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Daily News - 19 January 1999

President invited Pope to visit in 2000
During his twenty-minute private audience yesterday with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, President Fernández invited the Pontiff to celebrate in Santo Domingo the Grand Jubilee Mass the Catholic Church plans for the year 2000. The invitation received no immediate answer from the Pope. If he accepts, it will be John Paul’s fourth visit to the DR since becoming Pope; prior visits have been in 1979, 1984 and for the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ landing in America, 1992. Fernández’s private audience itself was historic; it is the first time since the dictator Trujillo that a Dominican head of state has been received by the Pontiff at the Vatican.

Italian industrialists complain about DR investment climate
In notable contrast to the reception he received last week at France’s top industry body, the Patronat, President Fernández heard an earful of complaints about the Dominican investment climate when he visited Italy’s top industry body, the Confederation of Italian Industry (CONFINDUSTRIA). Italian investors complained about the DR’s unpaid public debts, legal and other problems blocking tourism projects in the DR’s South, and high interest rates for loans from Dominican commercial banks (reputedly the highest interest rates in the Caribbean). For his part, President Fernández pointed out that (1) the DR government is working out mechanisms to ensure unpaid debts from past Administrations are honored; (2) the National Registry is trying to clean up the land title disputes blocking tourism development in Pedernales; (3) Banreservas is offering credits to develop tourism in Barahona province; (4) the DR is prepared to sign and ratify a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Italy guaranteeing rights and conditions for Italian investments in the DR; (5) the DR is a signatory of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), World Bank affiliate, which can insure investors against some of the risks of investing in the DR; (6) Spanish investors have just agreed to invest US$250 million in tourism projects in Samaná province.
During the meeting it was agreed that CONFINDUSTRIA President Paolo Catti Gasper will lead a mission of Italian businessmen to Santo Domingo to formulate projects for Italian investment in the mining, transport, telecommunications and tourism sectors.

Loans signed in Italy
Two loan agreements were signed in Rome yesterday as part of President Fernández’s European tour. A "Joint Declaration of Development Cooperation," signed by Dominican Technical Secretary Temístocles Montás and Italian Foreign Relations Subsecretary Mario Serri, opens a US$140 million line of credit for diverse projects in the DR. A second loan agreement signed with the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), based in Rome, will provide US$12 million in aid to small and medium-sized agricultural operations in the DR’s Southeast.
For more information on the President's visit to Europe, see the English news section at the Presidency web site at
http://www.presidencia.gov.do

Chancellery sends official to track Haitian crisis
The Foreign Ministry has sent Wenceslao Guerrero to the Dominican embassy in Port-au-Prince to monitor the political crisis unfolding in the Haitian capital. The Ministry said that the step was necessary because of continuing Senate delays in approving journalist Silvio Herasme Peña as Dominican Ambassador to Haiti. Foreign Relations Subsecretary Alejandro Herrera said that the Senate should stop delaying confirmation on the excuse that there is a crisis in Haiti, since it is precisely when there is a crisis that the DR needs a fully-empowered Ambassador at the scene to assess the situation and maintain channels with key Haitian leaders.

Balaguer admitted to hospital in Houston, Texas
After all the denials that he would travel to the U.S. to see doctors, ex-President Dr. Joaquín Balaguer quietly departed yesterday morning to Houston, Texas, where he was admitted to Central Methodist Hospital. The 92-year old leader of the Reformista Party (PRSC) flew out at 6:35 am in a special plane from San Isidro Air Base. He has been treated before at Central Methodist for his chronic phlebitis, which reportedly has flared again in recent months. Allies and family members insist that the trip does not signal a deterioration in Dr. Balaguer’s health, that he is simply going for "routine tests" that he has repeatedly postponed. Few believe the denials. Rumors about the ex-President’s health have been rampant since September, when he stopped taking his daily stroll in the Mirador Sur park and his regular visit to his family tomb.

Possible solution to JCE crisis?
The news daily Listin Diario reports that the Reformista Party (PRSC) and the Central Elections Board (JCE) have worked out a compromise to resolve the five-month political battle over the JCE. Under the formula worked out between PRSC President Donald Reid Cabral and JCE Chairman Ramón Morel Cerda, the number of JCE members would be expanded from five to seven, and two prior members – Luis Mora Guzmán and Alejandro Asmar Sánchez – would be appointed to the new seats. The two were part of the JCE which organized successful and trouble-free elections in 1996 (presidential) and 1998 (local and Congressional), and thus are deemed trustworthy by the PRSC. The crisis involving the JCE started last August, when the Senate, controlled by the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), appointed the current five JCE members without first consulting other political parties, as had been done before appointing the prior Board. The PRSC swiftly challenged the appointments in court, claiming that several members, including the new Chairman, were PRD activists and therefore could not be impartial as the law calls for. At the same time the PLD-controlled Executive Branch also protested the lack of consensus about JCE appointments and began to withhold budget disbursements, effectively impeding the work of the Board.

