An unnatural disaster: is the Dominican Republic on the brink of revolt?

Anti-government demonstrators gather in Santiago de los Caballeros,  on Friday.
Demonstrators in Santiago de los Caballeros, the Dominican Republic’s second city, on Friday. (picture courtesy of @LaliMarte via Twitter)

These are restless times in the Dominican Republic. On Thursday afternoon a 21-year-old medical student, Willy Florian Ramirez, was walking past the scene of a protest in Santo Domingo when he was shot dead by police. A series of increasingly violent demonstrations has been taking place against the government in recent days, but Ramirez was the first fatality.

Two days later a 52-year-old teacher, Angela Moquete Mendez, was hit by a bullet after being caught up in a protest in her neighbourhood of Villa Estela, in Barahona. She had been out trying to source drinking water. She died in hospital a few hours later.

Nineteen police officers have been arrested in the wake of Ramirez’s death and the government of President Danilo Medina has promised a swift and thorough investigation. In doing so it may be hoping that the reasons for the demonstrations will stay in the background.

On the surface, these protests are about tax reforms. The Dominican legislature is passing legislation to raise the national sales tax from 16 per cent to 18 per cent to help reduce a growing national budget deficit. But the idea that people would take to the streets over a couple of extra cents on the price of a loaf of bread, especially against a trigger-happy police corps, is unrealistic. A simmering undercurrent of public disgust has risen to the surface, and some Dominicans are talking of open revolt. “This country is on the verge of bankruptcy because they took every penny,” Jorgy Cruz Soto, the owner of a production company in Santo Domingo, told the New York Times. “We are very close to a civil revolution.”

The underlying reasons are almost impossible to untangle, but here are a few features of the Dominican news landscape. The former president Leonel Fernandez has been implicated in a wide-ranging corruption inquiry relating to his eight years in office, which ended in May. Fernandez’s party, which controls both houses of the legislature, has been agitating furiously to remove some of its senior figures from the scope of the inquiry. His successor, Danilo Medina, has studiously avoided commenting on the controversy so far. But Medina’s administration is pushing through sweeping changes to the defamation laws that would hamstring freedom of expression. Amendments to the criminal code would make it an offence, punishable by imprisonment of up to three years, to publish offensive statements about the President, Vice-President, senators, congressmen, judges, election officials and the attorney-general. In effect, it would make it impossible for journalists to hold politicians to account just at a time when questions are mounting about their conduct in office.

Back in 2003 the country’s second largest bank, Baninter, collapsed as the result of massive fraud, perpetrated by its owners, linked to political corruption. Five years before Lehman Brothers, in the midst of the boom years that preceded the global banking meltdown, Baninter provided a template for the crisis that would afflict other Western nations. When Baninter went down, the government bought it out and bailed out the deposits of savers, a total of US$2.2 billion. The losses incurred by a corruptly run private bank were swallowed up in the national public deficit, with the result that inflation rose to 42% and the currency halved in value. Now, as the deficit continues to grow, the poorest Dominicans are being asked to make up the shortfall through taxes on food. This month’s fiscal reforms were perhaps the last straw, a fart in the face of the public that reminded them of the stench of corruption that has poisoned the atmosphere for years.

Corruption in high office, a banking collapse, trigger-happy police, a judiciary struggling with government interference and a media being squeezed into a regulatory straitjacket: all the signs are that democracy is hanging by a loose thread. Two people died in the Dominican Republic when Hurricane swept through the Caribbean at the end of October. A fortnight later, two more deaths are making headlines. But there’s nothing natural about this disaster.



