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Daily News - 23 November 1998

Hillary wows DR during her visit
U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton won the hearts and minds of most Dominicans during her 40-hour visit to the Dominican Republic. She smiled and greeted everyone she met, from average workers to top functionaries. She chatted at length with students and children. To the delight of one crowd, she danced merengue. In her official meetings with officials and civic groups, she demonstrated a firm grasp of current Dominican politics and social issues. Newspapers, television and radio shows and man-in-the-street interviews were singing her praises and expressing the hope that the personal connection she seemed to make with the country's people and leaders would help improve relations between the DR and US.
She arrived late Thursday night and stayed the night at the American embassy. On Friday she started her busy schedule with a 9:26 am visit to the Center for Family Integration (CIF) in Villa Duarte. On her tour of the facility she conversed with teachers and their pupils about the Center's job training and the ambitions of the students.
She next visited with representatives of several civic groups at the Pontifica Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in a meeting organized by the Project for Democratic Initiatives (PID). At the meeting she announced a new four-year, US$1.5 million grant to PID from the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). The grant is intended to "support justice sector reform, provide legal services for the poor and disenfranchised and ensure public accountability." The PUCMM meeting discussed civic education for children, judicial sector reform, separation of powers (executive, legislative and judicial) in government, familial violence, and the role of dialogue in furtherance of democracy. Her remarks on each received close attention from the national press. Hillary called for more dialogue and greater efforts to achieve consensus. She extolled the virtues of separation of powers, but stressed that this term does not mean each sector of government has its own powers which it exercises with impunity. Rather, it means independent powers that work in balance for the betterment of society, that ìmust cooperate and work in mutual respect.
On an issue very much in Dominican news recently, she characterized familial violence a crime that needs to be treated as such by the penal code. In her opinion, it is a serious problem in our hemisphere...that can no longer be ignored or treated as a custom or a cultural effect. However, she also stressed other ways to combat the problem as well. In particular, she called for an investment in the education of girls and women. Because when you educate a woman you educate a family and you educate someone who is more likely to invest in the betterment of children, she said.
She next went to the National Palace at 11:23 am, where she met privately with President Leonel Fernández and later was introduced to the entire cabinet. In subsequent public remarks she announced that the U.S. will be sending US$14.2 million more in aid to help the DR deal with the effects of Hurricane Georges.
In the afternoon she traveled to San Pedro de Macorís, where she visited Carl Theodore George regional hospital at 2:18 pm. Attending this event was Dominican home run king Sammy Sosa, who gave the First Lady an autographed Chicago Cubs cap. She told the crowd that while she had already received many wonderful gifts during her visit, the cap would be the one she would treasure most because she was a Cubs fan and a Sosa fan.
In La Romana she visited The Hogar del Niño (Children's Home). When the children performed Juan Luis Guerra's song "Guavaberry," she rose to dance to the merengue tune with Dominican designer and friend Oscar de la Renta. She told the crowd at the Hogar that she had wanted to visit it because de la Renta had told her she would find there "the most beautiful and intelligent children in the world." After visiting them, she had to concur, she told them.
From La Romana she went to Punta Cana, where she attended a private dinner held in her honor at the home of de la Renta from 8:30 until 11:00 pm. Attending were President Fernández, Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre and his wife, and tourism entrepreneur Frank Rainieri and his wife. Before she left the country from Punta Cana International Airport at 3:50 pm Saturday, she helped break ground on the construction of a new school being built by the Punta Cana Foundation, of which Rainieri is President and de la Renta a board member.
Rainieri and Dominican ambassador in Washington, D.C., Bernardo Vega concurred that Mrs. Clinton left impressed by the efforts of Dominicans to rebuild the country after Hurricane Georges and with the natural beauty, and they said they expected her to become a promoter of the land. Punta Cana it slated to become the next major Caribbean destination for American tourists in coming months, as major US tour operators send their travelers there starting this year.

Inter-American Network of Legislative Leaders launched in Boca Chica
The first session ever of the new Inter-American Network of Legislative Leaders was held in Boca Chica on Saturday. The Network is the creation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Washington-based group Inter-American Dialogue (IAD). 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 was held at the Hotel Coral Hamaca Beach. It opened with an official welcome from President Leonel Fernández at 9:00 AM. Fernández spoke of the importance of a strong legislature and stressed the importance of dialogue between the executive and legislative branches and of working together constructively to solve national problems. For his part, OAS Secretary-General César Gavira Trujillo said in his remarks that he was confident that the Dominican President and the political parties could find a way to resolve the present crisis concerning the Central Elections Board (JCE). The Network meeting discussed a number of issues of common interest to Latin American legislators, including drug trafficking and money laundering. The former was declared a threat to democracy, but the group urged that the U.S. find a way to hand over its current "certification" regime (whereby U.S. authorities every year must certify that Latin American countries are working hard enough to fight drugs, or else U.S. trade concessions and aid to the country in question are cut off) to some sort of regional, presumably more impartial, certification body.

