Head of State 2004-2008
Doctor Leonel Fernández (President of the Dominican Republic)
Dr. Leonel Fernández, currently the constitutional President of the Dominican Republic, was democratically elected with 53.84% of the votes for the period of 2008-2012. His election constituted the third presidential electoral triumph for the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana) of which Dr. Fernández is the President. An attorney, President Fernández, is also the Honorary President of the Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) and its sister organization in the United States, the Global Foundation Democracy and Development (GFDD).
Leonel Fernández was born on December 26, 1953 in Santo Domingo, to José Antonio Fernández Collado and Yolanda Reyna Romero. He is married to Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández and has three children: Nicole, Omar and Yolanda América.
As a child he moved with his family to New York, USA where he began elementary school and completed high school.
During his early university years, he joined the dynamic student movement of the 1970s. He soon came to occupy the position of Secretary General of the Student Association of Law and Political Science (Asociación de Estudiantes de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas) at the UASD. He actively participated in all of its activities from then onward.
In 1978, Fernández earned a PhD in Law, with honors, which resulted in him winning the “J. Humberto Doucudray” prize for being the top student in his class.
His PhD thesis, “The Crime of Public Opinion,” enriched the national bibliography on this complex and novel topic.
Other books written by Dr. Fernández include: The United States in the Caribbean: From the Cold War to the Reagan Plan and Roots of a Usurped Power. In addition, he has written for various national and international periodicals on subjects related to communications, culture, history and law.
His growing presence in intellectual circles, through conferences, journalistic work and debates combined with a progressive rise in his political party, the PLD. He became a member of the Central Committee in 1985 and, by 1990, had moved up the ranks to the party’s highest position by becoming a member of the Political Committee. Prior to that, he held the position of International Affairs and Press Secretary. He was also the director of the party’s magazine, Politics, Theory and Action.
An avid read, Dr. Fernández is recognized as one of the most articulate academics and professionals of his generation. He has warranted prestige as a result of his solid education in addition to his qualities as a speaker and his proficient language skills, both in English and French.
Dr. Fernández also worked as a professor at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and with the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO in Spanish) in the areas of Sociology of Communication, Press Law and International Relations.
Dr. Fernández’s political and personal trajectory encountered a decisive moment in 1994 when he was chosen by his party to run as Vice President alongside Professor Juan Bosch, presidential candidate for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD) in elections to be held on May 16, 1994. Later he was overwhelmingly chosen by his party members to be the presidential candidate for the 1996 elections which he won after an energetic campaign, thus becoming the first Head of State from the PLD and one of the youngest statesmen in Latin America.
President Fernández is a member of various councils and international organizations including: Círculo de Montevideo (since 1996); Council of Freely Elected Heads of State of the Carter Center (since 1997); Foreign Affairs in Spanish (since 2000); the Inter-American Dialogue (since 2001) and the Madrid Club (since 2001). In addition, since 2000, he has chaired the Club of U.S.-Caribbean Executives, organized and sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington (CSIS); and since 2002 has acted as president of the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic.
The President has been honored with a Doctor Honoris Causa by various renowned universities such as the Sorbonne in France and Harvard University, both in 1999; the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University in 2000; Seton Hall University of New Jersey in 2000; Santiago State University of Chile in 2002; New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology in 2004. In 2005, he received recognition from Florida’s Nova Southeastern University, University of Massachusetts in Boston and the State University of Panama.
In 2006, Taiwan’s University of Chinese Culture and South Korea’s University of Hankuk bestowed upon the President an honorary PhD in Political Science.
Achievements and Government Strategies
In the first 17 months of his third term in office, President Leonel Fernández consolidated his initiatives focused on the institutional strengthening of the country in the areas of internal structures as well as continuing to create global links that will ultimately fortify the country’s economy and development possibilities in all areas.
The Constitutional Reform project was submitted to the legislative chambers and debated for a year-and-a-half by a wide stratum of citizens that most represent Dominican society, among them political organizations, business people, syndicates and community and religious organizations.
