Dominican Republic protest: Police kill student

Nov. 11 protest in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The sign reads “Social inequality is more violent than any protest.”

Police shot and killed a student at the Autonomous University here during a campus protest against a higher sales tax and the proposed privatization of the school.

Witnesses said that William Florian Ramírez, 21, was only watching the Nov. 8 demonstration when he was shot in the back. The university is the country’s largest, with 180,000 students.

The administration of President Daniel Medina is under fire for corruption carried out by his ruling Dominican Liberation Party. Critics say the budget deficit this year of $4.6 billion stems largely from the widespread theft of public funds. Giving the deficit as an excuse, the government has increased the nation’s sales tax from 16 to 18 percent, putting the burden directly on the already poverty-stricken working class.

The tax applies to almost all commodities, including food and fuel.

The protest at the campus against the higher tax was just one of many that took place all over the country.

Medina was elected this August, but belongs to the same party as the previous administration. Accusers say that much of the money stolen by the governing party was used for his election.

The police killing of civilians is common here. About 400 persons per year are murdered by the police, who are rarely if ever arrested and tried. However, public outrage over this shooting was so great, especially coming at a time when the government was on the defensive over corruption charges, that Medina quickly had the cop fired and arrested. Several other police officials who had been at the scene are “under investigation.” Even the conservative head of the Senate called for “swift justice” against the cop who killed the student.

The cop’s arrest is highly unusual and reflects fear in ruling circles that the growing desperation of the masses over the new president’s economic measures will lead to greater struggles.

For most of the decades since U.S. Marines first invaded the Dominican Republic in 1916, corrupt right-wing governments have ruled here with Washington’s blessing. A brief period of revolutionary nationalism in the mid-1960s was ended by a second U.S. invasion in 1965. n

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