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Daily News - 15 January 1999

Honors, Praise, Pacts for President Fernández in France
President Leonel Fernández’s first full day of his visit to France, Thursday, was full of honors and praise for the young Executive and interest and agreements for the DR. French officialdom and French industry appear smitten with Fernández, and the Dominican is doing his best to capitalize on it to bring more French aid, trade and investment to the DR.
The day started with a breakfast hosted by France’s top industry organization, informally known as the Patronat. In his introduction of the Dominican head of state, Patronat President François Périgot praised the DR’s investment climate and noted the intention of many Patronat members to invest there. President Fernández then outlined why the DR has a far more attractive investment climate than it did when he took office, and he urged French industry to invest aggressively in his country. Those wishing to read the full English text of the President’s speech can find it at the hyperlink
At 11:00 am President Fernández paid an hour-long closed-door visit with the Senate President Christian Poncelé. He next met at the Elysee Palace with French President Jacques Chirac. The two discussed various matters, including the political crisis in Haiti, the economic crisis in Brazil, and the Summit of Caribbean and Central American Heads of State and Government to be held in Santo Domingo April 26th. Fernández invited Chirac to pay a state visit to the DR, which he accepted, with dates to be worked out later. He also asked major French participation in the next National Book Fair (Feria Nacional del Libro) at the National Conservatory in Santo Domingo, since it is to be dedicated to France. Chirac promised to promote heavy participation. Chirac proposed a cultural cooperation agreement between the two nations; the two Presidents agreed to have their respective ambassadors negotiate and conclude one. Chirac afterward hosted a lunch in the Dominican President’s honor and decorated Fernández with the Legion of Honor medal, the highest award given by the French state to foreigners. Fernández in turn decorated President Chirac with the Order of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella, the DR’s highest honor.
In the afternoon Fernández went to the Sorbonne, Paris’ famed university. There he was awarded an honorary doctorate, the first time the Sorbonne has given one to a Dominican. Sorbonne President Yves Jegouso praised Fernández during the presentation, and then later told reporters that once the Executive leaves office that the Sorbonne would be happy to have him as a professor if he wanted the job.
At 8:00 pm Fernández met with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin at Foreign Affairs Ministry. The two held signing ceremonies for several agreements, including those concerning (1) the DR’s purchase of five helicopters for non-military uses; (2) French Development Agency financing for the construction of a tramway in Santo Domingo; (3) a technical assistance agreement to help the DR modernize its judicial system; (4) an assistance agreement under which France will help the DR set up a diplomacy school to train career diplomats; (5) a technical assistance accord to help the Directorate-General for Aeronautics improve the DR’s civil aviation regime. Fernández also decorated Jospin with the DR’s top honor, Order of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella. Their meeting was followed by a state dinner in Fernández’s honor.
Today the President’s schedule is as follows:
8:30 am, breakfast with National Assembly President Laurent Fabius;
1:00 pm, lunch in Fernández’s honor hosted by the Assembly’s International Relations Committee Chairman, Jack Lang;
3:30 pm, visit the Chief Magistrate, Pierre Truche, at France’s Supreme Court ("Corte de Casación");
5:30 pm, cocktail in the President’s honor at the Dominican Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Guillermo Pina Contreras.
France is the first official leg of President Fernández’s European tour, the longest trip abroad of his term of office. He left Santo Domingo evening. En route to Europe he stopped briefly in Puerto Rico and met at the airport with PR Governor Rossilló, whom he invited for an official visit in March. On Wednesday Fernández passed the day in Madrid, Spain. Although not in Spain on an official visit, he nonetheless lunched with Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and the two discussed various cooperation and aid projects Spain plans or has underway in the DR. Fernández flew to Paris Wednesday evening, where he was met with full state and military honors.
Fernández will fly on Sunday, January 17th to Rome. On Monday, January 18th he will have an historic 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. Also on Monday he will have meetings with Italian businessmen meet with President Luigi Oscar Escalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. He is 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.
The President plans to return to the DR on January 20th so that he might attend the special mass scheduled on the 21st at the Basílica de Altagracia in Higüey. The 21st is a national holiday honoring the Virgin of Altagracia.
On this trip President Fernández leads a Dominican delegation of 30 – 16 high-ranking officials and 14 "special guests" (such as Baninter President Ramón Báez Figueroa and National Council of Private Enterprise head Celso Marranzini). 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).

