Dominican Republic: is a general plotting against Haiti's president?
Retired Dominican general Pedro Julio ("Pepe") Goico Guerrero has been heading a plot to destabilize the administration of Haitian president Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky"), Dominican president Leonel Fernández's information secretary, Rafael Núñez, announced at a Santo Domingo press conference late on April 12. The alleged plot also involves a Haitian citizen, Pierre Kanzki, according to Núñez, who was accompanied by Dominican foreign affairs minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Haitian justice minister Michel Brunache, Dominican attorney general Radhamés Jiménez, and ambassadors Fritz Cineas (Haiti) and Rubén Silie (Dominican Republic). Returning to Haiti on April 13, Justice Minister Brunache announced that his department was investigating Kanzki; he didn't mention any criminal charges against either of the two men named in the alleged plot. (AlterPresse, AlterPresse, AlterPresse, Haiti, April 13)
The accusation that Gen. Goico was plotting against Martelly came a little less than two weeks after Dominican reporter Nuria Piera charged that two of Dominican senator Félix Bautista's construction firms, which have contracts for replacing buildings destroyed in Haiti's 2010 earthquake, had paid some $2.5 million to President Martelly over the past two years.
Some observers connect both of these accusations with the Dominican Republic's general elections on May 20, in which Danilo Medina, the candidate of Fernández's centrist Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), is in a tight race against former president Hipólito Mejía (2000-2004), the candidate of the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Sen. Bautista belongs to the PLD and is close to Fernández; the suggestion that he might be bribing Haitian officials comes on top of accusations of illegal enrichment in the past when he headed the Public Works Supervisory Office. Gen. Goico was in charge of security for Mejía during his administration and remains close to the former president. On April 13 Mejía dismissed the claim that Goico was plotting against Martelly as "a smokescreen to cover up Félix Bautista's scandals."
Meanwhile, Mejía was facing criticism for a reference he made to US president Barack Obama during a recent visit to New York. "If Obama, who came from Africa, was born there and is [US] president," he told a group of PRD supporters, "why can't one of you make it, you who are a more attractive mixture than Obama?" On April 13 the Dominican Senate, which the PLD controls, made an official apology to the US that was probably meant to add to Mejía's embarrassment over the incident. (EFE, April 12, via Univision; El Nuevo Diario, Dominican Republic, April 13; AlterPresse, April 13)
Opinion polls are split on the presidential race. A survey that the JZ Analytics firm released on April 3 gave Mejía a five-point advantage over Medina, while a poll the New Link Group published a few hours later showed Medina with 49.1% of the vote against 44% for Mejía. The day before, a poll by Asisa Research had Medina winning with 52.8% to 45%. (Prensa Latina, April 4) The uncertainty of the polls reflects widespread disaffection with both parties. Asked which candidate they'd vote for, respondents have given such answers as: "Elections don't matter to me," "The two parties are the same thing," "I don't vote," "For the devil," "For Jesus Christ," and "I don't believe in politicians." (Listín Diario, Santo Domingo, April 15)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 15.
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