There have been more reports of ongoing protests at the entrance of the Barrick mine near Cotui. The march was called “peaceful” however if you have ever tried navigating a road anywhere near protests (locally called a “huelga” pronounced wel-ga) you probably know that peaceful is a matter of opinion.
Police with tear gas and shotguns have been stationed all the way to Cotui at many of the intersections. Needless to say if you have business that takes you out of Cotui in the direction of the mines it might be a good idea to hold off until the demonstrations are wrapped up.
Even if you are not near the actual protest, during these times people have a tendency to start getting worked up and small skirmishes and arguments can happen anywhere in the area and in nearby towns (like Cotui), when you start to hear yelling and screaming pay attention to what is happening hear you. (It can be tough at times to tell the difference between a friendly domino game and an argument here at times)
Dominican Republic Huelga
In Spanish the work “huelga” translates to the English word strike. However, in actual use in the DR it is usually used for almost any type of protest, i.e when people are fed up with the power not being on enough, voltage too low (it can get as low as 60 volts at my house), gas prices too high, etc groups of people take to the streets to drink rum, burn tires in the middle of the street, place logs, dirt and debris in the streets to block traffic and often throw bricks and rocks at people on motorcycles or in cars trying to get past.
In other words, it is usually best to stay out of the area when there are huelgas and protests happening. Best advise is to stay clear of any unusually large groups of people milling around. It is not unusual for protesters to take advantage of the situation to take it out on anyone they don’t know, and foreigners are pretty good targets.
The Barrick mining company is pretty highly disputed in this country with residents in the area taking some pretty firm stands on whether they should be allowed to be here or not. Many of the locals see the mines as a way to move out of poverty. The wages are pretty good in comparison to most jobs that can be found in the smaller towns. For that reason many of the younger men dream of getting a job at Barrick mine. Others resent the damage often caused to the environment by the mines as well as the fact that most of the money is taken from the country. One thing that is in common with both sides is that Dominican love to argue (just listen to a domino game sometime). These arguments can get violent at times (well, usually not at the domino games).
At this point it doesn’t appear that the protests at the Barrick mine are reaching this level, and there is a pretty strong police presence to try and keep this from happening. However, it is not uncommon for gunfire to brake out at these demonstrations between the police and other factions, this happen relatively frequently in the clashes over the bus and GuaGua routes especially in the south. So, avoid these areas if at all possible.