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Daily News - 20 November 1998

Sammy Sosa Easily Wins MVP
It wasn't even close. Dominican home-run king Sammy Sosa won the National League's "Most Valuable Player" (MVP) award yesterday in a landslide victory. He received 30 out of 32 first-place votes and 438 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His rival in the famous home-run rivalry of this year's Major League season, Mark McGwire, received the other two first-place votes, both from St. Louis-based writers, where McGwire plays for the Cardinals. Sosa and McGwire had both broken Roger Maris' seasonal home run record of 61, but McGwire hit 70 homers to Sosa's 66. Nonetheless, Sosa has been the heavy favorite in speculation of recent weeks.
Sosa is the second Dominican to win an MVP honor: George Bell, also from San Pedro de Macorís, won American League MVP in 1987, the same year that was the last time a Chicago Cubs player (Andre Dawson) won the National League MVP. This year the American League MVP was won by a fellow Latin, Puerto Rico's Juan "Igor" González, who plays for the Texas Rangers.
Upon being notified of his victory, Sammy, awaiting word in Chicago, characteristically immediately called his mother in San Pedro to share the news. He told reporters that "if I could have voted, I would have voted for Mark [McGwire]."
He dedicated his win to the fans of Chicago, but said he would return to the Dominican Republic today to celebrate with the Dominican people.
Sammy Sosa is expected to be present in his hometown San Pedro de Macorís, when Mrs. Hillary Clinton visits today. Next on his agenda is a visit to the White House where he will be received by President Bill Clinton.

First Lady Hillary Clinton is in town
Santo Domingo residents know she's visiting by the more than usually bottlenecks caused by security measures near the areas she is visiting. She arrived last night at 11:12 pm and was received by the wife of Vice President Jaime David Fernández, Dr. Lizzy Campos de Fernández (President Leonel Fernández is single), and by Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre, Minister of Education Ligia Amada and Minister of Public Health Altagracia Guzmán as well as by the director of the Department of Promotion of Women (DGPM), Gladys Gutiérrez. She also was received by Linda Watts, charge d'affairs of the US Embassy in the DR (the US government has not appointed a new ambassador) and by Dominican Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Bernardo Vega. She arrived on board a US Air Force Boeing 757 jet.
She spent the night in Santo Domingo at the residence of the United States Embassy. Today she was scheduled to 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, to 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. In San Pedro de Macorís she is expected to meet with Sammy Sosa, the National League's MVP. From there she travels to La Romana to visit the Hogar Casa del Niño, an orphanage sponsored by Oscar de la Renta.
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.

The Inter-American Network of Legislative Leaders
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States Cesar Gaviria and the president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, Peter Haki arrive today to participate in a meeting where their joint project, the Inter-American Network of Legislative Leaders will be launched on Saturday in Boca Chica. The OAS-IAD project is designed to promote dialogue, exchange of ideas and experience, and cooperation among key legislators in the Western Hemisphere. The two-day event will be held at the Hotel Coral Hamaca Beach. It starts with an official welcome from President Leonel Fernández at 9:00 AM. Legislators from the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America are participating. Participants from the Dominican Republic will include Senator (and presidential PRD pre-candidate) Milagros Ortiz Bosch and Deputy Reynaldo Pared Pérez (PLD). Ortiz Bosch was part of the organizing committee for the Network and will be one of the opening speakers on Saturday. The event will discuss, among other things, the legislative role in setting foreign policy, legislative initiatives to combat drug trafficking and money laundering, and the negotiations for a hemisphere-wide Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

Government denies it will abandon Pan Am Games bid
In the Wednesday evening edition of the newspaper "El Nacional", Sports Editor Leo Corporán, citing "credible sources," caused an uproar in Santo Domingo by claiming that the Fernández government was about to abandon its bid to host the 2003 Pan American Games. The report was repeated on Thursday by all the morning dailies, complete with reactions from both well-known people and from "man in the street" interviews. Yesterday the Dominican Olympic Committee (COD) denied the report and says they have been reassured that the government still supports the bid. "We're moving forward with this project," declared COD President Dr. José Joaquín Puello Herrera, who said that the COD has not been notified of any change in attitude on the government's part and that the Committee is still preparing its next presentation to the Pan Am body examining bids to host the game. Delegates from the Americas will vote on the next cite for the Pan American sports games in Panama City on December 6th.

