Dominican Republic witnesses 'mother of all marches' over Odebrecht scandal

People demonstrate during a march called by social associations to protest against the corruption scandal linked to Brazil's construction giant Odebrecht, among others, in Santo DomingoERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Dominican Republicans took to the streets to stage massive anti-corruption protests on Sunday (16 July) as they demanded an end to impunity to top government authorities.

Rallies took place in the capital Santo Domingo with protesters blocking a six-lane arterial road while waving the Dominican flag.

This was the seventh protest, and also the biggest so far, against President Danilo Medina and other top government authorities for their alleged role in what has come to be known as the wide-ranging Odebrecht scandal. Anti-government campaigners called it "the mother of all marches".

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A series of anti-state demonstrations were triggered when it was revealed in January that Brazilian engineering company Odebrecht paid up to $92m in bribes to top officials in the poor Caribbean nation.

More than a dozen government officials and businessmen have already been indicted, including some of Medina's close allies.

With presidential elections set to take place in the Caribbean nation in 2020, the ruling Dominican Liberation Party has its work cut out since the scandal is bound to have an impact on the polls.

"We have decided to reclaim the end of impunity and the end of corruption because we believe they steal the nation's right to justice, education and healthcare," Green March protest organiser Senen Caban told Hispan TV.

Most of the protesters were young and dressed in green, symbolising the grassroots movement led by the Marcha Verde (Green March) in the country.

"The people have no legal recourse; we have no one to represent us. But the government can't repress them," a protester named Ivan Veloz Cabral was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The demonstrators sang and chanted slogans during their 5km-long rally through the major avenues of the capital.

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The protesters demanded the cancellation of all contracts with Odebrecht and the recovery of stolen money. They also want an independent commission established to investigate Medina and his predecessors, Leonel Fernandez and Hipolito Mejia.

"To put an end to impunity, it's imperative to investigate the officials, lawmakers and others responsible for managing contracts with the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht," read an official statement from the Green March.

Though previous anti-government demonstrations in the Dominican Republic have turned violent, the Sunday march was relatively peaceful.

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