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Daily News - 19 November 1998

US First Lady Hillary Clinton expected today in Santo Domingo
U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to arrive at around 11 pm tonight for a 36-hour visit to the Dominican Republic. She will spend the night in Santo Domingo at the residence of the United States Embassy. The following morning she will visit the Center for Family Integration (CIF) and then meet at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra with non governmental organizations (NGOs) and civic groups, with an emphasis on those concerned with women's issues. She will then go to the National Palace to meet with President Fernández, will meet the Dominican government cabinet, and after which she will deliver President Clinton's message to the Dominican people from the Ambassador's Room at the government house and then meet with local and international press. Subsequently she will travel to San Pedro de Macorís to visit the Dr. Carl T. George Hospital, and then on to La Romana to visit the Hogar Casa del Niño, to which she has contributed.
From La Romana she will go to Punta Cana for a private visit, leaving Saturday from the airport there to Haiti, last stop on her tour of countries affected by September and October hurricanes. In Punta Cana she will stay at the beach home of Oscar de la Renta, in a new development of the Punta Cana Group next door to Club Med Punta Cana.
Accompanying the First Lady on this trip are Deputy Secretary State for Latin American Affairs John Hamilton, Agency for International Development (AID) Administrator Mark Schneider, and Representative Charles Rangel (Democrat-New York).
The last visit of a First Lady of the US to the DR occurred in 1934 when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited.
The Chamber of Deputies approved a resolution declaring Mrs. Clinton "a distinguished guest." She will be received at the Las Americas International Airport by Mrs. Lissy Campos de Fernández, wife of the Vice President of the Republic, and by Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Latorre.

President reveals details of CDE privatization plans
In his presentation last night to the Energy Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean (Enerlac '98), President Leonel Fernández revealed many of the key details about how the privatization of the Dominican Electric Corporation (CDE) will be conducted. Enerlac '98 is a conference being held all this week at the auditorium of the Central Bank. It is co-sponsored by the 26-nation Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) and the Technical Secretariat of the Dominican Presidency.
The detail revealed by Fernández gaining the most notice is that CDE's 7,000 employees will be let go at year-end in order for the firm to change hands and organizations. All employees will receive the wages and benefits due them before dismissal, including dismissal pay and the traditional "regalía pascual" (the 13th month of salary Christmas bonus given to most workers in the Dominican Republic by mid-December). Employees will have the option of investing some of the money they receive in shares of the new companies.
Most of the workers will likely be hired immediately by the firms that will result from CDE's reorganization and privatization; those that are not will receive special job placement help from the government. Fernández guaranteed that no CDE employee will end up unemployed as a result of the privatization.
Fernández also said that (1) only 50% of the State's share of CDE value will be sold; (2) bidding will be received December 17-21; (3) so far 19 companies have completed all the requisites to participate in the bidding; (4) the government will assume RD$9 billion of CDE's debt to multilateral organizations in order to facilitate the privatization, but CDE will remain responsible for its debt to private generators; (5) CDE as such will remain only as the firm responsible for power by hydroelectric plants and for transmission of energy produced in all generating parks; (6) CDE's other current activities will be split among five new firms: two power generators (Itabo and Haina) and three regional distribution companies (East, South and North).

Tax-rise proposal stirs controversy
President Leonel Fernández sent to Congress yesterday his tariff and tax reform bill. The President contends that significant tax increases are needed in order to counterbalance expected revenue losses due to tariff cuts and reforms agreed to by the RD in free trade agreements with Central America and the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM). Currently the DR has nine tariff rates: 0, 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, 30 and 35 percent, with a median rate of 13.8 percent but an effective protection rate close to 40 percent. The bill sent to Congress by the President would restructure tariffs into five rate categories in 1999: 0, 3, 8, 14 and 20 percent. In the year 2000 these will be changed to four: 0, 5, 10 and 15 percent. By the year 2000 pharmaceuticals and their production inputs will have their tariffs phased out altogether.
The revenue losses due to tariff cuts and reforms are projected by the government to run as much as RD$5,592 million in 1999 and RD$8,884 million in the year 2000. The government is asking to raise the value-added tax, or ITBIS, from its present level of 8% to 12% in 1999 and to 14% in the year 2000. The ITBIS is imposed on a wide range of goods and services, from ordinary shop purchaes to restaurant and phone bills. The government is also proposing to raise the Selective Consumption Tax imposed on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products from its present 20% up to 35% in 1999 and to 40% in the year 2000.
Spokesmen for the Congressional blocks of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) and Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) opposition parties immediately rejected the tax hike proposals, labelling the proposals a crime against the impoverished sectors of the Dominican economy.
Reformistas Darío Gómez Martínez and José Hazim Frappier, and PRD spokesmen in the Chamber of Deputies Fafa Taveras, told El Siglo that their blocs in Congress could not vote for tax increases of any sort.
For his part, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Rafael Peguero Méndez (PRD), while accepting the need to raise the ITBIS to compensate for revenue loss from tariff cuts, yesterday rejected the level of increase suggested by the Administration. He feels that an increase to 10% should suffice. Business groups have not yet offerred an official reaction to the proposal, but their leaders informally disagreed over whether the increased proposed by the Administration was correct or too high.

