On Nov. 29 Haiti's newly formed tripartite Higher Council on Wages (CSS) announced the minimum wage levels it is proposing to go into effect on Jan. 1. The nine-member council, which is composed of government, management and labor representatives, set different minimums for five job categories. For Category A, which includes bank employees, electricians and telecommunication workers, the new minimum is 260 gourdes (US$6.28) a day, while for Category B, which includes construction workers and truck drivers, the new rate is 240 gourdes (US$5.80). For Category C, which covers agricultural work and the important sector that assembles products for export, the new rate will be 225 gourdes (US$5.44). Two other groups will have their own minimums: 300 gourdes for public administrators (US$7.25) and 125 gourdes for domestic workers (US$3.02).
Hundreds of Haitian immigrants fled the Dominican Republic from Nov. 23 to Nov. 25 following reports that mobs were killing Haitians in revenge for the murder of a Dominican couple; one or two men, reportedly Haitians, raped and murdered 63-year-old Luja Díaz Encarnación in the course of a robbery on Nov. 22 and killed her 70-year-old husband, José Méndez, in Neyba, the capital of the southwestern Dominican province of Baoruco. According to the Haitian nonprofit Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), 347 Haitian citizens were repatriated in just two days, Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, at the southern border crossing between the Dominican city of Jimaní and the Haitian town of Malpasse; the refugees included 107 children. The fleeing immigrants told GARR that four Haitians had been killed with machetes and their bodies had been burned.
As many as 30 Haitians were killed when the boat they were traveling on ran aground and then capsized on Nov. 25 near Harvey Cays in the southern Bahamas. Bahamian authorities said 111 survivors were rescued, many of them suffering from hunger and dehydration. The badly overloaded 40-foot boat was apparently headed for Florida; Haitians seeking to enter the US without authorization frequently travel through the Bahamas. Bahamas military spokesperson Lt Origin Deleveaux said the survivors would be processed at a military base on New Providence and then repatriated to Haiti.
Two major North American garment companies, Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc. and Fruit of the Loom, which is headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, have announced that they will now require their Haitian suppliers to pay piece-rate workers at least the 300 gourde daily minimum wage (about US$7.22 at the time of the announcement) that went into effect by law in October 2012. The increase will cover 90% of the workers; the rest are trainees who are paid at a lower rate. Scott Nova, a spokesperson for the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) labor monitoring group, told the Toronto Star that the companies will also be meeting with unions to discuss back pay. According to Nova, another major apparel company, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands Inc., has refused to make a commitment to honor the minimum wage.
Several thousand Haitians marched for four hours through much of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area on Nov. 7 to protest the government of President Joseph Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky") and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The march, which riot police dispersed on two occasions with tear gas, was sponsored by several groups, including the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Fopak), a base organization close to the populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004).
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted 188-2 on Oct. 29 to condemn the 53-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba. This was the 22nd year in a row that the General Assembly has passed a resolution rejecting the US policy. Israel and the US were the only countries to oppose the resolution, which was presented by Cuba; last year Palau backed the US, but this year it abstained, along with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the US position, saying: "We don't feel that this annual debate in the United Nations does anything to add to or advance a constructive discussion about these issues." Unlike Security Council resolutions, those passed by the General Assembly have no binding force.
A failed attempt by Haitian police to search the car of a prominent lawyer, André Michel, the evening of Oct. 22 quickly turned into an embarrassment for the government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky"). Riot police stopped Michel in the capital's Martissant neighborhood after 6 pm, in violation of a constitutional ban on nighttime arrests except in cases of active crimes. Joined by Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Francisco René, the city's chief prosecutor, the agents tried to search Michel's car. A crowd of local residents gathered to protect the attorney. The agents dispersed the crowd with tear gas and took Michel to the police headquarters, where he spent the night.
The Guyana-based Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 15 Caribbean countries, issued a statement on Oct. 17 criticizing a ruling by the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Tribunal (TC) that denied citizenship to people born in the country to undocumented immigrant parents. Immigrant rights activists say the TC's Sept. 23 ruling affects more than 200,000 Dominicans, mostly the descendants of Haitian immigrants, and includes people born as early as 1929 who have been recognized as Dominican citizens for more than a half century. The ruling makes people "stateless in violation of international human rights obligations," the CARICOM statement charged; the Secretariat called on the Dominican government to protect the rights of "those made vulnerable by this ruling and its grievous effects." Haiti is a CARICOM member; the Dominican government has indicated that it plans to join. (New York Times, Oct. 17, from AP)