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Daily News - 22 January 1999

Chávez to visit DR next week
Venezuelan President-elect Hugo Chávez announced to reporters that he will visit the DR briefly Thursday, January 28th, just days before he takes the oath of office. Chávez has said his November election that he envisions a central position for the DR in Venezuela’s foreign policy under his administration, and that he would visit the DR some time in January. The controversial President-elect will stop in Santo Domingo on his way back from a visit to the U.S. to see President Clinton, visit with American businessmen and possibly talk with officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Chávez is due to be inaugurated in Caracas on February 2nd. DR President Leonel Fernández has committed to attending the inauguration.

Warnings, accusations, prayers over LMD elections
Tensions are increasing noticeably in Santo Domingo as the elections for the leadership of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) approach. The elections are scheduled for next Tuesday, January 26th, when the DR returns to work after the national holiday (the day designated by Congress to celebrate the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, the father of the nation). The LMD is the official body representing the interests of Dominican municipalities.
The Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) has called for street protests about its possible loss of the LMD Secretary-General position, and has threatened to call a series of strikes as well. Protests started yesterday in some Santo Domingo, a few ending with tire burning in the streets. PRD has also filed a court petition seeking to postpone the LMD elections, and promised to hold its own "parallel" to the National Municipal Assembly (the body that elects the LMD head) and disrupt the original. Officials of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), which controls the national Executive Branch, have warned that the Government will deal harshly with any disruption in the streets or at the Assembly. PRD Presidents Enmanuel Esquea and Tony Raful have replied to such statements with warnings that PRD will respond "blow for blow" "any aggression" the Government might commit against its party faithful.
The tension has become thick enough that part of yesterday’s special mass at the Basílica de Nuestra Seńora de La Altagracia – which celebrated the day devoted to the DR’s patron saint – was devoted to prayers calling for a peaceful solution to the conflict. This was followed by a call from a PRD presidential pre-candidate, Hatuey Decamps, on all parties to seek an accord on the issue rather than confrontation.
In a nutshell, the dispute arises from PRD’s contention 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. 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. PRD insists that if Aristy Castro wins, it will only be through "buying" votes and from PLD intimidation of PRD-controlled municipalities.

Doctors may call strike
The Executive Committee of the Dominican Medical Association (AMD) went into continuous emergency session yesterday and alerted all its members to remain ready for a possible protest strike to paralyze the nation’s hospitals. The AMD represents most of the nation’s doctors. AMD officials are angry over the Wednesday dismissal by the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) of 242 doctors. The IDSS claims, among other things, that many of the dismissed doctors were collecting IDSS salaries for hours in which they actually worked outside IDSS facilities. AMD claims that IDSS did not follow proper procedures in the dismissals and has not proven the charges against the doctors involved. AMD also argues that, before it engages in wholesale dismissals of personnel, IDSS should first reform itself and address the root of many of its problems with doctors, namely its low salary levels.

RD$280 mil. earmarked to finish free zones
The Director of the state’s Corporation for Industrial Development (CFI), José Tomás Pérez, said Wednesday that the Government is devoting RD$280 million to completing five different free trade zones ("zonas francas"). He revealed that work on the industrial park in the Bayaguana zone is finishing this week, with its inauguration due soon. The inauguration of the Salcedo zone is already set for February, and work should finish by May on the industrial parks in the zones under construction in Azua, El Seibo and Montecristi. Work on the zone for San Juan de la Maguana will take longer; its inauguration is not foreseen until July or August. Pérez also noted that the Los Mina zone is currently being renovated. The next industrial park to be constructed is envisioned for Kilometer 14 on the Duarte Highway near San Cristóbal. The construction loan from Banreservas is ready; initiating the project only awaits the acquisition of land currently held by the State Sugar Council (CEA).

