Monday, August 31, 2015

Dominican Republic and selective outrage

The Dominican Republic perhaps felt that stripping the rights of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens would have impressed their neighbours in Caricom. Like the way Caricom is with Cuba, a country that has gone further and stripped the rights of all its citizens. But instead, people across the Caribbean were outraged.

Caricom leaders condemned the immigration policies of the Dominican Republic, calling them racist and discriminatory. Unlike Caricom's own immigration policy towards Haiti. Which they pointed out isn't racist or discriminatory, though it might look that way. Haiti is the only Caricom member whose nationals require a visa to travel to other Caricom states. But it's not because they are Haitian or anything. Honest.


There is no country in the Caribbean that has committed more brutal human rights violations than Cuba. Be it mass executions, incarceration of political prisoners, detention with­out trial, violent suppression of dissent, and the extermination of free speech and the free press. Cuba holds all the titles. It's the Machel Montano of political oppression in the Caribbean.Despite this, Caricom actually celebrates an annual Caricom-Cuba Day. It's a day where Caricom leaders and Cuba's brutal rulers get together and watch Sergei Eisenstein's The Battle­ship Potemkin.

This is followed by a parade where Cuban state police proceed to bludgeon pro-demo­cracy supporters while Caricom members cheer them on, jumping up and down while wearing pom-poms.
What's most shameful about Caricom's love-in with the Cuban regime is that black Cubans are nothing more than second-class citizens. This is a fact. And it's a fact that apparently hasn't bothered anyone in Caricom for over 50 years now. How black Cubans must wish they were Dominicans being deported to Haiti.

Of course, Cuba is not the only regional country where gross human rights abuses are readily ignored. Caricom leaders and intellectuals also manage to summon a fair amount of cognitive dissonance when discus­sing Venezuela.As every failed artist, UWI (The University of the West Indies) intel­lec­tual and Wayne Kublalsingh supporter knows, Venezuela is a socialist paradise. A socialist paradise free from capitalist greed, imperialism and toilet paper. The only people who seem to disagree with this are Venezuelans.

Take, for example, Leopoldo L√≥pez. Mr Lopez is a popular Venezuelan politician opposed to President Nicolas Maduro and the ideas of the late Hugo Chavez. He is also currently jailed on charges of murder, terrorism, arson and instigating crimi­nal gatherings. And, I guess, for also telling people that toilet paper is a necessary commodity. There is no evi­dence that Mr Lopez is guilty of the things he's being accused of. Human rights groups say his real crime is being a popular Venezuelan politician opposed to President Maduro and the ideas of the late Hugo Chavez. Amnesty International has demanded his immediate release.

So, of course, Caribbean politicians, intellectuals and news media have all chosen to ignore Mr Lopez. In fact, last year, after mass protests in Venezuela against Maduro, Caricom issued a news release that appeared to firmly back Maduro and condemn the protesters. The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grena­dines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, also kind of implied that everyone outside Venezuela should mind their own damn business.

Despite all of the outrage directed at the Dominican Republic, the message from the people of the Caribbean couldn't be clearer. You're free to commit any kind of human rights abuse you like. Just so long as you use words like “anti-imperialism”, “revolution” and “colonialism”.
It remains to be seen how events in the Dominican Republic will play out. But at least Dominicans of Haitian ancestry can rely on having regional attention and outrage on their side. Many others across the Caribbean and Latin America aren't as lucky.

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