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Daily News - 11 January 1999

Taiwan’s Prime Minister Begins Visit
The Prime Minister of Taiwan, Vincent C. Siew arrived in Santo Domingo yesterday about 3:00 pm on a state visit that will last through 13 January. He was met at the airport by a welcoming delegation headed by Vice President Jamie David Fernández Mirabal and his wife Lissy Campos de Fernández. Prime Minister Siew heads a 40-member delegation of both Chinese officers and businessmen that are interested in investing in the DR. Ministers are included in the delegation: Minister of Foreign Relations Chih Chiang Hu, Minister of Economy Chih-Kang Wang, and Chien-jen Chen, Minister of the Office of Government Information, as well as the president of the Agriculture Council of the Executive Branch Twokwei Peng.
The visit has the objective of strengthening traditional friendship ties between the two nations. The DR has always voted in favor of Taiwan in the United Nations and is one of the few nations that maintains formal diplomatic relations despite constant pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to break ties with Taiwan as a condition of improving relations with mainland China.
In remarks by the Prime Minister during the official welcoming ceremony at the National Palace last night, he thanked the DR for its decades of support and President Leonel Fernández for taking time from his European trip preparations to meet personally with the Taiwanese delegation. Siew indicated that the businessmen in the delegation were interested in leasing some of the Dominican sugar mills, participating in the capitalization of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) and providing training programs for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Today the Prime Minister starts with a 9:30 am visit with Foreign Relations Minister Eduardo Latorre and Industry and Commerce Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti at the Hotel Quinto Centenario, where the Taiwanese delegation is staying. At 10:30 am Siew will travel to the National Congress for a courtesy call on Senate President Ramón Alburquerque, followed by a 11:15 am meeting with Chamber of Deputies President Héctor Rafael Peguero Méndez. At 1:00 pm Vice President Fernández Mirabal will host a lunch in the Prime Minister’s honor at the National Palace. At 4:30 pm Siew plans to visit the Faro a Colón. At 8:30 pm Prime Minister Siew will host a dinner in honor of Vice President Fernández Mirabal at the Restaurant Chino de Mariscos on Sarasota Ave.
The wives of the visiting delegates, led by the Prime Minister’s wife Su-hsien Siew Chu, will visit the National Children's Council at 10:00 am to make a donation, and then to the Center for the Prevention of Cancer at 10:30 am for the same purpose.

Leonel starts Europe trip today
President Leonel Fernández begins his European tour today, the longest trip of his Presidency. He leads a delegation of 30 – 16 high-ranking officials and 14 "special guests." Officials accompanying the President include Foreign Minister Latorre; Industry and Commerce Bonetti; Technical Secretary Temístocles Montás; Attorney-General Mariano Germán; Armed Forces Chief of Staff Manuel Florentino; Lomé Convention Coordinator Max Puig; Antonio Isa Conde, President of the Commission for Reform of Public Enterprises (CREP); Eddy Martínez, Director of the Office of Investment Promotion (OPI); and Hamlet Hermann, Director of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET).
The Dominican Liberation Party’s (PLD) leading strategist, Danilo Medina, Secretary of the Presidency, also had been scheduled to accompany President Fernández, but declined to make the trip in order to be present during political negotiations with the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD).
The delegation will depart on a 6:55 pm Iberia flight to Madrid, Spain and will not return until Wednesday, January 20th. President Fernández will spend Wednesday in Madrid, where Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar will host a lunch in his honor. He will then depart for Paris, where he will stay until Sunday. His French visit will include a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. He will pay courtesy calls on the heads of both chambers of the National Assembly and of the Supreme Court (known in France as the Corte de Casación), and meet with delegations of French businessmen interested in investing in, or trading with, the DR. He is also expected to sign a series of agreements with France, including a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) protecting investment flows between the two countries; technical assistance agreements for improving the DR’s civil aviation regime, modernizing the Dominican judicial system, and creating a school to train Dominican diplomats; and financing agreements for the purchase of equipment for AMET and the Armed Forces. Fernández then will visit Italy starting January 17th, where he will meet with President Luigi Oscar Escalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. He is also expected to sign a BIT with Italy, a financial cooperation accord plus other unspecified cooperation agreements. His time in Rome will include signing an agreement with the United Nation’s Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the development of the Dominican Southeast, and a private audience with Pope John Paul II. It will be the first time a Dominican head of state has been received by a Pope at the Vatican since the dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1955.

