One of the large immigrant populations in the United States comes from the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. is so important to the Dominican way of thinking that when someone says, “I’m going to the embassy,” everyone knows he means the U.S. embassy. (FYI: The “other” embassy is Spain. All other embassies have to be named.)
And do I really have to mention what the DomRep means to America? (Just look at any baseball team.)
And it is a major trading partner.
Here is the only Spanish-speaking democracy in the Caribbean. It is about to change its constitution in ways that have got a whole lot of Dominicans upset. And I mean seriously upset.
But have you seen any news from the island in the U.S. media about the process? About the issues? About the repercussions?
Well I haven’t. There is a lot of blog talk and news agencies with political agendas. Hell, Taiwan has given the process more coverage than the Americans.
Take a look at this simple Google search for news about the Dominican constitution.
I happen to know, because I keep in touch with such things, that many of the people who are opposed to the new constitution are talking about leaving the country. And where will they go? The US and Spain are the top two places.
I would think that given how physically close the DR and the US are at least one reporter might have picked up the phone and looked into this divisive issue.
But I was wrong.
As things stand, the new constitution — all 153 pages and 277 articles of it — has been approved by the legislature and is heading for its final reading by the president tomorrow.
What are some of the issues that make the constitution so controversial?
The big one is banning all abortions. No matter the reason for the pregnancy — rape, incest, health of mother, etc — no abortions will be allowed. Now this is a big victory for the Catholic Church and many fundamentalist churches. (And by the way, the influence of the fundamentalist churches in the DR has been growing dramatically in the past few years. But, once again, no one has bothered to write about it.)
In another move that will make the conservative religious happy, the constitution defines marriage as “the union between a man and a woman.” So much for gay rights. And yes, slowly the DR gay community has been coming out. Now I guess they will just get stuffed back into the closet.
It also strips the children of undocumented Haitian immigrants of their Dominican citizenship. This has always been a difficult issue. But the only time we saw any reporting about the Haitian-DR situation was when Haitians try to cross the border or someone raises a stink about the way the Haitian sugarcane workers are treated.
And for people who only think of the DR as a great place to go for the beaches, under the section “respecting the rights of private property” the new constitution declares that all beaches, rivers and water sources are part of the national heritage and belong to the people. Already there is talk of hitting the tourists with a R$35/day “beach tax.” (That may be dropped to a one-time payment instead of daily.)
The constitution weakens the already weak freedom of information law. It says the federal government will only release information which it deems to be true. This is similar to the Chinese law that makes it illegal for a reporter to speculate on why something happened within the government.
And the right Dominicans once had to sue their government for failing to live up to the constitution and laws of the land has been removed. The two major political parties agreed to the change.
President Fernandez is a buddy of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. A lot of us had much better hopes for him. But now it looks as if he is taking the DR down the path of a (and this really is weird) a religious state with left-wing ideology.
Seriously folks, how difficult is it to make a few calls just to check in and see how things are going?