WASHINGTON — The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union has asked the President to impose tougher United States trade sanctions on Haiti, which would idle several 807 apparel assembly operations in the Caribbean nation.
Currently, the U.S. is part of an Organization of American States trade embargo of Haiti but has excluded companies with assembly operations from the blockade. The U.S. government grants the exemption as a humanitarian measure, since officials view employment there as a needed element for future political stability.
Despite the OAS action, and a United Nations global arms and trade embargo, Haiti’s military dictatorship has refused to release the grip it has held on the nation since 1991 when it ousted democratically elected President Jean Bertrand-Aristide.
ACTWU president Jack Sheinkman wrote Clinton Feb. 9 asking the following Haiti strategy be imposed: institute an all-out trade embargo; better police Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic; and restrict commercial flights to the island.
“Extreme measures are necessary to end this torture of the Haitian people,” Sheinkman wrote, calling the U.S. exception granted to assembly a “loophole.” “Fifty U.S. companies continue to trade with Haiti. Toys, fishing lures, baseballs…pants, T-shirts, pajamas and more are being imported from Haiti to 15 states across the country, including your home state of Arkansas,” Sheinkman wrote.
Although U.S. apparel companies left Haiti in droves in 1991, shrinking apparel investment to $54 million from $123 million, several companies still remain.
The U.S., France, Venezuela and Canada have asked the U.N. Security Council to tighten trade restrictions on Haiti, but what form this could take is still up for discussion.
Sally Yerwood, director of special programs with the Caribbean Central America Action, a business-funded group addressing human rights issues in the region, said “it looks good” for the assembly operations to stay excluded from any embargo.
Yerwood took exception to the call for a total trade embargo of Haiti, saying that such a blockade might have worked in the early days of the stand-off, but that now the well-equipped Haitian military has its heels dug.