New hotels to open by year-end
A front page news story in the Listín Diario carries a report from the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (ASONAHORES) that six new hotels will open by the end the year, adding 2,581 guest rooms to the country's tourism capacity. This should bring the DR's total capacity to 41,608, an increase of 9% over 1997. Among the hotels slated for opening is a 528-room Meliá hotel this month in Bávaro. The Grupo Casa Marina will open the 368-room Casa Marina Residencia en Sosua and the 200-room Casa Marina Samaná in Samaná. ASONAHORES reported that another dozen hotels are under construction, including a new 518-room Iberostar hotel in Puerto Plata. ASONAHORES says it has confirmed that 2,715 rooms will be added to Dominican capacity in 1999, while hotels totaling another 1,094 rooms have yet to set opening dates. The association also reported yesterday that in the first three quarters of 1998, the occupancy rate in the DR capital, Santo Domingo , was 67%, compared to 61% in the same period last year.

JCE President: budget cuts endanger issuance of new cedulas
The President of the Junta Central Electoral (JCE, the Central Election Board), Manuel Ramón Morel Cerda, yesterday called a press conference to attack the Fernández Administration's budget proposals. He said that the government only proposed granting RD$80,625,980 of the RD$220,286,379 the JCE requested in order to further the issuance of new identity/voting cards ("cedulas"), placing the project "in grave danger", perhaps delivering "a mortal blow" to the project. He called on Congress to restore the levels originally requested by the JCE. Morel Cerda and the Fernández administration have been at loggerheads since his summer appointment. Fernández's Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and the Reformista (PRSC) Party have both characterized Morel Cerda as a Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) stalwart, and thus not impartial enough to chair the JCE. The administration for a while withheld JCE funding, while suggesting that the current board step down and a new one be designated on the basis of consensus among the major political parties. Morel Cerda has denied the charge and fought in court the fund embargo. A judge decided in favor of the JCE, but the government has yet to deliver last October's and November's funds.

President creates new commission to tackle familial violence issue
Amidst a week of newspaper reports and op-eds regarding the social program of familial violence, President Fernández created yesterday a new high-level commission to tackle the issue. The President issued Decree 423-98, creating the Commission for the Prevention and Fight Against Intra-family Violence. The new commission is charged with studying the dimensions of the problem and elaborating plans to prevent such violence and to help and treat people affected by it. Commission members will include: the nation's Attorney-General; the Coordinator of the Justice Reform and Modernization Commission; the ministers of Education, Public Health and National Police; representatives of the departments of Community Affairs, Promotion of Women and Coordinator of Relations with Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs). Also included will be a representative of the National District's district attorney's office and representatives of two NGOs working in on women's issues.

DR suspends trade negotiations with CARICOM
The Dominican Republic yesterday suspended trade negotiations with the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) because the latter wishes to exclude too many products from tariff cuts. Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Luisa Fernández explained that CARICOM came to the negotiations on November 17-18 in Port of Spain, Trinidad seeking to place nearly 900 products on its "negative list" of products to be excluded from the tariff cuts agreed in principle in an agreement signed between the DR and CARICOM on August 22, 1998. The DR proposed only 15 items for the negative list.
The DR was also upset by CARICOM's offer to only provide 257 items with Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. MFN is a guiding principle of the World Trade Organization (WTO) under which any such tariff concession made to one WTO member must be provided to all, and usually the concession is locked into place and cannot be raised again at-will. CARICOM proposed a list of about 234 products for which it was willing to provide "gradual" tariff reductions.
Appalled by the tariff offers, the DR suspended other talks planned for the important question of rules of origin (rules which govern how much content determines a product comes one country vs. another, which often makes a difference in its tariff treatment and its vulnerability to nontariff restrictions such as import quotas). "The Dominican delegation in these circumstances understood that it could not expect a fruitful discussion," Fernández told El Siglo, "and taking into account that there is a link between the product lists and the rules of origin, it decided to suspend the negotiations so that CARICOM can reevaluate its list and the Dominican side can analyze it."

New commission created to study the future of the Plaza de Salud
President Fernández has created a commission to study the role of the Plaza de la Salud (Health Plaza) in Santo Domingo in light of the country's health care reform. The commission will draw up a report to be delivered directly to the President. It will consist of two representatives each from the Ministry of Public Health, the Executive Commission for Health Care Reform and the Plaza's trustees, plus a single representative each from the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) and the Essential Medicines Program (PROMESE). [Notable for their absence are any nongovernmental representatives, such as those from groups representing doctors and nurses.]
The huge, state-of-the-art Plaza was constructed under the previous administration of President Joaquín Balaguer on the basis of a plan drawn up by physicians affiliated with Harvard University. From its inception it has had some critics who have alleged the continued development of the Plaza would only further centralize provision of health care in the Dominican Republic, to the detriment of the provinces. The current administration has announced, in cooperation with the World Bank, a program to health care reform which features prominently decentralizing health care provision and increasing the provincial role.