DR seeks US$1 billion in foreign investment in 1999
In his address to the International section of France’s top business body, Le Mouvement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF, still referred to by many by its pre-October 1998 name, "Le Patronat"), President Fernández declared that a top goal of his government is to attract US$1 billion in new foreign direct investment (FDI) to the DR. On Tuesday the DR’s Office of Investment Promotion (OPI) reported that annual FDI flows into the Dominican Republic rose to US$634.93 in 1998, a hike of 56.7% over 1997. Thus the Fernández Administration is hoping for a similar percentage rise in FDI inflows in 1999.

No interference in DR-Haiti relations
At yesterday’s state lunch in President Fernández’s honor, French Cooperation Minister Charles Josselín suggested that international organizations should participate in joint development projects involving the DR and Haiti. The Dominican President politely but firmly responded that his government opposes any international organization or foreign government trying to impose joint projects or agreements on the DR and Haiti.

Senate to add new perks
Already possessing one of the jobs with the best benefits in the DR, it appears that Republic’s 30 Senators want more. The news daily Hoy, citing a reliable inside source, reports that the Senate is proposing to give each Senator a double-cabin light truck to use as they please, a 100% raise in their travel allowances, and RD$10,000 per month to be handed out to constituents as school scholarships. Senators already receive a base salary of RD$70,000 a month, travel benefits on airlines, a chauffeur paid by the Senate, tax-free importation of two vehicles, a gas allowance, and diplomatic passports for them and their families. This month they will also get to open provincial offices paid for and equipped by the national treasury.

CDE plans RD$4 bil. Investment in new lines
The Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) plans to invest around RD$4 billion by the year 2003 in expanding electric transmission and distribution lines, CDE Administrator Radhámes Segura revealed yesterday. The investment is necessary to provide the DR with a modern and efficient electrical grid. Asked by the news daily El Siglo how CDE plans to finance the expansion, Segura responded that CDE will seek funding from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) and bilateral loans from European banks and governments.

Future of Santiago, Herrera airports uncertain
In the wake of this week’s bidding for concessions to privately manage four of the nation’s airports, many reporters asked the National Airport Commission why Santiago and Herrera airports were not included in the bidding. Commission President Rafael Serrano Bank explained yesterday that while studies about the future of each have been concluded, no final decisions have been because of sticky problems with each. In the case of Santiago, the central government is trying to reach a consensus with Santiago leaders about whether to simply remodel the airport or to enlarge it. As for Herrera, the problem is that area around it has grown so much, it is obvious that the airport will have to eventually be moved.

Poll: Reformistas want Peynado, but expect Balaguer
In results just released to the press, a December 7-14, 1998 poll of voters belonging to the Reformista Party (PRSC) found that businessman and former Vice President Jacinto Peynado is their favorite to be the PRSC presidential candidate in the year 2000, but that most expected ex-President Dr. Joaquín Balaguer to be nominated instead. The poll was conducted by Consultores América S.A., an affiliate of Miami’s Florida World Business Inc. Asked who they desired as their party’s candidate in the next presidential elections, 34% responded in favor of Peynado, 22% for Balaguer, 21% for Angel Lockwood, 19% for Carlos Morales Troncoso and 3% for José Hazim Frapier. Asked about who they actually expected to be nominated by the Party, 41% replied that Dr. Balaguer would, 27% Peynado, 15% Morales, 13% Lockwood and 3% Hazim.

Interior Ministry to supervise LMD elections
Amid continuing warnings and rumors about trouble at the January 26 General Assembly of Municipalities, Interior and Police Minister Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández announced yesterday that his Ministry would take charge of preparations and supervision of the Assembly in order to ensure "order and discipline." The Assembly is due to vote on the next President of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD), the official body representing the DR’s municipalities. The Dominican Revolutionary Party (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 Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the party presently controlling the national Executive Branch. The PRSC has put forth Senator Amable Aristy Castro (Altagracia), 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. PRD has accused the PRSC of "buying" votes for Aristy Castro and the PLD of pressuring mayors to vote for him.

Developments in Narcizaso case
Yesterday the judge in charge of investigating the 1994 disappearance and presumed murder of university law professor Narciso González ("Narcisazo") halted interrogations of military officials and asked that several others be blocked from leaving the country. Narcizaso, a vocal critic of then-President Balaguer, was rumored to have been picked up by agents of the Dominican Air Force’s (FAD) A-2 Intelligence group just before his disappearance, so the investigation has focused on FAD officials past and present. Interrogations were halted when several key men called for questioning did not appear. Judge Eduardo Sánchez Ortíz asked the nation’s Attorney-General to block three men from leaving the DR: Adelcio Antonio Martínez, Luis Manuel Tejeda Fernández and a man identified only as "Pérez Vólquez." Since the start of the investigation the judge has sought and won similar blocks on numerous men, most of them past or current FAD members.
Meanwhile the lawyer representing the professor’s family announced yesterday that he is seeking official protection after receiving a number of death threats by telephone.