Supreme Court to Congress: sufficient resources or justice suffers
A delegation from the Supreme Court (SCJ) visited the Senate yesterday to deliver to Congress the message that it cannot complete its mission of modernizing and restoring credibility to the Dominican justice system if does not recieve the full RD$960 million budget it originally requested. The SCJ delegation, led by first substitute for the SCJ President, Rafael Luciano Pichardo, declared the RD$610 million proposed by the Executive Branch as inadequate to the tasks facing the Court. If it does not receive the budget amount it originally requested, the Court will "have its hands and feet tied" and the modernization of the Dominican justice system will suffer.

Las Americas Highway to become Peña Gómez Highway?
The Reformista Party (PRSC) block in the Chamber of Deputies submitted yesterday a bill to rename the Las Americas Highway after Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, the recently-deceased leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), former presidential candidate and ex-mayor of Santo Domingo. The bill was submitted by Deputies Máximo Castro Silverio and Ramón Rogelio Genao Durán, who say it has the backing of ex-President and current PRSC leader Dr. Joquín Balaguer. The Deputies promoted the bill as a possible solution to the current impasse between the PRD-led Congress and the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD)-run Executive over the renaming of Las Americas Airport as Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez Airport. Last Friday President Fernández rejected a bill passed by Congress to rename the airport. In protest the PRD this week walked out of the political dialogue between parties mediated by the Catholic Church.

Famous psychiatrist dies
Dr. Máximo Beras Goico, a 61-year old psychiatrist known to many Dominicans because of his radio and television advice show "El siquiatra en su hogar" (Psychiatry in Your Home), died suddenly yesterday afternoon of a heart attack. The 61-year old psychiatrist was leaving his clinic and entering his car when the attack occured. He fell, receiving a blow to his head. He was rushed to Clínica Corazones Unidos in an attempt to save him, but to no avail. The outspoken Beras Goico is accredited with taking the mystique away from psychiatry in the DR. His brother is television producer and show host Freddy Beras Goico, and the psychiatrist did a segment on mental health on Freddy's "El Gordo de la Semana" show. Dr. Beras Goico was also the Director of the Psychiatry and Mental Hygiene Division of the public health service.

AMET running a deficit, seeks lines of credit
The Director of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET), engineer Hamlet Hermann, revealed yesterday that the entity is currently operating with a RD$30 million deficit and that it has asked for a line of credit for that amount from the Banco de Reservas. Herman explained that the ideal annual budget for AMET for it to complete all the tasks assigned to it would be RD$207 million, but AMET is only receiving RD$48 milion in its first year of operation, the RD$4 million monthly assignation is unchanged since its creation. AMET says it needs more money to acquire vehicles, motorcycles for the Metropolitan Police and computer equipment and programs. Also, AMET wants to hire foreign tarffic management experts, since Dominican experts do not have much experience in creating urban traffic corridors. He said that AMET does not plan to raise further the number of Metropolitan Police from its current level of 500, but rather to make them more efficient with better communication equipment, training and more mobility through use of motorcycles.

1998 a record drug-busting year
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) reports that in the first 10 months of 1998 it has seized more narcotics and arrested more people for drug trafficking than in the entire year of 1997. Some 1,400 kilos of drugs, mostly cocaine and crack, have been seized so far. 2,515 people have been arrested for violating Law 50-88 on Controlled Substances, 509 more than in 1997. DNCD also reports that the DR has deported 51 foreigners so far this year for drug-relating offenses and that 22 people have been arrested on charges of laundering drug money.

Summons Issued for Orlando Case
The Public Ministery yesterday issued summons to testify for the second hearing on the murder of journalist Orlando Martínez Howley. Orlando, a vocal critic of the then-Balaguer government, was killed in his car in front of the campus of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) on March 17, 1975. The murder has long been popularly assumed to have been a political assassination. The first hearing was held in the 10th Penal Chamber on November 5, but many of the people summoned to testify, including ex-President Joaquín Balaguer, did not appear (Dr. Balaguer asked to be excused for health reasons). Summoned to the second hearing on December 7th are more than 30 people, including such well-known figures are Dr. Balaguer, and retired Generals Enrique Pérez y Pérez, Ramón Emilio Jiménez and José Ernesto Cruz Brea.

Two Dominicans in Music Hall of Fame
Two Dominican artists will be among the first from Latin America inducted into the Salón Internacional de la Fama de la Música Latina (The Latin Music Hall of Fame). Elected were Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura and Johnny Pacheco. Ventura, whose name is synomynous with merengue and who is known affectionately as "The Father of Merengue," is currently the mayor of Santo Domingo. His 100th single is due out soon. Pacheco, born in the Dominican Republic but raised in New York, was one of the leaders of the salsa movement of the 1970s as part of the Fania All Stars. Other artists elected with the two Johnny's include Celia Cruz and Tito Puente.

Licey defeats Eagles, Lions beat Giants
The Licey Tigers defeated the Cibao Eagles 2-1 last night in a game at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo that went into a 10th inning. This is the 12th win for Licey in the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. Meanwhile at Julián Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris, the Escogido Lions beat the Northeast Giants 4-2.

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