Recycling in Santo Domingo?
The National District's government has signed an agreement with Cuba to bring in Cuban advisors to help elaborate a recycling program for Santo Domingo. The Cubans will begin with a study of how the District currently collects, treats and disposes of household and industrial wastes. Cuba has offered to provide equipment and experts to create a recycling system in the District, and to educate Santo Domingo citizens how to recycle their solid wastes. Recycling of plastic, steel, aluminum, glass and paper and board can reduce the load on landfills and help the municipality recover the costs of its waste collection program. Although the District government is interested in launching such a program, it has told the Cuban advisors that currently it does not have the funds to do so. The District government estimates that it would require about a RD$150 million investment to set up a recycling program citywide.

Montás is elected President of OLADE
The 26-nation Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), which is currently holding its Ministerial Meeting and the 1998 Latin American and Caribbean Energy Conference (Enerlac '98) in Santo Domingo, yesterday elected the Technical Secretary of the Dominican Presidency, engineer Temístocles Montás, as its next president. The post is largely ceremonial but does increase the DR's influence in guiding OLADE's agenda over the coming year.

Green Quisqueya: 120,000 trees in 15 months
Engineer Manual Serrano, Director of the Plan Quisqueya Verde (Green Quisqueya Plan) reforestation program, reports that the program has managed to plant 120,000 new trees in its first 15 months of operation. The PQV was launched in recognition of the environmental dangers posed by the past deforestation in the DR, which had reduced soil fertility while increasing soil erosion and the danger of floods and mudslides. So far cedar, mahogany, eucalyptus, coffee and orange trees have been planted in 15 provinces as part of the project.

CONEP president re-elected
Celso Marranzini, industrialist and importer, was confirmed as president of the Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada, the organization of business organizations. Several new board members were elected, adding new vitality to the conservative group. The board is now made up by: Celso Marranzini, Frank Rainieri (tourism), Elena Viyella (agribusiness, Alberto Yunén, Luis Manuel Pellerano (industrial free zones), Luis Molina Achecar (banker). Other members are Irving Redondo (sugar industry), Rafael del Toro (banking), Carlos Espinal (telecommunications), Ricardo Barceló (agribusiness), Manuel Estrella and Alfonso Mera (construction). Also Marino Ginebra (insurance, tourism and cable TV), Carlos Guillermo León (beer and tobacco products), Francisco García and Marcos Cabral.

Grab the tickets for the Juan Luís Guerra-Gloria Estefan concert
They are not up yet for sale, but there are already rumors that only the RD$5,000 tickets are left. The Listín Diario, in a show business column by Ramón Almánzar, says that there are more people waiting to grab the tickets than there will be tickets available.
This is the concert of the decade. For the first time, Gloria Estefan, Juan Luís Guerra, Shakira, Carlos Ponce, Carlos Vives, Angela Carrasco and Jon Secada will be on stage for a mega concert. José Antonio Molina, who has been musical director for stars of the level of Celine Dion and Pavarotti, will be conducting the National Symphony Orchestra that will accompany the performers.
The concert is a benefit organized by Sammy Sosa, Juan Luís Guerra and Estefan foundations. Funds will assist health and children organizations in the DR.
There are 5,500 spaces available, broken down as following: 500-RD$5,000; 2,000-RD$1,500; 2,500-RD$600. Another 500 tickets will be distributed among the press and special guests. George Nader, promoter of the show, announced that the tickets are not yet on sale.
Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut, Musicalia and Altos de Chavón will be selling the tickets once they go on sale. No more than two per person will be sold. The Listín Diario announced it will have a limited amount of tickets available for sale to subscriber at a cost of 10% less than the ticket price. These will be sold at the gardens of the Listín next week.

Eagles Beat Giants, 4-3
The Cibao Eagles beat the Northeast Giants 4-3 at Cibao Stadium in Santiago last night. The first-place Eagles will play the Escogido Lions tonight at 8 pm in Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, while the Giants go to Julian Javier Stadium in San Pedro de Macoris to play the second-place Licey Tigers tonight at 8 pm.

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