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Daily News - March 31st, 1998

Europe donates US$35 million for Haiti-DR infrastructure
The European Union's Lomé aid program will help finance the construction of a bridge over Masacre River on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the rehabilitation of the Port of Manzanillo, on the Northwest Coast of the DR, and the construction of a highway between the frontier cities of Cap Haitien in Haiti and Dajabón in the DR. The Lome program will provide US$35 million for the constructions.

14 Pakistanis deported
The Department of Migration deported 14 Pakistan citizens that had entered the DR illegally from Haiti en route to the United States and Canada. The head of the mafia that organized the trips, was deported. Danilo Díaz, director of Migration said that so far this year 63 foreigners, principally from Asia, have been deported for attempting to reach the U.S. and Canada by way of the DR.

Supreme Court is pleased with evaluation of potential judges
The president of the Supreme Court of Justice evaluated 169 judges or lawyers that aspire to be judges during three consecutive days at the Centro de Eventos y Exposiciones last week. The interviewing was open to the general public and the evaluation was amply covered by the press. Judge Juan Sully Bonelly said that the judges that will be chosen for Santo Domingo will be the envy of other judicial districts of the country. He said there were many very good professionals competing for the available positions, and that the selection will be difficult. He said that a side benefit of the evaluation is that lawyers and judges are more aware of the need to keep up to date. The Supreme Court now moves on to San Juan de la Maguana where it will also interview candidates to judges in that provinces.

Pedro Martínez opens for the Boston Red Sox
Dominican Pedro Martínez, the highest paid baseball player in the Major Leagues, and winner of the 1997 Cy Young pitching award, will open for the Boston Red Sox in that team's first game at the start of the 1998 baseball season in the Untied States. This is Martinez's first year with the Boston team.

Dominican advertisers abandon El Show de Cristina
In a press conference held in New York City, Heinz Vieluf, chief executive of the Cibao Meat company, one of the largest suppliers of meat products to ethnic markets in New York City, announced the company's decision to discontinue its advertising support of El Show de Cristina, the popular Hispanic talk show. El Show de Cristina is subject to much controversy after Dominican investigative journalist, Nuria Piera showed proof on Dominican TV that several of the televised programs presented Dominican guests that were not in real life who they said to be on the TV show. Vieluf motivated his decision as follows: "As Dominicans and as a company we cannot continue supporting a TV show that is manipulated to convenience and has selected a series of topics and situations that are denigrating to our country and our nationality."
The National Supermarket Association, the leading association of small supermarkets in New York City, also accused El Show de Cristina of manipulating and distorting the truth to increase ratings and promote host Cristina's image.
Cristina Saralegui, the host of the show, has denied accusations that her show denigrates Dominicans, but has avoided the issue of the impersonations on her talk show.

Only Dominicans can help keep the Colonial City clean
The president of the Oficina de Patrimonio Cultural, the office in charge of the architectural heritage of the country, blamed Dominicans in general for the littering and garbage that affects the colonial city. He said that Dominicans are not aware of what they are doing when they throw plastic cups and other litter on city streets. He said that several of the inhabitants of the colonial city lack civic education. He was responded to a news report in El Siglo that indicated that cruise ship passengers that dock near the Colonial City have complained about the cleanliness of the city. Architect Manuel Delmonte urged the citizenry to use the garbage cans or save litter to throw out when in their own homes. He said that the municipality has lent the colonial city office a truck and 24 persons to pick up the litter, but that they will not accomplish much if Dominicans are not made aware of the problem. He said that the municipality must be radical in obliging organizers of events in the Avenida del Puerto to clean up after. He said that now "we have to go out after them like maids and clean what those little children leave, this is an uneducated people."

U.S. Secretary of State to visit Haiti
U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright will travel to Haiti on Saturday, 4 April to meet with government officers prior to traveling on the same day to the Caribbean Community ministerial meeting scheduled for Trinidad & Tobago. A press note says that Albright will be in Haiti to express her support to the resolution of the impasse between government and congressional forces that has affected Haiti for the past nine months. President Preval forces have clashed with former President Jean Bertrand Aristide supporters in congress. This impasse must be resolved in order to free large donations for social assistance, said James Rubin, spokesman for the State Department. Albright's visit also seeks to strengthen efforts to combat drug smuggling that is using Haiti as a bridge between Colombia and the United States.

