lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

Ti Ronal's Journey to the Dominican Republic, Part 4 of 5

A little over a month later, another unfortunate event occurred that caused the boys to have to move out of the house and for the program to be put on hold for, what ended up being, a few months. The landlord and his family, who are Dominicans, were often uncomfortable with the boys living in the house. There is much more to be said about that, which monthly sponsors will read in their more thorough and frequent updates. Throughout the year that the program was located in this house, the landlord continually changed the terms on our renting agreement, wanting less and less boys to live in the house and wanting more money. Throughout each month, he appeared to grow increasingly bothered, then instantly pacified after receiving rent money.

After a disagreement we had about how much money I had in his possession as a deposit, I began losing trust in him. We began searching for other facilities, but no plans were set in stone. After catching word of us possibly leaving the house, he accused the smallest and squirreliest member of the house of entering into his house and stealing money. The quantity began at $7,000 but then grew to $12,000, which is conveniently the same amount as the deposit he was supposed to return to me upon moving out. He demanded, on the spot that I pay the $12,000. When I said didn’t have it, not that I would’ve given it to him if I had, he said that he needed it by noon tomorrow. When would I have it?

This turned into quite an ordeal with everyone, including many neighbors out in the street around midnight. After hearing from both sides, I had no reason to believe that this accusation was true. The most convincing initial evidence in favor of the boy in our program and against the landlord was the fact that the boy did not flee the area and the landlord did not act violently toward him as appears to be the case in any theft in this country. Had I believed the accusation to be true, I wouldn’t have hesitated to have taken corrective action. However, there was no evidence and things were very suspicious. After telling the landlord this, he left to find the police. He has a brother or two that are police officers. The police came and in a display of corrupt power, threw seven boys and young men in a truck, handcuffing them and beating them on the back and heads with rifles to make them sit down. Ti Ronal was one of them, as was my husband, who is Haitian and was defending the boy that was accused. I yelled at Ti Ronal to sit down as they forced him in the truck because he was stubbornly resisting and was taking a bit of a beating.

In the days following, the judge ruled that the landlord’s behavior was illegal and that the boys should return until the deposit ran out (1.5 months) or until the month ended with half of the deposit returned (half a month). The stealing accusation was dropped when the landlord didn’t show up to the hearing. After being released from jail, the boys were in the streets. A few of the younger ones stayed at our apartment for awhile against my landlady’s will. However, she has proven to be understanding. Later, we found a church that allowed them to stay there. Others stayed in various places such as on friends’ rooftops, sleeping under plastic bags on rainy nights.

After the judge’s ruling, I went back with Ti Ronal and two others to the house to make an attempt at carrying out the judge’s ruling. We didn’t enter the house but waited in front of the house for the landlord to return home so that we could talk first. The area that the house is in has about an equal amount of Dominicans and Haitians, or perhaps a 60:40 ratio. At this point, things had become racially and nationally tense. The landlord, who had left his house briefly, was slow in coming home and we could feel the tension build. Eventually, Dominican neighbors began getting hostile and we left. In a just legal system, the judge’s ruling should’ve been enforced but it wasn’t. However, we did what we could safely do to point out this injustice. In the weeks to follow, Ti Ronal, along with a few other boys, were arrested by the landlord’s police connections. Ti Ronal told me that they had arrested him for stealing but had no evidence or reason that he knew of. He was then released a few days later. I didn’t find out about these instances until after they were released.
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