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Daily News - 27 January 1998

President travels to Honduras
President Leonel Fernández arrived at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Monday, 26 January, after an intense day of activities. Earlier in the day, in Santo Domingo, President Fernández had participated in the inaugural ceremony of the 27 de Febrero Avenue bus service route and in activities commemorative of the anniversary of Juan Pablo Duarte, founder of the country. President Fernández flew to Honduras to participate in the inaugural of the Honduran President Carlos Roberto Flores.
This is the fifth time the President travels to a Central American nation since his own inauguration in August 1996. He traveled in a private jet accompanied by Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre, Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina, journalist Miguel Guerrero, banker Ramón Báez Figueroa and businessman Abraham Selman.
The Dominican Republic has advanced negotiations with Central America for the signing of a free trade agreement this spring. In Honduras, the President said that the Dominican Republic would soon be accepted as a member of the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE). The bank has funding of US$100 million from the Interamerican Development Bank and US$460 million from the Acuerdo de San José, a petroleum export agreement. The D.R. will also be admitted to the Sistema de Integración Centroamericana (SICA), the organization that regulates and channels economic cooperation within the region. It was also announced that Transportes Aéreos Centroamericanos (TACA), a Central American airline that has a strategic alliance with American Airlines, will offer direct flights to Santo Domingo from Central America as of March. In addition, press reports indicated that the Dominican firm, Barceló Industrial, would install a distillery in San Pedro Sula.

Peña Gómez accepts to stay on as candidate for mayor
Leaders of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano met in Miami to resolve differences between the factions that hope to inherit the party from ailing leader Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez. Milagros Ortíz Bosch, the party's candidate for senator of Santo Domingo, and presidential aspirants Hipólito Mejía and Rafael Suberví, as well as party secretary general Hatuey de Camps and party leaders Rafael Gamundi Cordero, Winston Arnaud, and Vicente Sánchez Baret, met with Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez at the David Williams Hotel in Miami, where Peña Gómez is staying, convalescing from cancer of the pancreas.
The meeting was held primarily to resolve the crisis affecting the party after Peña Gómez did not accept Maríñez's win as mayor of Santo Domingo - only 300 votes more than the other two contenders for the position - proclaiming himself candidate for mayor with Johnny Ventura as vice-mayor. Shortly after, he threatened to resign the candidacy if Julio Marínez was not expulsed from the party. Julio Maríñez had commented that Peña Gómez's decision was against the democratic principles which should prevail in party decisions.
Press reports had also carried versions that Peña Gómez's wife, Peggy Cabral, was interested in the position of vice-mayor. The idea was for Rafael Suberví Bonilla, mayor of Santo Domingo, to agree to run again for that position, with Mrs. Peña as his running mate.
The position of vice-mayor is important as it would replace the mayor should he not able to fulfill his responsibilities. While reports of Dominican physicians close to the candidate have revealed optimistic opinions that his condition is stable, none of the U.S. medics treating the politician have issued public statements. Furthermore, recent photographs of Peña Gómez show his health to be failing.
The leaders of the party met with Peña Gómez for two days seeking to resolve the crisis. Following the meeting, Peña Gómez maintained his decision to run for mayor. At the meeting, Mejía and Suberví both agreed to postpone their efforts to publicize their presidential aspirations. Furthermore, during the meeting special responsibilities were assigned within the party to the aspirants for mayor for the different factions within the party - Julio Maríñez, Eligio Jáquez and Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The committee resolved to divide the city in four parts and delegated the administration of these sections to Julio Maríñez, appointed responsible for the northern part of the city; to Miguel Vargas for the southcentral part; to Eligio Jáquez, for the eastern part; and to Pedro Franco Badía and Tonty Rutinel, for the western section of the city.

Governor of Central Bank against devaluation
The governor of the Central Bank, Hector Valdez Albizu, said that the government does not favor a devaluation of the peso until tax reforms are implemented. Several of these are still pending for approval by the Congress. The chief economic officer of the nation said that, without the tax reforms, a devaluation would have serious consequences on the standard of living of the population. He said there would be an increase in inflation, interest rates and in the price of gasoline. Hector Valdez Albizu told Hoy newspaper that the Dominican economy grew 8.2% last year and that the inflation rate was 8.3%, lower than estimated. Valdez Albizu forecast that the economy would grow six percent in 1998. The Central Bank has injected the exchange market with US$40 million in recent weeks in order to reduce upward pressures.

2,627 trained criminals return
According to Dominican ambassador before the U.S. government, Bernardo Vega, in 1997 the Dominican Republic received 2,627 deported Dominicans, of which 1,942 were labeled as "delinquents." This is an increase of 33% over 1996 statistics. Only Mexico received more deported delinquents last year. The U.S. deported 85,637 Mexicans in 1997, of which 38,819 had violated U. S. laws. Other affected nations are El Salvador, which received 1,521 delinquents; Colombia, 1,480; Jamaica, 1,206: and Honduras, 1,088.
The Dominicans who return with the advanced crime skills acquired in the more sophisticated U.S. streets, particularly those of New York City, have had an effect on the crime rate in the D.R., and have been signaled out as responsible for an increase in violent crimes here. The Police has announced a hard approach in an attempt to impede the continuation of criminal activities in the D.R.

