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THE PLIGHT OF THE HAITIAN SUGARCANE
CUTTERS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
NOV 2 1 1991
HEARING U. S. DEPOSITORY
SUBCOMMITTEES ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS, AND ON WESTERN
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
\, L. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SECOND CONGRESS
JUNE 11, 1991
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
t ac k s
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1991
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
DANTE B. FASCELL, Florida, Chairman
LEE H. HAMILTON, Indiana
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania
STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York
HOWARD WOLPE, Michigan
/SAM'-GEJDENSON, Ccanecticut ,-
MERVYN M DYMALLY, Califoriai-'
TOM LAfnOS, California
ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey
HOWARD L. BERMAN,,CElifornia
MEL LEVINE, Califorrnltt!
EDWARD F. FEIGHAN, Ohio
TED, WEISS New York -. ,
GARY L, 'AKERMAN, Newr York
JAIME B. FUSTER,..Puerto Rico
HARRY JOHNSTON, Florida
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts
AUSTIN J. MURPHY, Pennsylvania
PETER H. KOSTMAYER, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. FOGLIETTA, Pennsylvania
FRANK McCLOSKEY, Indiana
THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
BILL ORTON, Utah
WILLIAM S. BROOMFIELD, Michigan
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York
ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JIM LEACH, Iowa
TOBY ROTH, Wisconsin
OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
JAN MEYERS, Kansas
JOHN MILLER, Washington
BEN BLAZ, Guam
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
PORTER J. GOSS, Florida
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
JOHN J. BRADY, Jr., Chief of Staff
PATRICIA A. WEIR, Staff Assistant
SUZANNE HARTLEY, Staff Assistant
SUBCOMMITrrrEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania, Chairman
WAYNE OWENS, Utah DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
TED WEISS, New York CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
LEE H. HAMILTON, Indiana ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
MARK J. TAVLARIDES, Subcommittee Staff Director
MICHAEL ENNIS, Minority Staff Consultant
KERRY BOLOGNESE, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
LIsA HEYFs, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS
ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey, Chairman
JAIME B. FUSTER, Puerto Rico ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California
STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York PORTER J. GOSS, Florida
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
TED WEISS, New York DAN BURTON, Indiana
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York JAN MEYERS, Kansas
PETER H. KOSTMAYER, Pennsylvania
HARRY JOHNSTON, Florida
VICTOR C. JOHNSON, Subcommittee Staff Director
TABOR E. DUNMAN, Jr., Minority Staff Consultant
NANCY ARms, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
FRANCINE MARSHALL, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
RICHARD M. FROST, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
(9 9 -k
Joseph F. Becelia, Director, Office of Caribbean Affairs, Bureau of Inter-
Am erican Affairs, Departm ent of State ................................................................. 4
Father Edwin Paraison, coordinator of the Haitian Ministry, Episcopal
Church of the Dom inican Republic ........................................................................ 20
William O'Neill, deputy director, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.......... 34
Ms. Holly Burkhalter, Washington director, Human Rights Watch.................. 45
MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
State Department report entitled, "Worker's Rights-Cane Cutting in the
D om inican R epublic"................................................................................................ 15
Letter to Chairman Torricelli from Jose del Carmen Ariza, U.S. Ambassador
to the Dom inican Republic............................................................. ...................... 65
Statement of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees .................................. 71
THE PLIGHT OF THE HAITIAN SUGARCANE
CUTTERS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 1991
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AF-
FAIRS, SUBCOMMITTEES ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNA-
TIONAL ORGANIZATIONS, AND ON WESTERN HEMISPHERE
The subcommittees met at 1:05 p.m., in Rayburn House Office
Building, Hon. Robert G. Torricelli presiding.
Mr. TORRICELLI. The committee will come to order.
We meet today as two subcommittees, the Human Rights and
Western Hemisphere, to discuss the issue of slavery in our own
hemisphere. That is not a misstatement. It may not even be an ex-
aggeration. It is 1991, and yet, just a few hundreds miles from our
shores there are allegations that slavery is being practiced for all
practical purposes against the citizens of Haiti.
It exists in the form of jobless Haitians, many of them children,
who are lured to the Dominican Republic by unscrupulous recruit-
ers with false promises of lucrative jobs in the sugarcane fields.
When they cross the border, these unfortunates often find them-
selves transported at gunpoint to distant cane fields, held against
their will, and forced to work long hours under dangerous and
Their pay is only enough to buy a few staples at the company
store. Often their food is little more than the sugarcane that they
harvest. They are watched over by armed men. If they try to
escape, if they try to organize, even if they don't work hard
enough, they answer to the guard.
The situation I am describing takes place primarily on govern-
ment-owned plantations. Under our laws, to be eligible for trade
benefits under the GSP, or the CBI, a government must have taken
or be taking steps to afford workers in that country internationally
recognized worker rights.
"Internationally recognized worker rights" are defined in the
Trade Act of 1974 as including:
(1) the right of association;
(2) the right to organize and bargain collectively;
(3) a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory
(4) a minimum age for employment; and
(5) acceptable conditions of work with respect to wages, hours,
safety and health.
I believe in giving credit where it is due. The Government of the
Dominican Republic has taken some steps in the right direction. In
October of last year, President Balaguer issued a decree providing
for improved conditions for Haitian sugarcane harvesters. Howev-
er, it seems as if this decree does little more than repeat laws al-
ready on the books that have failed to be enforced.
The USTR considered that decree and a few other changes to be
significant enough to justify continuing GSP benefits, and remov-
ing the Government of the Dominican Republic from the GSP
The USTR based its decision in part on information provided by
the United States Embassy. Because the subcommittee has received
credible reports that the October decree is not being implemented,
we have asked that the same embassy information that was provid-
ed to the USTR be provided to the subcommittee in advance of this
The information has not been provided. It is absolutely unaccept-
able that the administration would refuse to provide information of
this nature, that provides the basis for a significant policy decision,
to the subcommittee of jurisdiction.
I do not want to make, so to speak, a federal case out of this. It is
important for us to speak with one voice on this issue. In that
spirit, my colleagues will recall, I accepted an amendment to the
full committee by my distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Lago-
marsino, that softened considerably the language our subcommittee
I said at the time that our compromise should not be construed
to mean that we are any less determined that violations of human
rights of Haitians in the Dominican Republic will cease.
Likewise, it does not mean that we are any less determined. The
right of this subcommittee to receive the information it requests
from the executive branch will be respected.
I regret to say that the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo
has not distinguished itself on this matter. Consistently, the Em-
bassy has devoted more effort to seeking to undercut the reports of
human rights monitoring than it has to seeking an end to this out-
I have tried very hard to take a constructive approach to the sit-
uation. I hope that our State Department witness will do no less. It
is not our purpose to attack the Government of the Dominican Re-
public needlessly. I do not want to bring undue criticism. But I
hope we will hear a clear condemnation of these unacceptable prac-
tices, a commitment to the proposition that the practices must end,
and a result.
I appreciate the agreement of my distinguished co-chairman, Mr.
Yatron, to join us in this hearing. At this point I would like to
yield to him for an opening statement.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I want to commend you for convening this ex-
tremely important hearing. Last year at this time I offered an
amendment to the trade bill deploring the abuse of Haitian sugar-
cane workers in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, it appears
that the Dominican authorities have ignored the pleas of Congress
and the human rights community.
The plight of these workers, especially the children, is a sad com-
mentary about mankind's inhumanity to man. Who would have
thought in 1991 that children would be enslaved so close to the
So again Mr. Chairman, I want to commend you for taking the
lead on this hearing. And I look forward to hearing from our wit-
nesses. Thank you.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. Lagomarsino.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, both chairmen.
Today's hearing is an appropriate follow-up to the full Foreign Af-
fairs Committee mark-up on the Foreign Aid Authorization Bill
which we will be considering on the Floor starting today.
As you noted, Mr. Chairman, the recommendations passed by the
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs contain very explic-
it and some would say overdetailed provisions on withholding aid
from the Dominican Republic until certain conditions were met in
approving the human rights protection of Haitian sugarcane cut-
ters working in the Dominican Republic.
The administration and many of us on the minority side were
quite concerned about the plight of the Haitian sugarcane workers,
but we felt that the subcommittee language represented an ex-
treme example of micro-management. Unfortunately, yet true, if
every case in the world of repression of minority rights were docu-
mented in legislation, we would have a foreign aid bill the size of
the Los Angeles phone book. It is already 600 pages long.
For that matter, when it comes to a discussion of repression of
minority rights, you need to look no further than this committee.
That is facetious, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. TORRICELLI. It was taken as such.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Although, at one point, perhaps not. But after
the good cooperation during the committee mark up, I think that it
is facetious at this point. Returning to the plight of the Haitian
sugarcane workers, I am pleased that the chairman of the subcom-
mittee, Mr. Torricelli, as he has said, accepted my amendment
which retained the withholding of aid to the Dominican Republic,
but significantly reduced the micro-management originally con-
tained in the bill.
The amendment preserves the expression of concern that we all
feel for the plight of the Haitian sugarcane workers without unnec-
essarily intruding on the Department of State's ability to imple-
ment our policy towards the Dominican Republic. So I look forward
to hearing from our witnesses today to learn what progress has
been made in improving the protection of human rights for the
Haitian sugarcane workers.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you very much, Mr. Lagomarsino.
At this point, if we could hear from our first panel, Joseph Bece-
lia, Director, Office of Caribbean Affairs, Bureau of Inter-Ameri-
can Affairs, Department of State; and William Heidt, Economic
Office, Office of Bilateral Trade Affairs, Department of State.
Sir, if you would like to proceed.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH F. BECELIA, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF CAR-
IBBEAN AFFAIRS, BUREAU OF INTER-AMERICAN AFFAIRS, DE-
PARTMENT OF STATE; ACCOMPANIED BY WILLIAM HEIDT,
ECONOMIC OFFICER, OFFICE OF BILATERAL TRADE AFFAIRS,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. BECELIA. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Are you each offering testimony?
Mr. BECELIA. I am offering an opening statement, if I may.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Please proceed, it will of course be entered in the
record in its entirety. So, feel free to summarize it or proceed
anyway that you think is advisable.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Mr. BECELIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to
appear here today to testify on U.S. relations with the Dominican
Republic. Our friendly bilateral relationship is based on common
democratic ideals. Elections have been held every four years in the
Dominican Republic since 1966, making it one of the older and
more established democracies in the hemisphere.
As you know Mr. Chairman, there have been complaints that
human rights, particularly rights of workers, have been abridged
in the Dominican Republic. Because of this administration's con-
cern for human rights around the world, the Department of State,
through our Embassy in Santo Domingo, has investigated worker
rights conditions in the Dominican Republic.
Human rights are generally well respected in the Dominican Re-
public. However, there have been failings in the area of worker
rights, as made clear in the annual Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices for 1990.
In 1989, Americas Watch and others filed a complaint with the
GSP Subcommittee, chaired by the Office of the United States
Trade Representative. The primary allegation was that Haitian
workers in the Dominican Republic were kept in conditions akin to
slavery on plantations of the State Sugar Corporation, a parastatal
WORKERS RIGHTS PROTECTIONS
As a result, the subcommittee conducted a careful two year
review of worker rights protections across the board in the Domini-
can Republic and noted areas of concern. But the subcommittee de-
termined that the Government of the Dominican Republic is taking
steps to improve protections of internationally recognized worker
These steps included:
Formation of a blue ribbon commission to reform the labor code;
The issuance of a presidential decree to regularize the status of
Haitian workers and establish government oversight of the work
place. The GSP subcommittee found that the government is
making progress in this area;
The public announcement by the Secretary of Labor that peti-
tions for recognition of unions in free trade zones would be proc-
essed. The Secretariat of Labor has processed and recognized new
unions in free trade zones;
The public announcement by the President in February that the
Government of the Dominican Republic would act to protect
worker rights. This was followed in March by the appointment of
Dr. Rafael Albuquerque, as new Secretary of Labor a lawyer who
has worked closely in the past with organized labor. The new Sec-
retary has announced his intention to press for adoption of the new
labor code, which he co-drafted, and for other reforms aimed at
strengthening worker rights protection.
The public announcement by the Secretary of Labor states that
the Dominican Government would act to ensure that children
under that age of 14 are not employed in the sugar cane fields,
even if accompanied by a parent. The Secretary also stated the in-
tention of the government to return unaccompanied children found
on sugar plantations to their parents.
Notwithstanding this progress, we are concerned about continu-
ing allegations that worker rights are not fully protected in the Do-
minican Republic. We will continue to monitor this situation and
to encourage the Dominican Government to carry out its expressed
commitment to improve protection for internationally recognized
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Becelia follows:]
46-336 0 91 2
Prepared Statement of Joseph Becelia
Office of Caribbean Affairs
Department of State
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs
Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives
June 11, 1991
It is a pleasure to appear here today to testify on U.S.
relations with the Dominican Republic. Our friendly bilateral
relationship is based on common democratic ideals. Elections
have been held every four years in the Dominican Republic since
1966, making it one of the older and more established
democracies in the hemisphere.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, there have been complaints that
human rights, particularly rights of workers, have been
abridged in the Dominican Republic. Because of this
Administration's concern for human rights around the world, the
Department of State, through our Embassy in Santo Domingo, has
investigated worker rights conditions in the Dominican
Republic. Human rights are generally well respected in the
Dominican Republic, however, there have been failings in the
area of worker rights, as made clear in the annual Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990.
In 1989, Americas Watch and others filed a complaint with
the GSP Subcommittee, chaired by the Office of the United
States Trade Representative, in which the primary allegation
was that Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic were kept
in conditions akin to slavery on plantations of the State Sugar
Corporation (CEA), a parastatal agency. As a result, the
Subcommittee conducted a careful two-year review of worker
rights protections across the board in the Dominican Republic
and noted areas of concern but determined that the Government
of the Dominican Republic is taking steps to improve
protections of internationally recognized worker rights. These
-- The formation of a blue-ribbon commission to reform the
labor code. The President has presented the proposed reforms
to labor and business groups for their review. Once these
groups complete their review and have the opportunity to
propose changes, it is our understanding that the President
will send the revised code to the Congress to be voted into law.
-- The issuance of a Presidential Decree to regularize the
status of Haitian workers and establish government oversight of
the workplace. The GSP Subcommittee found that the government
is making progress in this area. Thousands of Haitian workers
have been registered and provided with contracts. The
Secretariat of Labor has trained a new group of inspectors to
provide more extensive inspections of the workplace.
-- The public announcement by the Secretary of Labor that
petitions for recognition of unions in free trade zones would
be processed. The Secretariat of Labor has processed and
recognized new unions in free trade zones. In some cases,
nonetheless, organizing workers were subsequently laid off.
The workers argue that they were laid off because of their
organizing activities and have indicated that they will bring
the cases to court. None of the cases has as yet been decided
-- The public announcement by the President in February
that the Government of the Dominican Republic would act to
protect worker rights. This was followed in March by the
appointment as new Secretary of Labor of Dr. Rafael
Albuquerque, a lawyer who had worked closely in the past with
organized labor. The new Secretary has announced his intention
to press for adoption of the new labor code, which he
co-drafted, and for other reforms aimed at strengthening worker
-- The public announcement by the Secretary of Labor that
the Dominican Government would act to ensure that children
under the age of fourteen are not employed in the sugar cane
fields, even if accompanying a parent. The Secretary also
stated the intention of the Government to return unaccompanied
children found on sugar plantations to their parents.
