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Daily News - 20 January 1999

DR1 takes a break
The DR1 News Service will not be updated tomorrow, 21st January 1999. The 21st commemorates the Day of the Virgen de la Altagracia, patron saint of Dominicans. The news service will resume on Friday, 22nd January with compilations of headline news stories from the 21st and 22nd news sources. Note that Monday, 25th January is also a holiday in the DR. The 25th commemorates the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, forefather of the Dominican nationality. As a result, Dominicans are in for the treat of a very long weekend.

President returns from European tour today
President Leonel Fernández is due to return from his European trip this afternoon after garnering several cooperation agreements with Italy. The Technical Secretary of the Presidency, Temístocles Montás, listed to reporters at a press conference the agreements concluded with Italy:
  1. a development cooperation agreement that includes the Italian Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which will finance various social development and child protection programs in the DR;
  2. a US$140 million credit line for projects involving: hydroelectric and water use, including improvements in the aqueduct and urban water delivery systems; urban transport; environmental protection; restoration and preservation of cultural heritage.
  3. a US$17 million loan to renovate and modernize the communications systems of the Dominican Armed Forces to put them on a par with NATO standards (Montás said that this agreement is intended to allow the Armed Forces and security forces to maintain communication lines during national disasters (like Hurricane Georges) or emergencies).
In addition, the DR has signed a US$12 million loan from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to aid small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises in the DR’s South.
President Fernández further told the reporters that his trip has secured commitments for 12 Italian private investment projects in the DR. He claimed that his visit to France during the prior week had likewise landed 21 private investment projects worth some US$100 million.
In yesterday’s round of official events, the President had a long meeting with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, during which they discussed the European Union’s Lome IV Convention and Italy’s bid to win a seat in a reformed UN Security Council. President Fernández later met with leaders of the Italian Parliament and a dinner in his honor hosted by the Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Sergio Mattarella.
This morning before leaving Italy he met privately with Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and with the Mayor of Rome, Francisco Rutarlli. With Rutarlli he discussed a possible direct cooperation accord with the City of Rome to advise Santo Domingo on "how to extend the transformation process" to SD’s less fortunate barrios, and how to improve urban quality of life through, among other things, improving trash collection and instituting a recycling program for the capital city.
The President is returning today in order to be able to participate tomorrow in a special mass at the Basílica de Altagracia in Higüey. The 21st is a national holiday honoring the Virgin of Altagracia.

Senate finally approves Ambassador to Haiti
After many delays, the Senate yesterday approved the appointment of journalist Silvio Herasme Peña as Dominican Ambassador to Haiti. Previously the Senate had declined to confirm the appointment, many Senators arguing that since Haiti was engulfed in a political crisis, it was the wrong time to send an ambassador there. Just yesterday the Chancellery announced that it would have to dispatch a special envoy there because of the Senate delays. The Foreign Ministry has long argued that it is precisely during a political crisis that the DR needs to have an Ambassador in-place in Port-au-Prince, in order to keep contacts with key leaders and provide an assessment of the situation.

Taiwan provides food production loan
Agriculture Minister Amílcar Romero announced yesterday that the Government of Taiwan has agreed to loan RD$150 million to the Dominican Republic to foster development of food processing. He announced the loan after meeting with a delegation from Taiwan’s Economy and International Cooperation Departments headed by Dr. Savyni S.L. Kao. Although the list of projects to benefit from the loan is still being hammered out, it is said to include shrimp and fish farming and rice and bamboo cultivation.

Everyone denies existence of JCE deal
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) and officials of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and of the Reformista Party (PRSC) have all vigorously denied a news report of a deal allegedly agreed to resolve the five-month political crisis regarding the JCE. Yesterday the news daily Listin Diario reported that JCE Chairman Ramón Morel Cerda and PRSC President Donald Reid Cabral had hammered out a pact that would expand the number of Board members from five to seven and would see two former JCE members, Luis Mora Guzmán and Alejandro Asmar Sánchez, appointed to fill 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.
In separate statements Reid Cabral, a spokesman for Morel Cerda (who is traveling abroad) and the PLD delegate to the JCE, Reynaldo Pared Pérez, all denied existence of such a pact. Pared Pérez went further, saying that PLD could only agree to a compromise that expanded the JCE to nine, not seven, members.
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 the PRSC or PLD. [The prior Board had been appointed once consensus was reached among the parties on its composition.] 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, affecting the work of the Board.

