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CHILDREN CUTTING SUGAR CANE
IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
(c) 1991 Lawyers Committeefor Human Rights
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Since 1978 the Lawyers Committee has worked to promote international human
rights and refugee law and legal procedures in the United States and abroad.
The Chairman of the Lawyers Committee is Marvin E. Frankel; Michael H.
Posner is its Executive Director; William G. O'Neill is the Deputy Director; and
Arthur C. Helton is the Director of its Refugee Project.
Copies of this report are available from:
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
330 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, New York 10001
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE .................................... i
INTRODUCTION .............................. iii
I. The Exploitation of Child Labor ................. 1
A. A Miserable Place to be a Child ............ 1
B. "Gold on the Streets
of Santo Domingo" ................... 4
Children Born to Cut Cane ............... 12
Escape or Repatriation:
Individual Cases of the Road Back ........... 16
E. Government's Position .................. 20
II. A Pattern of Condemnation and Denial ............. 22
III. The D ecree .............................. 34
A. Provisions of the Decree ................. 34
B. Period Following the Decree .............. 36
C. The Contract ......................... 39
IV. The Violations Continue ...................... 43
A. Continuing Use of Buscones .............. 43
B. Use of Force ........................ 53
C. Voucher Payment and Fraud
in Weighing Cut Cane .................. 61
D. Living and Working Conditions ............ 64
V. Dominican Republic's Obligations Under
International and Domestic Law ................. 66
A. Convention on
the Rights of the Child .................. 66
B. International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights ................ 68
C. International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights ................ 69
D. ILO Conventions ..................... 70
E. Lom6 Convention ..................... 70
F. Dominican Labor Law .................. 73
VI. United States Trade Laws ..................... 76
A. Caribbean Basin Initiative ................ 77
B. Generalized System of Preferences .......... 77
VII. Findings ................................ 83
VIII. Recommendations .......................... 89
Appendices ................................... 95
A. Travel Permits issued to Haitian Children by the
Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo
B. Decree 417/90 dated Oct. 15, 1990 (translated by the
C. Individual Worker Contract (translated by the Lawyers
D. "CEA recluta haitianos en montes frontera" ("CEA
recruits Haitians in border hills") Ultima Hora, Nov.
28, 1990 (translated by the Lawyers Committee)
E. Voucher from Ingenio Consuelo
The Lawyers Committee wishes to express its sincere gratitude
to Carmen Amelia Cedefio-Caroit, Jean Michel Caroit, Jean Robert
Chery, Maryse Fontus, Bishop Telesforo A. Isaac, Carole Jacob, Senaida
Jansen, Neslie Juliene, Father Edwin Paraison, John Popiel, Fan Fan
Frantz Sanon and Ren6 Soler for their invaluable assistance. We are also
deeply indebted to the many individuals living in the Dominican Republic
and elsewhere who prefer not to be named who took time, and in some
cases accepted great personal risk, to help our representatives. Notably,
several cane cutters requested anonymity because they fear retribution,
and most children were unwilling to talk on the record.
This report was written by Theresa A. Amato, a lawyer and
consultant to the Lawyers Committee, and edited by William G. O'Neill,
Deputy Director of the Lawyers Committee. Responsibility for the facts
and opinions stated in this report belongs solely with the Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights.
New York, New York
On the eve of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus'
"discovery" of the Americas, 486 years after the introduction of the
sugar crop on the island of Hispaniola, and more than a century after the
Dominicans formally abolished slavery, the government of the
Dominican Republic is still being accused of exploiting imported Haitian
laborers and forcing them to cut cane. From November through
December 1990 and again in February and April 1991, the Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights sent three fact-finding missions to the
Dominican Republic and Haiti to investigate numerous reports from
human rights monitors and church workers in both countries that Haitian
laborers, including children, work under slave-like conditions on state-
owned and private sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic.
Conditions on plantations owned and operated by the Consejo
Estatal de Azucar ("State Sugar Council" or CEA), commonly called
bateyes,' have drawn international attention for more than a decade
because of widespread reports that agents of the Dominican government
deceitfully recruit cane cutters while state agents and the military prohibit
any escape from the cane plantations. Cane cutters, among them
children under the age of 14, toil 15 or 16 hours a day under inhumane
conditions. They lack potable water, latrines, electricity, medical care
and cooking facilities and work for less than subsistence wages to insure
that the Dominican government can fulfill its export quota of sugar, the
bulk of it destined for United States markets.
On October 15, 1990, the Dominican government for the first
time admitted the existence of severe human rights violations on the
sugar plantations and announced measures to ameliorate those conditions
by issuing Decree 417/90 (the Decree) containing procedures to
regularize the illegal status of Haitians who cut cane and forbidding those
14 and under from working in the sugar harvest. Pursuant to the
Decree, the government produced a labor contract containing certain
safeguards and granting certain rights to the workers. As a corollary to
its investigation of child cane cutters, the Lawyers Committee monitored
the implementation of the Decree and the contract.
'Jansen, S., La Insercion De Las Mujeres De Los Bateyes Al Sector Informal (The
Insertion of Women of the Bateys in the Informal Sector) at 3-4 (undated and unpublished
manuscript on file at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) (describing why bateyes
should be considered rural cane communities).
During the course of its missions, Lawyers Committee
representatives interviewed members of nongovernmental organizations,
church groups, the legal profession, journalists, international aid
organizations, human rights groups, trade unions and inhabitants of the
sugar cane communities, including over 100 children in the sugar mills
or ingenios. We also interviewed Dominican officials including: Deputy
Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fabio Herrera Cabral (December 1990),
then Secretary of Labor Washington de Pefia (February 1991) and
Secretary of Immigration Affairs Rafael Tejeda BAez (February 1991).
This report, part of an ongoing international effort to monitor
working conditions on Dominican sugar cane plantations, addresses in
particular the growing use of child labor to meet harvest production
demands and details how this disturbing development violates
international treaties ratified by the Dominican Republic such as the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention
on the Rights of the Child as well as those conventions of the
International Labor Organization ratified by the Dominican Republic.
The use of child labor also violates the Dominican labor code and criteria
for extending trade benefits under U.S. trade law. The Dominican
Republic, as a recipient of U.S. trade benefits, must guarantee certain
worker rights as defined in U.S. law, including a minimum age of
employment and prohibition of forced labor.
The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights concludes that while
the October 1990 Decree was a belated admission of serious human
rights violations in the cane communities and created expectations that
material improvements would be swift and evident, fundamental worker
rights violations persist. The continuing reliance on hired recruiters and
forced labor, including children, provide ample proof that the Dominican
government is not serious about implementing the Decree. Working
conditions for cane cutters in general and for children in particular,
remain dangerous and inhumane. The recommendations in this report
identify concrete and verifiable steps that the Dominican government
could take immediately to end these violations.
I. THE EXPLOITATION OF CHILD LABOR
UNICEF estimates that around the world over 100 million
children work -- and this figure does not include farm and domestic
workers.2 The International Labour Organisation states that 25% of all
children between the ages of six and eleven in low-income countries are
working and not in school and that of those between ages 12 and 16,
approximately 60% are working.3 Over 100 million school-aged
children receive no education4 and over 100 million children live on the
street. Sixty percent of children in the developing world have no access
to potable water and over 150 million are malnourished.5
This grim vision of the world of the most unprotected can be
seen in microcosm in the cane communities of the Dominican Republic,
on the streets of Port-au-Prince, or in impoverished rural Haiti.
Although not unique to these countries, the presence of child labor, the
lack of education, and the absence of basic necessities is nonetheless
especially deplorable when tolerated and even encouraged by
A. A Miserable Place to be a Child
Hispaniola is an island of children living and working in
desperate conditions. Forty-five percent of Haiti's estimated 5.6 million
inhabitants are under age 18.6 UNICEF estimates that of the 300,000
2See "Final Report, A World Safe for Children: Meeting the Challenge in the
1990s," Annual Conference of the Department of Public Information For Non-
Governmental Organizations, Sept. 12-14, 1990, United Nations, New York at 14-15
[hereafter A World Safe for Children].
'Id. at 22.
41d. at 25.
'Id. at 27, 35.
6UNICEF, "Enfants en Situations Spicialement Difficiles En Haiti", ("Children in
Especially Difficult Circumstances in Haiti"), Oct. 1989, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, at 4.
children classified as "children in especially difficult circumstances,"
200,000 are in Port-au-Prince and at least 10,000 sleep in the streets.7
120,000 are domestic indentured servants.8 Only 48% of school-age
children have ever attended school and most of these only irregularly.9
Only 82.6% of children reach the age of five and 52% of Haitian
children between ages two and five suffer from malnutrition.'0
Approximately 39% of the Dominican Republic's population is under age
15." UNICEF estimates that 58,800 Dominican children live in the
street and despite a national unemployment rate exceeding 30% (not
including underemployment) there are over 390,000 children under age
Accordingly, it is impossible to consider the plight of the child
cane cutters without viewing the desperation of the island's children as
a whole. The legal systems of both countries have failed to protect
children's rights.13 Both the Haitian and Dominican governments have
enforced neither their own laws nor the international conventions to
which each government subscribes. The Dominican government
admitted as much to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in
81d. at 5. A report by the Minnesota Lawyers Committee indicates that the figures
may be much higher. See Restavek: Child Domestic Labor in Haiti, (1990) [hereafter
Restavek] at 1 & n.5.
91d. at 6.
1"See Restavek, supra note 8, at 8 (citing Grant, J. The State of the World's Children
1989) (UNICEF 1989).
"Based on figures provided by the National Office of Statistics, Dominican Republic,
and the Secretary of Labor (1989).
121989-1990 estimation based on calculations of the National Planning Office and
1See e.g., Paper Laws, Steel Bayonets: Breakdown of the Rule of Law in Haiti,
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (Nov. 1990) and Silverio & Madera, Verasjuzga
problems haitianos en la RD continuaran pese a presencia mission OIT' (Veras Believes
that the problems of Haitians in the D. R. will continue despite the presence of the ILO
mission), El Siglo, Jan. 10, 1991 (stating that corrupt judicial branch is merely an arm
of the executive power).
March 1990 by stating that the law prohibiting minors from employment
"was not observed in practice."'1 This report will show that the
Dominican government encourages and condones forced labor by
children and violates myriad legal protections by operating a system that
entices children to cane communities and directly employs child laborers
on state-owned cane plantations.
Since the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986, there
has not been a contract between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
regulating the supply of cane cutters.' Since 1952, either bilateral
agreements or governmental contracts had been in force to ensure the
annual delivery of an adequate supply of cane cutters (approximately
15,000-18,000) from Haiti to the Dominican Republic. This absence of
a regular labor supply has led the Dominican government to fill its labor
needs by an ad hoc method of recruitment -- including force, abduction,
deceit, and national roundups of dark-skinned "Haitian-looking"
people.'6 These techniques of creating a labor force are especially
effective when applied to children. The making of child cane cutters
begins with a system in desperate search of a cheap and available labor
supply but without the legal means of obtaining it.
Two factors ensure the success of this recruitment system: the
vulnerability of children who live on the streets and in rural Haiti and a
country -- both government and people -- that condones a child
workforce in its labor codes and traditions." The children of the
"UN Press Release HR/CT/60 38th Sess., 969th Meeting, Mar. 30, 1990
(comments by Ms. De Polanco, Dominican Republic Delegate).
"1Americas Watch, National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights,
Haitian Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic, Nov. 1989 [hereafter Haitian
Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic] at 9-11.
'6d. at 16-19.
'7 Lawyers Committee interview with Mr. Jean-Robert Chery, Director, Centre
Education Populaire (Center for Popular Education) (a center for street children)
Port-au-Prince, Dec. 12, 1990. Director Chery emphasized that Chapters Eight and
Nine of the Haitian Labor Code (Articles 332-356) still permit domesticity (the use of
children as household servants), allow children over age 12 to work, and contain a
series of "false" regulations that do not extend adequate protection to children. In
addition to the restavek system where traditionally, a family accepts, feeds and
poorest country in the western hemisphere are an easy target for a
busc6n (recruiter) who can make several dollars for each person he
delivers in time to harvest cane.
B. "Gold on the Streets of Santo Domingo" and Other Lies:
Individual Cases of Children Lured to the
Dominican Republic to Cut Cane
No one knows exactly how many children live in the 400 cane
communities" in the Dominican Republic, but the children get there in
one of two ways: they are either brought there or they are born there.
During three weeks in December 1990, the Lawyers Committee
interviewed over 100 children in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Most of the interviews were conducted in the cane communities or on the
educates a poorer child in return for household service (but in reality children are not
given anything in return for labor and are often sexually abused), the sale of children,
especially poor rural children, continues. Parents -- when confronted with or
questioned about the sale of children -- indicate that they just "gave the child away" --
in return for money. Upon further questioning, parents often admit that they have not
seen the child for four years or that the child is in France living with others.
Lawyers Committee interview with Maryse Fontus, Esq., Port-au-Prince; Dec. 14,
1990. Mr. Julio Herrera, UNICEF's head of "children in especially difficult
circumstances", however, indicated that at a recent conference participants drafting
provisions to conform the Haitian Code de l'Enfant ("Law on Children") with the
provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, voted to outlaw domesticity,
the "restavek" system, and to reform adoption procedures. These resolutions will be
drafted by the Institut Bien Etre and presented to the government as part of an
ongoing effort to conform the country's laws to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child. Lawyers Committee interview with Mr. Julio Herrera, Port-au-Prince, Dec.
17, 1990. Nonetheless, the gross abuses and exploitation of child labor continues and
has been well documented. See, e.g., Restavek, supra note 8; Rosen, "The Slavery-
Like Practice of Restavek in Haiti," International Children's Rights Monitor Vol. 7
Nos. 1/2. (1990); Sontag, "The Littlest Slaves," Miami Herald, Dec. 30, 1990 at 19
(portraying conditions under which "restaveks" live and work, Haiti's failure to
enforce laws against abuse, and debate over whether to abolish this traditional
'"See, Moya Pons, F., El Batey (Fondo Para El Avance de las Ciencias Sociales,
Inc.) (Fund for the Advancement of the Social Sciences) [hereafter El Batey] at 24
(estimating, in a now dated, but still most recent survey, approximately 41% of
population in cane communities is 14 or under).
streets of Port-au-Prince. In February 1991, another Lawyers Committee
representative interviewed dozens more children in both countries. The
following accounts are representative and not exhaustive. The vast
majority of the children interviewed told strikingly similar stories.
Summaries of interviews conducted on numerous bateyes in December
1990 and February 1991 appear below.
Lino Dieu is 14 years old. He was born in the village of Baptiste
Belladere in central Haiti.19 A man approached him one day and made
promises about work in the Dominican Republic. Lino then
accompanied the man to the border where a Dominican military captain
brought him over. He was kept for three days in a "smelly camp"
guarded by soldiers. He was then transported by bus to Batey Haiti
Mejia. He said he believed the man who took him to the border because
he was an adult and he "just believed him."
Lino cut cane for four and a half months with another man on
the batey who made 250 pesos (U.S. $18) a week. Lino made no
money. Instead, the man he cut with just gave him some food each day.
Lino cut cane from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m., the first point in the day that he
was allowed to eat, and then worked from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. He had
no contract, and no boots or gloves for protection; Lino did not even
have shoes. And, he added, "it's dangerous." After four months of
cutting cane the man he cut with just left. To make money during the
tiempo muerte, the dead season, Lino would plant cane for five pesos a
day or look for older people who needed help to give him jobs so he
could buy food. He says he "felt better" when he was in Haiti and wants
to return but does not think he can. His family does not know where he
is because the man who took him to the border told him not to tell
anyone where he was going.
Iniesa Remilus and Wilson Toussaint are each 14 years old and
come from the northern Haitian city of St. Michel de l'Attalaye. They
were interviewed by a Lawyers Committee representative on Sunday,
February 10 in Batey Palamarejo in Ingenio Rio Haina. Even though it
was a Sunday, they were in the midst of cutting cane when residents of
the cane community brought them out of the field, machetes in hand, to
speak to the Lawyers Committee representative. They said that a busc6n
came to St. Michel and told them that easy work was available in the
Dominican Republic; he promised them they would not cut cane but
"Lawyers Committee interview with Lino Dieu, Santo Domingo, Dec. 7, 1990.
rather they would collect eggs in hen houses and do other light farm
chores.2 They each paid the busc6n $8.00 and he brought them to the
frontier on February 4, 1991. They were given some food and 5 pesos,
or about $.40 each. They were then put in a car and brought to Batey
The CEA agent at the frontier gave them a contract to cut cane.
The Lawyers Committee representative examined the contracts the boys
had with them when interviewed. Each contract was dated February 6,
1991 and was in Creole. When asked if they understood the contract,
the boys replied that they did not. One had gone to school in Haiti and
could read Creole yet he had no idea what was in the contract. They
signed the contract at the frontier. No one from the CEA or any other
government agency at the frontier or at the batey had ever explained the
contract's provisions or described any legal rights they had under its
terms. As 14-year olds, they never should have been given a contract
because the October 15, 1990 Decree and the government's own form
contract -- the contract the boys held -- expressly forbids employing
children 14 and under.
The boys then described their lives on the cane plantation. They
cut cane from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. They do not
go to school and do not even know where they are. They sleep in a tiny
room with four other boys. They do not know how much or when they
should be paid for their work. They eat some rice once a day. Like the
other cane cutters, they cannot leave. They seemed completely confused
and frightened and when asked, said they wanted to return to Haiti.21
Batey Duqueza is also in Ingenio Rio Haina. In early February
1991, the Lawyers Committee interviewed five children who had recently
arrived from Haiti to cut cane: Bernard Florial, 16 years old, Sainsain
Charles, 15 years old, Juanex Calanche, 12 years old, Daniel Jean, 14
years old, and Sauver Charles, 8 years old. They were part of a group
of 60 new recruits or "Kongos" who were turned over by a busc6n called
"Jauneru" to the CEA at the frontier town of Jimanf in November 1990.
Each child said it was the first time they had ever cut cane and found the
20Lawyers Committee interview with Iniesa Remilus and Wilson Toussaint, Batey
Palamarejo, Ingenio Rio Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
work hard and dangerous.' They must work 12 hours a day, from
6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. They do not go to school. They sleep 6 to a
room; the Lawyers Committee examined the room where they sleep.
The room is bare except for a few bent and rusty bunkbeds that have
neither mattresses nor blankets. There is no electricity or running water.
One boy was cooking his dinner of rice in front of the barracks in a pot
over an open fire.
The boys stated that they are not free to leave the plantation.
They added that they are even prohibited from leaving their rooms at
night and must stay inside until 4:00 a.m. when they are allowed out to
wash and prepare for the work day." They are paid with vouchers
which they use in the store on the plantation to buy enough food to
survive. The store takes 20% off the face value of the voucher, a
common practice throughout the cane communities. The boys said they
never see cash because they must buy food and cannot wait for the end
of the two-week period to cash their vouchers. Several had received
contracts at the border but none understood anything in them and no one
from the CEA or the Secretary of Labor's office had come to explain the
contract or describe their rights.
The case of the eight year-old Sauver Charles demonstrates the
failure of the Dominican government to enforce the most basic and easily
verifiable provisions of the Decree and contract. The child's father
brought Sauver from the Haitian town of Belle Anse. The father said
that Sauver was helping him to cut cane. The father has a contract that
he received at the border after a buscon sold him. The father also does
not understand the contract. But the CEA and the Secretary of Labor
know that an eight year-old, even with his parent's permission, is
prohibited from cutting cane. Anyone seeing the tiny Sauver out in the
field with his father could not fail to realize that the law was being
Achilles Francois is 12 years old. He and his 17 year old
cousin, Duperez Oxane, came to the Dominican Republic in January of
'Lawyers Committee interview at Batey Duqueza, Ingenio Rio Haina, Feb. 10,
1990 from Baptiste, Haiti.? The man who told them to come told
Achilles that because his father was dead and Achilles had nothing to do
he should go the Dominican Republic to make lots of money -- enough
to return to Haiti to buy animals. Duperez was told that there was gold
on the streets of Santo Domingo -- so much money there he just had to
get it. Duperez said he was sold at the border and Achilles said he did
not know whether he was sold but that the "spy," as he called his escort,
left him there. Both were taken to Batey Bienvenido at Ingenio Rio
Achilles does not go to school and says that he could make only
10 pesos a week because he is too weak to cut a lot of cane. He
explained that last year one ton of cane was worth 12 pesos but this year
it is worth 18 pesos. The CEA pays him with a ticket and he lives in the
barracks during the harvest with nine other people in his room.
Duperez, although he is bigger, said he too could not cut much cane
because he was not accustomed to this kind of hard life -- he used to go
to school in Haiti. One day of an adult's work takes him five days. He
has to work because there is constant pressure to work. A man wakes
him every morning. He cut cane for six months from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.
but he cannot make enough money to survive. A woman helps him by
cooking for him and washing his clothes. Duperez eats rice for his
meals. Only rice, he explains -- no meat, no vegetables, no bananas --
and he only eats once a day. Other people also eat only rice. Duperez
has no contract, just a piece of paper with an employee number on it.
He wants to go back to Haiti but he has no money and he does not know
anybody who can help him. He told the Lawyers Committee that there
are "big persons with guns who do not permit him to leave" the
Julio Michele is 14 years old." He left Haiti on January 8,
1990 when he was 13 because a cousin told him to come to the
Dominican Republic where he could earn 300 pesos in five days. Julio
agreed because his father refused to pay any more for his schooling in
Haiti and so, without the means to attend school, he preferred to come
with his cousin to the Dominican Republic. His parents have no idea
4Lawyers Committee interview with Achilles Francois and Duperez Oxane, Santo
Domingo, Dec. 7, 1990.
"Lawyers Committee interview with Julio Michele, Santo Domingo, Dec. 7,
where he is because he left without telling them. Julio lived in Batey
Palamarejo of Ingenio Rio Haina and cut cane everyday from 4 a.m. to
6 p.m. As of mid-December 1990, he was the only child in his
community who came from Haiti. Most of the children start cutting cane
on his batey at age 10. Eight and nine year olds help their parents to
organize and collect the cane. When Julio cuts by himself he makes only
17 pesos for a week's work.
Jorge is 13 years old. He has been cutting and planting cane
five days a week in Batey La Jagua for one year. He works from 8
a.m. to 12 noon so that he can buy clothes and shoes. He makes 7 1/2
pesos a day.2 A short drive away in Batey Cachena, Ingenio
Quisqueya, another 13 year-old explains that he started helping his father
when he was seven years old. He now cuts his own cane and gets paid
at the adult rate, but he cannot make as much because he cuts only when
school is over.7
Eddy Lamour is 16 and lives on Batey Alejandro Bass in
Ingenio Consuelo. He has lived on the plantation for several years and,
as is typically the case, his circumstances were marginally better than the
Kongos. He lived with his mother and had even gone to school
periodically. This year, however, he had to cut cane.28 He did not
have a contract and did not have his mother's permission to cut cane in
violation of both the Decree and the government's form contract. The
Lawyers Committee interviewed him in the cane fields where he was
cutting cane with approximately 12 other Haitians. Among the others
were two 17 year-olds, Isidore Hernandez and Daniel Charles. They
also have lived on the plantation for years. Although the contract
provides that 17 year-olds are legally allowed to cut cane without
parental authorization, neither had a contract. None of the boys
understood how much they should be paid per ton and they confirmed
that they are paid in vouchers which can be cashed in only once every
26Lawyers Committee interview, Batey La Jagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Dec. 1,
"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey Cachena, Ingenio Quisqueya, Dec. 1,
'Lawyers Committee interview, Batey Alejandro Bass, Ingenio Porvenir, Feb.
two weeks; the bodega popular on Batey Alejandro Bass takes 15% off
the face value of the voucher."
Children who cut in Cacartas, a community of the privately-
owned Central Romana, Inc. tend to be older -- most were 15 or 16
when sold at the military posts on the frontier. Older children and young
adults explained that the conditions on the private plantations are better
than on the CEA communities, but most recruited children go to the
state-run plantations because the government pays buscones to find the
children -- and therefore the children "belong" to the government." At
Batey #203 of Central Romana, a 19 year-old explained that the children
who come from Haiti are forced to cut cane while the ones born in the
communities may sometimes decide whether to cut cane.31
In Barahona, in the southwest, children have no choice. Many
children explained they had to cut because there was familial pressure to
work and because they feared that if they did not work something bad
would happen to them -- that they would be taken away from their
families and forced to go to the jefe's or chiefs house or that their
parents would be punished.32 On Batey #9, for example, an eight-year-
old who cuts cane explained he started last season.33 In a group of 10
children only one went to school. They work 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and bring
their lunch with them into the field. The one child who went to school
says he went only on Mondays because he "needs school" but must
work. When asked what the children think would be best for their lives
and what changes they want to see, all of them indicated that they want
to go to school and study, have better houses, and food.34
"Lawyers Committee interview with inhabitants of Cacartas, Ingenio Central
Romana, Dec. 1, 1990.
"Lawyers Committee interview with inhabitant of Batey #203, Central Romana, Dec.
3Lawyers Committee interview, Batey #9 Ingenio Barahona, Dec. 4, 1990.
"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey #9, Ingenio Barahona, Dec. 4, 1990.
In contrast, near Santiago in the north at Batey number 1 of La
Canela, an agricultural camp, about two dozen children indicated that
they all work in the fields but most of them go to school and work with
their parents.3 The children were better dressed and fed than their
counterparts on sugarcane communities but the physical conditions seem
comparable to those on the communities. The schooling and health of
children in agricultural communities suggest that the government could
provide the cane communities with similar benefits.
These accounts are typical and reiterate what many other children
and adults describe when discussing forced child labor on the cane
plantations. Men typically visited the small towns in Haiti where
approximately 80% of school-age children are not in school and many
live on the streets. The buscones often promise the boys that they will
become soccer stars or tell them they could make nine dollars (45
gourdes) a day or save enough to buy ten radios. Many of the children
believed them. Why? As Father Edwin Paraison, Coordinator of
Pastoral Haitiana of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church replied, "why do
Dominicans desperate to leave the Dominican Republic think money
grows on trees in New York?"36 It is wishful thinking mixed with
desperate circumstances. Many would rather believe a sweet-talking
busc6n and dismiss the accounts of those who manage to escape the
plantations as the excuses of those who went and "could not make it" or
did not know "where to look" for the money. Still others explained that
some children arrive without parents because they go for a "little walk"
away from their homes and get "picked up" and are then brought to the
Once they arrive at the cane communities many of these children
know no one and thus are forced by economic and social necessity to
"buy" a parent -- a system in which the children will "adopt" an adult to
"3Lawyers Committee interview with approximately two dozen children, La
Canela, Dec. 9, 1990. R. M. Portorreal, Director of the Dominican Human Rights
Commission, says the government and military recruit agricultural laborers as well.
Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Dec. 10, 1990.
"Lawyers Committee interview with Father Edwin Paraison, Santo Domingo,
Dec. 7, 1990.
37Lawyers Committee interview with inhabitants of Batey Alejandro Bass, Ingenio
Porvenir, Dec. 2, 1990.
work with and then either cut, organize, or transport cane with that adult
-- to contribute to the adult's earnings, or to cut for their own account
and then "buy" family acceptance." The child needs to be accepted
into a family or find an unattached woman who will take money or
services in exchange for washing the child's clothes and cooking his
meals. Virtually no Haitian-born children go to school because they
neither have the documentation that will permit them to attend nor can
they afford to forego cutting cane because the vouchers received as
payment allow them to buy into a family and thus survive. Survival is
marginal for all of the children in these communities.
C. Dominico-Haitians: Children Born to Cut Cane
The cane communities are filled with children. The average
family has 5.2 children. Most inhabitants are born there. Children born
in the communities, unlike those who are "imported", do not have to
work to buy a family. Nevertheless, many will start working at age
seven or eight and almost certainly by age nine or ten because of the
family's economic needs or because of the generally perceived pressure
to start contributing -- to start cutting cane. One leading study asserts:
"For the children of the Batey, there is only one future: cutting cane.
Childhood begins to end at age six when the child is forced to take the
path to the cane field."39
There are cane communities where 98% of the population is
malnourished." In these communities most infants under two have
"This often happens with adult cutters as well who, in order to survive, must attach
themselves to a female in the community who will cook, clean, and sleep with the kongo
who comes without a family for the harvest. This controversial system called
"tonndelafanm" in Cr6ole, is, in effect, a form of polygamy driven by economics where
husbands will "loan" their wives (or women will sacrifice for the good of the family) for
cane receipts which are then used to supplement the family income or to buy social
security for the women. Lawyers Committee interview, Dec. 4, 1990 (name and location
withheld on request).
3'Moreno, "El Batey es lo mas parecido al infierno" (The Batey is the closest thing
to hell"), Hoy, Sept. 22, 1990, quoting from Escuela De Formacion Obrera, Documento
Final Del Seminario: El Batey Agricola en la Reptiblica Dominicana, Problemas y
Alternativas de Soluciones (1990), [hereafter El Batey Agricola] at 34.
nothing but their mothers' milk for nourishment.41 Children eat rice
and nothing else. Childhood is marred not only by the lack of balanced
diets but by the deaths of family members -- a high infant mortality rate
claims the lives of siblings, prostitution frequently claims the lives of
older sisters, and disease prematurely claims the lives of many.42 The
state randomly moves fathers needed to cut cane elsewhere, although it
contends that the CEA will move both the worker and his family to a
new cane community.43
Not only do children lack a stable family environment, they are
deprived of their own identities. They have no recognized nationality
and often do not know their own age because of the lack of
documentation. Article 11 of the Dominican Constitution states that
everyone born on Dominican soil is Dominican with the exception of
children of diplomats and those in transit." Article 11 of the Haitian
Constitution also declares that anyone born of at least one Haitian parent
can claim Haitian nationality no matter where the birth occurs.
Most Haitians in the Dominican Republic, however, have no
identity papers.45 This has grave consequences for their children who
are born in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican government will
not give a birth certificate to a child if the parent does not have a
42Id. at 5 7 (describing the prevalence of AIDS, venereal disease, diarrhea,
contaminated water, parasites, typhoid, and hepatitis). Moreover, more than 65% of the
communities have no water, and of those that do the water is not potable. The majority
of communities do not have sanitary services so garbage accumulates and attracts disease-
bearing mosquitos. Approximately 60% of the communities have no medical dispensaries.
43Dominican government's written responses to Lawyers Committee's questions
submitted to Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Fabio Herrera Cabral on Dec. 12, 1990
and received on Jan. 31, 1991 [hereafter Government Responses] at Answer 1 (on file
at the Lawyers Committee).
4"Constitucion Dominicana" (Dominican Constitution) 1966 Title, III, Section 1,
"4Dr. Carmen Amelia Cedefio-Caroit, El Estatuto Juridico De Los Haitianos En La
Reptiblica Dominicana ("The Judicial Status of Haitians in the Dominican Republic"),
at 9-11 (work in progress, on file at the Lawyers Committee) (explaining history of laws
and practices resulting in illegal status of Haitians)[hereafter Estatuto Juridico].
Dominican identification card or cedulla. The Haitian parent cannot
receive a cedulla unless he or she has a Haitian birth certificate or
passport. Parents' lack of papers creates a "vicious cycle" according to
Carmen Amelia Cedefio-Caroit, a Dominican lawyer and leading expert
on constitutional law and laws on citizenship.4 Children who are born
in the Dominican Republic of at least one Haitian parent could claim
both Haitian and Dominican citizenship under the Dominican and Haitian
constitutions. Yet these Dominico-Haitian children are treated as
stateless persons.47 The Dominican government has no program to
break this vicious cycle and there are instances of Dominico-Haitians
who have lived in the Dominican Republic for three generations who
have no identity papers and therefore no legal existence.4 Yet the
Dominican government states that children may choose their nationality
until the age of majority and obliges parents to declare their children or
suffer penalties for noncompliance with this requirement.49
Consequently, the parents are in an impossible situation: they must under
law register their children, but they cannot because of their own lack of
Lack of citizenship has immediate and pernicious effects on
Dominico-Haitian children. The Dominican government states that
school in the Dominican Republic is both free and obligatory, that
schools are accessible to each cane community, and that parents can be
punished for failing to send their children to school." Dozens of
Lawyers Committee interviews revealed, however, that if the children go
to school at all, they attend only half a day and cut cane the other
half." Often children born in the communities have as little opportunity
'Lawyers Committee interviews, Carmen Amelia Cedefio-Caroit, Santo Domingo,
Dec. 10, 1990 and Feb. 12, 1991.
49Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 5.
5Lawyers Committee interview with children at Batey Alejandro Bass, Batey
Cachena, Batey Cacartas, and Batey La Jagua Dec. 1 and 2, 1990.
to attend school as those who arrive from Haiti. The first obstacle to
attending school, and more seriously, to having any rights at all, is the
lack of documentation to prove Dominican nationality. The Dominican
government contends that the law does not discriminate between children
of different nationalities,52 yet without documents attendance is
prohibited.53 This policy results in defacto discrimination because 95%
of the children of Haitian agricultural workers cannot go to school
because they lack documents.5
The second obstacle to attending school is the lack of physical
proximity. Many of the communities have no schools. Accordingly, for
children to attend they must travel to the nearest community with a
school. The communities can be several kilometers apart and, because
there are no school buses, children would have to walk long distances to
Finally, even if children are able to attend school, the education
received is minimal. School amounts to little more than three or four
courses, usually on how to speak Spanish. Many of the schools cannot
recruit teachers to these isolated and impoverished communities. The
result is that 54.8% of the population is illiterate and 61% of the children
between 10 and 19 do not go to school at all. Of the population under
age 10, 65% go to school but stop at third grade.5 Often attendance
is sporadic. For example, Enrique, a 15 year-old on Batey La Jagua,
Ingenio Consuelo, told the Lawyers Committee that he goes to school
once in a while but cannot when he cuts cane.56 He makes 7 1/2 pesos
a day and has been cutting cane now for two years. The absence of
widespread and meaningful education creates an undereducated if not
52Government Responses, supra note 43 at Answer 5.
54Moreno, "Por falta de information y por trabos, miles de haitianos no se
legalizaran aqui" ("For lack of information and because of red tape, thousands of
Haitians will not be legalized here"), Hoy, Dec. 1, 1990 [hereafter For Lack of
5El Batey Agricola, supra note 18, at 8.
"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey La Jagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Dec. 1, 1990.
functionally illiterate labor force bred to cut cane without means of
Participants in a seminar on the cane communities held in
September 1990 issued a report concluding that the cane children are the
"superexploited" and summed up life for children in the cane
communities as follows:
The marginality of the Batey deprives the child of his
most fundamental rights, leaving them confined to a life
of mistreatment and deprivations, without any hope other
than the most degrading work in the plantations of sugar
cane, citruses, pineapple, african palm and the
licentious and gray life of the Batey.8
D. Escape or Repatriation: Individual Cases of the Road Back
Because the children are not free to leave the plantations, human
rights monitors must use guile and caution to free them. Father Edwin
Paraison is an Episcopal priest from Haiti and coordinator of Pastoral
Haitiana, a church group in the Dominican Republic working to improve
the lives of the cane cutters. One morning he drove to a plantation at
4:00 a.m. in a borrowed car because, as a frequent visitor to the bateyes,
his own car might be recognized by the field guards guardss
campestres) who are employed by the CEA to prevent cane cutters from
leaving their assigned bateyes. On arriving at the plantation he told the
supervisor that he needed to talk to a sick child. He then told the
supervisor that the child needed to see a doctor and he would take him
to the doctor. Once in the car, the child stretched out on the floor of the
back seat to escape detection by the field guards and was taken directly
to the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo where papers were obtained
and the child was sent back to Haiti.9
7 This is especially true when comparing the native inhabitants with the Haitian-
born inhabitants. For example, while 45.2% of the Dominicans in one study were
illiterate, 84.6% of the Haitians were illiterate. El Batey, supra note 18, at 63.
"El Batey Agricola, supra note 39, at 3.
9Lawyers Committee interview with Father Edwin Paraison, Santo Domingo,
Feb. 11, 1991.
Father Paraison has repatriated over 45 children who were
captured in or lured from Haiti.6 He explains to cane children who
live against their will in the communities61 that he will help them leave
if they decide to return to Haiti.62 Even though many have nothing to
return to or are unsure of their family's location or will return to a life
on the streets, they are desperate to escape and take advantage of
Pastoral Haitiana's offer.
Another human rights worker described how he rescued several
children between the ages of 8 and 14. Seven children at two
plantations, Batey Palamara and Batey Bienvenido, had been recruited by
buscones who told them that they would be "collecting gourdes on the
ground to make palm oil.63 One young boy had been kept in the
military barracks at the frontier for three days under constant army
surveillance. None had ever cut cane before. The rescuer, using
subterfuge and careful planning, succeeded in getting the seven children
off the plantations at 6:00 a.m. one morning and they were repatriated
to Haiti on December 13, 1990.64 The same rescuer described another
recent escape65 in vivid detail:
We came back to the center with the administrative
committee deciding if we should repatriate these
children. So our team, we have a car, We make
6'Although the government has stated that the cutters are "free to go" at any time,
see Generalized System of Preferences: Testimony before the GSP Committee of the
Trade Policy Staff Committee, Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 1990 [hereafter GSP
Hearings], at 683, not one child interviewed believed this to be true. Instead they
often mentioned that armed men who guard the communities would prohibit them
from leaving or catch them and bring them back.