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic stressed that during the year, economic activity responded to monetary stimulus as the GDP grew by around 3.5% which allowed for an approximately 10% increase in credit to the private sector as well as a rise in direct foreign investment which reached $2.066 million US dollars.
Since 2008, the President has followed up on strategies that seek to strengthen international relations and promote investment in the Dominican Republic as well as continue the implementation of large development projects.
In 2009 formal relations were established with South Africa, the Russian Federation and the Palestinian Authority, among others.
Fernández has also used his international leadership to become a mediator and resolver of crises. In his important role at the XX Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Rio Group held in Santo Domingo, he brought together Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia as well as using his respected influence to mediate the Honduran crisis. Through Fernández’s mediation, President-elect Rodrigo Lobo agreed to the departure of former President José Manuel Zelaya who was received as a guest in Santo Domingo.
In the area of infrastructure, the first ever Metro system was inaugurated in Santo Domingo in January 2009. One year later, more than 17.8 million residents of Santo Domingo are using the system at an average of 50,000 people per day.
As construction of the second Metro line continues, similar projects are underway involving the El Coral Highway from the La Romana Airport to the Punta Cana Airport; the Eastern Tourism Boulevard; the Pinalito Dam, which is a priority for the country’s agriculture and electrical energy production; the second Santo Domingo Metro line; the Duarte Corridor; the Eastern Highway; the Santo Domingo-Samaná Highway and the finishing of the City of Health, a network of hospitals in the Santo Domingo province. All of these projects form part of a general plan whose objective is to develop and improve the country’s tourism, commerce, farming and agriculture
This period is characterized by a series of economic measures including an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to regain fiscal discipline. The goal of the initiatives was to rescue the economy and restore confidence among the economic agents and Dominican citizens in general.
The exchange rate has remained between 33 and 35 pesos per one dollar. Likewise, Dr. Fernández’s government invested in infrastructure projects. In August of 2007, the amount was $42.957 million Dominican pesos, of which, 50% was invested in the construction of aqueducts, followed by road building, schools and housing. He began and concluded the first phase of the Santo Domingo Metro, a new transportation system used in developed countries. Steps to begin the second phase are underway.
The accumulated inflation rate dropped drastically from a soaring 96.28% in 2003 and 2004 to 14.71% in 2007.
Economic growth was 31% during the first three years of this period. In 2004, the year ended with -0.2%.
In terms of social improvements, the government of President Fernández created new jobs and reduced poverty by 15.8% between 2005 and 2006 which meant 716,000 people were lifted out of moderate and extreme poverty, according to data provided by the World Bank.
Advances in the process of modernization of public institutions that began under President Fernández’s first term continued.
1996 - 2000 Period
Upon taking office on August 16, 1996, Dr. Fernández launched a dynamic and aggressive foreign policy plan that pulled the Dominican Republic out of its traditional isolation and placed it in the very center of regional integration processes, market openings and globalization.
President Fernández actively participated in international forums such as the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Latin and Central American Summit of Heads of State and Government and the Summit of the Americas. He made official visits to sister countries, including the first official Dominican visit to Europe (France and Italy in 1999), Japan and Singapore (2000) and the first official visit, after the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, of a Dominican Head of State to neighboring Haiti.
The President reinforced Dominican ties with the countries of the Common Market of the Caribbean (CARICOM) and Central America as well as becoming part of the Rio Group. He also strengthened relations with the ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), of which he was chosen president in 2000. The Free Trade Agreement with CARICOM and Central American countries was conceived under his presidential mandate.
Domestically, President Fernández has reallocated public investment toward social spending projects, prioritizing education and public health. Convinced that the development of information technology and communication represents the most powerful engine for progress in a modern nation, Dr. Fernández dedicated special effort to providing all public high schools in the country with computer labs. He established a monthly merit award system carried out on a national scale and promoted reading and literature through competitions called Reading Olympics. President Fernández also established the International Book Fair of Santo Domingo.
On the economic front, the government of Leonel Fernández undertook job creation programs, providing financial support to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, building new industrial duty-free zones and implementing an active strategy for securing foreign capital through the Office for Investment Promotion, created by his initiative.
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