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Daily News - 07 January 1999

President Fernández invited to witness Colombian peace treaty signing
President Leonel Fernández was invited to Colombia to witness the signing of the peace agreements between the government and the guerrilla. The invitation comes as a recognition to Fernández's political leadership in the Caribbean and the aggressive foreign policy unfolded to the benefit of regional integration, says the Colombian government. There is the possibility the agreement between the leader of the 50-year guerrilla movement and President Andrés Pastrana of Colombia be signed in Santo Domingo. The local press reported that the Dominican government may have suggested to the Colombian government that the agreement be signed in April and witnessed by the 24 heads of state of Latin America and the Caribbean that will be in Santo Domingo for the Association Caribbean States meeting. The Presidents of Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico have confirmed their attendance to the summit.
This would be the second time President Fernández would participate in an agreement to resolve an international political conflict. In 1996 he was part of negotiations that brought about the solution of the crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru where the Tupac Amaru Movement held 72 persons.

President Fernández to meet Venezuela's Chavez in Paris
President-elect Hugo Chavez of Venezuela suspended the visit he had planned to the DR this weekend. He was to meet with President Fernández. Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre said that the meeting was suspended between Chavez and President Fernández will coincide in Paris, France in mid January, where they will meet instead of in Santo Domingo.

Politicians distribute thousands of toys on Three Kings Day
President Fernández personally handed out toys to indigent Dominican children for half an hour on 6 January, Three Kings Day. The activity took place at the Olympic Stadium, where 53,000 children received toys. The event cost the state more than RD$23 million. The government also distributed another 89,000 toys through churches, clubs and other institutions throughout the country. Most children made long lines from the previous day, hoping for a bicycle. Unlucky ones received a basketball or a doll.
Newspaper reports that the more traditional activity sponsored by President Balaguer in front of his house was disorderly, contrary to the government-sponsored event. The press said that many people, journalists included, received punches instead of toys. Carmen Rosa Balaguer, Anibal Páez, Alexandra Izquierdo and Andrés Vanderhorst gave the toys out at this event. 12 containers full of toys, and thousands of sandwiches and cups of orange juice were distributed among those that had made lines from dawn.

Police needs to be reinforced to fight violence in uptown barrios
The Attorney General favors that the Armed Forces and security organizations of the state reinforce the National Police. Lately, seven innocent bystanders, including a seven-year old girl and a Police agent, have died in shoot-outs by gangs in slum areas such as Capotillo and Gualey. Attorney General Mariano Germán says that the reinforcement is necessary as the residents in those areas fear the gangs and will not denounce them.

Dominican ambassador in Washington interviewed
DR needs to strengthen its political pull in US
The Dominican ambassador in Washington, D.C. Bernardo Vega said that the DR needs to strengthen its leadership as a community in the US. He said Dominicans should have as an objective that by the second centennial of Dominican independence 2044, the US elect a President of Dominican origin. He said that 10% of the Dominican-born population lives in the US. He explained that Dominicans need to defend their interests, principally in migration and social security issues, health, education and on matters concerning obstacles to remittances sent to the DR. He said about 120,000 Dominicans are also US citizens and another 630,000 are legal residents. He estimates there are an additional 75,000 illegal residents.
"The problem in political terms is that while the number is high, Dominicans are predominantly Democrat Party voters, which doesn't give them the political duality that the Cubans or Nicaraguans have in Florida," he said.
He explained that most Dominicans live in New York City and Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

May be another six months for a US ambassador appointee
Ambassador Vega said that it could be another six months before the Clinton administration appoints another candidate to ambassador to the DR. The previous appointee, Mari Carmen Aponte was rejected the the US Senate on grounds of her being too liberal. Vega explained that the DR being without a US ambassador is not an unusual situation. He said that 54 other countries also await the appointment of their US ambassadors. The problem lies in the Senate Commission that is in charge of studying nominations made by President Clinton and has rejected many of the presidential selections.

Baseball players generate more $ than all money crops
Bernardo Vega commented that Dominican baseball players in the US produce more hard currency than Dominican money crops. He said that the image of the Dominican people in the US has been improved as a result of players such as Sammy Sosa, who he called the Dominican Republic's No. 1 lobbyist in the States.

Residence visas total declines in 1998
Immigration visas to the US declined 41% in 1998, dropping from 39,000 to 23,000. Ambassador Vega explained this is as a result of new legislation that set the minimum income level for sponsors above the US average. He said only 30% of Dominican residents fulfill this requirement. He said Dominicans need to lobby to achieve a modification, such as Cubans, Haitian-Americans and Central Americans have achieved. 95% of the visas given to Dominicans are for family unification, or Dominicans requested by a relative. Dominican migration to the States is important for the local economy, as Dominicans traditionally send back hundreds of dollars a month to their relatives back home.

Textile parity may be possible this year
Bernardo Vega is optimistic that with changes in congressmen and women and as a result of an increased awareness of regional needs emphasized by damages caused by hurricanes Georges and Mitch in the Caribbean and Central America, there is a good possibility the Congress that returns to work 19 January will vote in favor of textile parity for the region. The granting of similar conditions as those Mexico received as a signatory of the North American Free Trade Agreement will bring new dynamism to Dominican industrial free zone assembly operations. Regardless, of the present disadvantageous trading conditions, the DR is the fourth largest exporter of apparel to the US.
In case textile parity is not passed, new areas that are not affected by quota restrictions would have to be more intensely promoted for Dominican free zones.

