Ansapit Mayor Moves To Control Pepe Trade

Shown: A pepe delivery truck en route to Ansapit from the Pedernales Zona Franca stops at the immigration office to pay taxes on the DR side. Bystanders loot the contents while the driver is inside.

“Hi Patricia are you my friend, it’s been a long time I didn’t heard you, everyone is okay after hurricane Isaac, I’m very well thanks to God. the woman mayor close the clothes, because Thomas don’t have respect for the woman mayor, it for that the president Michel Marthelly, send some policeman to stop the truck Dominicans bussness in the border, now don’t have pepe in Ansapit, haitians has a problem, Dominicans has problem also.”

It’s a big production when Peter sends an e-mail (or receives one: I’ve been sending him messages since Hurricane Isaac that didn’t get through). This one has the urgency of a major event in his world; a world that’s so out of the main stream that Ansapit isn’t shown on many maps.

Peter doesn’t have e-mail at his fingertips and his phone is dead, so I’m unable to learn the details at this time. My thoughts leap to what Onel Marcelin, a Haitian customs officel, told me in the noisy shipping contaner-cum-office that perches on the edge of the Pedernales river, where taxes on goods entering Ansapit from the DR are paid.  “These women are poor. Closing the market will only benefit the rich businessmen in Port au Prince.” Benefit them, in what way?

I had just arrived in Haiti. It was a market day so noisy I could barely hear Marcelin speak. President Martelly’s statements about closing the border markets were still fresh; in fact, on the first market day that I attended, rumors flew that it would be the last.

If Peter’s news is true, I suspect the clash is about who controls the pepe trade as well as taxation on the southeast border. The pepe trade through Ansapit is a source of wealth to many here: the D.M. Group in Pedernales which currently controls it;  the DR immigration authority which collects its taxes; businessmen on both sides of the borders who owe their grand houses to the pepe trade; and farther down the food chain, the women I met from Ansapit and Jacmel who make their livings buying and reselling. If Marcelin is correct, Martelly is cutting off the DR’s control of that trade so it can return to Haitian hands.

For the women, the action by Ansapit’s mayor, Guilène Dachimis, means they must find new suppliers, in Miragoane, for example, another center of southern pepe trade. They will need to make new relationships and price arrangements, and will lose their advantage of proximity to their source. For the past decade, most of the pepe flowing into the southeast came through Ansapit. If the report is true, now they will not.


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