Dominican Republic: strike shuts down cities
One demonstrator was killed and three injured on July 9 when a coalition of Dominican unions held a 24-hour national general strike to protest government economic policies. A spokesperson for the Alternative Social Forum (FSA), which organized the action, estimated that 90% of Dominican workers had observed the strike nationwide. The Associated Press wire service reported that in Santo Domingo stores were closed and the streets were nearly empty.
A protester whose name was given as Rafael de Jesus Tavarez (or Torres) died in the northern municipality of Navarrete the morning of July 9 after receiving three bullet wounds; according to the authorities, he was killed in an exchange of gunfire between demonstrators and police. Another protester was wounded in Bonao, also a northern municipality. Ricardo Rodriguez and Jose Perez were injured in the northern city of Santiago in a firebomb explosion. Local police spokesperson Col. Ramon Rodriguez Veras said the two men had been trying to throw the firebombs at two of the few commercial centers that were open.
The FSA was demanding a general pay raise for public and private employees, including soldiers and police agents; the revocation of a recent increase in taxes on various goods that had resulted in an increase in gasoline prices to $4.56 a gallon; a moratorium on the payment of external debt; larger investments in health and education; and modifications of laws on petroleum use and social security. The tax increases had been recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a way to reduce the $1.1 billion national deficit. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, July 11 from AP; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, July 10)
According to Dominican social scientist Tahira Vargas, the strike won strong public support because the government hadn't responded to basic community demands for improvements in the supply of water and electricity and for simple infrastructural improvements in local roads and bridges. These would not require large investments, she noted, especially at a time when the government was investing heavily in a metro system and buying airplanes, "which to me seems barbaric." The FSA had been successful in coordinating the protests, Vargas said, but it too would need to respond better to local demands. [El Nacional, Santo Domingo, July 11)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 15
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