On new flexibility of Cuban embargo by US
Bernardo Vega feels that the DR would be affected by the new flexibility of the US government with Cuba if this leads to new steps such as a preferential sugar market quota assignation or an inclusion in the North American Free Trade Agreement in order to spur investment. Following an opening in Cuba, new developments will depend on maintenance of political stability there. He feels that if Cuba is admitted into NAFTA, this would negatively affect the DR's free zone industry situation. Regarding the tourism industry, he said that the DR competes with Cuba with Castro or without Castro.
On the positive side for the DR, Cuba is seen as a source of qualified and low cost manpower, while the DR could send Cuba managerial and construction personnel.
Vega feels the DR has better positioned itself to gain foreign investors, now that major improvements have been made in the Dominican judiciary.

Thousands tour the 27 de Febrero tunnels
The Metropolitan Transport Authority reported that in the first seven days of use of Avenida 27 de Febrero tunnels, some 100,000 vehicles went under. In the first 24 hours following its opening on 30 December, 56,000 vehicles crossed. In the first three hours of 1 January, 8,000 vehicles passed as part of New Year celebrations, according to a report in Hoy newspaper. 85% of those who entered the tunnel, transited at an average 70 kms per hour. Some reckless racers were recorded as crossing at 159 kms per hour.

Looking for a governor of Santiago
After Marcelo Bermúdez resigned from the post of governor, the Presidency is pressed to find a replacement. El Siglo newspaper mentions as possible candidates Sabino Báez, deputy minister of health based in Santiago, Gilberto Serulle, Ramon Ventura Camejo, Jose Ramon Fadul, Ramón Muñoz and Dilepsio Núñez. Bermúdez resigned in November 1998 to dedicate to his private business affairs.

RD$30 million campaign to teach to read and write
Ministry of Education announced it will be kicking off this year's massive learn to read and write campaign as of 13 January. Some 4.8 million booklets have been printed out, and 12,000 instructors will participate. The program expects to reach out to 1.3 million people at a cost of RD$30 million this year. The 1993 Census showed 17% of the population is illiterate.

Major entertainment center projects planned for city boulevard
City Mayor Johnny Ventura told El Siglo newspaper that a foreign company is interested in building a major entertainment center at Guibia Beach. The project contemplates the granting of a 20-year concession to operate the center on the city beach strip.
Furthermore, Ventura says he is studying architectural plans for the construction of six entertainment areas along the Malecón, Santo Domingo's Caribbean-fronting boulevard. The park areas would feature swimming pools, water sports activities and children's play areas. They would be located on the western stretch of the Malecón, known as Autopista 30 de Mayo, from Centro de los Heroes on to Km. 12 of Carretera Sánchez. Arch. Teódulo Blanchard is in charge of the project.
The Ministry of Public Works is about to complete the reconstruction of a park along the highway as well as an overpass connecting Avenida Luperón with the Autopista 30 de Mayo.
Mayor Ventura says that he plans to open a new office that would supervise plans to modernize the city and that would be head by economist Frank Guerrero Prats together with Iván Rodríguez and Rafael Calderón.

Citizens to be fined RD$5,000 for littering
City Mayor Johnny Ventura says that he is finalizing work on a bill that would increase fines for littering the city to RD$5,000 and RD$25,000, up from the present fines of five and 25 pesos. He said that the new fines should reduce the tendency of residents to litter sidewalks and streets with fruit peals, snack bags, plastic glasses, containers of juices, or cigarette boxes. Ventura has said that the cleanest city is not the one with the most effective garbage collection system, but rather the one where citizens cooperate and do not liter.

Balaguer not likely to run for President in 2000
Aníbal Páez, one of the closer collaborators of former President Joaquín Balaguer, told a Listín Diario reporter that he does not think the nonagenarian has plans to seek a new Presidency. Páez said Balaguer's health is stable, despite the cold that has affected the former statesman. Responding to the question of whether Balaguer will seek a new Presidency, Páez said, "that will depend on how Dr. Balaguer feels, because that is a very personal, but I don't think that Dr. Balaguer is in that frame of mind." On 2 January, several daily newspapers published a photo of President Fernández during his New Year salute to the former statesman at the later's home. While both were dressed in suits, the former President's deteriorating physical condition was in sharp contrast to the vitality of the 45-year old Dominican statesman.

Cheap unleaded fuel takes sales from premium brand
El Siglo newspaper reports that thousands of consumers of unleaded premium gasoline have switched to the cheaper unleaded petroleum now available. Premium unleaded gasoline sells for RD$27.90 and the lower cost unleaded fuel sells for RD$22 the gallon. Reporters say that interviews with gas station vendors revealed estimates that premium sales are down 75%.

January baseball games

Thursday, 7 January
Leones del Escogido vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macoris

Friday, 8 January
Tigres del Licey vs. Leones del Escogido in Santo Domingo
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago

Saturday, 9 January at 4 pm
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macoris

Sunday, 10 January at 4 pm
Leones del Escogido vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Aguilas Cibaeñas vs. Gigantes del Nordeste in San Francisco de Macorís

Monday, 11 January at 8 pm
Gigantes del Nordeste vs. Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo
Leones del Escogido vs. Aguilas Cibaeñas in Santiago.

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