Dominican Republic: campesinos protest cement factory

Youths and campesinos in a protest encampment at the edge of Los Haitises National Park in the eastern Dominican Republic reported on June 11 that they were being surrounded by military units and that they feared they might be attacked. This report followed a June 10 attack by National Police on the encampment, where dozens of protesters have been staying since May 16 in an effort to prevent the construction of a cement factory near the town of Gonzalo, in Sabana Grande de Boyá municipality, Monte Plata province. The agents removed a barricade the protesters had set up to block trucks going to the factory site. There was one unconfirmed report that the police fired shots during the June 10 incident and wounded several protesters.

In Santo Domingo on June 10 police agents blocked a march by dozens of representatives of campesino and environmental organizations as they tried to reach the National Palace to deliver a letter protesting the cement factory to President Leonel Fernández.

The protests began in response to a decision by Environmental Minister Jaime David Fernández Mirabal to grant a concession to Consorcio Minero Dominicano , SA—a mining company that also produces cooking oil and other commodities—to extract limestone from sedimentary rocks to manufacture cement at Gonzalo. Environmentalists, geologists and local residents say the factory would displace 500 peasant families and degrade the water from Los Haitises, the second largest source of natural water in the country, which benefits more than 1 million people. Student groups, leftists, the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the environmental commission of the Catholic Church have all come out against the project.

Activists in the US can protest by contacting the Dominican Embassy in Washington (telephone 202-332-6280, fax 202-265-8057, e-mail (La Opinión, Los Angeles, June 11 from El Diario-La Prensa correspondent; La Nación Dominicana, June 11; Socialist Worker, US, May 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 14

See our last posts on the Dominican Republic.