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EFE News Service

Questions Of Balaguer's Nationality, Offspring Arise After Death

By Marta Florian

August 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Santo Domingo -His dual nationality and rumors about the six or seven children he allegedly fathered have raised questions about the mysterious private life of former Dominican President Joaquin Balaguer, who passed away earlier this month.

Balaguer, who dominated Dominican politics for more than a generation, died July 14 from heart failure at a Santo Domingo clinic. He was 96.

According to a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) document published in a local paper, the former president became a U.S. citizen in 1916.

His dual citizenship, which is prohibited for a president by the Dominican constitution, was likely obtained for him by his father, Joaquin Balaguer Lespier, who was born in Puerto Rico.

But the former president's nephew, Joaquin Ricardo, told EFE Friday that Balaguer lost his U.S. citizenship when he began serving in Dominican government posts at the end of the 1930s.

Another local paper reported that Balaguer was not a U.S. citizen, but merely had obtained a residency card in 1960, while living as an exile in New York.

Speculation has also arisen over his alleged paternity of a number of children.

Former Dominican prosecutor Alexis Joaquin Castillo, who read a eulogy at the former president's funeral, said he will talk about his family ties to Balaguer in several days.

Castillo, who addressed the founder and leader of the Reformist Social Christian Party (PRSC) as "father" in his remarks at the funeral, has for years been believed to be Balaguer's only son.

Balaguer's collaborators and some Dominican writers have said, however, that the former president - who was also a prolific author, poet and composer - had six or seven children.

"I never thought that the former president had immediate family," nephew Ricardo told EFE, though adding, "I can't deny or confirm it because the only person who could do so was Balaguer."

"We can't go on rumors, we must wait," he said.

Ramon Lorenzo Perello, who worked with Balaguer for many years, said he knew two of the former president's children: Castillo and a woman he identified as Mercedes Antonia de los Santos Solis.

PRSC leader Mario Rid Vittini said Balaguer had a daughter with a woman who lives in the southwestern Dominican province of Elias Pina.

Meanwhile, Jesus Perez, a Puerto Rican, told a Dominican newspaper that he and sister Gloria Nilsa are the former president's children, although they never met him.

Perez, who over a month ago received permission from a Florida judge to change his name to Joaquin Jesus Balaguer, said he traveled to the Dominican Republic on several occasions to speak with the former president, but was never allowed to see him.

Perez, 55, said his mother, Juana Coiscou, worked as a maid at the home of one of Balaguer's aunts in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Balaguer never married, but legally adopted his nephew Joaquin Balaguer.

The former president dedicated several poems to women and was rumored to have many lovers.

One of his most popular poems is titled "Mujeres de mi vida" ("Women of my Life"), in which he expresses his love for a number of women.

Another mystery surrounding Balaguer has to do with his fortune and its whereabouts. Although he donated his three homes prior to his death, antique furniture, valuable works of art, other homes and scores of books remain in limbo.

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