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Is The Dominican Republic Legalizing Ethnic Cleansing?

By Louis Nevaer, New America Media News Analysis

The Dominican Republic’s Constitution Court ruling on September 23 to strip thousands of individuals born in that Caribbean island nation of citizenship has met with universal condemnation for threatening to create tens of thousands of “stateless” individuals. This contravenes international norms, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibits states from depriving individuals of their nationality.

Article 15 of that Declaration reads: “(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.; (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”


Photo: NBC Latino

Photo: NBC Latino

ruling. “This decision deprives tens of thousands of people of a nationality, which will have a very negative impact on the rest of their fundamental rights,” Ravina Shamdasani warned in a statement issued in Geneva, Switzerland.

An estimated 250,000 Dominican people of Haitian descent are affected by the ruling.

The Dominican Republic’s neighbors were quick to decry the decision as well. La Celia Prince, the representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who is the spokesperson for the Caribbean community, a 15-nation member organization known as Caricom, condemned the ruling in that it “strips tens of thousands of people of rights which they have enjoyed from birth and gives them no recourse to appeal.” She went further, arguing that, “This issue, a domestic issue, is of interest to us in that it directly impacts the lives of fellow human beings, citizens of our Hemisphere and, more specifically, members of our Diaspora.”

The Dominican Republic’s neighbors are not the ones alarmed at this turn of events. From Spain to Peru, Mexico to Argentina the family of American nations have expressed outrage at this ruling and the implications.

“The court’s ruling, needless to say, is an aberration which seems to draw inspiration from Hitler’s laws, by which Jews who had lived in Germany for centuries were deprived of their nationality. More to the point, it contravenes repeated rulings in recent years by the International Court of Human Rights,” Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, wrote this week (November 8, 2013) in Spain’s El País newspaper. “The only logical argument the Dominican court could adduce is that Juliana’s parents were ‘illegal immigrants.’ Thus the sin of illegality is made hereditary—presumably, as in archaic Biblical dooms, to the seventh generation.

The judges know well enough that immigration from Haiti to Dominican Republic has gone on for at least a century, being positively encouraged by Dominican landlords and businessmen in times of prosperity, and tolerated by the authorities. The country (or at least, its middle and upper classes) has benefited from the existence of a mass of cheap labor, with no job contracts, social security, or legal rights in general. One of the worst crimes committed during the tyranny of Generalísimo Trujillo was the indiscriminate massacre of Haitians in 1937, in which tens of thousands of these wretched immigrants were murdered, mostly by mobs enraged by populist rhetoric.”

The Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court issued a nuanced ruling, however. It determined that only individuals born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 whose parent had entered the nation illegally were subject to being deprived of their citizenship.

It presumably upholds as valid the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian origin that entered the Dominican Republic as lawful migrants and immigrants.

The larger question, however, of a continuing bias against Haitians its Spanish-speaking and English-speaking neighbors. In the Dominican Republic children are admonished to behave themselves unless they want “a Haitian to take you away.” Associating Haitians with the “boogeyman” instills a cultural bias and encourages bigotries against French-speaking Haitians among Spanish speakers. The anti-Haitian bias of English-speaking West Indians is worse. It is not uncommon for English-speaking West Indian children in New York to taught and bully other students of Haitian descent by chanting, “Haitian! Haitian! Haitian creation! Go back, go back, go back to your nation!”

That most Dominicans and English-speaking West Indians are black undermined the reading of “racism” into the Dominican’s court ruling.

The Dominican’s court ruling’s distinction between lawful and undocumented immigrants suggests a changing idea of the right to citizenship.

“If you go back to the original intent of the drafters [of the U.S. Constitution] … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens,” John Kavanagh, a Republic Arizona state senator who supports Senate Bill 1070, a law that granted Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers, said of a proposed 2010 Arizona State law that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona to illegal immigrant parents.

This coincidence, alarming and draconian, is seen by some as a shift around the world as extremist right-wing views gain currency. “Children born in France to parents illegally on French soil cannot automatically become French,” Jean-Francoise Cope, leader of the UMP party, promised his followers in France last month. “It’s incomprehensible and it’s hardly seen anywhere else in Europe.”

