Archive for the ‘Dominican government’ Category
Thursday, December 1, 2005
There is a very sweet little four-year-old girl who visits us regularly and delights in her time at the beach while here with her North American father… an old friend of ours. The following story ends in triumph, but that was very far from certain when our friend embarked on legal action concerning the child’s Dominican mother.
The story as told to us by that triumphant father goes like this:
“The child’s Mom virtually stole the child a few weeks back, taking her for a weekend and then not coming back at all. I put on my tough-guy hat and tracked her down in a poor neighborhood a few days later. My daughter had been missing school and her other activities, as the Mom had decided that she would no longer be living with me. Without big expectations and even without a lawyer – everyone always tells me I have no hope of getting legal custody because I am a single foreigner, without residency, without a wife etc etc – I took the Mom to court.
I detailed, in Spanish, everything that had happened, put forward a few witnesses and guess what: I won custody! The Mom was given visitation rights and the judge told me that if she ever broke any of them, to let her, the judge (that is), know right away. First visitation weekend, the mother broke the rules totally, and I got her right back in court again. More strict visitation conditions were imposed. All of this is a minor miracle here, but shows what can now be accomplished after all the years where it was a sure thing that a Dominican mother would get the custody no matter the circumstances … there actually is progress in courts, they are finally coming around to looking at what is best for the kids.”
For us at Playa Vista who through the years have heard it all and seen it all it is not a minor miracle… it’s a humongous miracle that gives hope for the future of the good crazy old Dominican Republic.
Well done that man!
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
We presume that all our readers have their own versions of bureaucratic wonderment, but nonetheless we feel compelled to offer you the mother of all bureaucratic horror-stories from the heart of the Dominican Republic. This particular monster is about a man simply trying to comply as best he can with the law of the land regarding the running of his lil’ ol’ car. That man could be any one of us, so for the purposes of the story we shall call him John Doe.
John needed a favor because his Spanish is not quite up to the level of dealing with Dominican bureaucracy. The goal was short and simple: paying the annual vehicle tax! In other words exchanging RD$1200 (US$43) for a small silver sticker about 2 inches by 3 inches to display on the car windshield… but unfortunately the story, and we make no apologies for this, is neither short nor simple.
Bright one sunny morning we visited the Boca Chica tax office to ask what would be necessary in order to pay the upcoming annual car tax sticker, bearing in mind that John, very unfortunately, had had his car documents stolen, along incidentally and even more irritatingly, with his passport and credit cards. “Just get an original title document (known here as a ‘Matricula’) after verifying the car ownership at a police department called Plan Piloto then place an advertisement in a national newspaper to the effect that your matricula has been lost … and then the sticker will be yours”, was what the nice lady told us. But in order to accomplish that seemingly simple goal…well, herein lies the whole incredible time-wasting bizarre story.
First port of call was the ‘Listin Diario’ (the largest circulation national newspaper in the DomRep) where we correctly lodged full details of the stolen vehicle title for placement in an advertisement. We returned a few days later to pick up the certified copy of the official advertisement and then on to ‘Plan Piloto’. First off we lined up with the vehicle for it to have its chassis and registration numbers verified against a copy of the title that John, at least, fortunately still had. This done then a payment of RD$52 had to be made at window number 1… but not until the requested copies of certain documents could be provided! The requested copies, though, couldn’t immediately be provided, because the entire area was subject to one of the Dominican Republic’s infamous power cuts. Quite an extensive hunt ensued to find a place that a. had electricity and b. a functioning photocopier. Here we would like to offer a free plug for the very helpful local savings and loan company – ‘Asociación Popular de Ahorros y Préstamos’ who clearly felt sorry for us and at no cost made the relevant copies. “Back to Plan Piloto”, we mutually recited, completely unaware of how common a catchphrase that would become for us.
