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Daily News - 06 February 1998

Almost 10,000 lose savings in big swindle
Some 9,850 persons lost their savings in the collapse of Momentum, a pyramid-type operation that paid members 20 to 36% monthly interest on savings. The depositors' savings were not insured by the government or any other institution. Some persons lost as much as RD$1 million. Momentum was located at Plaza Merengue and offered a calling card plus a savings scheme whereby persons attracting other depositors could earn more interest on their savings. According to the Superintendent of Banks, which closed the institution last month, Momentum directors tricked naive depositors into entrusting them with more than RD$116 million since operations began in January 1997. The president of the company, Alberto Rodríguez, Mexican, is now a fugitive of Dominican justice. When the institution was intervened by the Dirección Nacional de Investigaciones, the national bureau of investigations, only RD$10 million was found on the premises. The company did not use city banks because these would not accept deposits, fearing they could be linked to money laundering operations. The Superintendency of Banks began investigating the company when its deposits in local banks went from RD$5,000, when operations began, to RD$2.4 million, seven months later.

Power plants arrive as part of emergency plan
Amidst the worsening of the energy supply due to the rain and wind storm of Tuesday, the state electricity utility received the first four power plants of five power plants that together will generate 170,000 kilowatts. It was said that the government had contracted another turbogas of 100,000 kilowatts from the same French consortium, GEC-Alsthom. In total, the power plants should be a reliable source of 270,000 kilowatts. The power plants, that on the downside have a high operation cost, are part of the government's emergency plan to resolve the energy supply deficit. The first of these power plants is scheduled to go on line by 15 March. The others will be interconnected in intervals of 15 days. Two of the plants will be installed in San Pedro de Macorís and the other three in the Haina energy park.

Modernizing the governments of Latin America
Santo Domingo is hosting the Latin American Forum on Government Reform and Modernization this weekend. Participating are directors of regional organizations and former statesmen. In Santo Domingo for the event are former president Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela, former president Rodrigo Borja of Ecuador; former president Rodrigo Carazo of Costa Rica and former president Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala are presently attending the event. Also, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, former president of Colombia, César Gaviria; the director of the Inter American Development Bank, Enrique Iglesias; and the director for Latin America of the United Nations Development Program, Fernando Zumbado.
For the event, the Dominican government has prepared an exhibition on plans and efforts to modernize the state. The exhibition is open through Sunday at the Centro de Eventos y Exposiciones, the exhibition hall on the Malecón in Santo Domingo. Some 22 private companies are also participating, offering goods and services relative to modernization efforts.
Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal inaugurated the exhibition, together with Onofre Rojas, who is in charge of the Dominican government Commission for Reform and Modernization of the State.

Update on the telecommunications bill
Press coverage continues into the case of the telecommunications bill. Legal advisor to the Senate, Alberto Valenzuela de los Santos, after meeting with Angel Castillo, assistant to the Attorney General, told the press that the telecommunications bill was altered after it was sent to the office of the president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro. He said the articles relative to a television frequency that have caused the controversy, and provoked the presidential veto of the bill, were added by an officer whose identity he said he revealed to the Attorney General but would not disclose to the press. He said that Aristy Castro knows who is responsible. The president of the Senate met with the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Jorge Subero Isa, at the Palacio de Justicia yesterday. Furthermore, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Peguero Méndez, said that he agrees with the recommendation of the leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, to accept the Executive Branch veto in order to avoid a confrontation with the President's office.

Choosing the best Dominican performer of the year
Eighty show business writers, members of Acroarte, may vote tomorrow, Saturday, for the winner of the "El Soberano," award of the Cassandra show business awards ceremony, the most important in the Dominican Republic. The three strongest candidates to win the award are all merengue music performers. Milly Quezada, would be recognized for her successful return to show business after the death of her husband-manager; Johnny Ventura, who celebrated his 40 years; and Fernando Villalona, who is the most popular merengue performer of all times, according to a Gallup poll. Acroarte also will choose among 185 nominees in different artistic categories. The event, which will be televised, is sponsored by Presidente beer and will take place at the National Theater, starting at 8:30 pm.

