this referring to the unfortunate incident in the town of Guayubin where Haitian lives were lost in a drug trafficking related police persecution. At this point, no one will be surprised if we are accused of having “weapons of mass destruction”.
In other words, with the help of other ever present ignorant fools, or easily manipulated simpletons, and others who are mistaken in their assumption that with the elimination of national borders they will Guild God’s Kingdom on Earth, the NGO’s and their media exposure are preparing the scene for the Dominican Republic to be beaten and disowned through interventions of “humane character”.
Anyone who was studied the evolution of International relations in the context of globalization knows how a wide array of doctrines ranging from “preventive Wars” to “humane interventions” have been drafted as a means to justify while invoking respectable universal principles, actions that in other times would be considered imperialistic. Imagine the Cynicism! It was even been proposed to the Chief of State to ignore the decisions of other branches of the state, which is properly an incitation to perpetrate a coup d’état that would result in a constitutional crisis.
We as Dominicans, specially those that hold public office need to assume firm positions, reject the blackmail, face the inconsistencies, and renounce the ill-tempered sentiments that some actors instill in trying to augment this crisis. We must clearly establish that it is not possible, legitimate or acceptable to defend the rights of a people while disregarding or crushing the rights of other nations.
A poet once said “hell is in what we keep silent”. There are many who wish to impose a short-sided, simplistic vision of this crisis, and who only focus on immigration problems and the human rights aspects of the issue. However, it can easily be proven, that most who assume these positions keep silent in face of the real and true cause of this crisis. What very few choose to speak of is the fact that this International crisis is the result of the existence of a failed state in the western part of the island of Santo Domingo. Many years ago, Haiti lost its potential as a nation, declining from a nation of relative development albeit essentially weak and dependent on the eastern part of the island. Facing both, is an international community that has been irresponsible and at a miss; an international community that prefers to minimize its commitments and responsibilities, hoping that the Dominican Republic becomes its solution, and decompresses it from the pressure of the Haitian crisis: an escape valve!
I am fully convinced that articulating this type of relationship between both countries at the hands of the international community is leading us to a dead end. Why commit to rebuilding Haiti- as Haiti deserves- while having the possibility of arriving at a low cost, comfortable, no-strings-attached solution by manipulating those in power and exploiting national interests in the Dominican Republic? This seems to be the unfortunate argument behind many international actors.
The Haitian crisis has been on the United Nations Security Council’s agenda for over twenty years. During this time Toussaint’s homeland has been subject to three humanitarian interventions. We Dominicans have the largest interest in the development, stability and prosperity of Haiti and must thus ask ourselves and the world: What is the end result of this prolonged international action? Has Haiti improved? Have there been consequent efforts in reconstructing its national bases, destroyed long before the earthquake of 2010? Can we hope for a future where Haiti’s recuperation reduces its migratory pressures on our territory?
While we observe the international interventions and actions directed at the Haitian crisis of the past twenty years, we arrive at three situations that are clearly and easily demonstrable:
1. The international community has been fundamentally concentrated guaranteeing the existence, albeit a precarious, weak and fictional one of “democratic” Haitian authorities by way of maintaining a minimum public order, when in truth both NGO’s and international institutions hold effective control over the nation.
2. Major efforts to avoid haitian immigration towards the United Sates, the territories of France and the United Kingdom as well as other Caribbean nations have been in full effect. The panic generated in the United States by the “boat people” crisis of 1991-1993 raised long-lasting concern in the region.
3. The progressive directing of migratory flows towards the eastern part of the island of Santo Domingo has been done in a permanent character. Today, in four of the five bordering provinces the haitian population is over 20% and in Pedernales, the richest of the provinces, the number is nearer to 30%. The Haitian population in the remaining thirty one provinces and the capital city is now over 10%.