From Arizona state legislators to French political campaigns, the specter of creating stateless individuals should alarm us all. In the Dominican Republic, where that threat is now a legal reality, the challenge is how to reverse it. If the highest court in the land has ruled that the constitution renders an estimated 250,000 Dominicans suddenly “non-citizens,” then what is the solution?

Dominican president Danilo Medina has expressed his sympathy for those impacted, but his government remains at a loss to offer a legal remedy.

As the repercussions of this astonishing court ruling—which has been met with enthusiasm by right wing groups around the world—reverberate throughout the Americas, it is urgent that leaders throughout the hemisphere offer Dominican president Medina counsel, rather than denounce “racism,” they should acknowledge that it’s a clear case of ethnic cleansing.

Related Story NBC Latino: Dominican Republican to end citizenship for Haitian descended residents.

Photo Courtesy of NBC Latino

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Is Dominican Immigration Policy Obamafied?

By Roberto Lovato,  Latino Rebels

DAJABÓN, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—On a recent afternoon in this tense border town, a hub for the flow of goods and people between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Haitian immigrants and their Dominican-born children were preparing for the worst: the mass deportations they’d been hearing about for months from railing Dominican politicians and, especially, the local media.

Streets that are usually busy with Haitian street vendors were relatively empty because, migrants’ rights advocates told me, many of them of them were in hiding. At the border crossing, the crush of thousands of people who travel daily between Haiti and the Dominican Republic for work and trade was even more intense than usual as busloads of Haitians voluntarily left their homes in the Dominican Republic rather than be hunted down, jailed and deported as government officials has repeatedly promised in the months leading up a June 17 deadline.

Tensions in Dajabón and across the country have been on the rise since 2013, when the country’s constitutional tribunal decided to revoke citizenship from tens of thousands of people born of foreign-born parents. Then, in 2014, President Danilo Medina issued a decree requiring all undocumented people to register with the government to “regularize” their status in the country by June 17, 2015, further increasing pressure on Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Those providing the required documentation were supposed to be given a two-year temporary status document. Those who don’t will be deported.

Haitian, Dominican and international human rights groups have denounced the process as dangerous, discriminatory and beset by massive bureaucratic failures— including lost papers, understaffed processing offices and corruption. As a result, over 200,000 people, most of them Haitian or of Haitian descent have been left vulnerable to deportation. Many here believe the current crisis follows a well-established pattern of racism against Haitians in the Dominican Republic.


Some Haitians, feeling scared and persecuted, are fleeing even without the government forcing them. “We have reports that Haitian immigrant homes have been burned down,” said the announcer on a bilingual Creole-Spanish radio show last Friday. “And we do not know if the Haitians themselves burned the homes or if Dominican citizens had burned the homes.” (Non-governmental organizations later confirmed that Haitians had burned their own homes to dispose of property they couldn’t take with them back to Haiti.)

But in the end, the predictions of swift, mass expulsions, of government buses overflowing with Haitians deportees, have yet to materialize.

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Editor’s Note: This piece was first published on June 26 at All photos by the author. 

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Jamaicans and Latin Americans Among Highest Deportees from the U.S.

By Afro

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said Jamaicans were among the top 10 groups of nationals deported in 2013.

In announcing the year-end removal numbers on Dec. 26, ICE officials said the top 10 groups deported hailed from Latin America and the Caribbean.

afro_jamaica-us-deportationICE reported that 1,119 Jamaicans were deported in the 2013 fiscal year, while 2,462 nationals from the Dominican Republic were also deported.

Those numbers are vastly smaller, however, than the number of Mexicans deported. ICE officials said Mexico continues to be the leading country of origin for those who are removed from the United States, followed by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The figures for Mexico show 241,493 deportees; Guatemala 47,769; Honduras 37,049; El Salvador 21,602; Ecuador 1,616; Brazil 1,500; Colombia 1,429; and Nicaragua 1,383.

ICE said 98 percent of the agency’s total removals were convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed in line with the agency’s enforcement priorities.

ICE officials said the figures highlight the agency’s ongoing commitment to primary immigration enforcement missions: the apprehension of criminal aliens and other immigration violators in the interior of the United States; and the detention and removal of individuals apprehended by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, ICE said.

ICE’s acting director, John Sandweg, said the 2013 numbers make clear that, “We are enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders in partnership with CBP.

