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Daily News - 24 August 1998

Caribbean Summit: Small islands seek strength in unity
The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic signed a free trade pact on Saturday, 22 August, at the closing of the Special Meeting of Heads of State and Government of Cariforum held in Santo Domingo.
The agreement practically doubles the markets for the DR and CARICOM nations. The DR brings eight million consumer market to the estimated seven million English-speaking Caribbean market. The accord is expected to give free access to about 8,000 goods, remove trade barriers, promote investment and encourage cooperation in sectors ranging from tourism and banking to mining and agriculture.
CARICOM President Kenny Anthony, who is St. Lucia's Prime Minister, and signed the agreement on behalf of CARICOM, said the accord was "a giant step in reducing the economic balkanization" of the Caribbean. President Leonel Fernández signed for the Dominican Republic.
The Listín Diario, the leading newspaper of the DR, editorialized that the agreement places the DR in the route of the consolidation of its foreign commerce.
The 16 nation block is seeking strength in unity to not succumb to the stronger trade blocks now being forged in the Western Hemisphere and the rapid liberalization of international trade. The next step is to create a strategic alliance between the Caribbean and Central America, an area of 60 million consumers. The DR, which has signed trade agreements with both, expects to serve as a bridge to what would be an even bigger consumer market and geopolitical influence group.
The free trade accord, that still needs to be ratified by the respective legislative bodies, is expected to eventually remove most tariffs between the Caribbean Community and the DR.

President Fernández says free trade is irreversible
In his closing speech of the Special Meeting of Heads of State and Government of Cariforum, President Leonel Fernández said that the two days of meetings have served to strengthen the friendship ties among governments and peoples of the Caribbean and consolidate the conviction that a common future full of opportunities awaits the region at the turn of the century.
President Fernández said that Caribbean's priorities are those of sustained economic growth, improvement of the quality of life, creation of jobs and the preservation of the natural resources, including the Caribbean Sea. "These objectives must be sought in an everyday more competitive and liberalized scenarios, despite the limitations the area, population and natural and financial resource that characterize the region," he said.
"As of this moment, a new stage in intra-Caribbean relations begins, with the signing of the free trade agreement between CARICOM and the DR," he said.
He said the Caribbean now envisions the signing of a free trade agreement with the European Union. The Dominican President explained the Caribbean position that the non reciprocal preferential system should be maintained during a transition period, as Caribbean countries buy time to improve competitiveness and adjust to the global liberalization of markets.
President Fernández, nevertheless, stressed that the opening and liberalization of markets is irreversible, and expressed the region's commitment to the elimination of obstacles to trade.
Work sessions during the Special Meeting focused on the preparing of a unified stand for negotiations that begin in September on a Post-Lomé IV Convention on trade and aid between the European Union and 71 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. The new agreement would enter into effect in year 2000 as Lomé IV expires.
In a final communiqué, the Cariforum nations, that represent 21 million people, criticized the United States for Congress not enacting legislation to grant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) parity to Caribbean goods as promised by President Clinton in a meeting last year with Caribbean heads of state. U.S. efforts to gain greater access for Latin American bananas to the European market at the expense of Caribbean producers was also criticized.

President Leonel Fernández expects Congress to be responsible
Despite the relations between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch of the government being at one of the worst in recent years, President Leonel Fernández told the press he is optimistic common sense will prevail and the free trade agreement signed with the Caribbean and Central America will be passed. He called for Congress to show a "responsible attitude." I hope that rationality, good judgment and responsibility will be at the side of our congressmen who will place the best interest at the nations first, said the President.
Shortly after the directors of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, which holds majority in Congress and has declared war on the government, met with Cuban President Fidel Castro at the Hotel Jaragua, Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero commented that the party congressmen could favor the trade agreement if their study of the treaty shows it is in the best interests of the nation.

Trinidad Prime Minister advocates two way trade
Prime Minister Basdeo Pranday of Trinidad, speaking at a meeting organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad in Santo Domingo, said that while the Trinidad has the most to gain initially from the free trade agreement, the relationship will be fair and advantageous to businessmen from both countries. He said that the objective is to increase two-way commerce. In 1997, Trinidad & Tobago exported US$316 million to the DR and imported US$27 million. But, he said that the free trade agreement opens the doors to an increase in Dominican exports to Trinidad. The DR buys glass bottles, propane gas, agrochemical products, steel and alcohol from Trinidad.

