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Daily News - 24 March 1998

Venezuelan banks to finance Dominican business
The Banco de Comercio Exterior de Venezuela signed an agreement with the Banco Intercontinental (Baninter) and the Banco Popular Dominicano to provide US$6 million in financing for joint ventures between Venezuelan and Dominican companies. A business mission from Venezuela recently visited to participate in a Venezuelan trade show at the Hotel Jaragua.

Food prices high because of protectionism
Economist Andrés Dauhajre charged that the government has lacked political will to put a stop to the high food prices that affect Dominican consumers. He says that the powerful groups that oppose the opening of Dominican markets are responsible for the high local food prices. Producers allege that once importers get a hold of the Dominican market, they too will increase prices. Meanwhile, Dauhajre says that rice, fertilizers, edible oils, onions, and beans all sell here for more than in Central America. He pointed out that rice is 45% more expensive here than in Central America; a pound of red beans sells for RD$12.50, while it sells for RD$6.27 in Central America; a liter of milk sells for RD$14.50 here and for RD$8.60 in Central America. Sugar costs 25% more here.
In a recent article in the Listin Diario on Sunday, 27 March, Dauhajre satirized the argument that Dominican industry is too young to compete with other nations. He says that the rum industry, for example, is barely 146 years old, the textile industry is only 54 years old, the edible oils industry is 48 years, fertilizers industry has only been in existence for 47 years. He says that if the protectionism continues, the producers will later be able to argue that it is unfair to allow competition against the poor senile industries.

Dominican businessmen seek to be left out of trade with Central America
Dominican businessmen have requested that 40 categories of products be excluded from the free trade agreement the Dominican government is negotiating with Central America. The final round of the negotiations is taking place now in Guatemala City. The list of products requested to be excluded was so long that the president of the Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada, the largest private business council, Celso Marranzini traveled to Guatemala to lobby for the signing of the free trade agreement.
El Siglo newspaper reported that the Central American negotiators were surprised at the long list of products that could imperil the signing of the agreement.
El Siglo reported that the list included everything from crackers to toilet paper and calypsos. Other industries that seek protection produce pastas, air conditioners, tomato paste and refined sugar, steel rods for construction, grey cement, leather goods, plastic containers and footwear. Furthermore, chicken and beef producers, as well as farmers that produce onions, red beans, milk, corn, garlic, rice and potatoes seek protection.
Ministry of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre considers that no more than 10 products should be on the list of excluded Dominican products. Talks that would lead to the signing of the agreement during a presidential summit in the Dominican Republic on 16 April began in December 1997. On 10 February the Ministry invited businessmen to participate in the negotiation round that was held in Santo Domingo.

Former Argentinean diplomats asked to return to stand trial
The Dominican government has requested the presence of Martin Palmas Meccia and Luis Palmas de la Calzada, husband and son of the former Argentine Ambassador in the country. The request to the Argentinean judiciary was made by the Dominican ambassador in Argentina, Juan José Jiménez Sabater. The Palmas are involved in the assassination of 12-year old José Rafael Llenas Aybar on 3 May. Two Dominicans have confessed to participating in the murder, and the lawyers of one of them says there are more Dominicans involved that court investigations have not yet uncovered. The defendants fear that the attention may focus on the Argentineans, that are unlikely to be extradited by the Argentine government, and not on the other Dominicans that are involved. The corpse of sixth grader José Rafael Llenas Aybar was found in the Arroyo Lebron near the Palmas Meccia family farm where they bred dogs.

Puerto Plata sky lift back in service by May
The Puerto Plata sky lift should be in operation by May, according to a report in El Siglo newspaper. The Ministry of Public Works is investing RD$10 million in the rehabilitation of the telpher that takes tourists to the top of the Isabel de Torres Mountain. Once on the top, tourists can visit a botanical garden and enjoy the excellent view of the North Coast. The telpher has been closed since October 1996 when a fire affected its operation. The administrator of the funicular, Rafael Hiraldo Martínez said that the Italian company that is responsible for the repairs of the telpher has promised the new control panel will be in place by the second week of May.

Power barge contract questioned
The local press has been questioning the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad (CDE) contracting of the Impedance power barge. According to reports, the barge, which once operated in the Dominican Republic, is a lemon. Reportedly the barge was contracted with Cayman Power Barge I, and is expected to initially generate 30 megawatts to the national energy grid. CDE administrator, Radhamés Segura has refused to comment on the contract. The power plant is property of Walters Power International and at present is in Texas where it is undergoing repairs and test trials. The press reported the power barge had been operating precariously in Jamaica. Reports say the barge had difficulty finding a new contractor given its reputation as a lemon. Its motors have been reconstructed several times but they suffer from "structural fatigue" that impede it from reaching optimal levels of efficiency, according to El Caribe newspaper. The CDE announced that the plant would be installed in Barahona within the next two months. Reportedly, the power plant was offered to the previous administrator Temístocles Montás who rejected contracting its services.

More on the Santamaría brothers credit card fraud case
Ultima Hora newspaper reported that Article 13 of Law 5353 allows a judge to maintain in jail accused persons if there is substantial proof they are guilty, regardless of whether they could be freed on a technicality. Two Santamaría Gonell brothers that were accused by the Police of credit card and cash card fraud against Dominican banks for some US$20 million were issued a judgment for their release by a Dominican judge as the imprisonment order by a judicial authority was missing from the record. The Supreme Court has suspended the judges involved in the case. The District Attorney Francisco Domínguez did not heed the order for their release. The investigations revealed that the accused used sophisticated equipment to commit the fraud that principally affected the Bancrédito. The bank denounced the fraud to the Police in February of 1997.

