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Daily News - 12 October 1998

PRD maintains its leadership
A Gallup-El Siglo poll carried out 16-21 September among 1,200 possible voters throughout the nation showed that 45.4% of Dominicans would vote for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), 30.3% for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD) and 15.9% for the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC). In the 1996 presidential elections, a coalition of the PRSC/Balaguer forces backing the PLD edged out the PRD from the presidency. While the PRD achieved the most votes ever cast for a president in a Dominican elections, a previous constitutional reform made it necessary to achieve 50%+1 of the vote to win in a first round in those elections. In the second voting round held 45 days afterwards, the PLD received the support of Dr. Balaguer and his followers in the PRSC. The PRSC/Balaguer coalition won the 1996 elections with 51.25% of the vote, defeating the PRD and allies by 71,741 votes. Note that during those elections the PRSC was divided among those who voted for the PRSC candidate in the elections, Jacinto Peynado, and those who followed the recommendations of Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, and cast their vote in the favor of the PLD presidential candidate, Dr. Leonel Fernández Reyna and against the PRD presidential candidate, the late Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez.

How the presidential hopefuls rate
The Gallup-El Siglo poll held 16-21 September revealed that if the elections were held today, politicians who aspire to the presidency would receive the following support from voters:
Hipólito Mejía (PRD) 21.9%
Joaquín Balaguer (PRSC) 11.2%
Milagros Ortíz Bosch (PRD) 10.9%
Jaime David Fernandez (PLD) 10.2%
Leonel Fernandez Reyna (PLD) 9.3%
Jacinto Peynado (PRSC) 4.8%
Rafael Suberví Bonilla (PRD) 3.3%
Hatuey Decamps (PRD) 2.7%
Danilo Medina (PLD) 1.7%
Carlos Morales (PRSC) 1.5%
Rafael Abinader (PRD) 0.7%
Felix Jiménez (PLD) 0.6%
José Hazim (PRSC) 0.6%
Victor Gómez Bergés (PRSC) 0.6%

Tirade continues between government and PRD
Government party and leading opposition party PRD relations continue sour. The PLD opposes the unilateral appointment of the new judges of the Junta Central Electoral, the body that organizes the presidential elections, and the PRD maintains its stubborn opposition stance. Hurricane Georges hushed the intense tirades between the PLD/government and the PRD but neither of the two parties is giving in. The government is withholding funding for the JCE, and the president of the JCE, Ramón Morel Cerda, who has been pointed out as an active member of the PRD, insists on presiding the organization. Meanwhile, the third majority party, the PRSC, which is divided by those that oppose the new board and those that do not. is expected to become the arbiters and bring about an agreement among the political forces of the nation.
A recent Gallup poll published in El Siglo showed that 43.3% of those surveyed responded that they do not trust or have little trust for the present JCE board.
Nevertheless, 73.8% of those interviewed said they would vote in the year 2000 presidential elections.

DR maintains highest growth rate in Latin America
The director of the National Planning Office, Rafael Camilo said that the Dominican Republic needs to change its image of an island destroyed by Hurricane Georges in order not to affect the foreign investment that comes to the DR. He said that the investment needed for the construction and reconstruction of bridges, highways and houses destroyed by the hurricane will not affect the year's expenditures because most of the funds for the reconstruction will come from international organizations. He said that the only economic sector that was significantly affected by the hurricane was farming. He said that most of the national productive structure was not affected by the hurricane.
The director of the National Planning Office said that the Dominican economy will show a growth of approximately 6% in 1998, the highest growth rate of all Latin American economies. The average for the region is forecast to be 3% in 1998. He said that originally the government had forecast a 7.5% growth rate, but has now revised its estimate following Hurricane Georges.
He said that the hurricane has primarily affected the farming sector with damages to crops and forestry estimated at RD$6,700 million. Tourism, free zones and financial sectors were not significantly affected.
The National Budget will need to be reformulated and cuts of 10% made as a result of the decline in government income due to Hurricane Georges, said Camilo. The 1999 budget originally had been estimated at RD$40,000 million.

Saona Island recovers
Press reports indicate that vegetation in the National Park of the East, that includes Saona Island, is recovering fast. Saona was visited by thousands of tourists every week prior to Hurricane Georges. A report in Hoy by well respected ecological editor, Domingo Abreu Collado indicates that while the flora was affected, it is growing back. These are the tropics and this has always been this way, explains Omar Ramírez, director of National Parks. The director of Parks in turn explained that the rains that have fallen have accelerated the recovery of the vegetation that was left standing. He forecast that by spring the Los Haitises and East parks will have recovered the green. Omar Ramírez explained that what is most important is to avoid man-made fires and let nature run its course. He explained that hurricanes are part of the natural cycle in the tropics. The hurricanes eliminate weak trees and leave standing the species best adapted for the territory. Palm trees have proven to be among the most resistant species.

Sports Palace covering could be very flammable
The daily press is focusing again on the Sports Palace of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center and its reconstruction recently carried out by a local firm using Spanish materials. The repair to the roof of the sports palace had just been completed two weeks before the hurricane struck at a cost of RD$15 million. The contractor had promised it would withstand a hurricane and could even be used as a shelter. But the dome suffered major damages due to Hurricane Georges, and the builders have promised to repair it at no further cost to the state. Now a new element has come about regarding the materials used for the reconstruction. It has been denounced that the materials used are highly flammable. The chief of the Dominican firemen corps, Colonel Luis Cos Garrido has promised to analyze the material and make his recommendations to the Ministry of Public Works.

Surprise! Alou chooses to stay in Montreal
Felipe Alou accepted a last minute offer of the Montreal Expos, turning down the offer that was "too good to refuse" which had been made the day before by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Press reports indicate the Dodgers had offered him a three year contract for US$3.5-US$4 million. It has been speculated that the Montreal Expos offered him a three-year contract for US$6 million. For the Dominican manager, who has been with the Montreal Expos, it was a relief. The 63-year old manager will not have to make the move to Los Angeles and start all over. He has been with Montreal for 24 years and has roots in Montreal. Reportedly, his new contract includes escape clauses that will allow him to go on to another team if the club is sold and moves to another city.
The Dodgers's general manager, Kevin Malone, and president Bob Graziano had traveled to the DR last week to convince Alou to join the Dodgers.
After meeting with the Dodgers in Santo Domingo, Alou flew to Florida where he met with Jim Beattie, general manager of the Montreal Expos, and with one of the owners, Mark Routtenberg.

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