The Dominican government is carrying out evictions against poor families through the Ministry of the Environment
A Bully at the Service of the Powerful
Written by Maria Encarnación
June 22, 2010
Arbitrary evictions against poor and working families in the Dominican Republic take place on a regular basis in both rural and urban areas throughout the country. This is due in part to a lack of housing and proper living conditions that have forced rural migrants and the poor to occupy land belonging to the government.
Meanwhile, the government refuses to grant land tittles to families that have built their houses and lives around abandoned land for decades.
In addition, housing developments rarely benefit the poor, and instead go to well-connected activists involved with the political party in power.
The latest evictions, carried out by the Ministry of the Environment, are affecting residents of Hoyo de Chulin, a poor neighborhood in the province of Santo Domingo.
According to the web site AccionVerde, those evicted did not receive any compensation from the Ministry of the Environment, leading residents to take matters into their own hands by staging a protest in early June.
The Ministry of the Environment is headed by former vice-president Jaime David Fernández Mirabal (1996-2000), a close political ally of President Leonel Fernández and member of the governing Dominican Liberation Party.
Mirabal was mired in controversy last year after he approved the construction of a cement factory in Los Haitises National Park by the Dominican Mining Consortium, a local mining company. However, the government halted the construction license due to mass protests by grassroots organizations that opposed the cement factory as it would be hazardous to the environment.
During the protests against the cement factory, Mirabal acted like a bully who sided with the powerful mining group. Thus, the Dominican Ministry of the Environment is becoming a tool to destroy the ecological system it claims to protect, as well as people’s livelihoods.
But the bully in him did not die with the defeat of the cement factory project.
According to Ciudadoriental.org, Mirabal brought a contingent of soldiers carrying M-16 weapons to Borojol and El Martillo, two poor neighborhoods in Santo Domingo. Mirabal threatened residents with mass evictions if they do not leave.
In some occasions, Mirabal’s bullies have uprooted trees and agricultural goods to evict peasants who occupy abandoned land. According to the Spanish news agency EFE, in 2009, soldiers at the service of the Ministry of the Environment destroyed agricultural plots belonging to Haitian immigrants who enter the country to work. This prompted an angry protest by Haitian peasants in the area.
At the end, a Haitian peasant resulted wounded by soldiers. And in more than one occasion, Dominican peasants have been evicted as well. The Ministry of the Environment claims to protect government land but at the same time destroys food and income which feeds both Dominican and Haitian peasants.
In the meantime, resistance against evictions continues.
On June 17, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, for its Spanish initials) filed a formal complaint before the Supreme Court against Jaime David Fernández Mirabal for the recent evictions of 40 families in Hoyo de Chulín.