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Daily News - 26 January 1999

Dominicans look on disgusted, as politicians go for their throats
When residents in the DR, returning from enjoying the long Virgen de la Altagracia-Duarte Day holiday week, tuned on the evening news last night they witnessed the latest episode in the confrontation amongst political parties. The fight over who will control the Dominican Municipal League. Those tuning in saw how Senator Ramón Alburquerque, totally oblivious to the dignity of his post as president of the Dominican Senate, violently forced his way to get into the Dominican Municipal League headquarters, to which entrance of persons not employed there has been banned since Saturday after the PRD threatened to occupy the locale.
As the irrational fight among Dominican politicians continues, most Dominicans observed with frustration how these go for their throats for personal and party gains that will benefit the population very little if in any way.
At stake for the politicians is the post of secretary general of the Dominican Municipal League, the organization that oversees the 4% of the National Budget allotted to city governments, or about RD$6,000 million (about US$400 million). The contenders for the post are Julio Maríñez, for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, the majority opposition party, and Amable Aristy Castro, for the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano.
The ruling Partido de la Liberación Dominicana is supporting the aspirations of Aristy Castro. Also affecting Maríñez's aspirations is that the PRD vote is a divided party, thus it is said that PRD delegates can easily be persuaded to vote for the competition. While the PRD won 95 of 115 city governments, the way the election is organized -- 17 delegates representing the so-called Sala Capitular of each city hall, or the governing body of each city halls, vote for the secretary general -- making it possible for a united PRSC and PLD to override the aspirations of the PRD's Maríñez to be re-elected.
Maríñez himself, who is now running for re-election, was elected to the post on 26 January 1995 when PLD delegates joined the PRD, voting against the PRSC that had won the most city governments at the time. While the PRSC and its leader, President of the Republic Joaquín Balaguer at the time, gracefully accepted defeat then as fair political game play, the PRD has said it has no intention of losing.
The party that wins gets to control most of the 4% of the National Budget allotments made to city governments. More so, because the PRD is majority in Congress, this allotment could be increased to a hefty 10% this year, giving PRD city governments more leeway to campaign and position themselves for the quest for the presidency in the year 2000 elections.
The LMD election is slated for today, 26 January, Juan Pablo Duarte Day. The PRD earlier enacted a judicial opposition to the celebration of the election. Furthermore, the Minister of Interior and Police Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández, who by law presides over the Assembly where the voting is to take place, has invalidated the decision to hold the elections at the headquarters of the LMD and instead has instructed they be held in the city hall of San Pedro de Macorís. Maríñez says this is illegal, and that the Assembly organizing committee had already decided to hold it in Santo Domingo.
Moreso, over the weekend Police were stationed outside the LMD headquarters to impede a takeover by the PRD, or as Minister Blanco put it, "to impede public order disturbances." The press reported that likewise vigilance was ordered for city governments to avoid disorders.
Hoy newspaper reported on Monday, that water, electricity and telephone services were suspended to the LMD headquarters and the City Hall of Santo Domingo.
A Police agent tore the shirt of Johnny Ventura, mayor of Santo Domingo, when he forcibly insisted in entering the LMD headquarters on Saturday afternoon. The police agent said that he had orders to not allow anyone but Julio Maríñez and LMD officers to enter. Ventura remains within the LMD headquarters since then. His jeep was towed away by the Police.
Minister Blanco ordered the police to stand guard citing statements made by PRD directors Tonty Rutinel and Rafael Gamundi that they would send in 300,000 PRD members to occupy the headquarters to impede their losing of the secretary general post.
On Monday evening, television showed the president of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque violently fend his way to get into the LMD, despite the orders given. A big man, he bodily confronted the chief of the Police, Aníbal Sanz Jiminián, until the order was given to let him in. The Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas, to persuade others to desist from their violent intents to enter the LMD. In the process, three journalists and PRD Senator Andrés Bautista were injured. It was anarchy, an embarrassing display of irrationality.
The dispute among the political parties has impeded the organization of the assembly and the actual election and political analysts forecast what may result is that two secretary generals will be elected on Tuesday -- Amable Aristy Castro and Julio Maríñez. The delegates that are expected to vote for Aristy Castro have been housed at the Hotel Macorix of San Pedro de Macorís, and those favoring Maríñez are hosted at the Hotel Embajador in Santo Domingo, both with all expenses paid.