Notwithstanding this progress, we are concerned about
continuing allegations that worker rights are not fully
protected in the Dominican Republic. We will continue to
monitor this situation and to encourage the Dominican
Government to carry out its expressed commitment to improved
protections for internationally recognized worker rights.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Do you have anything further?
Mr. BECELIA. That completes my opening comments.
SUBCOMMITTEE'S REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
Mr. TORRICELLI. Perhaps you could explain to the Members of the
subcommittee why it is our request for information has been with-
held. It has been the judgment of this subcommittee to do every-
thing possible to be cooperative with the administration because we
wanted the Dominican Government to know that there was simply
one policy in this government.
We have been as cooperative as we know how. Indeed, out of re-
spect for Mr. Lagomarsino, and confidence in his judgment, we of-
fered an amendment to change the subcommittee's draft, a draft
which I am confident could have passed in the committee. We did
not do so. That was not only out of respect for Mr. Lagomarsino, it
was also out of the hope that the administration would come for-
ward with us and work with us on this problem.
Where are the documents, the information, that led the USTR to
make its judgment?
Mr. BECELIA. Mr. Chairman, I have a copy of a letter, I don't
know if this letter has reached your attention yet. I believe it was
sent this morning by Assistant Secretary Janet Mullins. It is the
interim response to the committee's request for these documents. It
makes clear that the request for this information was not rejected,
rather that it is being reviewed in the context of a procedure that
mandatorily takes place in such instances. When this review is
complete, the committee will be informed.
Mr. TORRICELLI. When will this review be complete?
Mr. BECELIA. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to commit myself or
try to commit the department to a date on this. I simply do not
know. I can assure you it will be given every favorable and expedi-
Mr. TORRICELLI. Well, let's leave that part of the issue this way.
We will wait in June for the information. If we do not have it, we
will do another hearing in July. We will wait for it then. If we do
not have it, we will do another hearing in August. But if we must
continue to wait, there will be a need here for another plan.
QUESTION OF PROGRESS BY THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC GOVERNMENT
The State Department's 1990 human rights report describes the
Dominican announcement in October as, "essentially a reiteration
of Labor Code provisions, which in the past have rarely been en-
forced and practiced." Yet in your testimony, you were noting this
announcement in October as an indication of progress. Is some-
thing wrong with the Human Rights Report, or is your testimony
Mr. BECELIA. No, neither one is the case, Mr. Chairman. Al-
though President Balaguer's statement of last October is a reiter-
ation of previous stipulations in legislation, it represents a new po-
litical will and commitment on the part of his government to take
a new approach in this area. We are very hopeful, based on some
intense discussions with him that this approach will go forward.
Mr. TORRICELLI. So, you agree with the Human Rights Report,
that essentially nothing new is said or promised or committed. But
you are inferring that this time when those statements are made,
there is a greater will.
Mr. BECELIA. I think that a greater will on the part of the gov-
ernment and the President is now indicated, yes.
Mr. TORRICELLI. That in a sense is an accurate portrayal of the
Mr. BECELIA. I think that is an accurate portrayal.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Is it your judgment that Haitians are not at this
moment being forced to do labor against their will in the Domini-
Mr. BECELIA. No, I wouldn't want to draw that conclusion, Mr.
Chairman. I would not venture to make that opinion.
Mr. TORRICELLI. So is it your judgment that at this point children
of a minor age are not being forced to do labor in the Dominican
Mr. BECELIA. No, I would not subscribe to that hypothesis either.
I would not say that this is not taking place, if that answers your
Mr. TORRICELLI. Of course, you would agree that basic labor
rights are not being recognized, obviously.
Mr. BECELIA. I would agree that there are abridgements of inter-
nationally accepted labor rights.
Mr. TORRICELLI. So, to summarize, despite the fact that GSP and
CBI both require that there not be coerced labor, that there be a
respect for the right to organize, that there be a minimum wage
and a prohibition on child labor, we are allowing Dominican's to
participate in forced labor. Even though your own testimony ac-
knowledges all these things are going on, you are inferring that
there is a new will by the Dominican Republic to do something
about these acknowledged violations of the law.
Mr. BECELIA. I would like to make two comments, Mr. Chairman,
if I could.
First of all, I did put an emphasis on the fact that there seems to
be a new will in this area. But there is also what we feel to be
measurable progress taking place under the new decree issued by
the government. This decree calls for registration of workers, con-
tracts for workers and other improvements in their status.
Information provided to us from the Embassy is that some 50,000
to 60,000 Haitians have been registered under the provision of this
decree. In addition to a new will, there seems to be some measura-
ble progress taking place pursuant to the will of the government.
The other comment, Mr. Chairman, is that my understanding of
the law under which the GSP decision or recommendation was
made, and I am paraphrasing, is that GSP benefits shall not be
denied if a country has taken or is taking steps to accord interna-
tionally recognized worker rights. It would be the Department of
State's contention that the Government of the Dominican Republic,
for reasons that I have alluded to previously, is taking steps in this
CHALLENGE TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC GOVERNMENT
Mr. TORRICELLI. Indeed, we are not seeking perfection. We know
the terrible circumstances of the Dominican Republic and the prob-
lems the nation faces. We are simply dealing with the fact that
your own Human Rights Report is concluding that there is nothing
more than a reiteration. Your inferring of a new will does not
under any use of the language constitute steps being taken.
Steps being taken means progress, not a thought process, not a
change of sentiment. I am going to yield at this point to my col-
leagues. Let me simply conclude my own questioning by making
this as clear as I possibly can. This foreign authorization bill is
going to proceed. It will do so in the spirit of all of us working to-
gether and wanting the nation to be undivided on this issue.
But if a message is going to be sent to the Dominican Republic,
let it be this. I am not interested in good intentions, I am not im-
pressed by any additional promises. There is not a person in this
country who would want one dollar of our taxpayer's money to go
to any government that condones any of these activities at any
As long as I am chairman of this subcommittee and able to
muster a majority, it will never happen again, not a dollar. This
next year is either going to witness the most remarkable progress
in human relations in Dominican history, or it will mark the end
of American assistance to the country.
Mr. Yatron, if you do not mind, could I yield to Mr. Lagomar-
Mr. YATRON. Sure.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. Lagomarsino.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly want to join in the Chairman's request for the infor-
mation, and I understand the problems. It is a long going and
deeply held conviction obviously that some things are not shared.
But there better be a way found. I am particularly mindful of that
having introduced the amendment that at least softens the lan-
guage, if not the intent, of what we want to happen there.
As I understand the situation, and from your testimony, the Do-
minican Republic is talking about new laws.
Mr. BECELIA. That is correct.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. New code.
Mr. BECELIA. That is correct.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. But surely, many of the things that are now
occurring or alleged to be occurring, which most people seem to
agree are occurring, are in violation of present laws. Is .that not
Mr. BECELIA. Yes, I would say that is correct.
STEPS TO ENFORCE PRESENT LAWS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Have any steps at all been taken to enforce
present law, let alone what new law might be put on the books?
Mr. BECELIA. Congressman, maybe I could answer that question
at least partially to your satisfaction by saying that we would con-
sider the violations, the abridgments of labor practices and stand-
ards that we have all alluded to this afternoon, not to be the prod-
uct of any will or intent on the part of the government as a whole.
Consequently, there seems to be a new dynamic to this process
imparted by the President of the country. I should add this in-
cludes the appointment of about two months ago of a new Secre-
tary of Labor, who will now have jurisdiction over this whole area,
and who comes with a background in labor law and working with
unions. We feel that these do give a new and positive thrust to en-
forcement efforts that we hope will improve. There is room for im-
It is not just a question of rewriting laws that have been violated
in the past and hoping that they will not be violated in the future.
I think you have to put it together with these other subjective ele-
ments and also assume on the part of the Government of the Do-
minican Republic a certain element of good faith. I say that know-
ing that we have discussed with them at the highest levels our con-
cerns in this area, including with the President of the Republic.
The President and the Secretary of Labor and other relevant offi-
cials of that government are under no illusions as to the strength
of the feeling on the part of this government and this administra-
tion as to the concerns we are discussing. Again, at the risk of
sounding as though we are overly optimistic or naive, it is nonethe-
less our hope and our belief that these various factors will coalesce
in a direction that will bring us the progress that we all seek.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. What is the view of the Government of Haiti
about all of this, and have they done anything with regard to it?
ROLE OF THE HAITIAN GOVERNMENT
Mr. BECELIA. If I am not mistaken, the President of Haiti has ex-
pressed some concerns about reports that his countrymen are being
maintained in the conditions that have been referred to today. I
am not aware of what his government may have done vis-a-vis the
Government of the Dominican Republic, specifically in this area.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. Yatron.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before I ask a question, I would like to say that I want to associ-
ate myself with the remarks made by the Chairman regarding se-
curing information that we have requested in the past.
DOMINICAN STATE SUGAR COUNCIL
Does the Dominican State Sugar Council have its own army of
guards to prevent Haitians from escaping the plantations, and is
the Dominican State Sugar Council under government control?
Mr. BECELIA. The State Sugar Council, yes, is under government
control. As to guards, my understanding is that the use of armed
guards in the role that you described is not sanctioned by the cor-
poration or by the government.
Mr. YATRON. Why, if they are under government control, are
they still keeping those kids there?
Mr. BECELIA. Mr. Chairman, I cannot speak with great authority
to the precise situation in any one of these locations. I do not dis-
count the possibility that individual workers, or groups of Haitian
workers in these facilities, are working under conditions that in-
clude inhibitions on them from departing or changing employment,
or exercising other rights that you and I would agree are theirs.
Whether they are physically intimidated by the presence of
armed guards, I cannot say. But again, either as a product of their
own ignorance of their rights, coupled with perhaps the intimidat-
ing tactics of their supervisors, that might or might not include
actual threats, and the presence of armed personnel; these do con-
stitute constraints on their freedoms.
As a general proposition, that may well be a circumstance that
we are talking about here.
Mr. YATRON. But they do have armed guards there and they are
preventing these children from leaving. They are being intimidat-
Mr. BECELIA. Mr. Chairman, I would say that I can easily accept
the premise that there may be intimidation and constraints im-
posed upon these individuals. I cannot speak precisely to the pres-
ence of armed guards and what their precise role in this context
Mr. YATRON. The Dominican Republic is one of 77 countries
which have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Is it
not accurate to suggest that the Dominican Republic is in violation
of a series of articles contained in the Convention regarding the
plight of these Haitian children?
Mr. BECELIA. I think it is probably fair to say that there have
been violations of that provision within the Dominican Republic.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you very much, Mr. Yatron.
Mr. Johnston, do you have questions?
Mr. JOHNSTON. Yes. Let me review your statement sir. You state
that there are five steps being taken to improve the protection of
internationally recognized workers. The first one is a commission,
the second one is a decree, the third one is an announcement, the
fourth one is an announcement, and the fifth one is an announce-
ment. You end up by saying, "notwithstanding this progress, we
are concerned about continued allegations." Is that the extent of
the State Department's commitment to an allegation of slavery,
that you are concerned?
U.S. EMBASSY IN SANTO DOMINGO INVESTIGATING
Mr. BECELIA. No, sir, that is not correct. It is more than an ab-
stract expression of concern. We remain in constant discussion
with the Government of the Dominican Republic, as I referred to
before, at the highest levels of that government to make certain
that they are aware in concrete instances of our concern. We have
furthermore asked our Embassy in Santo Domingo to look into the
specific charges that were aired on the ABC program that most viv-
idly brought to the attention of people in this country the allega-
tions to which you refer.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Did you see the program?
Mr. BECELIA. Yes, I did.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Did you feel it was balanced and accurate?
Mr. BECELIA. I feel that I am not personally able to comment or
really judge the specific incidents depicted in that program. I
would prefer to reserve an open mind on the precise examples de-
scribed in that program. But we have asked our Embassy to look
into the specific charges that were raised in that program and to
report back to us with their assessment of them.
Mr. JOHNSTON. When will that report come back?
Mr. BECELIA. We have asked that they do it on an urgent basis.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Will you afford this committee a copy of that
Mr. BECELIA. Subject to the same considerations that we have
discussed regarding divulging information. Yes, sir, I will.
[A copy of the Report follows:]
WORKER RIGHTS -- CANE CUTTING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
This report contains the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo's
comments on the allegations of child slavery and other abuses
of Haitian Braceros made in the May 30 ABC "Primetime Live"
program. The Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR)
strenuously denies the allegations, and in response to the ABC
program and other international criticism, President Balaguer
has ordered the repatriation of all undocumented aliens working
in the sugar fields under age 16 and over age 60. Based upon
our continuing review of the Bracero issue, we believe that the
GODR does not have a policy of exploiting Haitian youths in
slave-like conditions. To the contrary, the GODR is taking
meaningful steps to curb abuses, although much remains to be
While the "Primetime Live" program accurately depicted some
of the negative realities of Bracero life, it failed to provide
sufficient economic, social and historical context for some of
its claims and contained some important inaccuracies. Bracero
wage scales vis-a-vis nationwide labor wage norms and the issue
of State sugar company (CEA) profit levels are two key
examples. Many Dominicans were highly critical of the ABC
program, and there are charges here that some of the scenes in
it were staged.
Similar charges have been made repeatedly by a variety of
human rights organizations in recent years in the context of
broader allegations of abuse of Haitian seasonal workers
(Braceros) in Dominican sugar cane fields. The GODR insists
that the allegations are false; it declares that it does not
condone abusive treatment and that no such slave-like
In response to the ABC program and the criticism, on June
13, President Balaguer ordered the repatriation of youths under
16 years of age and elderly persons over 60 who were working in
the cane fields. It is noteworthy that the local press has
reported that some of the youths being repatriated under this
decree claim that they were recruited under false pretenses
and/or compelled to work in the sugar fields against their
will. In essence, the accounts of these youths support the
allegations of slave-like conditions.
The Embassy has made a concerted effort in recent years to
ascertain and report on the situations of the Braceros. We
believe that the April report of the generalized system of
preferences subcommittee accurately reflects the present
situation. Put simply, the subcommittee concluded that some
serious problems existed but that the Dominican Government was
taking steps to correct these problems.
We do not believe that the GODR has a policy of exploiting
Haitian youths in slave-like conditions. Our own observations,
including numerous visits to sugar plantation communities
(Bateys), and countless private discussions with knowledgeable
sources indicated that the trend in the Dominican Republic is
clearly away from such practices. The government has taken
concrete steps, including President Balaguer's October 1990
decree, to protect the worker rights of Braceros. The
immigration service has been implementing the decree actively
and by mid-June claimed to have registered over 92,000
Haitians. The State sugar company (CEA--A Parastatal
Corporation)and private sugar firms have begun issuing
individual contracts to Haitian workers. The Labor Secretariat
has sent teams of inspectors to ensure that the provisions of
the decree are being carried out.
