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By Ezequiel Abiu Lopez

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Mon. Aug 17, 2020 (Reuters) – The Dominican Republic’s new president, Luis Abinader, warned as he took office on Sunday that the country faced stiff challenges from a flagging economy and a coronavirus pandemic that has caused more than 1,450 deaths in the small Caribbean nation.

“Recovery will not come quickly or easily,” the 53-year-old economist said in his first speech to Congress, stressing the damage wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic on tourism, the country’s main economic driver, and exports.

He also lamented that public debt had doubled over the past decade, and that the fiscal deficit had reached historic levels.

“Never has any government faced such a combination of challenges and threats,” he said at the speech in front of lawmakers and guests including the president of neighboring Haiti, Jovenel Moise, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Abinader won the presidential election last month as an opposition candidate, ending 16 years of rule by the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

Abinader’s Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) also won 18 of 32 Senate seats, and 92 of 190 seats in the lower house of Congress. (Reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Peter Cooney)

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