Renowned Dominican-American author Junot Diaz is involved in a war of words with top Dominican intellectuals and even a government official following his remarks on the Caribbean nation’s high court ruling on citizenship.
Diaz and many human rights groups across the world are accusing the government of discrimination following a court ruling that could strip the citizenship of thousands of people born to migrants living there illegally.
In a piece co-authored with several writers, including fellow Dominican-American Julia Alvarez for the Los Angeles Times, the Pulitzer Prize winner criticized the decision saying it “leaves no doubt that the nation has not left its history of abuse and racism behind.”
Diaz's outspoken reaction, which included comments to the local Dominican media, drew fierce criticism from a group of eight intellectuals on the island and a government official who responded by attacking the famed author personally.
In an open letter published on 7Dias, the group challenged Diaz’s “Dominican-ness,” accusing him of “not knowing the content and reach of the ruling, destined to organize the situation of immigrants and their descendants.”
The subscribers of the letter, including Eduardo Gautreau de Windt, Pura Emeterio Rondón, Camelia Michel and Efraim Castillo, go on to insult Diaz, calling his concern for his homeland “unnecessary and offensive” to those who want “the best for the country.”
The group added that in the past the “fears” expressed by Diaz “have served as justification for very aggressive and lethal actions, and of abuse against countries poor and small” like the Dominican Republic. They finished the letter by telling the author that his “presence in our country, in this hard moment that we’re going through as a collectivity, is a joke.”
The government official speaking against Diaz was José Santana, the executive director of the country’s International Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, which was created by former President Leonel Fernández. His comments, posted on Latino Rebels, were in response to Diaz’s criticism made to the local press.
Santana said Diaz should be mindful of what he says on national television and called him a “fake and overrated pseudo intellectual” who “should learn to speak Spanish better before coming to this country to talk nonsense.”
He threatened to sue Diaz for defamation for stating publicly that the Dominican Republic is full of politicians and government officials that are “thieves and corrupts.”
“I am a politician and government official in this country and I can legally challenge you to prove to me your vague and broad generalization of ‘thief and corrupt,’” Santana wrote.
Without naming the group or Santana, Diaz took to Facebook recently to answer to his critics.
“All these attacks are bulls--t attempts to distract from the real crime – the sentencia (ruling) itself which has been condemned widely. All of us who are believers need to keep fighting against the sentencia and what it represents and we need to keep organizing and we need to show those clowns in power in the DR that there is another Dominican tradition – based on social justice and human dignity and a true respect for the awesome contributions that our immigrants make everywhere.”
The September ruling mandates that a law that did away with birthright citizenship in 2004 be applied retroactively, requiring an audit of all birth certificates issued since 1929 to search out those who no longer qualify for citizenship.