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Daily News - 28 August 1998

Good weather days forecast
Weather forecasters say Hurricane Danielle will bypass the Caribbean, and there is no tropical storm formation for the next few days. The Caribbean and Atlantic Basin are in the midst of the Hurricane Season, with the peak time for the DR being August-mid September. Weather reports indicate there is a tropical wave about half way in the Atlantic, however, its southern position (between 5 and 10 N), makes it highly unlikely it will threaten the Caribbean.

Record year for the production of cacao and coffee
Coffee production has peaked this harvest at an all time high of 67,000 tons. Coffee production, at 1,255,000 quintals, is always above forecasts.
The president of the Asociación de Cosecheros de Productos Tradicionales de Exportación, José Antonio Martínez Rojas said the DR is today second largest producer of cacao in Latin America. So far some 57,000 tons have been exported which will produce revenues of US$86-91 million. The harvest ends 30 September 1998. The country had never produced more than 60,000 tons of cacao. The DR is the eighth largest producer of cacao in the world.

Political war moves to the Municipal League
The political war among the three leading parties - the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, Partido Revolucionario Dominicano and Partido Reformista Social Cristiano- is now focusing on the election of the new president of the Dominican Municipal League. The position is important because of the potential of job creation for thousands of party followers. At present, the Municipal League is head by the PRD, engineer Julio Mariñez.
The elections of the LMD are set for 26 January.
PRD directors Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, Tony Raful and Julio Maríñez said in a press conference yesterday that the government and the PRSC are using expelled members of the PRD to try to bribe those that will vote in the election of the new president and board of the LMD.
The PRD is suffering from internal division, which given the party's culture, is nothing out of the normal. Several candidates seek the presidential nomination for the year 2000 presidential election.

PRSC gets back into the running
The Partido Reformista Social Cristiano and former President Joaquín Balaguer are back into the political game. Political commentators had forecast that after the major losses experienced by the party in the municipal and congressional elections, the PRSC was all but buried. The PRSC was very critical of the PLD in the elections, (note the campaign slogan, "come sólos" that affected the vote received by the government party candidates), and in a subtle way had allied with the PRD. But Joaquín Balaguer, the most sage Dominican politician of all times, has done a reversal, choosing now to ally with the PLD to confront the PRD in Congress and soon in the Municipal League. Balaguer's personal support to Leonel Fernández, when the PLD candidate for president in 1996, helped drive that party into the presidency. Balaguer's support was incidental in the PRSC voting in favor of keeping PRD dissident as president of the Chamber of Deputies, contrary to the expressed interests of the board of the PRD.
It is now again being said, that the blind nonagenarian is calling the shots. This week, he joined President Leonel Fernández and both published full page advertisements in the press calling for the resignation of the PRD hand-picked Junta Central Electoral, the body in charge of organizing the elections.
An alliance between the PRSC and the PLD could be sufficient to topple aspirations of the PRD to win key electoral positions.

Hillary Clinton to visit?
Hoy newspaper reported that Hillary Clinton may include the DR in a Caribbean tour she has programmed for the end of September. The US Embassy was not able to confirm this rumor.

Advanced medical facility affected by delays in completion
State of the art medical equipment could become damaged for lack of use and maintenance as construction works to complete the Centro de Diagnóstico, Medicina Avanzada and Telemedicina of the Plaza de la Salud. Radiologist Juan Manuel Taveras Rodríguez said it is unwonted that a facility of its kind, one of the best in Latin America is paralyzed because of the refusal of the government to fund the missing RD$7-RD$8 million needed. Dr. Taveras said that the equipment is worth more than the building where it is installed.

Can of milk could double in price
Importers of powdered milk say that the fixing of a quota could result in the doubling of the cost of a can of milk. The Dominican government has negotiated with the European Union and New Zealand a quota of 32,000 tons for imported milk. The quota imports are subject to a 20% tariff. Milk imported above that quota will be subject to a 84% duty. Andres Dauhajre, speaking for an association of importers, says that the quota is vulnerable to corruption, and is detrimental to a climate of fair competition among importers.