President Fernández invites Peña to National Dialogue again
President Leonel Fernández again invited leader of opposition party, the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, to participate in the National Dialogue, the series of talks the President is hosting all around the nation to gather a consensus as to the direction the nation should take into the 21st century. President Fernández invited Dr. Peña Gómez to give the closing speech of the event. Peña Gómez had rejected participating on grounds that the forum was being used for political campaigning reasons by the President and his party, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana.

Peña Gómez lectures on the powers-to-be
Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, in an eight page letter to President Leonel Fernández, commented that the government of President Fernández has not yet learned who's who in the Dominican Republic. He said that this explains the serious errors, moves and countermoves, measures and countermeasures of the government, especially in regards to the performance of the Attorney General's office.
Peña Gómez told President Fernández that the true power in this country resides in four groups, which are:
(1) The political parties, the organized grass-roots movement, and the union sector as one.
(2) The churches, principally the Catholic, and then the Evangelical. (3) The business sector and its controlling families, including the traditional aristocrats; and in a minor degree, the new business groups made up by professionals who through hard work have made it to the top echelons.
(4) The Armed Forces.
Dr. Peña Gómez said that regardless of President Fernández having been democratically elected, he cannot forget that he is in power with the votes of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano. He commented that after a year in government, the government party has not reached the electoral force of the PRD, and much less the combined strength of the PRD and the PRSC.

A home for a notable citizen
President Leonel Fernández visited the widow of Juana Dionisio Infante, 29-year old Civil Defense volunteer who died while assisting flood victims caused by torrential rains early this week in his impoverished Manganagua neighborhood. The carpenter had a reputation of always being ready to help others in his community. He is survived by his wife, four-year old son and 8-year old daughter. President Fernández has offered the widow a government dwelling and a pension for life.

Partido Reformista announces primaries for Sunday
The Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) will hold its primaries to elect the candidates for the Santo Domingo municipal and congressional posts this Sunday, 8 February, as originally programmed. Johnny Jones, of the organizing committee, said that four Reformistas aspire to the senator position; there are five candidates for mayor; and over 100 aspiring to the deputy positions.

Peso up as Central Bank announces new dollar injections
The announcement that the Central Bank would inject an additional US$40 million into the commercial banking exchange market caused the peso to increase in value in relation to the U.S. dollar. Banks are now offering the dollar for RD$14.40 and RD$14.50, down from RD$14.65 earlier this week. Banks continue to buy dollars at RD$13.95-RD$14.00.

Dodgers president is distinguished visitor of Santo Domingo
The mayor of Santo Domingo, Rafael Suberví Bonilla, honored Peter O'Malley, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, recognizing him as a distinguished visitor of the city. Peter O'Malley said the distinction was the greatest honor he had received in his life as it came from the Dominican people, for whom he cared so much. He said the warmth of the Dominican people have made him feel at home during the 50 years he has been traveling to this country.

Dominicans to match Venezuelans in Caribbean Baseball Series
The Aguilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Republic will play against the Cardenales de Lara, the winning team of Venezuela today in Puerto de la Cruz, where the Caribbean Series, the Major League Series of the Caribbean, is taking place. The Aguilas and the Cardenales are tied in first place. The Aguilas won their first confrontation against Puerto Rico, 7-6, and the Cardenales, their first game against Mexico, 4-2. The Aguilas Cibaeñas are the Caribbean Champions, and seek to become the first team to win in consecutive years in the Caribbean Series. The Cardenales have never won a Caribbean Series. Indeed, the only time they have participated was in 1991. Jesus Sánchez will be the opening pitcher for the Aguilas, versus Ramón García, for Venezuela.

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