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Daily News - 24 November 1998

Senate rejects veto of the bill renaming of Las Americas Airport
The Senate rejected yesterday President Leonel Fernández's veto of a bill to rename Las Americas International Airport as "Aeropuerto Internacional Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez. The President vetoed the bill on Friday, November 13th, sparking a protest withdraw of the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) from the national political dialogue sponsored by the Catholic Church. The bill had been sponsored by PRD legislators to honor their fallen leader and past presidential candidate, Peña Gómez. The PRD-controlled Senate voted 21-2 (only 23 of 30 Senators were present for the vote) to overturn the presidential veto. The two dissenters were senators belonging to the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Enrique Martínez (La Romana) and Geraldo Apolinar Aquino (El Seibo). To overturn a presidential veto 2/3 of the total votes in both chambers is needed; in the Senate, this means 20 votes.

Trinidad & Tobago proposes bilateral trade deal with DR
In light of difficulties in the trade negotiations currently underway between the DR and the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), CARICOM's largest market, Trinidad & Tobago, has informally offered to negotiate a separate, bilateral free trade deal with the DR. Last week DR negotiators revealed that they had postponed concluding the free trade agreement with CARICOM because the latter proposed a huge negative list of items not to be subject to the trade liberalization rules of the framework agreement signed in August 1998 between the DR and CARICOM. DR Ministry of Foreign Relations sources told the news daily Listin Diario that Trinidad is anxious to get a trade deal with the DR, even if it means going the bilateral route. The Ministry sources opined that such a deal might be possible to hammer out, it would entail numerous difficulties, including diplomatic and legal problems linked to Trinidad's membership in CARICOM.

CDE unpaid debt now RD15.3 billion
Dominican Electricity Corporationís (CDE) Administrator, Radhamés Segura, revealed yesterday that the company unpaid debt now is about RD$15.3 billion. RD$5.8 billion of the debt is not currently being paid; RD$9.5 the government is attempting to pay on CDE's behalf. Around RD$900 million is owed to private generators, RD$900 million to local credit sources such as Banco de Reservas (this bank alone is owed RD$560 million). Making payments is difficult for CDE at this juncture, as many residential customers have not been paying their bills. This customer delinquency in payments is attributed to the service interruptions and tight family budgets in the wake of Hurricane Georges.

AIRD: Raising ITBIS is not necessary
The President of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Nassim Alemany, argued yesterday that it was not necessary to raise the Transfer Tax on Industrial Goods and Services (ITBIS) in order to compensate for revenue losses from tariff cuts, as the government has argued. Alemany argued that lower tariffs will probably increase imports, compensating through volume for some of the revenue lost by cutting tariff levels. Furthermore, he asserted, Dominican customs authorities traditionally have undervalued goods when estimated tariffs due, thereby denying the government all the customs payments it should be due. He suggested that Dominican Customs take up an offer from the U.S. Customs to help make the DR's customs valuations more realistic, and thereby increase tariff income. He suggested that such measures may be able to completely counterbalance revenue loss from dropping tariff levels, making the ITBIS hike sought by the government unnecessary.

Poll: majority say government did a bad job after Hurricane George
The news daily Hoy continues to trickle out the results of its recent poll conducted with the help of the firm Hamilton & Staff. 1,000 Dominicans were interviewed for the poll November 7-12. Today's tidbits involved questions surrounding Hurricane Georges and its aftermath. Asked "How would you rate the way that the government confronted the aftermath of Hurricane Georges?", 42% replied "not very well" and 14% said "badly"; 36% said "good" and 8% said "excellent." In the same poll, asked who they thought had done the best work in favor of the Dominicans left homeless by the hurricane, 34% replied foreign nations, 19% said international organizations, 19% the Fernández government, and 12% the Catholic Church.

Lottery scandal fugitive found, extradition sought
The whereabouts of Frederick Marzouka, the fugitive who exposed a huge fixing scandal that seriously damaged public faith in the National Lottery, seem to be known. When arrested in 1997 for allegedly swindling the Lottery out of RD$6.5 million, Marzouka faked an illness and then escaped police custody while at a clinic. Shortly thereafter he showed up in a television interview with a Miami reporter in which he revealed an extensive "internal mafia" within the Lottery that fixed numbers and cheated dozens of millions of pesos out the organization. As a result of his detailed revelations in the interview, numerous people associated with the Lottery were arrested. These people subsequently were released pending trial, which has not yet happened. Marzouka continued to elude authorities until recently. He has been found residing with his wife in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Dominican authorities reportedly are asking Haiti to return Marzouka to face trial.

Major drug bust in Dominican territorial waters
The U.S. Coast Guard, working in cooperation with the DR's National Drug-Control Directorate (DNCD) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), yesterday seized over 1,000 kilos of cocaine. The interdiction was made in Dominican territorial waters as drug traffickers were in the process of transferring the cocaine to speed boats to transport it to Puerto Rico. The drugs were turned over to the DNCD, which intends to burn it. The head of DNCD, General Luis Alberto Humeau Hidalgo, characterized the bust as one of the most important of the DNCD-DEA-Coast Guard joint effort, and proof that the U.S. and DR are determined to stop Colombian cartels from using the DR as a back to enter Puerto Rico and the American market.

Police crackdown on delinquents in Santo Domingo
At dawn yesterday police units swept through 14 low income sectors of Santo Domingo where they say they have received the most complaints of violent crime - robberies, gang activities, etc. Known as "Operative Los Olivos," the coordinated operation resulted in the arrest of 146 people, plus the seizure of a number of fire arms and drugs 101 machetes and at least 100 motorcycles. The 14 sectors were Agua Dulce, El Cachón de la Rubia, Catanga, La Ciénaga, Los Grandules, Guachupita, Lucerna, Mandinga, La Zurza, Villa Maria and 27 de Febrero. The sweep was conducted by the National Police's (PN) SWAT team together with DNCD agents. PN spokesman Simón Díaz said that the operation should serve as a warning to drug traffickers, criminals and other wrongdoers that the authorities will combat delinquency with an iron fist.

Eagles increase their lead to five
The Cibao Eagles defeated the Licey Tigers 3-1 at Quisqueya Stadium yesterday, increasing their lead over the second-place Tigers to five in the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. Meanwhile the rescheduled (due to rain) game in San Francisco de Macorís between the Escogido Lions and Northeast Giants had to be postponed yet again due to rain.
The Giants are due to play Licey tonight at 8:00 pm at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, while at the same hour the Eagles and Lions are slated to face off at Cibao Stadium in Santiago.

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