Corruption and slavery: Getting more attention in Hispaniola

The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald ran an excellent article yesterday on the increase of child smuggling from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.

Guards cash in on smuggling Haitian children

Obviously key to this story is the corruption of the border guards and of those in the Dominican Republic who “buy” the Haitian children.

Such corruption is hardly a surprise to anyone who has lived on Hispaniola or worked in the area.

Haiti has had a long history of being the one of the most corrupt countries in the Western Hemisphere. And no wonder. The years of brutal dictatorships and then years of basically no government left the people with no other way to get things done. Add to that the reluctance of all previous Haitian governments to allow for serious foreign investment — until recently — the crushing poverty and lack of democratic institutions mean wide open opportunities for corruption at all levels.

And next door is the Dominican Republic, which is just as famous for its corruption.

The latest Transparency International report places Haiti at #146 out of 178 countries with a score of 2.2 out of 10. (The higher the number, the less corruption.) The Dominican Republic came in at #101 with a score of 3.

At least this time Haiti is no longer the most corrupt country in the hemisphere. That title goes to Venezuela (#164. Score 2).

And the Dominican Republic remains just about in the middle. And the problem is one that is recognized (mostly) as a serious one in the DR. Diario Libre pointed out last week that the World Economic Forum placed the Dominican Republic in 131st place of 133 countries ranked according to levels of corruption in government.

It is great that El Nuevo and the Miami Herald tied the issue of corrupt guards along the Haiti-DR border to the larger issue of child slavery. But more work needs to be done.

For a number of years the child-sex trade in Boca Chica has been well-known. That small town just an hour out of the nation’s capital was turning into the Western Hemisphere’s equivalent of Thailand for sex trade. Despite the best efforts of U.S. law enforcement agencies working in the area to get something done, the Dominican government did little.

More Dominican media outlets are trying to cover the issue but they are facing the same problem journalists in northern Mexico face. The crime lords and corrupt political leaders and law enforcement agents threaten reporters and media outlets if they get too close to revealing the details of the corruption.

For most Americans the issue of corruption — especially related to child-slavery gangs — is often one of shock. But then they do not see the connection to U.S. domestic issues.

Bottom line: If a person cannot get ahead without having to bribe his way around corrupt police and government officials, that person will often leave for a place where rule of law is strong. And in this hemisphere that means the United States or Canada.

So if people are serious about stopping illegal immigration to the United States, then it is time for those same people to step up and insist the U.S. government and U.S. businesses provide assistance to the countries where the immigrants are coming from to fight corruption and to improve the business situation there.

And if you think it won’t work, take a look at the number of Brazilians in the United States. The actual number is declining because many are heading BACK to Brazil where the economic outlook is better.

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Filed under Connections, Corruption, International News Coverage

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