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Daily News - 07 October 1998

Botanists favor mass effort to plant palm trees
The movement to replace fallen trees with native and endemic plants all throughout the country is gaining. Milciades Mejía, director of the National Botanical Gardens told journalist Carlos Michelén in an interview with El Caribe that native palm trees proved they are more resistant than the Acacia Magium with which the country was planted after the devastation of the flora by Hurricane David in 1979.
"This is the chance for the government to mend the errors of the past in regards to species used for reafforestation and replanting of trees, while making a contribution to the conservation of our native flora," concurred deputy director of the botanical gardens, Ricardo García.
The technicians of the Botanical Gardens are recommending the planting of the Palma Cana, the Yarey, the Guanito de Paya and the Palma Real. Palm trees are recommended because their roots do not destroy sidewalks, nor buildings, they require little space and are truly beautiful and elegant.
Other trees that would do well are fruit trees such as the sea grape, caimito, candongo, anon and mamey. Also recommended are the planting of ebony, mahogany, lignum vitae (guayacán) and caobanilla. Also Juan Primero, Corazón de Paloma, Lana, Almácigo, algarrobos and aceitunos, trees that grow to heights of three meters in less than two years. The Botanical garden has seedlings and seeds of more than 5,600 species regarded as superior native and endemic plants.
According to the Mejía, the Botanical Gardens have 200,000 trees in their nurseries in Santo Domingo and the southwestern province of Peravia that can be planted throughout the country.
The technicians explain that aside from the native species being better adapted to extreme climatological conditions such as hurricanes, these are also better adapted to the ecological balance. He explained that the Acacia Magium brought with it a plague that affected the trees that provide shade to coffee plantations.

Emergency plan to reinstall traffic lights
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) of Santo Domingo announced it will undertake a RD$10 million emergency program to reinstall traffic lights at difficult city intersections. AMET agents have been directing traffic since the city lost several of its traffic lights during Hurricane Georges. The traffic lights will be re-installed at several busy intersections, such as those of John F. Kennedy and Lope de Vega, and at the intersection of the Padre Castellanos and Josefa Brea. AMET teams cleared the 65 kilometers of the Metropolitan Transport Authority routes so that the corporation's buses could resume shortly after the hurricane.

Las Americas International Airport to get a name change soon?
The Chamber of Deputies modified the bill received from the Senate that had added the name of former PRD politician and mayor of Santo Domingo Dr. Jose Francisco Peña Gómez to the Las Americas International Airport's name. The deputies felt the name should not be added, but rather replaced. The recommendation came from Rafael Peguero Méndez, president of the Chamber of Deputies. The bill now returns to the Senate that if approving the recommendation will send it on to the Presidency for its conversion into law. The PRD is majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The principal airport of the country would then be known as the Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez International Airport.

Gloria Estefan to sing for DR children
Singer Gloria Estefan has promised to sing at a benefit for Dominican children at the Altos de Chavón amphitheater in year 2000. She will cover all her expenses. Juan Jose Arteaga, president of Visa and Mastercard, made the announcement in the DR. Gloria Estefan also sent a check for US$50,000 as her contribution to the victims of Hurricane Georges. The donation was handed to the Catholic Church.

Olympic Committee to seek Pan Am Games
Dr. José Joaquín Puello, the president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, insists that the DR should seek the site of the 2003 Pan American Games. He told the Listín Diario that a hurricane is not sufficient cause for the country to desist of its aspirations to host the most important regional sports games. "Imagine if we desist from organizing the games because a hurricane hits when there are still five years before the Games? What would the other countries say about us?"
He said he will travel Friday to Mexico to participate in a meeting on the Games. "Life has to go on, we are not to blame for the homeless, it is the society that has not permitted that these poor people develop, aside from the hurricane," he said.
Puello believes that the same conditions that existed before are present today. "Here there have always been very poor people and nobody can use this phenomenon as an excuse for us to abstain from requesting the seat of the games," he said.
The hurricane affected several of the sports installations of the country, and detractors of the 2003 Pan Am Games project say that the moneys that would have been used to build the sports installations that are needed now need to be used for the reconstruction of the nation.

Balaguer recovers in bed
Former President Joaquín Balaguer sent a letter to District Attorney Francisco Domínguez Brito excusing his presence in the habeas corpus hearing that is being held as part of the Orlando Martínez trial (Martínez was a journalist who was assassinated more than 20 years ago during a Balaguer administration). He explained to the District Attorney that the doctor has ordered him to stay in bed to recover from a fall suffered shortly after the hurricane. Rumors about the death or serious illness of the 92 year old politician again surged after he did not visit the tomb of his mother on Sunday nor attend the mass that commemorated a new anniversary of the death of his sister, Ema Balaguer.