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Connecticut Silent on International Migrants Day, Needs Statewide Commission for Immigrant Rights

Apparently it was International Migrants Day on Dec. 18.

That day was designated in 1990 when the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of migrant workers, regardless of legal status.

But, alas, there was not a peep about it in Connecticut. Or if there were events that celebrated the tradition of a state—and country—that proudly boasts of its pilgrims who migrated to this soil, The Hartford Guardian missed that memo.

A creolization of the peoples who pupolated the North American continent before the twentieth century is only highlighted on Thanksgiving Day, albeit reluctantly by some, including Native Americans.

editorialbannerthumbIn fact, a cursory search on the Internet revealed an outdated website for the volunteer-run Connecticut Immigration and Refugee Coalition that is seemingly inactive. Or maybe some of us are just left out of the loop.

That’s why The Guardian is calling for a Governor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. This proposed statewide entity would serve as a point of cultural exchange and economic global partnerships between this state and the host countries of two of the most marginalized migrant communities in the world. This Commission would also include Afro-Latinos, who are not as visible as their white counterparts nor protected by the Commissions already in place.

For the uninitiated, the African continent and the Caribbean region are poised for economic growth. Ghana now has one of the fastest gross domestic product in the world. And the Caribbean has demonstrated its talent and brain power.  China has no hang-ups with “the Dark Continent” and the Caribbean. And so they have taken notice. In this case, money and geopolitics trump foolishness.

If this state wants to really expand its economic base and produce more jobs, as it has professed, it would behoove Gov. Dannel Malloy to take heed and look to the Mother Continent and the Caribbean, just like he has looked to Israel and other European countries.

But in the meanwhile, we have a crisis on our hand. And it needs Malloy’s full attention.

Immigrants of African descent are facing a most vile form of persecution. Indeed, Africans are the most vulnerable population in the Americas, according to historical and contemporary reports.

Earlier this year, a boat with Ethiopians and Ghanaians capsized near Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Italy. The tragic event took the lives of about 500 people and conjured up images of ships sailing across the ocean with black bodies during the height of the Atlantic Slave Trade. But these Africans were searching for a better way out of neo-colonial and economic conditions, which makes their move an act of resistance.

Not long after, we learned about a boat full of Haitian men, women and children whose boat capsized in waters near the Bahamas Islands.

But the Dominican Republican went a bit further with its brand of evil. The government invalidated the birthright of f Dominicans of Haitian descent, stripping them of citizenship.

Afro-Latinos don’t fare well either. According to a recent report by the Center for Immigrant Rights, migrants in Veracruz, Mexico are fighting for fair work and fair wages.

In Connecticut, some immigrants say that the hostility can be felt by African and Caribbean immigrants and their children in school, work and church. The fights are largely ignored or treated as a nonissue.

The migrants of today may not face religious persecution. But they definitely face the same kind of intolerance that prompted it during the Reformation in Europe, which has taught us that hate breed hate.

And hate in any form or shade is corrosive to the soul. Across America, African and Caribbean immigrants are brutally attacked by native-born blacks.  This kind of nativism—historically seen in whites who formed the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1800s, is often dismissed as inconsequential and disturbingly justified with illogical and pernicious arguments. This ought to stop. Today’s immigrants should not be criminalized or serve as scapegoats for frustrated working-class Americans.

The UN’s resolution that guarantees migrant workers protection from abuses should be bandied about widely, especially to inform those who fear or oppose the presence of migrants. They should learn that migration is as old as civilization itself. And that their brand of hate cannot, and will not, stop migration. It never has, and it never will.

So perhaps it’s time to revisit the origins of America’s founding and its economic and social progress as a nation: forced and voluntary immigrants. If not, we should  join the Republican-led House of Representatives who left Congress without voting on immigration reform and consider plans to erase these words off the Statute of Liberty: “give me your tired and your poor.” And then we should deem ourselves hypocrites for not honoring the UN’s resolution to protect the rights of all migrants, especially as workers.

And here in Connecticut and across the nation, African and Caribbean migrants are most in need of that kind of protection.


Residents Say Beatings Fit Wide-spread Animosity Between Native-Born Immigrants and African Immigrants

African and Caribbean Immigrants Are Often Forgotten in the Debate in Washington

Israel Grapple With North African Immigrants



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African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The scars are still visible on Michelle Baxter’s arms.