    • Thank you. My mother is 90 years old. She has seen her savings and her investments eroded by an out of control government that taxes and raises prices at a whim. At least she did not start from zero, but she will soon be getting to zero if things don’t change. Electricity and gasoline are prohibitive. Food is as expensive as it is in the United States. I know. I go to supermarkets in both countries. But Dominicans don’t earn their pay in dollars and their pesos have been devalued to the extent that it’s impossible to shop for food and pay the electric bill and put gas in your tank all at the same time. God forbid if you get sick and have to go to a doctor or buy medicine! What you are seeing right now is the revolt of the MIDDLE CLASS. The poor and downtrodden will be silenced with a frozen chicken and a bottle of rum. The rich can just drift away to Miami until things cool down. But the middle class has taken the brunt of this misgovernment and they can’t take it anymore. The college graduates who cannot find work, the well-educated husbands and wives who can’t afford a decent apartment, the parents who can’t send their kids to decent schools. The middle class is fed up. They cannot countenance anymore that a man like Felix Bautista, who spent two years in jail, is now a senator, but wait– he is also a multimillionaire who exactly eight years ago owned only the clothes on his back -well, maybe he did. He and a group of sycophants have become close to billionaires (in dollars) under the winking eye of a corrupt administration whose leader pretends to be a ‘transparent’ and benevolent international political star. CORRUPTION is the name of the game and middle class Dominicans are fed up. This has nothing to do with party affiliation. The young man who was killed on Thursday was a very involved member of the party in government. So is his father. And yet, he was out there protesting against the final insult to the poor and the middle class. The Dominican Republic has been internationally recognized as a FAILED STATE. The Dominican Republic is recognized as a NARCOSTATE where both civil and military authorities are involved in and beholden to the interests of the international cartels. How else could proletarians become millionaires in a few short years? CORRUPTION has created the situation at hand and the professional middle class, the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children who have no idea what will happen tomorrow, have decided to take things into their own hands. Yes. The Dominican middle class is mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!

  1. Dear Mr. Darroch:

    I’m a middle class dominican who is very angry about the situation in our country, wich can be summed up to this.

    In the first fife months of this year (2012) our past Government headed by Mr. Leonel Fernandez, left us with a 187 Billion Pesos DEFICIT. Thats almost half the budget for the 2012 fiscal year.

    And now our new President Danilo Medina is making us pay the deficit with taxes, and not only that, he is not even making an effort to make the people responsible for the deficit pay for their irresponsible and corrupt spending.


    Thank you for voicing the concerns of our people,

  2. Thanks for this post, the DR is on the verge of losing its democracy, something must be done now! Congress cannot be run by one party only!

  3. It’s not really a revolt. It’s just a bitter minority angry because they lost the May 2012 elections.

    I want to humbly point out
    1. Food is not being taxed under the new reform.
    2. DR doesn’t have a parliament. DR has a congress.
    3. One of the main reasons for the deficit is the electrical sector subsidy.

    • If it’s all about the election, why weren’t there mass demonstrations in May or June? Something tells me there’s a little more to it than that.

      Thanks for checking those details. I’m trying to find something that explains exactly what the reforms do entail. Unfortunately there wasn’t a debate in the congress so that’s no good as a source.

      • Lawrence Duran couldn’t be more wrong. It is not just a bitter minority angry about losing the election that protest today. It is a country tired of paying for the misuse and abuse of state resources.
        It’s not about party, or who won or lost the election. For that matter, in May I voted for the PLD, the winning party. And that is why, for the trust I put down with my vote, today I protest against injustice, the nerve and the corruption of our government.
        There isn’t a protest against tax reform for the sake of not paying taxes. It is that we are not willing to pay for a deficit which we, the people, do not benefit. The government, before even thinking of raising taxes, must review public spending, exorbitant salaries and benefits of staff, the squandering of state resources, the outright theft of our money, must investigate those responsible for this deficit and make them pay!
        We will not be asked to live in austerity, while they live in luxury and spend our money, as a reward for a job that they don’t do: serve the people.
        The Dominicans say ENOUGH!

    • it sounds like you work for or get money from the government.
      1) most of the food that was not taxed before is taxed now.
      2) most of the congress is controlled by the ruling party. note that not one of them voted no on the law. only one obstained.
      3) when the fmi comes back at the beginning of next year, we
      ‘ll be getting another tax reform based on the electrical sector subsidary. you can write it will happen.

      two days ago, admist all this turmoil, the head of the ministry of education augmented her salary from RD$185,00 to RD$300,000 and several polititians have come to her aid by saying that nobody can’t live on a salary of less than 300,000. how do we do it then? we subside all the polititians cars, food, school for children..those are 300,000 and she doens’t have to spend a dime in anything else…don’t tell me that the tax reform is for the electrical sector when there are millions of people dying in hunger with less than 100 pesos a day and you complain that a woman can’t live on less than 300,000 a month? for god’s sake..
      most of us will be happy to accept the tax reform if only the people involved would be behind bars. the people responsible for the baninter scandal are currently in jail and have to pay bakc the money. the amount of the deficit now is no where near the deficit back in 2003 and there is clear proof that most of the money now was used for the current president’s campaign.

      • fyi, i voted for danilo. i’m not part of the bitter minitory who lost teh election. i’m part of the bitter MAYORITY who was promised something (april 23rd..look it up, danilo promised to not increase the taxes) and never got it.
        hacer lo que nunca se hizo .. si, lleva menos de 3 meses y ya el pueblo esta en contra de el. duramos 8 anos en odiar a leonel, 4 a hipolito..3 meses a danilo .. pero sii, mejor presidente del mundo verdad!