Well, back at Plan Piloto window 1 gave us some papers to take to window 2 where they refused to accept the freshly copied ID (cedula) of the previous owner of the vehicle. In retrospect things had been sailing along rather too easily, but this was the first dawning that things were not going to continue quite so smoothly. At this point we learned we had to have a copy of a more “modern” ID of the previous owner, because the original title had never been transferred into John’s name. John confessed that he didn’t know the guy and had never even met him but knew, for a not very helpful fact, that he now lived in Spain. Window 2 advised us to go to the immigration office where they would give us a document proving “something” about this largely unknown Spanish guy – who by the way went by the name of Señor Gordo – that would solve the problem. Off we tripped down to immigration where they took approximately RD$1000 for the service of providing the paper… but not until after the weekend was over of course. Well this, at the very least, would require another trip to Santo Domingo. On the following Monday morning, before leaving the immigration office, we noticed that the newly acquired paper specifically and only stated that our yesteryear car-owning Spaniard Señor Gordo, according to immigration records, had neither entered the country nor left since December 1999. With the “fear-of-wasted-journey” syndrome now well established we feared that there must be some mistake and that this would hardly help prove anything to the man waiting at window 2 in Plan Piloto. The man in charge placated us somewhat, if not entirely, by explaining that because Señor Gordo had not been in and out of the country since 1999 his ownership of the vehicle prior to that was proven to be legitimate and thus the legality of a sale to John acceptable. Strike us down with reverse partial logic, but with the comforting knowledge that this was the very document the police required on we journeyed!
At the now familiar 2nd window they did not even hesitate and accepted the package of documents we handed over including the immigration paper regarding Señor Gordo. However, for them to produce the certification document they would need another few days and at 2 pm on the appointed day it could be picked up if we showed our pink appointment slip. At 1.40 pm on the specified day there were all kinds of people trading their pink slips for the certification document in spite of the wall notice categorically stating that there would be NO exceptions to the 2 pm ruling. There was no sign of our certification. Finally, and conveniently just when the tax office in Boca Chica was closing at about 3 pm, our required document was made available… the good window 2 people had after all needed just a little more time to get the appropriate signature on it in an upstairs office.
The following day at the Boca Chica tax office the “system” was unfortunately inoperative… the entire day that is. Another beautiful mañana beckoned and proudly we presented all the pieces of paper we had assiduously collected to the nice lady, only to be told we didn’t have John’s contract of sale legalized by the relevant government legal office – the Procuradaria. “But it has been legally notarized”, we chirped trying to use persuasive logic. A couple of locals even voiced their approval of this idea… but, “Not good enough.”, the nice lady said “Them’s the rules”. By the way, she NOW added, we would also need a second certification of the vehicle if we wanted to obtain not only an original title document, but have the title document transferred to John’s name. What a good idea that would be we NOW thought.
We were learning, if but slowly, about Dominican bureaucracy though the fear-the-worst syndrome was kicking in, and we somewhat naturally feared that we would have to make a complete re-pass through the now extremely familiar Plan Piloto offices.
Our fears were of course entirely founded: window 2 told us to go back to window 1 and window 2 told us to go back to the man in charge of inspecting the chassis number of the vehicles. We had been up all the ladders and now we were shooting back down the snakes! The man in charge of the chassis numbers wasn’t even there. As we took a patience break the man sauntered back. He gave us a signed card which took us back to window 1 and after another RD$52 (if dear reader you really are following the monster-plot) onto window 2. Now a new little rub which, by the way, we had not at all feared… for this particular extra version of the certification we also needed a copy of the contract of sale legalized, which we were on our way to do anyway, because the nice lady had belatedly told us so, but what we weren’t told, was that we would need it at this point. It would be absolutely imperative in order for us to get our impatient hands on another pink slip! This would be a new adventure, we thought, because we hadn’t yet been to the document legalization office (the Procuradaria). We were right. Before even getting to the entrance way we had people yelling after us telling us we would be refused entry. Why? Because we had sandals on, not short pants as is sometimes frowned upon, not even flip flops… actually perfectly respectable sandals we thought – but they didn’t!
The game of snakes and ladders was turning from the sublime into the ridiculous. We honestly couldn’t face another trip between Boca Chica and Santo Domingo. The only solution was to buy a pair of shoes on the spot. Suffice it to say there are no shoe shops near this particular warren of government offices… but we did of course still have our ever so handy lil’ ol’ car. Buying the shoes, by the way, was ever so relaxing – just handing money over and the job done. Nobody yelled at us, nobody gave us incomplete or misleading information. Comfortingly, the folks in the shop merely accepted the money and said, “Have a nice day!”
