Governing party loyalists in the Dominican Republic have escalated fierce public attacks on dissidents and human rights advocates, calling for their expulsion from the country. The attacks come amidst rising concern among international human rights monitors about worsening abuses at the hands of Dominican authorities throughout the country’s justice system.

Adopting language common in Cuba and Venezuela, the loyalist voices demanded the expulsion of Amnesty International from the DR for its recent open letter on the abuse of migrants by Dominican authorities, including pregnant women and children. A member of the Dominican House of Deputies from the governing party, Elias Baez, demanded an opposition member of the Senate, Yvan Lorenzo, be arrested for allegedly discussing Amnesty’s findings with a reporter in the United States.

They continue with their agenda and their [expletive] disrespect towards the Dominican Republic,” wrote pro-government radio host Elvin Castillo on X. “I reiterate, President, give 24 hours for all these NGOs to leave the country.”

The attacks were made on the same day that Mark Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA), testified along with other key Biden Administration officials before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s (SFRC) Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. This raises additional uncomfortable questions around whether the U.S. government will continue to be silent as the abuses worsen:

  • The most recent Dominican country report from the U.S. State Department documented “unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security forces; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police and other government agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions [and] arbitrary detention.”
  • On Feb. 28 in Washington, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States heard testimony about an “inhuman” justice system that denies the right to a defense, and overcrowded prisons that are “a cemetery for the living,” where torture and untreated illnesses can be fatal. Only weeks later, a fire at the overcrowded La Victoria National Penitentiary caused at least 13 deaths.
  • According to the National Commission on Human Rights in the Dominican Republic (CNDH-DR), more than 80 percent of prisoners are held under preventive detention orders. Preventive detention is the practice of arresting and locking people up without ever being charged. Often, those held are even refused the ability to mount a legal defense or see the inside of a courtroom.

Now that governing party loyalists are escalating these attacks, will the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo defend U.S. nationals working as human rights advocates in the Dominican Republic in the face of official and extra-official threats against them?