Largest Dominican Multi-national Displaced Hundreds of Haitian Farmers without Compensation, Diplomatic Cables Disclose

Grupo M Head. Capellan
Grupo M, which Forbes magazine described as "the textile giant of the Caribbean," has been busy in the nation of Haiti. Founded in 1986 by Fernando Capellan Peralta for the purpose of creating what its website describes as a "vertical textile industry," Grupo M had by 2000 already formed alliances with: American & Effird, Inc.; Sewn Products International; Levi Strauss & Co.; Group Dockers; Fruit of the Loom; Dysberg, Inc.; American GarmentMiami Sewing; Sarah Lee (Hanes); and multiple others.  

In 2002 Grupo M acquired Tee-jays in Alabama and on the 8th of April of that year broke ground on a Free Trade Zone in Haiti -- CODEVI. In 2003 Grupo M began to finalize negotiations with the World Bank for CODEVI, which would be dedicated to the manufacture of garments for the American companies with which the group had signed agreements. 
Grupo M
As a company owning property in the United States and working closely with American multi-nationals, Grupo M naturally needed to cultivate a friendly relationship with the US Embassies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
At around the same time that Grupo M finalized its negotiations with the World Bank and began preparations to open CODEVI, an American governor by the name of Jeb Bush paid a visit to the Dominican Republic, where he met with Grupo M. A leaked diplomatic cable from September 2003 shows that Governor Bush traveled with "200 US business representatives" in order "to promote Miami's bid to house the permanent secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas." [1]

During his trip to the Dominican Republic, Governor Bush was asked by Dominican Vice-president Milagros Ortiz Bosch and Fernando Capellan to support a free-trade agreement between the Dominican Republic and the United States, an agreement which two years later was passed with "a push from Bush" by a mere 2 votes in the US House of Representatives. The Tampa Bay Times reported at the time that: "The day began with [President] Bush making a rare appearance on Capitol Hill to try to cajole House Republicans to support CAFTA [Central American Free Trade Agreement.] Vice President Dick Cheney stayed for the day and spoke to several of the undecided Republicans, making his own pitch."

Given the unusual nature of their support, it is apparent that President Bush and Vice-president Cheney desperately wanted the DR-CAFTA agreement to pass, arguing to House Republicans that it was a matter of "national security."

On the 22nd of September, 2003, a week after Governor Bush departed from the Dominican Republic back to Florida, Amiot Metayer's body was found brutally mutilated in Haiti.

The Miami New Times reported that Amiot Metayer's brother, Butteur Metayer, "was visiting his cousin in North Miami when he learned of his brother's death. He vowed to seek revenge."

By February of 2004, Butteur Metayer had already returned From Bush's Florida and taken over the city of Gona├»ves, and within a month, Haitian President Bertrant Aristide had been removed from power in what he described as a "US coup" and abduction "from his home by about 20 American soldiers in full battle gear with automatic weapons."  

In President Aristide's removal, the United States eliminated a major thorn in its plans for Haiti. 

Two months after Jeb Bush's visit, and four months before President Aristide's removal -- in November of 2003 -- the United States sent an inter-agency team to the Dominican Republic. The inter-agency team learned of allegations that abuses were taking place at a Grupo M plant in Santiago, and that the company's export license had been suspended on two occasions. [2] 

Three months after President Aristide's removal, in June of 2004, a diplomatic cable sent from Santo Domingo -- Dominican Grupo M Shutting Down Manufacturing Operation in Haiti -- detailed how Grupo M President Fernando Capellan argued that "a group of activists" who call themselves "Batay Ouvriye" (Workers' Struggle,) had been complaining of "worker exploitation." Mr. Capellan's threat to shut down his plant in Haiti would have directly affected all of the American corporations with which he had signed partnerships, so it was an issue that directly affected US economic interests. [3] 
  
Less than a year after Mr. Capellan's concerns/intentions were relayed by the US State Department, Batay Ouvriye was approached by The Solidarity Center. According to Jeb Sprague: "Recently declassified National Endowment for Democracy (NED) documents reveal that a 'leftist' workers' organization, Batay Ouvriye, which promoted and called for the overthrow of the constitutionally-elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was the targeted beneficiary of a US $99,965 NED grant routed through the AFL-CIO's [US labor Union] American Center for International Solidarity."

Documents show that NED grants were funneled to Batay Ouvriye starting in 2005, and coincididng with a diplomatic cable from June of that year detailing how Grupo M expropriated land from farmers without compensation, and that a list of farmers who had been displaced was not compiled. [4] The cable detailed that there was "credence to [Batay Ouvriye representative] Etienne's claim that farmers were left out of the process," but that a settlement had been reached nonetheless.

According to the June 2005 diplomatic cable, Batay Ouvriye representative Etienne told US embassy officials that Grupo M had used "the Dominican Army to secure the free-trade zone" and had led a "vaccination campaign" that some Haitians believed caused them reproductive problems. 

Capellan with US Ambassador to the DR, Brewster.
In November of 2006, the US Ambassadors to Haiti and the DR visited a Grupo M plant at CODEVI. [5] Grupo M -- described in the cable as the largest private employer in the Dominican Republic -- told US Embassy officials that more than 108 families had their lands expropriated by the government and that "the Haitian government had taken no steps to reimburse the affected families."

Even as the US learned of Grupo M misdeed after misdeed, no action was taken against the company. As for Jeb Bush, his Spanish oral skills and previous support for "Dominican causes" in Haiti means that he has their undying support.
 
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 [Warning to US personnel: public disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.]