With the all important shoes securely tied on feet we went back to the Procuraduria where they also ominously had two windows. Window 1 in this case was a cinch, but window 2 said it would be another 30 minutes wait. We waited actually more than an hour and this gave us time to notice the footwear of some of the women waiting their turn. Quite a number looked remarkably like sandals – quite a lot of bear toes showing all around in fact! One could have felt like making a point on this matter, but we had a mission to complete, even if it was running a couple of weeks behind schedule. So, just as soon as we could make it, we were speeding back to Plan Piloto again and the 2nd window man said “You are too late, we are on another thing right now”. A lot of thoughts went through our minds at that moment – some of them very unpleasant indeed! Perhaps the second window man was able to read a few of them, because with some obvious reluctance he actually finally did accept our new offering and gave us another of those pink slip appointments to come back in four days time.
We were getting very good at all the maneuvers by now, and four days later we sailed in and out again of Plan Piloto with our new second certified document – naturally too late to visit the tax office in Boca Chica, but nonetheless ever so secure that we had done as requested and that the next day all would be resolved…. Now, what about the fear-the-worst syndrome?
Well… the fear-the-worst syndrome, in its own odd way, had turned into the doubting Thomas syndrome! As a build up to the grand finale of this unbelievable saga the tax office system was out of order again for a couple of days… and, as if that wasn’t enough, then the sister of ‘the nice lady’ was out of order. It does make sense, really – she was extremely ill, the sister that is, and the nice lady just had to help by transporting her from one side of the country to the other. Really, we were becoming regular saints of patience. So… several days further on and we smilingly sat down and waited after putting all the collected papers in to the nice lady’s hands. She made a phone call and NOW told us that the rules had changed! We would need an advert placed in a national newspaper for THREE consecutive days – something that the Listin Diario newspaper was not even aware of. In addition she NOW said that all the documentation had to be taken to the collector of taxes office in Santo Domingo where they would issue the new title which would finally give her leave to provide the promised little tax sticker.
Patience, patience, patience! After all we always believed we were within sight of an end, and we did know how to handle the advertisement issue. Or we thought so. It was just that on this second occasion, for some unknown reason, the newspaper misspelt the word “perdida”(lost) in the advert which of course further increased the number of necessary trips to Santo Domingo, but once the newspaper finally accepted their fault, it was all so straight forward. The new title was in John’s name and was rushed back to the nice lady for her propitious handling. Within hours John left the office after a hearty farewell to the nice lady with what he thought was the illusive sticker.
Later that afternoon John was busy in his yard when he surprisingly and suddenly heard the now well known nice lady’s voice sailing over his garden wall. The fear-the-worst syndrome snapped right back in, he told us, his whole body froze and sweat trickled down his forehead. All for no good reason at all… because… the nice lady had actually just come to deliver his sticker personally, as John had walked out of the office with only the receipt for payment leaving the so hard-worked-for and precious sticker behind!
And that is really all there is too it!
All is well that ends well… isn’t it?… or is it?
Thursday, January 27, 2005
After a quick refreshing cold beer break (check last blog entry) we are on request back to the current state of evolution in Boca Chica.
As you may or may not know a number of businesses, for God only knows what reasons, have been closed recently in the Boca Chica main street (Calle Duarte).
As reported in our blog of 17/1/05 the ‘Cosmos Discotheque’ and ‘Zanzi Bar’ were closed because of internal misunderstandings between the two businesses and the owner of the building… a case completely unconnected to the closure by the authorities/police of several bars last week,
No firm reasons have been given although rumors as usual are aplenty. Some say that everything, for better or for worse, soon will be back to normal… some that it is all part of the new government’s plans to permanently ‘clean up’ Boca Chica… whatever that means. If the ‘permanent clean up’ rumor is true we welcome it, that is if it means a long awaited and frequently promised removal of the all-too-many illegals and criminals roaming, and in some ways ruling, the streets and the beach.
However, Boca Chica is still alive and kicking although somewhat subdued. We can absolutely reassure you that service at Playa Vista continues as before and that there are, as usual, plenty of adventurous activities to go for on the Boca Chica beach and all over this exotic Latin Caribbean country in general.
So… why not make Boca Chica your port of entry and Playa Vista your base camp, as you explore further the Caribbean adventures on offer?
Hasta la Playa Vista!
