Dominican Republic: US military exercises end

This June 2 account from the English-language Dominican Today was typical of what little media attention the recent US military exercises in the Dominican Republic accrued:

SANTO DOMINGO.- The United States Army troops that participated in the joint operation New Horizon 2006 will complete their departure from Dominican Republic today, when the equipment and personnel who are still is in Barahona province (southwest) ship out.

The American soldiers’ departure began May 18, when after a closing ceremony -headed by U.S. ambassador Hans Hertell and with the presence of Americans military and Dominican military and civilian authorities- they began striking the camps.

General Ubaldo Reyes, commander of the Dominican Army’s 5th Infantry Brigade headquartered in Barahona announced the arrival of a United States Air Force cargo plane today, to transport several helicopters and the troops assigned to protect them.

Construction equipment including front end loaders, trucks, cranes, bulldozers, jeeps and other equipment used in the works to build clinics, schools and local roads have already been shipped by sea.

“The operation New Horizon 2006 was successful because it fulfilled its objective. 4 clinics were built, medical attention was given to more than 20,000 people, and 12 animals were attended in veterinary operations,” Reyes said, adding that the Dominican Army’s Air Cavalry personnel benefited from the training with night sight equipment, in addition to its engineering and medical personnel.

The English-language and international media paid little note to the protests and repression surrounding the exercises. This round-up from Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 30:

Police agents injured 18 protesters with birdshot pellets and tear gas grenades at the Plaza Alfa & Omega in the southwestern Dominican city of Barahona on April 29 during the latest in a series of demonstrations against the presence of hundreds of US soldiers in the area as part of the “New Horizons 2006” operation. The wounded included two reporters, Frank Pineda and Obispo Figuereo, from Radio Enriquillo, and the attorney Jose Ariel Feliz. Figuereo and a medical doctor whose name was given as both Leonidas Rosa Cuevas and Rosa Rivera were the most seriously injured. Two of the wounded were taken to private clinics, and the rest went to the Doctor Jaime Mota public hospital.

The April 29 protest was timed to mark the 41st anniversary of an invasion of the country by US troops starting on April 28, 1965. It coincided with a visit to Barahona by President Leonel Fernandez connected to the campaigns of candidates of his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Despite the attack by the police, organizers said the demonstration was a success, with hundreds or even thousands of people marching through the city chanting “Yankees out of Quisqueya” and “Caamano lives, the struggle continues.” (“Quisqueya” is thought to be the Arawak name for the island the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti. Col. Francisco Alberto Caamano was a leader of the 1965 revolution that the US troops were sent to put down; he died in February 1973 while leading a guerrilla movement against then-president Joaquin Balaguer.)

According to the US and Dominican governments, the purpose of the New Horizons operation, scheduled to end in late May, is to build schools and clinics. Dominican activists suspect that there is a plan to build a US base in the Dominican Republic or a connection to war games by the George Washington aircraft carrier group in the Caribbean from mid-April to the end of May. (Prensa Latina, Cuba, April 29; El Nacional, Santo Domingo, April 29; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, April 30)

See our last post on the Dominican Republic.