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Daily News - 31 August 1998

President Fernández participates in PR conference
President Leonel Fernández is in San Juan, Puerto Rico since Sunday, 30 August. He is participating in the conference, "One American Market: The South Looks South," which brings together governors of southern U.S. states and heads of state of Central America and the Dominican Republic. Southern U.S. states and the beneficiaries of the Caribbean Basin Initiative have an interdependent relationship. Free zones that operate in the Caribbean Basin import textiles from southern U.S. states to manufacture apparel for export to the US. These states lose business when U.S. companies import apparel from Asia where Asian fabrics are used. Likewise, DR seeks to garner the support of the southern states to lobby in the US Congress for parity or that parity conditions with those awarded to Mexico under NAFTA be granted by the administration.
President Fernández was received in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 2:30 pm by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Roselló.
He then participated in a 7 pm reception for visiting chiefs of states and special guests.
Today, the President was scheduled to participate in the 8 am opening session of the meeting, and then at 10 am in a meeting of chiefs of state with the governors of southern US states.
At 1 pm he is scheduled to sign the Declaration of Puerto Rico, with conclusions of the event.
Also on his agenda is a private meeting with Central American statesmen regarding the Central American Free Trade Agreement signed in the DR in April.
This is the first time that President Fernández visits Puerto Rico after becoming President on 16 August 1996. He is expected to partake in several activities with the Dominican community in Puerto Rico.
Governor Roselló of Puerto Rico hopes to convert Puerto Rico into a "bilingual bridge", or a "geographically and logistically ideal site for promoting and accelerating the economic integration of the Western Hemisphere." To this end, he invited senior officers from the US Department of Commerce, authorities on international relations, and the Presidents of Costa Rica, the DR, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and the Prime Minister of Belize.

School starts 1 September
Most primary and secondary schools open on Tuesday, 1 September. The Ministry of Education announced that around 132,000 new students have enrolled in government-run grade school and high schools throughout the country. This brings the number of students studying in public schools to 1,877,344, or almost 25% of the nation's population. The public school system is made up of 1,400 schools. Ministry of Education says that they are working so that by December, 250 of the schools will have computer labs. This school year, 500 schools will benefit from the new educational TV system, where classes given by some of the best of the nation's professors will be telecast to remote schools to reinforce instruction given by local professors.
In addition, some 411,706 Dominicans study in the 1,514 private schools that are registered with the Ministry of Education.

Fines for boat trips and less taxes for computers
President Leonel Fernández converted into law the bill that punishes organizers of illegal boat trips with three to 10 years in jail and fines of RD$10,000 to RD$50,000. The new Law is number 344-98.
The President also converted into law the bill that exempts personal computers from the payment of value-added taxes (ITBIS). The spare parts, software and other accessories are also exempt from paying the 8% tax. This could reduce the prices these items sell for in the DR. Law 345-98 states that computers will only pay a 1.5% duty.

Mexican President to visit in September
President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico will visit this year. The engineer in charge of the government office that supervises public works, Rafael Serrulle told the local press that the government is spending RD$6 million to restore the monument that honors Father Antón de Montesinos, renown as the first human rights activist in the Americas. The Spanish priest lobbied for the rights of Indians that were mistreated by the Spanish colonists in the 16th century. The monument was donated to the DR by the Mexican government of then President José López Portillo. Press reports say that the Mexican President will visit at the end of September. President Leonel Fernández personally invited President Zedillo to visit during his trip to Mexico, on 17 August 1997.

Blackouts reduced to a minimum
The Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the state electricity utility, has said said that since all private and state units are satisfactorily operating, there is a joint production of 1,415 megawatts. He said this is sufficient to reduce blackouts to a minimum. Peak hour demand is 1,350 megawatts.