PRD takes LMD battle to courts
The PRD yesterday took the battle to maintain its leadership of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) to a new level yesterday, when lawyers for current LMD Secretary-General Julio Maríñez Rosario filed a court brief seeking to block LMD elections on January 26th. The LMD is the official body representing the interests of Dominican municipalities. The brief, filed with the Civil and Commercial Chamber of the First Circuit of the Court of First Instance, calls for postponement of the elections on the basis of claims that many delegates due to vote were improperly designated by their municipalities. PRSC and PLD officials characterized the petition as without merit and accused Maríñez Rosario of simply trying to postpone the defeat of his reelection bid and stir up civil disturbances in the process. They also argued that the court in question does not have the authority to hear the petition.
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 PRSC, which presently runs no national-level body, wants the LMD position and has enlisted the aid of the PLD. The PRSC has 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 LMD elections are held on January 26th.

Public Works denies airport concession decided
The Ministry of Public Works yesterday denied press reports that a French consortium has won the concession to operate four DR airports. Airport Commission President Rafael Serrano Banks said that the reports were baseless, since the Commission only just received the bids one week ago and is still in the early stages of evaluating them. He estimated that it would take 30-45 days before a bid winner would be determined and announced, and said that at this point there is no clear favorite.

Andalucía to underwrite DR’s Tourism Development Plan
In a press conference held yesterday, Tourism Secretary Félix Jiménez announced the signing of an agreement with the Spanish autonomous region of Andalucía to provide 200,000 European Currency Units (ECUs, a European monetary unit) – about US$240,000 at current exchange rates – to underwrite the preparation of a National Tourism Development Plan for the DR. Jiménez noted that the last such comprehensive plan was produced in 1971 and is badly outdated. The idea behind such a Plan is to identify specific needs that could be fulfilled through investments or with foreign economic aid or technical assistance. Participating in the elaboration of the plan will be the DR’s National Association of Hotels and Restaurants and the Confederation of Andalucian Businessmen. The participation of Andalucian Government and business association is considered propitious by the Tourism Ministry (SECTUR), since Andalucía has become one of Europe’s most successful tourist destinations.

Special cleaning unit for Colonial Zone
After numerous complaints about the impact on tourism of unclean streets in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, Dixi Sanitary Services announced yesterday the creation of a special unit that will remain full-time within the Zone to ensure that it remains clean. The unit will clean streets and sidewalks, prevent trash from accumulating on curbs and keep public trash cans in the area from overflowing. The unit will coordinate its work with the Association of Merchants of El Conde Street, one of the most vocal critics of the state of sanitation in the Zone. El Conde is the main shopping thoroughfare in the Colonial Zone.

DR obliged to import sugar
It was revealed yesterday that the crisis in the State Sugar Council (CEA) has gotten to the point where the DR will have to import 50,000 metric tons of sugar in 1999. CEA will not come close to meeting its production targets for a variety of reasons, among them continuing problems with the Barahona sugar mill. The DR has one of the largest quotas for sugar imports granted by the U.S., which it might see reduced if it does not use it. Current projections are that even if the DR devoted its entire production to exports to the U.S., it might not fulfill the entire quota. In any case, imports would have to be authorized in order to meet local consumption. The irony is not lost on Dominicans that the DR used to be one of the world’s major sugar producers and never had to import the product. The CEA’s assets are due to be privatized if the Commission on Reform of Private Enterprise (CREP) can finish sorting out CEA’s chaotic accounts.

DR bonds to be sold by stock market
During a luncheon yesterday sponsored by the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors, the President of the Stock Market of the Dominican Republic (BVRD, known as the "Bolsa") announced that the BVRD will begin selling government bonds this year. Donald Cott Creus said that the BVRD will not only sell the so-called "Certificates of Recognition of Public Debt" as the current Bond Emission Law calls them, but also will develop a secondary market for the bonds. The BVRD also is pressing for authorization to market shares of the companies being "capitalized" by the Government, such as the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) and Molinos Dominicanos. He called upon Congress to approve the draft Capital Markets Law so grow and develop.

Income tax exemption to be raised
The Director of Internal Revenue, Juan Hernández, announced yesterday that this year the maximum salary level for exemption from income tax will be raised from RD$90,720 to RD$97,800 (equivalent to RD$8,150 monthly). Under Article 327 of the Law 11-92 (Tax Code), the Directorate-General of Internal Revenue (DGII) each year can raise the exemption threshold to keep it in line with inflation. The measure will become effective once the Central Bank officially confirms for DGII that the DR’s inflation rate for 1998 was indeed as 7.8%, as initial calculations suggest.

Baseball finals begin tonight
The Licey Tigers and Escogido Lions will begin the final series of the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament at 8:00 pm tonight in Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium, where the entire final series will be played. Game 2 is scheduled for tomorrow at 5:00 pm; #3 on Friday at 8:00 pm; #4 on Saturday at 8:00 pm; and #5 on Sunday at 4:00 pm. The team that wins five games will gain the Tournament trophy. If more than five games are required to produce a winner, games #6-9 would be held at 8:00 pm on Tuesday the 26th, Wednesday the 27th, Thursday the 28th and Friday the 29th. The winner will represent the DR at the Caribbean Series to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico February 2-7.

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