Sugar company demolishes worker housing after reports reveal squalor

Haitian workers gather by a company-owned house that was destroyed in November. Photo by Pedro Farias-Nardi for Mother Jones.

The Central Romana Corporation destroyed a workers’ encampment in the Dominican Republic in November, two months after damning reports on conditions for Haitian cane cutters were published by Homelands’ Sandy Tolan. Residents say the destruction of houses and their forced removal were unannounced, according to an update by Tolan that appeared in Mother Jones in December.

The settlement, known to residents as Batey Hoyo de Puerco, or Pig Hole, was home to an estimated 230 Haitian workers and their families. Representatives of the company admit to having “eliminated” the encampment and relocating workers to newer housing. Some residents say they were not given time to recover their belongings before the demolition began.

In an hour-long program for the public radio program and podcast Reveal and a feature story in Mother Jones, Tolan described worker camps without plumbing, electricity, or other basic services. Both pieces were co-reported by Haitian-Dominican journalist Euclides Cordero Nuel.

The reports, coupled with an investigation of Central Romana by a team of reporters from The Washington Post, prompted the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade to call for a “swift and thorough investigation” into the labor practices of large sugar producers in the Dominican Republic in a statement and press conference on October 25.