Dominicans in beach gear demand access to beaches

Dominican Republic Beaches

Dozens of Dominicans in swimming suits and flip-flops staged a protest outside the Dominican Republic’s Congress in Santo Domingo on Friday. They set themselves down on the pavement with beach towels, cooler, and surfboards to soak the sun to show their opposition to a recently approved constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to private property along beaches and rivers. The amendment could effectively ban the public from the nation’s beaches. The amendment was supported by President Leonel Fernández and opposition leader Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

“This is not the constitution of my country,” protesters chanted. “The beaches belong to the people, not to businessmen.”

One of the Caribbean country’s biggest attractions is its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters along its eastern coast, which is covered with dozens of celebrity homes and exclusive resorts. Legislator Minou Tavarez Mirabal went outside to talk with them. “These kind of protests are to let us know that citizens are watching us,” she said.

The problem of access to beaches has become a political concern for local populations across the Caribbean region as tourism developers strive to offer customers exclusive access to beaches. This has led to increasing pressure on local governments to amend laws that protect the rights of citizens to access beaches, marinas, and other seashore attractions.

In the Dominican Republic, this new constitutional amendment is one in a list of controversial legislation that has drawn public outcry. Protesters have demonstrated recently against other constitutional amendments that deny citizenship to children of foreigners born in the Dominican Republic and that prohibit abortion even in cases of rape, incest or a health threat to a woman.

Originally reported at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iY0wS3mosmXPEUD1GC6d5hU2phTwD9B7V9I82

Photo: A woman performs a beach scene during a protest in front of the Dominican Congress against the privatization and free circulation on the Dominican beaches, in Santo Domingo, Friday, Oct. 9, 2009. The Congress approved a new article of the Constitution which guarantees the right to private property in rivers and beaches. (Associated Press Photo by Ramon Espinosa)

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