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Daily News - 08 April 1998

Taking an Easter break
The Dominican Republic One News and Information Service daily news section will not be published during the Holy Week long weekend holiday that starts on Thursday, 9 April. The happenings over the long weekend will be reported, and news over that period compiled for the Monday, 13 April posting.

Strengthening trade and cultural relations with Cuba
Secretary of the Presidency, Danilo Medina said in Cuba on 7 April that it is very likely that the Dominican Republic will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba before year 2000. "If the circumstances permit, before Leonel Fernández ends his term, diplomatic relations will have been restored," he said. Medina was in Havana on 7 April for the opening of the Dominican consulate. Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre said that the opening of the consulate makes official the informal trade and cultural relations between both countries that have existed since the days of the Balaguer administrations. "This official opening is a decisive step in the normalizing of the links between both countries and it will make possible that these connections be expanded and strengthened," said Latorre. He traveled to Cuba with Danilo Medina, Customs Department director Miguel Cocco, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations Minou Tavares as well as Ana Laura Guzmán from the Ministry. Grecia Fiordaliza Pichardo is the new Dominican consul in Havana.
Cuba opened their consulate in Santo Domingo on 23 December 1997.

Competing for the gambler's money
Taina Gautreaux, director of the government operated lottery, said that the National Lottery will be adding new chance games to compete with illegal games (Caraquita and Palé) and the successful private Lotto. The government lottery has also requested that the Lotto, the computerized electronic game that has a reputation for giving out millions in its accumulated prize, change its draw from Saturday to Wednesday. The National Lottery director says that the Lotto draw on Saturday has hurt sales of the Sunday grand prize of the government lottery.
The government lottery lost credibility after it was revealed and extensively covered in the press that former managers and employees rigged the prizes. Persons initially arrested for alleged corruption are free on bail, with the exception of a handful that have not had the money or political clout to gain their release. The scandal involved the family of the political secretary of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano.
The present government seeks to bring back the National Lottery and convert it into the preferred chance game of Dominicans, people that love to gamble.
Gautreaux said the government is investing RD$20 million to start the "Quiniela-Palé", where RD$15 and RD$5 pesos can be won with an investment of RD$0.25. She said that the new game will give participation to those hosting illegal games.

Trucks banned from highways
The government banned the circulation of large trucks and freight vans on highways and roads during the Easter long weekend. The ban will be in effect from noon of Thursday, 9 April through 6 am on Monday, 13 April. Trucks transporting fuel and food products need special government permits to circulate. The measure seeks to reduce the number of accidents on highways and roads during the Easter long weekend, the annual peak for ground travel.

CDE expects arbitrage court judgment for May
The general manager of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad (CDE), engineer Radhamés Segura said that the international arbitrage court that has reviewed the dispute between the Smith-Enron power generation company and the Dominican government electricity utility will give its judgment in early May. Hearings were held at arbitrage courts in New York and Mexico. The private power utility and the government entity are at odds because the CDE says that the Smith-Enron is charging for installed capacity in addition to energy served. Smith-Enron says that the CDE has not been fulfilling the contract and paying for services rendered. News reports indicate that at the present time, the Smith Enron power plant is producing only 40% of its capacity, as it is subject to maintenance. Press ports also have indicated that the Smith Enron power plant has had problems since the start because it was the wrong plant for the wrong site. It is located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.

President Fernández to tour Asia and Europe this year
The Listín Diario reported that President Leonel Fernández will travel abroad several times this year to promote trade, travel and investments.
His next trip will be later this month to the Summit of the Americas, where chiefs of state of Latin America, the Caribbean and North America will meet in Santiago de Chile to discuss issues relevant to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas in year 2005.
The President has scheduled a grand tour of Asia, the first ever for a Dominican statesman. He will travel in July to Japan for a three day visit, then he will visit South Korea and Taiwan. In October, he plans to accept invitations to visit Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Vatican, England and France.
The President is also expected to travel to El Salvador, to participate in the Central American Summit in the fall.
The President will be active in Santo Domingo receiving regional chiefs of state. On the 16th of April, he will host the chiefs of state of Central America for the signing of the nation's first free trade agreement, which will be with Central America. In August, he will host the chiefs of state of Caribbean Community (Caricom) nations for a Caribbean Summit.

60,000 persons to help in the elections
The Junta Central Electoral will employ 60,000 persons in the organization of the congressional and municipal elections. Most will work on election day, 16 May 1998, in the 10,174 polling stations throughout the country. In the National District (Santo Domingo) alone some 3,067 polling stations will operate, 65 more than in the presidential elections of 1996. In the National District, 1,267,225 voters are registered to vote in the 1998 municipal and congressional elections. The number of voters registered in the entire nation are 4,129,554 .
Provinces and potential voters:
Azua 96,756
Bahoruco 49,415
Barahona 83,529
Dajabon 35,083
Distrito Nacional 1,267,255
Duarte 160,361
El Seibo 43,921
Elías Piña 32,081
Espaillat 118,732
Hato Mayor 47,033
Independencia 23,330
La Altagracia 68,125
La Romana 93,077
La Vega 119,108
Maria Trinidad Sánchez 73,444
Monseñor Nouel 86,040
Monte Plata 91,037
Montecristi 58,414
Pedernales 10,484
Peravia 117,123
Puerto Plata 152,181
Salcedo 63,773
Samaná 42,574
San Cristóbal 22,087
San Juan 129,810
San Pedro de Macorís 128,004
Sanchez Ramírez 82,366
Santiago 442,817
Santiago Rodríguez 36,819
Valverde 74,805

