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Daily News - 16 March 1998

Free trade agreement with Central America
The Ministers of Foreign Relations of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica have countered opposition by conservative business groups regarding the signing of a free trade agreement stressing that the agreement will be beneficial to all involved parties. Minister of Foreign Relations of the Dominican Republic, Eduardo Latorre, said that what is being negotiated is a free trade agreement with Central America and the Caribbean Community, not one with the United States. Latorre said that at the present time, the opposition is irrelevant because trade with Central America represents only 1% of the total trade of the Dominican Republic. The free trade agreement is expected to increase trade and investment between Central America and the Dominican Republic.
Printer and spokesman for the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic, Nassim Alemany; Fernando González Nicolás, a lobbyist and president of Cieca, a Caribbean think tank group; and Cesareo Contreras, spokesman for the association of milk producers, said that the treaty was premature, that the negotiators had not given time for the study of the consequences it would have on Dominican business. The threesome also criticized that Dominican negotiators were not capable. The Dominican Republic's chief negotiator is Deputy Minister Frederick Emam-Zade, (with a doctorate in economy from the University of Chicago), who was in charge of economic affairs for the ministry under the Balaguer administration and is a former director of the Investment Promotion Council of the Dominican Republic.
In Central America, conservative groups have also rejected the treaty. But the governments of these countries stand firmly behind it. The Minister of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica, Fernando Naranjo, who is in Santo Domingo for a talk at the Dominican-Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce, defended the agreement saying that the alliance with Central America is the Dominican Republic's best option for integration. The D.R. and Central America have a common cultural heritage and similar economic priorities, such as negotiating better treatment for migrants and the elimination of free zone quotas for exports to the United States.
Naranjo said that the treaty would provide access to Dominican exporters to a market of more than 32 million persons, in addition to making the nation a more attractive market for investment.
Central America will gain a new member with 8 million more consumers. This will strengthen the negotiating capacity of the region before major regional trading blocks and partners.
Naranjo explained that the D.R. exported US$75 million to Central America, and purchased US$50 million.
"The sectors that will succeed in the integration process are those with vision, those who are willing to get on the globalization train intelligently but firmly," said Naranjo.
On the other hand, Minister Latorre said, "We can inequivocably say that we are as well or better prepared for free trade than the other countries of Central America with which we will sign." He also said the country would be in an even better competitive position if the tax reform and export regime reform bills were passed by Congress.
The final round of negotiations will take place in Guatemala City from 23-27 March. Thereafter, the presidents of Central America are expected to travel to Santo Domingo for the signing of the trascendental treaty, prior to the summit of American statesman in Chile.
"The Dominican Republic cannot go alone to the round of negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas that will take place in Chile from 18-20 April," he explained. "Small nations have to join efforts to ensure that their points of view are heard and their interests protected," said Latorre.

He survived a forced landing
22-year old commercial pilot, Alex Molina Iturrino miraculously saved himself when his bimotor aircraft forcefully landed shortly after takeoff near the runway at Las Americas International Airport. The pilot was trying to make his way back to the airport after one of his motors caught on fire at an altitude of about 500 feet. Molina, with some 1,000 pilot hours, had just returned from a trip to Portillo where he dropped off passengers and was enroute to the Herrera Domestic Airport. The airplane belonged to the Air Century charter company. It was completely destroyed. Upon landing, Molina escaped with not serious burns from the blazing airplane through the front window and ran from the airplane. He is son of Rafael Molina Lluberes, a congressman for Sanchez Ramirez (PRSC) and candidate for senator in that province. Molina took up piloting as a profession at age 19, graduating in Miami. He said he would continue to fly as that was the profession he had chosen.

D.R. to participate in World Volleyball Games
Dominican Republic's female volleyball team defeated Puerto Rico over the weekend in Santo Domingo to win the right to participate in the World Volleyball Games that will open in Japan on 14 November. The Dominicans defeated Puerto Rico 15-3, 11-15, 15-8, 15-8. The Dominicans had won the earlier match held in Puerto Rico. The country has participated in World Games on two previous occasions, first in 1974 and later in 1978, finishing 20th place, of a total 24 teams.

