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Daily News - 24 June 1998

Cardinal does not attend inaugural of three churches
President Leonel Fernández inaugurated three Roman Catholic Churches in the city of Santo Domingo. The state built the churches at a cost of RD$15 million to tax payers. The churches are the San Ignacio de Antoquía in Hainamosa, San Maxiliamo Korbe in Los Frailes, and San Juan de Avila in Los Mameyes. Felix Bautista, director of the Oficina Coordinadora de Obras del Estado, said the keynote speech. Pablo Cedano, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo spoke for the Catholic Church. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez's absence was noteworthy. The Cardinal recently criticized the government's intention to build nine 22-floor luxury towers on grounds of the Plaza de la Salud, the high tech government-built medical complex. Cardinal López Rodríguez presides the board of the Plaza de la Salud.
While construction has been suspended on the towers, the Ministry of Public Health announced that a forum would be held to discuss the future of the health complex and the construction of the towers. President Joaquín Balaguer, under whose government the medical center was built, has strongly opposed their construction.

Government should stay out of building deluxe dwellings
Private builders feel the government should not construct luxury apartments. The president of the Asociación de Promotores y Constructores de Viviendas, José Rodríguez Cáceres told the Listín Diario that members of that builders' association said there is a boom in the construction of luxury towers. Members of the association are building around 50 luxury towers throughout the city of Santo Domingo, most located in the Bella Vista, Avenida Anacaona, Naco and Piantini areas. These sell for RD$1.6 million to RD$15 million.
"The government should be a facilitator, not a competitor," says the president of the private builders' association.
Diandino Peña has said the Plaza de la Salud apartments would be sold at cost to government employees, since the government does not seek to make a profit.
Minister of Public Works Diandino Peña, who has defended the project that would be undertaken by a contractor chosen by him, was known for his Diandy luxury towers, prior to joining government. Earlier, he had worked with the department that supervises government construction in the Balaguer administration. He is known as a major financier of the Fernández presidential campaign.

Building an overpass to Las Americas Airport
Construction works are advancing on the construction of new accesses to the Las Americas International Airport. Two bridges are being built so that traffic does not have to stop at the intersection with the airport. One overpass will be 700 meters long, the other 400 meters long. Several businesses and homes in the area need to be dislodged. The construction works are slated to be completed by December of this year. Studies carried out by the Ministry of Public Works show that of the estimated 20,000 vehicles that head East from Santo Domingo every day, 50% make a detour at the Las Americas International Airport.
The construction has affected the flow of traffic to the East. Indeed, these are not the best days for driving in Santo Domingo. Major reconstruction and expansion works of several avenues and streets are nightmares for drivers. Work is going on simultaneously on the John F. Kennedy, 27 de Febrero, 30 de Mayo, Charles de Gaulle, Hermanas Mirabal, Gustavo Mejía Ricart and Paris avenues or streets. The government promises most construction will be over by Christmas.

Government clamps down on betting shops
The Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas, the government drug enforcement agency, closed down 90 betting shops in Santo Domingo and other cities. The owners are under investigation for money laundering.
The administrator of the National Lottery, Taína Gautreau said that large illegal gambling stores are cover ups for criminal and money laundering activities. She opposed a congressional bill that would legalize these betting stores by establishing that they pay 1% of total bets to the state. The bill would legalize the games of lotto, caraca, bingo, pale, casino, sports betting banks and others.
The government already legalized the operation of the sports betting shops which are licensed by the Ministry of Sports.

To increase the price of fuel or not
Dominican sectors are divided over whether it is in the better interest of the nation to reduce or not the price of gasoline and gasoil. The Fernández government is benefiting from a windfall of increased tax money due to the decline in the price of petroleum. Fuel is heavily taxed in the DR. The high prices are considered a lid on excessive consumption of fuel. The DR is a net importer of fuel products.
The argument of many that do not favor a decline in prices is that even with the high prices of fuel there has been an increase in fuel consumption of 11% during the first five months of the year. From January to May, the DR consumed 2,378.9 barrels, compared to 2,286.8 barrels for the same period in 1997.
The Fernández government increased the price of non-leaded gasoline to RD$32 from RD$20 in December 1996 responding to the high crude prices at the time. The government has since then reduced the price of fuel up to 68%.
Since October 1997, when the cost of a barrel of fuel was US$23 per barrel, the later has dropped to a low US$10.55 last week. The government had promised to adjust the prices of fuel downward or upward, but the drops in prices have not met with the expectations of consumers.
Advocates of a price reduction say that a decline in the price of fuel would reduce the cost of living in the DR, benefiting all sectors. Ignacio Méndez, president of the Asociación de Industriales de Herrera, an important industrial association, favors the government keeping its promise of reducing the price of fuel, starting with a drop in the price of gasoil that has a direct effect on production.
The president of the Association of Industries, Nassim Alemany, nevertheless, alerted that the present drop in crude could be only temporary.
Other sectors say that the government should reduce the prices of non-leaded fuel in a much greater proportion than those of leaded fuel to stimulate an increase in the consumption of non-leaded versus leaded fuel.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a press conference that the government needs to study reports from the Refinería Dominicana de Petróleo, and await the results of a meeting of OPEC to be held today. The government's decision would not be announced for another three weeks, he said.
OPEC ministers have said they would like to reduce the production of petroleum to confront the worst decline in prices in the past 12 years.

