Dominican Republic: protesters demand review of Barrick contract

Dozens of Dominican activists demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building in Santo Domingo on Feb. 18 to protest a contract the government signed with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in CotuĂ­ in the central province of Sánchez RamĂ­rez. The group called for the court to declare the agreement unconstitutional. Critics say the Dominican Republic will only receive a fraction of the proceeds from the mine while the country will be left with the job of repairing the environmental damage. Opposition deputy Juan Hubieres, who was leading the protest, charged that the government of former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2012) received US$37.5 million in 2007 to repair the damage caused by the previous management of the mine, the state enterprise Rosario Dominicana, and eventually collected a total of US$75 million. Fernández “will have to explain to the country in what way this has been employed,” Hubieres said.

Other demonstrators protested a plan by current president Danilo Medina to recognize titles to properties at the BahĂ­a de las Aguilas beach and in other parts of the Jaragua ecological reserve, located in the southwestern province of Pedernales. The government says private use of the properties for tourism will help develop the impoverished province, but opponents insist that the titles were obtained fraudulently in 1995 and 1996 from then-director of the Dominican Agrarian Institute Jaime RodrĂ­guez, who was arrested but was never tried. The protesters cut up a cake in the shape of the Dominican Republic to dramatize the way authorities are dividing up the national territory, they said. (El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Feb. 19, from correspondent; El DĂ­a, Santo Domingo, Feb. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 24

Barrick Gold also has controversial operations on the border between Chile and Argentina, in Peru, in Tanzania, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in Papua New Guinea.