Tuesday, December 7, 2004
“The law is the law” is a common catchphrase in the well known Hollywood formula of Wild West movies when, for instance, the Sheriff and his helpers try to clean up a booming frontier town.
In theory the claim is hard to dispute, but we were reminded abruptly this week – when a customer on the beach appeared dramatically on the Playa Vista terraza in handcuffs under police escort for allegedly having committed a crime some three days earlier – that the practice of the law can end up quite some distance from the letter of the law. Our usually amiable customer was certainly not cited his rights, no written order for his arrest was ever produced and the explanation as to what was going on was very minimal at best and highly confusing at worst.
The difference between practice and theory here in the Dominican Republic generates the worrying impression that you are guilty until proven innocent when, for example, you are suddenly handcuffed like the mentioned customer or thrown in a prison with multitudes of others, with little or no explanation (see blog story Nov. 24, 2003 in archive).
When you look into the seemingly topsy-turvy situation though, apparently the prescribed law does presume innocence, and the Dominican Constitution does establish that no person may be jailed without a motivated order from a competent judicial authority unless the person is caught red-handed in an act of violating the law.
Further examination reveals that the authorities here are aware of the great gap between theory and practice and that a clarification and tightening up of existing law is necessary which is why a new code of criminal procedure is due to be implemented in the new year with certain principles coming into immediate effect.
This all bodes well for the future, but meanwhile all this was of little help to our handcuffed friend who, as time went by that certain afternoon, became increasingly aware that he was dealing with something other than simple neglect of his rights, because – surprise surprise – there was increasing talk of a substantial sum of money changing hands in exchange for his immediate release. His dawning realization of what was actually going on was confirmed when he found it impossible to access the required funds from a number of tried sources including his bank and the “police” contingent finally, suddenly and disappointedly, left taking their empty handcuffs with them while wistfully mumbling amongst themselves something about coming back the next day… which, for what it’s worth, they didn’t.
We wish the authorities well in trying to bring about a narrowing of the gap between theory and practice with their new criminal code and with the loudly extolled anti-corruption project espoused at the end of last weekend by President Fernández who is claiming the project would be a model for countries in the region.
Our recently beleaguered customer will no doubt sleep easier, wiser from his real learning experience and knowing that the 7th Cavalry are massing over the hill in the form of serious new governmental initiatives.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
The extraordinary hurricane activity of September seems a long time ago now. The only visible evidence that something untoward happened is the still debris-strewn reef which is either waiting for the local council to get their launch out there with a cleaning team or for a very high tide to release the stranded material mostly consisting of bark-denuded tree branches.
As is usual for this time of year beach visitors mid-week are none too plentiful but the weather gives us it’s best with a recent sequence of stunning sunsets that as always can be viewed ideally from the Playa Vista terraza.
Bar talk frequently refers to the new government still getting its feet under the table. Much is reported nationally on a daily basis regarding changes. The peso appears to have reached a stability midway between the value that the previous government inherited four years ago and its lowest point to the end of their administration currently, for better or worse depending on your viewpoint, about 32 pesos to the dollar. Lack of electricity continues to present difficulties in many parts of the country but happily in Boca Chica we are spared almost all inconveniences. Long may that continue and hopefully spread further afield too. The more underlying changes will almost certainly need more time to bear fruit.
Meanwhile… as tourism is one of the cornerstones of economic development in the Dominican Republic in general, and therefore needy of government attention, we remain very hopeful that planning and support of international standard tourism will be further spurred on in our small corner of the country in a way good old Boca Chica deserves!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Frankly speaking not even the most enthusiastic PLD/Fernandez supporter can claim much progress was made for the man in the street. The peso has been kept under that 40 to the dollar level throughout that Fernandez administration and the second that has followed however the polls currently indicate that Hipolito Mejia is favorite to be the new president next year as a very disappointing signal to that PLD/Fernandeez government over these last seven years.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
The Playa Vista Bar, we presume among others in the country, is awash with upbeat news this weekend. Visitors from our big city neighbor, Santo Domingo, are making it clear that just one week into the new administration of Leonel Fernandez, the recent bane of their lives, that of failing electricity supply, has drastically changed. Even in Boca Chica we have noticed an improvement. Over the last few years we Boca Chicans have for several reasons generally been in a good position, but even we had begun to notice an increase in power cuts through the last few weeks of the previous administration… so much so that people were beginning to prepare for the worst and buy more batteries for their inverters or even small generators to tide them through the increasing frequency of power outs. One wry old regular at the bar is now complaining that he hasn’t been able to test his newly acquired inverter because we haven’t had a power cut of longer than five minutes or so since the day he installed it earlier this week!