Vice President favored for PLD presidential nomination
A Hamilton & Staff survey commissioned by Hoy newspaper showed that Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal is the favored Partido de la Liberación Dominicana politician for the presidential candidacy of year 2000. President Leonel Fernández is the party's leading politician, but he is constitutionally impaired from running for re-election in year 2000. Secretary of the Presidency, Danilo Medina is the third most popular candidate.
When asked who do you think should be the presidential candidate for the government party, those interviewed answered: Leonel Fernández 31%, Jaime David Fernández 17%, Danilo Medina 6%, Felucho Jiménez 5%, Euclides Gutiérrez 4%, Norge Botello 4%. 19% of those interviewed said they do not know.
When President Fernández was eliminated from the list, Vice President Fernández received 26% of the vote, versus 8% of runner up Danilo Medina. The good-looking Vice President received 29% of the vote of women, and 23% of the vote of the men. Danilo Medina received 10% of the vote of the men, and 7% of the vote of the women.
Vice President Jaime David Fernández, 41 years old, is a former senator for Salcedo. He is a psychiatrist by profession who studied farming before graduating as a doctor. He entered the PLD in 1979. He has maintained a low political profile as Vice President of the Republic.
Danilo Medina is from San Juan de la Maguana. The today Secretary of the Presidency as a PLD congressman in 1996 played a key role in the negotiations that led to the reduction of the last presidency of Joaquín Balaguer to two years, prohibition of re-election and establishment of the constitutional reform whereby 50%+1 of the vote is needed to win the presidency of the Republic. He is 42 years old. He lead the presidential campaign for the PLD that took Leonel Fernández to the presidency. He is one of the closest aides of the President and is considered the preferred man of the President to represent the party in the year 2000 elections. He entered the party in 1973 and is a member of its political and central committees. He was a congressman for almost eight years and is known as a fine political strategist.
The Hamilton survey was carried out 5-12 June and some 1,000 persons were interviewed, 31% of which reside in Santo Domingo, 10% in Santiago and 31% in the North (excluding Santiago), 17% in the South and 10% in the East.

Milagros Ortíz is ready to run for President
Milagros Ortíz Bosch, re-elected senator for Santo Domingo, and the most popular political leader of that party, said that she plans to seek the presidential candidacy for her party in year 2000. "I believe I have had a good career in politics, with sufficient success, and there is no reason why I shouldn't aspire," she said.
She told the press she favors a constitutional reform so that the President can be elected with 45-50% of the vote and not 50%+1 as at present. The 50%+1 usually requires an alliance between opposing parties. She feels that the second round of the 1996 elections joined two minorities and as a result government has been difficult and the country has not been able to fulfill pre-established goals. The government has clashed with an opposing Congress.
She said that as soon as the rules to elect the presidential candidate of her party are set, she will reach a final decision as to whether she will run or not.
The other leading contenders are city mayor Rafael Suberví Bonilla and Hipólito Mejía.

DR to host conference of armed forces of the Americas
Santo Domingo will be host city to the XXII Conference of Armed Forces of the Americas. The Ministry of the Armed Forces of the Dominican Republic is organizing the conference that has been held every year since 1960. During the conference, representatives of the armies of the Americas meet to foster cooperation amongst themselves. The event has been held in the United States, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Canada and Uruguay.

Pig assassin acquitted
Economist Victor Grimaldi was acquitted from accusations that he threatened the life of businesswoman Cristina Cadenas. The case received much press when Grimaldi shot the pig mascot of Cadenas to death at the apartment complex were both lived. Grimaldi said that the pig attempted to injure him. Cadenas said she feared for her life. Judge Alexis Henríquez Núñez of the Sixth Penal Chamber dismissed charges against Grimaldi.

Low in prices could force shut of ferronickel plant
Falconbridge Dominicana, a major producer of ferronickel in the Dominican Republic may close its operations during the last three months of the year if the record low prices on world markets continue. Melvin Paulino, spokesman for the company, said that ferronickel prices are down to US$1.98 per pound, from the average US$3.15 price of last year. He said the situation would affect the bonuses of company employees and taxes paid to the government. 2,000 persons work at the plant. Earnings are expected to be a low RD$15 million compared to RD$60 million last year.

Opening of Samaná airport promised for August
The government announced the completion of the Aeropuerto Internacional de Arroyo Barril in Samaná for this August. The airport will contribute to the development of tourism in the Northeast. The works are carried out by the Spanish firm, Agroman. The government has spent over RD$240 million on the construction of the airport that will only serve small airplanes. It is expected that American Eagle will service this airport with regular flights from Puerto Rico.

All on board SD-Puerto Rico ferry
Ferries del Caribe announced that it will begin selling tickets on 26 June for the trip between Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo. The "Regal Voyager" is scheduled for its inaugural voyage on 1 July, Lanz Milanovitch, vice president of the company said in a press conference in Mayaguez.
The company expects to transport 120,000 passenger in its first year, 150,000 during the second year, and 175,000 during the third year. The ship has capacity for 467 passengers.
It will depart Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the Port of Mayaguez docking at Sans Souci in Santo Domingo. And Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from Santo Domingo. The trip will take 12 hours. The ship can also transport cargo, and vehicles.
All persons intending to travel with their cars need to present the car's registration at least three days before departure. The trip will cost US$60 for the transport of a vehicle, and US$39 per passenger on Monday and Wednesday and US$60 on Saturdays and Sundays. There will be additional charges for those requiring cabins on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Top notch basketball tourney in Puerto Plata
Puerto Plata will be site to the Juvenile Pan American Basketball Championships starting 5 July at the city's new multi-sports facility. Teams from all over the Americas are expected, including the strong teams of US, Canada and Brazil. The Dominican Republic just won the Central American and Caribbean Juvenile Basketball Games, defeating Cuba and Puerto Rico.

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