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Daily News - 06 January 1998

Inespre is focus of new government scandal
The latest government scandal affects the Instituto de Estabilización de Precios (Inespre), a government institution that is expected to disappear with the opening of Dominican markets. Property of the institution was reportedly leased to private businesses for ridiculous amounts during the Balaguer government. The Listin Diario has been carrying the story. The beneficiaries of the leases include the Asociacion de Productores de Leche which produce Parmalat milk at an Inespre milk processing plant, leased for RD$100 a month; the Tokio Motors import company, which leased a 75,000+ lot for RD$500 a month; the Novabarca del Caribe fish processing company, which leased an equipped industrial plant for US$10,000 a month; among others. Furthermore, the press has reported that the Fernández government received the institution with debts of over RD$300 million. The present director of Inespre said contracts are being revised and some property may be recovered.

PRD crisis over today?
Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, is optimistic today he will be able to announce a solution to the internal political impasse that has affected the organization, following the tight finish of the primary to elect the party's candidate for mayor of Santo Domingo in the May 1998 election. According to press reports, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez has proposed a formula whereby present mayor of Santo Domingo, Rafael Suberví, would be the senatorial candidate for Santo Domingo, Milagros Ortíz Bosch (who received the votes in the primary to win the senatorial position) would be the candidate for mayor, and Miguel Vargas and Julio Mariñez would become deputy candidates, while Eligio Jaquez would be the candidate for the secretary general of the Dominican Municipal League. Milagros Ortíz Bosch has publicly said she is not interested in the nomination for the mayor of Santo Domingo.
The Listin Diario reported that the leading politician of the PRD, who has lost much of his influence because of his failing health, has given an ultimatum today to the three contenders for mayor (Julio Mariñez, Miguel Vargas and Eligio Jaquez) for the solution to the crisis.
The crisis has postponed the continuation of the primaries of the party in several provinces.
Peggy Cabral de Peña Gómez, Peña Gómez's wife, has said she would accept the candidacy as mayor of Santo Domingo or to the presidency of the Republic in year 2000, if this were required of her.

Millionaire sums to expand the 27 de Febrero
The government may have to invest RD$700 million to pay owners of properties along the 27 de Febrero Avenue in order to continue to expand that avenue, which crosses the city east-west. The expansion of the six-lane avenue to eight-lanes will affect 434 buildings along the way, especially in the Ozama and Las Americas neighborhoods. The expansion is part of recommendations for the improvement of transport in the city of Santo Domingo contained within the Sercitec-Delcan study of transport in Santo Domingo. The study also recommends the construction of overpasses where the 27 de Febrero intersects the Lincoln, Churchill, Gomez and Tiradentes avenues. Also contemplated is the construction of a bridge parallel to the Duarte Bridge. In a second phase, a metro line would be constructed along the avenue.

Speculation said to affect currency market
Luis Manuel Piantini, vice governor of the Central Bank, said that the government will not devaluate the local currency. Central Bank authorities say speculation has led the peso to reach RD$14.60 on the streets, after months of stability in the free market at a level of around RD$14.35 maximum. Average dollar selling price on the street market was up to RD$14.24 last week.

Torrential rains affect Northwest
Torrential rains over Thursday, 1 January, and Friday, 2 January, caused floods in the northwest, affecting crops and housing. Reports are that over 200 families have lost their homes, and a 12-year old boy died in a landslide, when a wall of his dwelling caved in. The Santiago-Sosua highway was affected by landslides in several areas of the highway, revealing construction defects. Preliminary reports estimate losses to agriculture at RD$1,000 million. On the positive side, it is expected that the hydroelectric power plants will be able to increase their contribution to the electricity network.

D.R. wants a seat in the Security Council
For the first time, the Dominican Republic is vying to represent Latin America and the Caribbean in the Security Council of the United Nations for the year 2002-2003, as per a note of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The request is part of the new efforts of the Fernández administration to increase the presence of the Dominican Republic in the international community after years of isolation.

Deceased ball player appointed MVP
The late José Oliva was chosen Most Valuable Player of the Dominican baseball league for the 1997-98 tournament. Oliva died from multiple injuries last December when his car overturned along the San Cristóbal highway. At the time of his death he led the league in runs batted in (40) and homeruns (eight). His teammate Julio Franco was chosen the best batter (.436 at bat), Efrain Valdez, the most valuable pitcher (8-2, 2.38), and Manuel Aybar, the best pitcher (4-1 and 1.96). The prizes are sponsored by Shell Company.

Electricity collections to pass to private hands
Temístocles Montás, general administrator of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the state electricity utility, said that the CDE will begin the process of passing to a private company the collection of electricity bills. The CDE at present only collects 50% of the energy supplied. A tender will be called this month.

1997 was a good year for Dominican free zones.
The president of the Association of Dominican Free Zones, Luis Manuel Pellerano, said that last year was a very good year for the export-oriented assembly industries in the country. He explained that 67 new companies began operation. Of these 26 produced apparel, four assembled leather goods and footwear, 15 produced cigars, nine sold services, two assembled jewelry. As of the year's end, there were 446 industrial free zone companies in operation in Dominican free zones. He said that in 1997, seven new industrial parks opened. Of these, five are located in the north of the country, one in the southwest and another in the East. Some 17,535 new employment opportunities were created in the free zones, including total jobs, at an all-time high of 182,174. He said exports reached US$2,300 million, for an increase of US$400 million over 1996, reflecting the pro-active response of the sector to problems originally confronted when the country was not able to obtain parity conditions similar to those benefitting Mexico as a signatary of the the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Occidental Hotel chain plans for 1998
Occidental Hotel chain announced the construction of eight Flamenco hotels all around the world, following the successful operation of the Flamenco Playa Dorada of Puerto Plata along the North Coast. The Spanish-Dominican hotel chain is building the Occidental Flamenco in Bavaro Beach, along the east coast of the Dominican Republic. It will have 850 rooms. The chain also announced the expansion of the Playa Real, of Juan Dolio, with the addition of 100 new rooms. The Occidental Embajador, the city hotel of the chain, will be remodeled. For the remodeling, the hotel will close for three months.

CFI wants to privatize state free zones
Talks are being held between the Interamerican Development Bank and the Corporación de Fomento Industrial (CFI), which operates several industrial free zones, to privatize these. Jose Tomas Perez, director of the CFI told the Listin Diario that the institution has requested the assistance of the IDB to this end. The CFI would like to use the monies obtained to build other large industrial projects, to make loans to small and medium sized industries, finance exports, as well as to assist the free zone industries to renew their production processes.

Aguilas ahead in tournament
The Aguilas Cibaeñas are ahead in the semi-finals of the Dominican Winter Baseball League. The Aguilas defeated the Leones del Escogido which had gotten off to a good start. The Aguilas have won both of their matches, the Escogido has a record of 3-2, the Licey has a 3-2 record, and the Estrellas have lost all their commitments. Two games were postponed due to heavy rains over the past weekend.

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