Caribbean Theater

Haiti: union leaders fired over wage protests

Six workers at the One World Apparel S.A. garment assembly plant in the north of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, were given notices of dismissal on Jan. 8, four weeks after workers shut down production in the city’s apparel sector with Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 protests demanding a daily minimum wage of 500 gourdes (about US$12.08). The fired workers--Jude Pierre, Luckner Louis, Deroy Jean Baptiste, Paul René Pierre, Jean Luvard Exavier and Rubin Mucial—are all on the executive committee of the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), a member union in the Collective of Textile Union Organizations (KOSIT), the labor alliance that led the December protests.

Haiti: Lavalas expels two populist politicians

Division and confusion marred Dec. 16 celebrations by Haiti's Lavalas Family (FL) party in Port-au-Prince to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the overwhelming 1990 electoral victory of the party's founder, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Hundreds of FL supporters marched from the site of the St. Jean Bosco church, where Aristide served as a priest in the 1980s, to the Jean Aristide Foundation in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre. But participants reported that when party coordinator Maryse Narcisse tried to speak, she was drowned out by supporters of Senator Moïse Jean-Charles and Deputy Arnel Bélizaire, two populist members of Haiti's Parliament. Following a dispute over planning for a November demonstration, the FL executive committee announced Dec. 2 that the party "protests with all its might against any public declaration" from Jean-Charles and Bélizaire, describing them as "some people who present themselves as Lavalas Family members."

Puerto Rico: teachers to strike over pensions

Scores of Puerto Rican teachers briefly occupied the Senate chamber in San Juan on Dec. 19 to protest legislation proposed by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to change the retirement and pension system for the island’s teachers. After scuffling with Capitol building employees, the chanting teachers, many wearing yellow T-shirts, pushed their way into the chamber, forcing the 16 senators present to move to another room. Protests continued at the Capitol throughout the week, with teachers and police clashing outside the building on Dec. 21. Despite the actions, both chambers of the Legislative Assembly narrowly voted to pass the bill—the House of Representatives on Dec. 21 by a vote of 26 to 20 and the Senate on Dec. 23 by a vote of 14 to 13.

Haiti: maquila workers take to the streets —again

Haitian garment workers walked off their jobs in Port-au-Prince on the morning of Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, starting off three days of strikes and marches for a higher minimum wage. The protests were in response to the Nov. 29 recommendation by the newly formed Higher Council on Wages (CSS) setting a minimum wage of 225 gourdes (US$5.44) a day for the country's 24 apparel factories—tax-exempt plants, known in Latin America as maquiladoras, which assemble products for export to North America. With hundreds of participants—or thousands, according to some sources—the actions were the largest demonstrations by assembly workers since August 2009.

Haiti: evictions of quake victims continue

Some 60 families left homeless by the earthquake that devastated southern Haiti in January 2010 were evicted from their improvised shelters in the vast Canaan camp a few kilometers north of Port-au-Prince on Dec. 7. According to residents, the removal was carried out—without an eviction order—by a justice of the peace and 17 police agents. The authorities were accompanied by a group of men armed with machetes and clubs who tore down homes, stole residents' belongings and assaulted more than a dozen people. Another 100 families were told they would be evicted later.

Haiti: wage council proposes eight-cent raise

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).

Dominican Republic: Haitians flee violence

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. 

Haitian migrants killed in Bahamas boat capsize

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.

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