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Daily News - 02 December 1998

Consensus reached on Monetary Code; passage imminent
Announced yesterday evening was a consensus accord reached between the government, the Senate and the banking community over the 350-article bill creating a new Monetary-Financial Code. The bill in question has spent four years inching its way through Congress. The agreement was announced by the President of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque, and the President of the Association of Commercial Banks, José Manuel López Valdez. Alburquerque said that he would launch a Senate debate on the measure in today's plenary to secure swift passage of the bill.

Senate postpones budget debate
The Senate decided last night to put off until next Tuesday further debate on the bill setting the 1999 National Budget. The current version of the bill is the product of a compromise hammered out recently between a Senate-Chamber of Deputies joint committee and the Fernández Government. The bill was passed almost immediately by the Chamber of Deputies last Friday. Senate President Alburquerque, a key player in winning the compromise, had hoped to win Senate passage for the bill this week. He was frustrated in his attempt by senators demanding more time to study the compromise, especially how it would benefit individual provinces. Alluding to the commitment to the compromise made by the bicameral committee, Alburquerque warned that the Senate cannot agree to one thing today and then ask for another tomorrow. Senator José Rafael Abinader, who was also part of the budget negotiations, warned his fellow senators against seeking amendments to the bill. Any such changes risk being rejected by the Chamber of Deputies, because agreeing to Senate changes would require the vote of 2/3 of the Deputies.

Danilo Medina: Leonelís reelection still possible
The Secretary of the Presidency and one of President Leonel Fernández's top aides, Danilo Medina, asserted yesterday that the possibility still exists that the President could stand for reelection. Speaking on a Telecable Nacional Channel 10 program, Medina said that his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) would be disposed to negotiate with the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), which presently controls Congress, on amendments to the Constitution. PRD in the past has called for lowering the 50% threshold now in the Constitution for winning the presidency in the first round of voting. PRD's fallen leader, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez won the most votes in the first round of presidential elections in 1996, but just missed the 50% threshold. He lost in the second round after the Reformista Party (PRSC) threw its support behind the PLD candidate, Leonel Fernández. PRD worries that a similar scenario could be played out again in future elections. Medina said that the PLD might be willing to support a lower threshold if in exchange it could gain PRD support for a Constitution amendment to allow reelection of a President.
After a political crisis sparked by fraud in the 1994 presidential elections, the Constitution was then amended to prohibit reelection, in part to bar then-President Joaquín Balaguer from running again in 1996. Medina asserted that Fernández remains the best candidate for PLD to back in the year 2000. He admitted that it would be difficult to win a constitutional reform deal with the PRD, because "the PRD fears Leonel Fernández and PRD rank-and-file don't want to see even Leonel's shadow on the electoral ballot."

Poll: Reformistas should run alone in 2000
In today's installment of the results from the November 7-12 Hoy-Hamilton & Staff poll of 1,000 Dominicans, respondents gave clear message that the Reformista Party (PRSC) should run its own presidential candidate in the year 2000. Asked "In your opinion, should the PRSC go it alone in the year 2000 elections with its own candidate, or should it ally itself with the PLD under a common candidate?", 70% said it should stand on its own, 25% replied that should ally with PLD, and 5% had no opinion.

Post-capitalization electric tariffs not guided by fiscal policy
The Commissions for Public Enterprise Reform (CREP), as part of its continuing campaign to build public support for the upcoming capitalization of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), held yesterday a press encounter. Its main message: once CDE is capitalized, the government will no longer be able to set electricity tariffs with fiscal ends in mind (i.e., to raise revenues for the government), as the government did when it artificially raised the price of gasoline. CREP reiterated that electric rates will be kept stable for the first four years after capitalization, after which increased efficiency and competition will hopefully bring lower rates. While touting the immunity of post-capitalization electric rates from incorporating revenue-generating schemes, CREP officials did admit that future government could subject electricity to the Transfer Tax on Industrial Goods and Services (ITBIS) or create a new specialized tax on electricity consumption.