    • Bitter MINORITY? MINORITY? Man, do you even live here? I’ve never seen so many angry dominicans in my life, for any reason, EVER. Everyone is fed up, every one is angry. They’re laughing in our faces, and no one is willing to put up with this anymore. So whatever your agenda is man, i say you drop it, because even people across the globe smell the bullshit.

      • Eeeeehhhh. I think he is a she. And you both have the same point. The last sentence was sarcasm I think.

        For the rest, I agree with you. I’m 29 yo and the protests are not led by any political party. It’s the people itself that’s crying out loud with their own voices.

    • Hi Lawrence,

      Thank you for your points on this matter. Although many factors including the ones you mention, are causal to the current deficit the dominican republic is facing, it does not excuse the millions spent on lavish meals, luxurious cars and reckless spending of government officials, and we all know its all more than luxurious.

      I believe the people are angry, not because of the tax reform, but because they feel cheated by the government, they feel the people’s trust has been violated and bottom-line this new tax reform does affect food directly or indirectly by rising the cost of resources used in the production of it. Dominican Republic has been dormant for too long while the corrupt plunder and rape it’s very foundations. It is about time people rise and take back their country. I salute the people who peacefully protest and respectfully ask for their country back.

    • You must be making one of those nice government salaries. Food is not being taxed under the new reform? have you even read it? you must be part of the congress that voted for it, that’s the only reasonable explanation.

      This is not about losing the elections, unfortunately I am one of those who voted for Danilo, not because I expected him to be good but because I thought him to be the lesser of 2 evils. How wrong I was. It’s as if they’re mocking us. They don’t even care to pretend anymore.

      It looks like people are really shaken up and starting to stand up for ourselves, hopefully it’s not too late.

    • Wow. You must be really out of touch to say “It’s just a bitter minority angry because they lost the May 2012 elections”. It is not a minority and it has nothing to do with party affiliation as you intend to portray. I am proud to see, for the first time in my lifetime, the reaction from all sectors and from people of all party affiliations.

      But you are right on one account, we lost the election. Those of us, me included, who voted for Danilo and his vision, thinking he would bring about change and make a departure from the corruption and the poison that has polluted our political system, lost the election. If this reform, and the way it was crafted and handled, shows us anything is that those of us who voted for Danilo longing for a better country, lost the election.

      And please do not misinform and spread factually incorrect propaganda. The reform increases taxes on some food products like sugar and coffee directly, to mention some. It increases taxes on telecommunications. It increases taxes on fuel, which by the way will make their way into our food prices, because, last time I check, rice doesn’t magically appear on the supermarkets. It creates taxes for the annual Christmas bonus, which had been tax exempt. It increases current taxes and creates new taxes for internet buy/selling. Just to name a few of the things, but the list is quite exhaustive. Quite exhaustive.

      This is not just a rise on the nominal sales tax, its a far more reaching reform, that will most likely cause a great recession in an already hanging-on-a-thread economy. It doesn’t differentiate those that can maybe pay a bit more from those that simply can’t. This will hurt the poor the most, because they are already on a shoestring budget. This will sink the already struggling low and middle-low classes that, if anything, needed some relief, not more deductions from their paychecks, higher transportation costs, higher food prices and so on.

      As to point #3, yes, the electrical subsidies are a large part of the deficit, and so are all the unnecessary expenditures that they have made. Why we have such a high government payroll? Why, in a country where health and education services are so poor, we focus on building metros, and tunnels, and pass ways? But the question we should ask ourselves is why we have those electrical subsidies, if we as consumers already pay extremely high energy prices when compared to other countries? It is widely known that no sound person would have agreed to what some of the contracts for the generators stipulate, unless you had some sort of “bias”, to put it nicely, that would make you forgo the best interest of the nation, in the interest of these companies. And, by the way, how old is the electrical problem in our country? How many governments have come and past without putting an end to this problem? Couldn’t we have foreseen and ACTED, to prevent the current situation?

      But, moreover, to deny that a large portion of the government expenses are malversed and are just going to loopholes that feed corruption, is not to live in this country. Just looking an answer for the question: why government expenses increased 55% in this year? (which happens to be an election year) could yield some interesting results.

      I think the one thing that all dominicans can agree is that we have had blatant corruption in our political system, and, if anything, it has increased over the last years. I don’t repeat others words on this, I’ve seen it for myself.

