By Nelson Santana
September 18, 2019
La Marcha del Cibao took place two months ago. Politicians in the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana and conservative entities have (unofficially) declared the social protest movement a failure. In August of 2018, when hundreds of thousands marched in Santo Domingo, conservative sectors of the government including most newspapers downplayed the mobilizations. In fact, the Dominican government purchased front-page ads in major newspapers including El Caribe, Diario Libre, Listín Diario, and Hoy among others, as a means to deliberately manipulate public opinion. This time around, however, the media did not feel the need to downplay the march in Santiago.
While many observers may call the social upheaval a failure, when analyzed closely, all that yelling and walking led to an undisputed victory. Since the Marcha del Cibao, which took place on July 14, President Danilo Medina has officially withdrawn his candidacy from the 2020 elections. One of the items on the table for protesters included Medina’s re-election bid, which they vehemently opposed. Although some continue to argue that the protests in Puerto Rico that forced the ouster of Ricky Rosselló played a role in Medina’s ouster, in actually it was the protest by thousands of Dominicans during the Marcha del Cibao a few weeks earlier that really got the ball rolling, resulting in Medina’s decision to give up in his quest to seek a third consecutive presidency.
Marcha del Cibao
On July 14, 2019 a contingent of protesters gathered in front of the Monumento a los Héroes in Santiago de los Caballeros, Santiago. Those who participated protested against constitutional reform, corruption, and impunity. Several individuals, progressive groups, students, workers, merchants, and other members of Dominican society came together including journalist and writer Sara Pérez, Mario Fernández of Santiago Somos Todos, and a contingent from Basta Ya, among many others. Many protesters are Santiago natives or live in the city, including residents from Pueblo Nuevo, Los Girasoles, and Pekín, among many other neighborhoods. Protesters from other provinces also participated, including Marcha Verde from Baní, participants from Cristo Rey, La Vega, Puerto Plata, and Santo Domingo.
Thousands of Dominicans and allies joined the cause to express their discontent with President Danilo Medina and the Dominican government. Thousands of protesters rejected any and all amendments that Medina and the Dominican government planned with regard to the Dominican Constitution. At the same time, protesters demanded prison sentences for corrupt politicians and allies alike, calling for the improvement of the quality of life in their Dominican Republic.
Acclaimed independent journalist and writer Sara Pérez joined the cause, exclaiming: “I am against corruption and against re-election.” When asked about the purpose of the march, Pérez stated, “What has always been achieved… to show that there is a part of Dominican society that is very restless, very worried, and that is opposed to our country being continuously governed by a group of thieves who are not concerned about the well-being of the people, or their education, or their health, or their food, or the other services they must guarantee.”
ESENDOM also interviewed Mario Fernández, president of Santiago Somos Todos, who said “Dominican Republic has no future if there is no justice.”
According to several members of Marcha Verde, the National Police—an instrument of the Dominican government—prevented the installation of the stage platform where the proclamation would be made. On the other hand, the office of Abel Martínez Durán, mayor of Santiago de los Caballeros, issued a formal statement disputing Marcha Verde’s claim:
Desmentimos categóricamente cualquier responsabilidad en el desmonte de la tarima que usarían los promotores de la Marcha Verde en Santiago. Respetamos el derecho la protesta, consagrado en la Constitución.
(We completely deny any allegations involving the dismantling of the stage that leaders of the Marcha Verde would use in Santiago. We respect the right to protest, as enshrined within the Constitution.)
Nonetheless, throngs of signs and banners filled the streets of Santiago, including the following:
Similar to former President Leonel Fernández, Danilo Medina used all the tactics available in his arsenal to ensure his re-election bid. In early July, Medina met with Santiago Matías «Alofoke», Aquiles Correa, and Bolívar Valera, in an attempt to secure an alliance with the three celebrities. Unfortunately for Medina, the plan backfired. Collectively, the Dominican people rejected the tactic, condemning the music entrepreneur Alofoke, the actor Correa, and the radio and television personality Valera. The Dominican population saw the three candidacies as a farce.
One of the largest groups involved in the Marcha del Cibao belonged to the group called Basta Ya, who marched with a significant number of young people. According to group members, the unemployment rate in Latin America is 17 percent while in the Dominican Republic the number is more than 30 percent. According to their press release, “Our young people have been abandoned by a corrupt group of politicians that has turned its back on them.” Although members of Basta Ya promised more than 3,000 young protesters, the number was much less, although this was one of the largest groups to march.
The march commenced in the zona monumental, where the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración is located, and culminated in front of the three statues of the Mirabal Sisters, located on Las Carreras Avenue with Hermanas Mirabal Avenue.