DR to sign today US$117 million reconstruction loan with IDB
The Dominican Republic will sign today in Washington D.C., a US$117 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The loan is intended to help the DR resolve problems caused by, and reconstruct areas destroyed by, Hurricane Georges. The 25-year loan features a two-year grace period and a commitment by the DR government to add its own $12 million to the program foreseen by the loan. Signing for the DR will be Temístocles Montás, Technical Secretary of the Presidency, and for the IDB Enrique Iglesias, IDB President.
US$20.3 million of the loan is earmarked for restoring high-tension electrical lines in the East and for the fixing of water treatment plants and urban aqueducts affected by the hurricane. US$30 million is allotted to help rebuild low-income communities. US$30 million is intended to help fight poverty generally through measures such as provision of essential medicines and children's health measures. US$3.8 million is slotted for "fortifying national planning and prevention", a chapter that covers forest recuperation and fixing ecotourism infrastructure.
The loan contract establishes that goods and services to be procured in the execution of the loan must be subjected to transparent international bidding. These include US$3 million for infrastructure, US$300,000 for goods and US$200,000 for consulting services.

Municipal workers paid amidst charges and countercharges
The National Treasury announced yesterday that it had delivered the monthly check RD$70 million to the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) on Monday, the same day LMD officials were complaining to the press that municipalities could not pay their workers for November because the national government was late delivering its funds transfer to LMD. Law 17/97 requires the National Treasury to remit funds equal to 4% of the national budget on the 10th of every month to municipal governments; these funds, which usually actually arrive in municipal government hands on the 20th of each month, are used to pay salaries.
LMD Secretary Julio Mariñez (PRD) accused the Fernández Government of deliberately delaying funds to the LMD, just as it has done recently with the Central Election Board (JCE) appointed by a PRD-controlled Congress. He suggested that the PLD-run administration wants to use possible fund delays to pressure more League members into voting for the PLD-PRSC candidate for LMD Secretary, Senator Amable Aristy Castro (PRSC-Altagracia).
LMD elections are slated for January 26, with Aristy Castro and Mariñez considered the frontrunners, especially after seven other aspirants to the job announced yesterday that they were retiring from the race in favor of Mariñez.
Asked about Mariñez's charges during his interview on Channel 10's show "Hola," the Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina rejected the charge as a PRD fantasy.

Seven arrested in DR by Interpol in money laundering case
Mexican police and Interpol agents, working in cooperation with Dominican authorities, arrested in the DR over the weekend seven people accused by Mexican authorities of working with former Mexican banker Carlos Cabal Peniche in a money laundering ring. The arrests were announced only yesterday by Mexican authorities. Dominican authorities were reluctant to discuss the case even when pressed by local news organizations.
Detained were Dominicans Aquiles Fernández Jiménez and Bolívar Aquiles Reynoso, Italians Guido Parlatorre, Walter Viterelli and Maurizo Monticelli, and Puerto Ricans Carlos Raúl López and María Manuela Romeu. Cabal Peniche was arrested last month in Australia after having fled Mexico.
Meanwhile the afternoon daily Ultima Hora reports that the Ministry of Foreign Relations, disturbed to find out that Cabal Peniche and his family were carrying Dominican passports when captured, has been secretly investigating its consulates in Europe and Asia to determine whether one of them illegally issued the fugitives the passports.

Insurers have paid out RD$3.5 billion
The president of the Dominican Chamber of Insurers and Reinsurers (CADOAR), Dr. Luis Eduardo Guerrero revealed yesterday that the Dominican insurance industry has paid out 58.3% of claims filed this year, representing around RD$3.5 billion. The remaining 41.7%, he said, represents claims in the process of adjustment and negotiation with insured parties affected by Hurricane Georges.
Speaking at a CADOAR ceremony to welcome the new Superintendent of Insurance, Dr. Euclides Gutiérrez Félix, Dr. Guerrero asserted that the Dominican insurance industry is emerging from the Hurricane Georges experience stronger than ever, bolstered by the knowledge that it dealt quickly and effectively with the challenge of the hurricane, and by a public now more aware of the need for adequate property insurance policies.

