Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Urge Sec. Kerry to Suspend Military Aid to Dominican Republic
Washington, DC- More than 550 returned volunteers and three former Country Directors who served in Peace Corps Dominican Republic are taking the unprecedented step of calling for the United States to suspend aid to the Dominican military amid an international outcry over the Dominican government’s naturalization laws, which effectively stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship.
Dominican security forces have received more than $17.5 million in U.S. aid and training in the past two years. The Dominican military is to officially implement the citizenship laws, which violate international human rights treaties, starting this month.
In a letter sent Friday to Secretary of State John Kerry, the returned volunteers--each of whom spent two or more years working for the U.S. agency with Dominican communities to improve health, education, and the environment--urged the State Department to enforce human rights laws known as the Leahy Amendments, which prohibit U.S. assistance to foreign security forces if there is credible information that they have carried out gross human rights violations. The letter notes that the State Department enforced the Leahy Law in 2013 and suspended police aid to the Caribbean country of Saint Lucia.
This appeal comes as tens of thousands of people have fled the Dominican Republic in the past several weeks under the looming threat of mass-deportation campaigns. The former volunteers cite State Department reports of Dominican security forces perpetrating extrajudicial killings and torture, and highlight the 2013 beating and death of a Haitian national at the hands of Dominican security agents conducting a mass deportation.
A 2013 State Department report described “the most serious human rights problem” in the Dominican Republic as “discrimination against Haitian migrants and their descendants,” a phenomenon often witnessed by Peace Corps volunteers during their service within the country.
Carly Perez, who volunteered from 2010 to 2012, concluded, “We must no longer abet such actions in the Dominican Republic, much less be complicit in an impending intensification of human rights abuses. It’s time for the State Department to act on its own information, bring the United States into compliance with U.S. law, and send a strong signal to the Dominican Republic by suspending military aid.”
The volunteers concluded their letter by requesting a meeting with Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson to discuss their proposal further.
Read the full letter here in English and Spanish: http://bit.ly/peacecorpsletter, bit.ly/cartadecuerpodepaz
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