Regarding this last point we must necessarily recall the 1949 United Nations Mission to Haiti Report that recommended Haitian authorities to foment the “massive and permanent immigration of entire families to other less populated areas of the Caribbean.” The reason of this recommendation was geopolitical in nature; the existence of an acute imbalance of the heavily eroded natural resources of Haiti and the serious limitations to accommodate the needs of its growing populations. This situation has remained unchanged for the past 64 years!
However, it is we who would be at fault if we were to criticize our adversaries and not be capable of admitting that these processes have been successful because of the allies that these forces have recruited in the Dominican Republic. Said actors have either consciously or unconsciously been accommodating to the international community’s and core countries’ agendas in return for support on their particular interests.
The Dominican Republic has been bombarded with what Joseph S. Nye referred to as “Bland Resources of Power” in “The Changing Nature of American Power”. This blackmail has been achieved through the participation of dozens of generously financed NGO’s, the granting of special exceptions with international credit organizations, the manipulating of asymmetries for the concocting of commercial and economic relations specially, with regards to regional integration agreements, and lastly through subtle campaigns aimed at cultural penetration.
Also, there has been no shortage of the use of other less bland resources; drug trafficking through the island of Santo Domingo, as well as the ambivalence and neglect on behalf of the core countries, with which the rise in organized crime has been met raises plenty of doubts.
No doubt the weaknesses, flaws and corruption of the Dominican Republic are being abused. Many only choose to focus on these and adopt furious and punitive attitudes against their own nation. These actors refuse in turn the attempts to rectify, correct and change these issues, as is happening now with ruling 168-13. Suspiciously, their analysis remains on the local aspects of this crisis and the finger continues to be pointed at the responsibilities of the local institutions. When in reality these responsibilities are many and shared between the local government and the international community. The main responsibilities are of the Haitian government who has never assumed a serious commitment to a strong and integrative national project, and has denied its people, in their own territory the rights that they have so willingly been claiming of other nations. Said authorities have shamefully behaved in front of their neighbors as though having nothing to lose and with an attitude of self-entitlement, profiting from the victimization of their poor land and the fabulous business of many international NGO’s who pervert the fight against poverty.
The enraged critics of ruling 168-13 have also little to say with regards to the actions of the international community, almost denying the original responsibilities of these nations, who since 1801, in light of a policy drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, submitted the first black nation state -independent because of a revolution of slaves- to a scheme of isolation, abandonment and neglect or of destabilizing interventions that has had long lasting effects until today’s day and age. Only through this argument can one explain the chronic problems and dismay of a country worthy of a better future. I would also like quote Jefferson as he stated: “I fear for my country every time I remember that God is just”.
The Dominican Republic has to assume its share of responsibility and is in the process of doing so. In its condition of being the nation that has demonstrated the most solidarity towards Haiti – condition that is widely unrecognized- we must demand of all actors honor their commitments and responsibilities with Haiti.
The Washington agreement of 1938 and its modus operandi –the only instrument still in effect that regulates immigration, documentation and border control- , the moral and undeniable obligation of those countries that can and should aid crisis ridden countries –as expressed by the iconic “Peacen in Terris”- that demands effective restorative actions of its national bases.
Lastly, for my conclusion in this significant event, I feel is its my duty to quote our founding father Juan Pablo Duarte. Ruling 168-13 honors Duarte as it justly and lawfully seeks to preserve his efforts. He, who in his brilliant ideals conceived us under a Project of a transcendental nation Left, within his ideals an “instruction manual” on how to face the vicissitudes of history and the legacies that countries like ours inherit. He taught that regardless of how many times we are struck down by the artful actions of an anti-national faction, of the “murderous and treacherous kind”- to never renounce and recuperate its sovereign ideals regardless of how desperate, unequal and uncertain the battle may be. Let’s not forget Duarte’s mandate to “work incessantly, without loosing faith in our Lord, the justness of our cause, and the strength of our arms”, because “living without a nation is the same as living without honor”.
Pelegrin H. Castillo Semán