She was a chubby, six-year-old when she first started slashing her arms with razor-sharp fingernails. Baxter, 35 and now a licensed social worker, theorizes that the cuts—one of about 15 types of coping strategies and non-suicidal injurious behavior—is a way to numb the pain in moments of self-doubt and self-hate. With a series of deep cuts, she says, she becomes unaware of her surroundings—or what she calls “missing in awareness.”

Baxter’s family-centered parents were frightfully aware of their daughter’s pain but perplexed by the novel marker of insanity. So they cloaked themselves in denial and shame.  Her parents, immigrants from Barbados, grew up in a time when they had little access to mental health services. After they migrated to the U.S. in the early 1960s, they wilted under Jim Crow segregation in New York.

“My parents didn’t know what to do, or who to turn to. So they worked it away with two or three jobs. Or prayed it away,” said the Brooklyn-born mental health advocate, who lives with her husband in Hartford. “They feared my illness would bring deep, biting shame to the family.”

Baxter’s parents are not alone in their pain and shame. Although African-Americans have the same rate of mental illness as whites, nearly 60 percent do not receive care, according to a 2004 Mayo Clinic study.  Only about 30 percent seek counseling, and they tend to be overrepresented among inpatient or residential treatment patients and underrepresented in outpatient care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.  In 2010, 19.7 percent of blacks 18 or older had a mental illness. And 4.4 percent of blacks ages 18 or older suffered from a serious mental illness.

The implications are far-reaching and grim. Societal factors such as high homicide rates, high school dropout rate, high unemployment nationwide, and even higher in urban communities, are indicators that increase African Americans’ chances of developing mental illness, according to a 2009 Health Disparities report by the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

HARTFORD GUARDIAN FB COVERAfrican Americans also tend to be in poorer health than the larger society because they lack access to, or do not seek, adequate preventive services. Physical health, the report says, is linked to mental health and wellness.

Additionally, there tends to be a higher level of stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness in the black community, and it serves as a barrier to achieving mental well-being. That’s because many blacks fear icy sarcasm and further marginalization in an already racist and sexist society. African Americans and Afro-Latinos who decide to reach out often seek help much later after symptoms first manifest, said Dr. Gretchen Chase Vaughn, one of the few black private practice psychologists in Connecticut.

“It’s not just the stigma. All communities have that stigma. I think the stigma for us is a fear that the mental health system might not treat us well,” Vaughn said. “Often we get the image of the angry black man or the angry black woman when in reality our people are hurt or depressed by a society that tells them they are less than.”

Indeed, there are also other reasons people are hesitant to reach out for help, said James Siemianowsk, a former social worker and spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“Mental illness is portrayed negatively. We have stereotypes of people who commit crimes. The reality is most people with mental illness are often victimized,” he said.  “Another reason is that they won’t be employed. So the fear is justified.”

Baxter’s parents eventually overcame their fears and reached outside the family for help when they found their daughter sitting in a pool of blood that had flown out of her cuts. At first, close relatives and mental health professionals reacted with blank expressions or bewilderment that a black girl cut herself. Self-mutilation, they thought, happened only in the white community. It doesn’t. Baxter cut herself to numb the pain when she got depressed because of past traumas and present realities: repeated sexual abuse, verbal abuse and the reverberations from society’s racist and sexist perception about dark-skinned women.

“When most people talk about self-mutilation, they often think of movies like Girl Interrupted. They think of it as something that happens to white girls,” said Dr. Kevin Chapman, a professor at the University of Louisville’s Center for Mental Health Disparities. “The response she’s getting from a cultural perspective is mostly related to how we put mental health on a hierarchy of symptoms. Depression and anxiety are sanctioned. But when we talk about symptoms that aren’t popular in the black community, it is labeled as crazy. And that’s problematic.”


Wearing the Mask

Many experts attribute the high rate of stigma about mental illness among communities of color as multi-dimensional, namely economic, psychological and historical.

“We normalize trauma in the black community even though it affects us, our children and our children’s children,” said Kev Muhammad, a community activist.

And it dramatically impacts communities of color. Hence, psycho-education is important to reduce the stigma in an environment where people are often discouraged from discussing personal problems, or “air dirty laundry.”