This morning we can look over to the Caleta peninsula and see a Trinidadian tanker tied up alongside offloading its cargo of fuel for the first time in an unknown number of months thereby guaranteeing a further injection of generating capacity to the national grid.
We have seen the peso strengthen against the dollar all through the week. In the exchange bureaus in Boca Chica the rate began last week above 40 pesos to the dollar and currently stands at 37 boding well for keeping a lid on consumer prices.
Apart from the speculation of what President Fernandez may have in store, it was seen very positively by our bar commentators that he has already taken active measures to reduce the number of public paid employees including quite a few generals and by all accounts a load of central bank staff thereby helping to ease part of the state’s excessive expenditure.
As the debate came near to an end a second wry regular asked, “If the new guy can make such a big change in such a short space of time what on earth was his predecessor doing?”
A genuine answer to this would throw the debate wide open again but meanwhile most of us are happy to see the new administration well out of the starting blocks.
Meanwhile seven years later:
Unfortunately that illumination at the entrance never extended to the end of the tunnel for even after a second re-election and a full seven years on the job Mr Fernandez’s government still sits with the same old widespread and frequent blackout problem. The one bright spot is that the peso has been held pretty constantly in the 37 to 38 to the dollar range. However, almost as a testament to the Dominican Republic’s occasional blind loyalty to tradition the man in charge of the very mess that Fernandez inherited in 2000 will be again the chief challenger at next year’s election to Fernandez’s PLD party.
Monday, June 28, 2004
It is alluded that there are different ways of getting a driving license in this country, but this week we discovered that the “correct” way requires you to make repeated visits and engage in repeated waiting in different lines at the principal driving test center found on Avenida Tiradentes at the offices of Dirección General de Tránsito Terrestre (Ministry of Road Traffic) in Santo Domingo.
We ventured out of Boca Chica and off to the capital on Wednesday to help a good friend of Playa Vista get through the Dominican driving license process. We have to be honest and say that he had already been considerably helped along the way by other friends by the time we got involved, but he had hit a small language barrier in the form of the examination on the Highway Code which is presented solely in Spanish. We arrived at about 10 am with a view to immediately taking the 45 minute test but were told that the system, a system that our friend had used on two previous occasions, had changed, and that we should have been present in line at 8 am in order to get one of the 250 allotted numbers. So… we returned on the Friday morning and took our place near the front of the line, #21 to be precise. We then proceeded to the next line which did not move for at least an hour and a half. Finally #21 was called and we leapt towards the door only to be told that a special permission would be needed for the accompanying translator because… the system had changed! One of our German speaking regulars had previously tried to help our friend out with the translation, but the technicality of the questions, and the fact that he was trying to help an English speaking guy – in other words two languages removed from his own native language – had already resulted in two failed exams. Nevertheless… another 20 minute wait and with the sub-director of the institution’s signature on the newly acquired special permit for the translator we were now really on our way.
The test was taken and, thankfully, passed… and then we waited some more in our final line of the day for the permit to be handed out.
In this three hour sojourn in the driving test center we learned quite a bit about this very evidently out-of-synch official driving license process. Firstly you have to line up to pay the tax – at a branch of the national bank Banco Reservas located inside the building – in a line that at the time looked like the most formidable of all the lines. Our friend had, by the way, already astutely worked out that, as a tempting alternative, one could actually bypass this line by paying the tax at ones own convenience at any Banco Reservas branch before arriving at the driving test centre. Next you line up for the eye test and when that is over you have to line up one more time to give a blood sample to determine your blood type!
After that you can pass to the line we were in that day for the Highway Code test. Our friend was under the impression that all was finished, after this his fifth visit, so he was naturally disappointed to learn that he would have to return after 45 days in order to have his actual driving approved and undergo an hour and a half lecture thrown in for good measure even though he is a fully validated Massachusetts driving license holder… now how about that!.
