Dominican ex-president Fernandez injured at protest of aides' arrest
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- Police threw tear gas at
former President Leonel Fernandez and a crowd of supporters Friday, injuring
Fernandez as he was to demand that authorities arrest him as a protest against
the new government.
"Ex-President Leonel Fernandez has been the victim of an attempt (on his
said Isabel Bonilla, a legislator and spokeswoman for Fernandez's Dominican
Liberation Party. "This is not how you do democracy."
Fernandez went to a clinic, complaining of breathing problems caused by
gas, officials said. He was in stable condition and was expected to stay in the
clinic for the rest of the day rather than return to the Supreme Court, where the
melee broke out.
Police also fired warning shots above the crowd's head, but there were
reports of serious injuries.
Fernandez was protesting against the arrests Thursday night of two members
his administration on corruption charges. Fernandez had said in a written
statement that he would ask Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa, whose office is
at the courthouse, to arrest him even though he does not face any charges.
Up to 400 cheering supporters greeted Fernandez around noon Friday at the
Supreme Court. He was slowly making his way through when police and
soldiers set off tear gas to disperse the crowd and fired shots above their heads.
Although the crowd was large and boisterous, they did not appear to be violent.
There were no arrests.
"This is an abuse of the state, a state that doesn't respect the people
nor our most
decent citizens," said Miguel Fernandez, one of the supporters in the crowd, who
is not related to the former president.
Government officials were not immediately commenting, but a statement was
expected later Friday. President Hipolito Mejia succeeded Fernandez in August as
leader of the Caribbean nation of 8 million.
Police on Thursday night detained former Public Works Secretary Diandino
Pena, and former Comptroller Haivanjoe Ng Cortinas on allegations of misuse of
1.5 billion pesos ($90 million) meant for a program known as the Provisional
The program gave residents of needy neighborhoods cash but not necessarily
jobs, as a way to avoid protests. The administration of Mejia, who succeeded
Fernandez in August, now questions to whom the money was given.
Pena, who is Fernandez's neighbor, was one of the former president's closest
collaborators, also acting as his administrative secretary during his four-year
Bello said Friday's incident would not discourage prosecutors from continuing
with the case.
"We are disposed to assume the historic consequences to submit to justice
those who have robbed money from the state, even if that comes with a personal
physical risk," Bello said.
The new administration also has been investigating former Secretary of
Luis Ynchausti and former supervisor of state affairs Felix Bautista, both of
Fernandez's administration, on allegations they inflated the cost of a highway
project by more than 50 million pesos ($3 million).
Fernandez in his written statement Friday had attacked Mejia's Dominican
Revolutionary Party as "a new despotic power" that intends to break up his
Dominican Liberation Party, now the opposition.
"The (Revolutionary Party) has control of the executive, legislative and
branches -- eliminating the (Liberation Party) would give them absolute power in
the country," Fernandez said in his statement. "The arbitrary and despotic
manner in which the administration is run constitutes a principal threat to the
survival of democracy."
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.