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Dominican Govt. Fires 70,000

October 26, 2000

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ President Hipolito Mejia has fired more than 70,000 government workers since taking office two months ago in order to make room on the public payroll for his supporters.

Mejia, who took office Aug. 16, promised during his campaign to find jobs for members of his Revolutionary Party. He said they had been denied government positions in the past because of their political affiliation.

After the May elections _ in which the opposition Liberation Party suffered a crushing defeat _ Mejia’s supporters crowded the reception hall of the National Palace, pleading for jobs.

``It’s impossible to employ everyone who voted for the Revolutionary Party, but we have the right to put Revolutionary Party members in positions that are now occupied by Liberation Party members,″ said Rafael Subervi Bonilla, secretary of the interior and party secretary-general.

Some 1.5 million people voted for Mejia and the government currently has 340,000 jobs _ by far the largest employer in this Caribbean nation of 8 million people.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has a 14 percent unemployment rate and an average per capita income of $2,000 a year.

Among those fired was Diomedes Cruz, a Liberation Party member who worked as a driving license examiner until Aug. 25, when he received his paycheck and notice that it would be his last.

``They did the same with almost everyone who worked in my department,″ said Cruz, 36, who now works as a taxi driver.

About 50,000 of the 70,000 who lost their jobs were hired during the four-year administration of former President Leonel Fernandez, said Jose Tomas Perez, party secretary-general of the Liberation Party.

``They’ve been so unfair, they’ve even fired Revolutionary Party members hired by us,″ Perez said.

Perez charged that Mejia’s administration had flouted the law, which prohibits indiscriminate firing. The Liberation Party is threatening to file a case with the International Labor Organization.

Fernandez created government jobs for his supporters, too, but not by mass firings.

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