62Lawyers Committee interview with Father Edwin Paraison, Ingenio Consuelo,
Dec. 2, 1990.
"Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 12, 1991 (name withheld
arrangements with this child to tell him that we will
come to pick him up at a certain time. The promoter
[the group's contact on the plantation] makes
arrangements with the child and he hides. At the
indicated time we arrive with our vehicle but we must
leave the car at 100 meters from the batey in order not
to attract the attention of the guard campestre or other
persons who may be agents of the CEA. When we
arrive at the batey we signal to the promoter that we are
here. We indicate the location of the vehicle and the
promoter accompanies the child to the vehicle. Now
when we arrive at the vehicle we hurry to leave the
batey with the child. We take the road and make sure
that we are not stopped in the road by police or country
guards. If we are lucky we will have the opportunity to
arrive at the office with the child without being stopped
in the road. If we are stopped on the road we will find
a way to talk to these people to tell them that these
children are sick and that we are taking them to the
hospital .... When we arrived at the office we housed
the child in the office and we make arrangements to go
to the embassy on a day when it's open to take pictures
of the child. Then we prepare a document called at the
embassy a "laissez-passer" [permit to circulate]. This
permit to circulate enables us now to have confidence to
have a vehicle and a child in our vehicle. Then if we
have a vehicle going toward Haiti we send the child to
Haiti. Otherwise, we may accompany the child to Haiti
where the child will be received by another sister
institution who takes care that the child is directed
toward his original location. So we try to give
something to the child. If he has no clothes we give him
clothes. If he has no shoes we give him shoes to allow
the child to go home and we try to counsel the child.
Then our sister institution in Haiti accompanies the child
to his home and tries to see his parents and explain the
situation in the Dominican Republic and ask the parents
to protect and guard the children to keep them from
letting this happen again. So it's constantly that some
institutions who intervene in the batey intervene to
repatriate children of all ages, young, from 8-18 years
that we find in the bateyes. We try, in spite of the
dangers, the difficulties, to return these kids home
because they were deceived by people who offer them
employment, when this is a hard labor even adults have
difficulties to do. I must tell you that during this harvest
season that starts from October 1990 to now, we have
repatriated 20 children. These kids most of the time,
their parents did not know where they were. These
children came by way of other youths or a busc6n who
meets them, maybe on their way to school or in the
street or in a playing field. They encourage them to
come somewhere where they can earn a living by
receiving a salary in U.S. dollars according to their
declaration. So these are kids who were misled since
they did not get their parents' permission to leave their
country to come to work here. So during this year
1990-91 more than 20 were repatriated to Haiti.
Four examples of travel permits obtained for Haitians aged 14-17
who had been recruited to cut cane in the current harvest and who had
been successfully repatriated to Haiti in late 1990 and early 1991 appear
as Appendix A to this report. The four came from small towns in rural
Haiti and had been delivered to three different bateyes.
For those who have no one like Father Paraison or these other
monitors, escape takes other forms. In December, 1990, the Lawyers
Committee interviewed street children in Port-au-Prince who had
managed to escape from the bateyes.
Junior is 13 years old and washes cars around the National
Snack Bar, a stone's throw from the National Palace in downtown Port-
au-Prince. In 1989 a man took him and another child to cut sugar.
Junior explains that the man said he would "make his [Junior's] life
nice", and gave Junior 10 pesos. Junior was sent to La Romana and
never saw the man again. After cutting cane for five days he says he
escaped by "tricking people." He sold the knife they gave him to cut
sugar and used the money to buy food.6
"Lawyers Committee interview, Port-au-Prince, Dec. 14, 1990.
Philibert Santana is 15 years old and lives on the streets of
Port-au-Prince; he usually sleeps in the area where buses leave for the
countryside. In early 1989, when he was 13, a Haitian man approached
him in the bus station and told him he would take Philibert to the
Dominican Republic where he could find work and would be paid in
U.S. dollars.67 Three other boys, aged 13, 14, and 18 also agreed to go
with this man. They spent one night in his car at Malpasse near the
Dominican frontier. They then crossed the border and spent two days
in a Dominican army barracks. The man who had taken them to the
border disappeared; a soldier at the barracks told them that "you have
been sold, you have no rights, the guy has left."68 Philibert was then
separated from the other three boys and taken to a cane community.
After a few days he managed to escape and a truck driver took him back
to Haiti where he resumed his life on the streets.
In December 1988, recalls another former cane cutter, a man
took him and sold him. The man paid $15 for someone to drive the 17-
year old to the border. He cut cane for three months and 15 days, but
because of a back problem he could not make enough money to eat; he
could only make about four pesos a day. One day he told people he was
going to the next village to deliver his machete to somebody who needed
it. He went to the main road, threw away the knife and walked or rode
in the backs of cars all the way back to Haiti. At the border he walked
over "the big mountain" by himself. He returned to Port-au-Prince in
June 1989 and has lived on the streets ever since."
E. Government's Position
Consistent with the provisions on child labor in the October
Decree, the Dominican government maintains that not one child under
16 years of age but older than 14 works without the requisite parental or
judicial permission; the government also states that no children 14 or
'Lawyers Committee interview with Philibert Santana, Port-au-Prince, Feb. 8, 1991.
"Lawyers Committee interview, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 14, 1990 (name withheld
under work unless they are physically developed and work with their
parents and even this occurs only in isolated cases. 70
Former Labor Secretary Washington de Pefia contradicted his
own government's policy and position when asked by the Lawyers
Committee about child laborers on the cane plantations:
"[T]hat is the family in Latin America It is an
institution that has to help in order to eat and when a
boy is 13, 14, 15, 16 he is a man who gets a girl
pregnant and if he can get a girl pregnant he has to work
so that he can comply with his obligations. [Cane
cutting is] veryey dangerous for a small child but not
dangerous for a 14 year old boy who is a man already.
He is a man already."71
It is shocking that the government official and cabinet member in charge
of enforcing and monitoring compliance with the Decree could have such
a cavalier attitude. At least Rafael Alburquerque, Mr. de Pefia's
successor as Secretary of Labor, recognized that it was unacceptable for
children 14 and under to cut cane. On April 29, 1991 Secretary
Alburquerque announced the start of a program to repatriate children 14
and under found working on the cane plantations. In a belated admission
that this violation of international and domestic law exists, the Secretary
stated that "we will not permit behavior that is so harmful to human
dignity, above all to the human rights of the child, to occur in the
Dominican Republic."n Once again, the government has issued a
welcome public statement. Yet if the government were really serious
about eliminating child labor, it would have taken action months ago and
not at the end of the harvest. The government's failure to implement key
70Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answers 3 and 4.
7Lawyers Committee interview with then Secretary of Labor Washington de
Pefia, Feb. 13, 1991 [hereafter de Pefia Interview]. Secretary of Labor de Pefia was
removed and replaced by Rafael Alburquerque in late February 1991. Mr.
Alburquerque is a respected labor lawyer and was a principal drafter of proposed
changes in the Dominican labor code.
"P6rez, "Repatriaran a Haiti niflos estin laborando ingenios" ("Haitian children
working in the cane communities will be repatriated"), Listin Diario, April 29, 1991.
provisions of the Decree inspires little confidence that Secretary
Alburquerque's repatriation program will be any more successful than the
Decree. Seven months after the Decree, the Lawyers Committee finds
not only do buscones continue to operate
but they are actively recruiting children
to cut cane;
children are given contracts to cut cane
despite prohibitions against child labor
in the Decree, contract, and Dominican
in a cane community just an hour's
drive from Santo Domingo, no one from
the Secretary of Labor's office had
explained the contract or worker rights
as required by the Decree;
living conditions for the children, and
for all cane cutters and their families,
are wretched: schooling is almost non-
existent, food is scarce and living
quarters filthy and overcrowded.
Based on eyewitness testimony gathered by Lawyers Committee
representatives and on reports from those who monitor conditions in the
cane communities, forced labor of children is widespread in the
II. A PATTERN OF CONDEMNATION AND DENIAL
During the past decade, several prominent international bodies,
including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the (UN)
Human Rights Committee, have requested the Dominican Republic to
take substantial measures to ameliorate the conditions on the state-owned
and private ingenios and to end forced labor. For example, in 1983 the
ILO Commission of Inquiry issued a report containing a series of
recommendations to the CEA including: issuing individual contracts to
workers in their native language of Creole; prohibiting the transfer of
Haitian workers between plantations without their consent; streamlining
and reducing corruption in the recruiting process; regularizing Haitian
workers' residency status; encouraging formation of trade unions; and
ensuring compliance with minimum wage guarantees and fair payment
In its annual reports since 1983, the ILO Committee of Experts
systematically has chronicled the scant progress made by the Dominican
Republic on the Haitian worker issue.74 In 1989 the ILO's Committee
of Experts noted that the violations described in its 1983 report had not
abated and emphasized the urgent need for the Dominican government
to adopt measures to stop the violations. In 1990, the Committee of
Experts expressed extreme "concern over the situation of Haitian workers
S. [and i]t stressed that there had been no progress, either in terms of
legislation or practice, on essential points raised over a number of years
by the Commission of Inquiry, the Committee of Experts and the
Conference Committee. "7 Although the Dominican government invited
representatives of the Director-General of the ILO to visit the plantations,
the government later canceled this mission because of "its disagreement
with the orientation of the mission."76
In March 1990, the (UN) Human Rights Committee, a panel of
international experts in human rights, told the Dominican delegation that
there was a "shared sense of disappointment" over the Dominican
73International Labour Office, Official Bulletin, Special Supplement, Vol LXVI,
series B, 1983. "Report of the Commission of Inquiry appointed under Article 26 of
the Constitution of the ILO to examine the observance of certain International Labour
Conventions by the Dominican Republic and Haiti with respect to the employment of
Haitian workers on the sugar plantations of the Dominican Republic."
7See "Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and
Recommendations", International Labour Conference, 70-76th Sessions, 1984-1989,
Report III, Part 4A.
""Report of the Committee of Experts," International Labour Conference, 76th
Session, 1990 Report III, Part 4A, at 273. The ILO Committee also noted the
Dominican government's failure to comply with reporting requirements, pursuant to
its obligations under international law. Id. at 46.
61d. at 274.
Republic's "thin" and less than straightforward, overdue (by several
years) second report required under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights.7 At that session, Ms. De Polanco, a Dominican
Government representative, told the Committee that "although Haitians
were 'taking up our jobs, they do not have any problems.'"7 Another
representative, Mr. Gomez, asserted that just because the police
sometimes took the Haitians to where they were working, thatht was not
servitude or slavery, such a characterization was propaganda. If there
were abuses, one of the many bodies visiting the Dominican Republic to
monitor the human rights situation would have seen them .."79 In
response, Expert Ndiaye from Senegal stated that the "[Q]uestions raised
by the Committee could not be described as propaganda as the cases
cited had come from an ILO report. The abuses of workers cited in the
report were very serious. Cited cases were not isolated ones, and illegal
immigrant workers were maltreated."' At the closing session, the vast
majority of the experts expressed concerns -- that went unanswered --
about the treatment of Haitian workers.
Similarly, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights recently ended its examination of the Dominican Republic's first
report on its implementation and observance of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Speaking for the
Committee, Expert Phillipe Texier, from France, stated that the report
was unsatisfactory and inadequate. The oral responses from the
delegation were found to be lacking and Expert Texier noted that because
the state's treatment of sugar workers was particularly disturbing another
"UN Press Release, Human Rights Committee 38th Session, 967th Meeting, Mar.
28, 1990, at 1 and 4.
71d. at 1.
"UN Press Release, Human Rights Committee, 38th Session, 968th Meeting,
Mar. 29, 1990.
report would be required to address the Committee's unanswered
Additionally, several articles in U. S. newspapers have described
current conditions of Haitian cane cutters in the Dominican Republic.82
The media accounts focus particularly on: the dangerous and inhuman
nature of the conditions; the extremely low level of wages and the
voucher payment system; the inability of workers to leave once they
"belong" to a plantation; and the role of the Dominican government and
the state-controlled CEA in fostering conditions which amount to slavery
or slavery-like practices on the plantations. Moreover, individuals,
groups, and members of the press within Haiti and the Dominican
Republic have detailed the existence of forced labor and have
independently called upon the government to recognize the violations and
to initiate reform.83
81United Nations Press Release HR/3507 Dec. 11, 1990, "Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Concludes Consideration of Dominican Report,
Last of Fifth Session." Indeed, the Dominican government admitted that it "has been
remiss in meeting its commitment to respond to ILO requests and to send well-
prepared delegations to ILO Conferences." Rebuttal Brief of the Dominican
Republic, Before the GSP Subcommittee, Office of the United States Trade
Representative at 3 (Nov. 14, 1990) (Case No. 018-CP-90) [hereafter Rebuttal Brief]
at 41 (blaming this failure on the tumultuous social and political atmosphere in the
82See e.g., Editorial, "Slaves of Dominicans", The Miami Herald, Sept. 7, 1990,
at 16A (calling for consideration of boycott of Dominican agricultural exports);
Wilentz, "A Bitter Harvest for Haitians," The Nation, May 14, 1990 at 667
(describing cane cutters' plight); French, "Sugar Harvest's Bitter Side: Some Call it
Slavery," The New York Times, Apr. 27, 1990 at A4.
83See, e.g., "Cinquenta organizaciones reafirman las denuncias sobre maltrato
braceros" ("Fifty Organizations Confirm Charges About the Mistreatment of
Braceros"), El Siglo, Oct. 13, 1990 (relating groups' confirmation that sugar
producers violate rights); Gautier, "Confesion esclavista" ("Confession of Slavery"),
Hoy, Sept. 29, 1990, (requesting President Balaguer to make public declaration that
slavery exists); Antonio Santos, "?Un frente para defender lo indefendible o un frente
para solucionar esa verguenza?" ("An Effort to Defend the Undefendable or an Effort
to Solve a Disgrace?") (cult of lies has to stop and solutions be found); "Sacerdote
consider gobierno debe variar trato a haitianos" (Priest Says Government Should
Modify Treatment of Haitians), El Siglo, Sept. 17, 1990 (describing Father Agapito
Betances' call for government to treat seriously denunciations, and stating that
In the last year, the Lawyers Committee requested the heads of
various inter-governmental organizations, including the African,
Caribbean, and Pacific countries that have signed the Lom6 Conventions
("ACP countries") and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to
consider the Dominican Government's history of human rights violations
and to take appropriate action.84 The CARICOM heads of state were
asked not to admit the Dominican Republic unless the Dominican
government took concrete and immediate steps to end the serious
violations of human rights that occur both in the recruitment and in the
retention of Haitian cane cutters."5 For reasons not made public, the
heads of state of CARICOM decided to defer any action on the
Dominican Republic's application until the next summit meeting. The
Lawyers Committee informed the ACP countries that the Dominican
Republic was already receiving substantial economic benefits from
membership and yet in the Preamble, in Article 5 and Annex VI to the
Lome Convention, the member states pledge to uphold human rights and
not to discriminate between citizens and foreign workers.
bureaucrats who treat denunciations as lies do not know bateyes); Gautier,
"Operadores del trafico esclavista" ("Workers in the Slave Trade"), Hoy, July 9,
1990 (asking how many millions of dollars has government spent in last four years to
buy braceros, without respect for human rights and labor, immigration, health, social
security, civil laws); "Si no son esclavos, que son?" (If they are not slaves, what are
they?) Hoy, Aug. 2, 1990 (while various fora denounce mistreatment and trafficking
of Haitians, Dominican government fails to change its slave-like practices); Antonio
Santos, "Lome IV, el CEA, y los Derechos Humanos" ("Lom6 IV, the CEA and
Human Rights"), El Siglo, July 23, 1990 (CEA bureaucrats and administrators who
prepare responses to ILO have not read much less know labor obligations); "Condena
estado braceros" (Condemns Standard of Living of the Braceros"), Hoy, July 7, 1990
(recounting Anglican Bishop Telesforo Isaac's affirmation that cane cutters work in
primitive conditions that can be considered quasi-slavery).
84See, e.g., Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Letter to Dr. Ghebray
Berhane, Secretary General of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Countries of the
Lomd Convention, Aug. 8, 1990 (describing the Dominican government's violations
of Lom6 treaty provisions and urging that benefits be withheld absent compliance) (on
file at the Lawyers Committee).
8sSee Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Letter to the Hon. Prime Minister
Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, June 14, 1990 (on file at the Lawyers
Despite this history of widespread condemnation, the Dominican
Government and many influential individuals and members of the
Dominican press denied for over a decade that any problem existed.86
For example, President Balaguer, one month before issuing the October
15 Decree, said the accusations of mistreating Haitians were absolutely
false, "foul and offensive" and that the whole world knows that the
Haitians in the Dominican Republic are not mistreated and instead are
treated like all immigrants -- with "hospitality."87 Moreover, the
8See, e.g., Dajer "?Hay esclavos aqui o alla?" ("Are there slaves here or there?"),
Hoy, Aug. 20, 1990, (Haitians are treated with all the consideration they merit and the
"slaves" of the mills have permanent jobs); Maria Cruz, "RD responded sobre trato a
haitianos" ("Dominican Republic replies on handling of braceros"), El Siglo, June 28,
1990 (noting that the government has categorically denied the accusations implicating the
CEA and attributed them to political motives); Calder6n, "Balaguer llama difamatoria
denuncia de organizaciones sobre los braceros haitianos" ("Balaguer calls international
denunciations of the violations defamatory and unjust") El Siglo, July 6, 1990; Garcia
Savinon, "La Industria Azucareray los Braceros Haitianos" ("Sugar Industry and Haitian
Workers"), El Siglo, Sept. 14, 1990 (Director of Dominican Sugar Institute writing that
Haitians come to Dominican Republic because they live better here than in their own
country); Editorial, "Veamos bien" ("Let's Examine This Carefully"), Hoy, Oct 8, 1990,
(what exists is not slavery but deplorable conditions, just as laborers are treated in United
"Jimenez, "Falsa la campana contra RD" ("False Campaign Against the D.R."),
Hoy, Sept. 14, 1990 (quoting President Balaguer denouncing the accusations as false and
claiming foreigners are treated with "much hospitality"); Balaguer's denial conveniently
contradicts his 1984 out-of-office publication, La Isla al Reves: Haiti y el Destino
Dominicano, in which he states:
The iniquitous exploitation to which Haitian braceros are subjected
today, victims of an illicit commerce in which the governments of
both parts of the island participate with an equal degree of corruption
should be substituted, within a regime of national and international
collaboration as described by another more human one, alien to this
new form of denigrating slavery which is practiced at the present
time in the Dominican sugar ingenios.
