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Daily News - 17 March 1998

Fuel prices reduced
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce announced a slight reduction in the price of fuel. Unleaded gasoline will now sell for RD27.90, leaded for RD$22 and gasoil, for RD$12.90. If the government had not authorized the price reduction, it would have received an additional RD$1,800 million in fuel tax income, according to a report in the Listín Diario. The government also reduced aviation fuel (Avtur) to RD$16.30. Alex Santana, president of the Airlines Association, said that the decline was merely US$0.03 per gallon, which is insignificant compared to reductions made in other countries.
International news reports indicate that the price of fuel has declined to its lowest in the past nine years and that it will continue to drop, due to an excess in production and internal problems with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Press reports indicate that fuel was being sold for US$11.83 the barrel on international markets.
Reportedly, the Dominican Republic purchases its fuel for US$11 per barrel, under the Acuerdo de San José, from Venezuela and Mexico. The D.R. is purchasing fuel at half the price paid in 1996, when the government significantly increased prices to RD$20 the gallon of leaded gasoline.
The price reductions will be effective Wednesday, 18 March, at 6 am.

JCE announces voting schedule
The Junta Central Electoral, the organizer of elections in the Dominican Republic, announced that the municipal and congressional election of 16 May 1998 will be held in three stages, such as occurred during the presidential election of 1996. Women voters must be at the polls from 6 to 8:30 am in order to present identification, assuring that one is at the right table. As of 8:30, the voting stations will begin registering the voters who will then go on to vote. The men will go through the same process, starting at 1:30 to 3:30 for the identification, followed by the registering and voting.

Deadline closing in on parties
The PRSC and the PRD had not completed their list of candidates for the municipal and congressional elections hours before the deadline, according to a report in Hoy newspaper. Internal problems have affected the completion of the lists. In many cases, primaries were held and later disregarded as the leaders of the parties were whom chose the candidates. The parties have the additional difficulty that they must choose a woman candidate for every three men selected.

That list is not correct, says PRSC leader
Dr. Donald Reid Cabral said that the list of names published by the Listín Diario on 16 March with supposedly the choices of the PRSC for deputies is not an official list. The PRSC had not yet chosen its candidates as of 16 March, he said. The parties have up to midnight, 17 March, to make the choice. The list published by the Listín Diario, and reprinted in the DR1 news and information service daily on 16 March, included the names of several close aids of President Balaguer, including Anibal Páez and Rafael Bello Andino.

Government Council resolutions
In an almost 10-hour Government Council session the government approved several of the measures suggested during the National Dialogue, the nationwide talks held to establish the priorities of the nation. The measures include the elimination of all the non-tax barriers to foreign trade. Also, the preparation of a decree to start the implementation of the Tax Code Ruling (Reglamento del Código Tributario). Likewise, the government approved the creation of a single step system that will considerably cut red tape needed to export.
The National Council of Free Zones was instructed to carry out studies to determine the feasibility of installing free zone parks in the communities where unemployment is greatest. The Council will facilitate the installation of a agribusiness free zone park in San Juan de la Maguana province, and the Dominican Agrarian Institute will choose the lands where a free zone will be installed in the Sabana Perdida area of the National District. It also created a committee to transform the installations of Tejidos Antillanos and Aceite Ambar, two state enterprises, into free zones.
The Government Council approved the creation of a new Superintendency of Electricity, an organization under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to regulate and supervise the production, transmission and distribution of electricity. The government also created the Oficina Rectora Nacional del Sector Agua Potable y Saneamiento, a new office to supervise water and sewage services. The implementation of an Emergency Plan for potable water was ordered at an investment of RD$185 million.
In the health sector, the creation of provincial health bureaus and the elimination of regional bureaus were ordered for a better coordination between the Ministry of Health and the provinces.
The Council approved the creation of a Comisión Coordinadora de Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente, as a preliminary step that would lead to the creation of a Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Council commissioned the Consejo Presidencial de la Cultura, the Consultoría Jurídica del Poder Ejecutivo and the ministries of Education and Tourism to prepare the bill for the creation of the Ministry of Culture.
The Government Council passed three housing projects, for a total of 400,000 additional units, and created the Comisión de Titulación de Terrenos Urbanos, a new department for city land titling.
Priority was also given to the construction and reconstruction of government hospitals.
In addition, the Council also approved the installation of the Casa del Diálogo, in order to give continuity to the talks that have been taking place for the past six months.

