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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 August, 2004, 02:51 GMT 03:51 UK
Dominican posts move raises row
Leonel Fernandez
Fernandez promoted officials from his last administration
The new president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, has awarded top jobs to four officials currently under investigation for fraud.

The four are being investigated over the disappearance of public funds under the first Fernandez administration between 1996 and 2000.

Mr Fernandez won a landslide election victory in May on promises to fight corruption and restore the economy.

One opposition spokesman said he had gone against "good ethics".

"There are many others Fernandez could have chosen," said Rafael Peralta, a spokesman for the defeated incumbent president, Hipolito Mejia.

Key economic posts

Mr Fernandez was inaugurated this week following his election victory in May, returning to power in a state hit by high inflation and unemployment following a banking scandal last year.

The four officials he promoted are all awaiting trial on charges stemming from the alleged disappearance of US$100m from the Dominican Republic's Temporary and Minimal Employment Program:

  • Luis Inchausti, charged with embezzlement three years ago, is named as secretary of state without portfolio - traditionally a top presidential adviser

  • Diandino Pena, an ex-public works secretary, is appointed to head a subway construction project

  • former administrative secretary Simon Lizardo is made the state's top auditor

  • former auditor Haivanjoe Ng Cortina will regulate the Santo Domingo Stock Exchange

A spokesman for the president's Dominican Liberation Party, Hector Olivo, said the four officials all had impeccable credentials and the charges against then were politically motivated.

"In this country, you are innocent until you are convicted and sentenced," he was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

'Austerity'

During his inaugural address in Congress this week, Mr Fernandez said he would preside over "a period of austerity" and promised to cut government spending by 20%.

"No-one will be able to use public funds to buy new jeeps or make cellular phone calls," he said.

The new government inherits $6bn in foreign debt and an inflation rate of 16%.

A third of the workforce of the Dominican Republic - which shares the same island with Haiti - is unemployed and its currency has lost half of its value against the dollar.


SEE ALSO:
Fernandez wins Dominican election
17 May 04  |  Americas
Several dead in Dominican clashes
30 Jan 04  |  Americas
Country profile: Dominican Republic
25 Mar 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Dominican Republic
02 Jan 04  |  Country profiles


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