We were told though, by somebody in the Ministry that you can get a letter from your consulate verifying your own country’s license which helps to shorten or even eliminate the line-waiting torture. Having learned this, our American friend need not have been crestfallen about all this unnecessary effort he might have taken, because we were also told, by the same source, that the USA embassy is the only one in this country who is not prepared to offer such helpful letters of verification.
Meanwhile seven years later:
The situation does not seem to have changed too much and is of course straightforward!
Getting a Driver’s License in the Dominican Republic
Getting your license in the Dominican Republic is a straightforward process. Bring your cedula and a copy of the document with you to La Direccion General de Transito Terreste (DGTT), which is the equivalent of the department of motor vehicles. Make sure you have studied the driver’s manual before you take your driving exam. Next, you must pay taxes in order to receive your license:
Driver’s License: RD$455
Medical Exam RD$40
Classification Fee: RD$75
Cost of Forms and Services: RD$85
At DGTT go to window # 1 and present your cedula and one copy, and pay for the driver’s license. Next, go to window #2 and present your cedula, along with the receipt of payment of taxes, and the receipt of payment for the driver’s license. Thirdly, go to window # 5 and present your cedula with the previous receipts, so that the information can be checked to make sure it’s accurate.
After that, present all previous documents to window # 6, in order to take the written exam.
If you pass the written exam you’ll be asked to take a road test. You have to wait 45 days before you can take a road test. Once you pass the road test, you can then obtain a Dominican drivers license.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
HURRAH… was indeed the word on Monday last. The streets were full of purple flag-waving supporters of the new president-elect: Leonel Fernández. According to the official figures he easily passed the required 50% achieving a convincing 57.11% of the national vote and carrying a full 26 of the nation’s 29 provinces. Here in municipality number 226 of Boca Chica he also carried the day obtaining a close to national average of 53.56%.
Monday was announced as a public holiday and the people celebrated with equal verve, their relief that the uncertainties were all over and their hopeful expectations for the future. Unfortunately violence, though limited but always looming potentially ruinously, did rear its head in full down in Barahona where a total of 6 people ended up losing their lives for alleged politically motivated reasons. Happily in the rest of the country incidents were reported to be few and far between and none of any note whatsoever in Boca Chica where the jubilation flowed through the streets nearly all day long. People who had seemingly kept their colors hidden took them out of the closet in the upsurge of joy, while those who had supported the white party ditched their old white flags and surprisingly seemed to fully embrace the change to come.
We had the pleasure of visiting an important government institution in Santo Domingo the following day and observed that the atmosphere in general in the city was very upbeat although those employed in the institution itself are phlegmatically resigned to the fact they will have to seek new employment because a change of government in this country means a clearance of nearly all public employees too.
Speaking of presidential change, this week sees the change of the label on the bottle of the exceedingly popular and indisputably good Presidente beer. Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, the makers of the beer, claim the new label to be fresher, more modern and more stylized which appears to be a fair claim. Not a bad formula for our new president to follow when he is finally, according to the Dominican constitution, sworn in three months from now. He is reportedly by now busy with his plans for a new four year period within which the popular slogan from the election-campaign: ‘Vuelve el Progreso’ (Return to Progress) hopefully will come true sooner rather than later… and we wish him all the best!
Meanwhile seven years later:
We now know that Fernandez will be giving way to somebody else in next year’s May election but coincidentally headline news in the Dominican Republic this week asks what has been gained from the RD$6 billion that has been distributed among the political parties in the past 12 years. At least less violence might be part of the answer to the question if nothing else.
Friday, May 14, 2004
You would have to be living up a very tall isolated palm tree here in the Dominican Republic not to be aware of a certain election taking place on Sunday.
The scene is that there are three main contesting political parties: the PRD (white) led by incumbent president Hipólito Mejía, the PLD (purple) led by ex-president Leonel Fernández and the PRSC (red) led by Eduardo Estrella.
We live in an avowedly democratic country although, by way of introducing historical background, it has to be remembered that there are many of the electorate who can still remember the old dictatorial days of the Trujillo regime prior to 1961.
Some years ago when we first arrived in this country, we remember people proudly pronouncing their hope for the future because of a newly elected young president by the name of Leonel Fernández who was clearly seen to be a complete break with the past. The election that had just taken place was their first, everybody said, without major violence – HURRAH!