The nation's leading arbiter of political conflicts, Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, rector of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra met with representatives of the three leading political parties — PLD, PRD and PRSC — on Sunday at his home. On Monday, he went to the site of the LMD, but his appeals for rationality were not heard. Hoy newspaper reported that the PRSC rejected the proposal of the PRD to postpone the election for 6 February and to appoint a neutral electoral commission.
In a live TV newscast on Cadena de Noticias, President Leonel Fernández, interviewed by journalist María Elena Núñez explained the conflict as he sees it. He said that while the PRD won the municipal elections, the party does not accept that that win does not automatically mean they have to preside the LMD. He explained that an election must take place and political forces can align themselves differently to the interests of PRD leadership. PRD dissidents can align with opposition parties, as occurred in 1995, when Maríñez himself was elected. President Fernández said that in the mind of the PRD, the election is unnecessary and in the mind of the PRD leadership the other parties do not even have the right to aspire to win the post. Fernández said, "Democracy is competition. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Democracy is knowing how to lose."
The President urged that the problem of the LMD not be over dimensioned. "It is not worth putting social peace in danger," he said. The PRD leadership has been urging party members to take to the streets to start protesting for the cost of living and other issues in order to pressure the government, thus affecting social peace.
President Fernández urged that Dominican politicians focus on concepts. "This is not a problem of life or death, Dominican society has little to gain," said the statesman. "It is but another episode in the struggle of political parties to control institutions."
So far, the struggle particularly affects residents in the vicinity of the LMD that have had trouble entering their apartments. The Police fired tear gas to control the group of PRD fanatics that violently sought to burst into the LMD.
Meanwhile, Dominicans look on disgusted. As one resident said on Channel 7 newscast last night, "for politicians nothing is good, only politicians."
What will happen? It is likely that two municipal league secretary generals will be elected today. The ruling party, the PLD, endorsing Amable Aristy Castro of the PRSC. Julio Maríñez is likely to take the case to the Supreme Court contesting the decision, and the interruption of the funding of his LMD by the government. Meanwhile, the LMD will lose its institutionality, with the government probably overriding both institutions and funding the municipalities directly as the fight is played over in newspaper headlines and TV news.
As on Tuesday, 26 January morning, political news commentator Alfredo Freites said, "the show has only just begun."
Who is who?
The Ultima Hora published biographies of Julio Maríñez and Amable Aristy Castro in their Sunday edition.
Julio Maríñez. Julio Maríñez was born 11 October 1939, and has been a member of the PRD since 1961. He was born in Peravia province of a well-off family of landowners. He studied at the Politecnico Loyola in San Cristóbal and graduated as a mechanical engineer from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo carrying out subsequent post graduate studies in Brazil. He has had his own engineering firms, has been an official at the State Sugar Council (CEA), GEPLACEA and the Dominican College of Engineers (CODIA). He was incidental to the LMD's obtaining the 4% allotment of the National Budget that gives new stature to city governments and allows them more control over their effectiveness, reducing their dependence on the central government.
Maríñez had aspired to be the party's candidate to mayor in the 1998 municipal elections. He allegedly won by such a narrow margin that party leader, the late Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, despite a fatal illness, chose to run for mayor appointing Johnny Ventura to be his replacement.
Amable Aristy Castro. Forty-nine year old Amable Aristy Castro was born to a poor family in the East. His father was a chauffeur. Today he is one of the most wealthiest men in the East, and his fortune has been questioned in the local press for his land dealings along the Punta Cana coastline, but judicial investigations have not been pursued. He is known as a kingpin in the East, and for his successful political career. He graduated from high school and worked his way up from helping at the small grocery store of an uncle, to being an employee of the municipality, the Higuey district attorney's office, and at a branch of the Banco Popular. When he was 21 years old, he was a dealer of Santo Domingo Motors, and had two passenger vehicles to transport people to Santo Domingo. Three years later he owned a gas station. Today he owns Amable Motors, the dealership that sells the most motorcycles in the country. He joined the PRSC in 1976, working his way up to be chosen deputy and then senator for his province. He presided over the Senate on two occasions and has had the honor of having sworn in two Presidents as president of the National Assembly — President Joaquín Balaguer and President Leonel Fernández. At present he is senator for his province of La Altagracia.