Dominican children suffer from micronutrient deficiencies
The representative in the DR of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) told health reporters yesterday that children in the Dominican Republic suffer serious deficiencies in several important micronutrients. Dr. Osvaldo Legén said that 70% of school children between the ages of six and fourteen years of age demonstrate iodine deficiency. Half of Dominican children between the ages of ten and fourteen show low hemoglobin levels (indicative of low iron levels), and 23% of Dominican children between the ages of one and four are deficient in vitamin A. He warned that iodine deficiency contributes to infant mortality and neonatal deaths, and affects the mental development of the child. He reiterated UNICEF's past call for the DR to make all salt sold in the country to be fortified with iodine. He said that flour and meals can be fortified with iron and sugar with vitamin A.

A trolley car for Santo Domingo?
The Municipality of Santo Domingo and the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) announced yesterday that they are considering the creation of a trolley car system in Santo Domingo. The system is proposed by a Spanish firm, Novo Internacional, and would involve an investment estimated at US$80 million. Santo Domingo Mayor Juan de Dios (Johnny) Ventura and AMET Executive Director Hamlet Hermann met yesterday with the president and technical team of Novo Internacional to discuss the proposal. Trolley cars, widely used in continental Europe, utilize overhead electrical cables to power them.

Sammy Sosa could lobby for SD's PanAm bid
It was announced yesterday that the Dominican Republic plans on sending a large and high-profile delegation to Panama City this weekend to lobby the Pan American Sports Organization (ODEPA) to pick Santo Domingo as the site for the 2003 Pan American Games. In addition to José Joaquín Puello Herrera, president of the Dominican Olympic Committee (COD), and most of the COD members, confirmed as attending are Sports Minister (and baseball legend) Juan Marichal, Public Works Minister Diandino Peña and Santo Domingo Mayor (and merengue legend) Juan de Dios (Johny) Ventura. Baseball home-run king Sammy Sosa has been invited to join the delegation; as has another Dominican in baseball's Major Leagues, Moisés Alou. Sosa's decision whether to go is due to be announced tomorrow. The possibility that the baseball superstar may come to Panama City has ignited considerable excitement in the Panamanian press and public.

Presidente Classic to be held Saturday
The Presidente Beer Classic, an annual horse racing event held every December at Quinto Centenario track, will be held this Saturday, December 5th, with RD$200,000 at stake. Jochy Pérez, Promotion Manager of Cervecería Nacional Dominicana, brewers of Presidente beer and sponsors of the race, provided details at a press conference held yesterday. This year the race will be divided into two parts: a 1,700-meter race involving the best imported three-year olds, and a 1,400-meter race for Dominican-born two-year olds. The $200,000 purse will be divided evenly between the two races. The imported horse race will feature the rivalry between the horses Lluvia de Nieve and Caps Off to You; other entrants include Cartofel, Tree Thirty Tree, and Calle Primera. The native horse race will include Luis Fernando, Sin Egoísmo Viv V.L., Don Nicolás, Intocable, El Mago, India Caribeña and Mallita B. The day at the races will also feature musical performances by Peña Suazo and the Banda Gorda and 100-meter foot races between jockeys, trainers and grooms.

Eagles rout Lions; Licey-Giants game rained out
The Cibao Eagles routed the Escogido Lions 7-1 last night at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, maintaining their solid lead over the Licey Tigers in the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. The Eagles are scheduled to face Licey tonight at 8:00 pm in Cibao Stadium in Santiago. There is currently some nervousness in the Eagles camp about maintaining their lead due to the departure in recent days of three North American pitchers (Scott Eyre, Bryan Ward, Tom Fordham) on loan from the Chicago White Soxs.
The game scheduled for last night at Julián Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macorís between Licey and the Northeast Giants was suspended due to rain. Tonight the Giants play the Lions at 8:00 pm at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo.

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