In taking such steps, the GODR has made significant
progress in eliminating conditions which permitted abuse of the
Braceros. This does not mean that all the problems have been
solved. Indeed, much is left to be done. In considering this
issue, however, it is important to recognize that eliminating
all problems entails reversing longstanding practices in many
areas; given the considerable administrative and bureaucratic
weaknesses of the Dominican government, this will take time
under the best of circumstances.
We cannot quantify the numbers of Haitian youths who might
have been falsely recruited and/or coerced into working in the
sugar fields. The ABC program indicated that there were
hundreds of such youths (out of tens of thousands of Haitians
involved in the sugar harvest). To date, a much smaller number
has been rounded up under the June 13 decree. We believe that
President Balaguer is quite serious about resolving this
problem and that the GODR now is making a determined effort to
locate and repatriate minors working on sugar plantations.
The President of the Dominican Republic and others in the
government recognize that this issue has been damaging to the
Dominican Republic's international image and they want to put
it to rest. We anticipate that regardless of the scope of the
problem in the past, the government is now doing its utmost to
curb the practice. It is possible, of course, that a small
number of youths might escape the government's observation and
be impressed despite these efforts, but any such cases will be
isolated and clearly in violation of GODR policy.
We regret that the ABC program did not demonstrate balance
and did not put existing problems into their historic and
social context. Moreover, the program interwove the "child
slavery" charge with other issues such as low pay and poor
living and working conditions for Braceros.
The program correctly depicted work in the cane fields as
hard and the pay as low. (It is precisely for these reasons
that Dominicans shun working there and that large numbers of
Haitians have been brought in to perform the harvest.) This
must be viewed in the context of the Dominican Republic's
overall economic situation and wage levels.
The legal minimum wage in the Dominican Republic for
agricultural workers is RD$24 (US$1.92) per 8 hours of work.
Cane workers (Dominican or Haitian) receive RD$16 (US$1.28) per
ton of sugar cane harvested, with up to an additional RD$4
(US$.32) per ton available as incentive pay. In certain areas
where the harvest is more mechanized and the work less
strenuous, workers earn RD$14.50 (US$1.16) per ton. An average
worker can cut two or more tons in a day, but many work only in
the early morning and late afternoon to escape the midday
heat. According to the Labor Secretariat, a typical sugar cane
worker earns between RD$38 (US$3.04) and RD$50 (US$4) per day.
This compares with the (just increased) public sector minimum
wage of RD$780 (US$62) per month and the private sector minimum
wage of RD$1120 (US$90) per month. Thus, the wage scale for
Braceros is not out of line with the Dominican Republic's
overall wage scale. (Practices such as underweighing a
worker's production and discounting pay vouchers at Batey
stores can result in somewhat lower effective earnings, of
Living conditions in the CEA sugar plantation communities
are generally poor, but they are comparable with those in many
other poor rural communities or urban slums. Indeed, there are
many shanty town "barrios" here in Santo Domingo with
conditions as squalid as those on any Batey--no electricity, no
running water, open sewage, etc. President Balaguer and other
officials have lamented the poor working conditions on the
Bateys, but they stress that both Dominicans and Haitians are
subject to them. It is also worth noting that Bateys often
provide their inhabitants with certain services such as medical
care and schooling, although this is not universal and the
quality of the services may be low.
The ABC program suggested that CEA was getting rich off
Bracero labor and asked why more of the wealth it earned could
not be shared with the workers. While CEA does produce a
product that earns foreign exchange for the country, it does
not turn a profit; to the contrary, it has been a major drain
on the Dominican treasury. In 1990, it sustained a loss of
RD$54.1 million (US$6.3 million at an average 1990 exchange
rate of RD$8.54 to US$1). Since it is already operating at a
loss, CEA lacks the resources to improve significantly the lot
of the Braceros, either in terms of higher pay or new capital
investment in housing or social services infrastructure in the
Bateys. CEA would have to turn to the central government for
additional funds, this at a time when the government is already
plagued with massive subsidies to the Parastatal enterprises
(and making commitments to the IMF to reduce them) and
government services across the board--health care, education,
The issue of the extent to which CEA (and thus the GODR)
profits from the US sugar quota is somewhat more complicated
than was presented on the "Primetime Live" segment; though the
country enjoys a relatively large sugar quota, the GODR is not
benefitting absolutely in terms of foreign exchange earnings.
By law CEA's allocation of the Dominican portion of the US
quota is limited to 59 percent. In actuality CEA has rarely
attained this export level.
The GODR earning potential has further been constrained by
continual adjustments in the US quota for all sugar imports.
Between the US sugar program years of 1982 and 1989 the world
quota level fell approximately two thirds; presently it stands
at 80 percent of the 1982 program level. The Dominican share
of the world allocation historically ranges around 17 percent,
the largest allocation for any program participant. The
negative trend in US quota levels has brought about a reduction
in earnings from sales to the United States which could have
been used by the GODR to improve compensation of workers and
working conditions on CEA operations. Dominicans point out
that shrinkage of the US market is a direct consequence of US
legislation that protects the high cost domestic sweeteners.
The reaction to the ABC program in the Dominican Republic
has been very critical. Television journalist Julio Hazim has
prepared a program rebutting the ABC allegations. Hazim
charges that much of the ABC show was staged, for example, and
he presents persons who claim that they were paid to act out
roles for the ABC cameras. Many Dominicans readily believe
this, and government officials are already echoing Hazim's
We are continuing our intensive efforts to monitor and
report on the situation of the Braceros. We hope to arrange a
meeting with Father Edwin Paraison, who appeared on the ABC
program and latter testified at the June 11 Congressional
hearing, as soon as he returns to the Dominican Republic.
In conclusion, we believe that the GODR has been taking
steps to curb abuse of Braceros and that it is now moving
forcefully to put an end to any practice of "child slavery."
The broader Bracero issue has complex social and economic
roots; the trend is clearly favorable, bat resolving the many
problems will be a long and difficult undertaking.
Mr. JOHNSTON. You say that you found measurable, and I use
your term measurable progress, in Santo Domingo. What do you
mean by that?
PROGRESS BY THE DOMINICAN GOVERNMENT
Mr. BECELIA. I would have to go back and refer to some of the
points that I made before. They would include the appointment of
a new labor secretary. The fact that some tens of thousands of Hai-
tian workers have been registered under the provision of the new
pronouncement issued by the President. The fact that the blue
ribbon commission that was appointed to review the labor code as a
whole has completed its work and come out with some very sweep-
ing proposed reforms. These are now under active consideration in
the country, in dialogue between the government, labor and busi-
ness circles, and will hopefully find their way into legislation.
These I would cite as examples of progress in that direction.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Let me quote from the State Department's
Human Rights Report of last year dealing with the President's Oc-
tober decree. It says it is "essentially a reiteration of the labor code
provisions which in the past have rarely been enforced." What evi-
dence do you have that they are being enforced now? That was one
of your five, a presidential decree.
Mr. BECELIA. Congressman, I cannot improve, I am afraid, on the
answer I gave the chairman to a similar question. That is based
upon the close discussions that we have had with government offi-
cials, including the President of the Republic, the promulgator of
this decree, that there is a commitment on his part and on the part
of his labor secretary, who holds a very key role in this obviously,
to ensure that this decree and that the new laws insofar as they'
are enacted will be enforced. This is a subjective and perhaps even
speculative judgment on our part. Nonetheless, we hope this is the
case and we will take every step to ensure that they know of our
interest in this.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Last question, what is the background of the new
labor secretary? You seem to put such great emphasis on the fact
that they have a new labor secretary. What is his background?
Mr. BECELIA. His immediate background is in labor law and
working with unions and organized labor elements. I would have to
provide you more detail if you want it, Congressman. I do not have
any further details on that.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you very much. I think we have had a
fair and frank exchange of views. I hope it is the last. This is
simply a confrontation that is unnecessary. There is no reason for
us to have differences of opinions on such a fundamental question.
I regret that the administration has handled this issue to date in
this manner. But it is certainly not too late to begin helping those
who want to put an end to this practice and doing so in the abso-
lute strongest language. There is nothing here that is worthy of
this administration or anyone in this country defending.
I hope when we meet again and discuss this again, as we most
assuredly will, that those facts have been given some serious con-
I thank you for coming forward today and for giving your testi-
Mr. BECELIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. TORRICELLI. The subcommittee will now hear from Father
Edwin Paraison, Coordinator of the Haitian Ministry, Episcopal
Church of the Dominican Republic; William O'Neill, Deputy Direc-
tor, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights; and Holly Burkhalter,
Washington Director, Human Rights Watch.
Thank you very much for being with us today, and welcome to
the subcommittee. Father, if you would like to proceed.
All the witnesses should recognize that any prepared testimony
will be entered into the record in its entirety. We would welcome
you to summarize it in anyway that you would see fit as a personal
note, it is more helpful for us to share your feelings with the com-
mittee and to summarize than to otherwise simply read material
which we can and will read otherwise. But, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF FATHER PARAISON, COORDINATOR OF THE HAI-
TIAN MINISTRY, EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE DOMINICAN RE-
Father PARAISON. I would like to first offer my thanks to you,
Mr. Chairman, and to the rest of the subcommittee, for offering me
this opportunity to testify on behalf of my brothers and sisters, the
Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic.
I think that my presence before you indicates real proof of inter-
est that the international community, and particularly in this case,
the United States, has shown towards the working conditions of
the Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic.
I am especially pleased that the Haitian sugarcane cutters can
be listened to and understood by the Dominican Republic Govern-
ment officials. Also, I hope that at this time the churches and the
labor unions and human rights groups can look for viable and just
solutions to this situation, which is a shameful situation.
I am not here to just condemn the Government of the Dominican
Republic. I would like to bear witness to a situation that is no
longer acceptable. I would like to bring to your attention a decree
that was passed in 1987 that was supposed to ameliorate the situa-
tion of Haitian laborers.
But it is regrettable that there has not yet been a way to put
into place a mechanism that would have allowed this decree to
take place, or the rights of that decree that were guaranteed.
"BUSCONES" AND COERCED RECRUITMENT
I would like to address a few points here, one is the continued
forced recruitment by recruiters who place these people under
duress and forcibly recruit them to work. That is one issue.
The Haitian Pastorale Council has apparently had to repatriate
a number of workers back to Haiti because of the conditions in the
Dominican Republic. These people were recruited forcibly by re-
cruiters which are called "buscones". There were 180 people, I be-
lieve, and they were forcibly recruited and taken into the Domini-
The decree is perfectly clear on the prohibition of the military
getting involved in repatriation or recruitment of workers. But this
has been violated in this case. On the 25th of January, the Church
in Haiti passed a decree opposing the continued recruitment of sug-
arcane workers and the conditions that they are subjected to.
Again, the Haitian Embassy has proof that in April there were
26 or 36 Haitians who were forcibly recruited and forced to go and
work in the sugarcane fields in the Dominican Republic.
One must recognize though, that in terms of the transportation
of the Haitian workers to the frontier, there has been one particu-
lar change. They have changed from transporting workers in small
vans to buses, because there was an accident recently and some
lives may have been lost.
The Church is trying to reaffirm the freedom of movement of
Haitians between the Dominican Republic and their own country.
As of yet, there is no actual labor union recognized as the sugar
cane workers in the Dominican Republic. Although the Ministry of
Labor has promised that they will try to allow a Haitian workers'
union to be recognized soon.
MINIMAL PROGRESS IN PAST 10 YEARS
I am not going to speak in detail about the conditions of the
workers in the sugar cane plantations, but I can tell you that noth-
ing much has changed in the last 10 years. There are churches and
ecumenical societies that work with the workers in the plantations
or the communities that they live in.
In certain cases there have been situations where the work of the
church has been facilitated by private factories to assist with the
situation in the communities. The resolutions that were taken at
the Catholic Conference, which was held in 1986, still remain valid
and he feels that these recommendations or resolutions should be
carried out. They should pay particular concern to the work, the
kinds of conditions people live in, the food, the need for food or
added food supplements for the people who are living in those com-
munities, a just salary or wages, a just and equitable ability to par-
ticipate in the production or the resources that comes from the pro-
duction in the communities, and to the need to be treated above all
as human beings who deserve dignity.
Despite the decree that was passed, nothing has changed in the
Dominican Republic. Those Haitians who were registered during
the last year still do not have their personal IDs. They have not
been given IDs.
In terms of child workers, since 1989, there continue to be child
workers who are employed in the Dominican Republic. They are
sometimes unaccompanied minors who are working there, or
they are taken with their parents who are forcibly taken to the Do-
REPATRIATION OF CHILDREN
The Bishop has tried to assist the repatriation of minor Haitian
children to their homes in Haiti. The last repatriation of 20 minors
was done along with the Good Samaritan Fathers, along with the
assistance of the Haitian Embassy. It was also assisted by the new
Secretary of Labor. This repatriation was also shown on television
in the Dominican Republic.
These children were received in Haiti by the Red Cross. There
continue to be efforts to have children accompany their parents to
work in the sugarcane fields in the Dominican Republic. Unfortu-
nately, the children have been repatriated without the knowledge
and permission of the parents. The parents up to now, do not know
where the children are. The new Secretary of Labor convened a
meeting recently to try to look at the situation of child workers
and to find a solution to this problem.
We do not think we can place all of the burden or the culpability
on the Dominican Republic's Government. However, they must
take the major burden of responsibility and they must look for a
solution to this problem.
[Prepared statement of Father Paraison follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF Father Edwin Paraison
Episcopal Church of the Dominican Republic
I would like to thank the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Subcommittee
on Human Rights and International Organizations of the House of Representatives for the invitation
and for providing this opportunity for me to testify on the situation my fellow countrymen and
brothers in Christ, the Haitian laborers, suffer in the Dominican Republic.
My presence before you represents proof of the interest that the international community, and
in this case the United States, has manifested in the braceros' working and living conditions, as well
as the detrimental treatment directed against Haitian sugar cane cutters in the Dominican Republic. I
communicate their complaints so that they can be listened to and understood by the highest
governmental officials in the Dominican Republic.
It is our aim that these officials, as well as this committee, pause to probe profoundly on this
situation already regarded "as the country's gravest problem."' We recommend that the
consideration of this problem by the Congress takes place jointly with the men, women and children
of the bateys, the agencies of the United Nations development organizations, labor unions, human
rights groups, churches and the Haitian government, to look urgently for feasible and just solutions to
tnis situation, which is shameful, "immoral, murderous."'
Haitian Immigration in the Dominican Republic
Dominican writers, as well as writers from other countries, have scrutinized the immigration
phenomenon from Haiti to the Dominican Republic. I will discuss several issues in this regard and
some of my own experiences with the Haitian population both within and outside the bateys.
'President Dr. J. Balaguer's speech on February 27, 1991
2Catholic Archbishop, Mamerto Rivas, February 14, 1991
According to official statistics ihe first Haitian laborers arrived in the Dominican Republic in
1916. Some worked in the public construction undertaken by the U.S. occupation troops, and others
worked in the sugar industry, whose primary capital came from the U.S.