Former Dominican President operated in US
Hermetic silence is maintained as to the health condition of former President Joaquín Balaguer, 93. Hoy newspaper reported sources saying the nonagenarian had been operated for aneurysms in one of his legs by Dr. Michael De Bakey on Sunday. But El Siglo newspaper on Monday, says this is not true. The Listín reported, he had been operated of a boil on one of this buttocks.
The former statesmen few to Houston on Monday for evaluation of his circulatory problems. The man who has been President of the Dominican Republic for the most time, has throughout his lifelong career as a politician kept mute about his health.
He is interned at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, where he had been treated before. Newspapers speculate that Balaguer will remain at least another week in the hospital.
Despite his age, Balaguer continues to be the man to call the shots in his PRSC party. Balaguer's support to the PLD in the year 1996 elections resulted in the triumph of today President Leonel Fernández. Given the division of forces between the leading political parties, Balaguer's support can still mean the difference in who will win the presidency in year 2000. Balaguer made his last public appearance on Jan 1, when he was photographed with President Fernández. He was propped on top of several pillows, presenting a strong contrast to the vitality of the 45 year old present statesman.
Balaguer was accompanied to Houston by his medics Fernando Ariza Mendoza and Oreste Guerrero, but as is his style total silence has been maintained as to developing information on his medical condition.

President-elect of Venezuela to visit
President elect of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is expected to visit Santo Domingo on 28 January. The meeting will follow Chavez's visit to Washington, D.C.. Chavez was in the DR in 1998 when he was a presidential candidate. During his visit here, he was hosted by Dr. Onofre Rojas, director of the Presidential Commission for the Reform and Modernization of the State.

Falconbridge to reopen ferronickel mine
Falconbridge Ltd, the Canadian mining company, announced it reopened its ferronickel mining operations in the DR on 24 January. The mining operations had been closed since 25 October due to weak nickel markets. The company used the shut down period to carry out extensive maintenance program seeking to make the company's operations more efficient. Falcondo's three-month shutdown resulted in a cut of about 8,000 tonnes to Falconbridge's nickel production, or roughly one percent of the total nickel market.
Falcondo produced 32,545 tonnes of nickel in 1997.
Like most mining companies, Falconbridge has been hard hit be financial turmoil in key Asian markets and the subsequent collapse of metals prices.
Nickel traded at $1.97 a pound on the London Metal Exchange on Monday, down from a 1997 high of $3.72 a pound.

Amidst questionable colleagues, DR IOC member is praised
The Dominican Republic International Olympic Committee representative, Napoleón Roque Muñoz was the only one to get a passing note in the report on International Olympic Committee members as part of continuing investigations into the recent scandal whereby IOC members traded their support for Quebec's Olympic bid for cash. The Dominican Republic's IOC member, Muñoz was described as "very religious and very honest." The report was timely for Quebec as the city had sought to host the year 2002 Winter Games, losing out to Salt Lake City.
The report, released in Le Journal de Quebec, revealed that "IOC members were looking openly or discreetly to finance projects they were taking to hearts." These included financing for a sports center near Moscow, a school in Africa, transportation for Ukrainian athletes, contacts to buy a paper-mill plant or a studies grant for a kid. Mexican IOC member Mario Vasquez Rana was identified as the man interested to buy the paper mill. The two-page investigation of Quebec City's largest circulation daily published the psychological profiles of the IOC members, calling them "feudal lords," "emperors", "prima donnas" or "men less than engaging and cantankerous."

Deborah Gregory loses her last battle
Deborah Gregory, the Dominican girl who won the hearts of Dominicans who donated more than one million pesos so she could be operated and have a chance at surviving leukemia, died yesterday two months and 13 days after receiving a bone transplant at the intensive care unit of Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. She would be 19 years old on 27 February. She died from liver and pneumonia complications.

