Over the past several weeks, thousands have gathered in Santo Domingo to defend a controversial ruling by the Constitutional Court that has led to the revocation of nationality of four generations of Dominicans who were born to foreign parents.
“No merger is possible between Dominicans and Haitians,” read one placard that was carried on a recent protest by a supporter of last September’s ruling. “Dominican Republic is for Dominicans,” read another.
Proponents of the decision believe that the wave of migration of Haitians from across the border has been nothing more than a silent invasion that could eventually result in Haitian-Dominicans emerging as leaders of the country and holding sway at the ballot box. Closing off that possibility by enforcing the court’s ruling is viewed by conservative sectors as protecting Dominican national sovereignty.
While the nationalistic movement and an anti-Haitian discourse began under the dictatorship Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-1961), it was during the 1990s when discrimination against Haitians swelled. Anti-Haitian prejudice had also been present during the 1990 presidential campaign when José Francisco Peña Gómez unsuccessfully took his first stab to capture the presidency.
“I love my country, my people. Throughout my lifetime I have paid a price for this. I have been the victim of ferocious attacks, sometimes to my face, other times they have been more subtle like now. But I have forgiven everyone. My adversaries can count on my support as well as my forgiveness,” said Peña Gómez said in a television spot during his last campaign as Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidate.
Peña Gómez was born in 1937 in Valverde province and had been adopted that same year by a family of rural workers after his Haitian parents fled back to Haiti when Trujillo ordered massacres of Haitians on the border. His origins and race were the subject of criticism by those inside and outside his party throughout his political career.
He served as mayor of Santo Domingo from 1982 to 1986, and unsuccessfully ran for president in 1990, 1994 and 1996.
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