In 2000 the constitution forbade Leonel running for a second consecutive term as president and the purple party lost, with a new man at the helm, to Hipólito Mejía’s white party who gained a clear victory over the other two parties so close to the required 50% + 1 vote, that the other parties admirably declined to subject the country to extended election posturing and bureaucratic torpor through a second round of voting – and further proof of Dominican democratic progress in that it was the second election without any major associated violence!
Elections here take center stage… television channels are inundated with all kind of political commentary, and party advertising is commonplace for many months well before election day. However, it is extremely noisy motorized street processions with the various party colors being waved in the form of flags and banners – often culminating in mass open-air rallies – which is the most visible way in which the parties gather support around themselves.
As residents but not citizens in this country we are permitted full rights except that of voting, and by this token we offer a few brief observations from the standpoint of non-partisanship.
The first is to say there is a great contrast between the 2000 election and that of this year. This time around there is palpable anxiety whereas in 2000 it seemed to be a simple relatively dispassionate run off as to who would govern the country for the next four years, as no particular group of people seemed to be any worse off and most to some extent or other better off than four years previous. A very quick check on some of the more notable fundaments at this juncture however reveals that in the last four years the peso has lost well over half its value against the dollar which has caused economic upheaval for all… especially the poorest. The country now clearly owes more money abroad than it ever did before and has been having difficulty rearranging its borrowings with the International Monetary Fund for some time now and… eye-grabbingly a president in office could not run for a second term according to the constitution back in 2000! We will steer clear of any comparisons on the emotive but regrettably not unimportant murky subject of corruption, which is claimed by many to play a lamentably large role in Dominican politics, and just keep to the facts.
We conducted a mini-Playa Vista Boca Chica straw poll casually between the hours of darkness last night and lunchtime today on ten people between the ages of 20 and 55, divided equally between male and female and spread across the socio-economic range – admittedly the margin for error statistically probably has no limits – nevertheless.. to our surprise ALL ten said they would vote for Leonel Fernández! Some added that if Leonel did not gain 50% +1 first time around then claims of electoral fraud would have to be made.
Our chief desire and hope is a peaceful outcome of the ongoing round and a clear and worthy winner at the first attempt so that we will be able to again say – HURRAH!
Meanwhile seven years later:
As has been alluded to before the country avoided financial melt down in 2000 with the stabilizing policies of the Fernandez government. He gained 58% of the vote in 2004 and four years later he was of course able to run again and with 54% of the popular vote was back in again. Constitutionally he is not allowed to contest a third straight election and guess what? At this stage, with 12 months to go, it looks very much like a story of back to the future of the year 2000 for the election in May 2012. Hipolito Mejia and Danilo Medina seem to be very much the likeliest PRD and PLD contesting leaders again.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
For better or for worse an atypical quiet period has fallen over the Dominican Republic. For those of you who are DR ‘watchers’ you will know that there is an important general election coming along in a month’s time and, in spite of the tremendous fanfare of public rallies and noisy street cavalcades put on by the main political parties, all the public sector offices strangely seem to take it as given that everything should be put on hold or seriously decelerated at the very least. Even stranger that once a new government is elected then there is a further three month hand-over transition period of even less activity before the wheels start rolling again.
For those of you who are DR-economic watchers you will note that a certain quiet has spread to the peso exchange rate too: consistently in the range of 42 to 44 pesos to the US dollar for quite some weeks now – a stability that is very welcome although it remains to be seen if there is a direct link between this and the pending election itself!
Quietness currently also extends to us in Boca Chica as the Easter break is over and people feel a far less urgent need to escape from the cold north. This week we have even noted a number of our regular long-term Playa Vista visitors packing up their belongings before making the return trek to ‘summer it out’ back in those northern latitudes.
So, pop by for a quiet drink… and stir things up a bit!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Election talk is very much in the air again – for 2012. After two successive terms in charge Leonel Fernandez has recently made it clear that he is not going to seek a change in the constitution that would allow him to run again. So the run off in 2012 could even be a complete repeat of 2000 which saw Hipolito Mejia of the PRD defeat Danilo Medina of the PLD leading to a disastrous downward lurch in the value of the peso by 2004. Based solely on currency values the incumbent PLD has done an unbelievable job. The peso started to strengthen once the new Fernandez administration took over in 2004 and has remained in the 33 to 37 range ever since!