Employees of UASD back at work
Office employees of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) returned to work on Monday, 23 March after a 42 day strike that impeded the start of the semester at the state university. The university agreed to a 8% increase in salaries and other benefits for the employees, but conditioned the increase in pay to receiving a line of credit from the Fernández administration.

Tobacco manufacturers can't compete with big exporters
Some 35 small and medium-sized tobacco factories have closed down unable to compete with the larger cigar-exporting companies.
Small producers are affected by higher production costs, and the scarcity of skilled labor. Alberto García, president of the Federación de Productores de Tabaco del Cibao, said that the smaller companies have had trouble purchasing wrappers from Connecticut. García has also complained that the larger exporters have dumped 10 million cigar units on the U.S. market at low prices.
The business failures affect central Cibao towns and cities of Tamboril, Villa González, Navarrete, Santiago and Villa Vasquez. 80% of the workers that have been fired are women. El Siglo newspaper estimates that 200,000 Dominicans are employed by the tobacco industry in the Cibao area.
In 1997, some 200 million cigars were produced for the North American and European markets. Production this year is expected to exceed 220 million units. Most of the factories that went bankrupt employed in the roundabouts of 250 workers and produced about 40 to 50,000 cigars per day.
The factories were installed responding to the strong demand for Dominican cigars in Europe and North America. From about 400 tobacco stores that existed in the United States in 1994, the market grew to over 5,000 tobacco stores by 1997.
El Siglo reported that the Dominican Republic placed some US$289 million in cigar sales in 1997, according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics. Dominican cigar exports grew 113.46% in 1997 compared to the previous year.
On the other hand, Dominican Ministry of Agriculture statistics say the country exported cigars and cigarettes for US$211.5 million in 1997. This was the result of an export volume of 285.5 million units and 37.2 million kilos.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Dominican exports to the United States in 1995 were US$69 million, which by 1996 had increased to US$135 million.
Tobacco is the fifth largest Dominican export product. The leading Dominican exports are textiles, US$1,105 million; optical and medical instruments, US$308 million; electrical products US$316 million; stockings, US$292 million.

Former presidents visit for meeting
President Leonel Fernández met with the visiting members of the Latin American and Caribbean section of Socialist International, the social democratic political organization. Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, a social democrat party, and who is running for mayor of Santo Domingo was the host of the important visitors during their stay in Santo Domingo. Several former presidents of Latin America attended including Luis Ayala (Colombia), Raúl Alfonsín (Argentina), and Jaime Paz Zamora (Bolivia).

Major archaeological finding in Juan Dolio
Tourists staying at the Coral Costa Caribe of Juan Dolio will be able to admire the pre-Columbian Indian findings uncovered right on the premises of the resort. Archaeologist Elpidio Ortega estimates that the items date back to 2,192 years before Christ. They include body adornments, spoons, hammers, plates, hand-held picks and other artifacts. The early inhabitants mostly used shells and river rocks to make their artifacts. The items were uncovered during the construction of an annex to the beach hotel. The archaeologist said that the finding is the oldest Indian site in the East and the only known site in the Caribbean with such a large concentration of artifacts with the same characteristics as those of the Manicuare and Cubagua tribes that lived on the coasts of Venezuela where pieces dating back years 1190 and 2325 before Christ have been found. The artifacts were analyzed by the Beta Analytic laboratory. The finding is contributing important information on who were the first inhabitants of the Caribbean.
The resort is preparing an area where the pieces will be exhibited.

Dominican consul to meet with Cristina
The Dominican consul in Miami, Javier González said that TV producer Cristina Saralegui has accepted to meet with the Comisión de Defensa de la Dominicanidad to discuss her recruiting of Dominicans for demeaning impersonations on her talk shows. Recently, the Dominican press revealed that several of the situations presented on the shows are fake. Producers of the El Show de Cristina contract Dominicans to play the roles defined in scripts written for the show, offering them cash and expense paid weekend trips to Miami. Show producers had earlier denied the impersonifications.

Workshop on franchises
A workshop on operating franchises in the Dominican Republic will take place on Saturday, 28 March from 9 to 12 noon at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the American Chamber of Commerce. In the Dominican Republic in less than five years, several major franchises have opened to sell food, and other products and services. These include:
Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Little Caesars, Domino's Pizza, Olimpie, Pollo Tropical, Mrs. Field's Cookies, Dunkin' Donuts, Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins, Yogen Fruz, TCBY. Clothing stores that have opened franchises in the DR in recent years are Liz Claiborne, Benetton, Don Algodon, Nautica, Facconable, Guess. Other franchises that operate in the DR are Dryclean USA, Alphagraphics, Terminix, Hertz, National, Budget, Avis, Meineke, Mr. Movies, Quick Hills, Ziebert, Remax, Century 21, among others.

Horrendous crime
The Police reported that a 12-year old and a 14-year old beat seven year old Javi de Jesús Encarnación to death and seriously injured his cousin nine year old so that the later would not tell on them. The teenagers had earlier stolen a bicycle. The teenagers confessed the killing. The nine-year old is in the intensive care unit of the Robert Reid Children's Hospital in Haina where he is recovering from serious head injuries.

Tragic ending to trip to Puerto Rico
The Navy had recovered 19 corpses of the estimated 25 victims of the boat that capsized off La Romana in rough seas on Sunday, 22 March. The travelers were enroute to Puerto Rico. They had each paid upwards of RD$10,000 for a chance at getting into Puerto Rico. An estimated 65 people were on the boat, of which some 28 were rescued alive. Most of the persons resided in María Trinidad Sánchez province on the North of the island.

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