More public works for Santiago
In ceremonies yesterday to present the first government checks for public works for Santiago, President Fernández announced an expansion of the list of works the central government intends to underwrite for the DR’s second largest city. The Ministry of Public Works had already announced that the Fernández government will be investing RD$400 million in public for Santiago, including (1) the construction of the Avenida de Circunvalación (Beltway), that will detour traffic bound to Puerto Plata and northern cities that today has to pass through the congested center of the city; (2) expansion of the Santiago-Navarrete highway (leading onto Puerto Plata) from two to four lanes; (3) the construction of three city health centers; (4) the reconstruction of the Olympic Pool of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM).
Yesterday the President revealed several more projects that bear striking similarities to those now being completed in Santo Domingo. These include: (1) overpasses for the intersections of the Rotunda de Santiago with Navarrete and Avenida Estrella Sadhalá with Juan Pablo Duarte (the latter links Santiago with Licey Al Medio), plus overpasses for several parts of the Duarte Highway; (2) two tunnels for the intersection of Avenida Estrella Sadhalá with Duarte Highway and with Avenida Monumental. Taken together, declared Fernández, these projects should create a more aesthetically pleasing and modern look to Santiago.

Leonel: Congress must pass loan agreements
President Fernández said in a televised speech last night that the extraordinary session of Congress that he has invoked must as a matter of national priority approve the emergency loan agreements his government has made with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD). The loans in question are critical for completing the process of reconstruction process after Hurricane Georges, he declared. Among other things, they are earmarked for repairing fallen electrical trunk lines, rehabilitating the hydroelectric plant at Jimenoa, rebuilding or repairing damaged bridges in Azua, Barahona, Higuey, Hato Mayor, San Juan, Sánchez Ramírez and Santiago, and fixing highway segments in Azua, Hato Mayor, Higuey, Independencia, La Vega, Pedernales and San Cristóbal. The speech was designed to put pressure on the PRD to cooperate. PRD controls both chambers of Congress, so the government needs its support in order to pass the loan agreements, as well as several economic reform bills and the recently completed Central American Free Trade Agreement. After initially dithering over whether they would even attend the extraordinary session (their absence guaranteeing a lack of quorum for the Congress to do business), the PRD’s executive body ("Presidium") yesterday voted to order its Senators and Deputies to at least attend, but made no commitment about cooperating in securing the passage of particular measures.

DR missed 1998 tourism goal by US$125 million
The National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (ASONAHORES) reported yesterday that the DR missed its tourism income projections for 1998 by US$125 million. Using the industry assumption that each tourist spends about US$1,000 on his vacation in the DR, this represents some 125,000 tourists fewer than expected. Industry sources blame the lower numbers not only on Hurricane Georges, but also the fall in the number of British tourists after food safety rumors. They also urged the rapid privatization of the nation’s airports as a way to improve their appearance and operation.

Banks must submit Y2K contingency plans
The Superintendency of Banks said the deadline for financial institutions to submit their reports on plans to confront the Year 2000 ("Y2K") computer problem passed yesterday with some institutions not yet reporting in to the Inter-Agency Committee in charge of the issue. Most commercial banks in the DR are already investing large amounts to be "Y2K compliant," meaning that their computer systems will not be adversely affected when internal clocks change at midnight on December 31, 1999. Most of these banks have submitted the necessary reports and contingency plans. However, all savings and loans, development banks and credit card companies operating in the DR must also submit plans, as well as the state-owned Banco Agrícola and the Industrial Development Corporation (CFI).

Four wounded in continuing police sweep
A police lieutenant, a minor and two alleged delinquents were wounded yesterday in shooting exchanges which occurred as the police extended their crime sweep to the Santo Domingo barrios of La Cuaba, El Caliche del Capotillo and La Zurza. As in the other raids, these were led by National Police chief Major General José Aníbal Sanz Jiminián, and were aimed at rounding up and arresting "known" delinquents, gang members and drug dealers. 172 people were arrested in yesterday’s operation, and a large number of arms confiscated. Police claim that the minor was wounded when he allegedly opened fire on police officers with a 12-caliber shotgun.

