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Daily News - 23 January 1998

News on the DR One daily news service
Readers, please note that the DR One daily will not be published on Monday, 26 January, a national holiday honoring the founder of the nation, Juan Pablo Duarte. Important news over this period will be compiled for the Tuesday, 27 January, report.

15 new cigar factories for 1998
The National Free Zone Council (CNZF) forecasts that this year 15 new tobacco processing plants will be installed in the Dominican Republic. To respond to the boom in the demand for cigars in the United States and Europe, in 1997 some 14 companies were established. The cigar sales boom is also spurring the opening of new kinds of industries, such as that of the wooden boxes in which cigars are sold. Alberto Garcia, president of the Federación Nacional de Productores de Tabaco, believes the boom will continue for another 10 years. Gabriel Castro, executive director of the CNZF forecast that exports of cigars will be above US$200 million in 1998. Some 12,286 Dominicans are employed in cigar-related jobs in Dominican free zone industries, according to stats of the CNZF. There are at present 22 cigar industries in free zones. Most of the companies are located in Santiago de los Caballeros, others are in the Moca, La Romana and San Pedro de Macoris free zones. The free zone model has contributed to the overall quality of Dominican cigars. Cigars are manufactured in a country that has a long tradition of tobacco and cigar-making, and thus skilled labor. At the same time, the tax free advantage allows the manufacturers to bring in tobaccos from any part of the world duty free, as long as the completed cigars are thereafter exported. This makes it possible to blend without having to pay duty for the tobacco. The Dominican Republic is the principal exporter of cigars to the United States.

Hospital remodeling causes major inconveniences
The Listín Diario reports that the Ministry of Public Health's hospital improvement program is causing major inconveniences to physicians and patients. The government is investing RD$200 million in the remodeling and expansion of several public hospitals in the capital city all at the same time. Physicians complain that the works should have been planned better. The centers have been closed down totally or partially and, in some, works are being carried out with wards occupied by hospitalized persons. Hospitals affected are the Maternidad Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, the city's principal maternity hospital; the Rodolfo de la Cruz Lora, a tuberculosis treatment center; the Padre Billini, where AIDS cases are treated; the Francisco Moscoso Puello, the Luís E. Aybar and the Materno Infantil San Lorenzo de Los Mina.

D.R. protests route of ship with toxic cargo
The D.R. is opposed to the passing through the Mona Channel (between this country and Puerto Rico) of the English ship Pacific Swan with its highly toxic cargo of 30 tons of nuclear waste. The ship left on Thursday from the Port of Cherbourg, in France. French Ambassador Henri Vidal has stated that the ship should not be a matter of concern for the D.R., but Eduardo Latorre, Minister of Foreign Relations, said that the country stands by the resolution adopted by the Association of Caribbean States in its second ministerial meeting held in Cuba in 1996, where the Caribbean was declared an area that should be kept free of the transport of nuclear wastes. He said that the government sent official letters to the governments of France and Japan requesting that an alternate route be found. An accident would endanger marine fauna and flora of the Caribbean causing devastating damage to the tourism industry. He said that while the petition was well received by the governments of those countries, he was not aware that any change in plans had taken place. Minister Latorre said that the D.R. and any other nation, can only summon public opinion to try to stop ships from passing, as the ship is in its right to cross international waters.

Telecommunications bill vetoed
President Leonel Fernández has vetoed, as expected, the telecommunications bill passed by Congress amidst irregularities. The President has said he will submit a new bill, prepared with the consensus telecommunications, radio and television companies and the cooperation of the United Nations, when Congress meets again as of 27 February. President Fernández favors that investigations into allegations that the bill was falsified continue to determine if this was a criminal act. The bill sent to the Chamber of Deputies and later vetoed by President Fernández is different from the one approved at the session of the Senate when it was discussed. President of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro met with Attorney General Abel Rodríguez del Orbe to discuss the issue. Spokesman for the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano in Congress, Miguel Berroa Reyes, said that the Senate is only guilty of negligence. Sources at the Attorney General's office say that persons with important information on how the changes were made have disappeared. These include Paris Goico, director of the Fundación Legislativa del Senado, and the secretary of the President of the Senate, Carmen Ruiz.