Cited and translated into English in Americas Watch, National Coalition for Haitian
Refugees, Caribbean Rights, Harvesting Oppression: Forced Haitian Labor in the
Dominican Sugar Industry, June 1990 at 44 [hereafter Harvesting Oppression]. See also,
Morales Troncoso, "Haitians are certainly not slaves of Dominicans", Letter to the
Editor, Miami Herald, Sept. 14, 1990 (Vice President of Dominican Republic, denying
government consistently denied the exhaustive ILO reports, justified the
situation as a condition of underdevelopment or a byproduct of Haiti's
inability to care for its citizens, attributed the reports to Haitian political
propagandists in the United States, or, more incredibly, as the work of
those who wanted to ruin the country's tourism industry.88 The then
Secretary of Labor accused Dominican organizations that supported the
findings of international human rights groups as "anti-patriotic". He
compared these influential domestic organizations to "Cuban or Angolan-
type groups who would bring unemployment to 250,000 workers and
hunger to over 1,200,000 Dominicans" if the Dominican Republic should
lose its trade benefits as a result of human rights violations."9
A Change in Posture
On October 15, only days after newspapers carried reports of
similar denials and within a week of the Dominican Secretary of Labor's
refusal to allow the ILO to send a delegation to investigate conditions on
charges levied against Dominican Republic and announcing that Dominican Republic
would hire lawyers to defend itself).
"See, e.g., "Vanderhorst denuncia plan descredito RD" (Vanderhorst [secretary of
tourism] denounces plan to discredit the DR"), EFE, Oct. 9, 1990, (tourism competitors
outside the Dominican Republic have conspired to magnify and publish false information
against the government); moreover, many articles suggested that the United States look
at its own treatment of Jamaicans in Florida cane fields or the Hispanics who live in
deplorable conditions in Miami or New York.
"See, Exposito, "Secretario Trabajo dice pais deposit documents relatives
acusacion maltrato haitianos" ("Secretary of Labor says the government has documents
concerning the accusations of mistreating Haitians"), El Siglo, Oct. 20, 1990 [hereafter
Secretary of Labor has documents]; Dr. Washington de Pefia, (Secretary of Labor),
"?Que esta ocurriendo hoy en Washington, D.C.?", ("What is happening today in
Washington, D. C.") Listin Diario, Oct. 19, 1990; see also, Exposito, "Herrera: decreto
haitianos prueba 'buena fe' gobierno" ("Herrera: Decree on Haitians proves
government's good faith"), El Siglo, Oct. 17, 1990 [hereafter Decree proves good faith];
(reporting Deputy Secretary Herrera Cabral's suggestion that Dominican institutions that
confirm denunciations made by foreign groups "live on the moon").
the plantations,9 President Balaguer issued Decree 417/90 [see
Appendix B].91 The Decree requires the Dominican government to
regularize the status of Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican
Republic, to provide individualized labor contracts in Spanish and Creole
to workers, and to have the Secretary of Labor report periodically to the
President and to the International Labour Organisation on progress made
in improving conditions on the sugar cane plantations, factories and other
locations where migrant laborers live and work.
The Decree also provides for strict record keeping concerning
hours worked and wages paid, and grants to Haitian workers all the
rights enjoyed by Dominican workers. The Decree specifically states
that the human rights of all Haitian workers must be scrupulously
observed and stipulates that Haitian workers have the right to rescind
their agreements and either move to another workplace or return to Haiti.
The CEA and private employers must "continue to" provide health and
education programs, electricity and potable water, food and social
security benefits to the workers. Moreover, employers who have hired
Haitian workers must report those workers to the Secretary of Labor or
Despite the Decree and the government's recently announced
willingness to cooperate with the new Haitian government to regulate the
flow of workers," the Dominican government maintains that it does not
'See, "RD vuelve rechazar visit de OIT' ("Once More, the Dominican Republic
rejects ILO visit"), Hoy, Oct. 8, 1990 (reporting Dr. Washington de Pefia, Secretary of
Labor, considers visit by ILO an intervention in domestic affairs and infuriating and asks
why ILO does not investigate Jamaicans in Florida or ask United States why it does not
sign ILO conventions); Zapete C., "Cancilleria affirma sancion a la RD afectaria
haitianos" ("Foreign Ministry affirms sanctions against D.R. would hurt Haitians"), El
Siglo, Oct. 19, 1990 (reporting Deputy Secretary Herrera Cabral says Dominican
Republic will permit some groups to observe but not to act as overseers of the workers,
an obvious allusion to cancelled ILO visit).
91On signing the Decree, President Balaguer stated that "the human rights of Haitian
braceros must be respected in the Dominican Republic, and that "the country must be
in full compliance with all International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other conventions
to which our country is signatory." Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 15.
2Maria Cruz, "Gobierno procurara nuevo regimen braceros" ("Government will
strive to achieve a new way to manage Haitian cane cutters"), El Siglo, Jan. 12, 1991
(stating no discrimination, distancing itself from any violations that occur, and
discriminate against Haitian sugar cane cutters. The standard
government response to the international denunciations has been that the
accusations are "misinformed and incomplete" and that canecutting is a
"tough" job but it is equally hard for all of the cutters, Haitians as well
as Dominicans.93 Additionally, the government routinely emphasizes
that of the Haitians illegally residing in the Dominican Republic, only a
small percentage cut cane for a living.9 The government resorts to
criticizing the inabilities of the Haitian government to care for its
residents and challenges Haiti to take everyone back, noting that if
conditions were so intolerable in the Dominican Republic that everyone
would return to their "own country."
The Dominican government's position materially misrepresents
the situation. Although canecutting would be a "tough job" under the
best of circumstances for everyone who cuts, the reality is that the vast
majority of the cutters are Haitians or Dominicans born of Haitian
descent.9 The well-documented, near uniform unwillingness of native
Dominicans to engage in a job considered "menial" is the major reason
announcing willingness to begin talks with President Jean Bertrand Aristide). This is also
a response to then President-elect Aristide's first press conference in which he mentioned
the slave-like conditions of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. See, Carrion, "Aristide
anuncia se esforzarapor mejorar relaciones Haiti con Republica Dominicana" ("Aristide
announces he will strive to improve relations between Haiti and the Dominican
Republic"), El Siglo, Jan. 14, 1991.
9 Maria Cruz, "Canciller: RD se defender ataques por supuestos maltratos
haitianos" ("Foreign Ministry: R.D. will defend against attacks for alleged mistreatment
of Haitians") El Siglo, Aug. 31, 1990 (Foreign Minister Joaquin Ricardo says that
government always has denied any discrimination against Haitians); see, GSP Hearings,
supra note 61; at 661-662; Calder6n, "Gobierno RD se defender en Washington de
acusacion sobre maltrato a haitianos" ("D. R. will defend itself in Washington
concerning mistreatment of Haitians"), El Siglo, Nov. 6, 1990 (Mr. Ricardo says
government has always admitted conditions bad, but tough for everyone).
9Paez, "Niega recluten haitianos" ("Denial that Haitians are recruited"), Hoy, Jan.
12, 1991 (Secretary of External Relations notes that majority of Haitians do not work in
95See, Baez Everstz, "Braceros Haitianos en la Reptiblica Dominicana," ("Haitian
Workers in the Dominican Republic") 1986 [hereafter Baez Everstz] at 143.
that Haitian cutters are actively imported to harvest the cane and their
illegal status notoriously "tolerated."9 To the extent that Dominicans
live in the cane communities they are normally concentrated on the
"central bateyes" where managerial level CEA employees reside and
enjoy a higher standard of living. The government's efforts to diminish
the seriousness of the accusations by noting the overwhelming percentage
of illegal Haitians otherwise employed in the Dominican Republic and its
indictment of its poorer neighbor are merely attempts to deflect criticism
from its responsibility for maintaining a system where thousands of
Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent suffer at the hands of the
Notwithstanding this response, the admission implicit in the
Decree was not lost on the Dominican press. Several articles noted that
the government's complete denial of systematic rights violations had
suddenly changed in time for the United States government's decision
whether to continue the Dominican government's beneficiary status under
trade laws that condition trade benefits on the observance of certain labor
rights.9 In an El Siglo article dated October 20, 1990, one author
noted that the Decree was a government attempt to avoid sanctions it
eventually would receive if Washington ruled "in favor of the Haitians
and in the light of reality.""9 The article also attributed the sudden
9See also Madruga, Azucar y Haitianos en la Repdblica Dominicana, (Sugar and
Haitians in the Dominican Republic) (1986) (presenting an historical and sociological
study of each country and cane cutters) [hereafter Madruga].
9See text accompanying notes 217 229 infra (describing trade benefits). See
also, Maria Cruz, "Experto destaca importancia visit mission de la 01T' ("Expert
emphasizes importance of ILO mission"), El Siglo, Jan. 9, 1991 (noting that report of
ILO visit may influence U.S. government's decision on sanctions under CBI);
Gonzalez, "OIT indaga ya trato a braceros" ("ILO investigates treatment of
braceros"), Hoy, Jan. 5, 1991.
"Exposito, "Decreto 417-90 reconoce implicitamente haitianos son victims
violaciones derechos humans en RD" ("Decree 417-90 implicitly recognizes that
Haitians are victims of human rights abuses in the D.R."), El Siglo, Oct. 20, 1990;
see also, Alduey Sierra, "Esta en marcha registro official haitianos" ("The registering
of Haitians is underway"), Ultima Hora, Oct. 31, 1990 [hereafter Registration
Underway] (under international pressure, President Balaguer has changed his
traditional defensive posture to confront the serious problems of Haitians).
change of heart to the international campaign denouncing the abuses."
The timing of the Decree coincided with increased United States
government interest in the charges levelled against the Dominican
government. For example, the United States Department of State's
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990 mentions the
Haitian forced labor issue, noting that the October 15, 1990 Decree was
essentially no more than "a reiteration of labor code provisions which in
the past have rarely been enforced in practice."" The United States
Trade Representative also accepted a 1989 Americas Watch petition
which challenged the Dominican government's beneficiary trade status
under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) as well as under the
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). Both condition significant trade
benefits currently enjoyed by the Dominican Republic on observance of
certain fundamental worker rights.
The timing of the Decree also corresponded with the
commencement of the harvest. Several of those interviewed for this
report noted that each October the government and CEA always make
promises to improve conditions on the plantations to attract the number
of workers necessary to harvest the state crop.1"' Accordingly, many
"'OSee U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for
1990, Report Submitted to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs, 102d Cong., 1st Sess. S. Prt. 1022-5, [hereafter 1990
Country Reports] at 588-98 (noting that in each of last three years the ILO's
Committee on Application of Conventions and Recommendations censured the
Dominican Republic and used its most severe censure for the Dominican Republic's
continued failure to abolish forced labor). The Report summarized the ILO's
findings, including "the roundup of illegal Haitians in the Dominican Republic by the
army and police to work in the state-owned sugar plantations, the failure to prohibit
salaries in the form of vouchers, improper control of the weighing of the sugar cane
cut by the Haitians, deferred payment of part of the salary, the failure of the
Government to assure that the Haitians are aware of their rights, and the failure to
provide adequate inspection services in the plantations." Id. at 597. Although "the
U.S. embassy found that abuse of Haitian human and worker rights in 1990 was not
as pervasive as in prior years," the Report noted that this "may have been due more
to the abundance of Haitians voluntarily seeking work than to any change in
government policy." Id.
"'Lawyers Committee interviews, Santo Domingo and Barahona, Dec. 1, 2, 4, 5,
1990, (names withheld on request).
expressed skepticism about the Decree and what they termed "empty
promises," "dead letter law" or a "ruse" designed only to respond to
international criticism.12 Even the Haitian ambassador to the
Dominican Republic, Albert D. Chassagne, stated in late February 1991
that he hoped "the decrees from President Balaguer were transformed
into action and do not remain simple words."'1 The most promising
assessment by analysts interviewed by the Lawyers Committee was that
the Decree represented an open door that could nevertheless close the
minute pressure subsided.04
Because of the prolonged history of denial which continues even
after the Decree's issuance and the continuing gross human rights
violations on the cane plantations, the Decree can only be seen as a
hesitant first step toward addressing the widespread violations. The
Lawyers Committee's recent fact-finding missions sought to identify the
steps the Dominican government has taken toward implementing the
Decree -- focusing on those measures the government could have
undertaken immediately with minimal effort and expense as well as
preliminary measures that should have been taken to insure
implementation of the Decree's provisions.
02Gautier, "Esclavismo haitiano" ("Haitian Slavery"), Hoy, Oct. 31, 1990
(Balaguer does not have capacity to resolve problem; Decree is only to appease until
everyone forgets the issue again).
13Calder6n, "de Pefa refuta embajador de Haiti; dice mejora condition braceros
haitianos" (de Pefia refutes Haitian ambassador; says conditions for Haitian cane
cutters are improving"), El Siglo, Feb. 22, 1991 (also stating that the ambassador had
information about mistreatment and illegal arrests of Haitians in Monte Plata and
Sabana Grande de Boya).
1'Lawyers Committee interview with Enrique de Leon, Santo Domingo, Dec. 3,
III. THE DECREE
A. Provisions of the Decree
The October 15, 1990 Decree states that it is in the interest of
the Dominican Republic to regularize the citizenship of the
undocumented Haitians, especially those who work in the sugar
plantations, to provide contracts in the two languages of the countries
that share the island, and to improve the conditions of life of the
workers, both national and foreign, who cut and transport cane. The
Decree consists of four articles'05 and several subparagraphs. These
provisions state in relevant part that:
1. All Haitian nationals, especially the cane cutters and those
working in the cane plantations, will have their status determined either
as temporary residents or with a fixed day laborer status. Sanctions are
provided for those persons who use Haitians as workers in any capacity
and fail to report this to the authorities.
2. The Secretary of Labor shall install special delegations in all
sugar ingenios to implement worker contracts in both Spanish and
Crdole. The contracts shall specify the amount and method of payment,
the work schedule, the days of rest, social security benefits, the
maximum work week, age regulations, benefits and incentives, and all
the protections of Dominican law and international conventions
subscribed to by the Dominican Republic as well as the conditions under
which the jobs will be performed. According to the Decree, workers may
rescind their contracts and return to their country of origin, or with
permission, transfer to another workplace. Government employees are
to insure respect for human rights and full compliance with these terms.
3. The Secretary of Labor must regularly inform the President and
the ILO of the fulfillment of the requirements of the Decree.
'"5Article 3 is missing in the original; accordingly, the articles are numbered 1, 2,
4 and 5.
4. The government and particularly the CEA and private sugar
companies -- in accordance with their available resources -- must
"continue" to implement to the greatest extent possible, their programs
of health care, education, food, social security, electricity, potable water,
and shelter, to all workers, especially those in the sugar ingenios.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Decree is its existence.
The Decree implicitly admits widespread fundamental rights violations.
As one government official has stated, the Decree is an expression of the
government's good faith and a promise to correct errors of the past.'6
For example, in a front page story in El Siglo on November 29, 1990,
the CEA admitted that the Haitians who live in the state cane
communities live in inhuman conditions.'07 The CEA not only
promised to ameliorate the conditions in the cane communities, but also
its Director, Arturo Biaggi, expressed his interest in identifying the needs
of the inhabitants and his willingness to improve the conditions of the
workers in all of the state cane communities.'08 Biaggi declared that
the government will cooperate with national and international entities to
work with the CEA to improve conditions. He directed the Department
of Social Programs to establish a special committee to identify
While this new attitude and the public promises are welcome, the
real test is whether the Dominican government has taken concrete steps
to implement the Decree and thus end human rights violations. The
Lawyers Committee's December 1990 mission to the Dominican
Republic took place two months after the October Decree and
investigated steps taken to implement the decree -- including what
measures easily could have been taken immediately and what initial
steps, if any, had been adopted on issues requiring more long-term and
1""Decree proves good faith," supra note 89. Lawyers Committee interview with
Deputy Secretary Fabio Herrera Cabral, Santo Domingo, Dec. 11, 1990 [hereafter
Herrera Cabral Interview].
'1Cruz, "El CEA promote mejorar vida en bateyes" ("CEA promises to improve
life on the bateyes"), El Siglo, Nov. 29, 1990.
sustained efforts. The February and April 1991 missions, four and six
months after the Decree, had the same goals. After seven months, the
government has not implemented the Decree in any material way.
Trafficking in children and the persistence of forced child labor on the
plantations after the issuance of the Decree are the most egregious
examples of the government's failure to take meaningful steps to halt
human rights abuses. The following section analyzes what limited
measures have been adopted to date under the Decree, their
effectiveness, and the serious problems remaining.
B. Period Following the Decree
Article 1 of the Decree marks the first time that the government
has permitted Haitians to regularize their status in the Dominican
Republic. Although the Decree in general focuses on the plight of
sugarcane workers, the Decree requires all Haitians, whatever their
occupation, to register with the Department of Immigration.11
The Department of Immigration is confronted with a huge burden
because most estimates place the number of illegal Haitian residents at
over 1 million.'" Over the course of several days in December 1990,
the Lawyers Committee witnessed several hundred Haitians waiting to
register in Santo Domingo at El Huacal, where the Department is
"OStatistics concerning the Haitian population in the Dominican Republic are
notoriously unreliable. Some estimate that the Haitian-born sugarcane cutters
represent 5% (approximately 50,000) of the Haitian population in the Dominican
Republic (approximately 1 million) and 2% of the Haitian-born population are on the
"'The Director General of Immigration, Rafael Antonio Tejeda Baez announced
that "without hurry, but without pause we are working night and day since President
Balaguer assigned us the responsibility of fulfilling this decree." "Registration
Underway", supra note 98.
headquartered.12 The Dominican government has indicated that over
10,000 Haitians per month have been registered."3
Major General Rafael Tejeda Baez, Director of the Department
of Immigration, told the Lawyers Committee that as of early February,
50,000 Haitians had been registered."14 He stated that in the beginning
of the program Haitians formed long lines in the Immigration Office and
as many as 1000 people a day registered. But when the Lawyers
Committee visited the office on February 13, 1991, no Haitians were
present and one of the registration officers was asleep at his desk.
According to several people interviewed, many Haitians will not
come forward to register because either they cannot get to the capital
from a distant cane community"1 or because they fear that registration
will mark them for deportation. The Decree is not an amnesty program.
The government has made clear that it will not grant amnesty to all of
the illegal residents."6 The Decree treats residents of ten years the
same as it treats residents of ten days. Consequently, all Haitians who
register are in effect being given only a temporary work permit."7
Many Haitians worry that this status will allow the government to deport
"2On October 29, the Immigration Department placed a public notice advising all
administrators, proprietors, agencies, representatives of corporations, public, private
or personal business who use the services of or employ undocumented Haitians or
Haitian citizens whose residencies have expired, to present these people or their
representatives within ten days. The notice reminded these same entities that they
were subject to sanctions for failure to comply with this law. At least one agricultural
association asked the government to extend by three months the deadline to allow for
the difficulties in locating and transporting Haitians to the capital. See Zapete,
"Caficultores solitan extender plazo para presentar braceros" ("Coffee growers ask
for an extension to register Haitian day laborers"), El Siglo, Nov. 3, 1990.
