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Daily News - 27 January 1999

LMD had two chiefs; neither allowed to enter offices
The LMD melodrama continues. In parallel national assemblies of municipalities held yesterday, the Dominican Municipal League’s (LMD) sitting Secretary-General, Julio Maríñez Rosario (Dominican Revolutionary Party – PRD) was re-elected by delegates meeting at a Santo Domingo hotel and Senator Amable Aristy Castro (Reformista Party – PRSC) was elected by delegates meeting at a hotel in San Pedro de Macorís. However, both were subsequently denied entry to LMD headquarters on Avenida Churchill in Santo Domingo – and thus denial taking formal possession of their post – by the National Police (PN) head, Major General José Aníbal Sanz Jiminián. Sanz Jiminián told each that his orders to deny all entry to LMD premises – in effect since Saturday, after the PRD threatened to occupy the LMD headquarters – remained unchanged.
At stake in this political battle is the League’s control of 4% of the national budget, currently RD$6 billion (about US$400 million at current exchange rates). PRD wants to retain control of the League, arguing that it is rightfully theirs after they won most of the nation’s municipal elections in 1998. The PRSC, which since the last elections has controlled no major national political institution, sees this post as insurance that it will remain a major political force.
Meeting at Santo Domingo’s Embajador Hotel, delegates representing PRD and allied interests met claiming to be the legitimate LMD Executive Committee. They first "decided" that the General Assembly’s Ex-Officio President was not the Interior and Police Minister, as the Government claims, but rather a member of the Executive Committee, which PRD dominates. They then proceeded to re-elect Maríñez Rosario as LMD Secretary-General (SG).
For their part, delegates representing the PRSC and Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) met at the Macorix Hotel in SPM. They first "decided" to change League rules to allow any national legislator or person who has occupied "high public office" to serve as League SG, even if he does not have a university diploma. This rule change opened the way for the election of Senator Aristy Castro, who does not have a university diploma but has served as Senate President in the recent past. Aristy Castro was sworn in as League SG by Interior Minister Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández. Aristy Castro then announced that he would resign his Senate seat to devote his full energies to the LMD. He promised to win an increase for municipalities’ slice of the national budget to 17%, and to decentralize LMD functions to make it more responsive to local needs.
PRD officers yesterday vowed to go to court to prevent Aristy Castro’s assumption of the post and to seek court ratification of Maríñez’s re-election. The matter is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court of Justice.
The area surrounding LMD headquarters was tense all day, as police cordoned off Avenida Churchill between Independencia and José Contreras avenues and mobilized SWAT teams. Armed reinforcements from the Army and Air Force were called in, including armed helicopters and heavy personnel carriers. The Secret Service also conducted door-to-door interrogations of people in premises surrounding the League building. Angry demonstrators shouted and gestured for the cameras, at times blocking off Avenida Independencia altogether. During the day the military decided to post soldiers at "key spots" across the city to "ensure public order." Despite the build-up and tensions, no incident equivalent to those of the past three days took place. In recent days, Dominicans have witnessed the spectacle of Santo Domingo Mayor Juan de Dios Ventura (PRD) being threatened by a gun in his face, one Senator and several media personnel shot, and a face-to-face shouting match between PN chief Sanz Jiminián and Senate President Ramón Alburquerque (PRD).
Despite the initial anarchy around the LMD headquarters , the happenings have not affected day to day life in the city.
In related stories: (1) the Senate yesterday adopted a resolution condemning President Leonel Fernández and PN chief Sanz Jiminián for the police actions at LMD headquarters, calling upon President Fernández to sanction police officers involved, and sending copies of the resolution to the Organization of American States (OAS) and European Parliament; (2) Santo Domingo Mayor Johnny Ventura, Monte Plata Mayor Antolín Valdez and Julio Maríñez Rosario filed with the Supreme Court a civil action against PN chief Sanz Jiminián and Interior Minister Blanco Fernández; (3) six were hurt, two of them police officers, in confrontations with protesters burning tires in the street in Bayona sector.