There’s also the daily strain of wearing an emotional mask to hide the pain that stems from racism, unemployment and poverty. Many seek emotional support in the church and within their families rather than turn to health care professionals. The disruption of that social dynamic usually leads to tension, Chapman said.

According to a 2009 Yale study, poverty affects mental health. People in poverty are three times more likely to report psychological distress. African Americans are twice as likely to live below the poverty level and twice as likely than their white counterpart to be unemployed. Moreover, poverty rate among African-Americans was 3.6 times greater than the poverty rate among whites.

Many experts also agreed that the legacy of slavery impacts the way African Americans deal with mental distress. During slavery, frequent whippings, rape, and other indignities of bondage resulted in mental illness. Slaves hid their torment not just to avoid being seen as weak but also to survive. Over time, strength was equated with survival.

That stigma still exists and is further exacerbated by a historical fear among African-Americans to seek help from mental institutions that may not recognize their specific cultural issues and often misdiagnosed or mistreated their conditions.

Tony Castro had that experience when he visited Capitol Region Mental Health Center in Hartford. After a brief examination, his doctor diagnosed his condition as anxiety disorder. But on another visit to Hartford Hospital, they diagnosed his condition as a schizophrenic disorder. Castro visited CREC for follow-up treatment, where he was administered high doses of antipsychotic medication, which caused muscle stiffness. When his family noticed the dramatic change in his gait, they inquired further and realized that Castro, a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was unaware of the new diagnosis. Castro thought he was still being treated for anxiety disorder.

“Without knowing the details or looking at [Castro’s] chart, I’d say there is no way the two diagnoses are linked.” Chapman said. “It’s laughable.”

And it is also scary. Several studies in the state and the nation find that blacks and their symptoms are over-diagnosed as schizophrenic.


Seeking Alternative Methods

Sometimes, failure to seek treatment for mental illness is not just a matter of shame but an emotional paralysis that overwhelms the patient, mental advocates say. So many have responded by turning to alternative treatments.

Swan Keyes, a California-licensed psychologist who practices communal healing with expressive art in Hartford, said her treatment includes the act of “putting the blame on societal factors rather than the individual.” Racism, poverty and lack of work are examples of societal factors that act as stressors and affect the psyche, said Keyes who also teaches a class on white liberal racism.

“It’s our society that’s ill,” she said. “That’s the problem we need to confront.”

Mental-health advocates such as Keyes encourage people to educate themselves about free resources that offer holistic healing, especially if they don’t have health insurance. And for those who seek help from mental institutions, the answer lies in cultural competency among mental health praticioners.

If we aim to decrease stigma, we should better understand the community and build rapport with people of color coming into the system, Chapman said, then many issues with stigma will likely decrease.

Baxter agreed.

“Black pain is real. But so is the truth of full recovery. We can, in our own time, overcome the trappings of mental illness,” she said. “But at the end of the day, race absolutely matters, especially when we talk about the distribution of resources. You might be aware of your symptoms and want help but you don’t have access to quality care.”


This article is the first of The Hartford Guardian’s two-part series that addresses health disparities in Connecticut. 

This article was made possible–in part–by the Connecticut Health Foundation, and the mentally ill patients’ names have been changed to protect their identities. 

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Haiti Hopes Gold Find Means Boom Times Ahead

By The Root Monique Clesca

A significant discovery of gold and other precious metals in Haiti’s Northeastern mountain range has given residents hope that once mining gets under way in about five years, the revenues will offer the resources needed to transform a country beset by poverty and ravaged by earthquakes and disease into an emerging island economy.

According to recent reports, a round of exploratory drilling by U.S. and Canadian investors this year has unearthed valuable metals including gold, silver and copper, which may be worth close $20 billion. This discovery is viewed by many as Haiti’s gold moment, a potential economic boon that could help the nation rebuild its infrastructure and improve the quality of life of its 10 million residents, many who live on $1.25 per day. That is, if the potential mining projects are managed in a transparent manner by the country’s rulers, according to Bureau of Mines Director Dieuseul Anglade.

The current project is being led by the Société Minière du Nord-Est (SOMINE, SA.), a Haitian company that is a partner of Majescor and its affiliate SIMACT Alliance Copper Gold Inc. Haitian engineer Michel Lamarre, who heads SOMINE, signed a 15-year mining agreement in March 2005 that includes research and mineral rights. He has said the gold mines could end years of Haiti’s dependence on humanitarian aid.

