By Ramon Santos.


People mobbed stores and supermarkets on Monday, hours before the celebration of Christmas Eve amid a wide-ranging security operation and the sight of people pouring out of the Dominican capital on trips to the interior.

Malls again saw hundreds of customers buying stacks of presents and articles of clothing, a trend repeated for the third straight day, Efe observed.

The shopping frenzy seen on the main streets of Santo Domingo contrasted with the first two weeks in December, when both established stores and street merchants complained of meager sales, even though the government was set to pay the Christmas bonus.

The increase in sales only came after private companies paid employees their Christmas checks and the government did as well with the salaries due this month.

Authorities have also organized holiday celebrations in all the municipalities of the country, as well as the traditional distribution of food baskets to low-income families.

The usual excitement of the season has caused long traffic jams in the Dominican capital's already chaotic thoroughfares, where drivers of buses, taxis and cars constantly disregard traffic laws.

To deal with that, local authorities announced a wide-ranging security operation on expressways and highways, as well as a hike in the number of cops patrolling the roads.

The emergency management office announced that some 32,455 people will be posted around the nation to carry out tasks of roadside aid and prevention.

The chief tasks of the operation, launched on Sunday, will be focused on the prevention of traffic accidents and of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Officials stressed that they will be "drastic" in cracking down on those breaking traffic laws, with a special warning to bikers who speed around without wearing their motorcycle helmets and motorists who neglect fastening their seat belts.

Hundreds of people have flocked into bus stations over the past few days for their Christmas trips to the country's interior.

The most crowded bus stations are at kilometer 9 on the Duarte expressway, a road that connects the capital with the central and northern parts of the Dominican Republic, the nation's most productive region.

Bus stations were also packed with travelers headed to the southern and border areas of the country, as well as those going east to the main Dominican tourist region.

Celebrating Christmas Eve in the Dominican Republic is a family affair, so the greatest possible spread is prepared with the traditional ham, pastries, salads and candies. EFE