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  • Writer's pictureGuyler C Delva

After Deadly Clash, Thousands Resume Work at Haitian-Dominican Free Zone



  • Capellan Calls for Sustained Bilateral cooperation


A view of people working at CODEVI in Ouanaminte, photo taken recently.

By Joseph Guyler C. Delva

Friday, July 7, 2023




PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN)-Thousands of Haitian workers alongside their Dominican colleagues have resumed work this week, following recent violent incidents, which had caused several deaths and provoked a total stoppage of production activities in a Haitian-Dominican free zone facility, operating near the border between the two countries, which share the very same Caribbean island of Hispaniola.


The CODEVI industrial park (from its french appellation 'Compagnie Développement Industrie') employs close to 20,000 people some 98% of whom are Haitians, distributed in 32 buildings on a surface of 4 million square feet, in the Haitian town of Ouanaminthe, just accross from Dajabon in the Dominican Republic.

The president and CEO of Grupo M & CODEVI, Fernando Capellan, told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network that Haitians and Dominicans should continue to work together, in a spirit of brotherhood, to create more work and economic opportunities for people on both sides of the island.


"We've been doing our best to get unions and the community to understand that without jobs you cannot achieve anything great in life," said Capellan, relaying customer concerns about possible future work stoppages.


"Customers are very concerned, we promised customers that this won't happen again; we're in contact with all the stakeholders, the authorities, the police, and everybody, to see how we may communicate better, about what we do," Capellan told HCNN.


On June 15, this year, a worker, who reported for work, was denied access to the building on the grounds that his pants was torn, according to union leaders.


The Haitian worker protested and had tried to force his way inside. Then security agents intervened and kicked him out, which had caused anger on the part of Haitian workers who had accused the Dominicans of discrimination, even though the security agents are Haitians engaged by the company.


The incident gave birth to a wave of violence, destruction from irate Haitian workers, and a work stoppage had followed.


After a series of exchanges, the parties have come to an agreement to resume work and to avoid similar occurrences in the future.


A national leading union coalition, CNOHA, has condemned the violence exercised by fellow haitian workers, and has called on them to continue to work at CODEVI in good faith.


"We condemn the violence that was involved, but we encourage workers to normally report to work and to continue this positive experience with our Dominican colleagues, because it's in our common interests" union leader, Dominique Saint-Eloi, told HCNN.



CAPELLAN CALLS FOR SUSTAINED BILATERAL COOPERATION



Close relative to victims signing an agreement with CODEVI on financial accompaniment.

Beyond bilateral cooperation between the two governments,  Fernando Capellan from CODEVI,  also talks about the crucial role private sector entities could play in economic development in both countries.


As an example, he cited a proposition from his group and other specialized firms to help the haitian government provide electricity in the town of Ouanaminthe where CODEVI is operating.


"We've been requesting permission from the government to provide electricity for the people in Ouanaminthe," Capellan said.


"We have the energy, we have the know-how, we have a partner company with prepaid meters which could provide electricity to the town, which hasn't had energy for a year", stated Capellan, suggesting "this is the type of things we could do".




Capellan proposes that neighborhood committees be set up to facilitate cooperation in an organized manner.


The Domimican entrepreneur said his company has not been good at saying what they do for the community, for the people, as he mentioned a number of things CODEVI has helped with.


"We have the clinic, we have the gas station, the food market with very low prices, we have the childcare center, the ambulances and drugs, plus jobs which translate into dignity for the people," the busuness magnate said.


He said he has explained to community leaders he has met that his company "could not address all the problems because we're not government."


Capellan said that his company had already compensated families of victims and helped with funeral expenses for those killed in the recent violent and unfortunate incidents.


Commenting the situation, a haitian university professor, Jacques Pierre-Louis, said the CODEVI experience is a good one for Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


" It shows that, beyond our differences and a number of difficulties, our two nations, which are condemned to work and cooperate together, have the potential to find common ground on a number of issues, particularly those regarding economic and social development efforts," Prof. Pierre-Louis told HCNN.


"The essential is to make sure we know how to identify where our interests meet, and things will go better for both of our people; And conflicts due to economic and social disparities will be less likely to negatively affect our societies."



"Of course, I believe there's still room for improvement, but the CODEVI experience should be considered a success story, which deserves to be repeated as much as possible," Prof. Pierre-Louis said.


"Haiti has many problems, but the real ones have to do with the abject poverty, the lack of jobs, of spirit of initiative and lack of education, lack of entrepreneurship, lack of sense of common interests...and those are the challenges we need to fight and overcome," Pierre-Louis concluded.



Guyler C. Delva


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