Senators unite to defend the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry

Santo Domingo, DR.

Senators from different party blocs put aside their political differences and came together to defend the country against criticism by the US House of Representatives’ subcommittee on international trade of the Dominican sugar industry.

Lawmakers in the upper house wrote a letter to Earl Blumenauer, congressman and chairman of the subcommittee. He sent a statement to US President Joe Biden indicating “forced labor conditions” in the Dominican sugar industry.

During a meeting in Listín Diario with the director of this media, Miguel Franjul, members of the Dominican Congress explained the negative implications of this communication for the commercial and economic sectors.

Barahona Senator José del Castillo Saviñón was the first to speak and put the situation in context. “The declaration was signed by 15 members of Congress and accuses the Dominican Republic, in particular the sugar industry of having conditions of forced labor, and affects Haitian undocumented workers, including even talking about child labor”, declared the lawmaker.

Castillo Saviñón indicated that they immediately took note of the communication given to… the American president; they immediately responded with a letter commenting on what had been criticized, given the fear of possible adverse effects.

“That they reduce the sugar quota is a concern, although these arguments generate a reaction from a commercial point of view that has no element of reality, because we can testify that Haitian and Dominican workers have the same conditions. », Declared the legislator.

The concern stems from the Dominican Republic’s share of the United States market, to which it supplied some 183,000 tonnes of sugar this year, which represented an annual profit of about… 130 million US dollars.

“We are concerned because the economy of almost all of these sugar provinces depends on sugar, one province more than another, and it is practically the backbone of the economic fabric and the main employer,” he said. .

Precisely, the point that united the 11 legislators of the sugar-producing provinces was the importance of these industries in the creation of jobs and the livelihood of thousands of families in their respective demarcations.

Milcíades Franjul, the representative of Peravia, said that everyone, as representatives of the sugar provinces and some close to the business sector, recognizes the importance of this industry and how they have even adapted to the new demands of responsibility social enterprise.

In this sense, he stressed that the sugar companies of the Dominican Republic “have made significant progress in improving working conditions in the sugar sector”, such as the consolidation of an equal salary between Dominicans and Haitians, health insurance, housing construction, among others. .

Special commission
The senator of the province of La Altagracia, Virgilio Cedano, commented that, in a particular way, he launched a process of inquiry in his province of the sugar companies, as well as the “settlers” and the “bateyes” where the Most of the workers in the resident sector.

According to Cedano, the aim of the research, which stems from these criticisms by the United States, is to directly observe the conditions of sugar production in his province.

After the senator of the province of La Altagracia investigated more in depth the performance and working conditions offered by sugar companies, the director of this media, Miguel Franjul, suggested the creation of a bicameral commission to control sugar. employees and employers.

Franjul, after listening to the representative of La Altagracia, suggested that although the letter sent to the United States was only signed by senators, deputies should also be included in the committee, which would achieve more closely all communities that depend on sugar cane.

Senators welcomed the suggestion, which underscored the Director’s remarks by calling this union of Senators an “important precedent” for future events that require legislative intervention.

Rachel J. Bradford