Saturday, August 17, 2013

Island of Hispaniola: Coalitions and cross-border solidarity

Political dysfunction on the Island of Hispaniola is rife, mired in clientelist networks (as in the Dominican Republic) and the blatant manipulation of elections (as in Haiti). Whereas the populations are interlocked in many ways, historical divisions remain and are readily exploited by dominant national and transnational groups. Most notable are the racist and xenophobic tendencies aimed at the Haitian migrant underclass, which is so clearly present in Dominican society. This serves to pit poor people against one another based upon arbitrary national boundaries, racial myths and historical rivalries in an island smaller than the U.S. state of Maine.

What are the prospects for the left and popular grassroots movements in Hispaniola under such conditions? With the successes in recent years of many leftist movements and governments in the region, what potentials exist and what is holding back the formation of similar political projects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic?


In mid-2012, press reports indicated that some on the left in the Dominican Republic were attempting to form an electoral coalition prior to the country’s recent elections, but this failed to materialize. The various left groups that remain and, importantly, the non-electoral social movements as well, have an opportunity to reenergize this process and carry it out on a deeper level, to form a coalition that is not only limited to electoral politics. This could include groups such as Alianza Pais, Max Puig’s Alianza por la Democracia, Frente amplio, Dominicano por el cambio, the country’s communists in the Fuerza de la Revolución, and the numerous grassroots movements, non-co-opted labour, university groups and the grouping of non-electoral leftwing groups (that in recent years have called for a constitutional assembly). Most importantly, a true coalition of the left would need to embrace the Haitian migrant community. A left-popular class coalition could mobilize the excluded, even possibly gaining support from some in the middle class and diaspora. It remains to be seen if these groups (or at least a sizeable number of them) can coalesce, as longtime divisions and rivalries persist. Many also differ in their agenda towards Haiti, and some on the Dominican left shamefully failed to denounce the 2004 coup in Haiti.

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