AIRD: Government must address tariff distortions
In an interview published today in Listin Diario, the President of the Association of Industries in the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Nassin Alemany, called on the Government to face squarely and urgently the many distortions in the structure of the DR’s tariff regime. Alemany said that it is not enough to simply cut tariff levels; distortions in the tariff structure must be addressed or else Dominican manufacturers will be driven out of business as globalization comes to the DR. He said that for too many Dominican industries the cost of machinery, components and other inputs is too high because of high tariffs on such inputs. He said many shoemakers have closed doors in the DR, not because their labor costs were high, but because their input costs made them unable to compete with cheap imports of finished shoes. He also cited the case of refrigerator maker Neveras Dominicanas, which went bankrupt because their components, once assessed by customs and tariffs paid, to be worth more than an assembled and finished refrigerator.

DR’s 1998 official inflation rate 7.82%
The Central Bank reported on Wednesday that the inflation rate for the Dominican Republic for the year 1998 was 7.82%, half a percentage point under the rate of 1997. However, the Bank noted that the factor affecting most Dominicans, food prices, rose 11.34%, and half of that inflationary growth came solely in the three months after Hurricane Georges.

Interior Ministry to investigate El Edén deaths
Interior and Police Minister Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández has announced that his Ministry will investigate the incident last Monday in Invivienda’s El Edén barrio that claimed the lives of six, including one policeman. The National Police (PN) have claimed that five young men were killed in a shoot-out at a mechanic’s repair shop after the men fired first on police. The police say that they were to the shop to investigate a "known gang" that allegedly engaged in robbing cars. However, the police version of events has been contested by area residents and the families of the dead men, although local accounts of the incident do not agree either. Once the PN admitted on Wednesday that none of the dead men had a record or file (thus raising the question of whether they were indeed a "known" gang), Blanco Fernández announced that the Ministry would investigate the incident and the conduct of the police officers involved.

DN starts arresting trash dumpers
On Wednesday the National District’s (DN) government launched a campaign to stop the growing practice of dumping trash in large heaps on the city’s thoroughfares. The DN put citizens on notice that the Municipal Police will arrest anyone caught dumping trash bags or masses of loose trash on city streets. Arrests were started on Wednesday at Avenida Francisco del Rosario Sánchez in Santo Domingo’s Los Grandules barrio. Six "tricyclists" (men who ride three-wheeled bikes that carry cargo) and two light truck drivers were arrested. The DN will conduct unannounced checks of other known street dump spots across the city. The city government has also arranged with Dixi Sanitary Services, the principal firm contracted to collect the District’s trash, to place large trash collection bins ("dumpsters") in such spots in the barrios of Los Grandules, Guachupita and La Zurza, to give residents a better place to deposit their trash. Similar street dumpsters are contemplated for other problem barrio spots across the city. Dixi has committed to regularly emptying the dumpsters.
Mayor Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura has repeatedly said that garbage is Santo Domingo’s "biggest headache" and that he intends to resolve the problem during his term of office. He recently published a draft city regulation that would significantly raise the fines for littering and dumping trash on thoroughfares (up to RD$50,000).

Truckers suspend deliveries to government in Santiago
The Truckers Syndicate in Santiago has suspended all deliveries and services to government institutions in protest at nonpayment of RD$100 million in debt to the National Federation of Dominican Transporters (FENATRADO). FENATRADO members have been conducting a protest campaign against the government all week, involving a blockage of East Haina Port, a honking picket at the National Palace, and a regional strike in the southern provinces today. FENATRADO is demanding not only government payment of its arrears with the truckers, but also expedited work on key infrastructure and reconstruction projects on major transport routes.

Licey & Escogido tied in final series
The Escogido Lions won in dramatic fashion the second game of the Final Series last night, making it 1-1 in the contest to win the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament trophy. The Licey Tigers humiliated the Lions on Wednesday night, defeating them 12-3. Last night the Lions came from behind in the ninth inning, when Juan Encarnación (of the Detroit Tigers) knocked a hit that brought in three runners, giving the Lions a 7-6 victory. The third game of the series will be played tonight at Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium starting at 8 pm. Since five wins are needed in order to gain the title and trophy, it is now a given that there will be at least a game #6. Game #4 will be played on Saturday at 8:00 pm; #5 on Sunday at 4:00 pm, and #6 on Tuesday at 8:00 pm. All games will be played at Quisqueya Stadium. The Tournament winner will represent the DR at the Caribbean Series to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico February 2-7.

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