Castro meets Balaguer, Bosch and Peggy
Cuban President Fidel Castro visited with former President Balaguer, former President Juan Bosch and the widow of former Partido Revolucionario Dominicano leader, the late Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, Peggy Cabral on Sunday. While then President Balaguer did not renew diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were interrupted in 1962, the many-time Dominican statesman legalized the Dominican Communist Party and permitted covert trade with Cuba by Dominican businessman.
Democratically elected, former President Juan Bosch spent exile time in Cuba after being overthrown by conservative forces, later aided by 20,000 U.S. Marines, who feared another communist Cuba in the Caribbean. President Leonel Fernández, Bosch's successor, joined Castro at Bosch's home during the meeting. Castro reminisced with Bosch for some 50 minutes. Bosch's wife, Carmen Quidiello was born in Cuba.
Former President Balaguer described himself as an admirer and a somewhat ally of Castro. He met with Castro for 50 minutes at his home in Santo Domingo shortly after Castro had visited Bosch. Present at the meeting was Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations Roberto Robaina and some Reformista directors and close aides, including Aníbal Páez, Licelotte Marte de Barrios and General Pérez Bello.
The front pages of the leading newspapers carried the photograph of Castro and Balaguer, two legends of Latin American politics, sitting side by side.
Castro also paid a courtesy visit to Peggy Cabral, the widow of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano. They conversed for about 10 minutes, the press reported.
Castro later that morning met with the leaders of the PRD, Tony Raful, Ramon Alburquerque, Miguel Vargas, Fafa Taveras, Tirso Mejia Ricart, Ivelisse Pratts de Pérez, Hector Aristy and Marino Mendoza at the Hotel Jaragua, which was headquarters of the Caribbean Summit.

Castro visits Baní
Later that morning, the Cuban strongman headed southwest to Baní, birthplace of General Máximo Gómez, the Dominican who helped Cuban José Martí win independence from Spain.
There, Castro gave a two-hour speech which climaxed when he lifted the sword of Generalísimo Máximo Gómez. During the improvised talk, Castro reviewed Dominican and Cuban historic ties, committed Cuban financial assistance to complete a polytechnic school promised years back by the Cuban government, and called for the unity of the what he called the three Americas - Central America, the Caribbean and South America - when sitting down to talks with the giant from North America (the United States). He compared this to a meeting of the bull and the elephant.

Reciprocal decorations to two chiefs of state
President Leonel Fernández decorated visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro with the highest Dominican decoration, the order of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella, golden cross. Fidel Castro pinned the decoration of José Martí, the highest Cuban honor, on President Leonel Fernández during a ceremony held Saturday at the National Palace. President Leonel Fernández said that the times have changed and a new stage in the re-encounter and development of Cuban and Dominican relations have begun.

CDE subsidies not to be included in 1999 budget
The administrator general of the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the state electricity utility, Radhamés Segura told the press yesterday, said that the government will not include the RD$3,000 million subsidy granted this year to the CDE in the National Budget for 1999. He said that the government has not budgeted the money since by the year's end the distribution and generation of electricity should for the most part be the responsibility of private business.

Ruling for privatization of ports passed
The Listín Diario reported that the government has passed the ruling that provides the legal framework for the private sector to be granted renewable port operation concessions. National and international companies are expected to participate in the tender to be held to grant the concessions that will be for renewable 10 year periods. The Dominican Port Authority is in charge of organizing the tender. The government seeks to attract fresh capital to make the necessary investments needed to improve ports, as well as to make more efficient their operation and increase revenues produced by the airports and maritime ports.

Castro favors multi-destination travel packages
Cuban President Fidel Castro said that multi-destination tourism could spur Caribbean integration. In a contribution during one of the work sessions of the Special Meeting of Caribbean heads of state, Castro said that multi-destination tourism is an alternative as tourism brings trade, investments and bilateral contacts. "We could project ourselves to the world as an attractive single destination, at the same time diverse, and an example in areas of preservation of the ecology and natural resources," he said. He said that Cuba should not be seen as a competitor for the tourist market share, rather as a partner and close collaborator.
The National Association of Hotels and Restaurants, despite recently rejecting the selling of DR and Haiti multi-destination travel packages, said it favors the selling of multi-destination packages with Cuba and the Caribbean.
Earlier in the week, former Dominican Minister of Tourism, Fernando Rainieri forecast that the Dominican and Cuban vacation packages would be soon marketed as a travel package to the Caribbean by tour operators. Rainieri recently returned from a meeting of the Board of Advisors of the World Tourism Organization which took place in Washington, D.C.. He feels that Caribbean islands should not compete among each other, rather they should jointly exploit the area's tourism potential.
Rainieri said that the WTO expects the DR and Cuba to receive the larger share of tourism to the Caribbean given the greater growth potential due to the countries' share of attractions and natural resources.
Rainieri explained that growth of tourism will receive a boost as there is a growing trend in Europe for employees to receive four and five weeks of paid holiday time.

Meliá Santo Domingo to be renovated
The Meliá Spanish hotel chain in the DR announces the remodeling of the Meliá Santo Domingo (former Santo Domingo Sheraton) on the Malecón. The city hotel will be renovated at a cost of US$5 million. Renovations include a face lift of the lobby, the façade, bars, restaurants, guest rooms, gymnasium, business center, pool area, and meeting rooms. The Meliá Santo Domingo has 260 rooms, including 17 suites. The chain also operates the Meliá Juan Dolio in San Pedro de Macorís with 270 rooms. In the Punta Cana-Bávaro area, the chain operates the Meliá Bávaro Resort with 750 suites, the Paradisus Punta Cana with 433 rooms and will open this year the Meliá Tropical with 528 rooms.