"'Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 1.
"14Lawyers Committee interview with Director of Immigration Major General
Rafael Tejeda Biez, Santo Domingo, Feb. 13, 1991 [hereafter Tejeda Interview].
'""For Lack of Information", supra note 54.
"6Herrera Cabral Interview, supra note 106.
17Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 2.
them at will and thus registration presents a risk for Haitians who have
been residing in the Dominican Republic for generations."1
Despite the Director of Immigration's statement that he had
meetings with "all of the CEA's administrators of Bateyes .[and had]
given them the necessary tools [to register] Haitians," only a handful of
cane cutters interviewed by the Lawyers Committee had registered.
Several workers on Batey Alejandro Bass had received papers after a
visit by a team from the Immigration Department specifically to register
braceros; this was the only instance to our knowledge of the
government's sending representatives to the plantations. It seems that
the government either did not dedicate adequate resources to send teams
out to the countryside or did not deem it important. For example, at
Batey Duqueza and Batey Palamara, both within an easy morning's drive
from Santo Domingo, not one Haitian interviewed had been registered
nor had anyone from the CEA come to explain the contract."'
Additionally, persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican
Republic know that, although they are Dominican born and thus are
Dominican, they cannot register their children or obtain documents
proving their nationality because Dominican law requires parents to have
documents.'1 Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Fabio F. Herrera
Cabral has stated that the government will recognize the Dominican
citizenship of children born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian
parents, but warned that the government will examine each case and
recognize as Dominican only those who can demonstrate through
documents or other evidence that they were born in the country.121
Yet children of Haitian parents continue to have difficulty
obtaining birth certificates. This is directly tied to their parents' failure
to have the necessary papers. Under Dominican law, the parents must
"'Lawyers Committee interview, Batey # 5 Barahona, Dec. 4, 1990.
"gLawyers Committee interviews with residents of cane communities, Ingenio Rio
Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
"2Lawyers Committee interview with Father Edwin Paraison, Coordinator of
Pastoral Haitiana, Ingenio Consuelo, Dec. 2, 1990, and with Dr. Carmen Amelia
Cedefio-Caroit, Santo Domingo, Dec. 10, 1990.
2'"Decree proves good faith," supra note 89, quoting Herrera Cabral saying "it
will be an exhaustive process" and promising that all children born in Dominican
Republic, even if children of foreigners, will be considered Dominicans.
have a "cedulla" or identity card.1" Most Haitians, even those who
have resided for years in the Dominican Republic, do not have identity
papers. For example, Charilien Louis, a long-time resident of Batey
Duqueza, has not been able to obtain a birth certificate for his 15 month
old child who was born in this cane community because Mr. Louis has
no papers and no one has come to register Haitian workers."
Even those Haitians who have registered have not received
documentation allowing them to get birth certificates or other essential
papers for their children born in the Dominican Republic.4" The
failure of the registration drive to reach the vast majority of Haitians
promises to perpetuate their stateless person status.
Although the Dominican government has begun the laborious
process of attempting to register a huge number of undocumented
persons, because of perceptions easily correctable by the government, the
process suffers from confusion and fear. The Department of
Immigration is evidently overwhelmed by the task" and either does
not have the will or cannot dedicate the resources needed to accomplish
C. The Contract
Pursuant to Article 2 of the Decree, the Dominican government
has printed contracts, in both Spanish and Creole [see Appendix C], for
each cutter to sign. The contracts contain twenty-one provisions, of
which the following are most significant:
'"Law 659 of the Supplemental Law of the Civil Code of the Dominican
Republic, Lawyers Committee interview with international aid official, Santo
Domingo, Feb. 12, 1991 (name withheld on request).
'2Lawyers Committee interview with Charilien Louis, Batey Duqueza, Ingenio
Rio Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
'24Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
'"The Director of Immigration admitted that "our border with Haiti is
uncontrollable." Tejeda Interview, supra note 114. Lawyers Committee interview
with international aid official, Santo Domingo, Dec. 3, 1990 (name withheld on
A worker lends his services to where he is assigned and
will not leave his workplace without the permission of
the employing company. According to production
needs, the company can move the worker to another
The sum to be paid to the worker is left blank and is
based on a metric ton of cane cut or planted. The salary
is paid bi-monthly, directly to the worker, and is
independent of incentives or benefits. Salaries are based
on the accumulation of vouchers given to the worker
when the cut cane is weighed. The minimum
agricultural salary determined by Resolution No. 2/90 of
the National Committee on Salaries is set at $RD24.00
(U.S. $2.00 at current exchange rates) for an eight hour
day.12 The contract and the resolution read together
provide that the salary cannot be, in any case, lower
than the minimum established legal salary.
The employer is to provide round-trip transportation for
the worker in minibuses or buses from the worker's
place of origin to the workplace, at no cost to the
worker, and with meals or money for meals.
Each worker, at the time of contracting, must submit to
a complete medical exam, including a blood test, and the
employing company and worker promise to observe
industrial health and hygienic standards.
The employing company must offer the worker a room
with acceptable sanitary conditions and must provide for
the sale of food.
The worker enjoys protections established in Dominican
law against accidents and for workers' compensation.
126Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 8.
The worker will have a flexible work schedule,
conforming to labor needs, and in no case work longer
than an agricultural worker's day. The worker will
enjoy one day of rest per week mutually agreed on by
Workers with a grievance can complain to their
immediate supervisor or through a union or authorized
representative; if their grievance is not addressed by the
employing company, the worker can complain to the
Secretary of Labor, the Inspector of Labor or the Labor
Department's nearest local representative.
The worker can exercise his right to quit and to ask for
return transportation, without cost, to the place of origin,
or in accordance with other laws -- he may transfer to
The worker enjoys rights according to the law and
The worker can work with a child younger than 16 but
older than 14 with special written permission in which
case the minor has the same rights as the adult and must
sign his own contract. In no case may the work impede
the minor's obligatory schooling. The worker cannot
use or be accompanied by any worker aged 14 or under
to transport the cane.
The contract provides for the signing of two originals,
one in Spanish and one in Creole, and is to be signed
and dated by the worker, the company and a represent-
ative of the Secretary of Labor.
mSee also, Government Responses supra note 43, at Answers 10 and 11 (CEA
will pay for transport at the end of the harvest but if workers quit during the harvest
they have to pay for their own return transportation).
The contract on its face suffers from several flaws. First, the
contract by its own terms notably retains provisions identified and
condemned by human rights organizations -- such as the bi-monthly
voucher payment system, the requirement that the worker obtain
permission to leave, and the power of the employing company to
transfer workers randomly. Second, the Creole version is almost
incomprehensible because of misspellings and grammatical and usage
errors. Third, the contract is not written in easily comprehensible
language but rather makes cross references to codes and decrees -- not
widely available to the average cane cutter -- without describing in
layperson's terms the essence of those provisions. The government
could easily remedy these defects by printing a revised contract.
IV. THE VIOLATIONS CONTINUE
A. The Continuing Use of Buscones
The State Sugar Agency -- the Consejo Estatal del Azucar or
CEA -- has admitted that much of its equipment is in disrepair and
that it suffers from an antiquated processing system and total lack of
resources to modernize its equipment.128 Moreover, the CEA has
been accused of gross inefficiency and an inability to detect theft and
corruption among its own employees, especially the cane weighers
(pesadores) who skim profits.12 The CEA allegedly has lost over
800 million pesos ($57 million at current exchange rate) in the last
four years and has been forced to close three of the twelve state-
These difficulties have been compounded by a severe labor
shortage. For example, some ingenios had to shut down because of a
shortfall of cut cane resulting from too few cane cutters.'3 The
CEA has only 50% of the number of braceros they had hoped for to
harvest this year's cane.132 For example, the harvest in Boca Chica
'"Maria Cruz, "Incrementarian Zafra Azucarera" ("Increase sugar harvest"), El
Siglo, Oct. 8, 1990; "Latorre: industrial azucarera debe orientarse a mercado interno"
(Sugar Market Should Focus on the Internal Market) El Siglo, Aug. 22, 1990,
(explaining internal industry changes, attempts to diversify and modernize).
'"See Gil, "Evangelista cita programs para mejorar vida braceros" ("Pastor
Suggests Programs to Improve the Life of the Braceros"), Hoy, Oct. 9, 1990;
Mendez, "Pide enfrentar escasez azucar" ("Demands to Confront Sugar Shortage"),
Hay, Sept. 4, 1990.
"'3Cesar Hoepelman, "La amarga realidad del azucar" ("Sugar's bitter reality"),
Hoy, Sept, 1, 1990; "Economic Policies, Performance Reviewed", Listin Diario, Oct.
9, 1990 at D10, as reported in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report
(Latin America), Dec. 10, 1990, at 8 (reporting State Sugar Board Deficit at approxi-
mately RD$400 million).
"'1Maria Cruz, "Expectativas political en Haiti repercuten en el reclutamiento
braceros para la zafra de RD" (Political Expectations in Haiti Influence Zafra's
Braceros Recruitment"), El Siglo, Dec. 28, 1990.
"3Reyes, "Vea dificultad para CEA lograr metas zafra" ("Difficulties foreseen for
the CEA to have a successful harvest"), Ultina Hora, Jan. 15, 1991.
is going badly; after the first 20 days of the season, only half of the
normal sugar cane output had been milled. The director of the Work-
ers Union of Ingenio Boca Chica, Manuel Lugo, stated that the major
cause of this shortfall was the shortage of Haitian braceros.33 It has
been harder the last few years to find cutters because "the pay is bad,
they live like animals, no light, no water, no medical care," said
Victor Flores, an officer in the National Federation of Dominican
Sugar Workers.34 All the ingenios face a severe shortage. "The
CEA theoretically pays 18 pesos [per metric ton cut], the higher rate,
but in reality it is much lower when compared to the salary and
services provided by the private plantations," said an official with the
CEA. Private plantations have incentives, pay more and living condi-
tions are better."3 This labor shortage has put increasing pressure on
the CEA to find workers, including children, to cut cane.
The process of "contracting" begins with recruiting. For
years now the CEA has had to hire buscones to recruit in Haiti and
has paid these buscones a price per head for each recruit, each cane
cutter delivered. The CEA asserts that it has abolished this system --
recruitment by force and deceit -- which has been repeatedly criticized
and cited for abuses. On November 7, 1990, the Secretary of Labor
issued Resolution 23-90 prohibiting the CEA and privately-owned
ingenious from "contracting Haitian braceros for the cutting of sugar
cane through the use of intermediaries."36 On November 28, 1990
the press reported that the CEA publicly announced its intention to
comply with this resolution by using posters and announcements in
Haiti instead of hiring buscones to recruit cane cutters.37 The
Rebuttal Brief submitted by the Dominican Government to the United
"4Rodriguez, Dicen arranca mal zafra ingenio Boca Chica" ("A Bad Start to
the Sugar Harvest in Boca Chica"), El Nacional, Jan. 25, 1991.
36Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 46.
'"Maria Cruz, "Varian estrategia reclutar braceros" ("Revised Strategy to
Recruit Braceros"), El Siglo, Nov. 28, 1990 (reporting that CEA is making effort to
humanize cane communities).
States GSP Subcommittee after congressional hearings stated that the
allegations contained in the Americas Watch petition concerning
buscones "do not meet generally accepted rules of evidence [and]
evenn if true, in no way represent the government policy or
Foreign Secretary Joaquin Ricardo asserted in late April that
"at this time no one is recruiting anyone in Haiti and the only people
recruited are already in the Dominican Republic and these people
voluntarily come to the cane cutting centers."'3 Former Secretary
of Labor Washington de Pefia flatly denied that there were any
buscones" and Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Relations
Fabio Herrera Cabral stated that "[t]he CEA does not have buscones
or other intermediaries engaged in recruiting foreign agricultural
workers.""41 De Pefia stated that "Haitian military men are the
buscones but in [the Dominican Republic] .[it] is against the
Despite these denials by government officials, experts inter-
viewed by the Lawyers Committee in February 1991 again confirmed
that buscones continue to operate and are paid by the CEA. During a
December 4, 1990 trip to Jimanf, for example, a retired busc6n told
the Lawyers Committee that the chief busc6n of the Jimanf area, a
former army officer under Trujillo named Zacharias, had already sent
20 buscones to Haiti to recruit cane cutters for the 1991 harvest.142
Moreover, the Lawyers Committee interviewed children who
described how buscones had tricked them into coming to the
Dominican Republic on dates well after the Secretary of Labor's
November 1990 Resolution. An international aid expert confirmed
"Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 47.
"3Zapete, "Ricardo inform residian en el pais braceros contratados present
zafra") ("Ricardo states that braceros in the current cane harvest already resided in
the country"), El Siglo, Apr. 19, 1991 [hereafter Ricardo declares].
'"de Pefia Interview, supra note 71.
'41Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 1.
142Lawyers Committee interview with retired buscdn, Jimani, Dec. 4, 1990 (name
withheld on request).
that buscones were operating in the beginning of the harvest in
December 1990.143 Reports of buscones operations have continued
throughout the present harvest. One reporter from a Dominican radio
station said that he was in the CEA director's office for Ingenio
Consuelo when a man came in and told the director that he had "27
sacks for you," meaning that he had brought 27 Haitians to the
A February 15, 1991 article in Ultima Hora reported that four
Haitians, 18-23, were repatriated to Haiti: Daniel Felix, Jose
Charles, Rosny Palmon and Joseph Charles, arrived in the
Dominican Republic on January 8, 1991. They said they were
brought by buscones who were Dominican and Haitian who promised
them work in the construction and agricultural industries and that they
would be paid $120 a day. They said they paid their own way to the
border town of Pedernales (80 gourdes or $14 dollars each). They
were turned over at the border to "people charged with contracting
workers, put into a yellow public bus and taken to Batey La Jagua,
Ingenio Consuelo." They received a copy of the contract at the batey.
They said they had to cut cane and sell some of their belongings as
soon as they arrived in order to eat. 145
Francisco Santos, secretary general of the labor union Central
General de Trabajadores, stated that the buscones operate along the
frontier, especially at night. He added that many current and former
members of the Dominican military are involved, along with Haitian
counterparts who frequently bring fellow Haitians to the border to be
transferred to the Dominicans.4 Another source asserted that some
Dominican buscones were taking Creole language courses so that they
143Lawyers Committee interview with international aid official, Santo Domingo,
Feb. 12, 1991 (name withheld on request).
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey La Jagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Feb. 11,
1991 (name withheld on request).
'45Mora, "Devuelven 4 traidos engafrados desde Haiti" ("Four who were tricked
and brought from Haiti are being returned"), Ultima Hora, Feb. 15, 1991.
"Lawyers Committee interview, Francisco Santos, Port-au-Prince, Feb. 8, 1991.
could directly recruit Haitians to cut cane.147 Yet another noted that
sometimes Dominico-Haitians are used in the recruiting.
The price paid by the CEA for each Haitian delivered varies
according to the age, health and experience of the individual;
according to some experts, the current going rate is $11-$18 per
person, while others say it is more, depending on the location. 148
While visiting several ingenios, Lawyers Committee representatives
met two buscones, one of whom described in detail his method of
operation, how much he was paid, and his relationship with the
CEA.149 Excerpts from one interview follow:
Busc6n: When they go get the men at the border to give them
to general Yavalil or Zacharias. Zacharias pays them
$21 or $20. When they are at Pedernales they pay
them at $17 dollars. ...
When they get to Haiti some used to come before but
some people go get people that they know already.
They always tell them they are taking them to work in
the capital as a mason -- but some don't buy that.
Those who want to come to the sugar cane they know
already that they are coming to the sugarcane they
come but some used to tell them they are coming to do
other work when in fact they are coming to the sugar
cane. Once they deliver them they [the buscones]
don't care about them anymore. .. .We deliver them
to the borders.
Interviewer: To whom?
'47Lawyers Committee interview, Port-au-Prince, Feb. 8, 1991 (name withheld by
'4Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
149Lawyers Committee interviews, Feb. 11 and 22, 1991, Ingenio Consuelo (name
withheld on request).
Busc6n: To the General. This year a lot of people did not go.
Those who came with people are those who were
already in Haiti. While in Haiti they looked for
people and bring them but here a lot of people did not
In a subsequent interview later broadcast on Dominican television, this
But in Pedernales they pay 17 and in Jimanf they pay
21 and 20.
Now during this zafra?
Yes, yes, senior, now in this zafra.
Even after the October Decree of the president?
Yes, 17 in Pedernales and in Jimanf they pay 20 and
now they are paying 21.
The last time you were in Haiti it was in January?
Yes sir, In January I was in Haiti,
...so then in January you know that they brought
people. In January... you came with a group...
Yes, in January, I came with a group from Haiti.
But... what do the buscones tell them? What do they
say so that Haitian farm workers decide to come to the
Dominican Republic? Do they promise them good
salaries, good jobs..?
That is... but there are many Haitians that have lived
here.... some Haitians who have cut caria. But there
are others who have never been here... so then ... the
buscones give them salsa, double-talk, they tell them
that they will send them to the capital to make much
more money per day, but it is not true [he laughs], he
tells them this in order to deceive them and to bring
them to cut sugar cane. That is the way they do it.
The majority of braceros who have arrived here [for
example, we are at the Batey la Jagua] ... Was the
majority of braceros in the Batey la Jagua brought by
Yes, through buscones...
Is there any other way that the CEA is employing to
recruit people, to recruit workers? Does the CEA
recruit workers only through buscones?
Yes, only through buscones.
And the old men in the bateys.... Do they also cut
Yes... [they] cut sugar cane.
But the majority of the sugar cane cutters are the
Yes, the kongos.
In the Batey where you are now, how many Haitians
would you say are in the batey? Are there more
Haitians than Dominicans?
Yes, there are many more Haitians.
And the ones that were born here in Dominican
Republic soil.... Are there many Dominico-Haitians?
Yes, but a few only, the majority are from Haiti.
If we for example say that there are 100 persons, from
these 100 persons... How many are Haitians? 70,
Do armed military personnel intervene in this process?
Oh yes, in all trips a military man arrives with them.
In every trip there is an armed military man."
Other reports of Dominican soldiers guarding Haitians who
have been brought across the frontier by buscones have increased in
recent months. One eyewitness told the Lawyers Committee that he
saw a soldier guarding 12 Haitians at Jimanf in November 1990 and
noted that Haitians were usually kept at the army headquarters in
Jimanf awaiting transport to the cane communities.'51 When he
"O"Recepcion" (Dominican Television Broadcast, Channel 7, Mar. 10, 1991)
(Transcript on file at Lawyers Committee) [hereafter Dominican TV broadcast].
