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EL ESPECTADOR

Mine-Loving Dominican Republic Leader Scoffs At Nature Preserve

People and parliament are almost unanimously opposed to mining in one of the country's exceptional natural reserves. But the nation's president insists the mining must proceed.

Dominicans march to support turning Loma Miranda into a national park to prevent mining.
Dominicans march to support turning Loma Miranda into a national park to prevent mining.
Santiago Villa

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — Some 80% of the Dominican Republic's fresh water comes from Loma Miranda, a mountainous area that the late dictator Rafael Trujillo sold in the 1950s to Falconbridge, a Canadian mining firm that used the land to extract nickel and ferronickel.

Falconbridge is now owned by another multinational, Glencore, which is determined not just to cash in on its mining "rights," but to extend them, even though the area in question has been declared a biological corridor.

Because the initial mining permit didn't cover the entire area of Loma Miranda, Glencore sought permission in 2011 to expand its mining operations, provoking a fight that is reaching a decisive phase now. Loma Miranda is one of the Dominican Republic"s most biologically diverse areas. Unanswered questions regarding the safety of the project and its potential impact on the environment have fueled widespread opposition. The firm has also come under fire from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which rejected as incomplete the environmental studies Glencore presented to justify its activities.

And yet on Sept. 2, Dominican President Danilo Medina, in a move that honors the memory of the dictator who played Monopoly with the countryside, vetoed a parliamentary bill that looked to turn Loma Miranda into a natural park.

Mocking the will of his country's legislative branch, whose attending members voted nearly unanimously (28-1) to protect Loma Miranda, Medina also decided to disregard the opinions of environmentalists, farmers and broads segments of civil society that have organized protests since 2011. He has trampled on democracy, in other words, to defend a multinational miner.

Now the dictator Trujillo — sorry, I meant President Medina — is hiding behind the threat made by the mine's lawyers, who say the country will have to pay $4 billion in damages if the firm is not allowed to mine. Or so they say, as no legal action has been taken yet.

The president says that in blocking the nature reserve, he is simply implementing the law. But he has failed to specify exactly which part of the law or constitutional article he is defending with such zeal. It is a weak excuse. What Medina should also explain is why he is defending Glencore's interests over those of his people.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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