Home News How crackdown on Haitians boosts Dominican leader’s re-election bid

How crackdown on Haitians boosts Dominican leader’s re-election bid

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Dominican Republic to deport tens of thousands of Haitians this year, despite ask UN prevents them from escaping gang-incited places Lawless.Dominican President Luis Abinader went a step further and established a border wall Relations between two countries sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

As Dominican voters cast their ballots in a general election on Sunday, an immigration crackdown, coupled with an anti-corruption campaign and a growing tourism industry, have made Abinader, who is seeking re-election, the clear front-runner.

The election showed how the Dominican Republic, one of Latin America’s best-performing economies, differentiates itself from the rest of the region, where many leaders who came to power around the same time as Mr. Abinadel have been criticized. dismal Agree Ratings.

Abinader’s controversial restrictions on Haitian immigration also highlight Dominica’s heavy-handed policy on immigration, which has made the Dominican Republic an outlier in the region.

“This is definitely not a ‘change’ election, like so many other recent elections in Latin America,” said Michael Shift, a senior fellow at the Washington-based research group Inter-American Dialogue.

credible opinion poll It shows that the vast majority of Dominicans approve of the tenure of Mr. Abinader, 56, a market-friendly former tourism executive.

He defeated a number of rivals in the race, including his closest rival, three-term former President Leonel Fernández, and was within striking distance of a first-round victory on Sunday.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held. Large numbers of the Dominican diaspora are allowed to vote in elections, with more than 600,000 eligible voters in the United States and more than 100,000 in Spain.

Mr. Abinader’s support owes much to his anti-corruption initiatives.he Win first term in 2020 has vowed to root out long-standing corruption in the political culture of the Dominican Republic, a country of 11.2 million people.

He appointed former Supreme Court justice Miriam Germán as attorney general. She oversaw investigations that ensnared senior officials from the previous administration, including a former attorney general and a former treasury secretary.

The investigation has focused largely on opponents of Abinader, fueling criticism that his own government has survived. But other initiatives, such as the passage of the Asset Forfeiture Act of 2022, raise hope for lasting change. Forfeiture laws are viewed as an important and groundbreaking tool for disrupting and destroying criminal enterprises and depriving them of the property acquired through illegal activities.

Dominican political analyst Rosario Espinal said Mr. Abinader could have won re-election simply by focusing on the fight against corruption, as he did in 2020, “but would not have achieved the success he wanted.” advantage”.

Ms. Espinal said Mr. Abinadel instead supported nativist immigration policies traditionally pushed by the Dominican far right. “He needed to find a new topic that resonated,” she said. “He discovered that in his migration.”

Exploiting anti-Haitian sentiment is nothing new in the Dominican Republic.

Rafael Trujillo, the xenophobic dictator who ruled the country from 1930 to 1961, institutionalized a campaign to portray Haitians as racial inferiors and in 1937 ordered massacre Thousands of Haitians and Dominicans are of Haitian ancestry.

Nearly every other country in the Americas offers birthright citizenship. But a 2010 constitutional amendment and a 2013 court ruling excluded Dominican-born children of undocumented immigrants from citizenship.

In practice, this means that there are approximately 130,000 descendants of Haitian immigrants living in the Dominican Republic No citizenship despite being born thereaccording to rights groups.

as haiti Into chaos The following assassination When Haitian President Jovenel Moïse came to power in 2021, Mr. Abinder built on anti-immigration measures already provided for in Dominican law.

He suspended visas to Haitians in 2023 and then closed the border with Haiti for nearly a month, dealing an economic blow to the neighbor amid a dispute over Haiti’s use of water from a river shared by the two countries to build a canal.

“He has made it clear who has the most say on this issue,” marketer Robert Luna said of Mr. Abinader’s immigration policies. “He’s fighting for the aspirations of the Founding Fathers.”

Dominican immigration officials go further, some charged robbery and launched a campaign to detain and deport Haitian women pregnant Or someone who just had a baby.

Pablo Mera, academic director of the Pedro Francisco Bono Institute for Advanced Studies at the Dominican University, called Abinadel’s policies toward Haiti a “public and international disgrace,” particularly the treatment of pregnant Haitians.

“What happened was getting votes,” Mr. Mehra added. “The candidates are competing over who is the most anti-Haitian.”

Overwhelming majority of Dominican voters say unrest in Haiti is Influence How they will vote. Mr. Abinader clearly benefits from this concern, with nearly 90% of voters expressing support for him building a border wall.

Abinadel has defended his immigration policies, saying they are no different from measures taken by countries such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, the United States and Canada to limit the entry of Haitians fleeing the crisis.

“I must take all necessary measures to protect the safety of our people,” Mr Abinader said tell the bbc in a recent interview. “We’re just enforcing our laws.”

Mr. Abinader’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Still, some voters don’t trust the current president.Tirso Lorenzo Piña, a janitor and evangelical Christian, said he was unhappy with Mr. Abinader’s approach support The United Nations admits Palestine as a member state.

“Everyone has his own ideology, his own ideas, his own way of thinking,” Mr. Piña said. “But I don’t like him.”

Still, Mr. Abinadel has benefited from divided opposition and broad consensus in the Dominican Republic in favor of investor-friendly policies that would spur economic growth. His handling of the pandemic has also been helpful, distributing vaccines relatively quickly and allowing Dominican tourism to revive while other countries required visitors to quarantine.

Tourism is the mainstay of the economy, accounting for approximately 16% of GDP.world bank expect The Dominican Republic’s economy is expected to grow by 5.1% this year.

Although the Dominican Republic’s economy has grown at three times the Latin American average over the past two decades, persistent inequality has exposed Mr. Abinader to criticism. He responded by expanding a popular cash transfer program targeting the country’s poorest residents.

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