Attempted “Trumpist Coup” in the Dominican Republic

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(— May 24, 2023) — The administration led by President Luis Abinader, which has been praised and held up as an example by major world powers, has triggered a campaign by sectors of the new Dominican populism to launch an international campaign against the president through far-right American media outlets.

Luis Abinader is a president who is fulfilling his promises, and that stings those who thought they could snatch the will of the people through lies and fake news. Facts are unbeatable against the destructive propaganda of Dominican Trumpism, and for this reason, they are resorting to dirty tactics with no purpose other than to execute a kind of “coup” against the legitimate president of the Caribbean country.

In the face of the positive results of Abinader’s policies, Dominican Trumpism, led by former president Leonel Fernández, has no other recourse but to rely on anecdotes to try to turn them into a matter of national importance. Through social media and the manipulation of big data, they are attempting to portray to the Dominican citizens and the whole world a kind of apocalypse that, in reality, does not exist.

When the results being achieved during Luis Abinader’s administration are historic, and when the Dominican Republic is receiving unprecedented international recognition since its independence in 1844, the opposition has no way out other than to use lies and media tools to counterprogram the obvious.

The American digital newspaper Washington Times, one of the mouthpieces of the far right and a defender of the Capitol rioters on January 6, 2021, published an opinion article filled with false and manipulated data that not only affect Abinader but also tarnish the reputation of the Dominican Republic. This is how far those who engage in solemn swearing-in ceremonies and shed crocodile tears in front of the national flag are willing to go.

That residual media outlet, which barely reaches 3 million monthly visits, is the one that Dominican Trumpists have used to try to discredit and create a public opinion that leads the citizens, especially those in the diaspora, to generate a situation similar to what happened in 2016 in the United States with the hackers and Russian interference. It’s about foreign intervention in democratic processes based on lies, hoaxes, and tricks.

However, it is a well-chosen outlet since it is read by diasporas from different Latin American countries, especially those who have not left their countries for economic reasons but for political motivations, such as Cuba or Venezuela, and who strongly support Donald Trump and the far-right wing of the Republican Party. What they are seeking is a contagious effect that Abinader must be vigilant about, as it could create a scenario in which Dominican migrants could become infected with Dominican Trumpism.

These apologists of Dominican populism have probably hired a columnist from the Washington Times and fed them their manipulated version of what is happening in the Dominican Republic under the government of Luis Abinader. An utterly pathetic opinion article has been published that could destroy the reputation of any journalism professional.

The column, written by Peter Roff, a recognized ultra and defender of Donald Trump, tries to portray that the United States is losing influence in Latin America in favor of China. In this context, a significant portion of the alleged article is dedicated to discrediting Luis Abinader with lies that anyone who is well-informed can spot from miles away. However, when strategically placed in tweets, Instagram posts, or manipulated YouTube videos, they can create chaos, which is the objective of the populist and Trumpist opposition.

To understand the fallacy, one must start from the premise that the Washington Times presents the pseudo-dictator Nayib Bukele from El Salvador as an example of good governance, portraying him as an ally of the United States. However, in his policy against criminal gangs, he systematically violates the human rights and democratic principles of thousands of people. It’s the same thing Trump did with the Filipino despot Rodrigo Duterte or with Vladimir Putin, whom a faction of the American far right considers an ally.


On the other hand, the all-around Roff claims that Luis Abinader is “employing ‘preventive prison’ methods to keep his knee on the throat of his political opponents. In March, over a dozen opposition figures were imprisoned without charges, including his 2020 presidential opponent. Many of them will remain locked up until after the next elections.”

This is false, as the detention of these politicians stems from a grave corruption case, the Calamar Case. This staunch defense of corrupt individuals shows that those who have instigated (or paid for) the publication of this article defend the corrupt state imposed during the governments of Danilo Medina and, above all, Leonel Fernández.

Gonzalo Castillo, the leader who ran in the elections against Abinader and lost, who is allegedly implicated in this corruption case, was already implicated in acts committed during his tenure as Minister of Public Works in the government of Danilo Medina. Several European media outlets published various corrupt practices by Castillo in June 2020 without him saying anything, publications that caused a great scandal in the Dominican Republic and had vital importance in Abinader’s victory in the presidential elections. The Dominican people do not want corruption or, of course, media outlets that try to cover it up or present the corrupt as martyrs.