It's called politics
Senator Tito Hernández (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano for San Cristobal) has made available all the billboards he used to promote his PRSC pre-candidacy for senator for San Cristóbal to an opposition party candidate. Partido de la Liberación Dominicana candidate to senator, Melanio Paredes now has the support of the PRSC candidate to deputy in Congress. Hernández is a former PLD activist and poor agronomist who was turned into a millionaire after former President Joaquín Balaguer lured him to the PRSC and appointed him Minister of Agriculture and then senator for San Cristóbal. He had won the PRSC primaries for senator last month but President Joaquín Balaguer inscribed José Osvaldo Leger for the post. The PRSC leader assigned Hernández the No. 1 deputy position, which means he will make it into Congress, with or without the support of the party.
Hernández made headlines last year for allegedly using his position to acquire Dominican Agrarian Institute lands. Hernández and his brother are now major residential property developers in San Cristóbal.
Political analysts say that Hernández will do all possible so that Leger, who supported Peña Gómez's aspirations to win the presidency for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) in the 1996 presidential elections, but returned to the favor of Balaguer in time to be appointed PRSC candidate to senator, receives the least of votes.
The PRSC has always won in San Cristóbal, except for a time when internal problems within the party resulted in a win for the opposition. It is expected that the PRSC internal problems will translate into a loss for the party this time around.

Is Univision trying to make up with the Dominican people?
The popular Chilean TV show host, "Don Francisco" is in the Dominican Republic to produce several reports on Dominican tourist attractions for his Univisión Spanish-language television station program.
Mario Kreuzberger reports will show cigar factories in Santiago, the story of the Jewish settlers in Sosua, the ecology of Samana, Dominican music, featuring Juan Luís Guerra and Victor Victor, and Casa de Campo and Altos de Chavón in La Romana.
The Listín Diario said that the program is a way for the station to make up with the Dominican people for the negative image on Dominicans created by the El Show de Cristina.
Dominicans had been critical of how the station's programs have been presenting Dominicans. And then early this month, a Dominican TV investigate journalist, Nuria Piera produced a report exposing that Cristina Saralegui's show producers had gotten sloppy and were taking advantage of the natural talent of Dominicans and their willingness to accept expenses paid vacations to Miami to perform the wretched scripts given to them by the production team. Cristina herself admitted the Dominicans had helped increase the ratings.

Leave the car home, take the bus
Hamlet Herman, the director of the newly created Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), said his department is working so that in the near future Dominicans will prefer to take a bus rather than drive. AMET inaugurated its second bus route last week, the North Corridor, that runs from John F. Kennedy Avenue-V Centenario-Padre Castellanos through the Carretera Mella on the east side of Santo Domingo.
AMET expects to have functional this year four other corridors. These would be:
Los Alcarrizos (Carr. Duarte, Luperon to Km. 12 in Haina)
Central (Máximo Gómez from Av. Independencia through Villa Mella on the North side of the city)
Este (Charles de Gaulle, Villa Mella, Guarícano)
Panorámico (from the docks of Haina to Los Tres Ojos)
The first corridor, the 27 de Febrero, that crosses the city from the Carretera Manoguayabo intersection to Los Tres Ojos on the east side, is operating successfully, transporting an average of 40,000 passengers a day. An express bus service was started this month on this same route.
The John F. Kennedy route is expected to transport 72,000 passengers a day.
The third route, that of Los Alcarrizos is set to start 5 May.
Herman said that as part of the reorganization of traffic in Santo Domingo large parking facilities will be built. One would be located in the parking lot of the National Police on Av. Leopoldo Navarro and Mexico. And another in the Colonial City.
Furthermore, Herman says there are plans to rationalize the working hours of schools and businesses to relieve the peak hour traffic. Furthermore, trucks will be banned from transiting at certain hours, and several streets will become one way streets.
Nevertheless, Herman says that one of the major problems is the people of Santo Domingo's lack of civic education. "The problem is not a technical one, it is a matter of impunity and education, people have to become accustomed to complying with the laws, and not thinking of getting by with bribes or thinking that someone can arrest them or give them a ticket, it is a matter of showing more education," Herman told the Listín Diario.

DR gets good review in The Times
A report by The Times' reporter Jim Hartley, sent to the Dominican Republic to investigate allegations that the United Kingdom visitors stand to suffer from health problems, cleared the country. Jim Hartley's story concluded that the Dominican Republic had been an undeserving victim of bad press.
The journalist traveled to the DR on a Thomson package, stayed at the Puerto Plata Village in Playa Dorada, but traveled extensively through the country taking many excursions.
Hartley said he had plans to drink only bottled water, eat only cooked foods. He said that by the second day he started eating fruit when he observed they were prepared right in front of him by a women using disposable gloves. He said he interviewed other guests and none had fallen ill. He inspected the kitchen, no one stopped him, and observed a kitchen with pots and pans that sparkled. He later visited the Riu Merengue, also in Puerto Plata, and the reviews of the guests were also very favorable. Those he interviewed said they "definitely would return." He said he visited only two resorts of the nearly 400 hotels in the Dominican Republic but wasn't able confirm stories of dirty kitchens.
He said the food was much better than he expected. That the beer and cocktails were excellent. His only criticism was the lack of dinner wine in the package. But then he asks, "What can you expect for less than 1,000 British pounds for two weeks?
He said that outside of the complex he met very friendly people, not the aggressive beach vendors or the violent taxi drivers so common in many Caribbean islands. He said he visited the mountains, bathed in a cascade, saw the whales, visited a cigar factory and was impressed by the elegant restaurants and the colonial architecture of the capital city, Santo Domingo.
He ends his report saying that while he waited to take back the plane to return home, he felt sorry for all those who had seen their dream vacations ruined by illness. But he also felt sorry for the Dominican Republic, a beautiful country that had taken a beating by being undeservedly labeled as cheap and dirty.

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