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Daily News - 18 December 1998

All trade negotiating groups to be under Chancellery leadership
The Ministry of Foreign Relations reports that bodies dealing with trade negotiations in the DR will be grouped under the Comisión Nacional de Negociaciones Comerciales, the organization that is presided by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The decision to unite the efforts brings under the roof of the Ministry of Foreign Relations the negotiation groups for the Summit of the Americas, the World Trade Organization and the Lome IV. Economist Frederic Emam-Zadé is the nation's leading negotiator. The CNNC has recently completed a free trade agreement with several Central American countries, advanced on a free trade agreement with Caricom, and is holding bilateral talks with Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Cuba, Colombia and Chile.

Technological problems delay ID and voting card process
Hoy newspaper reported that contrary to statements made by the president of the Junta Central Electoral, the body in charge of organizing the presidential, congressional and municipal elections, the problems the JCE confronts are because the firm that won the tender to prepare the new ID and voting card document or "cédula" did not hand in the complete application form and the new cédula does not have the finger prints to allow comparisons by the computer. This was revealed by Joel Lantigua, the former director of the ID card department of the Junta Central Electoral. Lantigua is very familiar with the process as the company won the bid during his tenure. He said that the failure of the company to complete the technological set up is a serious problem. He said that the central computer cannot yet compare the finger prints on the new cards.

State firms to be closed, with capitalization or without
The Technical Secretary of the Presidency, Temístocles Montás said that if the government fails to capitalize the State Sugar Council (CEA), the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad (CDE) and the Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Estatales (CORDE), these would be shut down. He told Hoy newspaper that the government cannot afford to continue to subsidize these state entities. The government successfully capitalized the state four mills, Molinos Dominicano and Molinos del Norte, part of CORDE. But there has been difficulties at advancing with the capitalization schedule of the CDE, the state electricity utility.

14 Customs officers detained in corruption scandal
Customs department has detained 14 officers suspect of complicity with importers that resulted in an estimated RD$200 million import duty evasions uncovered last week. Customs has not officially revealed the names of the firms involved in the tax evasions. Customs has told the press that it has reached agreements with three companies involved in the evasion and recovered RD$63 million. The department expects to recover RD$27 million more. Now importers are requesting that all merchandise be evaluated at the same time so that no particular company can be favored. Importers say that their worst competition comes from companies that are able to secure tax advantages through corruption.

Store owners optimistic of big shopping sales
Three months after Hurricane Georges violently affected several areas of the Dominican Republic, businesses are optimistic that sales will be good this Christmas season. A report in Hoy indicates that some businessmen feel that sales this Christmas could even be greater than those of last year. Constantino Fernández of Tiendas Olé said that despite all the money losses the hurricane caused, the major national reconstruction programs implemented by businesses and the government all throughout the nation has generated an increase in jobs which has benefited hundreds of people. He explained that is why there are more persons with more money and he forecast sales will be up.
He also said that store owners have been very aggressive promoting special sales that have boosted sales in early December.
The biggest sales time is just about to begin. Employees go home this weekend with their Christmas bonus in their pockets. And the government bonus follows next week.

Mega health club opens in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo has its own mega sports club, the Body Shop Athletic Club. Open at its new locale since late November, the Body Shop Athletic Club is an impressive gym facility. It is the largest and most complete sports club in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is so impressive it is worthwhile a visit as a tourist attraction. It is open from 5:30 am to 11 pm on week days and from 8 to 8 pm on Saturdays. On Sunday, it is open from 9 am to 7 pm. Among its facilities is a 25 meter swimming pool, a basketball and the only squash courts in the Dominican Republic. Day admission can be purchased for RD$150. For more information, see http://www.dr1.com/bodyshop or contact Juan Tavares at [email protected]

Dominican frog legs served in US restaurants
El Caribe newspaper reports that the DR has become a major exporter of frogs to the US. El Caribe reports that from January to November 1998, almost a million frogs whose legs will be served in gourmet restaurants have been exported to the US. Most of the frogs are bred in the area of Nagua, in the province of María Trinidad Sánchez on the northern coast. The best selling species is the Macos Toro or Rana catesbieana.

Failed effort at giving rivers respite from destruction
The Listín Diario newspaper reports today that pressures exercised by private companies have counteracted the military operation that brought about the closing of construction material mines that are imperiling the life span of rivers throughout the country. The Listín reported that 13 mines that had been closed were reopened and more than 40 trucks loaded with construction materials that had been confiscated by the Armed Forces for illegally transporting these materials in prohibited areas were returned to the owners sans any penalty.

Major city thoroughfares to all be ready by January
The Ministry of Public Works says that works on the 27 de Febrero Expressway, including the Paseo de las Trinitarias, will conclude by the end of this month. But works on the overpass over John F. Kennedy up from Winston Churchill Avenue are behind schedule and will not be concluded until mid January. The remodeling of the Av. 30 de Mayo, along the Caribbean Sea, are also behind schedule, and the completion date is set now for January. All these works had been scheduled for completion by mid December but were delayed by Hurricane Georges and the two weeks of rains during the start of this month.

Dominican Winter Baseball Tournament.
Team Games Won-Lost
Aguilas Cibaeñas 26-15
Leones del Escogido 22-17
Tigres del Licey 23-18
Gigants del Nordeste 9-30

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