Central Bank denies peso is falling
Central Bank Governor Héctor Valdez Albizu denied that the peso is falling against the dollar. The Governor insisted that in the above-board market the dollar-peso rate has remained stable, and that the Bank recently made available US$15 million to local banks to keep that way. "The movements higher appear in the unregulated market in the extrabank market, which does not concern us," he said. Most importers, stores, businessmen and agricultural producers use the banking system, where the exchange rate is closely monitored by the Central Bank and kept stable. The rumors of exchange rate rises are coming from people using unregulated money changers, he asserted, and they often do not want the true value of their merchandise reflected in their books. Valdez Albizu said that the peso should soon start its traditional year-end rise in value against the dollar, as tourism increases and Dominicans abroad send home to their families money for the holidays.
The Minister of Finance, Daniel Toribio, suggested a different reason for exchange rate fluctuations. Appearing on the TV show "Hola," Toribio attributed current high demand for dollars on importers making their year-end purchases. In the past, he explained, importers tended to make such purchases in September and October, but this year Hurricane Georges delayed such purchases until November. He agreed with Valdez Albizu that the rate should show its traditional favoritism to the peso as December arrives.

PRD presidential candidates support Pan Am Games bid
Stressing that the Dominican Republic's bid to host the 2003 Pan American Games is not just a dream of the current administration, the three top contenders to be the Dominican Revolutionary Party's (PRD) next presidential candidate stressed their support for the bid. In separate letters sent to the head of the Dominican Olympic Committee (COD), Dr. José Joaquín Puello, PRD Secretary-General Hatuey Decamps, former Agriculture Secretary Hipólito Mejía and ex-Santo Domingo mayor Rafael Suberví Bonilla all expressed their continuing support for the Dominican bid to host the Games. Both Mejía and Suberví declared their support "unconditional."

Congressional committee wants to switch DR$1 billion in budget
The special bicameral congressional committee examining the President's national budget package is considering taking RD$1.05 billion from line items for Executive Branch agencies and switching it to the Juridical Branch and the Central Election Board (JCE). Both the Supreme Court and JCE told Congress last week that the President's budget package severely cut their budget requests and would undermine the modernization of the justice system and preparation for the presidential elections in the year 2000. The Senate-Chamber of Deputies joint committee is proposing taking funds from four Executive Branch agencies and giving it to the other entities in the following way: RD$500 million from the Ministry of Finance; RD$200 million of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, RD$150 million from the Ministry of Interior and Police, and RD$100 million from the Ministry of Tourism. Administration sources warn that such transfers would seriously harm plans to cut the national external debt, promote small and medium-sized firms and promote Dominican tourism in other countries.

Hoy poll shows Dominicans oppose privatization, tariff reform
A poll published today in Hoy shows that the average Dominican does not support privatization or tariff reform, two major economic initiatives of the current government. Last week President Fernández sent to Congress his proposals for tariff cuts, which must be counterbalanced by higher domestic taxes, such as the Industrial Goods and Services Transfer Tax (ITBIS). The President also last week revealed details of the privatization plans for the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE). The poll, conducted by Hoy and the firm Hamilton & Staff, interviewed 1,000 Dominicans between November 7 and 12, before those events.
On tariffs, Dominicans were asked "Do you favor a reduction in import tariffs in order to compete with other nations, regardless of how it may increase the ITBIS in order to compensate for possible losses?" 57% said that they opposed it, 37% supported it, 6% expressed no opinion.
On privatization, Dominicans were asked "Do you favor or oppose the government sale of CDE (state electricity utility), CEA (state sugar mills consortium, Molinos Dominicanos (state flour mill) to the private sector, as has been planned by the government?" 63% said that they opposed such plans, 32% favored it, 5% expressed no opinion.

IDB to provide credit line for medium-sized Dominican firms
The Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), an affiliate of the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has granted the Banco Nacional de Crédito (Bancrédito) a US$20 million line of credit to support medium-sized firms in the DR's tourism sector and in the free zones (zonas francas). The IIC will finance US$7.5 million of the amount directly, while the other US$12.5 million will be provided by international commercial banks. The line of credit is intended to allow Bancrédito to make long-term, low-interest loans to mid-sized firms, focusing mostly on modernizing and expanding existing firms. The IIC and Bancrédito say that the program should create 2,000 new jobs and more than US$15 million in export income in coming years. The IIC is the arm of the IDB that promotes investment and private enterprise in 28 countries of Latin American and the Caribbean.