However, prospecting for gold in Haiti has a long and traumatic history. More than 500 years ago, the island’s Taíno peoples produced ornaments from gold that flowed in Haiti’s riverbeds. By 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in Mole St. Nicholas in northwest Haiti. Shortly after his arrival,Spanish settlers came and exploited the area’s gold mines and forced the Taíno tribes into slavery. They killed off most of the tribe members, a practice that many Haitians regard as attempted genocide. By the time slaves were brought from Africa, both the gold and the Taínos were decimated, and the colonial powers’ commercial interests had turned to sugar.

Centuries later, in the 1970s, United Nations geologists reported that Haiti had sizable deposits of gold and copper. By the 1980s, Newmont Mining Corporation ceased gold exploration in Haiti because of political instability and falling gold prices. Then, in early 2006, Eurasian Minerals, a company based in Canada, began its mining efforts. At the time, the firm’s lead geologist, Keith Laskowski, told the Sunday Morning Post (pdf) that Haiti’s results “were the best results I’ve seen” in his 27-year career prospecting gold mostly in Asia and the Amazon.

The next phase in this possible golden scenario is commercial mining, an industry that in Haiti has not had extensive federal oversight. Laurent Lamothe, a successful telecommunications executive who took office as prime minister this month, said that government officials are drafting legislation to regulate this new mining industry. What he calls the “correct mining law” will “ensure that the right portion comes to the state. It ensures that the people living in the region where the mines are, that their rights are protected. It ensures environmental protection,” he told AP after the approval of his Cabinet.

As for the locals of the mining region, SOMINE says that the project is already leaving a financial footprint in the area since it employs between 50 and 100 day laborers, as well as nearly 50 other Haitians hired as geologists and technical and support staff.

The Northeast region where the gold was found was identified as a priority area under former President René Préval’s growth strategy in 1996. Investments were directed toward an industrial park and port facilities in that administration. The new university campus offered by the Dominican Republic as a gift to its Haitian neighbors is located a few miles from the mining area. The efforts presage employment and some level of sustainable development. What long-term benefits the locals will reap and how their rights to the land and to a clean environment will be protected will depend on the mining law that will be passed, as well as its enforcement.

While the prime minister talked about ensuring that the “right portion comes to the state,” Anglade told Agence Haitienne de Presse (translated from French) that “it is the companies with which we signed the contracts that we have to watch.” To do so, he advocates the reinforcement of the authority of the mining bureau he directs so that it can protect the interests of the state as well as strengthening the watchdog powers of the ministries of finance, environment and commerce-industry.

Beyond the integrity of the mining companies, many more Haitians are watching the state itself to see what the government will do with this potential $20 billion treasure that is the property of the Haitian people. What benefits Haiti will really get is the question asked by many, in a country familiar with the bottom rungs on the list of the most corrupt states of Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization. Ultimately, the answer to this question is what will decide if it is indeed a gold moment for this country, which desperately needs a multibillion-dollar windfall.

Monique Clesca, a Haitian novelist and essayist, works in international development. Her last article for 
The Root was “Surviving the Haiti Earthquake.”

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Merrill to Join Annual ‘Immigrant Day’ Ceremony

HARTFORD — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill join the Connecticut Immigrant and refugee Coalition on April 23 to host the 15th annual “Immigrant Day” ceremony at the State Capitol in Hartford.

The ceremony will be at 1:00 p.m. in the Old Judiciary Room on the 3rd floor of the State Capitol in Hartford.

Immigrant Day honors immigrants from Connecticut, and celebrates their long lasting contributions to their communities and professions. This year’s ceremony will honor 16 immigrants originally from 14 different countries who live in Connecticut.

“It is such an honor to pay tribute to hard working citizens who contribute so much to our communities who in some cases overcame very difficult circumstances to come to America, just like my family did 100 years ago,”  Merrill said.  “Our strength as a Democracy comes from our diversity and the fact that anyone – from anywhere in the world – can succeed in this country if you work hard enough.

Each of those honored on Immigrant Day have not only done well for themselves and their families, but they have also had a lasting impact in their community.  Our entire state has benefitted from their talent and tireless efforts.”

