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Daily News - 28 July 1998

Congress back to work
The Executive Branch issued Decree 265-98 yesterday convening the National Congress back to work to discuss important matters left pending in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and those that may be introduced. Among these bills is the Monetary and Finance Code, the Electricity Bill, and the Customs Bill.
Two hours later, President Leonel Fernández promised a high level commission of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano that the government will not present any bill that would modify the Constitution. The commission of the PRD was made up by Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, Ramón Alburquerque and Winston Arnaud.
The Congressmen now have 20 days to work before the new Congress, with the newly elected members, is convened on 16 August 1998. The present Congress is best known for approving bills that are of interest to the congressmen, such as pensions and benefit and salary increases, and for major irregularities in the approval of bills, amidst accusations of corruption and of overwhelmingly allowing political interests to override the national interest.
Upon the issuing of the decree, former President Joaquín Balaguer met with president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano-La Altagracia). The spokesmen for the Reformista deputies, congressman Luis Emilio Reyes Ozuna was also present for a short time during the meeting that lasted an hour. Aristy did not comment to the press upon the conclusion of the meeting.
Milagros Ortíz Bosch, senator for Santo Domingo-PRD, told the press she does not agree with the convening of the Congress. She called it untimely and unnecessary, and that it will only add to the political irritation.

Government departments to pay for electricity
The general administrator of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, CDE, engineer Radhamés Segura announced that the government will be installing electricity consumption readers in the National Palace, military facilities and in government offices. The counters are being installed so that readings can be established and it is expected the government departments will be required to pay for electricity consumed. As of today, the government does not pay for energy consumed. The measure comes at a time when the CDE is preparing for private companies to be those that charge for energy consumed, as part of the privatization process. The measures also seek to reduce the central government subsidy to the CDE. The CDE has always said that only 50% of the energy produced is paid for, but now it appears that a large portion of this 50% is consumption by the government itself.

Dollar up to RD$15.34
The Central Bank announced that the new official exchange rate for the purchase of US dollars is RD$15.34, up from RD$15.32 last week. The rate will be effective through 3 August. The Central Bank rate is not necessarily the rate offered by commercial banks or exchange houses that may purchase dollars for less or more than the Central Bank. Exchange banks and commercial banks were purchasing dollars for RD$15-RD$15.25, while sales were taking place from RD$15.25-RD$15.45.

President meets with PRD
The Presidency said that during the meeting between President Leonel Fernández and a commission of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano held at the National Palace, the government seat, the government made it clear that it will not get involved in internal affairs of the PRD. The PRD commission met with the President concerned that the government party may lend its vote to the aspirations of Hector Peguero Méndez, president of the Chamber of Deputies, to repeat in the post with the support of the PLD and the PRSC and dissident PRD members like himself. The PRD has chosen other members to preside the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. These members, Ramón Alburquerque and Winston Arnaud, were present at the meeting with President Leonel Fernández. Also present were Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, interim president of the party and Danilo Medina, Secretary of the Presidency. The meeting started at 12:30 and was adjourned at 3 pm.
The National Palace issued a press release explaining that during the meeting they agreed on a multi-party dialogue to legislate on priority projects that are pending. The Presidency explained that the decision to call legislators back to work does not have as objective to introduce a bill to permit presidential re-election, at present banned by the Constitution.

Missing items delays murder case
The judge of the Sixth Penal Chamber of the National District postponed for 31 August the court hearings in the case against the confessed murderers of 12-year old Jose Rafael Llenas Aybar. The defendants of accused Juan Manuel Moliné Rodríguez and the lawyers of Llenas Aybar both requested that the judicial authorities present the items that were originally part of the case documented by the Police but were not made available at the court house hearing. This is the third time the case has been postponed. Llenas Aybar's lawyer, Pereyra said there is no reason for the items that were included in the case dating 9 May 1996 have now disappeared. Missing is the map with the route that the assassins took, the clothes worn by the minor, the adhesive tape in which his body was enfolded, bloody shoes and a piece of red paper, among other objects. The sixth grader was murdered on 3 May by confessed assassins 18-year olds Mario Redondo Llenas, his cousin, and Juan Moliné Rodríguez.

DR attracts few investments through 1997
El Siglo reported that the Dominican Republic has received US$2,132 millions in direct foreign investment during the period 1991-1997. This represents barely 1.3% of the total of capital flows to the Latin America and the Caribbean, according to statistics of the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL in Spanish acronym).

Coffee producers misread the future
The president of the Association of Traditional Product Harvesters (Aprotex), José Antonio Martínez Rojas, told El Siglo newspaper that the Dominican coffee producers erred in their expectations that coffee prices would improve. Due to this perception, Dominican coffee producers stored half of their harvest awaiting better world market prices. Unfortunately, what happened was that the prices decreased 65%, causing major losses to local coffee producers.

Maritime tourism surges
During the first six months of 1998, the DR received double the number of cruise ship passengers that visited last year during the same period. El Siglo newspaper, citing statistics from the Dominican Port Authority, reports that from January to June of last year, 130,450 passengers arrived on 128 ships. This year some 263,443 tourists disembarked from 230 ships. During the first six months of this year, 158,910 travelers disembarked in Santo Domingo ports, a major increase from the 50,106 that arrived in the entire year 1997.
La Romana received 85,187 visitors during the first six months of the year, up from 79,246 in the entire 1997.
Despite the problems with the dredging of the port, Puerto Plata received 17,303 travelers during the first six months, up from 1,068 in the entire year of 1997.
Port Authority statistics show that some 1,482 passengers disembarked in Samaná, up from 30 last year.
Manzanillo Port, in the Northwest, received 561 passengers this year. No arrivals are reported for 1997.
The Ministry of Tourism says that up to April of this year, the number of cruise ship arrivals is equal to the number of arrivals for the entire year 1997. The Ministry reports that 13 cruise ships touched port 130 times through June of this year. Through April 1998, some 129,089 passengers had arrived, while the total of last year was 152,325 visitors.
Cruise ship passengers are primarily from the United States, followed by the British, Germans and Canadians.

Dominican is Player of the Week National League
Dominican Vladimir Guerrero was voted Player of the Week of the National League. The Dominican outfielder who plays with the Montreal Expos was the best player for the 20-26 July week. He was also chosen as AFP press service Latin Player of the Week. During the week he batted for .462.

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