    • Do you live in DR? Because I do, I voted for Danilo Medina so my candidate won the elections, and in my humble point of view:

      1. Raising 2 pesos to the gasoline will increase the cost of all services.
      2. DR have a congress that voted for a reform that only suits their pockets.
      3. Coffe, sugar, cooking oil and other foods are being taxed
      4. The same day our congress approves the reform the Ministert of Education raised her salary from 185k to 300k.
      6. We have countless diplomats earning big salaries with all paid expenses.
      5. All of our Ministers have luxury cars paid by us.

      So tell me do we live in the same country or are you one of wich are getting benefiting by this reform. Because we are just tired to paid so much money in taxes and politicians keep expending it and increasing this deficit they created and now want us to paid.

    • Dude I think this is the most unconciouss comment someone could ever do about the dominican situation. Almost all dominicans agree that this reform is not the solution to the problem, corruptions levels are too high right now, this wouldn’t solve anythings, in exchange, politicians are going to steal all the money they’ll get from the new taxes, this would create 2 marked classes one more time: those who are filthy rich and us, the ‘minority’, who wouldn’t be able to pay for food, not even with the solidaridad card from the stupid Leonel Fernandez.

      I agree with one of the commenters, maybe you’re recieving money from the government and you’ll benefit from this, but that’s too selfish, you should really think about what you say before you publish it, or maybe investigate a bit more.

    • I am not angry because Danilo won, I am angry because he´s trying to make me pay for all the money stolen by his predecesor without letting him pay in a court of law for his stealing.
      Im angry because the system is too corrupt for my children, unlike thieves they dont grow well in filth.
      And you better get your facts straigh,
      1. Food is taxed, sugar, chocolate, coffee, and oil,
      2. Big deal!!! DR has a congress full of rats, they aproved this reform while breaking the constitution, it should have been aproved with 2 thirds and it wasnt.
      Are you for real?

    • Bitter minority! Wow are you writing from, MARS. I will tell you where the deficit comes from, goverment officials not doing the job they are paid for from the money we THE PEOPLE pay in taxes, congressmen that dont represent nor follow THE PEOPLE that elect them, and greedy and corrupt politicians that spend money they dont have and make the people pay for it. And by the way our president promised to lower taxes during his campaign among other broken promises. It doesnt take a genius to understand that spending 187 billion pesos (8% of our GDP) during the first five months of this year a supreme act of irresponsability.

    • I am sorry to disagree Lawrence Duran but it is not a minority, more than 90 % of dominicans are in the same page with this situation, i feel very sad when people like you talk like that without knowing or just because is one of those who has or have been benefiting of the corrupt government that we have had for years. 1-Food doesn’t have to be taxed because they rise the taxes to the growers and distributors and the food goes to elevated prices to the final consumer. 2-DR have a corrupted congress full of people that were put there by higher ranks of government people so they can manipulated them in the decisions that they want to make for the benefit of their own. 3- The electrical sector is one of the worst in the world and they are not willing to fix it because it is great business for them to keep stealing the people money and not giving the service that people deserves as citizens of a country that pays more taxes than many in the world and doesn’t receive nothing back.
      And finally dont tell lies to people who wants to know the truth about what is happening right now saying its a group of other parties that are making this manifestations, all the people, the real people who lives and suffer here are saying enough of this and WE are willing to take this where ever it take us. It’s time to wake up! and fight for our rights and defend and feed again the little pride that we have left inside of us,pride that has been taking from us slowly and silently by our “leaders” than have been running the country as they want. Dominican people are Great and Brave people who have always defend our country in many ways and WE will do it again if necessary.

      I am willing to bet that you dont live in the Dominican Republic and if you do… shame on you for the misinformation that you are trying to give to others.

      • Diego, i would have been more than glad to hear Lawrence’s point of view, but right in the middle of the protests that were held last sunday in the Parque Independencia… I feel a deep shame to share my nationality with people like him, but more than glad to share it with all of the awakening and independent masses.

  4. The cast of the 2003 Baninter scandal, ended up in prison, today’s cast…are well in their offices and homes making a mockery of our political system…I expect justice be brought to these people, after all, the state has to no only be the judiciary system, but practice and enforce the laws which make up our way of living.

