Dominican Republic: two killed in blackout protests

Protests broke out in various parts of the Dominican Republic on the evening of July 16 over electricity shortages that had been plaguing the country for two weeks. Dozens of people took the streets in the Capotillo neighborhood in the north of the National District (which contains the capital, Santo Domingo). Agents of the National Police shot two people dead: Miguel Ángel Encarnación, a 13-year-old who worked shining shoes, and Carlos Francisco Peguero, a 24-year-old blacksmith. After the deaths, heavily armed police in bulletproof vests patrolled the neighborhood. Protests were also reported in other Santo Domingo neighborhoods.

Protests that started on July 16 in Hermanas Mirabal province in the north intensified on July 17. In the province’s Salcedo municipality a group of protesters set off a homemade bomb near a park; no injuries were reported. The police said police major Osiris Gonz├ílez Hilario was hit by a bullet while he was trying to extinguish a tire protesters had set on fire. In Navarrete municipality in Santiago province, also in the north, dozens of people held vigils to protest the blackouts. Jos├ę Espinal, who is a spokesperson for the Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO), a coalition of grassroots organizations, said people in Navarrete were getting electricity just four to five hours a day, even though they had to pay high electric rates “religiously.” There were also protests in Pino and Santiago de la Cruz municipalities, in the area bordering Haiti, and in Pueblo Nuevo, Jaib├│n, Las 300 and Los Cambronales in the northwestern province of Valverde.

The police initially said unidentified people had caused the two deaths in Capotillo. Residents threw rocks at the National District’s chief prosecutor, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, when he tried to talk to them on July 17. He came back the next day for a meeting with community leaders and Miguel ├üngel Encarnaci├│n’s mother; he told them that one police agent had been detained in the shootings and that he needed witnesses from the community to help with the prosecution. (El Financiero, Mexico, July 17 from Notimex; La Opini├│n, Los Angeles, July 18 from El Diario-La Prensa correspondent; Listin Diario, Dominican Republic, July 19)

Militant protests over blackouts, along with violent police repression, have occurred repeatedly in the Dominican Republic since the privatization of the power system in the 1990s; the companies buying into the system included the now-bankrupt US power giant Enron.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 19

See our last post on the Dominican Republic.