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Daily News - 12 January 1998

Johnny Ventura proposed for mayor of Santo Domingo
Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, president of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, gave the three aspirants to the candidacy for mayor of the Santo Domingo - Julio Maríñez, Miguel Vargas and Eligio Jáquez - one day to decide about sharing the position of vice mayor. The leader of the PRD, the largest opposition party, proposed that Miguel Vargas be the first vice mayor, as of 16 August 1998 for a one year term, Julio Maríñez follow for a two-year period, and then Eligio Jáquez for one year, until the four year term is completed. If this formula is not accepted by them, he will choose Johnny Ventura, the prestigious merengue orchestra director, deputy and lawyer as his running mate. Johnny Ventura, contrary to the above-mentioned candidates, is well known and a much stronger candidate. The PLD has announced Roberto Salcedo, a TV producer, as their candidate for mayor. The third leading party, the PRSC, has yet to announce their candidate.
Peña Gómez commented over the weekend that it would be a step down for Julio Maríñez, who still has a full year to go as secretary general of the Municipal League, to accept the position as vice mayor.
This league groups all municipalities of the nation, where Mariñez oversees a budget of RD$1,500 million.
While Peña Gómez originally said that he would delegate his responsibilities to the vice mayor after being elected, with the new proposal, he would remain at the helm for the four year period.
Peña Gómez has favored Miguel Vargas over Eligio Jáquez, candidate of Hipólito Mejía, and Julio Maríñez, candidate of Rafael Suberví  Bonilla. Miguel Vargas also had the support of secretary general of the party, Hatuey Decamps. Peña admitted that Julio Maríñez won the primary by 299 votes, but he said Maríñez had unfair advantage with the use of resources of the Municipal League and had the support of mayors of nearby communities that used their vehicles to transport voters to the voting stations.

Telecommunications scandal in Congress
As usual, the Dominican congress is in the limelight, not for important services to the nation but for the chaos and trafficking of influence that characterize that body. The scandal of late revolves around the telecommunications bill approved in a rush by the Chamber of Deputies, then sent to the Senate where it was also passed. This bill is different from the one prepared by the Presidency in agreement with the affected businesses. As reported in the press, a clause whereby radio and TV frequency freeze (Law 902) is lifted, was included. This has caused the president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro, to request in a letter to president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Peguero, the return of the bill to the Senate for revision. Senator Ramón Alburquerque who admits to including the clause, says that it was done with the approval of the senators that voted the bill without a public reading. Senator Aristy originally requested the bill be sent back based on what he called "an involuntary error" of Senator Albuquerque, but then changed his tone to accuse the senator of falsifying the bill, responding to interests. It is important to note that today, 27 January is the last day when for congressional sessions before Congress breaks until 27 February. President Fernández has said he will veto the bill if passed by Congress. The Executive Branch plans to submit the consensus bill, prepared with the assistance of the United Nations, when the ordinary legislature opens on 27 February.

Licey Tigers lead the playoffs
The Licey Tigers have won their last three games, including a sensational defeat of the Escogido Lions in Sunday's game 6-5, in the presence of 16,000 fans at the Quisqueya Ball Park of Santo Domingo. The Licey Tigers came from behind to defeat the Escogido Lions, that at the start of the game had scored 5 runs. Licey is now in first place for the playoffs, with six games won and two, lost. Aguilas follow with 5 wins and three losses, the Escogido and the Estrellas both have a 5-4 record.

Buying real estate is now easier for foreigners
President Leonel Fernández issued Decree 21-98 which eliminates the requirement for foreigners to obtain the permission of the President to purchase land over 2,000 square meters. The Decree was issued in the spirit of eliminating obstacles for foreign investment here. Now, foreigners will only be required to register the purchase with the Ministry of Interior and Police within 15 days after purchase. This decree benefits foreign residents as well as non-residents.

