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Cultura y conciencia

The Bitter Experience of Sugar Cane Workers Brutally Repressed by Anti-Riot Police

Nelson SantanaComment

By ESENDOM          August 15, 2017          Leer en español 

 Foto: Acento

Foto: Acento

UPDATES:

  • The World Federation of Trade Unions issued a statement condemning the attack on the sugar cane workers.
  • Batay Ouvriye (Workers’ Fight), a progressive Haitian organization also condemned the attack and expressed their solidarity with the sugar cane workers.

On July 31st, riot police in the Dominican Republic unleashed a brutal attack against a group of elderly sugar cane workers of Haitian descent. The repression against elderly sugar cane workers have been widely condemned by activists and social movements alike.

The incident happened during one of the many mobilizations that the Unión de Trabajadores Cañeros (Sugar Cane Workers Union, UTC) led by Jesus Núñez has been staging to demand the payment of their pensions.

For some time now, elderly sugarcane workers have been mobilizing to demand that the Dominican state pay the pensions rightfully earned in the sugar plantations where they labored their entire lives. But the government refuses to abide by labor law, denying sugar workers their labor benefits under the pretext that former sugar cane workers lack legal documents which were never provided by the sugar industry with the complicity of the Dominican state.

According to political activist and writer Yesibon Reynoso, during the police attack "a bomb hit the sugar cane worker David Michel, 67 years of age, in his jaw, that when something fell something caused another wound close to the eye, these conditions have led to surgery, missing another. He cannot eat."

Reynoso also adds that "Jesús Núñez, spokesman for UTC, was beaten and imprisoned. He was later released thanks to the involvement of his lawyer Genaro Rincon and Virgilio Almanzar, president of the Dominican Committee for Human Rights.

A statement by the UTC published on social media denounced the indiscriminate violence and blamed both the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police for the repressive attack. The police fractured the arm of an elderly sugar cane worker and dozens of people suffered “vomiting, temporary asphyxia, burning of the eyes and face".

Many of the sugar cane workers currently suffer from health problems due to lack of access to medications and proper nutrition. This repressive attack is an addition to the long list of abuses to which sugar cane workers have been subjected to for a number of decades by both the private sugar cane sector and the state.

Solidarity

After the attack, both activists and citizens spread the word through social media.

Expressing dismay over the incident, the well-known writer Andrés L. Mateo denounced the repression of the sugar cane workers on his Facebook account, labeling the government of Danilo Medina and his repressive forces as "criminals and murderers!”

Meanwhile, the Green March movement demanded an investigation of what they described as "outrage committed against the sugar cane workers." The Green March movement also called for an inquiry into the assassination of left-wing activist Vladimir Baldera shot dead during a 48-hour strike in the San Francisco de Macorís province. His murder has been attributed to police officers.

The Green March movement describes both cases as "evidence that the government is using violence to infuse fear within the population and social organizations that are expressing themselves in an exemplary way"

Despite the repression, the sugar cane workers announced that mobilizations to demand their pensions will go on.

This is an updated article of a Spanish version first published on August 4, 2017.