President orders arrest of organizer of fatal boat trip
The Listín Diario reported that President Leonel Fernández has ordered the arrest of the organizers of the illegal boat trips. In a recent boat trip that capsized off the coast of La Romana, some 40 Dominicans drowned. The press reported that Inocencia Guzmán, from Nagua, was arrested. In the past, despite the organizers of the boat trips being well known in the communities, community residents have protected these as the success rate of the boat trips to Puerto Rico is high.

Peso-Dollar relation stabilizes
The president of the Association of Commercial Banks, José M. López Valdés believes that the peso will not continue losing value in regards to the U.S. dollar. The dollar sold for upwards of RD$15.10 to the dollar last week. The Central Bank announced last week that it would be injecting US$50 million into the exchange market in order to stabilize the run against the peso. Central Bank governor Hector Valdez said that the abrupt drop in value of the peso occurred when several large multinational companies, including a telecommunication and a cigarette manufacturer, purchased dollars on the local market to repatriate their profits and dividends. Last week passed the peso stabilized at above the RD$15-US$1 barrier. On Monday, 30 March most banks were buying US$ for RD$14.35-RD$14.50 and selling US$ for RD$14.98-RD$15.05 plus the 1.5% commission.

Will the reign of Aristy Castro in the East end?
The Listín Diario reported that the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano and the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana are trying to end what is described as the "reign" or "Indian chief" of the East. The president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro made newspaper headlines last year for alleged use of his political influence to appropriate government lands that are now in the name of his family members in the eastern beach areas. Nevertheless, he is the man to beat in the East.
Aristy Castro has used his influence to become a multi-millionaire. He is known for his paternalistic style of politics. The senator has always been willing to pay for a medical prescription, and when he travels through the East he always has pockets full of money to help the poor rebuild their house or donate money for a meal. As a result, since he won the senatorial position in 1978 on the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano ticket, he has stayed in power and allegations of corruption have done little to affect his political aspirations.
His contenders, the candidate to senators for the PRD Ramón Guiliamo Alfonso and for the PLD, Hector Julio Baltazar Guerrero are hopeful they will be able to overturn him. They say they do not have to defeat the PRSC, they have to defeat Amable Aristy Castro, and his large pockets of money.
Guilamo Alfonso told the Listín, "His reign, or whatever you want to call it has come to an end. The people are tired of Amable Aristy."
But followers of Aristy say that while he wants to be senator, there is no way there will be a rival that can defeat him in an election. "The senator is the only one who truly is concerned about the poor and helps his people. This man is a devotee of the Virgen de la Altagracia. Anyone who goes from Higuey (in the East) to the capital, will find a helping hand."

Hotel Association addresses bad press in UK
The president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association and the president of the Tourism Promotion Council (CPT) attributed to merely internal business motives the stir in the British press caused by the British tour operator, Airtours. Airtours announced it would no longer be selling several Dominican properties due to reasons of hygiene at these.
Asonahores pointed to the fact that the most important tour operator in the United Kingdom, Thomson continues to sell the Dominican Republic. "While some of the competitors of Thomson, such as Airtours have tried to resolve their problems by spoiling the image of the DR before the British people, Thomson has associated with Dominicans in their quest to improve the local tourism product," said the president of Asonahores, Marino Ginebra. In recent years, Thomson has sent more than 200,000 UK travelers to the DR and sales of Dominican package tours increase every year.
One United Kingdom-based contributor to the Dominican Republic One News and Information Service expressed his suspicion of the motives of Airtours when canceling three hotels operated by the Spanish Occidental hotel chain. He said that he was "immediately suspicious of contract/pricing/profit/business issues rather than genuine concerns."
He told the story of how "a few years ago my girlfriend and I went to a resort called Salou in Spain. Before we went we had never heard of it and when talking to an English bar owner we were told that about five years before the British press had an anti-Salou week, claiming that the place was riddled with typhoid. Anyway this bloke said that what ACTUALLY happened was that there was a small outbreak of typhus ( not typhoid ) and this gave the tour operators an excuse to get out of thousands of hotel bookings for which they had no customers (this was at the start of the recession in the UK). Hence the bad press was for the tour operators balance sheet not for travellers benefit.
One medical doctor, Juan Escarfuller, told the DR One service, "I said it before and I'll say it again, this is just a trick from the competition with financial interests in other tourists resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico where the sanitary conditions, in my own experience, are worse than yours." He recommended tourists to use only bottled water, don't eat from street vendors, and when not staying at a 4-5 stars hotel, don't eat the cold dishes at the buffets.
The Dominican tourism spokesmen said that the Dominican Republic participates in the Caribbean Hotel Association programs, supported by the World Health Organization to maintain improved levels of hygiene in local hotels.
Furthermore, Asonahores said that 70% of the 28,000 rooms in large hotels have contracts with the English firm Crystal, that specializes in food hygiene control for hotels and restaurants, and implement the food management program known as Health Analysis Crystal Control Points. This program costs Dominican hoteliers over US$2 million a year.
The Dominican Republic is the leading tourism destination for European tourists, including the UK travel market. Asonahores said that in the 90s more than five million European tourists principally from Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Belgium, Austria and France have visited the DR.
After Europe, the second largest regional market for the DR is North America. From the U.S., some 1.1 million visitors arrived in the past two years, of which 814,000 were from the United States and 280,000 from Canada.
As of December 1997, the hotel inventory was 38,250 rooms, of which more than 50% were operated by leading international companies, such as Meliá, Riu, Renaissance (Marriott), Club Mediterranee, Premier, Accor, Fiesta, Allegro, Viva, Intercontinental, Occidental, Iberostar, LTU, among others.
In the past 15 years, the hotel inventory has increased 36%, and the number of arrivals has increased 28%. This is way above the average of the World Tourism Organization for the Caribbean and for the world.

