Globe, Human Rights, Latin America, Politiks

The Dominican Rep: young assassins, major problems

In the last two months 8 minors committed 4 horrendous crimes in the Dominican Republic. They are not the only ones and the roots of the causes reach back a long way into the past.


Elsy Fors Garzón

Child delinquency is perhaps the darkest side of violence in the Dominican society. Police reports demonstrate that between February and March, eight children and adolescents caused the death of three other minors and one adult. There are diverse points of view regarding the paths open to confront and counteract this trend.

The ex-president of the Dominican Society of Psychiatry, Alejandro Uribe Peguero, is among the group of his profession that think that, from the point of view of mental health, the delinquent minors cannot be reformed.

In 2011, the association that brings together psychologists and psychiatrists, presided by José Miguel Gómez, instigated a more practical approach by warning, in a call to the government, that social violence has turned into a “no man’s land”, where there is no strategy coming from the society as a whole to attack the root of the problem.

The lack of public policies to contain, prevent and reduce the culture of violence makes the society impotent, defenceless and resigned to this situation of aggressiveness and delinquency.

The Dominican Society of Psychiatry (SDP) urged state institutions, the Church, civil society and  conscientious citizens to search for solutions and apply public policies to control the violence.

It is unfortunate to observe, says the SDP, how the young and adult population of a productive age participate in violent deaths that result from multi-causal factors such as social exclusion, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse and chronic dysfunctional families.

But also frustration, learned hopelessness, lack of life skills, personality disorders and the depersonalization caused by the crisis of identity in which hundreds of the country’s young people live.

The psychiatrists assert that any organized society which invests in social welfare and the development and happiness of its citizens, makes itself responsible for a culture of peace with respect to the life and security of its citizens.

All of these psychosocial problems are due to an increase in the abuse of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, but also easy access to firearms.

All this combines with a moral crisis, the weakness of the judicial system and a lack of economic, technological or social answers for the population of a productive age.

It is painful to observe, say the psychiatrists, the increase in broken families, divorces, school dropouts and purposeless wandering on the street in big cities and rural zones, where exposure to physical, emotional, psychological and sexual mistreatment takes place in a society that appears indifferent to the child and adolescent population.

The easy and misguided path

The Minor Code was approved in December 2011 by the National Congress but according to child-juvenile psychiatrist José Miguel Gómez, it is easier for the legislators to toughen the penalties for offending minors than make resources available to institutions such as Niños con Don Bosco (Don Bosco Children), which work in the rehabilitation of these behaviours.

The president of the SDP warned that the modification of the code reflects the irresponsibility of a society and its institutions that only face the consequences of events, not their causes.

He requested that the State gets involved in changing the culture of possessiveness and machismo in homes that in 37 per cent of cases are managed by women.

The specialist testified that the indicators of mental health have deteriorated in a significant way in the country.

He highlighted that the authorities invest only 0.8 per cent of the budget in this area, when the studies indicate that it should be at least 3 per cent of public resources.

Horrendous crimes

A fact that moved the citizens in March was the beating and stoning to death of a boy of seven by five adolescents of 13, 14 and 15 years of age, who claimed to have committed the crime to rob him of less than 300 pesos (around 8 dollars).

Similarly in March there was the surprising news of an adolescent of 14 years old that murdered his nonagenarian grandmother, stabbing her 20 times, allegedly because he wanted money. This was in Hato Mayor, in the province of Santiago de los Caballeros.

In February, in San Juan de la Maguana, a boy of nine killed another of seven with a stone, following an argument at the school gates.

Children and adolescents have begun an escalation in crime never seen before in the country.

Before, minors subjected to scenes of domestic violence, many of which ended in the death of the mother, were inclined to turn into abusers and killers themselves.

Now, this violent behaviour in minors begins at earlier ages.

Confronted by this situation, psychiatrists made an appeal to the media regarding their responsibility in the propagation of violent conduct.

These professionals warn that the scenes of bloodshed on television are explicit and have a damaging effect on minors that see them, because, far from pacifying aggressive behaviours, they produce them in the viewers.

(Translated by Tim Huntington)

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