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The Dominican Republic has been suffering an electricity shortage that now threatens, implied second-term President Leonel Fernandez (see NotiCen, 2004-05-20), to bring his government down. Blackouts have become a way of life in the country, so much so that the problem was incorporated into Fernandez's inauguration speech last Aug. 16, when he spoke of seeking private bank loans to shore up the failing power-generating and distribution system. The Superintendencia de Electricidad reported in September that the system produces less than half the country's demand. Several plants were out of service for lack of fuel, while others functioned at a fraction of capacity.Blackouts of as long as 20 consecutive hours were experienced as aging machinery labored to crank out 600 megawatts against a demand of 1,635 MW per hour. A presidential spokesperson called it a "critical situation," mentioning a US-owned plant, AES, which usually supplies 300 MW, but has reduced its output to 70 MW. AES has since sold off half its ownership in the Empresa Distribuidora del Este (Edeeste). Small businesses have failed, and unemployment has increased as factories and other work sites that do not have their own generators have closed. The grid was also severely damaged by Hurricane Jeanne, which left many population centers without power.