"'Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
asked the soldier if there was a problem, the soldier replied that the
people were waiting to return to Haiti. Yet when asked directly, the
Haitians responded that they were "going to pick coffee.""' Jos6
Francisco Pefia G6mez, the leader of a major Dominican opposition
party, said that he saw truckloads of Haitians in Dominican army
vehicles when he was driving back from the inauguration of President
Aristide in Port-au-Prince in early February.53
Irregular Process of Contracting
Article 2 of the Decree provides that the Secretary of Labor
"shall install delegations in all the sugar refineries with the aim to,
among other things, implement a labor contract ." Although then
Secretary of Labor Washington de Pefia told the Lawyers Committee
that contracts are signed in the ingenios154, and that contracts are
"never" signed at the border155 "because we cannot be accomplices
of the illegality of a Haitian who crosses the border," testimony from
dozens of cane cutters shows that most contracts are given to braceros
when they arrive at the border. Lawyers Committee representatives
did not meet a single bracero who had signed a contract in an ingenio.
In fact, only the Haitians who had been brought to the Dominican
Republic for the first time, the so-called "Kongos", had received
contracts; long-term residents of the ingenios did not have contracts.
On prior occasions the Secretary of Labor publicly asserted
that the contracting is to occur at the border at designated positions in
the presence of officers from the Department of Labor and the Office
of Immigration.56 The workers should receive color-coded cards
'"Paez, "Pefa Gdmez: Balaguer utiliza problema de los haitianos en forma
demagogia" ("Pefa G6mez: Balaquer uses Haitian problem as a form of demagogy"),
Hoy, Mar. 2, 1991.
'4de Pefia Interview, supra, note 71.
'" See, Lora, "Ayuda depend trato a haitianos" ("Aid depends on treatment of
Haitians"), El Nacional, Nov. 11, 1990.
with their employment number on it to indicate whether they are to go
to the state or private cane communities.'5 Although stacks of
contracts were available in the CEA's headquarters in Santo Domingo,
not one could be found at the major border town of Jimanf when a
Lawyers Committee representative visited there on December 4, 1990.
Moreover, not one representative of the Secretary of Labor was
present in the area where Haitians were told to sign or thumbprint
other documents and to get malaria cards. A CEA busc6n at the
border town stated that the contracting process occurred at the
individual cane communities, not at the border, despite the Secretary
of Labor's public statements to the contrary.'58
The contracts are "signed" or thumbprinted by the cane cutter
at the border. Some stated, however, that the CEA agent used his
own thumbprint and in other cases, the Lawyers Committee reviewed
contracts that had been signed by the CEA and neither signed nor
thumbprinted by anyone else.'59 A busc6n confirmed this practice
in a televised interview:
Do they give a work contract to the workers from
Haiti at the border so that they can sign them?
Well, I saw, I signed a paper ... [they say is a work
But did the braceros sign them?
Was it read to them?
No... there are some who can read,
and they read them.
But don't they make them sign it?
No. They do not sign it. They give Haitians signed
And there is some.... Already signed? ...What does
that mean? That the contracts are already signed?
'sLawyers Committee interview, Jimanf, Dec. 4, 1990 (name withheld on
"'Lawyers Committee interviews, Batey La Jagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Feb. 11,
1991 (names withheld on request).
Busc6n: Yes, with fingerprints, but not the workers, those are
not their fingerprints... The papers that are given to
them are all "fingerprinted."'"
No bracero interviewed could explain the contract or its
provisions. Even those who could read Creole could not understand
the convoluted and obtuse translation. Some even had contracts in
Spanish which they neither spoke nor understood. The Decree
requires an official from the Secretary of Labor's Office to insure
compliance with the contract, and former Secretary of Labor de Peiia
insisted that 39 inspectors had been trained and assigned to ingenios
around the country to make sure "human rights are being observed...
[to] verify that the load of sugar cane is weighed honestly... [and to]
keep an eye on the hygiene conditions.'61 Additionally, de Pefia
stated that they "read the contract to each Haitian and to each
Dominican who cuts sugar cane..."'62 Yet not one of the hundred
or so braceros in more than a dozen cane communities interviewed by
the Lawyers Committee had ever seen such an official and no one had
explained the contents of the contract let alone was present to monitor
its implementation. Inspectors have failed to visit even the most
accessible communities and have not given contracts to the long-term
residents of the communities. According to one human rights
monitor, braceros in the Barahona region are neither receiving
contracts nor being documented.3" Their status is still as
undocumented alien migrant workers and the Decree is a dead letter in
this important cane cutting area. One Haitian stated that he had been
told at the frontier that the contract was "so that you can work," and
"WDominican TV Broadcast, supra note 150.
'6'de Pefia, supra note 71.
162See also, Government Responses, supra note 43, at Answer 1, stating that the
Secretary of Labor has developed a special body of inspectors to oversee the cane
communities and to enforce the Decree.
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
nothing more.64 The entire process lacks any established
mechanism to guarantee that all braceros receive and understand the
terms of the contract.
On November 28, 1990, a major Dominican daily, Ultima
Hora, described the contracting process at the border town of Jimanf.
This eyewitness account confirms that buscones continue to recruit
cane cutters, that former military officials are involved in the
recruitment and contracting, that Haitians are kept under armed guard
at these border camps and are then dispatched to various plantations
according to CEA orders.'1
Ram6n Martfnez Portorreal, a lawyer and president of the
Dominican Commission for Human Rights, found a similar camp near
the Haitian border. Accompanied by journalists from National Public
Radio, Mr. Portorreal stated: "We disguised ourselves as tourists and
entered a recruitment camp for illegal Haitians in a farm owned by the
Perez Dfaz family."'66
B. Use of Force
Most experts on the braceros agree that the overt use of force
has declined compared to past years. The incidence of redadas or
forced round-ups of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians has fallen, but
force and intimidation continue to dominate life in the cane
communities. The new Secretary of Labor, Dr. Rafael Alburquerque,
as recently as February 8, 1991, publicly admitted that "there was
forced treatment" of Haitian cane cutters.167
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey La Jagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Feb. 11,
1991 (name withheld on request).
'"Pina, "CEA recluta haitianos en monies frontera" ("CEA recruits Haitians in
border hills"), Ultima Hora, Nov. 28, 1990. Relevant portions of this article are
translated in Appendix D.
'"Cepeda, "Un historic de maltratos" ("A History of Mistreatment"), Listin USA,
Apr. 3, 1991, at 18.
'67Alvarez, "Alburquerque no ve trato esclavitsta haitianos en RD"
("Alburquerque does not see treatment of Haitians as slavery in the D.R."), La
Noticia, Feb. 8, 1991.
The Lawyers Committee is aware of one confirmed forced
round-up since the issuance of the Decree and others have been
described in the Dominican press.168 Between January 27-31, 1991,
approximately 100 Haitians in Miches, a rural area in Sabana Grande
de Boya northeast of Santo Domingo, were surrounded by soldiers and
arrested. Since they had no papers or documentation, the soldiers
took them from homes where many were involved in small-scale
agricultural activities. None lived in a cane community or worked in
the sugar industry in any capacity. The Haitians were then forced to
move to cane communities where they must cut cane to survive. The
Lawyers Committee interviewed Julio Julien, one of the victims of this
redada in Batey Palamara, approximately 60 miles from Miches. He
is a Haitian who lived in Miches and worked a small agricultural
garden. He said he was taken by soldiers and forced to move to
Batey Palamara where he is forced to cut cane.'1 He is about 40
years old and wants to return to his home but is not allowed to leave
Dominican soldiers set up road-blocks on country roads and
frequently stop buses to look for Haitians. For example, Pastoral
Haitiana asked that guards at the bridges of Monte Caca and Cruce de
Guanuma be removed because they prevent the free movement of
Haitians; there are armed soldiers who do the same."' If someone
does not have papers and "looks" Haitian, he or she is forced to
68For example, Hoy reported that a correspondent from Radio ABC in Hato
Mayor witnessed soldiers taking Haitians away. Two buses of Haitians on their way
to a religious festival were stopped in Santo Domingo when they passed the Ministry
of the Armed Forces and were detained and all of their possessions were taken.
Placencia, "Denuncian redadas contra los haitianos" ("Forced round-ups of Haitians
denounced"), Hoy, Jan. 23, 1991.
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
'17Lawyers Committee interview with Julio Julien, Batey Palamara, Ingenio Rio
Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
'71Cordero, "La Pastoral Haitiana express su optimismo sobre possible solucidn
problema inmigrantes" ("Pastoral Haitiana expresses optimism on possible solution to
the immigrant problem"), El Siglo, Mar. 2, 1991.
return to the cane community.'" One international aid official
stated that the army post at Batey Palamara monitors traffic on the
road to the cane community and prevents Haitians from leaving."7
Soldiers reportedly patrol the cane communities in some areas. One
eyewitness saw armed soldiers in a plantation in Ingenio Consuelo,
who made sure all the men and young boys were out in the fields
working and that only women and infants stayed at home; the soldiers
also insured that no one left the fields.'74 Father Edwin Paraison
confirmed this phenomenon in a nation-wide television interview.
Father Paraison asserted that soldiers continue to patrol the cane
communities and prohibit cutters from leaving or moving freely.75
He added that the military patrols also use force to make the Haitians
In addition to the military, guards campestres or "field
guards" employed by the CEA restrict the movement of the cane
community residents and guard the fields, roads and strategic rural
locations like bridges and main intersections. While in the course of
visiting dozens of cane communities in December 1990 and February
1991, Lawyers Committee representatives saw numerous armed
guards, especially in Ingenio Consuelo. At the sugar mill in Ingenio
Consuelo, our representative saw eight armed men who were leaving
to begin their shifts at nearby cane communities. About 10 miles
away at the bridge near Batey La Jagua, a Lawyers Committee
representative saw a guard campestre armed with a rifle; his job is to
'"Lawyers Committee interview with international aid officials, Santo Domingo,
Feb. 11, 1991 (names withheld on request).
'"Lawyers Committee interview with international aid official, Santo Domingo,
Feb. 12, 1991 (name withheld on request).
74Lawyers Committee interview with John Popiel, volunteer with the group Equal
Wings, Ingenio Consuelo, Feb. 11, 1991 [hereafter Popiel Interview].
'"Father Edwin Paraison, guest on the morning talk show Desayuflo, Channel 7,
Feb. 11, 1991.
stop all Haitians from leaving the plantation and he sometimes stops
buses to look for braceros who might have escaped.17
This field guard was later interviewed at his post at the bridge
for a broadcast on Dominican Television; he candidly admitted that his
job was to keep Haitians from circulating freely. Excerpts from this
Tell me...Is this your work?
Yes, in here.
And what is your chief purpose in here?
Take care that los con gozo [the ones with joy a
slang term for Haitians] don't go beyond this point.
So that they don't go beyond this point...
When a vehicle arrives here at the bridge...Well... it
is true that [at times] it is packed with a lot of people,
and that if it transports los con gozo [Haitians] you
must stop it to get [them] down... en route. That is
why we are here. Two of us work in here.
Where do they stay? In here by the bridge or in the
shed that you have there?
Here, we stopped them here, and then we send them
to the campestre.
So then, when you "catch" some... then, one of you
goes to the campestre?
One [of us] stays here and the other goes to the
But I do not see your weapon now?
Well, the boss has the rifle because they are paying
They are paying today...
Yes, and they have the rifle... Yes, there is a rifle
here always, but now they are using it. When they
come back, they will leave it to me.
And why do you have to use the rifle?
Because they are too many... Yes, they are too
many.... If not.... [well] there is need to use the rifle,
'"Popiel Interview, supra note 174.
because if not... well [when they see it] they become
So... they are frightened...
Yes... they become frightened....they become
frightened ... and that is why we have it.
The braceros who come from out of the country, from
Why do you call them el con gozo ?
Well, because they do not know anything about ...the
Are there many el con gozo?
Yes, there are many....and then they are brought here
to cut sugar cane, but after they find room, they want
to leave and they cannot pass from here.
And when they want to leave..., Where do they want
To another place...but then in here he is caught [by
the men working in here] and then he is taken back
Why do they grab him?
Well, so that he does not leave, so that he continues
cutting sugar cane in here.....
For how long have you been working in this...
Soon it will a little over two years [working in here]
As watchman of this area...
During the Zafra.....
And if a con gozo intends to leave, what is done to
Stop him and send him to the campestre.
If they run, escaping.... What measures are taken?
He cannot pass from here. He must be caught. And
cannot hurt anyone... but he does not run...then we
a bullet and they get scared.
Up in the air?
Yes, up in the air, because we cannot aim at anyone...
And have you sometimes fired a bullet, so that they do
Yes, I have done it. But I have not hurt anyone.
Well, you know they get scared because they do not
know if the rifle has bullets or not, so they stop.
The ones you allow to pass, what do they need to
The ones that are going through.
If you get them down [the bus].... Who do you allow
to get through? What is required if he needs to go
He needs papers from his boss or if he is with the boss
in the bus and then the boss brings him back
Charilien Louis, who lives on Batey Duqueza, told the Lawyers
Committee that the guards campestres patrol the cane fields and
arrest anyone who tries to escape.17 The busc6n interviewed by the
Lawyers Committee confirmed this point:
But if the people want to go out to a
party in Consuelo for a drink they
Yes. Like that they can go but if they
are going to another Batey with their
clothes they don't let them go.
So when they see them with the suitcase ...
They stop them and don't let them go.
Nevertheless, the Dominican government continues to claim
that these guards are "a legitimate security force similar to those
employed in rural areas, banks and other entities in the U.S [to]
keep harm out."'1
'7Dominican TV Broadcast, supra note 150.
"Lawyers Committee interview with Charilien Louis, Batey Duqueza, Ingenio
Rio Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
"1Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 48.
An interview with a "mayordomo" or chief of a batey
provides additional direct evidence that braceros enjoy no freedom of
Mayordomo: Well, mainly, in the batey where I work, we have
watchman for day and a guard for the day also. If I
notice that if at least there is group of ten who know
each other, who are co-workers, I notice that one is a
leader because in the groups there is always "one who
believes he knows it all." Then I try .... I call him
and I tell him if you want to go to another place, go,
but you must leave me the other braceros to work
here. You know where they are, when the zafra is
over, you can come looking for them, you can get
together with them, but I don't let him take the others.
Interviewer: But at the bridge, for example, they stopped the
vehicles to check [them] and they have to have yours
or the superintendent's authorization to go through.
Mayordomo: If in case, I want him to indeed leave, so that he does
not have many problems, then I give him a paper so
that they let him pass. And he passes, once he is out
of the ingenio he has the green light and he can go
anywhere. But I do not permit him to take the others
because then, if they leave me with the batey empty....
How can I do anything.
Third Person: Do other places, especially the private batey, promise
anything to them something so that they leave the
Mayordomo: Well, imagine, as I have just told you, if there are ten
men and that leader wants to go to a private batey or
to a colonia, knowing that when he reaches where the
colonia is he will be motivated, he will try to take
with him the other nine men. And when he reaches
there he will tell you [if you are at the colonia] here I
have nine men. Well that man will be motivated.
Third Person: What is the incentive?
Mayordomo: Well, give him money.
Third Person: How much they give him?
Mayordomo: Well I do not know, but we do not permit that either.
They cannot just leave like that... because in reality
they are brought especially for the bateys of the CEA.
The colonies do not have contracts with them."18
More subtle methods of coercion are also used. A common
tactic is to take away clothes from Kongos and leave them with only
the clothes they are wearing.'8 This decreases the likelihood of
escape. At Ingenio Santa Fe, all clothes were reportedly taken away
from Kongos in late January 1991. 83 Sometimes all clothes are
taken away at night and returned the next morning when it is time to
work.'84 Other reports indicate that the braceros themselves are
locked up at night in certain plantations. One bracero recently
interviewed summarized the different levels of coercion exerted by the
We've been here for many years, when Balaguer had
an agreement with Duvalier to bring us over here.
They offered us food, a house and payment in dollars,
but we don't have anything, only a barracks to sleep in
and if we don't cut we don't eat. Here, we have
to work, and the new ones, they put them out in the
fields naked. so that they can't run away.'85
As recently as April 11, 1991, workers at La Romana showed
a Lawyers Committee representative an identity card issued by the
plantation stating that the holder should be returned to La Romana.
"'Dominican TV Broadcast, supra note 150.
'82Reyes, "Pastoral dice hay rasgos de esclavitud" ("Pastoral says there are
features of slavery"), Ultima Hora, Feb. 2, 1991.
"3Lawyers Committee interview with international aid officials, Santo Domingo,
Feb. 11, 1991.
'"Cepeda, "Un historic de maltratos" ("A History of Mistreatment"), Listin USA,
April 3-9, 1991, at 18.
The workers were instructed to leave all of their documents in a
central office in return for the card, which permits free movement
only to the extent the holder remains on La Romana property.
Force, coercion and the absence of identity papers combine to
prevent Haitians and Dominico-Haitians from being able to move
about freely. The Decree guarantees that the contract must provide
for the right to resign and the right to move to another place or return
to the "country of origin". Major General Tejeda asserted that all
braceros are free to leave even during the harvest.'86 Yet the
overwhelming evidence indicates that forced labor, armed surveillance
and prohibitions on freedom of movement continue to predominate.
C. Voucher Payment and Fraud in Weighing Cut Cane
In addition to the use of force, the Dominican Government has
failed to correct violations in the method of payment to ensure that
cane cutters receive the legal minimum wage. The latest resolution of
the Dominican government's National Wage Board (Resolution 2-90)
set the minimum wage for an eight hour work day for workers in
rural areas at RD$24.00; this resolution also guarantees this minimum
payment to workers paid by output, including cane cutters.'87 The
wage is set to be "rationally ensured" even for piecework laborers and
the wage is to increase or decrease in proportion to deviations from
the standard eight hour work day.'88 Violations of the 44-hour
maximum work week are punishable by law, but field hands are
excluded from Articles 137 and 138 of the Labor Code providing
sanctions against violators. If field workers work longer than the 44-
hour maximum, they must be paid overtime, and overtime is to be
calculated for anything over the minimum wage set for an eight hour
work day.'89 Despite these regulations no cane cutter interviewed
was making the minimum wage or being paid overtime for workdays
often double the standard eight-hour day. The best workers can at
"LTejeda Interview, supra note 114.
'"Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 55-56.
'tId. at 56.
'"91d. at 59.
most cut 1.5 tons a day and at 18 pesos a ton, 27 pesos a day just
surpasses the minimum wage if that full value is paid.'" Additional
violations described below, however, prevent even the experienced
cane cutter who cuts at a maximum pace from receiving this legally
mandated minimum amount.
The ILO and human rights groups have condemned payment
in vouchers. Dozens of cane cutters told the Lawyers Committee that
they are paid in tickets or "vales." The tickets cannot be cashed in
immediately and workers often must wait two weeks before redeeming
them. Kongos usually cannot wait and must eat in the meantime so
they go to the bodega popular which discounts the face value of the
ticket by 15-20%. A Lawyers Committee representative examined a
ticket issued by Ingenio Rio Haina to a cane cutter on Batey Palamara
dated February 2, 1991. The amount was 48 pesos ($4.00 U.S. at
current exchange rates) representing four days' work; 60 cents had
been deducted for social security which the cutters rarely receive.
