Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Feb. 13, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
On Jan. 23 and 24, the working-class districts of Simon Bolivar and Guachupita in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, were the sites of anti-government protests. Reuter reported that "hooded youths burned tires and erected barricades on main roads." Riot police used tear gas and shotguns to break up the demonstration.
The protests were organized by the Collective of Popular Organizations and the Force of the Revolution. Both are leftist community and political organizations that are leading the struggle against the cutbacks and price increases carried out by President Leonel Fernandez' government.
These demonstrations followed another, on Jan. 16. At that one, too, police clashed with young people demanding an end to price hikes.
Workers World spoke with Juan Gomez, a member of the steering committee of Force of the Revolution. Gomez told WW that the new Fernandez administration has been meeting with various business groups to discuss the government's economic package, popularly known as "el paquetazo."
Gomez explained that the package has raised taxes on fuel by 30 percent--which in turn has raised bus and cab fares as well as prices of other consumer products that depend on fuel. The aim, Gomez says, is to raise revenue to pay the Dominican Republic's debt to the banks.
Fernandez has also reduced the tariffs foreign companies must pay to enter the country. This is the initial stage in a five-year tariff reduction plan aimed at attracting investors.
Gomez said this has pitted local producers against import/export businesses and the foreign companies that benefit from the law.
The government has also devalued the Dominican peso and has resumed exploiting a gold mine in the town of Bonao. The previous Balaguer government had been forced to close the mine due to a public outcry after mining poisoned the drinking water.
After only three days in power, Fernandez reopened the mine.
Juan Gomez said his organization, Force of the Revolution, along with the Collective of Popular Organizations, is planning a demonstration and strike in Bonao against the mine.
The Fernandez government has been closely monitoring the activities of Force of the Revolution and its leaders. Late in the evening of Jan. 11, a Secret Service agent of the National Police followed Fernando Pena, a principal leader of Force of the Revolution, from his house to the organization's headquarters.
The agent, on his motorcycle, threatened Pena with a weapon. Force of the Revolution security personnel disarmed the agent, chased him away, and kept the motorcycle as proof of the harassment.
Police officials said that "it's within the power of the state to observe and acquire information to be rightly aware of the behavior of citizens and groups of people that with their actions could undermine the public order."
Not coincidentally, the administration of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is working on a joint project with the Dominican police to send some of New York's "finest" to train the police there.
Juan Gomez told WW: "The new government has created certain expectations in the public. It has failed and has demonstrated that it's just another government of the system."
Force of the Revolution is planning a series of local demonstrations, which will lead to larger regional and national demonstrations in the near future.
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