(10/23/13) This is the second day of a planned strike in the Northern Section of the Dominican Republic. The strike was originally called for Castillo, Bonao and San Francisco, but this has also sparked violence in Esperanza, Hato del Yaque, and Canca la Reina, in southern Espaillat province. Several people have been shot and four are confirmed dead with two of the deaths happening due to gunfire in Santiago and Navarrete.

With the protests happening in such a widespread area it would appear that people from other cities are deciding to join in on the welgas and protests. As is always the case, when you are out and about whether in service or your daily activities it is a good idea to watch what is going on around you.

For your safety, avoid areas where people are starting to gather rapidly. This is often a sign that something is happening and people are gathering around to watch. These crowds of people can spring up quickly and if you are nearby it is best to stay away.

Places to Avoid

While San Francisco and lately Bonao frequently have protests or as they are called here Welgas, most towns and cities have them at times making it important to pay attention wherever you are. That makes choosing particular cities to avoid difficult. If you are new to the DR you are usually safe in the more tourist oriented cities and even Santiago but this can change rapidly. People that have been here a while usually learn how to be safe no matter where they are in the country.

If you know there are protests happening in your area it is often a good idea to stay indoors for a day or two until they blow over. For the next few days afterwards you will need to be careful to avoid broken glass, burnt tires and other debris, as well as rock and dirt piles that are usually left as a result of the protest.

Violent Protests

Most protests in the smaller towns involve drinking rum and beer around burning tires and only last for an afternoon and evening. Roads are often blocked to keep traffic from getting through and people are prone to get violent if someone tries pushing their way through. So, if you find a protest happening in the road in front of you turn around and find a different route. In this last set of protests so far at least one person was shot while traveling in a car (a four year old girl), cars will not offer too much protection if things start to get violent.

New like this can be a little scary, especially if you are coming to the DR trying to help people through missionary work. For the most part though living here is no more dangerous than living in the States. Someone driving through one of the large cities in the States oblivious to what is happening around them and if they are entering into a less than friendly part of the city is likely to find trouble. When ever traveling in an area or country you are not familiar be alert and look for the signals that mark an area you need to avoid.