New bus routes for 26 January
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) announced that a re-organization of traffic along the 27 de Febrero Avenue will go into effect on Monday, 26 January, which coincides with the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, founder of the nation. Bus lanes have been set for a new fleet of 80 40-passenger buses. The government has purchased 600 of these buses to cover important city routes. The authorities estimate that the new measures will enable those using the corridor that crosses the city from east to west to double their average speed from the present 10 kms per hour to 20 kms per hour. Minibus unions operating on the route have said they do not agree with the measure.
As of 26 January, the 27 de Febrero will be off limits to minibuses, carritos publicos (taxis that carry passengers going in different directions), and motorcycle transport. The plan is for these smaller vehicles to serve as feeders to the large buses. There will be 98 bus stops along the way. Cargo operations of businesses along the avenue that do not have their own parking area will only be allowed to operate from 10 pm to 6 am. A new metropolitan transport police is in charge of enforcing the new regulations, and will be doing so with 90 AMET policemen assigned to enforce the route. The police force will be increased to 400 as new corridors are added. In addition to the 27 de Febrero corridor, other avenues that will be improved for fast transit are in the north-south direction, the Maximo Gómez, Abraham Lincoln, Nuñez de Caceres. In the east-west direction, Independencia and John F. Kennedy avenues are in the plans. The John F. Kennedy Av., north of central Santo Domingo, is next up for expansion works.

Suberví Bonilla meets with PRSC leader
Mayor of Santo Domingo Rafael Suberví Bonilla and Dr. Joaquín Balaguer met yesterday for 45 minutes at the residence of the former statesman. Referring to the meeting, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the PRD, said Suberví and Balaguer were friends and that the meeting was nothing out of the ordinary. Suberví had endorsed Julio Mariñez who preliminary vote counts of the PRD municipal primary Santo Domingo showed won the candidacy for mayor for the PRD. Dr. Peña Gómez felt that the margin had been too slim and chose to self-proclaim himself the candidate to mayor. Peña Gómez has said that due to his delicate health condition (he suffers from cancer of the pancreas), he is likely to delegate most of his responsibilities on the vice mayor.

Government favors open skies agreement
The nation may have to decide whether it is in the airline business or the tourism business. So far, the Ministry of Foreign Relations is voting in favor of the tourism business, and has stated its position in favor of the signing of an open sky aviation treaty with Central America and the United States. The Ministry feels it would contribute to increased competition which could result in a reduction in the cost of air fares. The open skies agreement would serve as an incentive for major foreign airlines to study flying on Dominican routes, thus increasing international competition. The present situation benefits major airlines already operating here, such as American Airlines that has a practical monopoly on the Miami-Santo Domingo route. Incipient Dominican airlines oppose the agreement saying it would place Dominican companies at a disadvantage because Dominican companies are banned from flying to the United States for the time being.
The open skies agreement would allow Central American airlines, mainly TACA of El Salvador, to fly to the Dominican Republic and pick up passengers to transport to third countries. Initial talks were held with aviation representatives from El Salvador, where no decision was reached but an agreement made to meet again. Talks continue this week, with discussions from 12 January through 17 January with representatives from Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. The talks are held as part of agreements reached during the visit of presidents of Central America to Santo Domingo for the Central American Summit held in November.

Spread increases between street and bank exchange rates
Street foreign exchange markets peaked on Friday at RD$14.65. Bank rates continue to be at the RD$13.90-95 level. Analysts attribute the increase in the bank and street rate differential to speculation, with Dominicans buying dollars in the belief that the peso is said to be overvalued. The decline in the dollar-peso relation is also attributed to: (1) the new restrictions on remittances to the D.R. from the United States, given new banking and remittance regulations imposed by the U.S. government to reduce money laundering. (2) Free zone industries that took collective vacations reducing their usual injection of funds to the local bank markets. (3) Christmas sales were unexpectedly good and importers are purchasing dollars to renew their inventories.