Meet the new mayor of Santo Domingo?
When Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano was laying blocks to build the Municipality of Santo Domingo in the Centro de los Héroes government center in the days of Dictator Trujillo, little did he know that one day he would be the mayor of the city.
Ventura is best known for being the most popular Dominican merengue orchestra director and singer of all times, as per a Gallup poll finding, and for his taking merengue abroad to be acclaimed by thousands worldwide. Today, he assures that he will modernize Santo Domingo the way he modernized merengue in the 70s and 80s.
"I am an evolutionist and I understand that life is a dynamic chain of events. It is necessary to modernize the city, bring it up to date with the times. He feels the city government program he inherits from Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, and which contemplates dividing up the city in different areas with individual governments, will accomplish this.
The program is based on modifying Law 797 so that the municipality of the capital city, that has the responsibility to provide services to a third of the population of the country, have the necessary funds.
In an interview with El Siglo, Ventura described the program. "It is a government program made on base of reinstated the true municipal power. The municipalities have been occasionally mutilated and the idea is to again conquer the municipal power...
As he told El Siglo newspaper, Johnny Ventura wanted to be mayor to reorder the city. "...it is a responsibility of all to aspire to a better habitat for us, for our children and our grandchildren. As the socioeconomic situation of our country deteriorates the people leave their habitats and run to the urban centers, especially the capital city. The disorder increases.
Ventura feels he can be incidental in giving Santo Domingo the cleanliness and beauty of the city that was named historical patrimony of humanity by the United Nations.
 
Two lives: music and politics
The story of Santo Domingo's 58-year old mayor-elect is a tale of a man who has successfully been able to alternate between two parallel professions - politics and music. His story is one of perseverance, vision and creativity, one that Dominicans all proudly share, politics aside. And he was a man who was in the right place at the right time.
"We can't forget I am mayor because of the will of Dr. Jose Francisco Peña Gómez and that of God," he said.
Ventura only came into the picture in March, when the party convoluted over the choosing of a candidate to the post for mayor of Santo Domingo. Three factions within the party sought that their candidate be chosen, but in the primaries to the effect none received 35,000 votes in the primaries. Note that more than one million people eventually cast their vote in the mayoral election for the PRD, most PRD followers that could have voted in those primaries.
When the three adversary groups couldn't reach an agreement, and with the deadline for registration encroaching, Peña Gómez, despite his known illness, decided to run himself so that the party not divide. He chose Johnny Ventura as vice mayor. Johnny Ventura was an independent party man, not affiliated with the factions that sought to take advantage of the municipality to promote aspirations to be the party's presidential candidate in year 2000.
Despite being chosen at the last minute, Ventura had more credentials than the other aspirants. He had already been the party's candidate in the 1990 elections, losing to his friend Rafael Corporán de los Santos, whom in these elections was again running on the PRSC ticket.
Ventura had congressional experience, in addition to 33 years of party affiliation. He also had the trust of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, who knew he would leave this world, sooner or later, and Ventura would be the eventual mayor.
Peña died of pancreatic cancer a week before the elections, and the party confirmed Ventura, who was candidate to deputy mayor, as the candidate.
Ventura defeated two other show business persons. TV producers Roberto Salcedo who ran on the government party ticket and Rafael Corporán de los Santos, who won against him back in 1990.
He has invited his colleagues to have offices at the municipality and work with him for the best interest of the city.
 
First years in politics
Ventura says that his friendship with Peña Gómez dates back to 14 April 1962, when the leader of the PRD himself asked him to enroll in the party.
He said he was surprised, when Peña Gómez chose him for deputy of the party in 1982. He was voted in when the party won the 1982 presidential elections.
Ventura has held several director positions in the PRD. He has been vice president and secretary general of the National District committee. He has been secretary general of the Bloque Institucional Social Democrata, the political organization Peña Gómez formed when he disputed the PRD with party rival former President Jacobo Majluta. (Majluta was sworn in President for 45 days when then President Antonio Guzmán died before his term had ended.) The late Majluta eventually left to form the PRI.
And Johnny Ventura had been substitute to the Mayor with the honorary salary of one peso during when Dr. Peña Gómez was mayor from 1982 to 1986.
He told El Siglo, "Having been so close to the key people in taking decisions in important moments has given me the knowledge to make the least among of political errors."
 
