November 24, 2000

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 life),"
                  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 the tear
                  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 no
                  reports of serious injuries.

                  Fernandez was protesting against the arrests Thursday night of two members of
                  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
                  Employment Program.

                  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 all
                  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 State
                  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 municipal
                  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.