Antonio Guzman, a 67-year-old cattle farmer, exporter and longtime member of the political opposition, was inaugurated yesterday as president in the first peaceful transfer power between constitutionally elected governments heer in 100 years.
While thousands cheered outside the Congressional Palace, Guzman promised in his inaugural speech to bring "a true institutionality" to Dominican democracy in a "climate of national agreement." Later he replaced most of the high-level military command held responsible for an attempt to overthrow the results of the general elections last May.
Guzman was bolstered by the presence of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and a large U.S. delegation, clearly intended by both Guzman and the Carter administration, as a message of support against any sore losers in the vrbulent lacal political scene.
In the midst of a private lunch with Vance and other U.S. officials at the presidential palace barely four hours after the inaugural ceremony, Guzman broke off briefly to announce and quickly swear in a new defense secretary and new heads of the navy and air force. The army commander, Gen. Enrique Perez y Perez, apparently will remain in his post.
The May attempt to retain the presidency for 12-year incumbent Joaquin Balager failed following strong domestic reaction and pressure from the United States, Veezuela and other government to respect Guzman's electroral victory over Balaguer.
While Guzman generally kept quiet during the past three months while Balaguer's Reformist Party made continued of power, the new president sharply critized Balaguer yesterday.
During the past several months, Guzman told the packed congressional assembly room, "the people have had an opportunity to witness how the government party conducted itself without scruples." He accused the Balaguer government of corruption and neglect and charged that "in recent years we have lived in a serious moral and institutional crisis."
While Balaguer sat expressionless next to his successor during the ceremony.Guzman described what he termed a neglect of the state industries that provide most of the island republic's income and critized a system of political and military corruption long admitted to exist by Balaguer but for which he refused to take personal responsibility.
Although Guzman may make inroads into corruption through the appointment of a new Cabinet and new military commanders he is likely to have substantial difficulties getting the country back on its feet economically.
Because of depressed prices for sugar, nickel and increasingly, coffee - the country's main exports - Guzman take office with $1 billion debt and a balance of payments deficit nearly half as large.
Inflation last year topped 16 percent and unemployment in some areas exceeds 40 percent.
While officials from Guzman's Dominican Revolutionary Party said they have received offers of economic help from Venezuela and West Germany, among others, they have turned their most expectant face, in terms of both economic and political security, toward the United States.
Guzman's party and the United States are seemingly strange bedfellows for several reasons. For 12 years, since the end of a bloody civil war here and the pullout of occupying American troops, the United States was one of Balaguer's strongest supporters as he won reelection amidst charges of harassment and possible fraud.
U.S. economic and political dominance continued as Balaguer proved both a loyal friend and a staunch and untroublesome ally.
Although the Carter administration indicated its willingness to continue with Balaguer, it turned decisively against him during the electoral conflict last May when the military briefly halted the vote count. Since then, under a banner of promotion of Latin American democracy and political freedom, it has advised and given substantial moral support to Guzman and his party.
That support has flowed unabated despite some of the Revolutionary Party's more militantly socialist positions and denuncations of big power interventionism.
In a pre-inaugural "act of political solidarity" held by the party Tuesday, delegates of socialist and social democratic parties from throughout Europe, Latin America and even from Japan vowed to support the new government and described its victory as one that will have repercussions "far beyond the borders of the Dominican republic."
Guzman, however, has come across as moderate compared to other more vocal members of his party. While he has outlined increased restrictions for multinational companies intending to come here in the future, he has promised to respect existing contracts. He has also vowed to continue Balaguer's conservative foreign policy.
Most noticeably, Guzman has gone out of his way to publicize his close relationship with the United States. While it is still unclear whether the Carter government would be willing to offer military support to Guzman should domestic political and military dissidents attempt to oust him, the past week has been filled with unsubtle hints of exactly that.
Gen. Dennis McAuliffe, commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, formed part of the delegation to the inauguration and held his own meeting with Guzman Tuesday. That meeting took diplomatic precedence even over the normal protocol considerations given Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, who headed the delegation until Vance arrived yesterday for a one-day stop.
So far, however, U.S. support has been primarily symbolic. With a trimmed foreign aid bill still moving through Congress, and with requests for increased assistance aboard far outweighing probable resources, the United States is unlikely to provide immediate help for the pressing economic problems that may determine the success or failure of the Guzman government. CAPTION:
Picture, Dominican President Antonio Guzman, takes oath of office from National Assembly chief Juan Peralta Perez, as ex-president Joaquin Balaguer applauds, UPI