LAWRENCE — As the fiscal cliff looms in the United States, the Dominican Republic is also facing a financial crisis of its own which is of a concern to Dominicans living here.
That concern will be on display Saturday in Lawrence where Dominicans from throughout the region are expected to converge for a peaceful demonstration to show opposition to President Danilo Medina’s proposed tax increases.
The march is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of Broadway and Haverhill Street and will proceed to Broadway and Essex Street.
Last month, the Dominican Senate approved a 2 percent income tax increase from 16 to 18 percent proposed to help close the $4.6 million deficit in the government’s budget. He also wants to raise the price of gasoline and impose taxes on basic food products, liquor and cigarettes.
From the moment the fiscal reform known as “El Paquetazo” or “Big Package” was approved, Dominicans in the island country took to the streets against it. The focus of Saturday’s march is solely against the reform and marchers will not be allowed to carry political signs or represent political parties.
“For whatever reason, although we’re away from our motherland, we have a bond that we can’t break,” said Pedro Payano. “There’s something about the culture and the land that keeps you attached so you feel obligated to fight against violence.”
Payano, a retired Lawrence public school teacher, said that connection has become stronger due to social media including Facebook, news from the Dominican Republic broadcast on local Spanish radio stations and on national Hispanic television stations.
Mori Espaillat of Haverhill agrees.
“We have declared our support for the cause because we’re also affected since we have dual citizenship,” said Espaillat, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. “It raises awareness to people and lets them know what is happening in the country and the action of the government.”
Payano and Espaillat agree Dominicans are fed up with the government’s corruption.
“People are tired of being lied to. They’re indignant. They’re are saying “No, no, no. It’s enough.” They’ve realized that if we don’t stop the corruption, we won’t have a future,” Payano said.
He said the outrage is not on the Dominican Liberation Party, which has been in power for 12 out of the last 16 years, but on former President Leonel Fernandez whom Dominicans blame for the excessive spending.
“Who would have thought that Leonel would do this with his squeaky clean image? He has abused his power,” said Payano. He has been involved in Lawrence politics and his son, Pavel Payano serves on the Lawrence School Committee.
“In this country, we learn that if you commit a wrong doing, you are taken to the justice system and if you’re found guilty you go to jail,” Payano said. “We need to bring to justice those responsible so our country can start participating in the democratic process.”
The Rev. Victor Jarvis, who serves on the Lawrence Human Rights Commission, said Medina’s fiscal reform would make citizens pay for the corruption created by the government.
“It may not be happening here, but the fiscal reform will cut services that would affect us,” said Jarvis, pastor of Ebenezer Christian Church. “By participating here, we’re sending a message to the Dominican government that we care.”