Ever since that time and even after the massacre of thousands of Haitians by order of dictator
Trujillo in 1937, a genocide that caused the assassination of Father Charles Barnes, martyr of the
Episcopalian Church in the Dominican Republic, Haitian laborers have been brought to the
Dominican Republic annually. Since 1952, and later with the creation of the State Sugar Council in
1967, the many governments of the Dominican Republic have recruited Haitian laborers through
contracts or agreements with the Duvalierist dictatorship and employed these immigrants. The
Dominican government used this controlled migration for its own political ends, and of course, as a
scape goat, to decry recruiting and the "peaceful invasion of the Dominican Republic."
Undeniably, there are Haitians who cross the border illegally, a phenomenon similar to the
one happening between other neighboring countries in any continent of the world, when one of the
two has a better economic standard, as well as a better quality of life and political stability. We
object categorically, however, to the figure provided as an estimate of the Haitian population in the
Dominican Republic: 1,000,000 (one million); such an estimation is not the result of a census.
It is a reality now that Haitians do not work only as sugar cane cutters. We find native
Haitians in other agricultural jobs, working as laborers in the governmental and private construction
industry, and in the informal sector in the Dominican economy.
When talking about native Haitians (born in Haiti of Haitians parents) there are no more than
200,000 in the Dominican Republic (estimate). Since 1916, and even earlier, tens of thousands of
Haitians have been born in the Dominican Republic and have a right to Dominican citizenship, but it
has been proven that due to their ethnic origin, and frequently because their parents' status was not
registered, there exists a huge number of people without a country. These people do not have a
definite nationality. These people are known as "Dominico-Haitians" (children of Haitians or of
mixed marriages born in the Dominican Republic).
The Present Situation of Haitian Laborers
Ever since the fall of the Duvalierist dictatorship in 1986, the Dominican Republic sugar
industry, specifically the CEA, has not had a sufficient number of braceros. Many bateys started the
harvest late due to the need for braceros. It cannot be denied that military raids have been used and
that members of the "field guards" detained people with dark complexion anywhere they were found,
as well as the participation of "buscones" forcibly recruiting, or recruiting under false pretenses,
Haitians for the harvest.
It is sad to acknowledge that this situation persists to this day, despite President Joaquin
Balaguer's apparent interest in eliminating such practices through Decree 417-90. I will take as the
basis of my analysis of the application of the above-mentioned Decree, interviews and on-site
Investigations, some recorded on videotape, that I have made during the past few months.
1. The Contracting
1.1.1 The use of intermediaries.
Testimony gathered by Pastoral Haitiana from 187 repatriated Haitians during the current
harvest along with testimony from a buscdn and a report published in the newspaper Ultima Hora
dated November 28 1990 entitled "CEA Recruits Haitians In Frontier Areas" confirm that hired
government agents continue to recruit Haitians. This violates resolution 23/90 dated Oct. 30, 1990
which prohibits the use of intermediaries to recruit cane cutters for the CEA. The witnesses confirm
that they had been tricked and lied to concerning the type of work and the payment they would
receive (Ultima Hora Feb. 15, 1991 at 5).
1.1.2. Military Roundups.
The correspondent of Radio ABC, a Catholic radio station, in Hatu-Mayor, along with leaders
of Dominican-Haitian labor unions and the Commission of Human Rights for San Pedro De Marcoris
which is directed by a minister, denounced arbitrary arrests of Haitians with the purpose of forcing
them to cut cane in Miches, Sabana de la Mar and In the sugar mills of San Pedro de Macoris (El
Siglo, Jan. 25, 1991 at 8). The Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo has received information and
confirmation that on Sunday, April 28, 1991, approximately 30 Haitians were taken by a mixed patrol
of soldiers and field guards from Batey Palamarejo and from their homes in Matas de San Juan to cut
cane on this same day. Mr. Reynold Vincent was seriously hurt in this round-up, according to
Suzette Noel. The Good Samaritan Center reported that on Friday, May 17, 1991 at 5:30 a.m. in
Batey Duqueza of the Rio Haina plantation, a military patrol and field guards burst violently into
many houses according to testimony from Felix Charles, Violette Raphael, Jeannine Antoine and
Roger Jean Baptiste. Many people were injured.
1.2 The Contract
1.2.1. The contract's Creole version is incomprehensible to Haitians. The same pertains to the
Credle contract which the private mill at Central Romana has been using for many years.
1.2.2. There is a high illiteracy rate among laborers and there is nobody to explain the contract's
provisions to them. This explanation should be undertaken by a neutral institution, not a government
agency. The same pertains to the private bateys.
1.2.3. When, where and how many Haitians have signed contracts? There are complaints about the
difficulties that a laborer encounters when he wants to return to his country of origin on his own.
The 187 repatriates affirm that they did not personally sign the contract, not because they do not
know how to write, but because in many cases the contracts were given to them already signed. The
majority of Haitians who have been recently repatriated were holding the contracts in their hands, but
did not know exactly what the contract represented. The same situation holds in the private bateys.
At the Central Romana batey we were able to establish evidence gathered from the company's
laborers, as well as from the company's executives on April 11, 1991 that Haitians do not retain their
own personal documents, but rather these are kept in the company's files as indicated on the I.D. card
given by Central Romana which in turn is valid only on the grounds of Central Romana. The
administration of Central Romana explained this practice to the commission as a measure to protect
braceros' documents because sweat could damage them.
1.2.4. It should also be taken into consideration that the contract should also be issued to those who
already live in the batey.
2. Transportation of Haitians Laborers
2.1. Ever since the accident in 1989 when 47 Haitians, who had been contracted clandestinely and
with the participation of the military to work in the CEA bateys, died when the army truck
transporting them overturned, transportation of braceros from the border is now on buses.
Nevertheless, there was a recent fatal accident.
3. Freedom of Movement
3.1 On January 26, 1991, during a national meeting of Haitian laborers organized by the Pastoral
Haitiana, sugar cane cutters arrived with a message from the superintendent of the Batey Quisqueya
which serves as a transit pass. Without it, it would have been impossible for the braceros to travel
3.2 According to testimony from a chief of a plantation and a field guard, each contained in the
videotaped interview mentioned above, and prepared with help from labor organizations and
distributed to local television stations, armed guards continue to patrol the cane communities. The
field guards are armed and use their weapons to intimidate the Haitian workers.
3.3 Since the broadcast of the video, at least the check point at Monte-Coca, where during this
period public transport vehicles were stopped to impede the free movement of Haitians, was
eliminated, but the motorized patrols of the field guards continue.
3.4 The practice of taking the clothes and other personal effects of the recently-arrived Haitians
("the Kongos") persists. This is to prevent the Haitians from fleeing or from moving to private
plantations, especially in the sugar mills of Santa Fe and Porvenir.
4, Labor Unions
4.1 Up until now, no labor union for Haitian cane cutters or for Dominicans of Haitian origin has
been legally recognized. The current administration's secretary of labor has promised to work to
resolve this matter.
5. Salaries and vouchers
5.1 Resolution 2-90 of the National Corrnittee on Salaries establishes a minimum salary for
agricultural workers of 24 pesos per day. Haitian workers get 18 pesos for a ton of cane that is cut
and weighed (equal to $U.S. 1.42).
5.2 Overtime pay does not exist and the cutter works up to 14 hours a day.
5.3 Workers have numerous serious complaints about how the cane is weighed.
5.4 Vouchers are used covering the cut and weighed cane instead of payment In cash, but the face
value of the vouchers is discounted when the cutters exchange the vouchers to buy food to eat.
5.5 Neither the contract nor Decree 417-90 mentions any provision to change the pesos into
gourdes or dollars as was done in the agreements between the Duvalier government and the
6. Conditions in the Batey
6.1 In most cases basic services: health, education, food, living quarters, transport,
communications, sports and other diversions are non-existent and conditions do not allow human
beings to live with dignity, especially in the majority of sugarcane communities; in many places these
services simply do not exist.
6.2 Many bateys still do not have toilet facilities. Church groups such as the Church World
Service and other initiatives led by the Haitian Baptist Church, Reformed Christian Church and the
Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches, as well as the Good Samaritan Center have helped start
projects to improve health conditions in both state cane communities and privately-owned sugar mills.
Very recently, after the international criticism of the mistreatment of Haitian cane cutters, the CEA
has shown some interest in discussing these issues with local church and voluntary groups.
6.3 The recommendations of the Bishops Conference of the Dominican Church led by Cardinal
N. Lopez Rodriguez, made in February 1986, are still valid today and should be implemented:
-limit hours of work;
-improve conditions during the harvest;
provide rest and recreation opportunities during the harvest;
adequate and clean living quarters;
efficient medical assistance;
dignify life on the cane communities;
secure basic rights;
progressive mechanization taking into account the difficulties currently suffered by
cane cutters and the potential resulting unemployment;
abolish all fraud;
insure just salaries;
provide an equitable sharing in the profits from the harvest;
plan for other types of work during the non-harvest period;
46-336 0 91 3
to treat in every instance workers as a human being and as participant in this productive
7 Legal status of the Immigrants and their descendants.
7.1 Despite the Decree, most cane cutters in all state and private plantations continue to
7.2 There are still difficulties involved in declaring and obtaining documents for children
born in the Bateys.
8. Use of children In cutting cane
8.1 The International Conference of African Anglican bishops held in Santo Domingo in
March 1989 was able to confirm the use of children in cutting cane. The Bishops were able to offer
one of the first programs founded to help repatriate these children.
The Black Ministry of the central office of the Episcopal Church in New York. the National
Council of Churches in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada have helped andUor are
helping in different ways the repatriation program for Haitian children and adults of the Dominican
Episcopal Church through its program, the Pastoral Haitiana. In just this current harvest, 58 children
between the ages of 12 and 17 have been returned to their homes thanks to this program.
Following the most recent repatriation done jointly with the Good Samaritan Center, with
technical assistance from the Haitian Embassy, a meeting with Secretary of Labor, Dr. Rafael
Alburquerque was held on April 18, 1991 which was filmed by the network ABC from the United
States. Also, a repatriation was broadcast on a local channel and the children were received in Haiti
by the representatives of OXFAM-Quebec for the Caribbean and the Haitian Red Cross. These
children also related their stories to the Haitian media, especially the state television station.
It is important to underscore:
In the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, children often help their parents in farm
labor, or they are also found in urban centers trying to earn money in the streets to
survive. This is a sad reality that must be faced.
Haitian children who have been repatriated were not with their parents, and in 98%
of the cases the parents did not know where they were, also some children stated that
they had been brought by someone they knew who tricked them and that this person
was paid by the head.
They were accepted by the CEA and they worked in state sugar plantations,
especially Consuelo, Porvenir, and Rio Haina.
The Secretary of Labor called a meeting on the issue of child cane cutters with several
institutions concerned, including the Haitian Embassy. The organizations are currently identifying
Haitian children to be repatriated. It is also hoped that effective methods will be enacted to prohibit
the employment of children in this dangerous toil.
The Bishop of the Dominican Episcopal Church, Bishop Telesforo A. Isaac, has stated:
the conditions in which the cane cutters live on the plantations are disgusting and
shameful; they must be provided better living conditions. Each person with a
conscience and sense of ethics who sees with his own eyes the miserable state of the
plantations would identify with the cries of the workers claiming before their God,
and seeking a voice in national and international fora. Only then will we react
because this campaign will darken the Image of the country and have negative effects
on its economy." (U.rtin Diarlo, July 8, 1990.)
1. The campaign to improve the conditions on the plantations cannot be claimed as a campaign
to discredit the Dominican Republic. The churches have their pastoral responsibility to make known
the subhuman conditions in which the cane cutters live and work as well as the treatment they
2. It would not be just, however, to blame solely the current government for this situation. But
the present government does have the responsibility to change it.
3. It is most important not to let the discussion degenerate into an academic polemic about
whether this is slavery or whether this is a type of slavery. In the past, President Balaguer in his
1983 book has called the situation a type of "denigrating slavery." The Anti-Slavery Society of
London in 1978 used the term "neo-slavery." Most recently, the writer Frank Moya Pons in 1987
stated "it is also certain that the status of the Haitian workers is not that of a slave, nevertheless.the
conditions in which they live and work are worse than the conditions existing under the slavery
systems in the Caribbean in past centuries." A film made by the National Film Board of Canada was
subtitled "200,000 Slaves in the Caribbean." Reports by Americas Watch, the National Coalition for
Haitian Refugees, Caribbean Rights, the ILO, Pax Christi International and the Lawyers Committee
for Human Rights have also described these sub-human conditions.
The first priority is to change this reality that One cannot deny of suffering and sorrow, and
social oppression in the cane communities. The Dominican Government, international organizations,
and nongovernmental organizations must all work together along with the governments of Haiti and
the Dominican Republic to end these horrible conditions.
1. The Dominican Republic should create an Inter-ministerial commission that will guarantee the
implementation and application of Decree 417/90.
2. Create a commission of international control that will supervise step-by-step the
implementation of the Decree.
3. Take away all arms from the field guards who are in the cane communities.
4. International development organizations should provide funding for projects, specifically:
in Haiti, development projects in the areas where Haitian workers have traditionally
been recruited in the Dominican Republic, to implement development projects in the
cane communities so that conditions there are completely changed. It is absolutely
essential to see that the funds allocated for this purpose are used appropriately.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you, Father, very much.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM G. O'NEILL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR,
LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Mr. O'NEILL. Thank you very much for convening these hearings.
I have a written statement that I would also like to be incorporated
into the record.
STATE SUGAR COUNCIL, CEA, AND RECRUITMENT
I would just like to amplify on a few points that have already
been raised in this session. Firstly, there are recruiters that are
paid by the CEA, the State Sugar Council of the Dominican Repub-
lic, to go into Haiti to use decei. to recruit people to come to work
in the cane fields. They also recruit children.
We interviewed two 14 year olds on a sugar plantation about 20
minutes away from Santo Domingo. They arrived in early Febru-
ary, four months after the passage of the decree. They had a con-
tract in their hands. The decree prohibits anyone under the age of
16 from signing a contract. They had contracts that they executed,
that they could not read, and that they did not understand.
They had been told that they would come to the Dominican Re-
public to gather eggs in a hen house or pick tomatoes, and that
they would be paid in United States dollars. The next thing they
knew is that they were handed a machete in a state-owned planta-
tion, and they were cutting cane, something they had never done
before. They did not even know where they were.
Mr. TORRICELLI. How were they paid?
PAYMENT OF WORKERS
Mr. O'NEILL. They were paid with vouchers which they showed
us also. A Dominican cane cutter rarely sees cash. They are paid
biweekly vouchers which supposedly reflects the amount of cane
that they have cut. We had lots of testimony verifying that there is
a tremendous amount of cheating in the weighing of the cane.
They let the cane dry so that it weighs less when it is actually
weighed, so that a cutter receives much less than he actually
Then he goes, it is a classic situation, nothing new for people
here that remember the old company towns. The cutter goes with
the voucher to the company store to buy the food that he needs to
survive. The store knocks off 20 percent of the face value of the
Basically what happens is they make just about enough to buy
food to survive for each two week period. At the end of the season
they have nothing to show for 12 to 16 hours of work, back-break-
ing labor under the sun and in extremely difficult, dangerous cir-
Regarding armed guards, we travelled quite a bit in the west and
eastern part of the country where most of the sugar is grown. The
countryside teems with armed guards. Some Dominican military,
many are the so called field guards or the guards campestres.
