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Daily News - 13 January 1998

New record of travelers
A record number of travelers entered the Dominican Republic through Las Americas International Airport in 1997. Passengers arriving by way of the Santo Domingo airport reached 1,206,877, 10% more than those arriving in 1996, or 113,457 more than last year.
The governor of the airport, José Guillermo Sued, attributed the increase in the efforts of the Fernández government to provide better services to travelers, the climate of peace and tranquillity of the nation, and the excellent work carried out by Minister of Tourism Félix Jiménez, together with the hotel sector and private investors. The airport totals reflect a large number of tourists that are coming to Santo Domingo to take a Caribbean cruise from here.
This December a new record in arrivals was also established. In December, the number of arrivals was 142,824, a 20.1% increment over the 118,900 that arrived in 1996. Airport officials had forecast a record month, and expected 140,000 arrivals. The figure includes 80,605 Dominicans and 62,219 foreigners. From 17 to 23 of December, the average number of daily arrivals was 6,000, reaching a peak on 22 December with 7,657 arrivals.
American Airlines transported the most travelers in December with 57,402, followed by Copa with 8,146; American Eagle with 7,201; Pan Am, 6,480; Air France, 6,416; Air Atlantic, 6,345; TWA, 5,561; Iberia, 5,558; Continental, 4,907; Aeropostal, 4,539; ALM, 2,940; Air Europa Dominicana, 2,503; Condor, 2,357; Lacsa, 2,172; Alitalia, 1,235; LTU, 1,089; Martinair, 1,064; Cubana, 697; Aces, 580; and Guadeloupe Air, 516 passengers.
The statistical report of the airport indicates that stats for 1997 fell short of those of 1996 only in January and February. Month by month statistics were as follows compared with the 1996 stats in parenthesis:
January 88,345 (93,300)
February 82,717 (91,279)
March 101,841 (85,652)
April 84,580 (84,327)
May 88,990 (74,415)
June 101,771 (89,011)
July 126,427 (119,630)
August 116,537 (105,678)
September 89,143 (75,605)
October 87,854 (75,757)
November 95,848 (83,614)
December 142,824 (83,614)

Telecommunications bill passed
The National Congress passed a telecommunications bill that all along was surrounded by strange circumstances. Twenty-five minutes was all the Chamber of Deputies needed to convert into law the telecommunications bill that had been studied in a rush by the Chamber of Deputies, sent to the Senate where it was modified, and then subject to the controversy of clauses being modified without the knowledge of the president of the Senate who accused Senator Ramón Alburquerque of falsifying the bill. The senator denied the accusation saying that everything was done openly. The Executive Branch had announced intention of vetoing the bill, and the judicial consultant of the Presidency said an investigation into the irregular handling of the bill may be requested from the Supreme Court. The President has three days to veto the bill. If he does so, it returns to the Chamber of Deputies that would then need 2/3 of the deputies to pass it. The Executive Branch has said it will submit a different bill, which was written with the support of the United Nations, in the legislature starting 27 February.
The bill received the support of the majority of PRD-Acuerdo de Santo Domingo congressmen, and met with the opposition of the PLD senators and a majority of Reformista legislators that did not attend the session. Of 67 deputies present, 62 voted in favor, and 5 voted against.

Johnny Ventura chosen vice mayor for Santo Domingo
Johnny Ventura, a legend in the show business world of the D.R. and former congressman, was chosen candidate for vice mayor for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano. Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez announced the decision at midnight of yesterday after the contending pre-candidates, Julio Maríñez, Eligio Jáquez and Miguel Vargas could not reach an agreement on who would be the first vice mayor under the formula proposed by the leader of the PRD yesterday. Peña Gómez will travel today to New York to submit to his routine medical check up for his cancer of the pancreas at the Sloane Kettering Memorial Cancer Center. The leader of the PRD self-proclaimed himself mayor after not accepting the tight results of the PRD primary, and personally chose Ventura, who is considered a stronger candidate than the three contenders who are little known by the general population.

Government okayed Puerto Plata fuel terminal
The Consejo Técnico Administrativo para la Proteccién Costero- Marina, the government commission in charge of the environmental protection of Dominican coasts, said that it evaluated the request for installation of a fuel terminal by Esso Standard Oil and Texaco Latin America in Puerto Plata and determined that preventive measures and controls could be implemented to avoid damages to the environment. The terminal is contested by tourism developments in the area of influence of the project.

Car rental scandal at Agriculture Bank
The Listin Diario dedicated a front page story to the case of Reformista congressman, Adriano Sánchez Roa, who was the general manager of the government agriculture bank, the Banco Agrícola. The newspaper reports that the Attorney General has not given course to three claims for irregularities in office that have been deposited. One of the claims, deposited 6 August of last year, questions the renting by the Banco Agrícola of 24 vehicles for which more than RD$10 million were paid. One rental company, that is not listed in the phone book as per its name Atlas Rent Car, was benefitted with the rental of 13 vehicles for which RD$6 million were paid. Of the 55 checks made out in the name of Atlas, 33 were cashed by third parties, according to the news story.

Major campaign to eliminate illiteracy
The Ministry of Education began a Jornada Nacional de Alfabetización which seeks to reduce to a minimum the number of persons who do not know how to read and write, eliminating illiteracy by the year 2000. Minister of Education Ligia Amada Melo de Cardona said that the effort will benefit over a million Dominicans. The Dominican Association of Professors has endorsed the effort. The Ministry has plans this year to teach to read and write nearly half a million of the population, most of which are adults.

Central Bank to act to stabilize exchange rate
The Central Bank announced it would inject US$20 million into the foreign exchange market in moments when the spread between the bank rate and the street market rates has increased 60 points. The commercial bank rate is at RD$14, and the street market rate has reached RD$14.65.

New all-time high bonus for baseball recruit
Sixteen-year old Ricardo Arámboles (6 feet 4 inches tall, 195 lbs.) could become the baseball recruit to receive the highest bonus for joining U.S. professional baseball. Arámboles, a right-handed pitcher, leaves tomorrow for Florida to participate in the Major League draft. One of his coaches told the Listin Diario that he could sign for US$5 million dollars, which would be a new record for Major League baseball. He is represented by Rob Plummer, who has forecast Arámboles could become the next Pedro Martínez, the Dominican pitcher who is today the best paid baseball player in the Major Leagues. Arámboles was born in Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo on 4 December 1981. He had originally been signed for a US$5,000 bonus by the Florida Marlins, but Plummer determined the contract was illegal because Arámboles was only 14 at the time.

Licey Tigers lead the playoffs
The Licey Tigers didn't give the Aguilas Cibaeñas a chance. The Licey defeated the 1996-1997 Dominican and Caribbean league champs 10-1 in a game held in the home stadium of the Aguilas in Santiago. The Licey Tigers continue to lead the playoffs, having won five consecutive games, with a record of 7-2, two games ahead of the Aguilas, who are in second place with 5-4. The Escogido Lions and the Estrellas Orientales have records of 3-6.

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