Dominican Republic Becomes Stage For New York Political Campaign

From Hoy

February 21, 2002

The Dominican Republic has been transformed into a grand stage for the election campaigns of New York politicians. Ever since the mayoral election last November, politicians have begun to value their Caribbean constituents.

Analysis published by the local newspaper, El Caribe, tried to reveal the true nature of the visits to the Dominican Republic by Governor George Pataki and Democratic hopeful Andrew Cuomo.

The massive participation of Latinos, including Dominicans, in the most recent city elections, which contributed to Bloomberg's victory, left no doubt about their flexibility in terms of electoral preferences. A historically Democratic bloc, the Latino constituency has become primarily Republican. This has prompted U.S. politicians to turn their eyes toward the Dominican Republic in order to garner support among Dominican-Americans.

According to the last census, 652,347 Dominicans live in New York legally. The current governor, Republican George Pataki, as well as Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who may run against Pataki in the general election this November, "invaded" the country recently in a public attempt to show their solidarity with the families of the victims of American Airlines Flight 587. The November 12 crash claimed 265 victims, 175 of whom were Dominican.

Pataki, in his role as governor and as a candidate for re-election to a third consecutive term, sped through an intense schedule during his 20-hour stay in the Caribbean country. His agenda included meetings with representatives of the business, institutional, and governmental sectors, family members of the victims of the airline tragedy, and the Dominican masses. For this last task Pataki spent several hours in the barrio of Cristo Rey. Children, teenagers and adults, led by a priest, paraded and applauded for the American politician.

At almost the same time Pataki was capping off his trip with a lunch with business representatives and other national movers and shakers at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell, his political adversary landed in the Dominican Republic. Andrew Cuomo, son of three-time New York governor Mario Cuomo, whom Pataki succeeded in 1994, arrived shortly after noon.

In the 1994 election, the Democrats lost the battle in the densely populated metropolis of New York City, which has a large Latino population. The party has been unable to recover from that loss, and now wishes to reclaim the governor's mansion with the help of the son of the defeated Governor Cuomo.

George Pataki was reelected in 1998. Now in his bid for a third term, it is obvious that he does not want to lose the support that Dominicans have recently given to Republicans. His attention is focused on keeping the important and potentially decisive Dominican vote.

Andrew Cuomo has an advantage in that he is remembered for visiting the country for the first time in 1998, as the New York Secretary of Housing, in the aftermath of Hurricane George. On that trip, he promised the country a $40 million loan for reconstruction efforts. However, only $500,000 was disbursed. During yesterday's visit, Cuomo's second, he held meetings with President Hipolito Mejia and promised to lobby for the Caribbean country to be included in a U.S. free trade agreement with Central America.

Translated from Spanish by Armando Reyes

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