Tricom said to pressure for passing of bill
Attorney General Abel Rodríguez del Orbe said that Tricom, a joint venture between Dominican investors and Motorola, is behind the pressures for the fast passing of the telecommunications bill approved by Congress but vetoed by the Executive Branch. According to a report in the Listín Diario, the telecommunications company would be affected in its business interests if the bill is not passed by 30 January. The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Peguero, has said he would call Congress back to work to study the presidential veto. Congress is in recess until 27 of February. According to Rodríguez, the congressmen's return to work prior to that date is inconstitutional and if the Chamber of Deputies overrides the veto during this period, the passed bill will be taken to the Supreme Court of Justice for its annulment. The Executive Branch is expected to submit a new telecommunications bill to Congress in February.

License plate renewals at the Post Office
Licence plate registration renewals for vehicles can now be obtained at Dominican post offices (INPOSDOM), throughout the country. The measure was taken in order to reduce the long lines resulting when everyone leaves their renewals for the last few days. To renew, vehicle owners are required to present an original copy of the registration.

RD$140 million to finance political campaigns
The Junta Central Electoral (JCE) announced that the three principal political parties - the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, Partido de la Liberación Dominicana and Partido Reformista Social Cristiano - will receive RD$140 million in financial assistance from the state for their congressional and municipal electoral campaigns. The rest of the organizations will share RD$34.2 million. The three major political parties will receive 80% of the budget to finance the campaigns, compared to 20% for emerging organizations. Dr. Juan Sully Bonnelly, president of the JCE, says that the financial assistance replaces the government practice of awarding vehicle import exemptions that were sold on the local market for monies to finance the campaign. The electoral campaign for muncipal and congressional posts in the May 16, 1998 election opens February 2.

U.S. visas cost much more
Dominican travelers are affected by the U.S. government measure that increases from US$20 to US$45 the cost of a request for a visa. The measure will affect all those who have interviews programmed beginning February 1.

Aviation agreements
The Civil Aviation Board signed an open skies agreement with Panama. The CAB has already signed similar agreements with Guatemala and Costa Rica. For the time being, these agreements limit the routes to South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. The Civil Aviation Board director, Vitelio Mejía, also announced that Dominican airlines will be able to resume flights to the United States within six months, when the country completes requirements of the Federal Aviation Agency.

President vetoes reducing tax on airline ticket sales
The Executive Branch vetoed the enmendment to Law 11-92 which would reduce the tax on airline tickets from 20% to 10%. Travel agent associations and airlines had lobbied for the bill, which would increase airline ticket sales in the Dominican Republic. Because of the tax, it costs less for travelers to purchase only a portion of their travel in the D.R. The president of the Dominican Association of Travel Agencies (ADAVIT), Pedro Martínez, and Raúl Fiallo, the highest-ranking officer of American Airlines in the D.R., said they were surprised by the veto as the President himself had promised during his presidential campaign to reduce the tax. The government argues that the monies generated by the tax are already consigned in the 1998 National Budget. The president of ADAVIT says that the reduction in the tax percentage would increase and not decrease the tax collected as more airline tickets would be sold here.

Samana airport to be ready by April
Work is advancing on the construction of the first phase of the Arroyo Barril international airport of Samana. According to a report in the Listin Diario, the Spanish consortium Ferrovial-Agroman-Iproconsa is concluding works for the habilitation of a 1,650-meter long runway, a passenger terminal, firemen station, and other necessary structures. Airplanes with capacity for 60 passengers will be able to land in Samana as of April of this year. In a second phase, the airport runway will be expanded to the 3,000-meter requirement for the landing of wide body jets. The government estimates US$60 million will be needed to complete the runway, and is seeking international investors for this project. A Spanish company, Initec, is carrying out a study to determine what will have to be done at the site. RD$223 million was invested by the past government of President Balaguer in the airport. The Fernández administration has a judicial case against the former contractors, who, according to Euclides Sánchez, director of the Oficina de Ingenieros Supervisores de Obras del Estado, the government office that supervises the construction, cannot account for RD$80 million of the monies disbursed for the airport.

US$60 million for Raul Mondesí
Dominican Major League baseball player Raul Mondesí signed a contract for US$60 million dollars with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "This is the happiest day of my life," Raul Mondesí told Hoy newspaper, upon confirming the news to the Dominican press. He said that he will receive US$2 million upon signing, and will earn US$5 million in 1998, US$8.5 million in 1999 and US$9.5 in 2000. In years 2001-2, his salary will be US$11 million and in years 2003 his salary will be US$13 million. Mondesí joins Pedro Martínez and Sammy Sosa as three of the top paid baseball players in the U.S.

Aguilas lead in baseball
The Aguilas Cibaeñas took the lead in the Dominican Winter Baseball League finals, defeating the Licey Tigers 11-3, in the third game of the series held at the Estadio Quisqueya, of Santo Domingo. The Aguilas now lead the series two against one. The two winning games of the Aguilas were played in Santo Domingo. The Aguilas won the first game of the series held in Santo Domingo, losing the second game to the Licey Tigers in Santiago. All games have been held to sell-out crowds.

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