Dominican austerity protests spread abroad

A large crowd of Dominicans, mostly youths, demonstrated in the Plaza de la Bandera in Santo Domingo the evening of Nov. 17 to protest a “fiscal reform” package proposed by President Danilo Medina and passed by the Congress the week before. The government says the package, which will raise the country’s sales tax from 16% to 18% and will establish some new taxes, is necessary to make up for a deficit of 187 billion pesos (about US$4.704 billion); the protesters charge that they are being made to pay for wasteful spending by former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012) and are being subjected to an austerity program demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Some media reported that thousands participated in the Nov. 17 action and described the demonstration as the largest yet in the two weeks since the anti-austerity protests started.

Students in the crowd insisted that they weren’t political opponents of the governing Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). “Our only party is the Dominican Republic,” they told reporters. “This is Dominican youth who have become indignant, who have finally opened their eyes and realized that what the political class here does is exploit society and not work for the people—and they even deny the right to education and social security for the poorest people,” one youth said. “Our country deserves better treatment.” Other protesters called on the international media to cover the movement, “since the media here are sold out.” (La Nación Dominicana, Santo Domingo, Nov. 18; Listín Diario, Santo Domingo, Nov. 18)

Dominicans living abroad also protested the austerity measures; many of the actions have been organized through a special website, “No DR Fiscal Reform.” About 50 Dominicans, mostly arts and graduate students, protested in front of their country’s embassy in Argentina on Nov. 14. A delegation tried to present a letter to the embassy staff, but an Argentine police agent said no embassy official was present to receive it—even though 30 people are listed as working in the embassy. The protesters agreed to organize further actions. (El Nuevo Diario, Santo Domingo, Nov. 14)

Dominicans in Spain protested at the consulate in Barcelona on Nov. 17 as President Medina visited Spain to attend a meeting of the Ibero-American Summit. There were also protests in Italian cities that day, and dozens of Dominicans gathered in front of the consulate in New York’s Times Square to demand imprisonment for the politicians responsible for the deficit. Other protests were reportedly planned in Florida, Mexico and Berlin. (, Santo Domingo, Nov. 17; La Nación Dominicana, Nov. 18)

Protesters also targeted repression by the police. Medical student Willy Warden Florián Ramírez was shot dead in Santo Domingo on Nov. 8 by police as they were trying to break up a student protest against the fiscal reform. Schoolteacher Angela Moquete Méndez was wounded by police the same day during a demonstration protesting a water shortage in the Villa Estela neighborhood in the southwestern city of Barahona; she died of her wounds the night of Nov. 9 in a clinic in Santo Domingo. Moquete Méndez was a leader in the teachers’ section of the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). (Hoy, Santo Dominigo, Nov. 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 18.