INESPRE transformation in the works
Just one day after the President of the Dominican Agro-business Board (JAD), an agro-business association, called for dissolution of the National Price Stabilization Institute (INESPRE), government officials announced plans to transform the body. A technical expert of the Presidential Commission for State Reform, Porfirio Quezada, explained to the press that his body is close to completing a draft law that would transform INESPRE into an "Agro-fisheries Commercialization Institute" overseeing the operation of five new, modern "mega-markets" (his term) for the buying, selling and trading of agricultural goods and foodstuffs. All five markets would be located in Santo Domingo. The Commission has prepared projections for the transformation’s financing and human resources needs, and will seek external financing to facilitate the transition. Quezada expressed puzzlement about the remarks of JAD President Osmar Benítez about dissolving INESPRE and the need for the PLD to fulfill its election pledge to replace INESPRE with a more transparent Commercialization Institute; he claimed that Benítez is fully appraised of the Commission’s work.
Separately, INESPRE Executive Director Alejandro Jerez Espinal defended the record of his agency to reporters in Santiago. Jerez Espinal claimed that INESPRE has phased out the subsidies it receives from the government, that it operates efficiently and its procedures are clean and transparent.

Public hearings on tariff reform next week
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Darío Gómez Martínez (PRD-Santiago Rodríguez) announced yesterday that his committee will hold public hearings on the Fernández Administration’s draft law on tariff liberalization. The bill is key to implementing the free trade pacts the DR has concluded with Central American nations and is in the process of finalizing with the member states of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM). Asked by reporters if Senators fully understood the importance of adopting the draft law, Gómez responded that of course they do. "If we don’t contemplate the reforms, we’ll be isolating the country" from the current process of globalization and free markets. That said, he warned, "the reforms don’t necessarily have to be those wanted by the Government." He said that his party would prefer finding ways to cut tariffs without having to raise the Transfer Tax on Industrial Goods and Services (ITBIS), as the government claims is necessary in order to maintain balance in state revenue in-flows.

Trade figures for US-DR trade
The DR’s Ambassador Bernardo Vega, speaking before the American Chamber of Commerce, said that Dominican exports to the U.S. topped $4.3 billion in 1998, making it the fifth largest exporter to the U.S. in Latin America. Exports to the U.S. have grown an annual average of 13% in recent years, he said. He noted that 72% of Dominican products enter the U.S. duty-free, either under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) or the Caribbean Basin Initiative’s (CBI) programs. Of those charges with tariffs, the average tariff is around 14.5%. The DR is the largest exporter of sugar and cigars to the U.S., and the fourth largest exporter of clothes to the U.S., behind only China, Hong Kong and Mexico.

WIPO to hold intellectual property seminar in SD
The UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will hold a national seminar on intellectual property (IP) in Santo Domingo on January 27-28. The seminar, organized in cooperation with the DR’s Industry and Commerce Ministry, will be held in the Plaza Naco Hotel 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on the 27th, and 9:00 am until 1:00 pm on the 28th. The seminar will discuss the substantial changes needed in Dominican IP this year in order for the country to meet its treaty commitments under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Uruguay Round trade agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property ("TRIPs Accord"). The TRIPs commitment would require significant changes in IP protections under patent, trademark, copyright, software and trade secrets laws. As such, it will fundamentally change how a wide variety of Dominican companies do business. While aimed at lawyers and businessmen involved with IP matters, the seminar is open to the public.

CONES launches review of DR universities
The National Council of Superior Education (CONES) yesterday presented to officials of the DR’s universities its plans for the first full national evaluation of the institutions’ fitness since 1993. The object of the comprehensive evaluation will be to determine whether or not the universities are meeting their accreditation requirements. As a result of the last review, two universities, UCIFAS and CETEC, were closed. In early 1998, after years of vocal complaints from professionals about conditions in the law and medicine programs of several universities, the Government decreed the closing of two more, Eugenio María de Hostos (UNIREHMOS) and Federico Henríquez y Carvajal (UFEHC). CONES President Alejandrina Germán promised a tough, thorough review. She also called on the Congress to pass the proposed Law on Superior Education in 1999 so that the Fernández Administration can make necessary reforms in the nation’s university system.

Baseball playoffs start today
The Escogido Lions and Cibao Eagles will begin today their battle for the last berth in the finals of the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament. On Wednesday the Licey Tigers gained the first berth after winning a tie-breaking game with the Eagles to determine the winner in regular season play. Tonight’s game is scheduled for 8:00 pm at Stadium.

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