The life of the musician
Ventura has said he is putting his music career on a side for the next four years. Today he performs with the Orchestra of Rasputin, of July Mateo.
He says he will finish the recording of The Best of Johnny Ventura, with his 100 top hits, but plans to dedicate himself to his new responsibility.
While his political career will overshadow his artistic career for now, Ventura's popularity was such that he was the first artist to successfully venture out in politics, when others felt it would hurt sales of their records. Johnny Ventura's popularity was so well established, that his incursion into politics made no difference.
Ventura is credited with launching the merengue internationally. Music historians say that he modernized traditional merengue, introducing new instruments, changing lyrics and popularizing it abroad. He is recognized as the father of the "merengue apambichao" a sensual dance, popular in Latin America.
Johnny Ventura has performed in the United States, Europe and Africa. In the United States, he has performed at the Madison Square Garden, Studio 54 in New York City. Also at the Hollywood Palladium of Los Angeles, Memorial Center of New Orleans, Quinta Vergara of Chile, and the Auditorium of Mexico.
He has recorded duos with Victor Victor, Andy Montanez, Celia Cruz, Armando Manzanero, Wilfrido Vargas, Daniela Romo, Sergio Vargas, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Maria Diaz.
He is well remembered for his participating in the very popular TV shows, "El Combo Show," and "Cuánto Vale el Show." At the time of his election he was producing the TV show "Super Tarde", with Domingo Bautista.
Johnny Ventura is also known as "el caballo mayor." He was one of the first musicians to choreograph merengue, placing dancers in front of an orchestra.
 
A constantly evolving life
Johnny Ventura was born 8 March 1940 in the center city barrio San Carlos, son of a military Martin Ventura, and dressmaker Virginia Soriano.
He worked as a gardener, worker, construction worker and photographer.
He studied singing, music and broadcasting at the La Voz Dominicana, today Radio Television Dominicana television station. He did so well, he was advised to chose an artistic name-- thus he became Johnny Ventura in 1959. In 1964 he founded the popular El Combo Show, which catapulted merengue in the DR and abroad. The group dissolved many years later and he kept it as his own band. Several of the musicians would go on to be outstanding performers on their own right.
His band turned into a school for other musicians, many that went on to form their own groups. Band members included Rico Lopez, Vinicio Franco, Julita del Rio, Luisito Marti, Fausto Rey, Anthony Rios, Roberto del Castillo, among others.
At the time of his election, he worked with July Mateo and Rasputín orchestra. He would like his sons Juan Jose and Juan de Dios Ventura to follow in his steps.
Johnny Ventura graduated from honors from the Universidad de la Tercera Edad in 1994.
 
Family life
Johnny Ventura is married to Josefina Soriano, who after working with the Banco Popular, abandoned her job when she married Ventura. She has been at his side in his political activities. She says she does not accompany him when he directs the orchestra, for the same reason wives of lawyers don't go with their husbands to court.
They have three children, Juan Jose, Juan de Dios and Ana Yajaira. The two boys perform with their father with the Rasputín merengue orchestra of July Mateo.
Josefina Flores Loaces, who says she met her husband at a Banco Popular dance where Ventura performed, is a close supporter of Peggy Cabral, wife to PRD leader, the former Peña Gómez. Cabral herself has been very active politically, and at the death of her husband was chosen candidate to deputy minister for the party, Ventura's position.
She feels that Ventura's work at the municipality will in no way affect their relations. She says that worse days were when he had to travel abroad for six month stretches when he went on international merengue tours. Now she says she will have him sleeping in her bed every night.
The Venturas are living in a borrowed house of a relative in Los Jardines del Norte, while they ready their new house in Cuesta Brava. They sold their Arroyo Hondo home when a large supermarket made life impossible .
 
Moving ahead
Johnny Ventura is looking forward to his new job. He explained he had already been reducing his artistic participations. He told El Siglo, "...it is not a political problem, it is a personal problem. I needed to give my body the rest it needed. To be an artist in the way I was you needed to stay up many nights and I wanted to work normal hours, that is what I have wanted to do.
"I am a man of six grandchildren, and I want to share time with them, and that has taken me away from music, from the arts.
He explained that his businesses now give him time enough to endeavor for the city.
Peña Gómez describes his city government will be a participative one. He said that Peña Gómez himself discovered that the leadership of the Dominican society does not only rest on political parties, but on a series or organizations community, social, sports, cultural and religious that have their own leadership that has to be taken into consideration. He says that to catalyze that leadership and spur grassroots efforts, Peña Geomez created the municipal council, where all those organizations will be represented, and which will serve as a bridge, a link of society to the municipality.
He has said, "There are two kinds of politicians, those that go to the posts to help the nation, and those that go to get rich. I have always been of the first group."

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