Young, old, apolitical or political, poor or rich, people from different parts of the capital have joined the protests for a fourth day in front of the Junta Central Electoral (electoral institution). They are determined to see the magistrates of the JCE resign. But also send messages and warnings to the government.
“E’ pa’ fuera que van” (you are going out), they scream and sing in front of the building echoing their chants to other cities and towns.
It seems like the sunny, sometimes wet, sometimes hot country is now evolving into a “Dominican Spring”. On Monday, only a handful of people were protesting. Yesterday, on the third day, hundreds were there since the early hours of the afternoon. The discontent is spreading all over the country now with mixed messages and emotions. Some are shouting against corruption and impunity, others against the magistrates, and others against the police and political party Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD).
In Santiago de los Caballeros they were also protesting for a third straight day. And like in the capital, people from different ages and social stratum marched united in one voice. Also in La Vega, San Cristóbal, Nagua, Jarabacoa, Moca, San Francisco de Macorís, and La Romana, demonstrations took place in front of government institutions. There is no stopping to this movement.
The avalanche of demonstrations are scheduled for today and Friday too. And in New York people will follow up this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in 181 Street, Saint Nicholas Ave., Washington Heights.
This is important, and it is the first time protests erupt before presidential elections. In 2008, there were some dissent and complaints from the opposed parties together with other groups of the population. At the time, Leonel Fernández won by a margin of over 12 % over this present day ally of the PLD, Miguel Vargas Maldonado, who is also the president of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD). In 2012, the story was different. Fernández couldn’t run again after an amendment to the Constitution, instead, he opted for supporting Danilo Medina who competed against Hipólito Mejía (PRD back then). It was after these elections that the opposition louded cries of fraud together with the population. Especially because Leonel Fernández left a deficit of over 153,000 million pesos, equivalent to 6.6% of the country’s GDP. Nobody believed the PLD would stay in power but, Medina was declared the winner with a 51.21% over Mejía with 46.95%. In spite of that, demonstrations died off a short time after, with repression and persecution carried out by the government, among other strategies like offering positions in government and money to organizers.
Nevertheless, it was in 2016 when the manipulation and fraud were completely obvious and condemned by non-government organizations like Participación Ciudadana and different news media. But since those elections were combined with Congressional and Municipal voting, the protests diluted within the confusion and division between the candidates and the public. The general chaos created by the different constituencies expanded and that split up the opposition. It was a matter of every man for himself.
But the truth is that in 20 years of governance of the PLD, elections have always been manipulated. They’ve always toyed with handling the people. Using money to buy the majority of “cédulas” (ID’s) to reduce the opposition vote. One of the reasons why abstention is so high in every electoral contest. Also boycotting the turnout with violence and arguments bursting out in voting centers, scaring the population; and of course the old trick of switching the ballot boxes and certificates after the closing of the vote.
That is why this time the relevance of these protests is colossal. The government might think they will die off like always, and that accusing the opposition of provoking them will produce the desired effect of diminishing them. A sterile intent, since the variety of people in these rallies, is enormous and every day more will follow. It is inevitable. They will have to go either using the front or the back door, it makes no difference, it is a matter of time.