Jenny and I (Mark) had a meeting with the Community Development Committee (CDC) on Wednesday, June 5th, and we got some additional information about the occupation that Jenny photographed through the Clinic's fence. Some of the information below comes from part of an article written by Hogla Enecia, who is listed in Facebook as being the director of the HIV project in Fundación Futuro Sur. All of the information has been corroborated by friends from Batey 7.
Members of the consortium security fired guns three times, threatening the group of men and women from Batey 7 (in the Dominican province of Independencia) who were demanding land to build houses. They also used teargas on the participants of the protest. The consortium is the private company from Guatemala that farms the fields of sugar cane and runs the sugar refinery.
The consortium's security members were accompanied by one of the company's supervisors identified as Yorki Feliz.
A pastor of the pentecostal church of Batey 7, Rock of Salvation, acted as spokesperson for the group, saying that a number of organizations had tried to develop housing projects in the community, but because of the lack of land, they were unsuccessful. The pastor noted that they had sent letters to the State Sugar Council (CEA, Consejo Estatal del Azúcar), which has final authority over the land designated for sugarcane production, but never received any response. In the post on Tuesday, I mistakenly indicated that it was the IAD (Instituo Agraria Domincana) that would have final authority.
In terms of the importance of the protest, folks participating in the
CDC meeting observed that the population of Batey 7 has grown, but the
land available has not. There are as many as four generations living in
the same small houses that were originally intended as temporary housing
for the sugarcane laborers coming from Haiti to cut cane for six
On the way back home from the Wednesday meeting, Jenny and I caught a ride from our friend who works with the consortium. He observed that the company is unlikely to redress the grievance because that would open the door to all of the other bateys with the same situation. He made the interesting observation that the one exception that he knows about is a batey where some of the people continuously burned the cane in the field where they wanted to build, effectively eliminating the cane each year before it could be harvested.
The exercise that Jenny led in the CDC meeting on Wednesday was to identify and prioritize problems in the community. One of the problems that was mentioned was the lack of land, but it did not come out as one that was the highest priority for those in the committee. The problem that received the highest priority was a problem in the community's drainage system that results in sewage getting washed out of latrines when rains are heavy. The second highest priority was malnutrition and the third was houses in very bad repair. Next week we will do problem trees for each of these, looking at causes and effects. The next step after that is to begin to identify projects that can begin changing the root causes of the problems the committee determines to be critical.
Jenny and I have had enough training with CHE, and enough experience in Batey 7 to feel like we know how to keep moving forward. But if we told you we knew where that "forward" will end up taking us and them, we would be lying. If this isn't the Holy Spirit blowing through, we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.