Dominican Republic 1979

Letter from René Théodore to F. Peña Gomez

Source: Ramón Antonio Veras Collection at the Archivo General de la Nación [National Archives] of the Dominican Republic. Thanks to Amaury Rodriguez.
Translated: by Mitch Abidor.

René Théodore was the grandson of a former president of Haiti who became a Communist as a youth. He lived for a time in the USSR, where he broadcast anti-Duvalier propaganda for Radio Moscow. With the overthrow of the Duvalier regime he returned to Haiti and led the Parti unifié de communistes haitiens. In 1991 he declared he was no longer a communist and worked for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He died in Miami, where he had gone to have his cancer treated.

To Mr. Francisco Peña Gomez
General Secretary of the Dominican Revolutionary Party
March 22, 1979

It is not my intention to interfere in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic with this letter. I have the greatest respect for your people which, in the recent presidential and legislative elections, succeeded in imposing its sovereign rights in order to give shape to its aspiration for progress, freedom, and above all, change.

But, myself a victim of the abuses and discrimination on the part of those in power, I naturally find myself obliged to point out to Dominican political forces those facts that, despite all the speeches made on the subject, are a cause for disillusionment concerning the state of democracy and freedom. I of course hope that the still-possible recovery will make all of this soon seem like a temporary hitch, but for this to occur it is necessary that the forces preponderant in current Dominican politics will capable of serenity and be capable of righting the wrongs done, instead of being blind and cruel, in which case they will become bogged down in the despotic.

As you must have heard, I was part of the delegation sent to Santo Domingo to participate in the Eleventh Congress of the Dominican Communist Party. Possessing a consular visa and a valid passport, I was admitted to the Dominican Republican by the immigration inspector who verified my documents.

But great and unpleasant was my surprise when a few minutes later, in the customs section of the Airport of the Americas – when I was already on Dominican territory – I found myself sought by agents of the immigration police.

I verbally expressed my refusal to surrender my passport, which was forcibly snatched from me by the immigration inspector, who ordered me to follow him to an office of the Department of National Investigation located inside the airport. I was thus illegally arrested. Only two questions were asked: my position concerning the Haitian government, and the date of my departure from Haiti into exile.

My status as opponent of the dictatorship and a political exile was enough for the immigration agents of the Dominican Republic to take it upon themselves to decide to expel me from Dominican territory. This was done illegally, for in no country of the world where international law is respected can the expulsion of a foreigner take place without the decision of a competent tribunal.

I want to make it clear that, having received an entry stamp on Dominican territory, I was not turned away, but purely and simply arrested and expelled without trial. In this resides all that was illegal and unspeakable in the abuse of which I was victim. I wish to denounce this to Dominican and international public opinion.

However, Mr. General Secretary, I was not at the end of my disappointments. I tried to reach you on the phone, calling the personal home number you were kind of enough to give me when we met in Paris two years ago at the home of our mutual friend, Madame Jeanne Texier. Unfortunately, you weren’t there, and your wife assured me that I could contact you at your office the next morning at 10:00. But at 9:55 a.m. airport authorities came and ordered me to follow them, and I was locked up and guarded by five secret police agents in their office of the Department of National Investigation and expressly forbidden to use the phone. I understood full well that the Dominican intelligence services, by bugging the phones, were able to learn of my intention to enter into contact with you and decided to prevent me from doing so. And so I was held in illegal detention and cut off from communication with the outside world. I was not allowed to remain in the transit hall.

I take advantage of this opportunity to tell you, sir, that I was at that time charged by the leadership of my party with requesting a meeting with the leadership of the Dominican Revolutionary Party. We had hoped you would be able to personally meet with me for an exchange of information on the political situation in Haiti as well as discussions we consider to be of mutual interest, for we believed that despite the ideological and political differences that exist between the parties of the Socialist International and the Communist Parties, there existed and still exist a basis for cooperation in the struggle for democracy and freedom on the part of the working masses and against the most extreme forms of reaction, like those of Hitler and Mussolini yesterday, and those of Duvalier and Pinochet today. We thought it was possible to take advantage of this occasion to discuss the expansion of solidarity with the struggle against political oppression in Haiti and Latin America, as well as for collaboration in the defense of Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic.

Trusting in your “social democratic” statements and your consistent positions since 1965 as a public figure in support of freedom, we thought that all Haitian democrats, without discrimination, and all those who fight for the reestablishment of public sovereignty in Haiti, would have earned the sympathy of your Dominican Revolutionary Party and obtained the neutrality of the current Dominican government in regard to Haitian political affairs.