Prestigious lawyer urges Dominicans to vote
Cesar Estrella Sahdala, the prestigious former president of the Junta Central Electoral, called for the Dominican people to reject, with their vote in the presidential elections of year 2000, the political parties that are not able to choose "dignified and true representatives" to run in the upcoming congressional elections of 16 May. If the parties now do not come forth with candidates that are worthy, and they choose to bundle unqualified persons among their candidates, then citizens should respond with their negative vote in year 2000, he said.

PRSC chooses its candidates
Press reports indicate that the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano has included, on its list of congressional candidates, several close aids and former government officers during the Balaguer administrations. Among those chosen are Anibal Páez and Rafael Bello Andino. Also Katiuska Bobea, Emigdio Mercedes, Gilberto Valdez Vidaurre, Hector Marte, Atilio Guzmán Fernández, Luis Reyes Ozuna, Leonardo Matos Berrido, Zoila Medina, Andres Vanderhorst, Milagros Diaz, Victor Bisono, Maribel Gasso, Juan Aristides Taveras Guzman and Frank Jorge Elías.

Politics keeps university closed
The rector of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, Edylberto Cabral, said that politics has kept the state university from reopening. Some 2,010 administration workers have been on strike for five weeks now, impeding the registration of new students. Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, president of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), sent Hatuey de Camps, secretary of his party, to intervene, with no positive results. De Camps was an active student leader during his studies at the university. Most of the members of the striking office workers union that have impeded the resumption of classes at the state university are active PRD militants. The organization is controlled by the PRD. More than 82,000 students are affected by the strike. Daily losses are estimated at RD$1.7 million.

Corporán to run for mayor
Former city mayor Corporán de los Santos accepted the offer of former President Balaguer to run for mayor of Santo Domingo on the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) ticket. Corporán will face fellow TV producer, Roberto Salcedo, who is running for the same post for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), the government party. He will also match another former mayor, José Francisco Peña Gómez, whose health is failing. Interestingly, another show businessman, Johnny Ventura, is Peña Gómez's running mate on the PRD ticket. Corporán defeated Johnny Ventura in 1990 when both ran for the position, representing the PRSC and the PRD respectively.
Corporán recently had complained bitterly that President Balaguer had not supported his administration while he was mayor nor when he ran again for mayor on the PRSC ticket during the past election. Recently he said his participation in politics had left him with debts in the millions, that even forced him to sell his
Galaxia FM, a leading radio station. The 90-year old statesman, however, is known for his great powers of persuasion. Corporán met with Balaguer for 20 minutes and left the meeting saying he would accept the candidacy.
Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez said that the candidacy of Corporán mostly affects the PLD, as the two TV producers will compete against each other, much as they do on TV.

Peña asks President Fernández to take a leave of absence for politics
Candidate for mayor of Santo Domingo for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, has suggested that President Leonel Fernández take a temporary leave of absence from his role as President if he is going to continue attending political rallies and actively campaigning in favor PLD candidates in the municipal and congressional elections. He complained that the presidency awards the PLD an unfair advantage over the opposition parties.

Conditioning electoral funding
The Junta Central Electoral, the organizer of the elections in the Dominican Republic, conditioned the funding of the political campaigns to the approval by that electoral court of the candidates presented by the parties. The JCE will be funding the three principal political campaigns of recognized parties to the tune of RD$45 million. Most of these monies will become available next week. He said that the parties must have accounting systems in place by 27 March and statements of the use of the funds must be presented no later than three months after the election.

Ideally, D.R. would be only one free zone
In an interview in Hoy newspaper, the president of the Asociación de Industrias de Zonas Francas de Santiago, engineer Fernando Aníbal Capellán has proposed that the Dominican Republic be declared a textile free zone. He said that if this occurred cotton pants that sell for US$30 in the United States could be sold here for US$5. He said that Dominicans would all become exporters, taking back suitcases with clothes to sell. He said that today Dominicans living abroad instead of coming with luggage full of clothes to sell here, would come with empty suitcases and take back Dominican-made clothes to sell in the U.S. He said that local textile manufacturers located outside of free zone parks have lobbied so that free zones cannot sell locally 20% of their production, as allowed by Law 8-90. He said that it is crazy that thousands of jobs that could be created are lost in order to defend about 3,000 jobs in the inefficient manufacturing plants. These same companies would like to have free zone exports on the list of products excluded from the Central American free trade agreement.

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