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What is the Clarkson-Montesinos Institute?

The Clarkson-Montesinos Institute is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to fight against the inhuman conditions that thousands of people suffer in the sugar cane plantations in the Dominican Republic. Its President is Father Christopher Hartley, and its CMI Honorary President is the well-known human rights activist and Cuban dissident Armando Valladares.

How long has Father Hartley been working in favour of the sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic?

Father Hartley arrived in the Dominican Republic in September 1997 and soon discovered the terrible conditions endured by the sugar cane workers. His campaign to end the slavery-like conditions ended with his expulsion from the country in October 2006. He soon started an international campaign that in 2011 led to a Formal Public Submission before the US Department of Labor stating that the Dominican Republic is contravening Chapter 16 (Labour Chapter) of the CAFTA-DR (Dominican Republica-Central America Free Trade Agreement), which came into effect in March 2007.

What is the latest action that has been taken in order to denounce the situation?

The Clarkson-Montesinos Institute sent a letter in April 2013 to the European Trade Commissioner regarding the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA-CARIFORUM) requesting an independent investigation in order to address serious and systematic human rights abuses and violations of core international labour standards in the sugar cane plantations of the Dominican Republic, which constitute a serious infringement of the terms of the EPA. A meeting with the Unit Head in Brussels and a constructive dialogue ensued to find a workable solution, involving also other Commission and Parliament bodies at the EU level.

What is the current state of the Formal Public Submission?

On Friday 27 September, after two years of formal investigations, USDOL released the report acknowledging all of our human rights and labour violations denunciations, according to an action plan with 11 specific measures, granting a $10 million grant to aid for local implementation, and coordinating with the Department of State a formal compliance verification process within a strict timeline.

Who is the main contact person in the Dominican Republic?

For the last 15 years, Father Hartley has worked with Dominican lawyer Noemí Méndez, a professional who has filed cases against the abuses of the Vicini sugar company (CAEI) and against the Dominican Government against its permanent discrimination of citizens with Haitian roots but born in the Dominican Republic. She is actively working side by side with the workers of the sugar cane plantations.

Who are the main companies responsible for the abuses?

Three families privately own 98% of the total sugar cane produced in the Dominican Republic: the Vicini family (owners of CAEI and Cristóbal Colón sugar cane factory); the Fanjul family (owners of Central Romana sugar cane factory and of ASR the biggest sugar refinery and sugar company in the USA, with well-known brands as Florida Crystals, Domino and Tate&Lyle) and the Campollo family (owners of Barahona sugar cane factory).

What is the position of other actors?

The organisation Bonsucro fosters the sustainability of the sugarcane sector through a metric-based certification scheme and supports continuous improvement for members. On 8 July 2013, the Board of Bonsucro suspended Tate & Lyle Sugars (TLS, owned by the Fanjul brothers) from membership in Bonsucro with immediate effect. This suspension has meant that TLS is unable to benefit from membership privileges including, but not limited to, access to Bonsucro certification. TLS had not, in the view of the Board, demonstrated adequate progress within a reasonable time-scale towards meeting the requirements of the Board to provide information regarding a complaint made against the company, nor adequately explained why these requirements could not be met.

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What has been the reaction of the Dominican Government to the USDOL report so far?

Two days before the USDOL report was released, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court decided, against all legal precedents and in contravention to previous International court verdicts, to strip all rights to nationality and according civil rights to Haitians who have lived some of them for more than 20 years in the DR and also to their descendants BORN in the DR .. in a move that has been named by the international press as a “Civil Genocide”.

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