On Oct. 21 residents of San Francisco de Macoris in the northeastern Dominican province of Duarte started what was planned as a two-day civic strike for improvements in health and education services; in street and road maintenance; and in infrastructure work. The area has been the scene of numerous protests for years over these and similar demands.
The current strike—led by the Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO), which was involved many of the earlier protests—started to heat up around midday on Oct. 22 when the majority of store owners closed down their businesses and confrontations broke out between protesters and police agents. Protesters started fires while heavily armed agents, including SWAT anti-riot units, patrolled the streets and set up checkpoints. Two youths not connected to the protests were killed during the confrontations on Oct. 22, according to FALPO spokesperson Eddy Munoz. Israel Polanco, 17, was shot while playing sports; Luis Gomez, 15, was shot while riding either a bicycle or a motorcycle in an area where police agents were firing at strikers. Some 20 other people were injured during the day, and dozens were reportedly detained.
FALPO responded to the police operation by extending the strike another day. On Oct. 23 hundreds of protesters marched through the downtown area and the Pueblo Nuevo, San Pedro, San Vicente, Hermanas Mirabal, San Martin, Alto de la Javiela and El Capacito neighborhoods. Despite a heavy police presence, there were no incidents. The strike officially ended at 6 am on Oct. 24. FALPO representatives were scheduled to meet that morning with a commission of officials, including Public Works Secretary Victor Diaz Rua; National Police chief Maj. Gen. Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin; and National Drinking Water and Sewage Institute (INAPA) director Mariano German. Duarte governor Luz Selene Plata, who said the strikers’ demands were just, was backing the meeting. (Prensa Latina, Oct. 23, 24; Listin Diario, Oct. 23, 24)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 26
See our last post on the Dominican Republic.