Most of the people who know me know that the main reason why I am spending my sabbatical in Santo Domingo is so I can help my mom with her political campaign. My mom is running for Senator and for better or for worse I know a thing or two about political campaigns, albeit in the US (I've worked on the campaigns of a few NY elected officials), but still. It was only natural that I should come and help her out.
I must admit that in the 43 days that I've been here I haven't really done as much as I should have but I don't feel too bad about that because all in all things were running quite smoothly and like they say, if it ain't broken don't fix it.
This weekend my brothers and I head up to Monte Cristi, her province, for the primaries of her party (PRD) which took place this past Sunday. The last day for campaigning was Friday and up until that point things were going great. Looking at the numbers of the different polls as well as the turnout on all the events leading up to the primaries, her victory over the other guy-the current Senator- was guaranteed.
All of Saturday, while we were working with our delegates and getting our different teams together I was certain that everything was going to be great. Jesus, the campaign manager, kept telling me that we had to keep our eyes open for fraud, for sell-out delegates and for attacks of any sort because the guy is insane (apparently he has quite a track record of shadey activities); but I thought they were being overly cautious when perhaps experience (I come from a long line of public servants) should have thought me that democracy in the Dominican Republic is on the most part flawed, corrupt and violent.
On Sunday we woke up early and got our team together so we could take mom to vote and so we could then go visit all the different voting centers in the province. The turnout was amazing. There were so many people out that one would have thought that rather than a one party primary that was a general election. When people saw my mom the crowds went wild. People were chanting her name, wanting to touch her and hug her. It was a beautiful sight. If I was sure the night before that victory was in the bag, Sunday morning I was certain that she was going to be the candidate.
But things got sketchy.
Towards the end of our tour somewhere around 3:00pm we drove into one of the different municipalities, Villa Vasquez, and managed to find part of the team of Senador Alemán, which included his wife.
Let me just say that I never thought that I was going to have guns pointed in my general direction and that I was going to have to take a crash course on how to shoot a shotgun. Those motherfuckers (for lack of a better word) approached us, almost crashed into one of our vehicles and decided that it would be entertaining to have a car full of people pointing their guns at us.
After a while they decided that it would be more fun if they just followed us around so they got out of the way and tailed us around until we got back to the actual city of Monte Cristi where for safety, we stopped at my grandfather's place. We were there for about an hour. Ivan and I stayed behind with mom while Gus took all of our security people down to vote. When we were about to leave, we heard what sounded like fireworks.
My mom being the sweet naive person she is was all like "Awwwwww we should have gotten fireworks too" meanwhile everyone is about to have a heart attack because two seconds later Gus calls to say that the fireworks are really gun fire and that he is pretty much where the action is.
The amount of time that it took Gus to get back to where we were was probably the longest 10 minutes of my life. As if it wasn't hard enough to have to see them both (Ivan and Gus) carrying guns, it was much worse to imagine them having to use them. I thought I was going to die and then worse, I thought he was going to die.
After he came back, one of our body guards drove us to our house in a flash. We went in, and locked the gate. Some of our security people were there and once again all the guns were out in the event of an eventuality.
We sat down in the courtyard, grabbed some snacks and waited for the bulletins to start coming...
The first couple of reports were very positive. Mom won, Senator lost. Then shit literally hit the fan. The gun fire we heard was the Senator's people trying to steal the urns where the ballots were kept. On the other line we had someone telling us that every single urn in the municipality of Castañuelas had been stolen at gun point and then burnt and thrown in the river by Moreno Arias, one of the candidates, and the Senator's Brother. There was a woman (one of the delegates) taken to the hospital as a result of 4 broken ribs caused by one of the Senator's guys hitting her with the back of a shotgun.
Some of our delegates were taken out of the counting rooms by gun point, people were being terrorized while they were voting, the voters' registries were tampered with, cédulas (national ID cards) were stolen, and Senator Alemán himself went into a voting center flipped out and broke the table and the door and God knows what else.
Yesterday morning, the son of a bitch had the nerve to go on the radio to say that he had won the election.
Needless to say I was furious. My mom was furious. The province was furious.
I, for one, got to work. I called all my friends in the press and sent out a press release. My mom and her political buddies got together and started the process to get Senator Aleman in trouble (the party supossedly sanctions such behavior) and to contest the election.
What has happened so far?
Well, for one, the press hasn't covered anything. The irregularities in 3 of the other provinces were covered by the press; however, since an actual Senator is involved in this one they won't say anything.
Right now the party is "investigating" what happened. Investigating. Someone will get paid off and that will probably be the end of that. They'll try to pretend it never happened most likely.
So much for democracy. So much for the will of the masses.
Y despues se preguntan por que este pais no hecha para alante!
I hate this fucking place.