January 15, 2010

Dominican Republic aid to Haiti eases historic tensions

Posted: 02:00 AM ET

(CNN) - The Dominican Republic was the first country to give aid to Haiti in the aftermath of Tuesday's devastating earthquake. Some of the first video images of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince came from a Dominican television crew.

On the face of it, the quick reaction from Haiti's neighbor may not seem surprising given their proximity. But historically, a much wider gap in relations has existed between Haiti and the Dominican Republic since colonial times. The Dominican Republic's outpouring of support to Haiti is a reminder of how the less-than-friendly legacy between the two nations has been buried even deeper.

Some tensions still exist between citizens of both countries. Dominicans recall how they were under Haitian rule for a period in the mid-1800s, and how they repeatedly fought Haitian aggressions. Today, Haitians provide cheap labor in the Dominican Republic, a trend that has caused resentment on both sides, not unlike the illegal immigration debate in the United States.

But as far as the countries themselves are officially concerned, "relations are at a high point compared to 20 or 30 years ago," Ernesto Sagas, associate professor of ethnic studies at Colorado State University, told CNN. "Relations between the countries at the presidential level are at high levels."

Dominican Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua surveyed the damage in Port-au-Prince Wednesday as his country planned the necessary logistics to provide international aid. Are you there? Submit an iReport

"The center of the city, where the presidential palace collapsed, is practically completely destroyed," Diaz Rua told CNN en Español, noting he saw hotels, schools and hospitals that were damaged.

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Diaz Rua also saw few emergency teams working.

"We're going to send teams from the Dominican Republic to help with the rescue. We're going to send food, water and mobile clinics," he said.

Such cooperation was not historically the case.

Haiti, a former French colony, and the Dominican Republic, with roots as a Spanish colony, have tensions that go back to those days, Sagas said.

The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti in 1844, after Haiti had occupied it. The Dominicans spent the next 20 years fighting off Haitian invasion attempts.

By the early 20th century, Haitians had become a source of cheap labor in the neighboring country. Racism and security concerns resulted in a massacre in 1937. Dominican leader Rafael Trujillo ordered the execution of Haitians living near the border between the countries, resulting in the killings of 20,000 to 30,000 Haitians, historians say.

The current tragedy appears to push those tensions further into the past.

"This is the worst disaster in Haiti's recorded history," Sagas said. "The best role the DR can play is to open its border for other nations to funnel all the aid to Haiti."

The Dominican Republic appears to be following that path.

The government on Wednesday started sending food, medicine and rescue crews to Haiti, the El Nacional newspaper reported. Top Dominican leaders amassed at the border as a staging ground to begin transporting aid into the country. Are you looking for loved ones?

Among the aid are 10 mobile cafeterias that can produce 100,000 meals a day, and heavy equipment to remove debris, Diaz Rua said.

Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • Larry King Live

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Barb   January 15th, 2010 2:13 am ET

Celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have contributed $1 million dollars to the relief fund for Haiti.

Why hasn't Oprah Winfrey announced how much she will contribute to helping the Haitians during this horrific time, not to just get them well, but to develop a civilized society for them where they can work and be educated? She's concentrated helping in other areas. She's one of the wealthy TV celebrities if not the wealthiest who can make a HUGE difference!! I know she helps other charities, but come on, does she just want to watch Haiti perish?

Instead I understand she's been asking her viewers to consider helping by sending in donations. It doesn't take her request for that. All you have to do is watch CNN to find out how each and every one of us can help. I know I have as have others.

Luis B Rosario   January 15th, 2010 2:18 am ET

Luis B. Rosario

To Larry King CNN

The Dominican Republic's government and apparently its
citizens have elected to bury the hatchet the DR and Haiti,
and forget about past rivalry and past negative encounters
to rush to the aid of their neighbor during these times of
grief and despair. These actions by the DR are a good
example of people willing to forgive and forget when
a great catastrophe strikes.

Kristin   January 15th, 2010 4:19 pm ET

I couldn't agree more Barb...yes indeed Oprah, come on now, time to step up to the voted for Obama, so now would be the perfect time to 'spread your wealth around..." it's all for Love...L.O.V.E..

NANA   January 15th, 2010 10:57 pm ET

Why can't flyers be dropped to the Haiti people letting them know what is going on. The flyers could let them know that there is food and water. The unknown has to be another thing that is overwhelming.

Every reporter who goes to or passes by a hospital should be bringing anything they can carry and as much as they can bring to the hopitals.

If the people can't get to the supplies then bring the supplies to the people. Every car that is available could be bringing loads of medical supplies to these hospitals. The medicine is there get it to the places it needs to go.

Emani Sullivan   January 15th, 2010 11:36 pm ET


Prayer In Mass Numbers ARE effective! Let's Bond together and Send A Prayer For the People Of Haiti! Saturday at 12pm Pacific Time, everyone stop what you are doing and Say a Prayer For the People who have lost their lives and are battling to continue to be a "survivor"! (Spread this Message World Wide!) Repost as Your Status! Send Text messages & Emails! WE NEED EACH OTHER! It's free & effective!

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   January 16th, 2010 6:36 am ET

I just said a heartfelt prayer now – and don't they ever need it at a time like this. I believe in the power of prayer.

That earthquake was a big one and on top of Haiti being one of the poorest countries is just devastating – to say the least.

Good on the Dominican Republic for their swift aid and good on Angelina and Brad for their generous donation too.

jj   January 16th, 2010 10:48 am ET

Larry King ~~~~you are OLD ( time to retire)Anderson Cooper, you are a chameleon. You report on situations to further yourself as a journalist. You commented FRIDAY night that a “blog” comment was ‘unfair’ that questioned how you and the TERRIBLE CNN were able to arrive in HAITI on Wednesday and the NEEDED help ( doctors, nurses, water, USNS COMFORT, military forces WITH equipment ) ISN’T arriving. I POSTULATE that this is intentional GENOCIDE.

Have you NO heart~~~~~watching people dying, hurt while you “”babble”” on a television prompter????? WHAT IS WRONG WITH you~~LARRY KING~~~(alleged ) Doctor Sanjay~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~do what WYCLEF JEAN is doing and get in the trenches ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The United States CAN do better but is CHOOSING NOT TO because these are AFRIKAN people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!**you EURO IMPERIALIST won’t PREVAIL**

jj   January 16th, 2010 10:50 am ET

SHAME on TED TURNER ( you people butchered MICHAEL JACKSON) and NOW H.A.I.T.I.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SHAME SHAME SHAME on YOU~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Donald L Allen   January 16th, 2010 4:55 pm ET

hello Larry king you no there gonna take the money and run you no that is what there gonna do and not only that there Genia la ff at you after they do it now that is funny right you no or do you no how it field to be made fun of not to good on the leader side right I hop you red the police but don't just make it a new store just to make your self look bigger right you do have kid to see what you or doing now right or is it mater right see you later on what see you yous Donald Allen what about the police

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