By Etant Dupain
Today is the official opening of the Caracol industrial park in northern Haiti, despite major concerns about the environmental risks within a region that is part of the country's touristic and artistic heritage.
Before the official inauguration, several thousand employees have been working in the Caracol park for the last three months at a wage of 150 gourdes ($3.75 US) a day. Since October 1st, the new minimum wage law has gone into effect, with the government setting the minimum at 300 gourdes a day. Despite this, the managers of the factory operating at Caracol aren't respecting the new official minimum wage.
Over four hundred farming families, who worked the land that was taken to construct the Caracol park, are now trying to survive however they can without work. They are also waiting for the government to fulfill the promises they made when they took their land two years ago. The Haitian government promised to give them new land so they could continue to work as farmers, but it appears that the land that was designated is not fertile, according to the farmers. It seems counter-productive that the government took fertile land to pave over and build an industrial park, and will now have to spend a huge quantity of money to prepare the land so that it can produce food in soil that has a high quantity of salt. It will cost $7,000 US to prepare each hectare of land, whereas the government paid the farmers only $500-1,500 to cover two years of harvests while they wait for new land.
According to the farmers, they consider themselves to be victims of discrimination, the same kind of discrimination they experienced during the eradication of the creole pigs. Their most durable economic activity - in this case, farming - has been taken from them and replaced with dependence on foreign owned factories.
Here are some articles and video that explain the impact of the Caracol park, and the problems it will create in the future.