The Rise of the Dominican Far-Right

The year was 1937 and Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo wanted to "whiten" the Dominican Republic. He decided to massacre 30,000 humans -- anyone who was dark and pronounced the word "parsley" with a Haitian accent. For his brutality, the dictator received the international equivalent of a fine, with most of the fine money going into the pockets of corrupt Haitian bureaucrats.  

Though Trujillo would later be ajusticiado  (brought to justice by popular demand) with a hail of bullets, his disciple JoaquĆ­n Balaguer would rule after him, continuing his legacy of hatred against Haitians. Balaguer maintained strong political power well into the '90s, especially bolstered by the deep support he enjoyed within the military ranks. Balaguer was the last of the Great Trujillistas, and he died in 2002, essentially closing a chapter in Dominican history; Trujillismo withered and the past decade has seen the Dominican mentality shift towards liberalism.

However, the Dominicans are master observers, and they can see that any decision they take towards Haitians will be supported by the Republican party in the United States Congress. The US Senate recently passed legislation normalizing 11 million undocumented immigrants. The US Senate immigration bill also calls for 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, drones, and the Berlinization of the US-Mexico border. The bill is championed by President Obama, and will face steep opposition in the House of Representatives. The expert political opinion in Washington these days is that a good crisis should never be wasted, and the Dominicans have calculated that Washington is impotent when it comes to criticizing Dominican immigration policy.

The European Union finds itself overwhelmed by Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Golden Dawn in Greece, and Fronte Nazionale in Italy. The French and Dutch are cooperating, but in forming a European-wide far-right party, and in legitimizing extremism in the European Parliament. The European far-right promises to rake big in the coming May elections, making it unlikely that the Dominican Republic will face sanctions or be heavily criticized by Europeans, who are far more distracted with their "Muslim" problem. 

With those distractions in mind, the Dominican Constitutional Court decided to strip of citizenship nearly 200,000 individuals of Haitian descent. The court's decision cannot be appealed, and the Executive branch has remained largely silent on the decision. President Danilo Medina has promised to find a "human solution" to this problem, but we've yet to see his master plan. It seems that he himself is also observing, calculating which route to take. President Medina is surprisingly flexible, and how he handles this crisis will largely depend on the international community. If there are no mass protests, if there is no condemnation from the international community, then he will not act. 

Indeed, there have been rallies in support of the Constitutional Court's decision, with neo-Trujillistas calling for the death of anyone who opposes the court's decision. Counter-protests have been held, but they have not received much media attention, and they have largely taken place in the bateyes -- neighborhoods formed around sugar cane fields -- where they go unnoticed by most Dominicans. 

I recently saw a prominent member of the Dominican community dressed like a Haitian caricature --with blackface and buck teeth and dreadlocks all complementing the "outfit" -- be celebrated by his peers for his "creativity." Most Dominicans will not oppose this violation of human rights, and the international community has not been very vocal; 2013 is starting to look a lot like 1937.