Hipólito is leading candidate for PRD
El Siglo-Gallup poll held 16-21 September showed that 37.5% of the 1,200 persons interviewed consider Hipólito Mejía, a former vice presidential candidate for the PRD, former minister of agriculture, and agribusiness man, the best candidate to the presidency for the PRD. In second place, Milagros Ortíz Bosch, received 25% of the support. 8.7% favored former secretary of the presidency Hatuey de Camps, and 7.9% favor Rafael Subervi Bonilla, a former mayor of Santo Domingo and former minister of tourism. The political commission of the party has said it will select the candidate in mid February 1999.
Mejía received a higher vote count among those that said they were PRD voters, with 51.6%. PRD voters supported Ortíz Bosch 25.1% and Hatuey de Camps 8.6%.
Mejía has more support among men, 48.3% than among women, 26.7%. He received the same percentage of support from different income brackets.
The present senator for Santo Domingo, Milagros Ortíz Bosch received more support among women (32.5%) than among men (17.5%). She received more support from the higher income groups.

Bishop tells story of San Juan tragedy
The Bishop of San Juan de la Maguana, Monsignor José Dolores Grullón Estrella that praised the good organization, solidarity of all, and the coordinated work of authorities, the Catholic Church and the people before and after the hurricane in an interview with El Siglo newspaper. He said that while the death toll is not yet determined, in his opinion, the deaths in this area are not as many as one would have thought in the beginning and those that have been speculated.
"The first impression was that there were thousands of deaths, but I believe the great effort of all saved most lives," he said. After the tragedy of the flooding of the waters of the Yaque del Sur River, he said only 36 persons are reported still missing. He said there are 28 shelters in San Juan where some 13,000 persons are located. He said the victims will be relocated to a new location.
He said, "In San Juan, we have been more concerned about the living, than the press has been about the dead."
He attributed the losses of life to the almost impossible communication by radio and telephone with the capital city and the refusal of many to abandon their houses, primarily because of ignorance or disbelief in the magnitude of the danger, or of fear of theft of their family goods.
He recalled that on Tuesday 22 September, when it was known that the hurricane was headed their way, all residents were alerted. All vehicles available in San Juan, including several trucks were placed at the disposal of the evacuation teams. He said these brigades met with rejection of many. He explained some said: "God will protect us," others locked themselves in so they could not be forcefully evacuated, others insulted the military and all those who tried to convince them.
He said that the lack of communication caused the people to return to their homes on 22 September, when the winds stopped and from Santo Domingo they were told the hurricane was in Bonao. The people returned home from the shelters. He explained that he himself gave a lift to one of the persons returning home.
Once he was made aware at 10 pm that the levels of the dam were rising dangerously, he notified the population by radio alerting them to remain or return to the shelters. It was at 2 am when the river waters flooded the barrios and the rescue operation began.
He explained that the dam is built to drain naturally, and it was at 3 or 4 am that the dam began to overflow violently due to the volume of the waters. He does not blame the authorities; he explained that the dam makes possible farming in the area.
The government is preparing a bill that would prohibit the human settlements in areas that can be flooded by rivers, including the Mesopotamia area of San Juan, whose tragedy Monsignor Grullón describes.

Sammy Sosa to play in Japan
Sammy Sosa, who batted 66 home runs in the last regular season, heads the list of US Major League sluggers and pitchers that will travel next month to Japan to play eight exhibition games. Other players are Greg Vaughn of the San Diego Padres, who batted 50 home runs; Mexican Vinicio Castilla, of the Colorado Rockies, who batted 46 home runs; Dominican Moisés Alou, who batted 38 with the Houston Astros. And Curt Schilling of the Philadelphia Phillies, Trevor Hoffman of the Padres as the pitchers. Others on the team are Tom Gordon, of the Boston Red Sox, and Nomar Garciaparra.
Sosa is the only batter of four in the history of the Major Leagues that has batted more than 60 home runs. Others are McGwire (70), Roger Maris (61) and Babe Ruth (60).
Each player will receive US$85,000 to play the exhibition games. Seven of these games will be against an All Star team of the Central League of Japan and the Pacific Leagues. The eighth game will be against the Giants of Yomiuri. The tour begins 6 November.

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