DR to host Forum on Commerce and Investment
The DR will host the First Forum on Commerce and Investment between US and the Caribbean. Delegations from Barbados, Curacao, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad are visiting to promote their participation. The event is promoted by Adoexpo, Cedopex and OPI-RD. The event will be held from 16-18 March in Santo Domingo.

Scientists forecast major earthquake for Cibao region
More than 40 scientists gathered in Puerto Plata last week for the Penrose Conference. They confirmed that the DR is located on a major seismic fault capable of producing strong earthquakes that principally would affect the Cibao valley, from the peninsula of Samana to Haitian territory, including northwest provinces. The experts carried out field investigations in Samana, Nagua, Matancitas, Cabo Frances Viejo, Salcedo, Tamboril, Altamira, Castañuelas and Montecristi. The event was organized by the Dominican Society of Seismology (SODOSISMICA), presided by engineer Hector Iñiquez and the Dominican Committee for the Mitigation of Disasters (CDMD), an organization affiliated to the Organization of American States and coordinated in the DR by Christine Herridge. The conference was financed by sponsored by the Geological Society of the America and by other scientific organizations, including US and European research centers and universities.
Participating in the conference were Paul Mann, of the Geophysics Institute of Texas; Nancy Grindley, of the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of North Carolina; Eric Calais, of the Geoscience Research Group of France; Sergio Chiesa, of Geotecnia in Santo Domingo; Bill McCann, of the Group of Earth Consultants of Westminster; Robert Max Landridge, of the University of Oregon; Tim Kusky of the University of Boston; Stefan Hettel, of the Geophysics Institute of the University of Karlsruhe, Germany; Romeo Llinas, of Geotecnia of Santo Domingo; Alan Levander of Rice University of Houston.
Also Jim Peindell of the Tectonic Analysis Group of England; Matitia Tuttle of the Department of Geology of the University of Maryland; Ramon Vega, of the Dynamics Department of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid; Alberto Lopez Venegas, of the Mayaguez University in Puerto Rico; Raul Ysaccis of the Geological Exploration Group of Caracas, Venezuela; Grenville Draper, of the Geology Department of the Florida International University; and Lazlo Fodor, of the Eotvos University in Hungary.
Also, Carol Prentice, of the US Department of Geology; Carlos Moya of the University of Colorado' Rafael Corominas of the Seismic Investigation Group of the DR, and Juan Tomas Vasquez, of the Faculty of Sciences of the Sea of the Universidad de Cadiz, Spain.

Sammy Sosa: hero of two countries
"For far more than baseball, Sammy Sosa, you are a hero of two countries," said US President Bill Clinton, during his State of the Union speech last week, the President's annual address to a joint session of Congress. In his talk, he paid tribute to the Dominican Chicago Cubs outfielder who hit 66 home runs last year. Sosa, one of the most popular persons in the US today, was a special guest of the Clinton's at the event. The commentary brought a standing ovation to Sosa. Sosa acknowledged the applause from his seat next to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the gallery of the House of Representatives with his trademark two-finger salute from the heart. Sosa hosted Mrs. Clinton in his hometown San Pedro de Macorís, which was one of the most affected by Hurricane Georges, late last year when Mrs. Clinton visited. "Sports records are made, and sooner or later, they are broken," Clinton said. "But making other people's lives better -- and showing our children the true meaning of brotherhood -- that's something that lasts forever,'' said the US President in reference to Sosa's "very important" role in relief efforts after Hurricane Georges affected the Dominican Republic.

Licey Tigers vs. Escogido Lions in baseball finals
The Licey Tigers and the Escogido Lions meet tonight in another battle, one that has the blessing of most Dominicans. In the sixth game of the final series, Manny Aybar will confront Nelson Cruz who seeks to tie the series for the Escogido. A full house is expected at the Quisqueya ball park for the game that starts at 8 pm. Tickets are hard to get and it is said hundreds are in the hands of the black market.

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