PRD members give Mayor Ventura big headache
The Dominican press has been covering the plight of new mayor of Santo Domingo, Johnny Ventura, who regardless of the real problems he has as he sets about modernizing the Santo Domingo municipality, has to deal with the pressures of job-seekers from his own political party.
TV newscasts have showed overeager PRD members at the city government headquarters loudly demanding they be appointed because of their affiliation and years of work for the party.
Ventura inherits the municipality from a fellow PRD party member, Rafael Suberví Bonilla. He also inherits a payroll of almost 8,000 PRD members.
PRD members from other factions of the party want to replace their fellow PRD members.
"I have told those that are coming here to find jobs that there are no jobs available, because we do not have money to give away here," Ventura said recently.
The municipality of Santo Domingo received RD$332.5 million pesos in 1997, which are deemed insufficient to accommodate the needs of the capital city.
Ventura, the most popular merengue player of all times, has the support of most Dominicans, and so far the expressed cooperation of the PLD government towards which, contrary to other PRD members, he has stressed the importance of working together for the benefit of the city.
The Listín Diario reported that former mayor Rafael Suberví Bonilla used the city hall to promote his candidacy to the Presidency. In an item in the Sunday newspaper, the RD$40 million Bulevar de las Estrellas on Winston Churchill Avenue and the RD$50 million remodeling of the Malecón were highlighted as constructions to project the image of the former Minister of Tourism. The newspaper presents photos of what it calls the "disastrous" state in which Ventura received the city hall, which the newspaper reports Suberví hardly visited given the state of abandon of the offices.
Ventura told the Listín Diario that he does not need the municipality to make him famous, what he would like people to say was that his passing through the municipality "was worth it."

Former Mayor announces he's running for President
Lawyer Rafael Suberví Bonilla, former two-time Mayor of Santo Domingo and former Minister of Tourism, and today deputy for the province of Barahona, formally announced his decision to seek the PRD presidential candidacy for the year 2000 presidential elections in a campaign event at the Club San Carlos on Sunday at 10 am. He is the fifth PRD presidential hopeful. Prior to his announcement, Santo Domingo senator Milagros Ortiz Bosch, party secretary general Hatuey Decamps, agriculture businessman Hipólito Mejía and Santiago senator Rafael Abinader have announced their aspirations.

A bid for resolving the political confrontations
Former president of the Junta Central Electoral, Dr. César Estrella Sahdalá, who gained national and international respect after organizing the first undisputed Dominican presidential elections in 1996, added his two cents to the political confrontations that are affecting national institutions. He suggested that all elected boards of institutions under controversy resign. These are the Central Electoral Board, the Chamber of Accounts, and the Chamber of Deputies. New elections would be organized to choose these boards.

Chamber of Accounts said to be illegally elected
A former president of the Colegio de Abogados, the board of lawyers in the DR, said that the new members of the Chamber of Accounts presided by Dr. Hugo Arias Fabián were illegally elected as their term expired on 16 August 1998. Fernando Hernández Díaz argued that the Constitution establishes that these be elected on 16 August, and thus the term of those that were elected on 13 August 1998 ended on 16 August. He said that the election of the members of the JCE is legal because it was done within the period established by the Constitution.

Dominican women's rights advocator passes away
Ninety-one year old Ambassador Minerva Bernardino, the first woman in the world to be an ambassador before the United Nations, died on Friday, 28 August at 91. Mrs. Bernardino was the only survivor of the Dominican mission that traveled to San Francisco, California to sign the founding charter of the United Nations in 1945.
She passed away at her home in the DR. She had the rank of ambassador and was inspector of consulates and embassies. During the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship, she was the Dominican ambassador before the UN and consul general in New York. She was a renown women's right activist, using the United Nations as a forum.
She was the sister of the infamous Felix W. Bernardino, who died several years ago, and who had been accused of several crimes during the dictatorship.

Exchange rate stable at RD$15-RD$15.20
The DR-US$ exchange rate continued stable with banks buying at RD$15 to RD$15.20. Street market vendors were offering RD$15.25-RD$15.35 for the US dollar. Dollars were being sold in commercial banks and exchange houses for RD$15.20-RD$15.45. In the informal market, dollars were going for RD$15.45-RD$15.50.

Mark McGwire played in DR
Mark McGwire played ball with the Licey Tigers in 1986-1987 season and his performance was so poor he left after 48 turns at bat in the Dominican Professional Winter Baseball League. His average at bat was only .170. During the 14 games he played in the Dominican league, he hit several singles and two doubles, no triples or home runs. He had hit 26 home runs in his first years with the Minor Leagues and was moved up to the Oakland As. His Oakland As' coaches sent him to the DR to improve his third base defense and his batting.
But the 23 year old became homesick. Dominican pitcher José Rijo explained that McGwire missed eating Big Macs, as at the time there were no U.S. food franchises in the DR. He also missed having access to a gym at the stadium where he weight lift.
Rijo said that McGwire became so homesick, after 14 games he asked for a leave and left.
Cheché Arias, his massager, remembers McGwire took advantage of the lower prices here for custom fitting several suits in Santiago. He also remembers, McGwire was happy when playing golf in Casa de Campo.
McGwire might visit the DR, accepting an invitation of Sammy Sosa to play golf in Playa Grande.

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