Dominicans strike for national economic reform, 2003-2004

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Timing
Time Period:  
1 July
2003
to
29 January
2004
Location and Goals
Country: 
Dominican Republic
Location City/State/Province: 
All major cities
Goals: 
To change the agreement signed by the Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

To reduce food prices, electricity costs, telephone rates, and fuel prices

To achieve better wages for all workers--public and private

To modify the Hydrocarbons Act

To suspend the payment of foreign debt

To allocate five percent of the national budget to el Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo

To stop the Free Trade Agreement with the United States

To have President Hipolito Mejia resign

 

During the economic crisis in the Dominican Republic in 2003-2004, Dominicans protested due the peso dropping by half its value. In response to the depreciation, the government entered into a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund. In addition, the deterioration of the quality of life for most village people, the loss of purchasing power, and the loss of basic services such as health care, education, electric energy, telephones, and drinkable water, among other things, were all concerns brought into the campaign. The president, Hipólito Mejia, and the government privatized all these services and eliminated the state's role in the politics of social wellbeing.

To further the discontent of many Dominicans, in April of 2003, Mejia disregarded the law in order to bail out the second largest commercial bank in the country, Baninter, with two-thirds of the government’s entire annual budget and 15% of the gross domestic product. To compensate, the government cut budgets and raised prices on all goods.

Ramon Almanzar, President of the New Alternative Party, and Ramon Perez Figuereo, General Secretary of the National Center of Unified Transport Workers (CNTU) planned a march in Santo Domingo in protest on 1 July 2003. Police stopped the march with teargas and arrested 40 demonstrators. Mejia sent thousands of police and soldiers to raid the homes of activists, students, and the working-class in order to look for illegal weapons. Forces arrested hundreds of people.

Another group of organizers, independent of the leaders of the 1 July protest, but with similar goals, began a labor strike on 20 August 2003. Protesters met in San Francisco de Macoris, North of the capital city Santo Domingo, and set heaps of trash and tires on fire in the streets, threw stones, and set fire to eight vehicles. An unmarked car with people inside shot at protesters and the police. Police tried to disperse the crowd with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. They shot at the crowd and killed one man, injured two, and arrested 12 others.

Leaders further organized two general strikes. The first strike, on 11 November 2003, lasted 24 hours. Demonstrators blocked roads with barricades set on fire and marched through the streets. Organizers claimed that every city shut down businesses due to 95-97% of the country participating. To suppress the strike, police killed six, wounded 100, and arrested several hundred people, including Almanzar, involved in the protests.

Almanzar and Perez organized their second general strike in January of 2004. They had many demands that included reducing the cost of the family market basket, reducing fuel prices, stopping the blackouts, 100% wage increases, reducing transport fares and charges, renationalization of privatized energy enterprises, ending agreements with the IMF, ending the increases in the foreign debt, and ending the free trade agreement with the U.S.

The Dominican people went on a general strike for 48 hours starting on 28 January 2004. This strike had the additional demand of the resignation of the president, Hipolito Mejia. They had the support of labor unions, the leftist parties, and the Catholic Church. The strike was organized by additional union groups, Coordinadora de Unidad y Lucha, el Colectivo de Organizaciones Populares, and el Frente Amplio de Lucha Popular (Falpo). With about 90% participation by the Dominican people, the country shut down every city for two days.

The 2-day strike began at 6am on 28 January 2004. Hospitals and clinics, shops, and passenger and freight transportation services halted and were forced to close because of the high numbers of workers striking. Dominicans threw their garbage on the street and soon residential areas were filled with things like beds, refrigerators, and televisions. While Dominicans protested all over the country, the Army, Air Force, the Navy, and the police, some with painted faces, patrolled most cities on foot and on buses with machine guns. Strikers organized self-defense techniques in response to the repressive actions they anticipated the government would take. This was based off of reactions the government had to the previous worker strikes. Some strikers held off cops and soldiers with rocks and homemade bombs. As a result, police shot and killed seven strikers and wounded over 100 other strikers. Six hundred were arrested including leaders of the strike and leaders of leftist parties. They were held briefly in prison. One policeman died of gunshot wounds.

The strike became known as the “48-hour strike,” after ending on 29 January 2004. The government did not change any of its policies. The workers planned on striking again for another 48 hours on 16 and 17 March 2004 but this strike never occurred.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Galván, H. "Fracción Trotskista Estrategia Internacional." Fracción Trotskista Estrategia Internacional. N.p., 8 Feb. 2004. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

Pérez, Ruddy G., and Luis Guzmán. "Indymedia Barcelona: Masivo Respaldo a La Huelga General En Rep. Dominicana." Indymedia Barcelona: Masivo Respaldo a La Huelga General En Rep. Dominicana. N.p., 29 Jan. 2004. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

"Dominican Crisis Demands Revolutionary Solution." Dominican Crisis Demands Revolutionary Solution. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013. <http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/socialistvoice/domrepPR71.html>.

Soto, José L. "Republica Dominicana : Sectores Sociales Dominicanos Desafían Al Gobierno De Hipólito Mejía." Republica Dominicana : Sectores Sociales Dominicanos Desafían Al Gobierno De Hipólito Mejía. N.p., 2 Feb. 2004. Web. 05 Apr. 2013. <http://www.alterpresse.org/article.php3?id_article=1116>.

TIMELINES OF HISTORY. (2012, May 24). Timeline Dominican Republic. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://timelines.ws/countries/DOMINREP.HTML

Fearon, J., & Laitin, D. (2005). Dominican Republic. Retrieved May 11, 2013. <http://www.stanford.edu/group/ethnic/Random%20Narratives/Dominican%20RepublicRN1.2.pdf>

Associated Press. Man Dies in Dominican Republic Protests. (2003, August 20). Man Dies in Dominican Republic Protests. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2003/Man-Dies-in-Dominican-Republic-Protests/id-cda0d21f820c77193250943a17639959

Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY. (2003, November 16). WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS. Restricted Weekly. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://www.tulane.edu/~libweb/RESTRICTED/WEEKLY/2003_1116.txt

Marcos. (2003, December). General strike in Dominican Republic -- News & Letters, December 2003. General Strike in Dominican Republic -- News & Letters, December 2003. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://www.newsandletters.org/Issues/2003/December/DomRep_Dec03.htm

Additional Notes: 
There may have been other smaller protests that occurred throughout the campaign that were unaffiliated with organizers from major unions.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Alexis Dziedziech, 31/03/2013