In the shadow of NASDAQ, Dominican Americans decry gas speculation

NEW YORK—A group of Dominican American and other Latino elected officials with dozens of community members protested petroleum speculation here in Times Square July 30. Called by the League of Dominican American Elected Officials and hosted by New York State Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat, the protest was held outside the headquarters of NASDAQ, which trades oil futures.

“We are here to address rampant unregulated speculation conducted in the NASDAQ trade market,” said Espaillat, who is co-chairman of the league. He and other speakers blamed market speculators and deregulation of the oil markets for the unprecedented oil and gas prices in working-class Dominican American communities in the U.S., and in the Dominican Republic. The national average for a gallon of gas in the United States is now $3.89 and in the Dominican Republic gas tops $6.00 a gallon, according to some reports.

Speakers blamed the staggering gas prices on the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which opened the door to speculation on energy commodities. U.S. gas prices have more than doubled since the act was passed. The league is supporting legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), which would reestablish some regulation to curb such speculation. President Bush vetoed an attempt to reform the act earlier this year. Espaillat told reporters that Congressional Republicans attempted to kill Reid’s bill by introducing offshore drilling proposals into it last week.

“This winter in New England is going to be a difficult one,” said Rhode Island State Senator Juan Pichardo, referring to predictions of high heating-oil prices next season. “We are stepping up not only for congressional action but to build an alliance with [Dominican Republic] President Fernandez.” Pichardo is the other co-chairman of the league.

In response to the global oil crisis, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez is proposing a Global Petroleum Solidarity Fund be created to assist countries with annual per capita income less than $6,000. Under the proposal, oil-producing nations would allocate 3 percent of their record earnings to the fund.

“Our goal is to let the speculators on Wall Street know, we will not be invisible. We are being impacted by oil prices not only in this country, but in the Dominican Republic,” Councilman Reynaldo Martinez of Haledon, N.J., told the World.

Elected officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland participated in the protest and press conference. The American Northeast is home to the majority of Dominican Americans.

The crowd chanted, “Lower the prices!” as they picketed. Some held signs reading, “Talk is cheap. Gas isn’t,” and “Wall Street gets drunk and effects everyone” in English and Spanish. Some held Dominican flags, but one protester assured a curious passerby, “This is for everyone. Gas prices are killing everyone.”

Pichardo said in a written statement, “Without a legal framework to halt market speculation, U.S. Hispanics, as well as all the most disadvantaged groups and countries around the world will end up paying for the profits of speculators who don’t see beyond their own greed.”