Pompeo highlights importance of democracy in Dominican Republic: statement

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference on human rights at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the importance of democratic institutions in the Dominican Republic with President Danilo Medina, according to a statement released Thursday, ahead of the Caribbean nation’s 2020 election.

The Wednesday call between the two politicians comes amid widespread concern over Medina’s efforts to ramrod a constitutional amendment through Congress that would remove the hurdles to his third consecutive bid for presidency.

“The two discussed the importance of all political actors in the Dominican Republic preserving democratic institutions, and adherence to rule of law and the constitution, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 elections in the Dominican Republic,” a U.S. spokeswoman said in a statement.

Medina’s opponents have accused him of trying to grab power and have staged protests in front of the country’s congress over the last two weeks, prompting the unprecedented deployment of army troops in the area surrounding the building.

“President Medina told Secretary Pompeo that he had not had made a decision about the 2020 elections, and, whatever his decision, the process would surely conform with the constitution and laws,” according to a statement on the presidency’s website.

More demonstrations are expected Friday, after opposition leader Luis Abinader announced a protest to demand respect for the country’s constitution, which limits presidents to two terms in office.

The Dominican Republic is still reeling from several reported deaths of tourists in the past month that have raised concerns that tourism, its major source of income, could dwindle as a result.

Reporte de Jorge Pineda in Santo Domingo; writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Michael Perry