Another airline opens Miami-Santo Domingo route
Aeromar Airlines announced that it will open passenger service between Miami and Santo Domingo starting Friday, November 27. Although new to passenger service, Aeromar has a long experience (31 years) flying cargo between the U.S. and Dominican Republic. The airline plans 11 flights per week. It has offices in both Miami and Santo Domingo.

Japan to send prefab homes
Dominican home-run king Sammy Sosa revealed upon his return to the DR on Friday that Japan has promised him to send 1,000 prefabricated houses to replace Dominican homes destroyed by Hurricane Georges. Sosa was recently in Japan for an exhibition tournament, where he captured the hearts of Japanese baseball fans. He used the occasion of the tour to meet with many Japanese officials to request aid for Dominicans left homeless by Georges. He also auctioned off uniforms and bats to raise money for the same cause.

Suberví becomes fifth official presidential precandidate for PRD
Ex-mayor of Santo Domingo, Rafael Suberví Bonilla, made it official on Friday: a team of his advisors and followers paid the RD$100,000 fee and registered him as an official contender for the Dominican Revolutionary Party's (PRD) standard-bearer in the next presidential elections. He joins the ranks of Milagros Ortiz Bosch, the National Districtís Senator, Hipólito Mejía, a former Minister of Agriculture, Hatuey Decamps, the Secretary-General of PRD, and José Rafael Abinader, who has run for president in the past under another party's banner. PRD will hold its national convention next February, when it will decide who will be the partyís candidate for president in the year 2000. Suberví served as mayor 1994-98, and during his final months in office made clear his presidential ambitions.

FBI to open office in Santo Domingo
The Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Louis Freeh, announced on Saturday that the FBI plans to open an office in Santo Domingo. Details remain sketchy; the FBI has yet to say when precisely the office will open, nor exactly what sort of work it will be doing. Freeh said that the Santo Domingo will one of eight the Agency is opening abroad.

Transport strike in Puerto Plata tomorrow
The president of the Association of Owners of Urban Transport and Tourism Buses in the city of Puerto Plata announced that 18 drivers' organizations and unions will hold a two day protest strike tomorrow and Wednesday, November 24-25. Among other things, the drivers are demanding that 27 cars recently allowed on public routes be withdrawn, and they insist that Tecni Taxi radio-called taxis not be allowed to operate in Playa Dorada. They also demand that the port be dredged, city streets be repaired, highway connections be finished and the price of gasoline be lowered.

Dominican documentary wins Emmy
A Dominican television documentary about Juan Bosch won the prestigious Emmy award on Saturday. "89 años de entrega" covers the life and works of Juan Bosch, writer, former Dominican President, past presidential candidate and founder of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). The documentary was produced by Fernando Hasbún and his wife Alicia Ortega. The documentary was originally shown on the Univision television chain as part of its "Los hombres del siglo" (Men of the Century) series. Three other Dominicans -Tony Dandrades, Ramón Carmona and Arsenio Rodríguez- had been nominated for Emmy's in other categories, but did not win.

Eagles increase lead; Giants manager resigns
The Eagles beat the Lions on Friday and the Giants on Sunday, making it four wins in a row and increasing to four games their lead over Licey in the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. The Cibao Eagles beat the Escogido Lions on Friday 5-4; they topped the Northeast Giants 5-3 in a Sunday game at Cibao Stadium that was the first season win for pitcher José Manzanillo. Manzanillo allowed just three hits in the six innings he pitched.
The Licey Tigers routed the Giants on Friday 6-2. A Sunday match between Licey and the Tigers was suspended scoreless in the fourth inning due to rain. Under tournament rules the game must be resumed within 48 hours of being suspended.
Giants team manager Miguel "Guelo" Diloné announced his resignation yesterday, citing his prior commitment with the New York Mets academy as the reason. Diloné is part of the technical team for the academy, and said that prior responsibility was requiring too much of his time and attention. Diloné had been brought at the start of the winter season in as manager as a last minute replacement for Ron Johnson. Giants General Manager Luis Silverio characterized the resignation as "a tough blow" for the team, but understandable given Diloné's Mets commitment. Silverio said that Diloné will probably return as team manager for the 1999-2000 winter season. The Giants are currently firmly in last place in this year's Tournament, winning only five out of twenty-three games.
Tournament Standings (Wins/Losses):
Cibao Eagles (17/7)
Licey Tigers (13/10)
Escogido Lions (11/11)
Northeast Giants (5/18)

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