They have rifles. They are often at key intersections, bridges, any-
place where a Haitian who is on a cane community who may be
trying to escape would have to pass by.
Father Paraison was able to interview one and the guard quite
freely and frankly said, "Yes, my job is to stop them, I have a rifle.
I don't shoot at them, I just shoot up in the air to scare them, but
it is my job to stop them from escaping." These guards also will
stop public transport buses and make everyone get off, and if some-
one does not have a paper, or if someone "looks Haitian", that
person can be and often is returned to the nearest cane plantation.
CONDITIONS ON THE BATEYES
Thirdly, conditions on the bateyes, or cane communities, are de-
plorable. There is a virtual absence of clean drinking water, toilets,
electricity, cooking facilities. There is vast overcrowding in con-
crete bunkers. We saw children sleeping six to eight to a room with
bare, just kind of a frame of a bunk bed, no mattress, no bedding.
Cooking is done over open fires in front of these concrete bunkers.
It is really a terrible situation.
APPLICATION OF DECREES
I would like to say, lastly, that the Dominican Republic showed
itself to be quite adept at passing decrees proposing reforms and
labor codes, but has fallen far short in the application or imple-
mentation of any of these decrees or laws. We saw no material evi-
dence that the decree of October, 1990, had been implemented. The
recruiters continued to recruit, the armed guards continued to
guard, and people are forced to cut cane and work long hours
under onerous circumstances.
It is our position, and we respectfully request, that Congress con-
sider keeping a close watch. As the Chairman said earlier, this is a
key year. Now is not the time to send a message to the Dominican
Republic that what you have done is enough. It is the smallest and
most grudging of first steps. It took enormous international pres-
sure to get that decree passed.
Now it is going to take even more pressure to make sure that the
decree is implemented. So I would urge Congress to do whatever it
can to enhance that work and to make sure that the decree is im-
[Prepared statement of Mr. O'Neill follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF William G. O'Neill
Chairman Torricelli and Chairman Yatron, I want to thank you for convening these hearings
and for inviting the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights to testify. Since 1978 the Lawyers
Committee has monitored human rights In all regions of the world. The Committee works to promote
international human rights and refugee protection. The Committee's work is impartial; we hold every
government to the same standards as enunciated in international law, especially the international
human rights treaties.
The Lawyers Committee has monitored human rights and the failings of the justice system in
Haiti over the past decade. While working on Haiti we heard serious allegations of trafficking in
Haitians to the Dominican Republic and the continuing use of forced labor in the Dominican sugar
cane industry. We learned that the International Labour Organization had for many years criticized
the Dominican Republic for violating numerous ILO Conventions, particularly those covering forced
labor, protection of wages and the right of association.
In July and August last year, the Lawyers Committee wrote detailed letters to the heads of
state of the Caribbean Community and the African, Caribbean and Pacific signatories of the Lomr IV
Convention, urging them to deny the Dominican Republic membership or trade benefits unless the
Dominican government undertook concrete and verifiable steps to end fundamental rights violatiorns of
Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent who are forced to cut cane.
In doing the research for these communications, the Lawyers Committee received credible
reports that Haitian children were being recruited by agents of the Dominican government State Sugar
Council (Consejo Etatal de Azucar or CEA), and then sold to the CEA and sent to cut cane. The
Lawyers Committee decided to send a fact-finding mission to verify, if true, these accounts. In late
November 1990, Theresa A. Amato, a lawyer and consultant to the Committee, went to the
Dominican Republic and Haiti for three weeks. In February 1991, I went to Haiti and the Dominican
Republic for one week to do follow-up work, and Ms. Amato returned to the Dominican Republic for
three days in April 1991 for a final round of Interviews.
Ms. Amato and I interviewed over 100 children working in the cans communities or bateyes.
We also interviewed dozens of older cutters, human rights monitors, international aid officers,
journalists and Dominican government officials, Many people were afraid to talk about the situation
and asked us not to Identify them. Based on these on-site investigations and our own observations of
living and working conditions on dozens of bateyes in every major sugar-growing region in the
country, we issued a report on June 2, 1991 called A ahitdhood Abducted: Children Cutting Sugar
Cane In the Dominican Republic. The rest of my testimony summarizes the main findings contained
in our report.
The cane cutters Interviewed by the Lawyers Committee had remarkably similar
accounts of how they had been recruited. A man who acted as a recruiter (commonly called a
buscone) promised that good, easy work was available in the Dominican Republic. Pay would be in
U.S. dollars and after a few months the child or older recruit would be able to return to Haiti with
enough money to buy radios, farm animals and other goods. Two children interviewed on February
10. 1991 in a cane community about 30 miles north of Santo Domingo, told the Lawyers Committee
that a busc6n told them that they would "collect eggs" in a hen-house. They each paid this man
$8.00 and he brought them to the frontier. The man left them with the Dominican army and they
were kept in a small room for a few days. They were then taken to a cane community where they
were given a machete and told to start cutting cane. They had no idea where they were at the time of
the interview. Despite a Decree banning buscones and official government denials that buscones
exist, buscones operate freely in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Lawyers Committee
representatives met two buscones living on state-owned cane plantations in February 1991. One
described his work in detail and stated that he received between $15 and $18 for each Haitian he
delivered. As the harvest progressed the price increased to $21 per Haitian in some areas due to a
shortage of cutters.
The cane cutters or braceros live in sub-human conditions. Potable water and electricity are
virtually non-existent. Disease is rampant, sanitary conditions abysmal and medical care rudimentary
at best. Children often eat only one meal a day consisting of rice, All cutters are forced to eat sugar
cane to supplement their diet, Cutters, including children, are often forced to sleep six to ten to a
room In barracks-style structures that are filthy and overcrowded. The cutters, even children under
14, work at least 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week. The Lawyers Committee interviewed
two 14-year olds on a Sunday In the middle of their morning shift. Cane-cutting is extremely
dangerous work. The cane must be cut as close to the ground as possible. Workers crowd each
other and machetes swing In every direction. The cane itself is also razor sharp. Yet the cutters have
scant protection from this hazardous work. The Lawyers Committee saw that most cutters did not
have gloves or boots and no one had goggles. Eye injuries and wounds from flying machetes and the
cane are common,
In exchange for this dangerous, back-breaking work, the cutters, including the children,
receive vouchers that can be cashed in only once every two weeks. We examined vouchers in the
communities and found that the pay for one week's work was typically 48 pesos, or approximately
$3.50 (U.S.) at current exchange rates. Since the cutter needs to eat and has other expenses, he
almost always has to use the voucher before the next pay period. Cutters told the Lawyers
Committee that they must go to the 'bodega popular" or local store on the plantation and make
purchases with the voucher; this store is the only place that will accept the voucher. Yet we
frequently heard that the company stores often discount the face value of the voucher by 15-20%. At
the end of the two week period, the voucher's value is usually depleted and the cutter begins the
process all over again without ever seeing cash.
Once on a cane plantation, the cutter is a virtual prisoner. Residents and human rights
monitors consistently state that cane cutters are not free to leave. The Lawyers Committee saw
numerous guards campestres or plantation guards throughout the countryside at strategic locations
like bridges and crossroads. They are employees of the CEA. Their job is to prevent Haitians from
leaving the plantations and to stop public busses to search for Haitians among the passengers. One
guard was recently Interviewed by a human rights advocate and the guard freely admitted that he had
fired his rifle into the air to scare braceros who were trying to escape because "He cannot pass from
here. He must be caught."
Human rights monitors have successfully managed to liberate several child cane cutters. They
must use extreme caution and guile. In a recent case, one monitor parked his car several hundred
meters away from the cutters' barracks on a side road. He waited until the guards campestres were
out in the field and then entered the barracks where a child had feigned sickness to avoid cutting cane
that day. He took the child through a hidden path to the car, made the child lie flat on the floor and
drove back to Santo Domingo. There, the Haitian embassy gave the child a laissez-passer to return
to Haiti. Father Edwin Paraison, who is also testifying before you today, has similarly repatriated
several dozen children recently.
For years, the government of the Dominican Republic claimed that there were no rights
violations on the cane plantations, that Haitians came voluntarily and were free to leave, and that
cane-culling was hard work but well-paid. Yet for at least a decade, the ILO has issued reports
condemning many of the practices recently documented by Americas Watch, the National Coalition
for Ilaitian Refugees, Caribbean Rights and the Lawyers Committee. including deceptive and forced
recruitment, absence of freedom of movement, lack of individual worker contracts, payment in
vouchers, excessive working hours and inhuman living conditions. The government even refused to
allow an ILO delegation to conduct a fact-finding mission in the summer of 1990.
On October 15, 1990, the Dominican government issued Decree 417/90 which amounted to a
belated recognition that there were in fact gross human rights violations in the sugar industry. The
decree was a welcome change and contains several key provisions:
-the Immigration Department is to regularize the status of Haitian nationals either as
temporary residents or fixed-term day laborers by means of a registration program run by the
-persons employing Haitians must report to the authorities and the Secretary of Labor must
report to the President and the ILO regularly on compliance with the decree;
-the Secretary of Labor must establish special delegations in all sugar refineries to implement
a labor contract written in Spanish or Creole which clearly specifies the amount and method
of payment, hours of work, rest days, and regulations for minors over the age of 14 who may
work and these delegations must insure strict compliance with the terms of the contract; and
-"to the extent that there are available resources," the government and the CEA "shall
continue to carry out" programs of health, education, social security and housing.
The Lawyers Committee representatives found that the government had failed to implement
adequately most provisions of this decree. For example, while thousands of Haitians lined up for
registration in early December, by early February the number had drastically declined. The
Department of Immigration's registration office was empty during a Lawyers Committee visit in early
February. Only 50,000 out of an estimated 1,000,000 Haitians have had their status regularized to
Other provisions have not been implemented at all. The then Secretary of Labor told the
Lawyers Committee in early February that no reporting schedule with the ILO had been established.
Among the hundreds of cane cutters interviewed, even in bateyes a half-hour's drive from Santo
Domingo, not one had seen or heard a "special delegation" from the government describe their rights
under law. Moreover, the content and enforcement of the contract required by the decree perpetuates
many of the human rights abuses in the cane plantations.
The Lawyers Committee gathered evidence demonstrating that contract provisions forbidding
children 14 and under from cutting cane and requiring parental approval for children 15 and 16 years-
old are violated routinely. We Interviewed 14 year-olds from Haiti who were cutting cane. Their
parents were hack in Haiti and did not know where their children were. Yet they had "signed"
individual contracts at the border in Jlmani dated February 6, 1991. They had no idea what the
contract said and no one had explained it to them. One said he could read Crdole yet the contract's
language was incomprehensible.
Other children Interviewed between the ages of 14 and 16 had not signed any contract nor had
a parent given the required written authorization. In violation of the contract, the father was not
present at the cane cutting. Other children interviewed, ranging from age 8 to 12, did help their
fathers yet this is prohibited by the contract. Some worked on their own, outside their father's
presence, and received payment in the form of vouchers from the CEA for cane cut.
The contract also stipulates that laws on the minimum wage and maximum hours are
to be enforced, that a day of rest is required each week, that the CEA shall offer the worker sufficient
living quarters and acceptable sanitary conditions, and that the worker shall be free to rescind the
contract and be returned, without cost, to his place of origin. The Lawyers Committee found
overwhelming evidence that these provisions are violated with impunity. Moreover, the contract
requires that cutters must receive permission to leave from the CEA or a private employer. Braceros
interviewed by the Lawyers Committee confirmed that no one would be allowed to leave during the
The Dominican government denies that it violates cane cutters' human rights. It points to the
October 1990 decree as proof and insists that another decree issued in November 1990 prohibiting
intermediaries from recruiting Haitians has ended recruitment by buscones. The government is wrong.
The Dominican government has thus far made only cosmetic changes to assuage international
public opinion. Yet the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) found in late April that the Dominican
Republic was "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 October Decree, the invitation of an ILO investigative team and "President
Balaguer's public announcement supporting worker rights and labor code reform."
The USTR's decision to continue granting trade benefits to Dominican exports to the U.S.
under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) was clearly premature. While the October
Decree signalled an important potential change in attitude, in substance it changed little. The State
Department noted In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990 that the Decree "is
essentially a reiteration of labor code provisions which in the past have rarely been enforced in
practice." Unfortunately, the State Department's assessment is still accurate: after eight months,
major provisions in the Decree have not been implemented.
The Dominican Republic exports products worth approximately $220 million under the GSP
program. The Dominican government also has the largest U.S. quota for sugar imports. The U.S.
has significant leverage to urge the Dominican government to eliminate worker rights violations. To
date, the Bush administration has declined to exercise its influence.
Mr. Chairman, Congress should now use its influence to hold the Dominican government
accountable for these outrageous human rights violations. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Is considering a bill that would withhold $1 million in aid unless the President reports that the
Dominican government has taken steps to "improve respect for the internationally recognized human
rights of Haitian laborers engaged In the sugar cane harvesting industry." We respectfully request
that Congress send a clear message to the Dominican government that Decrees, proposed labor code
reforms or promises are not enough but that concrete and verifiable actions are required. The
language In the bill should be strengthened to reflect this message; "taking steps' is too vague and
may encourage only the issuance of more decrees that do not change the situation for the cutters in
practice. The bill should include specific, measurable criteria to evaluate the Dominican
government's performance, such as enforcing minimum wage requirements, prohibitions on child
labor, guaranteed freedom of movement, and the disarming of the guards campestres.
We also suggest that Congress should ask the administration to reconsider the USTR's recent
decision to deny the petition filed by Americas Watch challenging the Dominican Republic's
eligibility for trade preferences under GSP. Congress should urge the USTR to keep the Dominican
Republic under review and to continue to monitor closely trafficking in Haitians, forced labor,
regularization of Haitians' status in the Dominican Republic and the other "internationally recognized
worker rights" set out in Section 503 of the Generalized System of Preferences Renewal Act of 1984.
The USTR Itself recognized that several of the "steps" taken by the Dominican government were
"prospective in nature" and the USTR has expressed continuing concerns about the application of the
Decree. These concerns are well-founded. The great danger is that the Dominican government may
conclude that issuing decrees and proposing to reform the labor code are enough. Without continued
international monitoring, the prospects for real change are dim.
The United States has a seat on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights based in
Geneva. The U.S. delegation should use the various specialized mechanisms within the Commission
to monitor the cane cutters' situation and to press the Dominican government to fulfill its obligations
under international law. The Dominican Republic has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention
on the Rights of the Child and numerous ILO Conventions. These treaties outlaw forced labor,
trafficking In children and restrictions on freedom of movement and discrimination based on race or
national origin. The UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery and the Special
Rapporteur on the Sale of Children have specific mandates to investigate the types of abuses
documented by the Lawyers Committee and others. The U.S. delegation should assist these groups in
whatever way possible.
More than a century after the Dominican Republic formally abolished slavery, imported
Haitian laborers and Dominicans of Haitian-descent live and work in conditions of modern peonage
on state-owned and private sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic. It is time to end these
practices of forced labor and trafficking in human beings.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you, Mr. O'Neill.
