President of the Dominican Republic Speaks; Shakira Not Present
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog’s Latin American Bureau Chief David Berke continued his tour of the World Leaders Forum, now not starring Shakira!
In World Leaders Forum event number two, Leonel Fernández, president of the Dominican Republic, and his first lady participated in a town hall-style colloquium this evening in Low. Fernández is currently serving his third term as the country’s leader. Prezbo started the evening, explaining to the audience that when Fernández, a former New York resident, was living on 95th and Broadway in the late sixties, Prezbo was living a block away on 96th.
With Bollinger having established the neighborly connection, the official introductory speaker, former Columbia professor Ronald M. Schneider, decided it was time to share the love (and the marketing potential). Schneider called Fernández “a truly political leader,” and the best current leader in the entire Western Hemisphere. Before allowing the apparently unparalleled President to speak, Schneider showed his homemade Fernández propaganda video, which ended by hawking Schneider’s book on Fernández.
The sycophantism and marketing complete, Fernández was set to speak, until moderator John R. Gagain Jr. felt the need to add more fluff to the evening. The moderator’s speech, during which he promised “provocative” questions ended with Gagain asking, in essence, why are you so much better than all the Republic’s past leaders? The follow-up went to Mrs. Fernández, with Gagain asking her what motivates her to do such good work, her husband or her own intrinsic wonderfulness.
When President Fernández was finally permitted to expound on substantive issues, his responses were engaging. With 85% of his country’s exports going to the US and over 10% of his nation’s GDP from remittances (mostly from US immigrants), Fernández had plenty to say about the American financial crisis. He also commented on relations with Haiti, the democratic process and social progress in his Republic. Sadly, the substantive time was cut short by the pre-game long-windedness.