In defense of the new fuel terminal
Esso Standard Oil defended the installation of a fuel terminal 2.5 kilometers from the city of Puerto Plata. Esso Standard Oil and Texaco LatinAmerica that will together be building the terminal contracted by the Geochemical Engineering Inc. of Hollywood, Florida, to determine how to reduce the environmental impact of the construction of the terminal. The general manager of Esso, Mauricio Jiménez, in a visit to the Listín Diario that released the section of the study which focuses on risks to the environment, said that the study recommends the state of the art technologies that can be placed into effect to eliminate the risks stated in the report.

PRSC national assembly conclusions
Partido Reformista Social Cristiano politicians, Mario Read Vittini, Federico Antún Batlle, Johnny Jones and Amable Aristy Castro, said at the National Assembly of the PRSC held on Sunday in a city hotel that the party is strong enough to go alone to the municipal and congressional election of this May. The politicians rejected an alliance with the government party, PLD. Furthermore, Jacinto Peynado, former presidential candidate of the PRSC in the 1996 election, said that the party gained nothing from their PLD alliance that led the PLD to the presidency. Peynado has rejected the possibility of accepting a nomination to run for mayor of Santo Domingo.
Dr. Joaquin Balaguer said that PRSC candidates for municipal and congressional posts would be chosen by popular vote in the primaries to be held 17 January- 8 February. The Santo Domingo candidates will be chosen in the 8 February primary. "No one, not me nor any other member of the PRSC, can aspire to a post if not elected in an open primary," he said.
During the National Assembly, the party also approved to increase the members of the Central Executive Directorate to 250, up from 100.

San Pedro to get traumatology center
The Minister of Public Health, Dra. Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino, announced that the Spanish government will help equip the regional hospital of San Pedro de Macorís with a Traumatology unit. At present, the Darío Contreras Hospital of Santo Domingo is overburdened with the referral of cases from all around the country. The director of the new hospital will be a Dominican physician who practices abroad who has accepted to return to take over the new responsibility. Dr. Guzmán said that the Ministry has petitioned that the Spanish government donate 51 ambulances to be posted along the nation's major highways. The Minister of Public Health recommends the use of seat belts in cars and protective helmets for those riding motorcycles in order to reduce injuries in accidents.

Male unemployment at 9.5%
A recent employment study made by the Harvard Institute for International Research, commissioned by the Central Bank, ascertained that male unemployment averages 15.9% in the Dominican Republic. This is much less than the 20-30% range perception. The study showed that unemployment has declined from last year's estimate of 16.5%. The study shows 9.5% men to be unemployed against 28.7% for women. The statistics take into account the large number of Dominicans employed or self-employed in the so-called informal sector.

On garbage collection
The president of Dixi Sanitary Services, Jan Hendrickx, told the Listin Diario that while their contract for garbage collection was not transferred to the municipality, the government will reduce the payment of their service from monies transferred to the municipality every month. The government has a commitment to pay US$800,000 a month to Dixi, equivalent to some RD$11,200,000 a month. Dixi is responsible for garbage collection in 85% of the neighborhoods of Santo Domingo, and makes collections of about 1,500 to 1,700 tons of refuse per day. Hendrickx said the government is in arrears with RD$25 million.

Tax collections up 32.5% in 1997
Government income was up 32.5% last year. In 1997, the government tax collection departments received RD$33,962.2 million, up from RD$25,620.9 million in 1996. The government planning department had estimated collections to be above RD$34,000 million.

Jayson transferred to military hospital
Jayson Gonzalez, the performer of the popular music group Los Ilegales who suffers from paralysis after a car accident over the holidays, was transferred to the Hospital Central de las Fuerzas Armadas, where he was interned in the intensive care unit. Press reports indicate that his treatment at the Universidad Central del Este hospital cost over RD$500,000. Los Ilegales is a favorite to win the Casandra this year, for the best artistic performance.

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