The World Today for December 27, 2022
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Editor’s Note: Last month, we asked our readers to select a country for us to focus on and collected the results. Now, we’re pleased to offer our inaugural Readers’ Choice Week, with reports on four of the top vote-getters. We wish we could have featured all the great suggestions – but hope to in 2023. Until then, the DailyChatter team wishes you and your loved ones a healthy and peaceful New Year.
A Doll’s Tale
There’s a doll found everywhere in the Dominican Republic, a celebrated local handicraft known as the Muñecas Limé, usually sporting a braid, a dress and a hat, and carrying a basket of fruit or flowers. The colors vary, but the face never does.
This doll, representing Dominicans, never has one.
“We’re all mixed up, black, white, Taíno, immigrants,” a salesman at a shop in the capital Santa Domingo explained, detailing the fusion of cultures and races that make up Dominicans today. “This lack of a face represents the (diversity) in everyone here. That’s why we don’t have problems with racism.”
This inclusive spirit, however, is being undermined these days by the chaos in neighboring Haiti and the influx of its desperate citizens into the country, say locals. This migration has also become all anyone here can talk about.
“The crisis is on TV constantly,” said Jose Leroux, a civil engineer, explaining the topic’s dominance on the streets. “And while many Dominicans disagree, I think we could be doing more to help.”
Tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, go back centuries. In the mid-1800s, for example, Haiti controlled and brutalized the inhabitants of Santa Domingo for decades – until they revolted and won independence in 1844.
Since that time, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have crossed the border to settle in the Dominican Republic – a country of 11 million people. But a trifecta of tragedy over the past two years involving a massive earthquake, the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, and exploding gang warfare that has impacted daily living by disrupting water supplies, for example, has led Haitian migration to surge from about 800,000 migrants in 2017 to two million this year, according to William Charpantier of Haitian migrant rights group MENAMIRD.
The situation has become so dire that in October Haiti requested a United
Nations peacekeeping force to help stabilize the situation, a request the UN is considering. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic says it has been abandoned by the international community to deal with the situation next door, even as it struggles with its own problems – skyrocketing inflation, endemic corruption, and a spike in crime that includes a rash of disappearances that Dominicans have taken to documenting on Instagram for want of police help.
Frustrated and with an eye toward elections in two years, the Dominican government is cracking down on migration: Police officers and the military are raiding farms and building sites and detaining Haitians for deportation. Some of the deported are, however, Dominican citizens. And in one case that made international headlines, two were US citizens.
Officials, essentially, are detaining “all those who look like Haitians,” Charpantier told Al Jazeera. “People with valid documents have been deported, people who were born here in the Dominican Republic have been deported. These aren’t deportations. It’s persecution based on race.”
The government denies that race is the motivation. Instead, officials say that Haitian migration is straining resources and poses a security threat, especially regarding gang violence spilling into the Dominican Republic along with smuggled guns, drugs, and other goods.
The country deported 60,000 Haitians between August and October as part of a total of about 100,000 this year, officials said. It has already begun the construction of a wall on the 244-mile border.
The deportations are popular with the public, too, according to polls.
Meanwhile, analysts explain the surging migration is heightening bias that has always existed in the Dominican Republic, explaining how Dominicans have long felt culturally and racially superior to Haitians, who have worked as migrant labor in the low-paid agriculture and construction sectors for decades.
At the same time, Dominican fears of being ‘Haitianised’ is a phenomenon that goes back almost a century and has led to violence in the past. As a result, migrant rights groups say Haitians – or those who could be mistaken for Haitian – are being treated more harshly than others such as Venezuelans.
“The Venezuelan people have a clear path to legal status, whereas the Haitians don’t,” Bridget Wooding of the Caribbean Migration Observatory told DailyChatter. “There’s a hierarchy of migrants, and Haitian migrant labor can be used as a race card,” to bring up Dominicans’ already negative feelings toward Haitians, she added.
Meanwhile, the situation is causing a backlash internationally.
The US, which has deported thousands of Haitian migrants this year, has warned Black Americans to be careful while visiting the Dominican Republic because “authorities have not (in some cases) respected these individuals’ legal status in the Dominican Republic or nationality.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, meanwhile, called on the Dominican Republic to stop “xenophobia and discrimination” in its deportations of Haitians.
Dominican President Luis Abinader and other officials have rejected such criticisms, responding angrily to the UN and the US, calling their stance “unacceptable and irresponsible.” “The Dominican Republic isn’t just going to continue the deportations, we will increase them,” he added.
Still, critics say politics is also driving the deportations, with officials looking ahead to elections in two years. “The mobilization of migration enforcement is a sure-fire way to help government look strong on policy,” migration researcher, Yoana Kuzmova, told DailyChatter.
The Dominican media, meanwhile, is echoing the call to send Haitians back across the border, with popular talk show host Camila Garcia commenting, “Haiti has asked the UN to intervene but the UN won’t. Is the country where Volker Türk comes from, Austria, taking in Haitian migrants? Maybe we should deport them to Austria?”
In the end, Haitians’ desperation won’t likely lessen anytime soon. And that means the furor next door will go on.
—Michael Scaturro, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, for DailyChatter
The World, Briefly will return next week.
Scholars have wondered how mammals emerged as the dominant class of animals following the cataclysmic impact of an asteroid on Earth that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Previous theories suggested that the animals lived in the shadows of the giant lizards until the asteroid hit the planet around 66 million years ago.
But a new study has found that mammals were constantly evolving and adapting before the impact which allowed them to weather the mass extinction event, New Scientist reported.
Researcher Jorge García-Girón and his team studied more than 1,600 fossils of different North American fauna, including dinosaurs, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. They created an estimation of the niches each extinct species occupied and entered the data into a computational model developed to track how food webs change over time.
Their findings showed that dinosaurs living 66 million years ago in North America closely resembled their ancestors 18 million years earlier, which represented a form of ecological stability.
But the mammals were playing the evolution card: Despite living among larger dinosaurs, they continuously adapted and evolved into a vast array of creatures able to climb, glide, and swim among other features during this period.
“It not only amazed me how mammals managed to thrive in the highly complex, and probably dangerous, dinosaur-dominated ecosystems,” said García-Girón, but also how rapidly our ancestors moved into vacant niches after the asteroid hit, he added.
Contrary to past studies, the researchers also found dinosaur numbers were not declining prior to the impact.
Maybe our mammal ancestors were just waiting for the right time to rule the planet.
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