STATEMENT OF HOLLY BURKHALTER, WASHINGTON DIRECTOR,
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Ms. BURKHALTER. Thank you very much for inviting Americas
Watch to appear at your hearing and for holding it.
I want to start by thanking both you, Mr. Chairman, and you,
Mr. Lagomarsino, for the very strong message that has been sent
both to this administration and to the Dominican Government on
the question of the forced labor of Haitians. I do not think that
anyone missed the message that something more is going to be re-
quired and the fact that it is coming from both sides of the aisle is
very welcome indeed.
ARMY RECRUITMENT AND INTIMIDATION
I must say, I was stunned as I sat here and listened to the first
panel and I heard the speaker, Mr. Becelia, say that he had no
knowledge and no information about whether these practices that
my colleague, Mr. O'Neill, has been describing. Mr. Becelia didn't
know whether those things were happening or not. I put into the
hands of his silent companion, Mr. Heidt, myself, a document
which my organization wrote for them specifically, concerning our
mission in February to look at conditions in this year's harvest
after the passage of the decree.
Our document described the continuing involvement of the army
in recruitment and in transportation and in instilling fear into the
Haitians. It described the armed guards on the plantation. It de-
scribed the use of deception and force at all points in the process. It
described appalling and deplorable working conditions.
It included a great deal of testimony taken from first time work-
ers. It described the way that a few of the Haitian workers have
contracts, but CEA officials, that means government officials, on
the sugar plantations took them out of their hands. They took
them away from, and in some cases told them plainly, "We are not
going to pay any attention to this."
ROLE OF THE U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
So the State Department knows all of that, if they had read our
document which we prepared for them. So we were absolutely dis-
mayed when we learned about the U.S. Trade Representative's de-
cision announced in April that not only will the Dominican Repub-
lic retain their benefits, but that the review is over. This is why
when Mr. Becelia said we will continue to monitor the Dominican
Republic, I wonder how that comports with their decision not to
monitor the Dominican Republic, which was announced in April.
The Americas Watch has asked the U.S. Trade Representative to
accept a new petition filed at the end of May. We have promised to
monitor the next harvest season, which will not begin until the No-
vember/December period. We do not have new information because
the current harvest is over. They have our information from the
We are going to be monitoring the 1992 harvest and I suspect my
colleagues on the panel will be doing the same. We asked the
U.S.T.R. to accept the petition for review now and to accept the in-
formation that we will bring before them in the upcoming harvest.
We very much hope that they do so and an expression of interest
in their doing so from this committee, from all the Members, would
be very much welcome indeed.
I want to say a word about this notion of a progress standard. It
is absolutely correct that there has been some steps taken on the
part of the Dominican authorities, as mentioned by all of the pan-
elists. The October decree was a step in the right direction. It was
at least an acknowledgement by the government that they know
they have a problem, which is a very welcome change from their
behavior, at least towards my organization in the past, where they
absolutely flatly denied that they had a problem. The U.S. Embas-
sy in Santo Domingo also denied that they have a problem.
The October decree indicates that they understand that they
have a problem. Our examination of the 1991 harvest unfortunate-
ly, however, indicates that the decree is not being administered
properly. Their decision not to keep the DR under review was
made on the basis of "taking steps". I find this interesting. The law
of the land, which is Section 502(b)(8) of the Trade Act, the worker
rights provisions that you quoted from in your own statement, Mr.
Torricelli, says that they can only retain their benefits if the gov-
ernment takes steps.
And I think it is fair to say that for this cycle anyway, the gov-
ernment has taken steps.
CHALLENGE FOR THE FUTURE
So the United States could fairly, albeit they should have done it
grudgingly, granted GSP benefits for another year. But there is no
standard about taking steps that should exempt the Dominican Re-
public from a review. What the USTR has done is said "we are not
looking anymore." The review period is over. When you consider
that it is precisely the review that was undertaken at the Americas
Watch's request that lead to these first grudging steps, to end it
now is to throw away the opportunity our government has to see
In ending my oral remarks, I just wanted to say that it should
not escape notice that the Dominican Republic enjoys quite the
largest share of the U.S. sugar quota of any country in the world.
Now, the Dominican Republic is not the only country in the world
that produces sugar, but by a quirk of history they bring it in in
quite the largest quantities. Also, it is the case that eight-tenths of
the Dominican sugar industry is controlled by the government.
The fact is that the government is presiding over a system of
near slavery for men, women and children, and they enjoy a very,
very hefty portion of the U.S. sugar quota. If that fact were known
by the majority of the American people, and that the sugar that
they were pouring on their cereal in the morning was being pro-
duced by wretched individuals who get no health care, who are in
the fields barefoot, in the blinding sun, wielding machetes, some of
these people, 8, 10, 12 years old, many of them are coerced and
very hungry, not getting enough to eat, Americans would be very,
very unhappy about that fact.
So, in addition to hoping that this review process continues and
that the United States be very ready to end the GSP benefits for
the Dominican Republic unless something very real occurs, we
need to take a long hard look at the Dominican Republic's share of
the sugar quota unless there is real change in the future.
[Prepared statement of Ms. Burkhalter follows:]
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Adran W DeWind
Juan E Mendez
CyniTBrown Forced Labor and the Dominican Sugar Industry
JemeraRone Testimony of Holly Burkhalter, Americas Watch
Mary Jane Camejo
4, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on
SusanOsnos Western Hemisphere Affairs and
Human Rights and International Organizations
Tuesday, June 11, 1991
Ro BensThank you for holding this important hearing,
Apharn Cueg Chairman Torricelli and Chairman Yatron, and for
LsrDamrosch inviting me to testify. My name is Holly Burkhalter,
Dres Days III
sIney Engesiten and I am the Washington Director of Human Rights Watch.
To J Fale,
Aeanro a Human Rights Watch is a human rights monitoring
bertGdman organization comprising Americas Watch, Africa Watch,
Wade Henderson Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch, and the
KAssel Ka1on Fund for Free Expression. I appear this afternoon on
ja Laber behalf of Americas Watch, and my testimony will focus
Marshall Meye on abuses against Haitian workers in the Dominican
ruce Rabb sugar industry.
Sanfa 1Solender This hearing on human rights and labor rights in
GiOrg1o Sofimano M D
Alfred Stpan the Dominican Republic may be one of the most important
HecorTimeran hearings you will convene, Mr. Chairman. The grave
Orvile H Schell
Americas Watch is an a late of Human ghts Watch
Robert L Bernstein Chairman AdrianW DeWind Vice Chairman
Ayeh Neer Executve Drecor Kenne Ro' Deputy Drtor Holy J Burkhaller Washington Dreor
problem of coerced and Haitian forced labor in the Dominican
sugar industry has been known for quite some time. The
International Labor Organization conducted an inquiry in 1983,
which confirmed the findings of other groups such as the London-
based Anti-Slavery Society. Yet international appeals to the
Dominican authorities to end the evil of forced labor fell on
deaf ears: Dominican authorities flatly refused to even
acknowledge that there was a problem.
Americas Watch filed a labor rights petition before the U.S.
Trade Representative against the Dominican Republic in 1989. The
USTR took up the petition for review, and kept the Dominican
Republic under continuous scrutiny throughout 1989 and 1990,
until this April, when the USTR announced that the Dominican
Republic would retain its GSP benefits and the review was ended.
Americas Watch very much regrets this decision. It was U.S.
scrutiny that yielded the first small steps by the authorities to
address the problem on the part of the Dominican Republic. These
steps, outlined below, were welcome, but just a beginning -- the
use of forced labor in the Dominican sugar industry continues as
before, and working conditions for Haitian workers have not
significantly changed. The Subcommittee's close attention to the
issue will help keep the pressure on and encourage enforcement of
the standards recently adopted by the Dominican Republic. And
the important language which the Foreign Affairs Committee
included in its fiscal year 1992 foreign aid authorization is
another means of encouraging progress by the Dominican Republic.
I will summarize Americas Watch's recent findings with
respect to the continued practice of forcible recruitment and
abuse of Haitian sugar workers, and evaluate recent Dominican
As you know, Mr. Chairman, in October 1990 the Dominican
Republic took several steps aimed at improving the terms and
conditions of employment of sugar cane cutters and mollifying the
U.S., which was increasingly critical of conditions for Haitian
workers in the government-controlled sugar industry.
Presidential Decree No. 417-90, which addressed areas of abuse of
particular concern to Americas Watch, instructed the Department
of Immigration to regularize the immigration status of all
Haitians in the Dominican Republic, especially those in the sugar
industry, and directed the Labor Department to provide regular
work contracts for Haitian workers, allowing workers to seek work
at another sugar cane plantation or return to Haiti. The use of
paid intermediaries was prohibited, and the Labor Secretary was
directed to monitor the reforms and report periodically to the
International Labor Organization.
As welcome as these initial steps were, however, they have
not had the effect of improving working conditions or ending the
onerous practice of forced recruitment and severe limitations on
freedom of movement for Haitian cane cutters. Americas Watch
sent (together with the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees
and Caribbean Rights) a mission to the Dominican Republic to
monitor working conditions during the most recent harvest, and to
evaluate the impact of the new reforms. We found significant
problems in the implementation of the new reforms, and saw
abundant evidence of the continued use of forced recruitment and
labor in the sugar industry.
The vulnerability of Haitian workers begins with the use of
coercion and force in the process of recruitment. Recent
testimonies reveal that the State Sugar Council (CEA) continues
to employ recruiters who use force and deception to obtain
Haitian cane cutters for the harvest.' Dominican soldiers
continue to participate in the CEA's recruitment effort by paying
the recruiters and assuming armed custody of the recruits, or by
arbitrarily arresting Haitians near or at the Dominican border
and detaining them -- sometimes for days -- before forcibly
transporting them to CEA plantations. In light of such
continuing practices, the new presidential directive authorizing
the granting of a work contract which guarantees freedom of
movement to the Haitian workers has little meaning.2
'Many of the Haitians we interviewed did not know that they
were going to cut cane until they arrived at the plantations.
Recruiters frequently promised them high wages for such
activities as picking tomatoes or working in a store. Reality
was very different -- wages in the sugar cane fields average less
than a dollar a day, and the work is dangerous and exhausting.
2Many of the Haitian first-time cane cutters interviewed by
Americas Watch did not have a contract. Some had never been
given a contract, and in other instances the work contracts were
taken away by CEA administrators. Moreover, even those with
contracts rarely understood what they said. The Creole version
of the contract produced by the Dominican Labor Ministry is of
such poor quality that it is virtually incomprehensible even to
those literate in Creole. The contract is meaningless to most
Haitians, who are not literate, since it was not being routinely
read or explained to them.
Most of the cane cutters we interviewed during the recent
harvest believed that they were unable to leave their plantation,
either because they had asked for and been denied permission, Qr
because they themselves or other cane cutters they knew had been
arrested by armed guards for trying to escape, and some had been
physically abused. The close guard kept over the Haitians
reinforces this sense of confinement. Clearly, a written
contract alone is no guarantee of freedom of movement when the
CEA continues to use force in both recruitment and
The Dominican government has, to our knowledge, never
forthrightly and publicly acknowledged the role of the Dominican
army in forcibly recruiting Haitians and in providing the muscle
behind the system of coercion which allows the CEA to compel
Haitian workers to cut cane. Accordingly, abuses continue, and,
to our knowledge, the government has never prosecuted offenders.
During the recent harvest Americas Watch staff received
extensive testimony from a number of different witnesses on
different plantations describing the use of force by Dominican
soldiers. One such case involved a 24-year old Haitian man who
was forcibly detained along with his 10-year old cousin while
bathing in a river on the border. A Dominican soldier abducted
the two and hit the older man when he said he didn't want to cut
cane. The two were detained by the army for two days before
being transported to Batey Vasca Ingenio Santa Fe. The child
told our staff that his parents do not know where he is, and
asked Americas Watch to tell them. He also told us that he and
his cousin had asked the guards for permission to leave, but that
it had been denied.
Once the Haitians have been recruited, they are placed in
the hands of armed Dominican border guards or CEA bosses for the
duration of the harvest season. They are unable to return to
Haiti, to travel freely within the Dominican Republic, or to work
at a job of their own choice. Our team interviewed a number of
Haitians who were held in military facilities for several days.
Many times their few small belongings -- papers, cash, and
clothing -- were taken from them by the authorities. Because of
the extremely low wages, most cane cutters never earned enough
money to replace their belongings or purchase transportation to
return home. The testimony of Solon Losier in Batey San Jose,
Ingenio Ozama, describes such practices during the 1991 harvest:
"There were 41 Haitians already there in the military
post. Some women too. And about 50 soldiers. I knew
they were going to send me to cut cane because it's
'hunting season'... In the military post we were all
held in a closed cell. You couldn't see outside.
There were lots of bugs and lice. It was so crowded we
were sleeping on top of each other. We slept on mats
on the floor. In the morning they let us out. I was
there three nights. We ate a little plain white rice
The Dominican army is involved not only in recruitment of
workers, but also provides the muscle to return fleeing workers
to the plantation. The Presidential Decree promising contracts
which would afford freedom of movement and ability to change jobs
or return home is largely ignored or actively undermined by the
military and/or CEA which forcibly prevent Haitians from
exercising their rights under the Decree. We heard reports of
abuses by CEA guards who prevent the Haitian cutters from
leaving.3 When the Haitians observe and experience forcible
detention by the military at the border or the military assumes
custody of them from recruiters, when soldiers oversee the
medical exam process and distribute contracts, and when the army
transports them to plantations, their "paper" right to freedom of
movement is illusory, indeed.
Tolerance of forced or deceptive recruitment of children to
cut cane is one of the most disturbing elements of the CEA's
labor practices today. Of the six child cane cutters under age
14 whom we encountered by chance, one had been arrested by a
Dominican border guard and another had been "sold" to Dominican
border guards. When we met them, they had been sent from
military custody to a CEA plantation and were laboring under the
close supervision of CEA chiefs. We do not know how many others
like them there may be whom we did not happen to meet. Over the
last three years, the Dominican Episcopal Anglican Church has
repatriated some 50 Haitian children who had been brought to the
Dominican Republic under false pretenses by CEA recruiters. In
April 1991, the Episcopal Anglican Church repatriated 30 more
Haitian children, 20 of whom had been deceptively recruited.
'For example, Ami Charlotin, of Batey San Jose, Ingenio
Ozama, reported the following: "I haven't tried to go back to
Haiti because you can be arrested. The foreman told me this. In
January, a few people tried to leave and the chief hit them with
a machete. These people themselves told me." (Reportedly they
later escaped to another batey.)
The tolerance of child labor in the Dominican sugar industry
is a violation of the Dominican Republic's own labor code, which
states that "the labor of minors less than 14 years old is
prohibited." Wielding a machete with the force needed to cut
cane is clearly dangerous, back-breaking labor, even for a strong
adult. However, President Balaguer's Decree and the new work
contracts allow minors aged 14 and older to cut cane with their
fathers. Many children born in the bateys cut cane with their
fathers or other relatives. Mr. Chairman, while we recognize
that the desperate financial situation of many families in the
bateys requires additional income, even the small amount earned
by a young child, this problem would be lessened if adult cane
cutters received adequate wages for their labor.
