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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 01:29 GMT
Dominican protests turn violent
Soldiers patrol the Capotillo district, a commercial area in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Heavily armed police patrolled the capital
Clashes between police and protesters across the Dominican Republic have left at least six people dead, reports say.

The violence came after the arrest of hundreds of activists in the days leading up to Tuesday's rallies.

Labour unionists and students organised the demonstrations to protest against high prices and regular power cuts in the Caribbean nation.

Once relatively prosperous, the Dominican Republic now suffers from high inflation and a banking crisis.

The country's president, Hipolito Mejia, admitted that citizens had cause to demonstrate, but said the government was unable to reverse the country's economic slide alone.

We are facing problems that we can't control, that come from external factors
President Hipolito Mejia
The strike paralysed the nation. Shops and schools were shut and buses remained parked.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters who hurled stones and burned tyres.

The strikers want the government to put a halt to rises in prices of medicine and gas, increase the minimum wage and salvage the battered electricity sector.

The government has accused activists of paying people to demonstrate, a charge the unions deny.

Bail-out sought

The government is to resume talks this week with the International Monetary Fund for a two-year $600m standby loan.

It is hoping to prop up the economy after the collapse of a major bank, Baninter, which the government has blamed on fraud.

The situation in the electricity sector is especially severe, with some areas of the country suffering blackouts for up to 20 hours a day.

The government has not had the cash to pay subsidies to energy distributors, who in turn could not pay generators.

The Dominican peso has lost more than half its value against the dollar in the last 12 months.


SEE ALSO:
Dominicans arrest union activists
10 Nov 03  |  Americas
Dominicans protest at high prices
16 Mar 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Dominican Republic
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Dominican Republic
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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