Republic: toward more equality
Juan Diego Nusa
THERE were no surprises or a second
round, given that election forecasts proved correct.
Economist Danilo Medina, the
governing Dominican Liberation Party (PLD, center-left
liberal) candidate, won the May 20 presidential
elections in a second attempt, more than four
percentage points ahead of his bitter rival, former
President Hipólito Mejía (2000-2004). Medina
proposes change and a better distribution of
national income, in order to reduce social
inequalities and a high poverty rate, which affects
more than 30% of Dominican society. According to
details from the Electoral Central Board (JCE), with
99.1% of the votes counted, Medina won with 51.24%,
while Mejía, from the opposition Dominican
Revolutionary Party (PRD), obtained 46.93%.
winner of the presidential
elections in the Dominican Republic, is
committed to fighting poverty in the country.
One of the first activities of the
President elect, 60 years of age, was to place a
wreath at the grave of Juan Bosch in the Ornamental
Cemetery, in the presence of members of the of the
PLD Political and Central Committees, as well as
thousands of people from the town of La Vega. Medina
affirmed that he intended to be faithful to the
memory of the leader and founder of the Party. Bosch
(1909-2001) was an essayist, novelist, historian,
educator and the first President of the Dominican
Republic, democratically elected in 1963 for a brief
period before being overthrown by military troops in
the service of the United States.
Medina, a graduate in chemical
engineering, decided as a university student to
follow in the footsteps of the highly respected Juan
Bosch, left the PRD and founded together with Bosch
the PLD, then a Marxist party.
The significance of Medina’s initial
statement on following Bosch’ example was not lost
on analysts. The President elect emphasized that he
wishes to be an ethical and moral leader, as was the
exemplary intellectual, and that he will place his
government at the service of the most needy to whom
the PLD founder dedicated his political career, in
an attempt to improve Dominicans’ living standards.
"I will arrive at the National
Palace with a heart for the poor, but with a whip
for the dishonest," Medina stated in his
proclamation speech as the PLD candidate last August,
a phrase intended as a framework for his possible
term in office.
However, the challenges which lie
ahead for the future leader, who will govern from
2012-2016, are immense. In addition to trying to
heal the wounds of a harsh electoral campaign (Mejía
has still not acknowledged defeat), he must find
ways to fulfill the promised "secure, constructive,
mature and democratic change," his campaign motif.
While it is a fact that the
Dominican Republic has achieved one of the largest
growth rates in Latin America and the Caribbean in
recent years (4.5% in 2011) and has significantly
reduced its poverty rate to 34% from the 44%
recorded 10 years ago, visible social inequalities
remain and are the source of social unrest. This is
a difficult situation to positively change with a
weak economy tied to IMF credits and dependent on
remittances from abroad and tourism.
To have an idea of the precarious
nature of the national economy, suffice it to say
that 56% of Dominicans work in the informal sector,
unemployment stands at 14.6% and 75% of paid workers
earn less than 10,000 pesos ($260) a month.
Confronting rising inflation (in
excess of 7% last year), creating new jobs, fighting
corruption and insecurity in the streets are some of
the most urgent requirements of citizens in this
country of 10 million inhabitants, and thorny issues
that must be priorities in the future government of
Danilo Medina, who has another hot potato to juggle
with neighboring Haiti, devastated by an earthquake
and a cholera epidemic. In this context, he has
opted for promoting a free trade agreement with Port-au-Prince.
Relations between the two nations have always been
The new President has also stated
that his administration will prioritize education
and social assistance, solve longstanding problems
with the country’s electricity service, as well as
the implementation of a comprehensive taxation
policy, environmental protection and a "head-on"
confrontation with crime. An entire rosary of
problems difficult to approach in a four-year term
and with scant options of external financing.
In this context, analysts are
emphasizing his will to continue the legacy of the
three governments of outgoing President Leonel
Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012),
under the premise of "continuing what is good,
correcting what is bad and doing what has never been
done.") The challenges are considerable and
Dominicans are hoping that his administration will
create a better country with greater equality.