CODETEL to invest RD$3 billion in 1999
CODETEL announced yesterday that it plans to invest RD$3 billion during 1999 in fixing and improving its telecommunications infrastructure. CODETEL says that Hurricane Georges cost it RD$700 million in damages, which it is still in the process of fixing. That said, CODETEL claims that all but 0.7% of its clients already have had their phone service restored, representing some 300,000 repairs in four months. The investment plans call for 60,000 new phone lines in 1999, and then an average of 50,000 new lines per year until the country enjoys a "tele-density" of 20 lines per every 100 inhabitants.

Industry calls for cutting government rolls
Several industry associations yesterday added their voices to the call for the national government to cut its rolls. The President of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), Celso Marranzini, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, in its report on the Dominican economy, had already urged a cut in public sector employment. They noted that when he came to office, President Fernández had promised to cut government rolls by 25%. Instead, figures provided by the Central Bank and Education and Culture Ministry show that government employment has actually risen during the Fernández regime from a total of 282,920 in 1996 to 305,861 by the end of 1998. The portion of these figures under direct control of the central government were 222,724 in 1996 and 244,577 in 1998. Supporting the CONEP and EIU position yesterday were the presidents of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Nassin Alemany, of the Association of Industrialists of Herrera (AEIH), Ignacio Méndez, and of the Association of Enterprises and Industries of Haina, Andrés Julio Grullón.

PRD ups the profile of the LMD fight
The PRD yesterday launched a high-profile series of meetings with leaders of various segments of Dominican society to make its case for retaining control of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD), the official body representing the interests of Dominican municipalities. PRD has long argued that since it won most of the mayor’s offices in the country during the last elections, it should continue to chair the League. However, the Reformista Party (PRSC), which presently runs no national-level body, wants the LMD position and has enlisted the aid of the PLD. They have put forth Senator Amable Aristy Castro, the former President of the Senate, as their candidate. Aristy Castro has frequently boasted that he already has enough votes sewn up to ensure his victory when Liga elections are held later this month.
The campaign began yesterday with a breakfast meeting with business leaders, continued with a luncheon with media leaders, followed by a meeting with Catholic Church representatives. Today a high-level PRD delegation will make their case to the U.S. Embassy and at 2:00 pm with the Catholic Church’s top official in the DR, Archbishop Nicolás de Jesús Cardenal López Rodríguez.

Retired General alleges plot to destroy Armed Forces
The ex-chief of the Armed Forces under President Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, retired General Juan Batista Rojas Tabar, told reporters yesterday that the "Narcisazo" court case is being used as a tool to "destroy the Armed Forces" and politically discredit both him and Balaguer.
The case concerns the disappearance (and presumed murder) of university professor Narciso González, a known Balaguer critic, in 1994. Last week Air Force General Leonardo Reyes Bencosme was arrested because of the case. Reyes Bencosme , a former pilot of then President Balaguer, was chief of the A-2 Unit of Intelligence of the Air Force at the time of the disappearance of González. Yesterday the judge in charge of the case, Dr. Eduardo Sánchez Ortíz, ordered Reyes Bencosme transferred to a cell at the Armed Forces Ministry. Also yesterday retired Rear Admiral Rafael Romero Cintrón was interrogated in the case.
Rojas Tabar insisted yesterday that he has nothing to do with González’s disappearance, but warned that "many will go to jail" if attempts are made to indict him in the case.

Sammy receives honorary degree
Dominican home-run king Sammy Sosa yesterday received an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) in Santiago. The degree was given in "recognition of his courage, strength and sense of responsibility" and substantial charity work.

Lions and Eagles to determine top spot today
Because of the tie for the lead left in the wake of last night’s games, the Cibao Eagles and Escogido Lions must play a tie-breaking game today to determine the top spot in the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. Last night the Lions shut out the Eagles 5-0 in Santiago’s Cibao Stadium, bringing them to a tie with the Eagles of 39 games won and 21 lost. In other action last night at Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, The third-place Licey Tigers destroyed the last-place Northeast Giants 8-1.

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