The Constitutional Reform process continues in the Dominican Republic, and the recent approval of Article 69 has been creating controversy. This article establishes the following: “The high streams of rivers and the endemic, native, and migratory biodiversity zone are to be especially protected by the public powers to guarantee its management and preservation as fundamental property of the Nation. The national rivers, lakes, lagoons, beaches, and coasts belong to the public domain and are to be freely accessible, always when it respects the right of private property. The law will regulate the conditions, standards and easements in which individuals will access the enjoyment or management of these areas.”
The second part of the Article, which talks about the free access to beaches when the right to private property is respected, has been the subject of protest from the population, which believes that it is undermining their right to go to beaches where there is private investment, in other words, hotels, clubs or other infrastructure. Newspapers [es], blogs, and television programs have been interpreting it that way, turning the issue of free access to the beach into a cause for protest in this media, as well as Twitter and Facebook, where a group was created to urge to not allow the privatization of the beaches [es], as many are afraid that this decision makes it possible.
Manuel Moisés Montás of the blog Toy Jarto [es] explains the origin of this fear:
Una vez reconocidos los derechos de apropiación y explotación a título exclusivo de las playas dominicanas, es de esperarse que algunos particulares (gente con dinero) procedan a adueñarse de las que resulten más hermosas, mejor ubicadas o idóneas para la explotación turística, relegando así al grueso de la población a playas de segunda o tercera categoría que, andando el tiempo, no tardarán en deteriorarse con motivo de la afluencia masiva de personas huérfanas de recursos para ir a bañarse en las playas privatizadas.
Despite the negative reaction to Article 69, many others are reminded that the access to beaches where hotels are located have always been restricted, but now the difference is that it is established in the Constitution. Some are even defending the idea that access to these beaches should be regulated. Enedina Pereyra of the blog Bracuta [es] calls on the Dominicans that are protesting to put themselves in the shoes of the businesspersons that have developed a beach by cleaning it and transforming it into a ideal vacation spot. At the same time, Pereyra makes a graphical comparison between a private and a public beach, with an emphasis on the average poor manners from Dominicans who visit the beach.
There have been so many protests over Article 69 that the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants [es] (ASONAHORES for its initials in Spanish) has clarified one point in a public communique on September 8 in a national newspaper, when it stated that the new Article represents progress because it establishes a balance between the use of natural patrimony and the right to private property. Despite these statements, since October 8 there have been protests, with the largest one taking place on October 9 in front of the National Congress by young people wearing beach clothing and signs saying “This is Not My Constitution,” and which is a message that has also been found on many walls in the cities of Santo Domingo, Santiago, and others.
The protests that have arisen are supported by a large part of the population, including young and old and from different social classes, including the authors from the blog Ahí e’ Que Prende [es], who see the protests as an impulsive action based on the poor interpretation of a text that only backs something that has already been taking place with beaches located at hotel complexes: restricted access for their guests. Despite this, the team from the Ahí e’ Que Prende [es] blog recognizes that there have been abuses with the current Constitutional reform.