Thousands march against corruption in Dominican Republic
SAN JUAN – A peaceful march that is being called the largest in Dominican history against corruption and government impunity was held Sunday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The demonstration, in which an estimated 200,000 people took part, was organized by civil, student and religious groups, among many others. A parallel march was carried out in New York as well.
The protest follows an investigation into Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht by the U.S. Justice Department, which said in December that company executives revealed that they paid about $785 million in bribes in 12 countries.
In Peru, for instance, officials are calling for three former presidents to testify in connection with alleged bribes paid by the global infrastructure company for contracts they said cost the Andean country $283 million.
The construction company has agreed to pay the Dominican government $184 million as compensation for $92 million in bribes to secure public works contracts since 2001.
The Dominican Public Ministry is also conducting an investigation related to an alleged payment of $3.5 million issued by that agency for the sale of eight light-attack aircraft to the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican demonstration was organized to demand that island officials who were allegedly bribed by the Brazilian company from 2001 to 2014 be charged. The movement also seeks an audit of the works constructed by the multinational company to recover the excess paid to it as part of inflated contracts.
The activists want the executives of the infrastructure company to be brought before the courts and that the island’s contracts with it, including that of the Punta Catalina coal plant, be canceled.
They are also calling for the creation of a Special Commission Against Impunity with the support of the United Nations in collaboration with special prosecutors to be appointed who aren’t involved with the Dominican Liberation Party nor President Danilo Medina’s administration.
Protest organizers demand that a report of sworn statements by top government officials who have been in contact with Odebrecht from 2001 to 2014 be issued within 30 days.
“This time, the citizens will win and the corrupt will lose. With each step, we will near the end of impunity and the beginning of a new Dominican Republic, with more justice and well-being for all,” a document convening the march reads.
In Brazil, authorities are investigating a plane crash that killed the Supreme Court justice in charge of the so-called “Car Wash” investigation, “the largest corruption investigation in Brazil’s history,” according to the Associated Press. The ongoing probe is into oil giant Petrobras and other state-run companies as well as Odebrecht, “one of the main players in the kickback scheme prosecutors say yielded more than $2 billion in bribes over a decade.”
“The [Supreme Court] justice was expected to decide which of the Odebrecht plea bargains to validate by February, and his death will likely drag out that timeline. Validation would make them public, potentially implicating dozens of politicians in Brazil and several other countries where Odebrecht did business,” the AP wrote Friday.
When reaching the Dominican presidential palace on Sunday, the demonstrators were forced off the planned route by police into smaller streets, impeding the marchers from passing in front of the palace. The march toward the National Palace ended at the island-capital’s Independence Park, in front of the Altar of the Homeland mausoleum.