President expresses alarm at anti-Dominican demonstrations
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ President Salvador Jorge Blanco expressed alarm Thursday about anti- Dominican demonstrations in Haiti, and said he had reports of threats against Dominicans living there.
Jorge Blanco told a news conference, however, that there were no reports of assaults on any of the estimated 2,000 Dominican citizens living in Haiti, with which the Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
About 450,000 Haitians live in this country, most of them illegal aliens, and relations between the neighbors often are strained. Haiti’s new government has refused to honor a contract signed with the regime of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who fled the country Feb. 7, for 19,000 Haitian workers to help with the Dominican sugarcane harvest.
The president said the Dominican Embassy in Port-au-Prince was providing help for those Dominicans who want to leave Haiti. Jorge Blanco ordered the border closed shortly before Duvalier went into exile in France.
He sent a note to the Haitian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday asking that the safety of Dominican citizens be guaranteed. Demonstrators had picketed the embassy in Port-au-Prince and the consulate in Cap Haitien.
Ambassador Jean Dominique Daphnis of Haiti replied Thursday that his government ″has already taken all measures necessary to guarantee the safety, and protect the lives and property″ of Dominican nationals. ″No means have been spared to see that visiting or resident foreigners may enjoy all the guarantees inherent to their status,″ he said.
Haiti’s new governing council cited unsatisfactory working conditions in refusing to honor the contract for harvest labor. In response, Jorge Blanco’s government demanded the return of $2 million paid under the agreement and a ″satisfactory explanation″ for breaking it.
Jorge Blanco said Thursday the tensions would not affect the status of resident Haitians, legal or not.
″We realize that the lack of papers, or illegal entry, are circumstances that, while transitory, require a degree of understanding in the place where they occur,″ he said.