Dominican Republic: at least three die in general strike

A 24-hour national general strike on July 11 against the economic policies of Dominican president Leonel Fernández was “95 to 100%” effective, according to the organizers. After the first 12 hours, Fidel Santana, a spokesperson for the National Strike Committee, congratulated the Dominican people, calling them “the basic protagonist of this day’s success.” He claimed that an important element in the strike was the absence of efforts to force the productive sectors, commercial enterprises and transportation companies to observe the strike call; he said protesters were showing respect for people who chose not to honor the work stoppage.

But there was significant violence during the strike, and at least three people were reported killed. The National Police said Carlos Luis Alonso Filión died during the night in a shootout with police agents in the Rafey neighborhood of the northern city of Santiago. Another man, Edwin Manuel Felipe Abreu, was killed in Santiago’s Don Pedro neighborhood by two men on an all terrain vehicle, according to Gen. Juan Ramón de la Cruz Martínez, police chief of the Cibao region. In addition, 12 people were injured in Santiago and 20 were arrested.

The family of Anderson Parra Cruceta reported that he was shot dead while he was taking pictures on his cell phone of violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators in the Villa Faro neighborhood of Santo Domingo Este, to the east of the capital. A teenager and a police agent were both wounded in different incidents in the southwestern city of Barahona, while a woman was hit by birdshot while walking down a street there. Three youths received shotgun wounds in Haina, about 20 km west of Santo Domingo.

The Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO) and the Alternative Social Forum (FSA), a coalition of grassroots organizations, were the main organizers of the strike, which was backed by the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). The demands included a reduction in the prices of food, medicine and fuel; a 35% increase in the pay of public employees, including soldiers and the police; elimination of recent increases in taxes and charges for electricity; and the designation of 4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education, as required by the Constitution. The organizers gave the government until Aug. 14 to comply with the demands; on that date the groups plan to hold a national assembly to decide on further actions.

The FSA called a one-day strike around similar demands in October 2007. Father Regino Martínez of the Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants (SJRM) said it was “sad” that the poor “have to resort to striking against the authorities so that they’ll know about the difficult conditions [the poor] are experiencing” as a result of the government’s “indifference.” (Listín Diario, Santiago, July 11; EFE, July 12, via; Adital, Brazil, July 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 17.

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