Dominican Republic’s Democracy Is So F*cked Up That the Youth Is Being Bullied for Demanding Answers

DR BELatina Latinx

Political campaign season in the Dominican Republic is hands down the most obnoxious experience. For months, candidates saturate commercial breaks and the print media with their stereotyped and not so clever hooks as a way to influence the popular decision in their favor. The environmental noise in the nation is as chaotic as it can be; when the person nominated for the election wants to win your support, a truck packed with the loudest speakers in the market goes neighborhood by neighborhood with specially written songs that span from traditional Dominicans rhythms like Merengue and Bachata to modern youthful beats like Reggaeton or Dembow.  

Visual pollution is also a big problem in the nation. Candidates take advantage of the lack of control over a certain area and hire personnel to redecorate main avenues, bridges, and footbridges, walls and even private residences with flags, billboards, and banners. Public transportation and private cars are covered in stickers with pictures, names, and slogans. And believe it or not, whether you support or despise the candidate and its party, if you work for an office housing a government department or agency that supports that politician, attending every rally is mandatory otherwise you will be considered a traitor and potentially can lose your job. 

After months of preparation, debates, speeches and more, on February 16 Dominicans were ready to leave behind the first part of the chaotic campaign season to vote during the municipal elections — a poll to select office-holders in local government, such as mayors and councilors — and wait until finally they can bid farewell to the season on May 17 to elect a president, vice-president, senators, and deputies during the 2020 Dominican Republic general election. 

Holding their cédulas (Dominican ID), hopeful citizens walked and drove to their polling place to cast their vote and make a collective decision when all of a sudden the president of the Central Electoral Board (Junta Central Electoral), Julio César Castaños Guzmán, suspended the elections due to a glitch found in the electronic ballot machines. 

Some Dominicans were in disbelief and others outraged; nobody could accept that the over $3,182,900,000 million pesos the Central Electoral Board distributed to recognized parties, groups, and political movements plus the millions of millions of pesos invested in 11,000 automated voting kits, the audit, the acquisition of inputs of the assembly of the process, and the printing of educational materials in addition to the printing of the ballots, were all pretty much thrown away because a group of future sore losers wanted to modify the results to favor their candidate. 

Immediately, the youth dressed all in black and took the streets to protest and demand answers chanting “zero dictatorships, we want democracy,” in Spanish, while Dominicans living in other parts of the world shared their sentiment on social media using the hashtags  #JusticiaParaRD (Justice for DR), #SabotajeElectoralRD (Electoral Sabotage RD), #JCErenunciaYa (JCE Resign Already) and also shared images and called out the government for allowing the sabotage. 

Risking their jobs, missing some classes, and exposing themselves to danger, the Dominican youth has been peacefully protesting in La Plaza de la Bandera — the biggest monument dedicated to the Flag of the Dominican Republic, located in one of the busiest areas of the city of Santo Domingo, right in front the Central Electoral Board building.

 

Unfortunately, the Dominican police have never been trained in civil rights violations and constantly use excessive force against civilians. Although protesters are doing nonviolent demonstrations, somehow officers feel the need to throw tear gas bombs as their way to disperse and silence the crowd, an unsuccessful tactic that hasn’t scared Dominicans from speaking out against corruption.

 

But physical violence is not the only situation the Dominican youth is exposed to; verbal harassment has also been constant among oppressors who call demonstrators a group of lame people who just want to seek attention at all costs. Using derogatory names and other terms like “popis” and “wawawa,” notable figures of the nation have spent their days bullying the nonconformists and confirming that the country is filled with people that have a prejudice against a particular social class.

 

The evils of classism affect the Dominican Republic constantly, and society has divided and labeled the privileged and non-privileged into two categories: A  “popi” which can be defined as a person who has had the opportunity and advantage of attending private schools and colleges, living in nice areas and affording certain things that a “wawawa” — an impoverished and uneducated person — can’t. 

Radio host, tv personality, and aspiring deputy of the Dominican Republic, Bolívar Valera also known as “El Boli,” took Twitter to throw shade at the protestors by saying that “popis” never vote and they are just protesting to accumulate likes on Instagram. After the backlash for his misguided comment, he apologized and labeled his tweet as “unwise.” 

Members of the Central Electoral Board have also stepped out of the building to make fun of the protesters. 

The youth has also called out other tv personalities, singers, rappers, actors, and influencers that supported Puerto Rico and Chile when they took the streets to demand answers from their respective government amid the crisis, but hasn’t shared a word to show empathy to the nation that raised and feeds them. 

Despite the fact that in the Dominican Republic the supreme power is vested in the people, a high percentage of the Dominican youth is discouraged and tired of being overlooked by the government. For many, the inconsistencies in the electronic voting system were the “straw that broke the camel’s back” or as Dominicans say, “la gota que derramó el vaso” (the last drop that makes the cup run over); therefore they are anxious to cast their votes for a leader that represents and understands them, their ideas, and the citizens’ interests.

The country will try one more time on March 15 to cast their vote during the municipal elections, but in the meantime, citizens will be demanding the resignation of the president of the Central Electoral Board Julio César Castaños Guzmán, who in a dictatorial tone already said he won’t be going anywhere.