Dozens of Dominican activists demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building in Santo Domingo on Feb. 18 to protest a contract the government signed with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in Cotuí in the central province of Sánchez Ramírez. The group called for the court to declare the agreement unconstitutional. Critics say the Dominican Republic will only receive a fraction of the proceeds from the mine while the country will be left with the job of repairing the environmental damage. Opposition deputy Juan Hubieres, who was leading the protest, charged that the government of former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2012) received US$37.5 million in 2007 to repair the damage caused by the previous management of the mine, the state enterprise Rosario Dominicana, and eventually collected a total of US$75 million. Fernández "will have to explain to the country in what way this has been employed," Hubieres said.
The Justice and Transparency Foundation (FJT), a Dominican civil organization, has filed for an injunction against a contract the government signed with the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation for the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in Cotuí in the Dominican Republic's central province of Sánchez Ramírez. The mine, a joint venture of Barrick and the Vancouver-based multinational Goldcorp Inc., opened last August despite strong opposition from environmental groups. It is set to begin exporting gold in February.
On Jan. 19 a group of Haitian immigrant workers reached an agreement with international organizations and Dominican authorities to leave an encampment they and family members had maintained in front of the Dominican Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo since Dec. 14. The 112 mostly undocumented workers said they were owed a total of 15 million pesos (about US$368,550) in severance pay and benefits after two coconut processing plants, Coquera Kilómetro 5 and Coquera Real, in nearby San Cristóbal province went out of business.
More than 100 Haitian immigrant workers and their family members remained encamped in front of the Dominican Labor Ministry in Santo Domingo as of Jan. 10 to demand severance pay and other benefits they say they were owed when two coconut processing plants in nearby San Cristóbal province went out of business. According to the workers' lawyers, the owner of Coquera Kilómetro 5 and Coquera Real, Rafael Alonzo Luna, declared bankruptcy in an irregular form and denied benefits to employees who had worked at the plants for up to 14 years. Conditions at the encampment, which the workers have maintained since Dec. 14, were said to be deteriorating, but the group's spokesperson, Elmo Ojilus, said the workers planned to continue their protest.
A large crowd of Dominicans, mostly youths, demonstrated in the Plaza de la Bandera in Santo Domingo the evening of Nov. 17 to protest a "fiscal reform" package proposed by President Danilo Medina and passed by the Congress the week before. The government says the package, which will raise the country's sales tax from 16% to 18% and will establish some new taxes, is necessary to make up for a deficit of 187 billion pesos (about US$4.704 billion); the protesters charge that they are being made to pay for wasteful spending by former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012) and are being subjected to an austerity program demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Some media reported that thousands participated in the Nov. 17 action and described the demonstration as the largest yet in the two weeks since the anti-austerity protests started.
Dominican medical student Willy Warden Florián Ramírez was shot dead on Nov. 8 as police attempted to break up a demonstration by students at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) protesting a "fiscal reform" that the Chamber of Deputies passed that day. Police reportedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition as masked students threw rocks at the agents and at passing cars. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI), witnesses said police agents shot Florián and then used tear gas against people who tried to come to his aid. Police officials claim a video shows a masked protester firing at police agents. At least three other students, two police officers and a bus ticket collector were injured in the clashes. (El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Nov. 8, from correspondent, via La Opinión, Los Angeles; AP, Nov. 9, via Hoy, Dominican Republic; AI press release, Nov. 9)
Although the worst damage from Sandy took place in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba, the storm also affected other parts of the Caribbean. One man died in Juana Díaz in southern Puerto Rico on Oct. 26 when he was swept away by a river swollen because of rain from the edges of the storm, and 3,500 homes were damaged in the Dominican Republic. Sandy hit the Bahamas after leaving Cuba, and one man was killed there. The total number of deaths from Sandy in the Caribbean islands was at least 68. (AP, Oct. 28, via Miami Herald) [The reported death toll in the US, which Sandy struck starting on Oct. 29, was 110 as of Nov. 4. (CNN, Nov. 4)]
The case of a pregnant 16-year-old Dominican with leukemia has reignited controversy over the amended 2010 Constitution's Article 37, which holds "that the right to life is inviolable from conception until death." The anti-abortion amendment was part of a series of constitutional changes pushed by rightwing forces; other amendments in the 2010 document ban same-sex marriage and limit citizenship to people with Dominican parents, in effect leaving many Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless.