Earl Bousquet

7th Assembly of Caribbean People: To Boycott, or Not?

Some 120 delegates from 19 countries attended the 7th Assembly of Caribbean People (ACP) in Santo Domingo, including Haitian representatives who thanked the Caribbean and South American international delegates for coming to show their solidarity/Photo: Reuters
7th Assembly of Caribbean People: To Boycott, or Not?

Caribbean groups debate responses to alleged “ethnic cleansing” against Haitians by their neighbors in the Dominican Republic.

The 7th Assembly of Caribbean People (ACP) took place in the Dominican Republic at the end of October.

Dedicated mainly to the memories of Che Guevara (50 years after his killing in Bolivia) and Fidel Castro (approaching the first anniversary of his passing in Havana), it attracted participation by representatives from Caribbean and Latin American states, including: Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The meeting, from October 26 to 30, was held amid some quiet calls for a boycott of meetings there, to protest the government’s continuing deportation of Haitians.

Over a hundred thousand Haitians have been systematically expelled under controversial laws adopted by the Santo Domingo administration — including persons born there — resulting in strong allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the overwhelmingly Black Haitians.

Systematic application

The systematic application of the D.R.’s anti-immigrant laws has been roundly condemned by the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR), Caribbean political parties, advocacy groups and related entities.

CARICOM has put the D.R.’s long-standing application for full membership on hold until the apparent ethnic cleansing campaign is stopped.

But with the protests seeming to get nowhere, some advocates are suggesting an international boycott of meetings and conferences in the D.R. — akin to that against Apartheid South Africa decades ago.

Some stayed away from the D.R. ACP meeting, accusing the organizers of everything from insensitivity to cowardice.

But the 120 delegates from 19 countries who attended hold that in the absence of any binding multilateral policy decision or agreement to boycott Santo Domingo, the meeting was not out of place.

Discussion and Division

The ACP meeting is over, but the boycott discussion is continuing to divide Caribbean supporters of Haiti, if only on the surface — and (if only) just for now…

All agree that Haiti, home of the world’s first Black Revolution in 1804, ought not to be neglected in its latest trauma.

But for the Haiti struggle to be galvanized enough to make that desired difference sooner than later, the fate of the Haitians also needs to be better made known through worldwide publicity; and the political response within both the D.R. and Haiti needs to be more organized and effective.

The struggle needs to be fought on all fronts and abandoning any space only leaves room to give open sea and wide berth for the opposition to sail into.

If the D.R. government is blacklisted by the Caribbean Left — and left to do as it pleases — that will not in any way improve, far less change, the dire situation facing the Haitians.’

Boycott proponents claim that CARICOM leaders seem to have already fallen for Santo Domingo’s ‘charm offensives’ and therefore aren’t moved to even rap the D.R.’s knuckles on the matter.

But engagement always beats disengagement.

Engagement vs Disengagement

The still-ongoing century-old territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela shows that dialogue — even for a very long time — is always safer than standing-off and risking conflict on the basis of principled disengagement.

The Medina administration in Santo Domingo is today a mediator in the political face-off between the government and opposition in Venezuela, one such meeting coinciding with the ACP Assembly. 

So: Should Caracas have rejected the D.R.’s mediation role on the basis of its Haiti policy? 

Combined approaches

Haitians living in the D.R. attended the conference and thanked the international Caribbean delegates for coming to support their cause.

The ACP is 23 years old (established in Trinidad & Tobago with its first assembly in 1994) and its next six assemblies in Dominican Republic (2001), Haiti (2003), Cuba (2008), Barbados (2010) and Curacao (2015).

The next Assembly will be held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of its inaugural meeting hosted by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU). 

The subsequent one (in 2021) will then take place in Haiti.

What will matter more before then, however, is the extent to which a combination of approaches can be used to approach identified goals set according to a specific program for action.

A boycott may be a politically meaningful proclamation, but will be (almost) meaningless in terms of actual effect.

Just a question …

And then there’s the unasked and unanswered billion-dollar question: 

If the intention is to boycott countries with pernicious policies and racial practices that inflict persistent pain on ‘Black People’ in the most egregious of ways, why are the proponents of punishment against the D.R. still attending conferences in the USA, Britain and France? 

Like the ACP, its critics will also claim to represent ‘social organizations and movements, including political groups, farmers, trade unions, workers, women, students, youth, artists, intellectuals, environmental movements, community-based and solidarity, as well as non-governmental organizations of the Caribbean.’

The people and causes they represent, therefore, have more to gain from them finding common ground to further and better the cause, instead of spitting in the sky, blowing in the wind and swimming against the side.

By Earl Bousquet/teleSUR

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