  5. Not a bitter minority, we are the 99% and we are hungry for justice over the millions of pesos embezzeled by corrupt “congressmen”, “functionaries” or whatever you wish to call these rats. We are tired of the rotten bureaucracy, and the fact that this reform was singlehandedly put though without any further debate, is foremore proof of the lack of transparency and a blatant slap in the face of democracy which Gordon has assertively mentioned.
    We are not looking the other way, even though the media has been bullied into not even mentioning the fact, even though, not one channel of local television is covering the pacific protests, that wont make our voices quieter, it just serves even more to our purpose and gives to show that there is a direct cover up, that these politicians with their strings are unabling freedom of expression in the entire country. We don’t care what godforsaken party you support, no more polictics, just justice, no more PAPA or DANILO, the individuals that with dishonesty caused this deficit by taking assets entrusted to them and using them for themselves, should be put under the scrutiny of the country, investigated, and judged.

    The stench of corruption is unbearable, let us clean the mess we’ve let them make.

    Gordon, thank you.

  6. A little bit of dominican economical information:
    Minimun salary in Dominican Republic: US$262.00 a month (that´s if you are lucky and have a steady job… Most people do not have one, and survive with less than US$100.00 a month).
    Education ministry salary: US$7,500.00 a month
    (Calculations made based on dollar rate today: US$1.00 : RD$40.00.

  7. Es si una revuelta general! De ciuddanos conscientes, responsables, pensantes y con dignidad! Buscando el bien comun para Todos sin Fanatismos o Intereses Personales!

  8. First-priority food such as milk, bread and rice (among many others) aren’t taxed but the rest of the food is, also, given that fuels are also taxed, this first-priority foods` prices will rise too.

    Also the fact that the article reads “over a couple of extra cents on the price of a loaf of bread” shows that who wrote it doesn’t know the full extent of the new law which, among many other things, intended to:
    1.- Raise of national tax from 16% to 18%
    2.- Raise of Cable service taxes from 18% to 28%. With this law, telephone and cable services would both go up, from 28% and 18% respectively, to 30%.
    3.- Raise of alcohol taxes from 7% to 15%
    4.- Eliminate a law that exempted imported articles with a total value of U.S.$200 or less from paying taxes (this proposal was ruled out at the end).

    But the most important thing about all this, is that the corrupt structure that created the deficit in the first place remains there, untouched and more corrupt and richer than ever.

    The reason we march on the streets is not the raise of taxes, is the fact that our government wants to steal all our money, put the country into an endless deficit and then make us, tax payers, deal with the problem, while the law keeps on protecting and exempting from taxes those who have more money. Are laws are written for poor to stay poor, mid-class to go poor, and rich people to get richer.

    • I wrote it, and you’re right, I didn’t know the full extent of the new tax laws. That’s because the media reports I rely on didn’t explain them properly. Now I’ve had feedback from ordinary people like you I have a much better idea of why people are out in the streets. So thank you.

    • and many more things the want to impose! we should tell people to post the list in different international forums and tell the world what is really happening

  9. It is great for the international press to look at the DR. We have been a democratic country for many years, and now the politicians are trying to force laws and things that are totally against what the population believes and considers fair. Also, we have one of the highest corruption indexes with people that get into the government to “serve the country” serve themselves, in a very big way, and then they pretend that “:we the people” pay for this. We do not want to be the next Venezuela, nor the next tirany, so we are protesting, young, old, females, males, rich, poor, whites, mulatos or blacks, we are all united, and they will not silence us. Thanks for covering this~!!!! Heidi

  10. I’ve been on the protests and I know how deep is the situation. This has never happened before. We dominicans are not the protest type of citycens, we’re just sick of all this cr*p of “Just give me more money, it will be ok.”

    It’s not about the money we give. It’s what they do with it ! !
    – Pensions of 15,000 dollars to people under 40 years old
    – Luxury vehicles for the whole family of our congress
    – Private jets for the non gubernamental offices of our polititians
    – Free fuel for them
    – Free flights to everywhere for them



  11. Maybe at long last–at least since 1965’s popular revolt–dominicans have finally decided to fight back! Forward my people, we are 100% with you….take back your rights and freedom. Enough is enough!

  12. What nobody is explaining here is that Leonel and his PLD buddies “EXPENDED” more than 200 billions pesos JUST in the first 7 months of 2012… what about the other 7 years he was in office? Nobody is going to jail and return our tax paying pesos?
    For some stupid reason, Danilo doesnt want to confront Leonel about these missing funds that created this huge deficit and prefers to make a tax reform without any prosecution of this corrupted party members. Danilo thinks dominicans were going to let him do the same as Leonel.. he guessed it wrong!

