Dominican Republic: cops kill unionists

Nine Dominican police agents, including two officers, should be tried for the Dec. 30 shooting deaths of five men in Santo Domingo’s Mirador Sur section, according to a report that a special commission presented to National District attorney general Alejandro Moscoso Segarra on Jan. 15. The police had claimed that the five men died during an exchange of gunfire, but an autopsy report from the Forensic Pathology Institute found that four of the victims had been shot in the back. One of the four was shot in the back of the neck at close range, according to forensic physician Sergio Sarita, and the fifth victim was shot “in front while seated, lying down or on his knees.” Attorney General Moscoso Segarra said he would decide in 48 hours whether to proceed with the case.

At least 500 people were killed by the Dominican police in 2008, according to a complaint filed with the Interamerican Human Rights Court (CIDH) of the Organization of American States (OAS) by a Dominican group, the Human Rights Commisison (CNDH). The group’s president, Dr. Manuel Maria Mercedes, estimates that 75% of the victims were executed. (Soitu, Spain, Jan. 15 from EFE; Primicias, Dominican Republic, Jan. 17) On Jan. 17 journalists and community leaders in the northern city of Santiago de los Caballeros called on President Leonel Fernandez to order the police to explain the deaths of some 40 people killed by police and criminals in the city. Some groups in Santiago have brought court cases against the national police chief, Maj. Gen. Rafael Guillermo Guzmán Fermín, for the large number of crimes committed since he has been in command. (El Nuevo Diario, Dominican Republic, Jan. 17)

Three of the victims of the Dec. 30 Mirador Sur incident were members of a leading union, the New Option National Transport Federation (FENATRANO). On Jan. 2 the union’s secretary general, Juan Hubieres, charged that the National Police had a “criminal plan” to “exterminate” FENATRANO members; the next day Maj. Gen. Guzman Fermin denied that there was a plot against either the union or Hubieres. (Latin American Herald Tribune, Jan. 4; Listin Diario, Santo Domingo, Jan. 3; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Jan. 3; 7 Dias, Jan. 4) In December more than 40 FENATRANO members staged a hunger strike to demand that the Office for Reordering Transport (Opret) not eliminate routes feeding the Metro system; on Dec. 15 the agency agreed to the union’s demands. (Diario a Diario, Dominican Republic, Jan. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 18

See our last post on the Dominican Republic.