The newspaper of the American far-right forgets that from 2004 until August 2020, the Dominican Republic was one of the world’s epicenters of corruption and organized crime. During the governments of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), led by Leonel Fernández and Danilo Medina, a scenario marked by absolute corruption was generated, and this was reflected in the laws they enacted, some of which are still in force despite the change of president. The level of corruption was such, benefiting the top leaders of the PLD, that the Caribbean country became, in proportion, the absolute leader of the Odebrecht Case.

Roff has not been told or has not been interested in telling to avoid offending his benefactors, that the arrival of Luis Abinader as the Head of State has caused a historic change that has led to international recognition for his work against corruption. Furthermore, the figures are there, resulting in the Dominican Republic climbing positions in different global rankings like never before in its history.

The Washington Times categorizes it as bad news that the President of the United States, Joe Biden, cited the anticorruption measures of the Luis Abinader government as an example of the fight for democracy. These words from Biden were obviously a blow to those who today present themselves, as Donald Trump did or the leaders of the European far-right, as saviors of the homeland but who, when they governed, made impunity a fundamental element of their governments.

We must remind that digital newspaper of Trumpist populism that in his inaugural speech, the Dominican president was very clear about his intentions regarding the fight against corruption: “And today, here, I tell you that our democracy has been damaged. At this point, I want to be very clear, precise, and forceful. In the government that we are starting today, corruption from the past will not be allowed to go unpunished. Those who stole money from the people must necessarily be held accountable in the justice system for their actions. Likewise, I want to issue a warning to the new officials who will accompany me in the government of change: I will not tolerate any act of impropriety, much less corruption in my government. Any official who mishandles the people’s money will be immediately dismissed and made available to the justice system.”

That is what Abinader has been doing since August 2020, and the Dominican Trumpists do not like it because it is very easy to enrich oneself with the people’s money, money that is currently being invested in improving social services or strengthening the Dominican Republic in such a way that it becomes a center for attracting international investments that create new jobs and, consequently, more prosperity for middle-class and working-class families.

To claim that Luis Abinader is violating human rights is to misunderstand what is really happening in the Dominican Republic. The current government is being held up as an example of respect for democratic freedoms in all international spheres. However, the Dominican Trumpists do not approve, and that is why they instigated the publication of this article.

On the other hand, the alleged article from the far-right pamphlet claims that China is supporting Luis Abinader in his quest to renew his mandate. This is not only false but absurd. Just look at the presidential agenda of the Dominican president or his government to understand that the ultra-Roff has no idea what he has written (or transcribed).

Luis Abinader and his government have maintained contact with the United States, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, precisely countries that are not known to be controlled by China. The Greek philosopher Cleobulus of Lindos stated in the 6th century BC, “Nothing is as common in the world as ignorance and charlatans,” something that, 2,600 years later, is still valid and demonstrated by the publication of The Washington Times.

Furthermore, Roff is so ignorant of what happens outside the District of Columbia that he goes as far as stating that “pre-trial detention” is “a favorite tool of dictators and aspiring leaders who fear that people will remove them from power if given the chance.” Pre-trial detention is a judicial tool applied in all democratic countries in the West, especially in cases of corruption.

However, the so-called expert Roff continues with what has been said by Dominican Trumpism and tries to equate the situation in the Dominican Republic with the dictatorship of China.

Just look at what happens in the Caribbean country with fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and press to understand the ignorance of the far-right pamphlet used by Dominican Trumpism to spew its bile.

During the governments of the PLD (Dominican Liberation Party), the organization Reporters Without Borders repeatedly denounced the hostile climate experienced by journalists. For example, the first half of 2015, under the presidency of Danilo Medina, was terrible. Journalists covering sensitive issues such as corruption or drug trafficking were exposed, among other dangers, to violent reprisals and threats from officials or cartels.

The same organization, after Luis Abinader came to power, affirmed that freedom of the press and expression are real and guaranteed by the Constitution. These past years have witnessed a decrease in verbal and physical attacks against journalists. The situation created by the government of Luis Abinader has led to the consolidation and strengthening of the role of the media. The sector is diverse and dynamic, and journalists regularly uncover scandals involving figures who are or were in power or in their circle. The population has access to all media outlets. The main newspapers have print and digital versions, while television and radio broadcast daily news programs. The Internet has grown to massive proportions, boosting the reach of major media outlets and the emergence of smaller ones.

On the other hand, the media is less used for disinformation campaigns. That is why populists are forced to use social media or pseudo-ultra-right digital newspapers for that purpose.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the British writer Jules Renard stated, “Tell the truth from time to time so that people believe you when you lie.” Dominican Trumpism and its great leader, Leonel Fernández, use lies so much that they will need three lives to fulfill what Renard said. That’s how populism works.