On the morning of Wednesday April 17, workers at the Punta Catalina power plant in the south region of Dominican Republic began a protest, following the announcement that they won’t be receiving bonuses for the work performed in 2018. The consortium Odebrecht-Tecnimont-Estrella said they experienced a loss in 2018, while the workers allege the opposite, saying they expected up to RD$160 thousand pesos.
According to the Dominican news website Acento, workers took over the central offices in what is being described as an “armed assault,” throwing rocks and shutting down parts of the plant. The workers denied being armed. Some who chose not to be identified when interviewed by Listin Diario, say that they don’t understand why they’re not getting paid a bonus, while the “Brazilians” did get paid. “They gave 30 percent of the benefits that the company made.
Obreros de Punta Catalina paralizan todo y hace piquete porque no les pagaron sus bonos pic.twitter.com/1slDtldrzG
— Margarita Feliciano (@margaritafrd1) April 17, 2019
Here’s a copy of the letter employees received:
— Anibelca Rosario (@AnibelcaRosario) April 17, 2019
Encendieron a Punta Catalina pero con reclamos y bombas lacrimógenas. pic.twitter.com/rqLOo3GVcL
— Orlando Díaz (@Orlys28) April 17, 2019
Punta Catalina was at the center of the country’s Odebrecht corruption scandal, a bribery scheme that occurred across Latin America, leading to arrests and prosecutions of politicians in Brazil and up to six more countries across the continent. The Brazilian company was found to bribe officials into getting public contracts. In Dominican Republic, Odebrecht paid about US$788 million dollars in bribes. For Punta Catalina, the construction company allegedly paid RD$877 million pesos—an estimate of about US$20 million dollars.
Despite the corruption-plagued Punta Catalina, the construction continued, and President Danilo Medina is said to have met with the President of Odebrecht in September. The National Committee to Combat Climate Change condemned the construction in a statement: “We have denounced that the Odebrecht-Tecnimont-Estrella consortium will finish building the first level of Punta Catalina for December or both in 2019, until both the Government and the CDEEE pay the US$708 million it demands for cost overruns and the US$710.0 million owed to manufacturers and suppliers of electrical equipment endorsed by Tecnimont.”
The company has yet to issue a statement in response to the protest, as workers continue to shut down the site. Meanwhile the National Committee to Combat Climate Change announced that they were seeking mediation from the Ministerio de Trabajo (Labor Ministry) and local bishops.
Special thanks to Felix Cepeda for the tip.
Amanda Alcántara is the Digital Media Editor at Futuro Media. She tweets from @YoSoy_Amanda.