Another imprisoned in Narcisazo case
The judge in charge of the investigation into the 1994 disappearance and presumed murder of Professor Narciso González ("Narcisazo") yesterday ordered the imprisonment of another Dominican Air Force (FAD) officer. Seventh Circuit Court judge Eduardo Sánchez Ortíz ordered the incarceration of FAD Major Adelcio Martínez Ramírez, one of the FAD officials implicated in the case. Narcisazo, a law professor at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and a vocal critic of then President Balaguer, disappeared on May 26, 1994 after repeatedly accusing President Balaguer of committing fraud in the 1994 presidential elections. It is alleged that Narcisazo was picked up and interrogated by the intelligence arm of the FAD, A-2. Judge Sánchez Ortíz has already jailed ex-FAD pilot Rafael Leonardo Reyes Bencosme and won from the Attorney-General orders to block travel abroad by 29 people with possible connections to the case.

Partial privatization of CAASD foreseen
This Thursday a Dominican delegation will travel to Washington, D.C. to sign an agreement with the World Bank that foresees the eventual privatization of the commercial portion of the operations of the Aqueduct and Sewage Corporation of Santo Domingo (CAASD). The announcement was made yesterday by CAASD head Martín Concepción. Concepción said the agreement will provide US$900,000 for the Dominican Government and CAASD to prepare a full-fledged loan proposal to gain a planned US$85 million loan to reform potable water and sanitation regimes for Santo Domingo. Among other things, the World Bank loan would seek to revive the Madrigal Dam project originally conceived with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in the early 1980s. It would also develop other water sources for the nation’s capital and improve the water delivery system, with an eye to offering the commercial portions of CAASD for privatization.

FENATRADO protest paralyzes Port of Haina
The National Federation of Dominican Transporters (FENATRADO) yesterday paralyzed the Port of East Haina by blocking its solitary entrance/exit with their trucks for seven hours. The protest was held from 6:00 am until 1:00 pm, the principal working hours of the port. The event was part of a FENATRADO campaign to get the government to pay Dominican truckers the RD$127 million it owes them and to undertake a series of projects that would make Dominican transport more bearable. Dominican Port Authority (APD) Director Norge Botello Fernández told reporters yesterday that the biggest problem the Port of Haina has with the FENATRADO is lack of communication, which they would remedy immediately. He said most of the Federation’s demands with regard to Haina could be quickly met. The one exception is the "sensible" demand that a separate entrance to the port be constructed – that would first require time for proper studies and planning, he said. The Port of East Haina has a single entrance/exit, and two of the four lanes of the connecting driveway are usually occupied by parked vehicles. Maneuvering by trucks in the zone is difficult at best.
Today FENATRADO plans a protest around the National Palace consisting of pickets and honking vehicles. On Friday it will conduct a transport strike in southern provinces to bring attention to its demands for infrastructure improvements there.

Shell accuses CDE of unfair competition
The President of the local affiliate of Shell, Pedro Pablo Cabral, yesterday accused the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) of engaging in unfair competition. He said that CDE imported directly during 1998 some 2.3 million barrels of combustibles, without participation of authorized distributors and without paying the "differential tax" private distributors must pay that keeps local petrol prices much higher than world prices would prompt (this month the differential represents 59.1% of the cost of premium gasoline at the pump). The CDE imports represent 26.9% of national hydrocarbon consumption in 1998. Cabral called for eliminating market distortions, making CDE play by the same rules as other players in the energy market.

Santiago to host Davis Cup elimination match
The Tennis Association of Santiago (ASOTESA) announced yesterday that Santiago has been selected as the site of an April 2nd elimination match in Group II of the Davis Cup. The Davis Cup is the annual tennis championship where players compete in the name of their nation. The April 2nd match, scheduled for Santiago’s La Barranquita Sports Complex, is to determine whether Peru or the DR will proceed to the Group II playoffs. At a press conference held yesterday, ASOTESA asked for government help in ensuring that the La Barranquita courts will be refurbished in time to win final International Tennis Federation approval to host the match. If their courts are not ready, the match will have to be relocated to Santo Domingo.

Licey proceeds to finals
The Licey Tigers beat the Cibao Eagles handily last night at Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium, winning 5-1. They thus proceed to the final series of the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament, where they will play the Escogido Lions. The loss was a bitter pill for the Eagles, who had led the Tournament for much of the season and lost first place in regular season play only through a tie-breaker played with Escogido. The finals begin tomorrow evening at Quisqueya Stadium. The team that wins five games will not only gain the Tournament trophy, but will also represent the DR at the Caribbean Series to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico February 2-7.

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