Financial Times: How do you see the issue of Haiti (the election result had just been announced) at the moment? I have the impression that Haitian immigration has become more controversial in the last five years.
Leonel Fernández: The profile of Haitian immigration to the Dominican Republic has changed. Traditionally, the Haitians that came here went to work in sugar. They were contracted to work for a set period and lived in the enclaves that are called bateyes. Haitians were temporary workers so that when the sugar harvest finished they returned home. But with the decline of the sugar industry, Haitian immigration has been diversified and you now find Haitians in the construction industry or in a whole range of farming activity ? rice and tomatoes in particular.
As the Haitian crisis has become deeper a growing number of Haitians have come to the Dominican Republic in order to improve their living standards. This has generated social tension between Haitians and Dominicans to the point where any kind of crime that a Haitian commits here produces a Dominican reaction. People take justice into their hands. We have deplored this tendency and condemned it. We want the authorities to investigate and submit those guilty of abuses to the law.
But I think we can feel hopeful about what is happening at the moment. Haitians went to the polls last week in very large numbers. This means that Haitians want political stability, they want peace and that this peace be a base for economic growth, the generation of jobs and social welfare for Haitians. I really think this massive turn-out at the polls is important.
The international community must continue to pay close attention to what is happening in Haiti. It should cooperate and allow the disbursement of resources to Haiti. Get public works ? roads, aqueducts, electricity systems off the ground. We must work much more directly with the Haitian government and not leave them on their own.
We have to satisfy some of the demands of the people that have built up over so many years. You know that there are a lot of illusions about what a democratically elect government can do. But in countries where there are shortages of resources and lots of demands from the population this turns to disillusion.
Independently of politics you have to understand that there is a people that wants a minimum set of material conditions that will permit the country to advance. Haiti needs roads, water and electricity. These things are basic for investment to come or for the country to grow economically. On the basis of this growth you get a greater institutional development and on the back of that a greater identification with democracy and tolerance. But there has to be a commitment and an active involvement by the international community respecting Haitian sovereignty and self-determination.