But there’s no escaping the fact that we are the victims of discrimination. At the same time, Duvalier’s Tonton Macoute travel back and forth between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They stroll around the bateys of the Dominican Republican calling with impunity for the murder of any Haitian who would dare spread anti-Duvalierist ideas among Haitian workers there. These revelations have been published in various newspapers in your country.

One must conclude from this that the Duvaliers’ political and police agents have an open road and a free hand in your country. On the other hand, Haitian revolutionaries and democrats are systematically rejected by the power that your Dominican Revolutionary Party supposedly exercises through the president of the republic and legislators elected under the aegis of the party.

What is more, entry visas for the Dominican Republic are systematically refused Haitians at the Dominican consulates, except for the Dominican consulate in Port-au-Prince. Even I was only able to obtain a visa on an extraordinary basis. Is this not a mechanism of discrimination against the opponents of the Duvalierist government who are in exile and are unable to return to Haiti without risking their lives and liberty? For a Haitian citizen, obtaining a visa only in Port-au-Prince in order to travel to your country means having political problems with the Haitian government.

This situation clearly indicates that there was an agreement between the Haitian and Dominican governments prohibiting access to the Dominican Republic to Haitian citizens who are opponents of the Haitian regime, and this agreement is a secret one. Consequently, it deserves to be denounced.

We have no doubt that such an agreement could have been reached under the preceding governments, those of Trujillo and Balaguer. The political situation having changed in the Dominican Republic towards democracy and liberty, as the current authorities affirm, it would only be right to put an end to such forms of collaboration between the Dominican authorities and the Duvalierist regime. In actuality, they continue to play the role of police for the Duvaliers, while reciprocity on the part of the Haitian authorities is not necessary. In any event, this is revolting both for those who agreed to it and those who carry it out.

Finally, the declaration of President Antonio Guzmán invokes “higher interests of state” in prohibiting the entry of foreign Communist delegates to the Dominican Republic for the Eleventh Congress of the Dominican Communist Party, confirming the discriminatory, anti-democratic attitude vis-à-vis all the other invited delegates, and doubly so in my regard, as a Communist leader and a Haitian.

Even so, I'd like to point out that when the Dominican Revolutionary Party was in opposition under Belaguer, leaders of the Socialist International visited the Dominican Republic in testimony to their unwavering solidarity.

Is it possible that that the non-admission of foreign Communist leaders to the Congress of the Dominican Communist Party and my expulsion are the result of pressure exercised by American imperialism, which in general thinks it has the right to dictate to governments their “interests of state?”

The attitude of Mr. Antonio Guzmán in this affair bears great similarity to the anti-communist discrimination contained on the forms of the American consulate for the obtaining of a visa, and which clearly warns of the non-admission of foreign Communists to their territory.

If the decision of Mr. Antonio Guzmán’s government was the result of American pressure, the Dominican Revolutionary Party should publicly admit this scandalous fact, that the Dominican Republic remains as little sovereign as it was before the election of Mr. Antonio Guzmán, and that a number of aspects of the policies of the Dominican Republic are dictated elsewhere.

I am certain that, admitted or not, we are dealing here with a situation of which the Dominican people will be perfectly imbued [sic] and against which the real revolutionaries of your party, the real Dominican patriots of all tendencies will fight without letup.

I would like to hope, Mr. Peña Gomez, that the government of Mr. Antonio Guzmán, issued from the true Dominican popular will, will have the courage to repair the harm done its credibility by its conduct in this affair.

The right way to do this is to put an end to the measure prohibiting entry to the Dominican Republic by foreign Communists and allowing all Haitians to enter the Dominican Republic without any consideration of their political sentiments toward the Duvalier government, and by means of the most standard consular formalities, as is the case for citizens of all other nationalities.

I hope to receive a response to this letter and to be able to assess your point of view concerning the various questions raised in it.

Your truly,

René Théodore
General Secretary of the PUCH
c/o Central Committee of the PCD
258 Avenida Independencia

N.B. A copy of this letter was sent to Mr. Antonio Guzmán, President of the Dominican Republic, to the Central Committee of the Dominican Communist Party, to the Dominican Committee for Solidarity with Haiti, to the Dominican Committee for Solidarity with the Latin American Peoples, and the Bureau of the Socialist International.

P.S. Attached are photocopies of the pages of my passport upon which are affixed the consular visa and the entry visa for the Dominican Republic with the clumsy crossings out by which the authorities of the Immigration Service of Santo Domingo attempted to evade their responsibility in executing the arbitrary expulsion measure taken against me.