Hundreds of Dominican activists have reportedly held a series of demonstrations recently to protest the presence of 800 US soldiers in Barahona, capital of the southwestern province of Barahona. In one protest, apparently on Feb. 14, demonstrators gathered in the city’s central park and then marched to the encampment where the US soldiers are staying. Dominican soldiers guarding the site pointed their rifles at the protesters, who later burned an effigy of Uncle Sam. The protest was organized by a coalition, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinating Committee.
The soldiers are deployed under the US military’s “New Horizons” program. According to Gen. Ubaldo Reyes of the Dominican Army’s Fifth Infantry Brigade, the US troops are in Barahona “to build clinics [and] community centers and to offer medical attention.” But President Leonel Fernandez reportedly said the troops were needed to “help us design a more secure and modern border policy.” [Barahona is about 50 miles from the Haitian border.] Dominican Workers Party (PTD) president Ivan Rodriguez suggested to reporters that the US troop presence was connected to the electoral process taking place at the same time, noting that US soldiers intervened in Haiti in February 2004 during the ouster of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He said that the 800 soldiers were just the beginning of an operation that would ultimately include 14,000 troops.
On Feb. 16 three political parties, the Dominican Boschist Party, the Fatherland Project and the New Republic Movement, issued a statement charging that “the unloading of helicopters, all- terrain vehicles, assault vehicles and heavy machinery is evidence of the offensive nature that underlies the allegedly peaceful, humanitarian and philanthropic mantle that the US troops are exhibiting.” (Resumen Latinoamericano, Feb. 14; Adital, Feb. 16; Prensa Latina, Feb. 10; El Nacional, Santo Domingo, Feb. 16)
See our last post on the Dominican Republic.