Chávez postpones DR visit
Venezuelan President-elect Hugo Chávez will not be coming to Santo Domingo on Thursday as originally planned, Chávez spokesmen announced yesterday. Alfredo Toro Hardy, tapped by Chávez to be the next Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S., told reporters that health problems will prevent the President-elect from making planned Thursday visits to New York City and Santo Domingo. Chávez suffers from acute colitis, an inflammation of the colon, explained the future President’s doctor, Luis Chang Chen. The designated Minister of the Presidency, Alfredo Peña Chávez, assured the media that the President-elect will keep today’s appointments in Washington, D.C. with U.S. President Bill Clinton and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Michael Camdessus. Chávez visited the DR in 1998 while still a presidential candidate; at that time he was hosted by Dr. Onofre Rojas, director of the Presidential Commission for the Reform and Modernization of the State. Since his election in November 1998, Chávez has repeatedly said that he envisions making the DR a pivotal part of his administration’s foreign policy. Dominican President Leonel Fernández has promised that he will attend Chávez’s inauguration in Caracas on February 2nd.

Industrialists & remittance agents call for monetary reform
Two prominent industry associations and the group representing remittance agents together called yesterday for urgent passage of the draft Monetary and Financial Code reform law now before Congress. The Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD), Association of Industrial Companies of Herrera (AEIH) and the Dominican Association of Remittance Agents (ADEREDI) called for urgent passage of the reform measure and unification of the country’s exchange rates. They called for having the "official" exchange rate more closely reflect the market rate. Under current law fund transfers into the DR must be done at the official rate, and certain products – such as coffee, cocoa and sugar – must exchange at that rate. The groups maintain that the current policy discourages greater inflow of capital and encourages imports while penalizing exports.

JAD: Don’t re-negotiate Central American agreement
The Dominican Agro-business Board (JAD) yesterday made official what it has been saying informally for weeks to the Fernández Government: do not re-negotiate the agricultural portions of the free trade agreement with Central American nations. In a letter to Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre, JAD President Fernando Cabrera called for the Government to resist pressures from Honduras and Nicaragua to re-negotiate the Treaty’s Miami Protocol. Cabrera’s letter says that JAD supports the agreement and its Protocol "as written" and JAD will tell that to Congress – hinting that the Fernández Administration that it would lose JAD support for the agreement should its agriculture passages be amended in any way. The Miami Protocol features restrictions on market access for a number of agricultural and fishery goods, including a "negative list" of products excluded from the trade liberalization measures of the Treaty, such as beef, beer, chicken, cigarettes, milk and shrimp. Honduras and Nicaragua have yet to sign the Miami Protocol, at first blaming the delay on damage to their economies by Hurricane Mitch and later saying that they wanted better market access terms from the Dominican Republic for their products.

WIPO intellectual property seminar begins today
The UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will hold a national seminar on intellectual property (IP) in Santo Domingo today and tomorrow. 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 law 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.

Lebrón Saviñon wins National Literature Prize
The Education and Culture Ministry and the Fundación Corripio announced yesterday that writer-poet Mariano Lebrón Saviñon is the 1999 winner of the National Literature Prize. Announced by Foundation Vice President José Luis Corripio at a press conference, the award won a unanimous decision by the judges. Corripio also announced that beginning this year, the prize will rise from RD$200,000 to RD$300,000. The formal award ceremony will be held in February. Lebrón Saviñon has written many works of poetry and books about Dominican culture. Among his works are "Triálogo" (1943), "Sonámbulo sin sueño" (1944), "Luces del Trópico" (1949), "Historia de la Cultura Dominicana" (5 volumes, 1981-82), and "Tiempo en la Tierra" (1982). He is President of the Dominican Academy of Letters and a medical professor at Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU). Past winners of the Prize have included Juan Bosch, Joaquín Balaguer, Manuel del Cabral, Pedro Mir, Manuel Rueda, Antonio Fernández Spéncer, Marcio Veloz Maggiolo and Virgilio Díaz Grullón.

Baseball finals tied at 3-3
The Escogido Lions won last night the sixth game of the Final Series, in the process tying the Licey Tigers with three games won apiece. The 4-1 Escogido victory at Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium is widely attributed to strong pitching by Nelson Cruz and the home runs slammed in the first two innings by Freddy García and David Ortiz. Cruz only allowed four hits in six innings, from which Licey only scored once, in the fourth. García’s homer in the first inning gained two runs and Ortíz’s homer in the second was a single. The home runs set the tone for the rest of the game.
To win the Winter Professional Baseball Tournament’s Final Series, one of the two teams must win five games. Hence last night’s Escogido victory ensures two more Series matches. Game Seven will be held tonight at 8:00 pm in 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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