Restoring environmental beauty to Puerto Plata
The new municipality of Puerto Plata declared war on garbage in that city. The proliferation of garbage dumps throughout the city, due to deficiencies in the municipality's offering of the service, contributed negatively to the image of that city and environs, that otherwise is one of the loveliest in the country.
Puerto Plata's municipal hall ruled that individuals are now prohibited to the collect garbage. Only the municipality will be able to collect garbage from now on. The municipal hall prohibits that pick up trucks, horse-ridden carts and other vehicles be used to collect garbage because these have contributed to the planting of garbage dumps that have given the city an unsightly appearance and fostered multiple complains by tourists and tour operators. It has been easier for these private garbage carriers to dump the garbage anywhere, instead of at the municipal garbage dumps.
In a clean up operation organized by Mayor Ramón Ortíz thousands of tons of garbage were removed from barrios, central streets and access roads to beaches. Mayor Ortíz promised that permanent efforts are being enacted to keep the city and environs clean from now on.
"This is a serious effort that will be maintained throughout our city government and in no way can it be interpreted as "new broom sweeps well," he said. "We will always use this broom during the four years of our city government," he promised.
The Municipality also said that the urban transport system would be organized, and permits required. The city government seeks to counteract the effect of the invasion of motorcycle taxis as a principal transport media in Puerto Plata.

Sosa hits two home runs
Dominican Sammy Sosa batted his 50th and 51st home runs on Sunday, 23 August in the Chicago Cubs' stadium, Wrigley Field. The Cubs, nevertheless, lost the game 13-3 to the Houston Astros. Sosa is now two homers behind Mark McGwire, and 10 off Roger Maris's record. In Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Cardinals slugger batted in his 53rd home run in a game his team lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3. Thirty-two games are remaining in the season.
Dominican Pedro Martínez of the Boston Red Sox also had a good day yesterday, winning his 17th game so far this season by defeating the Minnesota Twins, 5-1. Martínez is a strong contender for the 1998 Cy Young award.

DR retains the Hoerman Cup in the Caribbean Amateur Championships
The Dominican team won the most important trophy during the Caribbean Amateur Championships that took place over the weekend in Casa de Campo. Puerto Rico was the runner up and Trinidad placed third.
Robert Smith, the national golf champion, was the best player of the event. Fellow team members were Jonas Fernández, Antonio Olivo, Michael Gil, Carlos Arias and Alfredo Campechano. Arturo Pellerano was the team captain, and Miguel Subero, coach.
This is the second time the DR wins in the event. Last year, in Grand Cayman, the Dominican men's team won the trophy, a first in the 42 years of the event.
Puerto Rican golfers returned home with the remaining three trophies - the George Teale Cup for women, the Higgs and Higgs Cup for seniors, and the Francis Steele Perkins Cup for super seniors.
One hundred sixty players from 10 regional nations competed over sometimes adverse conditions of on and off rains and winds over the four days of competition. The event, held at the Teeth of the Dog championship course of Casa de Campo, was transmitted by the Golf Channel of the United States.

DR wins gold in basketball in Central American Games
The Dominican Republic won the gold medal in basketball in the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games that ended last week in Maracaibo, Venezuela. This had not occurred in 25 years. The DR defeated Panama 62-60 in the final 21 seconds of the game. Ricardo Vásquez was the hero of the game when he threw a long distance shot with only 21 seconds to go and Dominicans were losing 60-57. Vásquez's shot tied the score to 60. He then was given a free throw after being fouled for the DR to get ahead 61-60. The Panamanians were able to rescue the ball but committed a foul. Carlos Ramírez scored one of two free throws, giving the DR the win of the most important regional basketball championship.
Panama attributed to "bad luck" the losing the gold. Dominican Coach Miguel Cruceta attributed their win to the team's defense. He explained no team was able to score 80 points against them. The players said they won because they played as a team, there were no stars.

DR shows best performance ever at Central American Games
Dominican Republic won 73 medals, breaking the record of 71 medals won in Santiago in 1986. Best performances were turned in by the women that won six of the seven gold medals, 20 silver medals and 45 bronze. For the first time in a Central American and Caribbean championship, the DR won a gold medal in high jump, won by Juana Arrendel who jumped 1.90 meter. Wanda Rijo won three golds in weight lifting, tying Mario Alvarez's record of three golds won by a Dominican in the Games. He won the three golds in the Santiago Games held in 1986 in ping pong. Miosotti Heredia, of the weight lifting team, also won a gold, a silver and a bronze. Jose Eduardo Confidente, won the gold and a silver in Karate, becoming the most outstanding male athlete. Milciades Santiago, won the DR's first Central American and Caribbean Championship in gymnastics, with a bronze medal. The Dominican women's team won silver in volleyball, and the Dominican men's team won gold in basketball, a feat that had not been accomplished since the Medellín Games in 1978. The DR finished in 6th position after Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Puerto Rico.

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