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New Dominican Republic president pushes anti-poverty fight

18 august 2012, 15:30
0
Economist Danilo Medina was sworn in as the Dominican Republic's new president Thursday and pushed for a pact against poverty as he assumed the post, AFP reports.

The 60-year-old economist, who belongs to the Dominican Liberation Party of outgoing President Leonel Fernandez, won the May 20 election on a promise to raise the Carribean country's standard of living.

"I launch an appeal to all sectors to come together and form a pact to lift one and a half million Dominicans out of poverty over the next four years," Medina said at his swearing-in ceremony at the National Assembly.

"I came here not driven by a desire for power but by my unwavering commitment to serve my people."

The high cost of living, unemployment, corruption and a soaring crime rate were among the top election issues in this nation that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

The Dominican Republic dodged the worst effects of the 2008 global economic crisis, but remains mired in poverty despite solid economic growth under Fernandez, who served two consecutive four-year terms in office and is banned from another term.

Medina praised the policies of the popular outgoing president, vowing to "continue to build on that basis."

He won 51 percent of the vote in the May election, defeating opposition candidate Hipolito Mejia, who served as president in 2000-2004.

In a move to show political continuity, Medina's vice president is Leonel Fernandez's wife, former first lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez.

"The consensus I am calling for includes a fiscal pact, a pact to improve access to and quality of education, as well as a pact for electricity," Medina said, a reference to the country's troubled power distribution grid.

The Caribbean nation of roughly 10 million depends heavily on tourism, remittances from the more than 300,000 Dominicans living overseas and cheap oil from Venezuela to the tune of 50,000 barrels a day.

Inflation passed seven percent in 2011, with unemployment at 14.6 percent. Thirty percent of the country's people living in poverty.

In his speech, Medina announced the creation of a ministry of energy and mines. He also said basic pay would be raised and promised better training for police.

Dignitaries attending the swearing-in event included the presidents of Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama and Suriname.

The vice-presidents of Taiwan and Cuba also attended the event, along with Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno and Felipe de Borbon, heir apparent to the Spanish throne.

After the ceremony, Medina appointed his new cabinet ministers. Several of them were swore into office, including Economy Minister Temistocles Montas and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso.

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