The keynote speaker for the 2012 Immigrant Day Ceremony is Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, President of Naugatuck Valley Community College and an immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

Immigrant Day is sponsored by the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (CIRC) and the Secretary of the State’s Office.  CIRC is an association of ethnic and social service organizations working to promote the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees in Connecticut, and to foster their civic participation.


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Tavitos Hair Salon: Hartford’s Hall of Horror Stories

HARTFORD — “’Oops!’ That’s all the hair dresser said when she cut out a patch in my hair,” said Jannel Baker, a banking specialist in downtown Hartford.

Baker, 41, said she prides herself on looking her best on the job because it entails daily face-to-face contact with customers. So she has been searching for the right salon with stylists who “don’t talk over my head” while tending to her hair.”

So last summer, she walked into Tavitos, a Dominican Hair Salon at 250 Main Street in downtown Hartford. A woman greeted her and told her the cost for her perm her medium length auburn hair was $65. She felt comfortable because the atmosphere seemed professional, unlike the many salons she has visited, she said.

Not long after she sat down, she heard the stylist gasp with a “Oops!”

“Did you just cut my hair?” Baker asked the stylist. The stylist did not respond.

“Did you just cut my hair?” Baker asked again.

“No,” the stylist said.

It wasn’t long afterward, Baker found out her stylist lied to her.

She stopped her visits to Tavitos. Soon someone advised to return for a series of treatment from the hair salon that did the damage, so she went back to Tavitos.

She spoke to the owner, Mays J. Jimenez, about her mishap. Jimenez said she couldn’t do anything about Baker’s predicament because she didn’t see it happen.

For months, the discussion went on until the Jimenez promised Baker two hair treatments–and then reneged on that promise, saying she had to deal with a family emergency and might be in the Dominican Republic for the entire summer of 2011. The Hartford Guardian tried several times to reach the Jimenez for comment.

Baker said she had no choice but to report her mishap to the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau reported that the owner did not respond to letters and other methods of contact and advised Baker to sue.

What would you do? Please leave your comments below or email

This is an occasional column about customer service with Hartford businesses. If you have encountered bad or good customer service, please share. The aim is to shine a light on businesses that are serving Hartford residents and visitors well and exposed others that need to be in  Hartford’s Hall of Horror Stories.

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JetBlue Launches Flight to Florida, Caribbean

HARTFORD –Greater Hartford residents wanting to travel from Bradley International Airport to Florida and the Caribbean now have a another choice in low-cost airline: JetBlue Airways.

JetBlue launched its first flight from Bradley today to Fort. Lauderdale.

Spokesperson Alison Croyle said the option to international airlines is then offered on line and only selected destination in the Caribbean are offered.So far, travelers can get direct flights from Bradley to Ft. Lauderdale and then get a connecting flight to the Bahamas, and several Latin Caribbean countries, including San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Bogota, Colombia; and Cancun, Mexico.

For now, the airline has two daily nonstop service from Bradley to both Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport  and Orlando International Airport.

“We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with our JetBlue partners,” said Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Jeffrey Parker. “Anytime we can expand our offerings to travelers, everyone profits, and so does Connecticut’s economy.”

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Group to Raise Money for Haiti Relief Efforts

HARTFORD — A charitable group that provides medical assistance to impoverished people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti will hold a fundraising gala April 30, with WFSB Channel 3 morning news anchor Mike Hydeck as speaker, as well as music and dance entertainment.

The event, sponsored by Arm2Arm Inc., will be from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., at the Ann Howard restaurant at Indian Hill Country Club, 111 Golf St. in Newington. Tickets are $60 per person or $100 per couple. In addition to Hydeck, the Eyewitness News This Morning anchor, the night’s program includes dance performances by students from the Artists Collective in Hartford, a live guitarist and a DJ. There also will be hors d’ouevres and a silent auction.

Proceeds will support the efforts of Arm2Arm – which has staged five medical missions to the Dominican Republic and Haiti in the past five years, sending teams of doctors, physician assistants, nurses and other volunteers with medical supplies. Their medical clinics have aided thousands in the two countries on the Caribbean island.

“Have a great evening out and support a great cause,” said Arm2Arm founder and president Maryse Adonis. For information, contact Adonis at 860-478-9209 or

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