President to continue campaigning
President Leonel Fernández rejected the suggestion of the leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, that he take a leave of absence. When asked about this by journalists he replied, "a leave of absence, for what?"
A spokesman for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, the government party, said that when the PRD and PRSC was in power, the president did not take a leave of absence at campaign time. Lidio Cadet, secretary general of the party, said that what Peña Gómez wants to avoid is the president attracting the votes of Dominicans in favor of the municipal and congressional candidates of the PLD. He said that both the PRD and the PRSC held the presidency at times when they were also majority in Congress. He complained that the PLD is a minority in Congress and that the opposition parties in the Congress have impeded the president from carrying out the PLD government program. The PLD needs to increase its congressional representation. Concluding, the President will continue attending campaign events around the country.
The opposition has criticized that the President's travels with government ministers and all use state resources in their travels. The PLD seeks to take advantage of the presidential endorsement, especially given the very high popularity of President Fernández.
Rafael Taveras (Fafa) was critical of the National Palace becoming the headquarters of the PLD campaign, which is presided by Secretary of the Presidency, Danilo Medina, the party's chief political strategist.

DA says brothers involved in bank fraud will remain in jail
District Attorney Francisco Domínguez Brito said that the two brothers accused of over a RD$5 million fraud against Bancrédito using ATM cards will remain in jail, despite a court order to the contrary. Judge Alexis Henríquez Núñez released brothers Carlos Arturo and Rafael Emilio Santamaría Gonell on the technicality that a prison order from competent authorities was not amongst the papers of the case he received from Judge Juan Miguel Castillo Pantaleón, who preceded him. District Attorney Domínguez said the brothers will be retained as they have pending another case with the authorities.
The Listín Diario reported that Attorney General Abel Rodríguez del Orbe and Domínguez met last weekend and decided that if the brothers were released this would make banks vulnerable to an increase in frauds.
Shortly after the judgment was issued by Judge Henríquez, the Supreme Court of Justice suspended the judge who had gained notoriety for handling the José Rafael Llenas Aybar case, the controversial case of the murder of a 12-year old. Judge Henríquez headed the Primera Cámara Penal of the National District, after he replaced judge Miriam Germán Brito when the latter was promoted to the Cámara Penal de la Corte de Apelación de Santo Domingo.
Judge Alexis Henriquez defended the judgment saying, "My performance is nothing for which I should be sorry. I can stand tall because my decision was based on the law and what the Supreme Court of Justice itself has established." He said he expects the investigation that has been called will clear up what has happened and establish responsibilities.
Press reports indicate that the Supreme Court of Justice may also have suspended Judge Juan Miguel Castillo Pantaleón.

Cuban coach pledges loyalty to Dominican team
Jorge Pérez Vento, the Cuban coach of the Dominican volleyball team, said he rejected an offer of US$20,000 a month plus all expenses paid for himself and his family to train in Japan. He said he has a commitment to lead the Dominican women's volleyball team to win a world championship, adding this is a long term commitment that might take 10 to 15 years. He told Hoy newspaper reporters says that money isn't everything, and that he feels good in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team aspires to win the silver medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games. Pérez Vento said, though, that if Cuba takes its B team to the Maracaibo, Venezuela games, the Dominicans could surprise and win the volleyball gold. His goal is that the Dominican Republic team place among the top 12 in the Tokyo World Volleyball Games scheduled for November.
Pérez says that he had been assistant coach of the Cuban team at the World Games several times before, but that he is thrilled to be attending as a head coach. "Many people do not realize what it means to make it to a world tournament, where only the best 16 teams of the world go... and this small country will be there," he said.

Building hotels for tropical fish
Marine biotechnology is being used in the East to help increase the fish population. Tourists traveling to Bayahibe will benefit from the planting of several reef balls in the turquoise waters of Bayahibe in the area of the National Park of the East. These are known as artificial reefs or hotels for fish and marine species and will be placed some 30 or 50 meters from the beach. The reef balls will increase the marine biodiversity and will enrichen the snorkeling experience of tourists visiting the hotels in the area. The artificial habitats are being installed by the Reef Ball Development Group, as a pilot program that could be implemented in other areas of the country to stimulate the reproduction of fish and other marine organisms. The reef balls are one meter tall and one meter wide.

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