Dominican Republic: protests against US troops continue

On March 21 Dominican vice president Rafael Albuquerque, US ambassador Hans Hertell and a number of Dominican and US officers officially launched the “New Horizons 2006” Dominican-US joint military operation in the southwestern Dominican city of Barahona. The operation’s stated goal is to build four rural health clinics and three wells in the area. According to US military spokesperson Robert Appin, a total of about 3,500 US troops will be taking part in “New Horizons” but no more than 450 will be in the Dominican Republic at any one time. The soldiers began to arrive in February and will leave at the end of May, Appin said.

Dominican activists have held several demonstrations against the operation since US troops began arriving in February. A number of organizations protested again in Santo Domingo on March 18, chanting “Not one more yankee in Barahona” and burning a US flag. Hundreds participated in the protest, according to Associated Press. The Alternative Social Forum, the umbrella organization for grassroots groups that organized the demonstration, charged that the US was actually building a base in the Dominican Republic to be used for aggression against Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela. “To construct clinics you do not need tanks or rifles,” Alternative Social Forum coordinator Jesus Adon told the Spanish wire service EFE.

US troops are also scheduled to participate this year in “New Horizons” operations in Honduras, Peru and El Salvador. The US military began the program in 1998. (El Universal, Santo Domingo, March 18 from EFE; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, March 19 from AP; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, March 20 from AP; Miami Herald, March 22 from AP; El Nacional, Santo Domingo, March 19, 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 26

See our last post on the Dominican Republic.