Dominican Ex-President Defends Tax Increase as Protests Continue

Former Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez defended his government’s spending in a televised address to the nation as his successor struggles to quell violent protests over tax increases in the Caribbean nation.

In his first public address since the Aug. 16 inauguration of President Danilo Medina, Fernandez said a tax overhaul approved by Congress on Nov. 8 would generate additional revenue to fund education, health and security. The legislation increases the national sales tax to 18 percent from 16 percent and raises other levies in an attempt to trim the country’s fiscal deficit, which the government forecasts will climb to 8 percent of gross domestic product by year-end.

Protesters rallied in Santo Domingo last night to “demonstrate against impunity and corruption,” Maribel Hernandez of the Fiscal Justice Movement said in an e-mailed statement. A series of protests in the country last week left two people dead.

The Dominican Republic’s economy averaged annual economic growth of 7 percent under Fernandez. His wife, Margarita Cedeno, is Medina’s vice president.

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