What's the campaign all about
Hoy political analyst Gustavo Olivo criticized the poor content of the campaigns of those aspiring to congressional and municipal posts in the 16 May elections. He said that the opposition has based its campaign on denouncing the government for using government resources to back the PLD candidates. "The candidates seem to be all from the same party, they all have the same train of thoughts. In their speeches we hear the same empty phrases, the same promises, always directed to the poor, the largest voter sector," he said. He also said that the PLD has benefited from the disorder and discouragement in the PRD and the PRSC. He said that the opposition should be focusing on the issues of economic problems, health problems, education or energy in each individual community.

Moving ahead on Central American trade agreement
The chief trade agreement negotiator for the Dominican Republic, Deputy Minister Frederic Emam-Zade said that negotiations are advanced for the signing of the free trade agreement with Central America during a presidential summit in Santo Domingo on 26 April. Negotiators have just returned from the round of discussions held in Guatemala City from 23-27 March.
He said that only the issues on rules of origin (this would affect free zone products) and the list of products that will be exempt from the zero tariff remain to be concluded. The Central American and Dominican negotiators have agreed to present a provisional list of products to be exempt from duty. This list would contain no more than 20 items. The final list would be presented in less than six months time. The exemptions must be justified, there must be reciprocity, and the list cannot include products for which there is ongoing trade between Central America and the DR.
Dominican negotiators were head by Frederic Emam Zade, who is in charge of the National Commission for Negotiation of Trade Agreements, and Cesar Herrera, and Rafael Núñez, representing the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Margarita Cedeño, deputy legal consultant to the Presidency; Luisa Fernández and Miguel Angel Heredia for the Ministry of Industry and Commerce; Rodolfo Espineira, Federico Cuello and Rolando Guzmán for the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency. Also America Bastidas for the Lomé IV Accord Office; Hugo Rivera for Digenor, the industrial quality control department; Gabriel Castro, for the National Free Zone Council; Fernando Pellerano for the Ministry of Finances, Virgilio Gautreaux for the Central Bank; Juan Jose Espinal, Milton Paniagua and Porfirio Alovarez for the Ministry of Agriculture; Gregorio Lora, Jose Rivas and Eduardo Rodríguez for the Customs Department and Rosa Amelia Abreu for the Dominican Center for the Promocion of Exports.
The private sector was represented by Celso Marranzi, president of the Private Business Council (CONEP), Nassim Alemany represented the Association of Industries; Osmar Benitez went for the Agribusiness Council (JAD); Milagros Puello, executive director of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce; Winston Marrero, Luis Manuel Pellerano and Arturo Peguero attended for the free zone industries. Also attending for the private sector were Carlos Despradel, Virgilio Mayol, Maria del Carmen Jaquez, Michele Waschmann, Jose Vanderhorst, Campos de Moya and Claudia Mejia Ricart.
Nassim Alemany, president of the Asociation of Industries of the Dominican Republic said that a great effort had been made and that the country would be the primary beneficiary of the trade agreement.
Chief negotiator Freddy Emam Zade said that the government would be sending to congress a package of bills that are needed so that the DR can compete as equal with Central America. The bills include a tariffs reform, anti-dumping bill, export promotion bill, income tax bill, among others. While the trade agreement will be signed on 26 April, the government will wait until after the congressional elections take place on 16 May. "Logic tells us that these bills should be submitted to the new congress," said Emam Zade, indicating that the bills would not be submitted until the new congress is inaugurated on 16 August 1998.

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