Dominican official blasts U.S. group for awarding rights activist
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) - The Dominican foreign minister sharply criticized the human rights group founded by Ethel Kennedy, saying in a letter released Thursday that the group was misinformed about his country's treatment of Haitian workers.
In a letter to the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso blasted the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights for awarding Dominican-Haitian activist Sonia Pierre in recognition of her work with Haitian migrants.
"I am afraid that the RFK Memorial is regrettably divorced from the realities on the island of Hispaniola and lamentably ill-informed about the consequences of Ms. Pierre's work here," said Morales wrote in the letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Criticizing Kennedy's group as "self-appointed arbiters of human rights," Morales said his country of nearly 9 million could not handle the scores of illegal Haitian immigrants and blamed the United States and other countries for failing to improve conditions in the troubled nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
Kennedy responded defending Pierre's award, and argued that the organization has proved its commitment to improving Haiti by recognizing Haitian-based activist Loune Viaud in 2002.
She quoted her late husband as saying, "We must recognize the full human equality of all our people - before God, before the law, and in the councils of government."
Portions of the private correspondence, dated Dec. 8, were first published Thursday by the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario.
Pierre was raised in a migrant worker camp and has fought discrimination against poor Dominicans of Haitian decent.
Her activism began three decades ago at the age of 13 when she was arrested for leading a march to demand rights for sugar cane cutters. More recently her group has battled to secure education and citizenship for ethnic Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.
Up to 1 million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, many of whom cross the island's lone border illegally to work on sugar plantations and often suffer violence and discrimination.
On the same day Morales wrote his letter, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights upheld its decision that the children of Haitian migrants born on Dominican soil must receive Dominican citizenship. The government had protested that ruling.
Morales also recently condemned a U.S. congressional delegation for visiting Haitian workers' villages and rebuked the U.S. ambassador here for comments he perceived as overly critical of the Dominican government on that issue.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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