Another voucher for transporting cane dated February 7, 1991 was for
11.25 pesos. The cutters stated that only the bodega popular would
accept these vouchers and it takes 20% off the face value.'91 A
copy of a voucher from Ingenio Consuelo is contained in Appendix E.
Despite the words "non-negotiable" stamped on its face, the voucher is
the only legal tender that most cutters ever see. Another voucher
examined by a Lawyers Committee representative in mid-April 1991
showed that the cutter had earned 115 pesos (U.S.$9) for two weeks'
work."9 "This form of payment is another vital piece in the system
of forced labor on the plantations, since the worker does not have
currency and is obliged to remain on the plantation if he wants to
obtain the minimum for his daily subsistence."'" Former Secretary
""Luis Vargas, "Braceros haitianos y sector informal"("Haitian Cane Cutters and
the Informal Sector"), Hoy, Feb. 19, 1991 [hereafter Haitian Cane Cutters and the
'91Lawyers Committee interview, Batey Palamara, Ingenio Rio Haina, Feb. 10,
1991 (name withheld on request).
'9Lawyers Committee interview, La Romana, April 11, 1991 (name withheld on
'""Haitian Cane Cutters and the Informal Sector" supra note 190.
of Labor Washington de Pefia admitted that the government still pays
in vouchers but insisted that the cutters prefer this because they then
can use the vouchers to buy food at prices subsidized at 60% of the
market price.4" This statement contradicts all eyewitness accounts
and even the government's own representations to the United States
Another persistent problem identified by the ILO is cheating
when the cut cane is weighed. Several workers said that they are
receiving the same amount of money for the same amount of cane cut
as last year despite a price increase from 12 pesos per ton to 18 pesos
per ton this year (to compete with the 100% inflation). As noted, a
good cutter can cut about 1.5 tons of cane a day, yet when he goes to
the pesador after a week of cutting he is told that he has only cut five
tons, as opposed to the ten tons he cut in the same time last year. 1
The Lawyers Committee heard similar stories on numerous
plantations. One labor expert asserted that the pesadores have orders
to "rob the weight" by systematically short-weighing each ton by one-
tenth.97 The cheating is accomplished simply: the pesadores
prohibit the cutters from entering the room where the cane is weighed.
They then come out and announce how much has been cut and there is
no further discussion. One cutter told how some try to watch when
they go in to get their voucher and can see that the scale does not
correspond to the amount noted on the voucher.'
'"de Pefia Interview, supra note 71.
'19See Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 68.
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo, Feb. 9, 1991 (name withheld
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Santo Domingo. Feb. 11, 1991 (name withheld
'"Lawyers Committee interview, Batey Alejandro Bass, Ingenio Porvenir, Feb.
11, 1991 (name withheld on request).
D. J Living and Working Conditions
Article V's weak wording, encouraging "the continuation of"
non-existent programs for health, safety, food, and living conditions,
"according to available resources" fails to inspire confidence that
improvements will be made by an industry without resources to meet
its own production demands. Indeed, on visits to over a dozen
communities, all inhabitants interviewed and eyewitness accounts
indicate that no noticeable improvements have been made, and there is
no evidence, contrary to the government's representation to the GSP
[The workers] get the bonus at the end of the season.
And they get living houses, medical assistance, and
food sold to them. The food is sold to them at
subsidized prices. They get free housing and free
The lack of Dominican resources' to resuscitate the sugar
industry portends little improvement in the canecutters' deplorable
living conditions even though the economic decline of the sugar
industry has been accompanied by a growing public awareness of
conditions and practices on the state-run plantations. But the dire
economic situation neither excuses the current conditions on the cane
plantations nor justifies the failure to remedy them. These conditions,
long the subject of both domestic and international criticism, have
'"GSP Hearings, supra note 61, at 680.
~The Dominican Republic is in an economic crisis, suffering from 100%
inflation, IMF-imposed austerity measures, 30% unemployment (not including 25%
under employment), and 25% of its population cannot purchase food with the daily
minimum necessary calories. See "Strike deaths follow price rises in Dominican
Republic", Caribbean Insight, Sept. 1990; Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81 at 3 (estimat-
ing the annual per capital income to have declined from a peak in 1982 of $1170 to
$680 in 1988 and the projected consumer price index increase at 45%). The United
States administration has asked for $35 million in aid for fiscal 1992 for the Domini-
can Republic. "Latinoamiricana y el Caribe recibidn ayuda de E.E. UU." ("Latin
America and the Caribbean will receive U.S. aid"), EFE, Feb. 27, 1991.
nevertheless elicited no adequate response from the Dominican gov-
Absent even preliminary reform, serious questions exist about
the government's will to enforce this provision of the Decree.2 A
few isolated reports of improvements have been announced in the
press2, such as a United Nations initiative to organize a program
with the CEA to implement projects to improve living conditions.
Foreign Secretary Ricardo, without providing any evidence, stated in
mid-April that it would be unjust not to recognize the serious mea-
sures taken by the government to change the conditions on the
bateyes.' Yet the government's role in any such improvements has
been non-existent. Andr6s Reyes, the director of Social Services of
Dominican Churches, declared two weeks after Mr. Ricardo's state-
ment that any improvements in living conditions on the bateyes are the
result of "private social institutions, not government measures.'"2
Even though the Dominican government has begun to
implement certain bureaucratic provisions of the Decree, progress has
been hampered by disorganization and, more importantly, by a lack of
will. A clear example of the government's failure to end violations --
20'For an in-depth description documenting the use of forced labor and the
deplorable living conditions prior to the Decree, and the Dominican government's
involvement in promoting and perpetuating these oppressive conditions, see "Harvest-
ing Oppression", supra note 87 and "Haitian Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican
Republic", supra note 15.
22See text accompanying notes 30-58 (describing conditions in which children and
other inhabitants live).
"2See e.g., Gil, "Mejoran vida en bateyes" ("They are improving life in the
bateyes") Hoy, Feb. 9, 1991 (describing efforts to bring potable water to some
communities and to build latrines);"ONU y CEA Coordinan Programa para mejoran
condiciones en bateyes" ("UN and CEA coordinating a program to improve conditions
in the bateyes"), El Siglo, Mar. 8, 1991 (indicating that health and social workers are
to be assigned to live in the bateyes under a UN program being organized with the
2"Ricardo declares", supra note 139.
205Paez, "Dice la mejoria en los bateyes es obra privada, no de Gobierno"
("Improvement in cane communities is the result of private efforts, not the
Government"), Hoy, Apr. 30, 1991.
which could be readily eradicated if sufficient will existed -- is the
continuing exploitation of child cane cutters detailed in this report.
V. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC'S OBLIGATIONS
UNDER INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC
The Dominican government's inadequate attempts to
implement the Decree mean that the continuing, numerous and
widespread worker rights violations cited repeatedly over the last
decade persist. Another harvest is about to be completed with no
material improvements in the daily struggle by cane cutters to enjoy
fundamental rights guaranteed under international and Dominican law.
A. Convention on the Rights of the Child
Over 105 states have signed the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of the Child, and 77, including the Dominican Republic,
have already ratified the Convention. The Convention, which came
into force on September 2, 1990, obligates states to protect a broad
array of rights.? The trafficking and forced labor of children in
the Dominican Republic violate the following articles of the
Article 2: requiring States Parties to protect against
discrimination on the basis of race, language,
national/ethnic origin, birth and status.
Article 3: requiring States Parties to protect the well-being of
Article 4: requiring States Parties to "undertake all appropriate
legislative, administrative, and other measures for the
implementation of the rights recognized in this
Article 7: requiring States Parties to register children after birth
and provide a right to acquire a nationality, "in
particular where the child would otherwise be
20See, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 44/25, adopted Nov. 20, 1989.
Article 8: requiring States Parties to preserve the identity and
nationality of the child.
Article 9: requiring the States Parties to insure that children are
not separated from their parents against their will.
Article 18: / requiring States Parties to insure the development of
facilities and services for the care of children.
Article 19: requiring States Parties to take measures to protect
children from neglect, maltreatment and exploitation.
Article 24:f requiring States Parties to strive to insure that no child
is deprived of health care services, including the
provision of medical assistance and the development of
measures to combat malnutrition, including the
provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean
Article 26: requiring States Parties to recognize the right of every
child to benefit from social security and to take the
necessary measures to achieve this right.
Article 27: requiring States Parties to assist in the case of need to
provide support programs, in particular with regard to
nutrition, clothing and housing.
Article 28:'1 requiring States Parties to make primary education
compulsory and available free to all and to develop
secondary education accessible to children and to take
measures to encourage regular attendance at schools.
Article 32.A requiring States Parties to recognize the rights of the
child "to be protected from economic exploitation and
from performing any work that is likely to be
hazardous or to interfere with the child's education or
to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental,
spiritual, moral or social development."
Article 35: requiring States Parties to take all appropriate national
and bilateral measures to prevent the abduction, sale of
or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.
The Lawyers Committee asks the Committee on the Rights of
the Child, established pursuant to Article 43, to monitor closely the
Dominican government's compliance with its obligations as a State
Party, and, under Article 44, to examine carefully the periodic reports
submitted by the Dominican government describing how it is meeting
its obligations under the Convention.
B. International Covenant on Economic, Social and
The Covenant was adopted and opened for signature on
December 16, 1966. The Dominican Republic ratified the Covenant
in 1978. The Dominican government's practices as described in this
report violate the following articles:
Article 6: providing that the States Parties recognize the right to
work which includes the right of everyone to the
opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely
chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to
safeguard this right, and the safeguarding of
fundamental political and economic freedoms of the
Article 7: providing that States Parties recognize the right of
everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable
conditions of work which ensure, in particular:
remuneration which provides all workers, as a
minimum, with fair wages and equal remuneration for
work of equal value without distinction of any kind, a
decent living for themselves and their families, safe
and healthy working conditions, and rest, leisure and
reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public
Article 10: requires the ratifying state to protect children and
young persons from economic and social exploitation.
"Their employment in work harmful to their morals or
health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their
normal development should be punishable by law.
States should also set age limits below which the paid
employment of child labor should be prohibited and
punishable by law."
The Lawyers Committee asks the (UN) Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights charged with overseeing
compliance with the Covenant to continue to monitor the Dominican
Republic's implementation and observance of the rights guaranteed in
this Covenant. The Dominican government has an affirmative duty to
insure the enjoyment of these rights and to amend any laws so that the
enjoyment of those rights is fully guaranteed. Therefore, the
Dominican government should enact legislation immediately to forbid
employing children under 18 to do the dangerous and unhealthy work
of cutting cane.
C. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Dominican Government ratified the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1978. The Dominican
government's practices as described in this report violate the following
Article 8: requiring States Parties to prohibit slavery, servitude,
and the slave trade in all their forms; no one shall be
required to perform forced or compulsory labor.
Article 12: guaranteeing everyone lawfully within a state the right
to "liberty of movement."
Article 24: requiring States Parties to recognize that: everyey
child shall have, without any discrimination as to race,
colour, sex, language, religion, national or social
origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of
protection as are required by his status as a minor, on
the part of his family, society and the State. Every
child shall be registered immediately after birth and
shall have a name. Every child has the right to
acquire a nationality."
Article 26: requiring States Parties to protect against
discrimination on any ground, such as national or
The Lawyers Committee asks the (UN) Human Rights
Committee to continue to monitor the Dominican government's record
in fulfilling its obligations to guarantee all the rights contained in the
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
D. ILO Conventions
The Dominican government has signed the following ILO
Conventions that apply to the question of forced child labor:
The Convention on the minimum age in agriculture,
1921, signed Feb. 4, 1933
The Convention for a fixed minimum wage, 1928,
signed Dec. 5, 1956
The Convention against forced labor, 1930, signed
Dec. 5, 1956
The Convention on the protection of wages, 1949,
signed June 19, 1973
The Convention on the abolition of forced labor, 1957,
signed June 23, 1958
The Dominican government's practices as described in this
report violate all of these Conventions. The ILO has repeatedly
condemned the Dominican government's treatment of the cane cutters
and continues to monitor the situation.
E. Lom6 Convention
The Preamble to the Lom6 IV Convention sets forth clear
human rights pledges that member states must uphold. Paragraph 1
speaks of a "faith in fundamental human rights, in all aspects of
human dignity." Paragraph 2 cites three major international
instruments that define and guarantee the protection of human rights:
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Article V of the Lom6 IV Convention provides for cooperation
among member nations towards the common goal of development.
Respect for human rights is recognized as a "basic factor of real
development" and cooperation is "conceived as a contribution to the
promotion of these rights." At issue are "all human rights"
indivisible and inter-related, each with its own claim to legitimacy. In
this Article the member states reiterate their support for "non-
discriminatory treatment, fundamental human rights, civil and political
rights; economic, social and cultural rights." Each individual
"whether in his own country or in a host country" (emphasis added),
has the right to "respect for his dignity and protection by the law."
Under Paragraph Two, parties to the Convention have a
responsibility to uphold the human rights principles of the Lom6
The Contracting Parties hereby reaffirm their existing
obligations and commitment in international law to
strive to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on
ethnic group origin, race, nationality, colour, sex,
language, religion or any other situation. This
commitment applies more particularly to any situation
in the ACP [Africa, Caribbean and Pacific] States or
in the Community that may adversely affect the pursuit
of the objectives of the Convention (emphasis
Paragraph Two provides specifically for non-discrimination toward
The Member States (and or, where appropriate, the
Community itself) and the ACP States will continue
to ensure, through legal or administrative measures
which they have or will have adopted, that migrant
workers, students and other foreign nationals legally
within their territory are not subject to discrimination
on the basis of racial, religious, cultural or social
differences, notably in respect of housing, education,
health care, other social services and employment
This commitment to uphold worker rights is further developed
in Annex VI to the Lome IV Convention. Entitled "Joint declaration
on workers who are nationals of one of the Contracting Parties and
are legally resident in a territory of a Member State of an ACP State,"
Annex VI provides that each member state shall treat foreign workers
as it would its own nationals. Paragraph 1 declares:
Each Member State shall accord to workers who are
nationals of an ACP State legally employed in its
territory treatment free from any discrimination based
on nationality, as regards working conditions and pay
in relation to its own nationals. Each ACP State shall
accord the same treatment to workers who are
nationals of the Member States legally employed on its
Under the explicit provisions of the Lom6 IV Convention, Haitian
migrant workers in the Dominican Republic should enjoy all human
rights and are to be accorded non-discriminatory treatment.
The preferential trade terms and access to development funds
are key benefits of the Lom6 IV Convention. The Dominican
government has already sought to take advantage of its membership.
For example, a three-day conference in July 1990 sponsored by the
EEC and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation included
Dominican government representatives and members of the Dominican
business community; they discussed how to promote trade and
financing opportunities offered under Lom6 IV.07 Speakers
emphasized the "ample and attractive business possibilities for all
productive sectors of the country such as virtually unlimited
access to preferential markets."" Given the lucrative potential, it is
not surprising that the Dominican Republic expended enormous effort
and energy to gain entry into Lome IV.2
Recent estimates indicate that Dominican exports under Lom6
IV to Europe will reach $200 million in 1990, helped by preferential
terms from the European Investment Bank and the European Fund for
Development.210 President Balaguer extolled the rewards of Lom6
IV when he urged the Dominican Senate to ratify the Convention.
2Listin Diario, July 11, 1990 at 1, 13.
208Id. at 13.
20EI Siglo, July 11, 1990.
210Listin Diario, July 10, 1990 at 1.
"All industrial products without exception will have free access to the
The Dominican Republic's enthusiasm on entering Lom6 IV
reflects the belief that the Convention offers enormous potential for
growth in trade and development. Until now, these benefits have
come at virtually no cost. Despite the Lomd IV Convention's specific
provisions calling for member states to observe human rights
guarantees, the Dominican Republic has already started to enjoy the
benefits of the Convention while continuing to violate the human
rights of the cane cutters.
F. Dominican Labor Law
The Dominican government's practices described in this report
violate many of the country's own laws. In addition to the violations
of the Decree discussed above, forced child labor violates both the
Dominican Labor Code and two specific provisions of the cane cutting
contract supposedly designed to protect against child labor.
The Codigo de Trabajo de la Reptiblica Dominicana ("the
Dominican Labor Code") begins with eight fundamental principles.
The Seventh of these principles states in its entirety that:
Women cannot dedicate themselves to jobs that are
inappropriate for their sex.
Neither may minors be employed in services that are
inappropriate for their state or condition.212
The Code contains specific regulations governing women in
the workforce and child labor. Chapter II, entitled "Work of
Minors", includes Articles 222-232, as amended by Law 5475, of
January 20, 1961. This law lowered the age from 18 to 16 wherever
a minimum age requirement of 18 is specified in the Code, except for
Article 229 which is supposed to protect children against unhealthy
21Listin Diario, July 18, 1990.
212Codigo de Trabajo de La Reptiblica Dominicana, Leyes que lo modifican y lo
completan, (Labor Code of the Dominican Republic, including laws that modify and
complete the Code) Santo Domingo (1990), at 8.
and dangerous employment. Children are guaranteed under Article
222 the same rights as adult laborers. Article 223 prohibits the
employment of any child under the age of 14. Article 224 protects
against nighttime employment. Article 225 prohibits the minor's
workday from exceeding eight hours. Article 226 requires medical
certification for certain employment. Article 229 provides that
minors under age 18 may not be employed in dangerous or unhealthy
jobs. The Secretary of Labor determines which jobs fall under this
provision. Finally, Article 232 states that all of the dispositions of
this Chapter do not apply to agricultural workers except for Article
229, regarding dangerous or unhealthy employment.213
Agricultural workers are provided for under Title V,
encompassing Articles 261 through 266. Article 265 states that the
dispositions of the labor code do not apply to agricultural companies
and Article 266 states that the executive power will determine which
provisions will apply to agricultural businesses.214 Thus, except for
the prohibition against hazardous or unsanitary work, the code
provides no protection to child cane cutters. Yet the government,
despite reams of well-documented evidence, has never declared cane
cutting to be hazardous or unhealthy work. This enormous loophole
in Dominican law concerning child agricultural workers violates its
international treaty obligations, especially Articles 4 and 32 of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Articles 7 and 10 of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and
Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Upon ratifying these treaties, the Dominican government has an
affirmative obligation to amend its laws wherever necessary to make
the laws conform to its treaty obligations. The government of the
Dominican Republic has failed to do so with regard to children under
18 forced to cut cane. In his award-winning book, Big Sugar, Alec
Wilkinson describes the dangers grown men who are experienced cane
cutters face in the sugar fields of south Florida:
In the fields they wear aluminum guards on their
hands, their shins, and their knees, as well as heavy
2'Id. at 57-59.
