The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Dominican Republic:
Demonstrations, strikes and repression

Nov 17, 2003

At least seven civilians and one policeman were killed during a clash between protesting strikers and Dominican authorities on Tuesday, November 11. Police bullets killed at least three of the demonstrators. But the regime refuses to confirm the number of dead, wounded and arrested.

In this country with eight million inhabitants, known as a tourist destination for Americans and Europeans, the economic crisis has plunged the population into catastrophe. The local currency has lost 100% of its value in one year and inflation has already reached 35% this year.

But it was the austerity measures imposed by the government that led the unions to call for a general strike on November 11. These measures meant a rise in the price of items of consumption subsidized by the government, like fuel and electric power. Public utilities, health and hospital services deteriorated, thanks to government cuts. Instead government funds went to pay off debt to foreign banks and corporations.

The organizers of the strike – the unions, most of the opposition parties, and even a part of the Dominican Revolutionary Party which currently runs the government – accuse the government of taking austerity measures due to pressure from the International Monetary Fund. They call for the government to stop paying its overseas debt and to suspend its agreements with the IMF.

The day before the strike, the government imprisoned several leaders of the organizations that called for the strike. Nonetheless, the strike began the next day and was well-supported. Strikers were determined, managing to paralyze the country. Offices of the governmental party (the PRD) were burned down. On the second day of the strike, the army deployed a massive number of tanks. But still the strikers continued; commercial shops remained shut in the capital city and the nearby villages; public transportation didn't move.

The Dominican population – which is being strangled by the world economic crisis – can protect itself only by taking such measures.