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Daily News - 04 March 1998

Drug traffickers push heroine sales in DR
Hoy newspaper reported that Colombian drug cartels using this country as a bridge from Colombia to the United States (via Puerto Rico) are paying their Dominican counterparts in heroine and not in hard currency. The newspaper alerts that these dealers must sell the drug in the Dominican Republic as they are not allowed to compete with the Colombians for the U.S. market. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States (DEA), the Colombians have reduced the price of heroine making it more marketable compared to cocaine. Felix Jiménez, chief of the DEA for the Caribbean, met yesterday in Santo Domingo with the president of the National Drug Control Department. Jiménez alerted that there has been an increase in illegal boat trips to Puerto Rico, and that these are being used to transport drugs into that island, and from there to the United States. He said that in the first 62 days of the year, Puerto Rican forces have detained 460 Dominicans that have made the trip across the Mona Channel. He said that in most cases proof of shipment cannot be obtained, because the drug traffickers throw their cargo into the sea when they are detected on high seas by the Puerto Rican Border Patrol.

Good news for tourists
Foreign currency is now fetching more pesos. According to press reports, the dollar has been sold for up to RD$15 pesos on the street market, a new record. Thus the peso has lost 5% of its value since December 1997. According to Hoy newspaper, the exchange rate used by Dominican industries for bank transfers to pay for imports is the rate that most has gone up. Banker Andrés Aybar Báez attributed the increase to the resolution of the Central Bank that establishes that bank deposits must remain 15 days in an account before it can be transferred abroad.

Avjet scarcity
Press reports indicated there is a shortage of avjet fuel of 100 to 130 octanes which is affecting the flights of domestic airlines and small planes. Las Americas, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana and Herrera were said to be out of fuel reserves. The shortage is attributed to problems in importing and difficulties between the two distributing companies. Hoy reported that the commercial difficulties have resulted in lower supplies at the airports. The scarcity has not affected the operation of large commercial jets.

Caribbean Summit in August
The Dominican Republic will host presidents and heads of state from the English-speaking Caribbean at the end of August. Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal invited the 13 statesmen from Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries to Santo Domingo when participating in the 9th Caricom Heads of State Summit held from 1-3 March in St. George, Grenada. The meeting was held to establish the regional standing on several issues prior to the participation in the Summit of the Americas scheduled for 17-18-19 April in Chile.
During the Santo Domingo meeting, chiefs of state from the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the nations that benefit from the Lomé IV trade and cooperation convention with the European Union, will continue discussions on perspectives for trade and cooperation with the European Union post-Lomé IV. The meeting will coincide with the 500th anniversary of the city of Santo Domingo.

Underwear export quotas eliminated
The Listín Diario announced that the United States will eliminate quota restrictions on underwear imports from the Dominican Republic as of 26 March. The State Department responded to a request from the National Free Zone Council, through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, on the need to eliminate the quota to category 352-652 for cotton and synthetic fiber underwear for men, women and children.

Visits to Samaná waterfall regulated
The Ministry of Tourism regulated the visits to El Limón Waterfall in Samaná. The Ecotourism and Environment Department of the Ministry prohibited reaching the waterfalls by vehicle or bicycles. One will only be able to get there by horse or mule or on foot. Also being prohibited are canyoning (a combination of swimming, climbing, cascading and walking through the river canyons as you make your way downstream), and building within 30 meters from the waterfall and river beds. The communities that benefit from tourism in the area must initiate a reforestation of the river beds, especially in the area of the waterfall. Guides taking tourists to the waterfall must be trained and registered with the Ministry of Tourism. The guides and vendors are the community dwellers of the area. The Centro para la Conservación y Ecodesarrollo de la Bahía de Samana y su Entorno (CEBSE) and the Ministry of Tourism seek to preserve this natural attraction with the new measures.

Hotel occupancy up
The National Hotel & Restaurant Association reports that the average hotel occupancy in the country of larger hotels was 76.2%, up from 7.8% in 1996. Puerto Plata registered the highest occupancy rates, with an 83.4%. The peak months of tourism were March, July and August. Juan Dolio-Boca Chica was second with 79.7%, with January, February and August being the peak months.

Remodeling Dominican courts
The Fernández administration plans to invest RD$330 million to remodel the Justice of Peace courts throughout the country. Some 19 courts will be remodeled and another 95 built this year. The restructuring of the judiciary in the Dominican Republic is seen as one of the major achievements of the Fernández government. Architect Luis Despradel Dájer is in charge of the project.

Case against assassins of 12-year old to be heard
District attorney Francisco Domínguez Brito said that on Thursday, 5 March, the Sexta Cámara Penal will reopen the case against those incriminated for the homicide of 12-year old José Rafael Llenas Aybar, who was kidnapped and assassinated in May 1996. Domínguez Brito said that Judge Julio César Canó has required the presence of over 20 persons in the case against confessed murderers Juan Manuel Moliné Rodríguez and Mario José Redondo Llenas, who are in prison in Najayo, San Cristóbal. Also accused are the husband and son of the former Argentine ambassador in the country, Teresa Meccía de Palmas, as accomplices in the assassination.

Cuban coaches expected this month
The president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, Dr. José Joaquín Puello, said that 59 Cuban trainers hired by the Dominican government will arrive this month. Of the 59, 36 will be sent to the provinces - La Romana, Santiago, San Pedro de Macorís, San Francisco de Macorís, La Vega, Moca, San Juan de la Maguana and Valverde. The group includes specialists in track and field, chess cycling, wrestling, tennis, table tennis, skeet, swimming and volleyball. The trainers will help prepare the Dominican team that will compete this August in the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

CDE to collect for electricity service
Radhamés Segura, upon accepting his appointment as new administrator general of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the government electricity utility, said that there would be an increase in collections for service rendered. It is estimated that 50% of the Dominican population receive the service free. At present, there is more demand than supply, but if all goes well by the second half of the year, the supply will have met the demand. If the service is improved, the government subsidy to the population increases. Thus, the move to step up collections for the service rendered. The CDE estimates that when the new turbogas power units enter into operation, as part of emergency measures, the CDE will have to pay some RD$100 and RD$150 million more a month to purchase the fuel to operate the new plants. From here to June, the CDE expects 270 megawatts to go on line in new power plants.
Hoy newspaper also revealed that not only do individual consumers not pay for electricity consumed, but that the government itself is at fault. Hoy newspaper said that CDE billed the government institutions 30.4% less in December 1997 in comparison to November 1996. The newspaper said that the CDE made up the difference by increasing residential billings.

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