RD$3.00 to cross the city
City residents will be able to cross the city in comfortable buses come Monday, 26 January. The new AMET bus lane opens on Monday, a national holiday commemorating the founder of the nation, Juan Pablo Duarte. Interestingly, the name of the principal highway on which the buses will travel, the 27 de Febrero Avenue, honors the independence from Haiti for which Duarte fought. For the opening day, users may travel for free. As of Tuesday, 26 January, the fare will be RD$3.00, about US$0.20 for the up to 22 kilometer ride. The route goes from Los Tres Ojos to the Cruce de Manoguayabo, passing along the Las Americas Highway and the 27 de Febrero Avenue. There are 98 stops on the way. Some 100 40-passenger new buses will begin operation on the route. The government is subsidizing the route with RD$1.50, as it was determined the cost of operation is RD$4.50 per passenger. Today, alternative travel, or the conchos cost about RD$2.00 for routes as short as two kilometers. Engineer Hamlet Hermann, director of the AMET, said, "You have to be crazy not to take a bus." Old buses on the routes at present charge RD$2.50, but because of the lack of change, the real fare is RD$3.00. The government plan is that market forces will force the conchos and old buses off the route onto feeder routes as the public will prefer the buses that are new, cheaper and more secure. Fares are to be paid after the person is on board.

Drop in petroleum prices benefits D.R.
The Asian financial crisis has resulted in good news for the Dominican Republic. The crisis has brought about a drop in international prices of petroleum products due to a surplus in supply, given the reduced demand in Asia. The Dominican Republic, an importer of fuel, is benefiting from the situation. Every dollar the barrel of petroleum drops on international markets represents savings of US$110,000 a day for the country, according to Pedro Pablo Cabral, president of the Shell Co. in the D.R., in an interview with the Listín Diario. Cabral confirmed that the downward trend in prices continues, and that no one can forecast at what levels the price will stabilize. The government lowered leaded gasoline last week as follows: RD$1.30; unleaded, $2.00, and gasoil, RD$1.00.

President to travel to Honduras
President Leonel Fernández will travel to Honduras on Monday, 26 January, to attend the inaugural of President Carlos Alberto Flores. Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre will accompany the President. The presidents of Central America held their most recent summit in Santo Domingo in November 1997. Relations between the Dominican President and the Central American presidents are excellent. The country is expected to sign a free trade agreement with Central America and to participate in the Central American block in the Summit of the Americas to be held in Chile.

Promoting the D.R. in U.S. Midwest
The Dominican Republic tourism office in Chicago, Illinois, is helping to educate midwestern travel agents on the Dominican destination. On 15 January, an educational workshop and trade show on the Dominican Republic was held in Bloomington, Minnesota, at the Marriott. Some 77 travel agents attended. From the Dominican Republic, Leandro Cruz participated for Casa de Campo, Patty Bovone for Allegro Resorts, Ramel Sobrino for Puerto Plata Village and Yira Yermonton for Sol Melia. Wholesalers Go Go Worldwide Vacations was represented by Terri Van Sloun, Mark Pothiades attended for MLT Vacations, and Scott Seterstron for TransGlobal Vacations. The workshops have the co-sponsorship of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the wholesalers of Caribbean vacations in the midwest. Similar presentations have already been held in Chicago, Cleveland and four other cities in Michigan and Minnesota.
The Chicago tourism office has scheduled trade shows in coordination with CTO for Linton Township, Michigan in April; Des Plaines, Illinois in May; Cleveland, Ohio in September and Minneapolis, Minnesota in November. Wholesalers are sponsoring events to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and St. Louis, Missouri.

Tourism closes down gift shops
The Ministry of Tourism closed down several gift shops whose owners did not comply with the ruling that obliges them to ticket merchandise for sale. The gift shops are located in the Mercado Modelo handicraft market. The Ministry had alerted the gift shops that they had 72 hours to comply.

All-day carnival parade
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez explained that the Santo Domingo carnival of this year will take place throughout the day, and not in the afternoon as customary. He said that the parade of floats, merengue orchestras and dancing groups from all around the country will begin the parade along the Malecon at 10 am. He is calling the event "Carnival Under the Sun". Hotels will be programming activities from 20 February through March 3.

Baseball finals on Saturday
The finals of the Dominican Winter Baseball Tournament begin tomorrow, 24 January. This is the 14th time the Licey, a Santo Domingo team, confronts the Aguilas of Santiago de los Caballeros. The Licey won the round robin, (13 games won against 4 games lost), one and a half game ahead of the Aguilas. The Estrellas placed third and the Escogido, last. The Licey is the Dominican team with the most championships (15), the Aguilas, with 13 local championships including the 1996-97 season. The Aguilas also won the Caribbean Baseball Series last year.

U.S. team ahead, but games haven't been easy
The visiting U.S. women's volleyball team defeated the Dominican team 3-0. All three games were of high quality, according to press reports, with the U.S. having to use their best players. This was the third game in a friendship series of five games. Both teams are preparing for the world games. The U.S. team is ranked 9th in the world, the D.R. team is 11th. The series continues tonight at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center volleyball pavilion.

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