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Home About Us Equipo Sur South-North Encuentro Dominican Republic - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates
Dominican Republic - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates PDF Print E-mail

2010 Encuentro Country Updates

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

By JULIN ACOSTA
Sacerdote Diocesano


What is the situation of militarization in your country, with emphasis on how it is related to the U.S.?

The result of the dictatorial regime that the Dominican Republic suffered (1930-1961) leaves, as political custom, control of the population and its resources to military bodies, particularly the army which covers the entire national territory. At the end of the Trujillo dictatorship, there was not an appropriate transformation during the transition period from dictatorship to democracy, as the social and political organizations that were in charge during the transition period, were led by people who had been involved in the previous regime.

From 1961 until today, control of the situation has passed to the National Police (which is more than a militarized force than a policing force). The National Police has an organizational structure very similar to the Armed Forces, including units specializing in military combat (rather than police combat).

Throughout the transition period, U.S. military forces have served an ancillary role to the military commanders and troops. Just like in the rest of Latin America, the U.S. military doctrine is used. The National Police's most significant transformations have been the result of U.S. initiatives (ex: cadet academies, criminal investigation departments, etc.). This institution depends greatly on the Miami and New York City police departments.

Frequently, on the streets and highways of this country, one can observe military operations and the detention of citizens occuring, without any apparent cause.  These events happen almost several times each day and in more than three or four places in the same city.  These events are sometimes carried out by a group of police and soldiers, and at other times are carried out by individuals (gathered on an evenue, on a street, or at the entrance or exit of a town). The ordinary procedure is to stop moving vehicles, in a discriminate manner, selecting vehicles without any logical reason (the detainer presents himself as a police officer, requests documents, registers the vehicle or person as suspected of doing something that has not been specified).  The attitude of the soldiers and police, in the event that a citizen speaks out, is arrogance.  They take a citizen's speaking out as instigating - and it can lead to the citizen being arrested.

How does militarization affect the human rights situation?

This way of managing citizens through the methods just explained, results in measures in support of human rights not being used as frequently as they should be.  Most importantly, the fact that people are detained without any apparant reason, but just because a person chooses to exercise their military or police authority, is a violation.  Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that within the armed forces and the National Police, institutions have been founded to teach members of the military bodies to use measures that respect human rights.  But frequently, a course about Humanitarian International Law is taught, creating confusion for those members of the military who take the course (because Humanitarian International Law is oriented more towards an environment of war than peace).

How have you all dealt with these issues?  What has been your experience with resistence - good decisions, errors, and weaknesses?

Within civil society, there has not been a social mechanism that allows these issues to be dealt with in a just manner.  The method most used is making complaints in the press (which is mostly reduced to personal experiences of the victims).

From the governmental lens, programs of citizen safety (called safe neighborhoods) have been implemented, which has provoked more inconveniences rather than positive results (within the social conglomerates that have participated in the program).  Certain measures that have been implemented to combat crime have not had the expected result (above all because the measures were carried out in marginalized areas, leaving the industrial areas without the security needed).

There is a large part of the population (above all, the oligarchical sectors) that use members of the armed forces and the National Police for their personal security and for the security of their commercial interests.  They support all the governmental measures that are carried out (even if the measures do provide any results).  Given that these groups own all of the media, the voices of the people who sincerely try to resolve these problems, are not able to be echoed and in many cases are not even published.

In personal terms, I have worked for almost 33 years (with the most vulnerable migrant populations and impoverished sectors) for a culture of solidarity, within a historically violent society (whose violence is produced by the diabolical forces of armed culture and violent, perverse, super-immortal capitalism).  This historical experience has caused persecution, prision, and death threats.

What actions can we take together to confront this situation, and thereby contribute to a culture of peace and sovereignty in our countries?

First, we can create consciousness in the international community, that those responsibile for the evil generated by injustice, are not the defenseless (but rather the powerful).  We can study, all together, the fragile spots of imperial and oligarchical power (and attack those targets specifically).  It is not only important to denounce the harm that they do to us, but also to respond to the actions that they take (the actions which contradict our defense of justice and peace) to overcome the negative effect of their discourse and action against democracy in Latin America.  We can denounce the inefficiency of military units in Latin America, which do not exercise control over drug-trafficking in international waters. (Satellites show us that only military units tend to be present in these international waters.) We can maintain actions of protest (and heighten them) against the impunity that hurts citizens.  We can create a regional body to be in charge of making a yearly report detailing violations in human rights, human trafficking, drug trafficking, abuse of power, etc., including violations and abuses that occur in American society (so that the United States can be censured, evaluated, and punished - until now only the United States makes reports and performs evaluations).  We can keep in mind that the measures and initiatives that can be implemented to contribute to peace and sovereignty in our nations, are disadvantaged by powerful forces and well-consolidated imperial power.


 

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