Our recent mission revealed that living and working
conditions have not noticeably improved over prior years.
Typical is the sight of cane cutters boiling pots of rice over a
fire on the ground in front of their concrete, barracks-style
housing. Four or six cane cutters share a small, bare, dark room
no larger than eight by ten feet and, if they are lucky, sleep on
metal bunk beds with a thin foam mat. There is no running water,
no electricity, few latrines, and no proper cooking facilities.
The reason for the CEA's continued use of force and
deception to fill labor quotas in the sugar industry are clearly
related to the appalling conditions of labor. Cane cutting is
backbreaking, dangerous, onerous work. Accidents are frequent
and medical care virtually nonexistent.
Although the work contract guarantees the agricultural
minimum wage -- about US $1.92 per day -- most of the cane
cutters we interviewed were earning substantially less. At
eighteen pesos (about US $1.44) per ton, a cane cutter would have
to cut almost one-and-a-half tons of sugar cane every day to earn
the minimum wage in the agricultural sector. This is impossible
for inexperienced recruits and difficult even for experienced
cutters. The newly arrived cane cutters we met were earning an
average of 10 pesos a day, or US$.80, which can buy them only a
half-pound of rice and beans for their one meal a day. Worse,
the workers are paid in vouchers, not money, and they are
required to use their vouchers -- from which an additional 10% is
deducted -- to pay for their meager meals in company stores.
Mr. Chairman, these appalling wages and working conditions
are at the heart of the forced labor problem in the Dominican
Republic. Even the poorest and most desperate Haitians cannot be
fairly recruited to work in such conditions for such low wages
which is why deceit and force are used to compel them to submit
to such abuse. Increasing the wages and improving working
conditions so that force and deception do not have to be employed
are essential. We saw no signs during the 1991 harvest that any
steps were being taken to improve working conditions, wages, or
living conditions on the bateys.
Despite our disappointment in the lack of progress in almost
every area, we are glad to see the Dominican Government has at
least acknowledged some of the problems in the industry, and has.
ordered new regulations to address some of the problems. The
Presidential Decree of October and recent activities of the new
Labor Minister are very different from the government's response
to Americas Watch's first reports in 1989 and 1990, when flat
denial was the norm. Nonetheless, this is no time for the United
States to cease its scrutiny of the Dominican sugar industry.
The grave forced labor problems continue and enforcement of the
new Decree is minimal.
We especially regret that the USTR is not maintaining their
review, which played a helpful role in the past. Americas Watch
filed a petition this May requesting that the USTR conduct a
review of the upcoming harvest season, so as to measure the
impact of last year's reforms. As noted above, we saw little
evidence that the 1991 harvest was conducted differently with
respect to use of force in recruitment and employment, nor did we
see improved working and living conditions. If there is not
significant evidence that the 1992 harvest is conducted very
differently, we feel that the Dominican Republic's trade benefits
under the GSP should be seriously reconsidered.
In addition to reexamining the Dominican Republic's
eligibility under the GSP, the Congress and the Administration
should seriously examine the possibility of reducing the
Dominican Republic's share of the U.S. sugar quota. If Americans
knew that the United States's largest sugar supplier was
producing the harvest using miserably poor, coerced, threatened,
abused Haitian laborers -- including children -- there might well
be a great deal of opposition to the Dominican Republic's
privileged position. The Government of the Dominican Republic
knows what should be done to correct a very bad situation with
respect to Haitian workers. If it refuse to take those steps
needed to end the army's participation in recruitment and
enforcement, if government employees of the CEA continue to use
force or deception in recruiting, and if working and living
conditions are not improved, the U.S. Congress should insist that
these issues be taken into consideration in making decisions
about the Dominican Republic's share of the U.S. sugar market.
In conclusion, I wish to raise the issue of the USTR
petition process. Americas Watch appreciates the fact that the
USTR accepted our petition in 1989 and conducted an extensive and
important review of the situation of Haitian cane cutters. We
are dismayed, however, at the recent decision to end the review
process and maintain GSP trade benefits for the Dominican
Republic, without evidence that the forced labor issue has been
resolved. It is unclear to us on what basis the Administration
decided to end its review process. The USTR noted in its April
1991 Worker Rights Review Summary that "Concerning the above
shortcomings reported by Americas Watch et al, the Subcommittee
determined that while serious and deserving of continued
attention, in themselves they did not demonstrate that the
Dominican Government was not making a credible effort to enforce
the Decree." The USTR should not be using a progress standard to
decide whether to continue reviewing a worker rights problem.
The relevant statute, Section 502(b)(8) of the Trade Act, permits
the USTR to maintain trade benefits under the GSP if a government
takes steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights.
Thus the steps taken by the Dominican Government in 1990 would
permit the government to retain its trade benefits. But such
steps certainly do not justify the USTR's decision to end its
review of the issue this year. Indeed, it is only because of the
USTR review process that the steps were taken in the first place.
If the USTR now loses interest in the problems which are clearly
unresolved, we fear that all progress will stop. Accordingly
Americas Watch submitted a petition to the USTR in late May,
requesting that a review be conducted this year. We will be
monitoring the 1991-92 harvest season, and will provide
information at that time to the USTR. We would be very grateful
if interested Members of Congress would encourage the USTR to
accept our petition for review.
In conclusion, we wish to request that the Subcommittee
request the Administration to provide it with a report on the
issue of Haitian labor written by the U.S. Embassy in Santo
Domingo. The USTR's April 1991 document makes frequent reference
to the findings of the U.S. Embassy, but when Americas Watch
repeatedly requested that the Administration provide us with the
report, we were told that it was largely classified. We were
given only two unclassified cables, neither of which related to
Haitian labor. As the organization which brought the petition
before the USTR in the first instance, we feel that we have a
right to see the documentation used by the Embassy and the by the
USTR to justify an end to the review process. Thank you.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you very much. Father Paraison, how
many children have you rescued from the plantation in your own
Father PARAISON. Since 1989, I would say I have repatriated
about 100 children.
Mr. TORRICELLI. What were their range of ages?
Father PARAISON. Between nine and 17 years old.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Is there any mistaking that the nine year olds
were of such years? Any possibility in an error in judgment about
Father PARAISON. In Haiti there is a documentation problem. A
lot of peasant children don't have a birth certificate. However, you
can look at the child and you can tell more or less whether the
child is underage or not.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Tell me the circumstances that many of them
relay to you about how they got to the Dominican Republic?
Father PARAISON. Most of the children that we have already re-
patriated have testified that they were brought to the Dominican
Republic by a buscone. In certain cases it is a family member or
someone close to the family. But in most cases it was children who
were in their respective villages and the buscone comes around and
tell them that in the Dominican Republic they can find a good job
with good pay. We have even repatriated children that were previ-
ously washing car windshields in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
Mr. TORRICELLI. With these children under armed guards, how
were you able to repatriate them?
Father PARAISON. When we started to repatriate the children in
1989 many times we had to get there at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning
in a rented bus. But since the international pressure, that has been
going on for about two years now, we were able to make a non-offi-
cial understanding with some of the authorities of the Dominican
Government. Also because of the respect they have for the church,
we were able to go more or less freely into the bateyes to take the
children and help them go back to Haiti.
Mr. TORRICELL. What happens to the children when you get
them back to Haiti?
Father PARAISON. Before the repatriation process takes place
there is a church psychologist who talks to the children, even with
the adults. We ask them if they effectively want to go back to their
country. In all the repatriation cases they all wanted to go back to
Haiti, to go back to their loved ones. They were not told they were
going to be sugarcane cutters. They told them that they were going
to do something else, so once they were faced with the fact that
they had to be sugarcane cutters they wanted to go back to Haiti.
There are two institutions in Haiti that help us with the repatri-
ation of these children. The Poorman's Center and the Center
called L'avec. There is also the Developmental Office of the Episco-
pal Church that is trying to ensure that these children have pen
and notebooks in hand instead of having machete to cut cane.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. Lagomarsino.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Father, you have repatriated 100 children ap-
Father PARAISON. Approximately.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Over what period of time? Is this over a two
year period of time we are talking about here?
Father PARAISON. From 1989 to today. And between September
and June alone we have repatriated 58 children.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Between last September and this June?
Father PARAISON. Yes.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Now, as I understand it, Ms. Burkhalter, the
cutting season is from November-when is it?
Ms. BURKHALTER. It varies. But it begins in the November/De-
cember period and it goes up until about May, I believe that is
right. The father probably knows better, but that is my sense of the
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Now, what happens to these Haitian cane cut-
ters now? Do they all go back to Haiti, or do they stay?
Ms. BURKHALTER. Some stay and many of the Haitians in the Do-
minican Republic have lived there for a very long time. They
either pick up other cheap jobs in the country or stay there. Some
go back. I do not know the exact figures, maybe some of my col-
CONTRACTS PURSUANT TO OCTOBER DECREE
But if I could just add another thought, Mr. Lagomarsino, as to
the importance of the contracts which the Haitians are supposed to
have pursuant to the October decree. As near as we know, the only
people getting the contracts are the new arrivals. They need those
contracts. But the old arrivals need them as well. They are actually
in a better position to benefit. Some of them have lived in the Do-
minican Republic all their lives. They speak Spanish. They have in-'
tegrated themselves into that society. They are cutting cane, too.
But they would also benefit and indeed benefit more. They can of-
tentimes read the contract, etcetera. But I just wanted to point out,
as near as we know, none of those long time or older workers, they
call them viejos, had received the contract.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. What percentage of cane cutters in the Do-
minican Republic are Haitian or of Haitian descent?
Mr. O'NEILL. Approximately 100 percent.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Approximately 100 percent, okay.
Mr. O'NEILL. Yes, it is seen by Dominicans as a job that is be-
neath them. There are Dominicans that live on the cane communi-
ties but they are usually in low level administrative positions or
the people that run these company stores. But I have never heard
or seen of a Dominican, there are Dominicans of Haitian origin
who are cutting, but not Dominicans cutting cane.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Does the description that you all gave of the
terrible conditions for cane cutters apply across the country, or is it
in border areas, or where is it located?
Ms. BURKHALTER. No, the administration frequently and the Do-
minican authorities often say, well, the Dominican Republic is poor
and all the workers have problems. Indeed, the Dominican Repub-
lic is a poor country and working conditions are not the same as
they would be here, but the condition of the Haitian workers is
dramatically different for a whole variety of reasons.
There are no Dominicans, as Bill has said, in the bateyes cutting
cane for those wages. But also the Dominican workers can have
trade unions and there are no trade unions representing the Hai-
tians. They have no rights whatsoever. As near as I understand,
there is no attempt to put any limits on the freedom of movement
for Dominicans. I have never heard that claim. It is only limits on
freedom of movement for the Haitians.
I think it is very wrong also, and you have not suggested it of
course, but people say, well, the Haitians come across because it is
so terrible in Haiti. It is not so bad for them, at least they have a
job in the Dominican Republic. But that is very wrong. That means
it is proper to exploit some of the world's very poorest people.
The Dominican Republic can do better than this. It is interesting
to note that the worst problems on the bateyes are in the govern-
ment run plantations.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. That was going to be my next question.
PRIVATE SECTOR V.S. GOVERNMENT OWNED FARMS
Ms. BURKHALTER. As I understand it the two sugar cane farms
that are in the private sector are dramatically better than the gov-
ernment owned. They have better wages and conditions are better
and sometimes the Haitians want to go there. They ask to go there.
They have heard of it. Those farms do not have any problems get-
ting workers. Indeed, the USTR's report states that on this private-
ly owned plantation I think it is called Romolo, they do not use
forced labor there. That is correct. It is the government that uses
the forced labor.
So, I think really the key to the problem is the political will to do
something about it and to monitor the situation on the part of the
Dominican authorities. But also there must be some commitment
to raising working conditions and living standards. Because when
those working and living conditions go up they will probably be
able to find the workers they need to bring in the harvest. The
reason they cannot get people voluntarily is because it is so terrible
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Now, is it your belief that that is true for
almost all of the Haitian workers, that if they were free to do so
they would leave?
Ms. BURKHALTER. Now, I did not mean to say that all of them
would go that are free to go. There are many that try to go and
cannot go. Some want to stay. We did not interview every Haitian
worker by any means, but we tried to get a sampling. The ones
that suffer the most are the new ones, the first time workers. They
do not even know how to do it. It is hard to cut cane. It is a very
difficult job. The machete is heavy. There are a lot of injuries in
the field and the ones that are the unhappiest are the ones that
have just been brought across. They usually want to go home.
Some of the workers that have lived there for their lives or a
couple of seasons do a little better and they do not all go and they
do not all want to go.
COMPARISON TO SITUATIONS IN OTHER AREAS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. I should know this but it does not come to me
right now. Is there any other country in the area that has a similar
situation with cane?
Ms. BURKHALTER. Well we have a little problem in the United
States. The conditions of work for Haitian migrants and other
black migrant workers in the south, and particularly in Florida,
are very bad. We have not made a study of this ourself at Americas
Watch, but I have read studies and there have been television doc-
umentaries. We do not have a perfect situation here.
I am not aware of another country in our hemisphere where
there is a situation approaching bonded labor except for Brazil, and
it is not the same situation. In Brazil, it is a wholly different kind
of forced labor. It is not dealing with two races or two nationalities.
It is dealing with more of an indentured problem in the frontier
areas. But I am not aware of any other country in the western
hemisphere with a near slavery situation.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. I do not imagine in Cuba you can decide
whether you want to work in the cane fields or not.
Ms. BURKHALTER. Probably not.
PROBLEM WITH DOMINICAN LABOR CODE
Mr. O'NEILL. I would just like to add one point to that to follow
up. As bad as it is for the primarily Jamaican cane cutters in our
own cane fields in Florida, they are experienced grown men, who
have cut cane. When they come here, and again compared to other
conditions in the United States, the conditions are abysmal. But
when they go out in that cane field, they have goggles, they have
gloves, they have boots, they are experienced, and they are grown
In the Dominican Republic, you go out into the cane fields and
you see children, teenagers and adults, most have never cut cane
before. I never saw one with boots, goggles or gloves. It is an in-
credibly dangerous job, with hazardous conditions, machetes are
flying, the cane itself is quite sharp and can poke you in the eye
and can poke ear drums.
There is a gaping hole in the Dominican labor code. For some
reason it does not define cutting cane as hazardous or unsanitary
work. Work that is defined as hazardous or unsanitary in the Do-
minican Republic, under its own labor code, is prohibited for
anyone under 18. We think that cane cutting should be included in
this definition under Dominican labor code.
NUMBERS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF WORKERS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. What percentage, obviously you do not have
the figures, but just from observation, what percentage of the cane
cutters that your organizations have observed would you say are
under the age of 18?
Mr. O'NEILL. I would like, if we could, to ask Father Paraison to
answer this too because he is out there almost every day. I would
say roughly 20 to 30 percent of what we saw with our own eyes.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Father, would you answer that.
Father PARAISON. I can say that the Episcopal Church is present
in all the bateyes because the movement was born in the bateyes.
