Dominican Republic: Chronicle of an Unreported Death
“The night they killed Tito Moya, they were the same ones who had been arrested and released by police a while ago. That day I had been sitting on the balcony and I saw one of them put his gun in the mouth of the other in front of my house and then I heard a shot that sounded like a firecracker. The sound was close by and I heard repeated shots, but nothing else happened. After a while I went to the window and saw the dead body sitting there in the chair with the bullet wounds.” (Gauley, Santo Domingo resident)
Stories like this do not appear on the front page of the morning papers. They are part of a sinister narrative circulating in the neighborhoods undersupplied with the most necessary social service: security. There, violence is commonplace, complex, imposed, justified and contained within the borders of areas occupied by the socially, economically and politically disadvantaged.
In regard to lethal violence, the Dominican Republic sits in the middle compared to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2010, it had a homicide rate of 24.9 per 100,000, far below those of Honduras (82.1), El Salvador (66), Jamaica (52.1), Trinidad and Tobago (35.2) and Belize (41.7), but aboveMexico (18.1) Brazil (22.7) and Panama (21.6), according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2011 Global Study on Homicides.
However, as in many of these countries, violence in the Dominican Republic has turned into something systematic. Indeed, 2004 was a watershed in terms of security, reflected first in climbing, and then consistently high rates of homicide and crime (despite fluctuations), especially in urban areas of the country. Major changes also occurred in the patterns of what until then was considered “common crime,” with the appearance of kidnappings, the rise of micro-trafficking and contract killings, and the emergence of gangs fighting each other and the police. Killings perpetrated by police maintained a consistent pattern, representing between 16 and 18 percent of violent deaths in the country.
Given these trends, it is not surprising that by 2010 insecurity was of primary concern among residents of Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, with 54.1 percent considering it the most serious problem facing the country, followed by drugs (40.4 percent) and inadequate electrical services (32 percent), according to a government survey. The progressive deterioration of public safety, as perceived by residents in the District, is confirmed by comparing these results to those of 2006, when the problem of unemployment (61.3 percent of respondents) and the high cost of living (53.4 percent) superseded concerns about insecurity (49.5 percent).
These perceptions are not unwarranted, when looked at in the context of the trajectory of violence in the country, as shown in the table below.
Trends in Criminal Violence in the Dominican Republic from 2008-2011 (Rates based on number of deaths per 100,000 residents)
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Category: DR News |