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Daily News - 16 February 1998

Two med schools closed by authorities
Two Dominican universities that primarily catered to foreign medical students were closed down by the government. President Leonel Fernández ordered their closing following an evaluation that revealed they did not meet minimum requirements for a degree in medicine. The Universidad Federico Henriquez y Carvajal and the Universidad Eugenio Maria de Hostos, that provided medical instruction in English, were closed following recommendations made by the Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior (Cones), the government department that supervises universities. The closing primarily affects 135 students from the United States, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, China, Belize, Korea, France, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Of these, 35 are students that would have graduated in April. The government has recommended that the students transfer to other Dominican universities to complete their schooling. According to press reports, Cones determined that these centers even issued false titles, and shortened study periods, making it possible to obtain a degree in medicine in less than a year, in some cases. The president of Cones, Alejandrina German, said that the schools were charging foreigners US$50,000 for their medical courses, and another US$17,000 to issue the diploma. In the 70s, the Dominican government closed down the Universidad Mundial and CETEC, medical schools that also catered primarily to foreigners. Foreigners interested in studying medicine in the Dominican Republic should limit themselves to the universities that cater primarily to Dominican students.

Only unleaded gasoline to be sold here by 1999
The Dominican Petroleum Refinery, a joint venture of the Dominican government and Shell Company, will invest RD$7 million to make the conversion to an unleaded gasoline refinery. Donald Huberts, general manager of the refinery, said that the low investment is because, over the years, the refinery has invested in the necessary modifications. As of January 1999, the Refinery will only produce unleaded gasoline, which is better for the environment and people's health. He indicated that in 1990, the amount of lead in gasoline was reduced to 2.3 grams per gallon, in 1995 to 1.5 grams, in 1996, to 1.2 grams, and in 1998, to 0.5 grams. The D.R. imports some 40,000 barrels (1.7 million gallons) a day from Venezuela. The refinery processes 1.3 million gallons, and some 3 million gallons are sold daily. He commented that when Refidomsa began its operations, the demand was for 1,176,000 gallons a day. Twenty-five years later, demand has tripled. He also indicated that in 1991 they imported 10,217 barrels of crude and 6.619 of finished products, while in 1997, six years later, the country is importing 12,094 barrels of crude and 18,070 in finished products, mostly from Venezuela and Mexico.
On occasion of the 25th anniversary of the company, he also said that the D.R.'s petroleum bill is US$628 million a year, 25% of the total foreign exchange receipts.

Important copper-gold discovery
International news services report that an important discovery of copper-gold porphyry was found in the Majagual area of central Dominican Republic. I.M.P.A.C.T Minerals, an emerging growth company engaged in the international exploration and development of base and precious metal properties, is currently focusing its exploration activities in the D.R. IMPACT trades on the Vancouver Stock Exchange as IPT.
The company announced the discovery of significant porphyry copper-gold style mineralization on the El Cinco Zone/ Majagual Concession in the D.R. Trenching results indicate consistent copper and gold mineralization in an interpreted leached cap of a porphyry system, defined over an area of 800 meters x 600 meters. A largely coincident IP charge ability/resistivity anomaly indicates sulphine mineralization at depth and secondary chalcocite mineralization is evidence for a supergene enrichment blanket. The zone remains open in all directions. A 2,000 meter drill program is planned for the area.

Long term solution for CDE proposed
Former administrator of the CDE, engineer Ramón Pérez Martínez criticized the government for basing the immediate solution of the present energy supply crisis on the installation of six turbogas plants purchased from a French company. He said these plants use a "fragile technology," whereby they could break down easily, and are very costly to operate. Engineer Pérez Martínez gained notoriety when he disbanded the CDE labor union and implemented other measures to reorganize the CDE. He was advisor to the Marcelo Jorge and Fernando Periche Vidal administrations. He said that the government should open the board of the CDE to the political parties so that a consensus solution can be reached that would have continuity, regardless of which party were in power. Speaking on the TV Program, Enfoque Semanal, he said that the country does not have the US$5,000 million required for the long term solution to the nation's energy deficit. He also advocated that the contracts with private energy generators that are unfavorable to the country should be revised by a board with known capacity and honesty.

Dr. Balaguer resumes his walks at Mirador Park
Former President Joaquín Balaguer resumed his afternoon walks along the Mirador Park on Sunday, after weeks of reclusion. The nongenarian politician had suspended his walks after he caught a cold. Upon recovery, he continued to stay at home to avoid meeting with certain party members that seek nomination for the 1998 municipal and congressional elections and are unhappy with the results of the primaries. Interviewed at the Mirador Park, the former President said he would invite former Vice President Jacinto Peynado, and the political secretary of the party, Federico Antún Batlle, to a meeting with him at his home so that they could air out their differences in regard to the results of the primaries. The PRSC primaries have been described as "symbolic." It is expected that Dr. Balaguer will choose the candidates he pleases to represent the PRSC in the 1998 municipal and congressional elections.

Alliance between PRSC and PRD imminent?
Meanwhile, Federico Antún Batlle, political secretary of the PRSC, announced that only last minute details are missing for the PRSC and the PRD to announce an alliance for the municipal and congressional elections. Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the PRD, confirmed an imminent alliance on Sunday, 15 February, when he stated during the event to proclaim his candidacy for mayor of Santo Domingo, that if the party would choose an ally in the election, it would be the PRSC.
Antún Batlle was one of the sponsors of the political alliance of the PRSC with the government party, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), which took that party to power in the 1996 presidential election. Antún Batlle's family is under investigation for corruption in the handling of the National Lottery. Brother Manuel Antún Batlle was jailed but later released. Several others are still in jail for the scandal. Recently, District Attorney Francisco Domínguez announced new evidence in the case involving the Antún Batlle brothers' father, a former administrator of the National Lottery, and other former administrators accused of rigging the lottery calls.

Drunk driving takes another life
The lack of a strong national awareness against drunk driving in the Dominican Republic has claimed another young life. Oliver Puello Pratt, son of the president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, Dr. Jose Joaquín Puello, died instantly in a crash with a large truck around 3:30 am on Sunday, 15 February. Reportedly, the driver had been drinking. Puello was on the way home after dropping off his girl friend in Arroyo Hondo, after celebrating St. Valentine's Day. Two women, including a pregnant woman, were also were injured. His father, Dr. Puello, with tears in his eyes, said "it is very hard to bury a son... when one is in the cemetery to leave a son behind... there is much that one can't understand, but God gives one a son and then takes him back." Oliver Puello was an account executive at the Pages/BBO advertising agency. He had just appeared with his girlfriend in "En Sociedad," the society magazine of Hoy newspaper, telling the romantic story of how they had gotten together.

Race track will be best in the Caribbean
The Autódromo Las Américas is now Nacam and FIA approved. Julian Abed, representative of the organizations, inspected the race track currently in its final construction phase. In his opinion, the new Santo Domingo race track will be the best in the Caribbean. "The Las Americas race track fulfills all the requirements. We have no doubt that it will become the best track in the area, and one of the best in Latin America," he said. He visited the track with J.M. Hidalgo and Luís Miguel Gerardino, of the Autódromo Las Américas, engineer Ludovino Fernández, builder of the track, and Henry Krauss, president of the Dominican Automobile Federation.

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