Dozens of Haitian activists held a sit-in in front of the Dominican embassy in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, on the morning of May 8 to protest the lynching of Haitian national Carlos Nérilus in Santo Domingo on May 2. The activists denounced both the failure of Dominican authorities to protect Haitian nationals and what they called the “laissez-faire” policy of the Haitian government; they demanded the immediate recall of Fritz Cinéas, Haiti’s ambassador in Santo Domingo.
The sit-in was organized by the Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GARR), the Platform of Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights (POHDH) and the National Coordinating Committee of Nongovernmental Actors (CONANE). A Dominican embassy official, Pastor Vásquez, met with a delegation of five activists accompanied by journalists; Ambassador Rubén Silié was away from the embassy.
Two more groups of protesters, mostly students, arrived later in the morning, bringing the crowd to a total of about 150. The newcomers tore down the sign in front of the embassy and wrote “Dominican criminals, Dominican murderers” on the walls. The Associated Press wire service reported that they also threw rocks and broke a window. The youths then proceeded to the nearby Dominican consulate, where police agents prevented them from tearing down the Dominican flag; later they paralyzed traffic in Pétionville.
Meanwhile, the human rights groups led a peaceful march to Haitian prime minister Michèle Pierre-Louis’ office, where they tried to deliver a document. In contrast to the Dominican embassy, the prime minister’s office wouldn’t receive a delegation of activists if journalists were included. The protesters refused to accept the condition and marched on to the National Palace to deliver a message to President René Préval. (AlterPresse, May 8; Chicago Tribune, May 8 from AP; GARR press release, May 4)
Nérilus was murdered on 12th Street in Santo Domingo’s Buenos Aires neighborhood on the afternoon of May 2. A man reportedly tortured Nérilus and then cut off his head with an axe while an angry crowd looked on; some people filmed the incident with their cellphones. There is no evidence that the local police attempted to intervene. The killing was said to be in revenge for the decapitation of a Dominican business owner, Pascual de León Lara, allegedly by a Haitian, the day before in another Santo Domingo neighborhood, but it not clear whether Nérilus and his killer had a direct connection to De León Lara’s murder. Dominican authorities later arrested a suspect, Confesor Reyes, and on May 8 a Santo Domingo Province judge, Elizabeth Esperanza Rodríguez Espinal, ordered a three-month detention of Reyes while the case is being investigated. According to one report, Reyes has also been identified as Rusbert de León Lara, Pascual de León Lara’s brother. (Radio Kiskeya, May 3; Listín Diario, May 4, 5; Chicago Tribune, May 8 from AP)
In other news, after months of delays the Haitian Senate voted unanimously on May 5 to approve a measure raising the minimum wage to 200 gourdes a day (about $4.96) from its current rate of 70 gourdes. The Chamber of Deputies approved the measure earlier in the year. To become law, the raise still needs to be approved by President Préval and published in the official gazette, Le Moniteur. Business owners strongly opposed the new minimum wage, and it is not clear what measures are planned to enforce it. (AlterPresse, May 6)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 10