There are approximately 40,000 Haitians who are working as sugar
cane cutters in the Dominican Republic. There are many churches
that are in the different sugarcane plantations, so we have accu-
rate information on the conditions on the bateyes. We cannot say
exactly how many Haitians we speak to everyday.
Concerning the Haitians in the Dominican Republic, one has to
be careful to bring this precision. Because, officially, there are 1
million Haitians in the Dominican Republic. However, this figure
is not the product of an adequate census. It is a wild estimation
and it also includes Haitians that are born in the Dominican Re-
public who have a constitutional right to the Dominican national-
According to our investigation we figure that there are no more
than 200,000 Haitians in the Dominican Republic. We also take
into consideration the fact that not all Haitians work in the sugar
cane industry. Many of them work in other sectors of Dominican
We must also say that a lot of misconduct or malpractice is not
committed exclusively in the sugar cane plantations. A lot of that
occurs in other sectors as well.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I notice we have a
letter from the Dominican Republic Embassy. Should that be made
part of the record?
Mr. TORRICELLI. It was my intention to make it a part of the
record. We can do so at this point if there is no objection.
[The letter follows:]
EMBAJADA DE LA REPUBLICAN DOMINICANA
June 10, 1991
The Honorable Robert G. Torricelli
Chairman, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs
House Foreign Affairs Committee
702 House Office Building Annex I
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Torricelli:
Since the Committee's rules prohibit my appearance as a
witness at the June 11 hearing on the treatment of Haitian cane
cutters in the Dominican Republic, I am herewith submitting a
statement by Juan Jose Arteaga, the Economic Advisor to President
Joaquin Balaguer, for the Subcommittee's consideration. (The
Government of the Dominican Republic shall also submit a post-
hearing statement that addresses in detail all the issues that
may be raised at the June 11 hearing). The position of my
Government is clear: the Dominican Republic is committed to
affording internationally recognized worker rights to all workers
in the country and, as pointed out in the enclosed statement,
numerous positive steps have been taken or are underway to solve
any problems that may exist.
The treatment of Haitian cane cutters and other workers in
the Dominican Republic has been the subject of a two-year
investigation by the U.S. Trade Representative. While abusive
practices not sponsored by the Dominican Government may have
existed in the past on an isolated basis, the U.S. Government
determined on April 25, 1991, that the Government of the
Dominican Republic has taken steps to afford "internationally
recognized worker rights" to all workers in the country,
including Haitian cane cutters. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy in
Santo Domingo has reported on numerous occasions recently that
significant improvement has been shown in the treatment of the
Haitian cane cutters, stating that "There has been a marked
reduction in the number and level of both private and public
complaints of abuse in this area for the last two seasons."
(USTR report at page 5).
Unfortunately, the results of that investigation have been
overshadowed by sensationalistic allegations in the media and
elsewhere which have already been investigated thoroughly and
found to be without merit. My Government hopes that the
Subcommittee will take notice of the official findings made by
USTR from information developed over a two-year period, in order
to have a complete and balanced picture of the Dominican
Republic. Failure to do so would be very harmful to a friend and
ally of the United States, and completely out-of-step with the
Subcommittee's history of fair and carefully-considered action.
Very truly yours,
Jo sdel Carmen A za
STATEMENT OF THE ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT JOAQUIN BALAGUER
PRESIDENT OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
JUAN JOSE ARTEAGA
The Presidential Palace
June 4, 1991
Last week during the evening entertainment period, a
television program was broadcast in the United States which
questioned employment practices within the government-owned sugar
properties in the Dominican Republic. The allegation was made
that Dominican officials condoned or were involved in the forced
employment of Haitian workers and particularly young boys.
In September 1990, in Executive Decree 417-90, the law of
the Dominican Republic and the policy of President Balaguer's
administration was made clear. The President reaffirmed his
commitment and support for the human rights of all workers in
this country, including Haitian braceros, whether they be
nationals or foreigners. As part of that decree, he ordered that
the immigration status of Haitian workers be regularized, that
the departments of government work to improve the living and
working conditions of all employees of the government sugar
industries, and that written contracts in the language of each
worker be prepared and given to them, clearly delineating their
rights and duties. The President also ordered that he be
personally kept informed of the progress of his orders.
I am pleased to report that substantial progress has been
made, and that this government remains committed to the
expeditious and complete implementation of all the terms of that
The Dominican Republic is a land. of freedom. We cherish the
basic freedoms of free speech, free elections, and equal
protection for all. Because we value our freedoms, we are
appalled at the suggestion that any of our citizens or guest
workers are restrained or prevented from leaving the country as
The suggestion that children are bought or sold and forced
to work in government sugar plantations is repulsive to all
Dominicans. Indeed, as decreed by President Balaguer, no guest
workers are required to stay in this country against their will,
and children are not permitted to be contracted for work. No
breach of this policy will be tolerated.
Minister Arteaga's Statement
We are a poor country with many economic problems. The
President has dedicated himself to solving these problems. We
have made enormous strides over the past years to improve the
quality of life in our country for all who are here, irrespective
of their citizenship status.
Various officials and departments of the United States
government, including the United States Embassy here, conducted
extensive investigations of agricultural conditions in our
country in these areas which lasted almost two years.
Nonetheless, the government will not rest on our accomplishments
to date, but will continue to strive to improve the quality of
life of all our citizens.
The traditions of liberty and the pride that all Dominicans
take in their country are too important to be trivialized by
anyone. Indeed, the fact that so many foreigners, including over
one million Haitians, have chosen voluntarily to leave their own
lands to live and work in our country is perhaps the best
testament to the quality of life and liberty that all of us
Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. Johnston.
NUMBERS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF WORKERS
Mr. JOHNSTON. Let me try to be the devil's advocate here just a
little. I never got an answer from Mr. Lagomarsino's question, Ms.
Burkhalter. The Father says there are 40,000 Haitians in the sug-
arcane industry. I assume that 20 percent of those are in private
industry that you say run a pretty good operation.
Ms. BURKHALTER. Well, better, generally speaking.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Do you feel that the remaining are being abused
by the government?
Ms. BURKHALTER. No. I am afraid I cannot give you precise fig-
ures, Mr. Johnston, and I do not know the numbers that come and
go. It is my understanding that for every harvest they bring in
15,000 to 25,000 Haitians. Now, that means some of them go back if
you have to bring in that many new ones every harvest. That is my
Mr. JOHNSTON. Now, is this first time cutters?
Ms. BURKHALTER. Well, that I do not know. Most of them are
coming across for the first time. I would not ever say that every
Haitian is being held against their will. We know that some,
indeed, many are on the plantations and are cutting cane. It is fair
to say that all of them are experiencing terrible working conditions
on those government plantations. None of them are anywhere close
to even substandard.
Mr. JOHNSTON. But a lot of the 15,000 to 25,000 are repeats that
come back each year.
Ms. BURKHALTER. Well, I do not know that. Could I provide you
that information for the record?
[The material follows;]
Information Provided by Americas Watch Re; Haitian Workers:
It is the case that some number of the 15,000 to 25,000 Haitian
sugarcane workers who cross the border to work in the Dominican
Republic are returning. But many are coming for the first time.
It is these first-time workers who are most often those recruited
by force or false promises. As far as Americas Watch knows,
there are no reliable figures on the numbers of Haitians
recruited each year -- deceptively, forcibly, or fairly -- in
part because there is no national system of fair, orderly
recruitment or hiring in place. The figure of 15,000 to 25,000
Haitians every year is the generally accepted estimate based upon
the numbers of workers recruited under the old bilateral
agreement between Duvalier and the Dominican Republic in the
early 1980's. Moreover, there are no reliable figures on the
total number of Haitians in the Dominican Republic: estimates
range from 500,000 to over 1 million.
Americas Watch recognizes that many thousands of Haitians come
back year after year or remain in the Dominican Republic year-
round and cut cane willingly. We also recognize (and stated in
our last report on Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic)
that many Haitians work freely in other labor sectors, such as
construction, restaurants, street workers, etc. Unfortunately it
is also the case that many cane cutters, chosen at random and
interviewed individually, tell the same stories about forced or
deceptive recruitment and forced confinement. Clearly abuses are
continuing and the fact that not every Haitian worker is a victim
of such abuses does not lessen our concern about those who are.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Yes.
To me the most inefficient way to cut cane is to hand a minor a
machete because it is an art, it really is. The Jamaicans that come
back year in and year out are skilled laborers and if you have a kid
out there in that cane field with a machete, he is going to destroy
half of your crop before it ever gets to the mill. I cannot fathom
that the government would have 40,000 inexperienced workers out
in that field, and destroy a great deal of any profit that the sugar
cane or the sugar mill would make.
Ms. BURKHALTER. Well, I do not know what portion of the 40,000
are new workers, but my sense was it may be as much as a third or
a half. I do not have a sense that the government is actively re-
cruiting very large numbers of small children. Some of them are
recruited. We saw them. I did not go on this mission, but my col-
leagues, without even looking for the kids, saw them. About six of
the cases had been actually recruited.
One child, his parents did not even know where he was. He was
10 years old and separated from his family. He asked my colleague
to go on the radio to tell his mom and dad where he was. But I
think many of the kids in the area have their parents there. Their
parents may have come willingly or they may have lived there for
a while. But the government is not enforcing its own child labor
laws in preventing the children from working.
LIVING WAGE NEEDED FOR ADULTS
In some cases they have recruited them. But in almost all cases,
they are not paying the parents and the grownups a living wage.
So families have to use the tiny pittance that a child can earn in
the fields to have enough to eat. That problem is not going to get
fixed until they come up with a living wage for the grownups.
Mr. JOHNSTON. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. TORRICELLI. Thank you, Mr. Johnston, very much. I thank
you all for your testimony today.
As I have tried to make clear, this is not the last time the sub-
committee is going to look at this issue. I hope to get an opportuni-
ty to see more of it myself personally. Your testimony today has
helped us a great deal. So I thank each of you for your assistance.
The committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:30 p.m., the subcommittees were adjourned.]
BOAE1D OF DIRECTORS
M-1 DP-I,,. &R jPl5qw
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National Coalition For
United States Pressure is Key to Ending Forced
Labor in the Dominican Republic
Statement of the National Coalition
for Haitian Refugees
before the hearing on the Plight of the Haitian
Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on
Western Hemisphere Affairs and
Human Rights and International Organizations
June 11, 1991
Wae. 'nde,.oOE9 The National Coalition for Haitian Refugees
welcomes this opportunity to express to the
.' Congress its views on the treatment of Haitian
johojcob migrant workers in the Dominican Republic.
In doing so, we speak for many members of the
b'R,,. ..Ria Haitian community in the United States. The NCHR
.,mof is made up of 47 organizations, including national
1nK.K/n0 civil rights and religious organizations as well as
CvoS ^the leading Haitian community associations in this
.Haitian-Americans were roused to anger by the
-.- .- May 30 "Bitter Sugar" report on ABC-TV's Prime Time
MTh,'Ma, E5d..,rmCc., Live, which blew the lid off the widespread
,rtRop ii,, practice of employing child labor on sugar
si plantations run by the Dominican state. While
Tt,,Sa.1oo* ',,,Jl Haitians in this country, who number several
o hundred thousand, have long heard tales of the
',""" u. harrowing conditions in which their compatriots in
'- .. the Dominican Republic have been forced to work,
ow 8A0h E^ graphic confrontation with the child-labor aspect
T0 m'ry,5a. .a0sR of this dirty trade have stunned them.
,;-.-, .... .. Communities in different cities are now
Akx Sep.ic.PhD considering ways to make their concerns heard--in
Sm15ar,..s,,, Santo Domingo, but also in Congress and the Bush
16 Eat 42n Street, r Foor New York, NY 10017 (212) 867-0020 q. AX (212) 867
16 East 42nd Street, 3rd Floor 0 New York, NY 10017 0 (212) 867-0020 0 FAX (212) 867-1668
administration. They would strongly support U.S. efforts to
undermine forced labor and child labor by Haitians in the
Their concern is well placed. Staff members
of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees have made several
trips to the Dominican Republic to investigate charges of forced
labor by Haitians in state-run sugar plantations, and we can
testify to the presence in the cane fields of children and adults
who have been tricked, and sometimes abducted, by Dominican State
Sugar Council employees and soldiers. None of the dozens of
Haitians we have spoken with was free to leave the plantation
during the six to seven month harvest season, either to return to
Haiti or to seek work at another plantation.
The results of these missions have been published in three
reports we co-authored with Americas Watch and Caribbean Rights.
A summary of the findings of our latest report, "Half Measures:
Reform, Forced Labor and the Dominican Sugar Industry," will be
presented at this hearing by. Holly Burkhalter of Human Rights
Experience has shown that pressure from the United States
government is the most effective form of persuasion with
Dominican authorities. The U.S. Trade Representative's decision
to consider the petition by Americas Watch charging the Dominican
Republic with violating international labor standards and to
postpone a decision on whether or not to extend trade benefits
under the Generalized System of Preferences led directly to the
October 1990 decree by President Balaguer of certain reforms
affecting Haitian sugar workers; in contrast, a decade of reports
by human rights organizations, religious fellowships, journalists
and the International Labor Organization had been met with
silence and denials.
Although the October 1990 decree marked an important first
step in correcting the widespread abuses in the cane industry,
its enforcement has left a great deal to be desired, and it is
clear that only continued international scrutiny combined with
U.S. pressure can put an end to forced labor in the Dominican
The U.S. Trade Representative said in April that she was
satisfied that the Dominican Republic was "taking steps to
afford...internationally recognized worker rights." Although the
Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Subcommittee of the Trade
Policy Staff Committee, which reviewed worker rights issues for
the USTR, expressed concern about the "degree to which the
Dominican government continues to enforce its resolution against
recruitment of cane cutters through intermediaries and the extent
to which the Dominican government fulfills its commitment to
equalize the status of Haitian nationals and provide written
contracts to those engaged in harvesting sugar cane," this
concern was not reflected in the USTR's recommendation that
scrutiny be ended.
The National Coalition for Haitian Refugees urges the USTR
to conduct a review of labor conditions in the Dominican Republic
during the 1991-92 harvest in order to examine whether the
commitments made in October 1990 are being adhered to.
We would also like to recommend the following efforts:
The Senate and the House of Representatives
have, we understand, passed foreign
assistance bills which take note of the use
of forced labor and the inhuman conditions
afforded Haitians in the sugar cane industry.
The House bill specifies that $1 million in
aid should be withheld unless concrete
advancements in this area are made, while the
Senate bill does not specify any amount. We
urge that the provision in the final aid bill
reflect the strongest possible sanctions
against the Dominican Republic.
Congress should consider withholding
military assistance from the Dominican
Republic as long as the Dominican army
continues to enforce the procurement of
forced Haitian laborers for the sugar
industry (as extensively documented in "Half
Measures.") Nearly $3 million in military
aid is at stake this year.
The United States Ambassador in Santo
Domingo should play a heightened public role
in criticizing the mistreatment of Haitian
sugar cane cutters. He might take as a model
his colleague in Haiti, who contributed to
Haiti's transition to democracy by protesting
against abuses by military authorities.