  13. The protests are not from a bitter minority that lost elections, it is rather from people that actually pay taxes, middle working class and industrial sectors that understand a tax law like the one is being implemented is not only unfair, but a way to call Dominicans stupid, uneducated wild animals that are easy to lie .
    We are not in the position of supporting people that get rich from our work and sacrifice, people that few years ago were attending shelves at a grocery store and today are among the richest in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Past Government leaded by Leonel Fernandez and ministers are responsible for spending in-commensurable amount of money in the most expensive campaign of all history in the Dominican Republic. In the same token, Danilo Medina and his ministers are also accountable for not explaining to the country what happened that FY 2012, deficit expected to be 2% of the GDP, is now 8%. Even further, our President, who owes to his country, has not shown any respect for the people that voted for him, for all Dominicans that now He is asking to sacrifice and put more money to cover the deficit, when he protects all those thieves by not saying what happened, by not sending them to jail. Danilo Medina, you know that you won the elections because Leonel Fernandez bought it for you, and now You owe it to him, not to send Fernandez and his group to jail. It is so disgusting to ask the country to pay for making others rich and for You to be in power today. You are as guilty as Fernandez and his group for being silent, lack of character and without the spirit and energy and principles that it requires to run a country.

    Leonel Fernandez, but even further, Danilo Medina have betrayed a glorious country that trust them once.

  14. Ive never been so proud to be domincan , it was about time that people protest for their rigths and dont accept such infamous reform !

  15. This has been spread all over the social networks and describes our situation perfectly..

    Copy & Paste – Spread the word people.Greatest corruption scandal in the Dominican Republic is happening right now.

    International and local press remains silent.

    After a mandate characterized by rampant estate spending, politicians getting lavish houses and cars, pensions of about USD$12,500 a month for top party officials for four years of work while still having a thousand of dollars government job in another position (Minimum wage is a little over $200), crazy salary hikes, blatant clientelism and tax evasion, millions and millions in government money to fund the official party’s presidential campaign, and many other things, the party ends and the people have to pay the bill.
    The congress has approved a fiscal reform that basically screws the people, raising taxes in general and taxing basic food items, as well as small internet purchases that were one of the few ways to circumvent the abusive local retailers (You’d have to pay double the online price + shipping for basically anything).
    This problem isn’t solved by taxing, it’s solved by making those responsible pay. Not a single politician has been put in jail or even tried, even those for whom there is incontrovertible evidence of ghastly instances of fraud and corruption. Today the reform was approved by a government controlled Congress in just 19 minutes with no room for debates. Dissenting congressmen were silenced and not given the opportunity to speak. A student was killed during riots in the state university and it’s believed to be the first of several deaths in the near future.
    All because a central figure named Leonel Fernandez, until 84 days ago the President of 12 years, personally controls all of the State Powers: Government, Congress and Supreme Court. He also controls most of the media, so even the fourth state is under his power. It’s ironic since countries like Canada gave him an award as Statesman of the Year and named him “the Oracle of Santo Domingo” all because he let a canadian-based gold mining corporation named Barrick started raping the land and destroying the environment of the island. The people have had enough and we need your help, Reddit. Let us help make some noise so the eyes of the world get turned on our small country.

  16. Excellent article and so good to see someone from the “northern” English language media taking time to cover the event. I was going to correct a couple things but I see that Pedro Sanchez has already explained the nature of the tax hikes in more detail. It is wrong to claim that the tax is a mere few cents on a loaf of bread — actually the ITBIS is a very onerous way of ensuring revenue for the government because it unfairly places the burden on the poor. The rich can well afford the tax but the poor cannot. The state resorts to sales taxes because other sources are unreliable. Also the banking scandal was purely the result of the corruption that prevailed under Mejía and his PRD cronies, which was just as bad if not worse than the PLD’s corruption. This is why “papá” did not get elected over Danilo. The people don’t trust him and the PRD is in disarray. The scandal was papered over by the PRD and that willingness to overlook justice was then continued under the PLD once it got into power because the judiciary is a mess. While you are correct to point out that it created a deficit, the current problems are due more to PLD malfeasance, the practice of political patronage (botellas and the like), clientelism, neoliberal development policies abetted by the IMF and World Bank, costly and improvidently funded infrastructural construction projects (which are needed but generally serve to benefit the speculators), and a political culture which views the State as a plum pie on which to gorge oneself. The State is the road to riches for many people, not just the elected officials. It has always been this way, so it is difficult to change the culture. Leonel assumed office with the promise that he would reform government, and he did achieve some things, but the basic practice of politics as personal enrichment is still very much in place.

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