SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CMC) – Three months after winning the general election in a close vote, Danilo Medina, of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was sworn in as president of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.
With pledges to reduce poverty and improve the country’s education system Medina also promised to expand infrastructure projects from the previous administration, including a subway system, hospitals and roads.
The country’s high cost of living, unemployment, corruption and a soaring crime rate were among the top issues in the election. Medina has promised to raise the country’s standard of living.
“I launch an appeal to all sectors to come together and form a pact to lift one and a half million Dominicans out of poverty over the next four years,” Medina said at his swearing-in ceremony .
“I came here not driven by a desire for power but by my unwavering commitment to serve my people.”
The 60-year-old economist won 51 percent of the vote on May 20, beating former President Hipolito Mejia.
The previous President Leonel Fernandez was constitutionally banned from seeking a third term .
In a move to show political continuity, Medina’s vice president is Leonel Fernandez’s wife, former first lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez.
The Dominican Republic which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, faces high unemployment and rising crime.
The Caribbean nation of roughly 10 million depends heavily on tourism, remittances from the more than 300,000 Dominicans living overseas and cheap oil from Venezuela to the tune of 50,000 barrels a day.
Inflation passed seven percent in 2011, with unemployment at 14.6 percent. Thirty percent of the country’s people living in poverty.
In his speech, Medina announced the creation of a ministry of energy and mines. He also said basic pay would be raised and promised better training for police.
Dignitaries attending the swearing-in event included the presidents of Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama and Suriname.
The vice-presidents of Taiwan and Cuba also attended the event, along with Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno and Felipe de Borbon, heir apparent to the Spanish throne.
After the ceremony, Medina appointed his new cabinet ministers. Several of them were swore into office, including Economy Minister Temistocles Montas and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso.