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Daily News - 07 August 1998

Free trade agreement to be signed 22 August
The Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) will sign a free trade agreement on 22 August at 10 am. The statesmen from the English-speaking Caribbean will sign the agreement at the closing of the Cariforum meeting that is scheduled for the Hotel Jaragua. Cariforum gathers the member nations of the Lomé Convention that allows for duty free exports to Europe. They will be meeting in Santo Domingo 20-22 August.
Caricom and Dominican negotiators concluded the seventh round of negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Relations this week.
The chiefs of state that will sign the free trade agreement are, in addition to President Leonel Fernández: Prime Minister Lester B. Bird, Antigua and Barbuda; Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham, Bahamas; Prime Minister Owen Arthur, Barbados; Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel, Belize; Prime Minister Edison C. James, Dominica; Prime Minister Keith C. Mitchell, Grenada; President Janet Jagan, Guyana; Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson, Jamaica; Prime Minister David Brand, Montserrat; Prime Minister Denzil L. Douglas, St. Kitts & Nevis; Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony, St. Lucia; President Jules Wijdenbosch, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago Basdeo Pandy.
Also attending the meeting will be the President of Haiti, Rene Preval and the President of Cuba, Fidel Castro.

Anonymous vote ruling not valid
The president of the Chamber of Deputies left without effect the passing of a modification to the internal ruling of that organization that would have allowed deputies to vote anonymously. Peguero Méndez had passed the bill yesterday in a session characterized by irregularities. He rectified and said that the ruling change was not valid because the necessary quorum had not been met. Peguero Méndez said he did not need the anonymous vote clause to win the presidency in case he chose to be a candidate in the elections of the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in the 16 August elections. Peguero Méndez has flirted with government party and PRSC deputies, and would need their vote in case he were to challenge the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano party's choice of Winston Arnaud for president of the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD will be majority in both houses come 16 August when the new elected congressmen begin their tenure.

Postponing the capitalization of the CDE
The commission in charge of the process of capitalizing the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad said it was postponing to October the tenders to choose the companies and privatize the state electricity utility. The Comisión de Reforma de la Empresa Pública said that it was doing so following a request from the companies that were participating in the tender and from the auditors of the CDE that are establishing the value of the assets.
In a statement published in local dailies, the Commission says that it does not sympathize nor hold responsibility for the contents of the contracts signed by the Balaguer administration whereby private power generators are granted privileges and terms that are onerous to the economy of the CDE and the nation. The commission recognizes that the later is a difficult situation the CDE will have to resolve as the contractors foresaw a series of future circumstances and established provisions in their contracts so that the government would have to honor these despite the dismantling of the CDE and the privatization of the state utility.
Antonio Isa Conde, president of the Commission, said that the government could subsidize the high prices paid to the private power generators that obtained generous contracts during the Balaguer administration with the energy produced by the hydroelectrics that will remain property of the state, regardless of the privatization process.
Antonio Isa Conde, Gustavo Montalvo, George Manuel Hazoury and Gabriel del Rio Doñe spoke for the commission.

Blackouts are back
Long eight and ten hour blackouts are again plaguing the DR after months of relief. The blackouts are attributed to the Los Minas V 105 megawatts power plant going off line for maintenance works, and to the delays in the new government plant, the Siemens 100 turbogas plant to enter into operation.
At the same time, businessmen consider "inconceivable" the increases in billing at a time that the service is worsening. Jean Antonio Haché, of the Organización Nacional de Empresas Comerciales, an organization that gathers large shopping malls, complained that the high energy bills have a double effect on the cost of goods sold in their stores. He says the increasing electricity bills affect both the cost of the goods and the purchasing power of consumers that see their income affected by their own increasing electricity bills.

Americas free trade agreement by year 2005?
In a speech the Dominican ambassador before the Government of the United States, Bernardo Vega wrote on occasion of the swearing in of the new board of the Association of Free Zone Industries of Santiago, the ambassador addressed the Dominican comparative advantages and the exports situation of the future. During his talk, which had to be read by Manuel José Cabral, when the ambassador was absent due to health reasons, Vega highlighted that he doubts that the Americas will sign a free trade agreement by year 2005. He said it took Europe 40 years to reach economic integration. He said that the U.S. President has not received the congressional go ahead to negotiate any new free trade agreements with Latin American countries.
He said that Brazil, the second most important country of the region has not shown much enthusiasm given the extraordinary size of its domestic market. Neither is Mexico very interested in pushing ahead the regional free trade agreement since it already has a free trade agreement with the U.S.
Vega said that what is likely to occur is that the Mercosur trade agreement will continue to expand, and that the member countries may sign a free trade agreement with Canada, as Chile has already done.
Furthermore, he said that U.S. companies could establish their factories within Mercosur countries and then be able to export freely in the region.
In his analysis, he said amidst all these perspectives, and those of the signing of a free trade agreement between South American countries and the Grupo Andino with the North American Free Trade Agreement, the DR should ask itself what strategy should the Caribbean and Central America follow. He said the region will be like a piece of ham between two very large slices of bread.
In his opinion, President Leonel Fernández's strategy of converting the DR into a bridge between Central America and the Caribbean makes sense. He said the integration scheme would later include the Group of Three -- Mexico , Colombia and Venezuela.

Hotel El Embajador to reopen 1 September
The general manager of the Hotel El Embajador, one of the oldest in the Dominican Republic, announced the reopening is set for 1 September. The Occidental Hotel chain said it has invested US$6 million in the renovation. To be known in the future as Occidental El Embajador, the hotel will become "three hotels in one". Miguel Cabré explained to El Siglo newspaper that the second, third and fourth floor will cater to tourists. The fourth floor will have a special area catering to airline personnel, to be known as the Club Alas. The fifth and sixth floors are being converted into a special area for business travelers. The seventh and eight floor will house the Club Miguel Angel for VIP guests.
The Occidental El Embajador has 291 rooms, most overlooking the Caribbean Sea or the lovely gardens of the Mirador del Sur Park. The hotel will also featured an expanded meetings area with a hall of 585 meters soon to be available.

Police arrests missing woman
The police arrested and documented the case of a woman who on 29 July killed a man and injured another that supposedly assaulted her when she left a real estate firm located at Calle Max Henríquez Ureña corner Lope de Vega. The Police spokesman, Lt. Colonel Simón Díaz identified the victim as José Francisco Peña de la Cruz. He did not identify the woman. He explained the woman was intercepted by the two men on a motorcycle, one of which held a gun to her and snatched the manila envelope in which she had RD$500,000. When the assailants fled, she fired a gun she ported legally, killing one and supposedly injuring the other man that is fugitive. The Police said the woman was later hospitalized for high blood pressure. Investigations continue to find the missing man who got away with the money.

Major golf tournament opens 16 August
The best golf players from the Caribbean will participate in the Hoerman Cup, the 42nd Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship. Golfers from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Grand Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, Barbados, Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic are already registered in the prestigious event. The championships will be transmitted to the United States by The Golf Channel, that has over 18 million subscribers. The event will take place 16-23 in Casa de Campo in La Romana.

Equestrian championship in Santo Domingo
The "Felix Santiago" World Championship of Riders and Amazons will take place in the Ciudad Ganadera of Santo Domingo 14-16 August. Competitors from 10 countries have registered. The DR, Colombia and Panama are the favorites to win the most first places in the event. The event is organized by the Asociación Dominicana de Caballos de Paso. Competitions will be held in the 4-6 year old age category, 7-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17 and 18-24 years.

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