2141d. at 64-65.
boots on their feet; even so, more than one in every
three of them cuts himself or is cut by someone who
has lost control of his knife, or wrenches his back, or
suffers an attack of some kind in the heat, or steps in a
rabbit hole and turns an ankle, or is bitten by fire ants,
or pierces his eye or his eardrum with a sharp leaf of
cane while bending over and grabbing a stalk.215
Barefoot children in Dominican cane fields do not have the protection
or the experience or the strength of the men described by Wilkinson
and are even more susceptible to injury. Yet hazardous jobs
enumerated under regulations interpreting Article 229 do not include
cane cutting. In addition to the high incidence of injuries and disease,
common sense dictates that wielding a machete for 12 hours a day
under a boiling sun is not only dangerous but unhealthy for children.
Moreover, Deputy Secretary Herrera Cabral has admitted that cane
cutting should be considered dangerous and unhealthy, even though it
is not specifically listed as such in the relevant regulations:
without doubt, because of its nature and the use of a
machete in cutting cane, this work can cause cuts of
the worker. For this reason, in practice, the
government does not permit minors to cut cane.216
Unfortunately, Mr. Herrera Cabral is wrong about the
government not permitting minors to cut cane; the government, in
fact, recruits minors to cut cane. The widespread use of children 14
and under and the unauthorized use of children under 16 to cut cane
violates the contract. Because cane cutting is dangerous and
unhealthy, the employment of all children under 18 to cut cane should
be prohibited under Dominican law.
215Wilkinson, Big Sugar: Seasons in the Cane Fields of Florida, at 4 (Vintage
Books, New York: 1990).
216Goverment Response, supra note 43, at Answer 20.
VI. UNITED STATES TRADE LAWS
The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the Generalized
System of Preferences (GSP) trade development programs grant
nonreciprocal, duty-free treatment to eligible imports for all countries
designated by the president as beneficiary countries. Both the CBI
and GSP set forth eligibility conditions for beneficiary status. They
each reflect Congress' intent to encourage developing countries to
guarantee certain worker rights to their citizens. Dominican sugar
exports benefit from each program.
The Dominican Republic has been producing sugar for almost
five hundred years.217 It is the second largest sugar producer,
behind Cuba, in the Caribbean and is expected to produce 622,965
metric tons of sugar in 1990-1991.218 For the fiscal year ending in
September 1990, the Dominican Republic exported 460,997 metric
tons of cane to the United States.219 The Dominican Republic has
the largest United States sugar quota and accounts for 10% of all
sugar imported by the United States.2 The Dominican
government, owner of 9 of the 13 operating sugar mills, accounts for
217See Plant, R., Sugar and Modern Slavery, at 5 (1987) (describing history of
sugar crop and relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic); see also
Madruga, supra note 96, and BAez Evertsz, supra note 95.
218Wagner, "Dominican Republic, Balaguer's controversial austerity plan, nation
wreaked with havoc, foreign debt, inflation," International Business Chronicle, Sept.
3 Sept. 16, 1990, at 12.
2'9United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service Report,
"Status of 1989/90 U.S. Sugar Import Quota through August 19, 1990," Aug. 29,
1990 (on file at the Lawyers Committee).
old. According to the Director of the Dominican Sugar Institute, sugar exports
to the United States in 1990 earned $178 million for the Dominican Republic as
compared to $162 million in 1989. The current sugar quota for the Dominican
Republic is 358 million tons. It was 292 million tons until December 1990.
"Instituto dice industrial azucarera aporto U.S. $178 millions aflo pasado" (Institute
says sugar industry brought in U.S. $178 million last year), El Siglo, Feb. 19, 1991.
52.32% of total production and 59.72% of the production destined for
the United States.21
A. Caribbean Basin Initiative
The Caribbean Basin Initiative provides that the Secretary of
Labor, acting for the president, shall conduct a continuing review of
countries receiving CBI benefits.m The CBI's originally modest
labor rights provision directed the president to "take into account the
degree to which workers in such countries are afforded reasonable
workplace conditions and have the right to organize and bargain
collectively." Adherence to worker rights was a non-binding
criterion which could be the basis of a decision to terminate a
country's CBI beneficiary status. In 1990, however, Congress passed
the Customs and Trade Act which, among other things, significantly
strengthened the worker rights provision in CBI by adopting the
United States Trade Representative's determination under GSP to
apply to beneficiaries under CBI.2
B. Generalized System of Preferences
The GSP program administered by the USTR requires that all
beneficiary countries afford "internationally recognized worker
rights"224 to workers in their countries and prohibits the extension of
the trade preference to foreign countries that systematically deny these
"'Manuel Perez, "Proyecto mejorar ingenios azucareros" ("Project to Improve
Sugar Cane Plantations"), Listin Diario, Dec. 10, 1990, at 1. The Dominican
government expects to produce 325,965 metric tons in 1991.
mCaribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, Title II, Pub. L. No. 98-67, 97 Stat.
384 (codified at 19 U.S.C. 2701 et seq. (1984)).
2Custom and Trade Act of 1990, Pub.L. No. 101-382, 104 Stat. 629 (codified at
19 U.S.C. 2101 (1990)).
2These rights are defined in Appendix B of the 1990 Country Reports, supra
note 100, at 1693-94.
rights.2 The worker rights specified under GSP include: (i) a
prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor; (ii)
a minimum age for the employment of children; and (iii) acceptable
conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, work hours, and
occupational safety and health. These rights correspond to ILO
Conventions No. 5, Minimum Age (industry)/No. 10 Minimum Age
(agriculture); No. 26, Fixed Minimum Wage; No. 29, Against Forced
Labor; No. 95, Protection of Wages; and No. 105, Abolition of
Forced Labor. The Dominican Republic has ratified all these
Conventions. The State Department uses the following definitions:
Forced or compulsory labor is defined as work or
service exacted from any person under the menace of
penalty and for which the person has not volunteered.
Minimum age concerns the effective abolition of child
labor by raising the minimum age for employment to a
level consistent with the fullest physical and mental
development of young people. In addition, young
people should not be employed in hazardous conditions
or at night.
In November 1983, President Reagan designated the
Dominican Republic one of eleven countries meriting beneficiary
status under the Generalized System of Preferences. In the first GSP
review of the labor practices of the beneficiary countries, five
countries, including the Dominican Republic, failed to meet at least
one of the labor standards.2 The Dominican Republic agreed in its
application seeking beneficiary status that it would pursue several
improvements to correct the deficiencies noted in the general review.
In a letter to support its application, the Dominican government
"The Generalized System of Preferences Renewal Act of 1984 was enacted as
501 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984, Pub.L.No. 98-573, 898 stat. 2948, 3018
(codified at 19 U.S.C. 2461-2465 (1988)).
26See Perez-Lopez, "Conditioning Trade on Foreign Labor Law" 9
Comp.Lab.L.J. 253, 263 & n.36 (1988).
promised to improve the conditions of workers in the sugar cane
Americas Watch petitioned the USTR to deny the Dominican
Republic its beneficiary status and preferential treatment for its exports
to the United States under the GSP program, citing the country's
treatment of the cane cutters as a violation of the worker rights on
which beneficiary status is, in part, determined. The USTR accepted
the Americas Watch petition and after a review in 1989 determined
that the petition and the country's compliance with the GSP worker
rights provision required "further review." In both 1989 and 1990 the
Dominican Republic appeared before a trade subcommittee to answer
questions with respect to its practices. As part of the GSP
proceedings, the Lawyers Committee has submitted information
periodically to the USTR on conditions in the cane communities.
At stake for the Dominican Government was approximately
US$550 million in export revenues (based on 1989 figures) if it had
lost its GSP and CBI benefits.22 In 1990, Dominican exports under
GSP alone amounted to $222 million.2 With so much to lose, the
Dominican Secretary of Labor asserted that the Dominican delegation
to the GSP hearings had not only promised the USTR that it would
implement the Decree but that it also would make other improvements
on the state-owned ingenios.' In a decision issued in late April
mId. at 264 & n.39.
sRebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 71. See also, Maria Cruz, "Querella contra
RD por allegado maltrato haitianos" ("Dispute with DR for alleged mistreatment of
Haitians"), El Siglo, Feb. 5, 1991 (noting that U.S. Dep't of Commerce has stated
that if the Dominican Republic loses its GSP benefits, it will lose more than half of its
revenues from exports).
""U.S. turns down bid for D.R. Sanctions," AP, Apr. 27, 1991.
2"Secretary of Labor has documents," supra note 89; GSP Hearings, supra note
61, at 646 (statement of Mr. Robert Johnson, appearing on behalf of the Dominican
Republic) ("The government of the Dominican Republic has assigned the highest
priority to this matter and intends to cooperate as fully as possible in the
proceedings."); Rebuttal Brief, supra note 81, at 42, 60-69 (describing claimed
improvements, including 60% increase in minimum wage [inflation runs at 100%], a
program to install wells, the elimination of round-ups, payment of wages in cash, and
implementation of programs to sell basic products at low prices in cane communities).
1991, the USTR gave credence to these promises and decided to
continue GSP benefits, recommending that the Dominican Republic
"be found to be taking steps to afford internationally recognized
worker rights.""' Among the steps found most convincing were:
"the formation of a blue-ribbon commission to reform the labor code,"
the issuance of the Decree, the invitation of an ILO investigative team
and "President Balaguer's public announcement supporting worker
rights and labor code reform."232
The GSP decision is flawed on several grounds. First, the
Trade Policy Staff Committee (the "Committee") put too positive a
gloss on the January 1991 visit of an ILO mission. The government
had an obligation to allow the ILO mission to investigate and had
previously refused to allow the mission to come. The Committee
should not have viewed the Dominican government's fulfillment of the
barest minimum of its commitments under international law by
allowing the ILO visit "as a positive indication of the Government of
the Dominican Republic's intentions to improve its worker rights
The GSP decision further elevated form over substance in
interpreting the Decree as further evidence of government efforts to
end violations. The decision erroneously states that the Decree
"legalizes the immigration status of Haitian workers." The Decree
does no such thing, rather it establishes a mandate for a program
whereby Haitians must come forward to "regularize" their status.
What this means is not exactly clear. What the government has made
clear is that the program does not offer an amnesty, but at best some
form of temporary work status of indeterminate duration. A small
percentage of eligible Haitians have come forward to register out of a
combination of fear and inadequate efforts by the government. Those
who do not register, currently the vast majority of Haitians, remain
illegal, regardless of the Decree and therefore susceptible to "forced
recruitment and labor" and other legal and social "uncertainty" that
the Committee rightly identified with illegal status.
3'GSP Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee, 1990 GSP Annual
Reviews, Worker Rights Review Summary, Case 18-CP-90, Apr. 1991, at 14.
The Committee's finding that the Dominican Republic
responded to the USTR's interim determination of April 1990 that the
country establish protection through domestic legislation or a bilateral
agreement with Haiti, presents no occasion for compliments to the
Dominican Republic. The Dominican government has been criticized
for a decade for not enforcing laws already on the books and for not
admitting a problem exists. The enactment of the Decree and the
Resolution to ban buscones were, according to many, including some
in the Dominican government, a reaction to the threat of economic
losses from the loss of GSP beneficiary status. To date, these "new
laws" have not been materially translated into practice. Indeed, the
Lawyers Committee's missions confirm that implementation has been
The Committee also stated that procedural difficulties in
implementing the Decree were understandable, citing poor Cr6ole
translations and uneven distribution of the contract. This report
provides clear evidence of more serious problems that go beyond mere
procedure. Flaws in the substance of the contract itself, such as
continuing voucher payments, allowing workers to be transferred
against their will and ambiguities in the workers' ability to quit and
return home, call into question the Dominican government's
seriousness in seeking to end these abuses. The decision also does not
mention that these provisions of the contract contradict proposed labor
code reforms. Moreover, the Committee places undue faith in the
contract's ability to protect rights given the government's failure to
explain the contract and the massive fraud in "executing" these
contracts with illiterate and frightened workers.
Concerning recruitment by buscones and forced labor, the
Committee admitted it had received "contradictory" information.
Giving greater weight to the U.S. embassy's report that there had been
a "marked reduction" in complaints, the Committee concluded that the
situation deserved continued close monitoring. We have no way of
judging how the embassy found a decrease in complaints. Fewer
complaints, however, do not mean fewer violations. A resolution
outlawing buscones did not end the problem; buscones still flourish.
The Committee fails to make any substantive evaluation of whether the
use of buscones continues despite the resolution, when Americas
Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, Caribbean Rights
and the Lawyers Committee submitted information demonstrating that
the CEA continues to use deception and force to recruit cutters,
including children. The decision is curiously silent on the continued
presence of armed guards and Dominican military personnel on cane
communities and in strategic rural locations. Based on Lawyers
Committee interviews in dozens of bateyes in every major sugar-
growing region in the country, the presence of buscones and the
existence of forced labor continue at a level that undermine the
Dominican government's claims of seriously addressing the problems
and the Committee's conclusion that the government is "taking steps
to afford internationally recognized worker rights."
The great danger in the Committee's decision is that the
Dominican Republic may believe that it has now done enough; all
incentive to implement real change will disappear. A decree, a
flawed, ambiguous contract, some proposed reforms to the labor code
and allowing a long-overdue mission from the ILO to visit succeeded
in removing the biggest threat: the loss of substantial revenues. The
Committee willingly accepted cosmetic cures to proven long-term,
fundamental rights abuses. This is precisely what the international
community, the USTR and Congress cannot allow to happen. The
problems are so serious and so deeply rooted that it is far too
premature to halt intensive monitoring of illegal trafficking and forced
labor. The USTR should abide by its own words and continue to
monitor the situation.
1 4 4, N 1i~ W- .
: .- r
*- ..IF~ .4
'C *~i-; r.l~
i- t _,'- f
Haitian cane cutters cooking evening meal over open fire in front of concrete
barracks. Batey La Hagua, Ingenio Consuelo, Feb. 11, 1991.
.z r; r_:..
ld~) '. .I
i Oxen pulling a cart-load of cut cane. Batey Alejandro Bass,
^^-' *; 3% .
1.2., ,* .- ,--"A -.' ,. ,.. .. _. .-
4; t. to,
It.1 7. -JW.
Baty Alejandro Bass.- Ingeno Porenir, Feb. 11, 1991.
**. r -- ^ -Z e j .^&^ i.P CJ ... ._ F 'l- "- ,. _
' **. -
' .: --:.-_-- -
.," "* .' .- *. ";2, .6 "- -
-- j .. -, -. -
*J -' a ..
Two 14-year-old boys just in from the fields on a Sunday morning, machetes and
contract in hand. Each had been recruited by a busc6n in Haiti in early February
1991. Batey Palamarejo, Ingenio Rio Haina, Feb. 10, 1991.
.N __I. .
ip ,.' "'-o
1. Haitian and Dominico-Haitian children are being
forced to cut cane in state-owned sugar cane
plantations; trafficking in children from Haiti to the
Dominican Republic has occurred throughout the
current harvest. This trafficking and forced labor
violates international and Dominican law.
2. Despite announcements to the contrary and passage on
October 30, 1990 of Resolution 23/90 prohibiting the
use of intermediaries or recruiters to contract Haitians,
the state continues to hire recruiters (buscones) to
recruit Haitians in Haiti to cross the border to cut
sugar. Propaganda and deceit have become the state's
primary method of recruitment. Although reports
early in the 1990-91 harvest asserted that the price per
head was in the $10-11 range, recent reports indicate
it is as high as $21 per head because of the scarcity of
3. Haitian children under the age of 18 and frequently
under the age of 14 have been lured by the false
promises of state agents or their intermediaries who
then sell the children to the State Sugar Council.
Many children arrive at the border without their
parents (and often without their parents' knowledge)
and are detained by the Dominican military or CEA
employees and transported in state custody to cane
4. CEA employees accept the cane cut by these children
and give them receipts acknowledging the value of the
cane cut which theoretically can be cashed in for a bi-
monthly salary paid by the Dominican government
through the CEA. Additionally, contrary to law and
the government's form labor contract, the state permits
unsalaried children under the age of 14 to cut cane
5. The majority of children do not attend school and are
illiterate. Children brought from Haiti usually have no
documents and are not allowed to attend school.
Those children born in the Dominican Republic of
Haitian descent -- while they are entitled to Dominican
nationality according to Article 11 of the Dominican
Constitution -- frequently cannot obtain documents that
would allow them to attend school. They are in effect
"stateless persons." Even with proper documents,
schooling is severely limited. Because the majority of
cane communities do not have their own schools, most
children lack any meaningful access to schools.
6. Children are malnourished, do not eat a balanced diet
(and frequently eat nothing but rice), have little or no
access to medical care, live in unsanitary and
overcrowded houses or barrack rooms, have little
clothing and often lack shoes.
7. Children fear the authorities in the cane communities
and are obliged to begin to work at an age under 14 --
some as early as age 7 -- because of the economic
circumstances of their families, the need to buy food
to survive, and threats from those in charge. There is
a pervasive climate of fear of the mayordomo or chief
of the community. Every child interviewed thought
that cutting cane was a dangerous job.
8. Armed guards continue to patrol the cane
communities. These guards also monitor pedestrian
and vehicular traffic at key rural intersections and
bridges. They stop buses and question any "Haitian-
looking" person. If he or she does not have a permit
to leave the batey they are forced to return. The
Dominican armed forces participate in this surveillance
in certain areas of the country. One confirmed redada
or forced round-up of Haitians living in the Dominican
Republic has occurred during the current harvest.
\yy, ui; ***..-*-.- ---
9. The inadequacy of services to protect children in Haiti
makes Haitian children especially vulnerable to the
deceit of recruiters. This is reinforced by the general
indifference toward and acceptance of child labor in
Haiti, as demonstrated by the state permitted and
socially tolerated restavek system of domestic
indentured servitude and the willingness of some
parents to sell or "give away" their children (often for
money) into a life of servitude.
10. The lack of an international agreement between Haiti
and the Dominican Republic has created an ad hoc
system of recruitment leading to the growing use of
11. The Dominican government has not made a serious
effort to implement Decree 417-90.
12. The government has called for the registration of all
Haitians, making employers subject to sanctions for
failing to report unregistered Haitians. Approximately
50,000 of the estimated 1 million Haitians in the
Dominican Republic have reported to the Department
of Immigration to comply with the government's new
program to regularize the status of all undocumented
persons. While a small percentage of Haitians have
shown a willingness to comply with the Decree, the
government's program has failed to reach and register
the vast majority of undocumented Haitians.
13. The registration process is and will continue to be
undermined by a general fear among many
undocumented residents that registering marks them
for deportation. The government has stated that the
registration program is not a general amnesty, but the
program's purpose remains unclear. If registration
amounts only to granting temporary work status, then
until the government makes clear the terms of this
status -- for example, under what conditions it could