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Daily News - 11 February 1999

AA sick-out affects air traffic to DR
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez confirmed that the American Airlines flight cancellations have hurt tourism in the DR. The city of Santo Domingo, that is served by regular airlines, is the most affected. Those traveling to beach destinations primarily arrive on charter airlines and European carriers. Bernardo Then of AA at the Las Americas Airport said that the airline had suspended 80% of its flights to the DR.
Hoy newspaper reported that the DR is the most affected country because of the large number of AA flights into Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. The newspaper explains that most of these flights are being canceled so that available pilots can man flights within the US, in order to avoid legal problems with US passengers that are greater and more effective within territorial US.
TWA announced yesterday it has upgraded its service on flights between New York and Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to accommodate passengers stranded by the American Airlines pilot-caused schedule disruptions. The airline will now be using a Boeing 767 wide body aircraft and adding an extra round-trip Boeing 757 flight.
TWA is responding to the decline in seats available on the much-traveled routes as the management and pilots association of American Airlines cannot reach an agreement over pay. American Airlines is the Dominican Republic's principal transporter. Fortunately, TWA and Continental have been increasing the number of available seats they offer. And Aeromar from Miami and Queen Air from New York, two local transporters, are offering an alternative.
A Federal Court ordered the pilots back to work, but flights continued to be canceled. The company has not been able to announce a date for an end to the unannounced strike. More than 1,300 American Airlines flights have been canceled. More than 200,000 travelers have been affected and 2,500 flights were canceled from Saturday to Wednesday. The pilots are angry over the differences in pay between AA pilots that make US$164,000 a year, and pilots flying the recently purchased Reno Air that make half. This is the second time in less than two years that AA flight operations to the DR are affected. The previous strike occurred in February 1997.

PRD mayors accept to receive money from LMD
Former secretary general of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) who sought to be re-elected, Julio Maríñez of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, authorized his party's mayors to receive their city government funding from the LMD head by La Altagracia province senator, Amable Aristy Castro. The mayors had requested the funding be rerouted through the Treasury, but finally gave in when the government did not comply with their petition. Mayor of Santo Domingo, Johnny Ventura, had been one of the PRD mayors refusing to accept the moneys, which affected operations of the city government. He received RD$43 million from the LMD yesterday to pay employees.

New Cuban, Swiss and Surinamese ambassadors
President Leonel Fernández received the accreditation of the ambassadors of Cuba, Switzerland and Surinam yesterday at the National Palace. The ambassador of Cuba is 47-year old Miguel Gustavo Pérez Cruz, who first came to the DR as consul general of that island. Pérez is a career diplomat, graduate in law with studies at the Diplomatic Academy of Moscow. The new Swiss ambassador is 57-year old Marcus Kaiser. Kaiser is also a career diplomat who studied literature at the University of Basil. Surinam is represented by ambassador Harvey Harold Naarendorps. Naarendorps is another career diplomat who has studied law at the University of Amsterdam.

Free trade agreement with Cuba?
President Leonel Fernández said that the DR will soon begin to discuss the signing of a free trade agreement with Cuba. He told Rumbo newsweekly magazine that this would be a first time a Socialist country such as Cuba signs a free trade agreement with an open market country. The country has already signed free trade agreements with the Caribbean and Central American. Congress is expected to ratify the free trade agreement with Central America, making this the first to be implemented.

Cuba builds vocational school in Baní
The Minister of Education of Cuba, Dr. Fernando Vecino Alegret was the key man in the ground breaking ceremony of a polytechnic school in Baní to be funded by Cuban moneys as promised by Cuban president Fidel Castro during his visit to the DR last year. Cuba's independence movement leader, Máximo Gómez is from Baní. The polytechnic had been offered in the early 90s to honor the Dominican military hero. When Castro visited in August 1998, he reiterated the school would be built.

Tobacco planting areas to be limited
The Ministry of Agriculture will enforce measures to limit areas where tobacco can be grown. Following a boom in cigar sales, farmers in the central Cibao area began planting tobacco everywhere, resulting in an overabundance of inferior quality tobacco leafs. Minister of Agriculture Amílcar Romero said that since 1963 the government has limited the areas where tobacco can be grown and this will again be enforced. He said it is important to take measures to ensure the quality and prestige of Dominican tobacco to sustain the boom of Dominican cigars on international markets. He said that the market saturation of last year, and the significant decline in prices offered for tobacco, caused a 60% decline in plantings for this year. In 1998, the market was saturated when production soared from 500,000 quintals to 960,000 quintals. Most of the increase was of lower quality tobacco leaf. In 1997, some 100 million cigar units were produced, while last year production increased to 200 million, most destined to the US market.

Senate passes export bill
The National Senate passed unanimously a bill that seeks to promote Dominican exports in general. The bill had been submitted to Congress on 18 November 1998. The bill was included on the agenda yesterday. The Senate acted upon the law responding to general criticism given the low productivity of the organization that is known to spend more time in political squabbles than attending to national interests. The press has repeatedly highlighted that since being sworn into office on August 16, 1998, local congressmen have not passed any bill of any importance.

DR imports five times more maritime cargo than exports
The Dominican Republic imported 10,719,032 metric tons of cargo from January to December 1998. Export cargo was only 1,672,993 metric tons. The nation balances its high import bill with receipts from the export of free zone and tourism services. Most of the cargo entered the DR by the Haina Oriental and Haina Occidental ports in western Santo Domingo. Those ports handled 6.9 million metric tons in imports and 733,782 million metric tons of exports. Ports handling the remaining 4.6 million metric tons were Santo Domingo, Boca Chica, San Pedro de Macorís, Puerto Plata, Azua, Barahona, Manzanillo, La Romana and Pedernales.

Dominican exports to Haiti increase
In 1990, the DR sold US$5 million in exports to Haiti. In 1997, exports were up to USS$27 million. By year 1998, according to the Dominican Center for the Promotion of Exports (CEDOPEX), the DR was exporting over US$60 million. Registered exports go by way of the frontier Jimaní frontier point. But millions are traded every year in the informal markets that are open in Dajabón and Elías Piña and to which thousands of buyers from Haiti attend to purchase Dominican consumers products to sell back home. These markets are open on Monday and Friday. The volume of purchasing is such, that Dominican industry sales drop when political problems in Haiti reduce the flow of the purchases. Haiti has a population of seven million. Haiti exports to the DR are much less, and are made up primarily of imports from France and handicrafts for sale to tourists, as well as goods that are donated to Haiti, such as used clothing and food products, that are later resold to low-income Dominicans. Haiti has conditioned the signing of a free trade agreement to the signing of a migration agreement that would legalize the status of thousands of Haitians that have entered the DR illegally, and would open doors to the increase in the steady flow of Haitians seeking a minimum livelihood. Meanwhile, trade continues. While trade has continued, the volatility of this is great given that it is expected that Jean Bertrand Aristide will return to the presidency in Haiti. Aristide has maintained a strong opposition stand against the DR.

Major remodeling of the Meliá Santo Domingo Hotel
The Meliá hotel chain from Spain is investing US$8 million in the remodeling of the Hotel Meliá Santo Domingo, the Listín Diario reported. General manager Andre Gerondeau is overseeing the total remodeling of the hotel they operate in Santo Domingo. The remodelling calls for the total change of the façade so that guests have a better view of the sea across from the Malecón. A 24-hour "show-cooking" café will be opened facing the Caribbean Sea. An Italian restaurant, also accessible from the Malecón, is being added to the hotel's facilities. Gerondeau explained that 80% of the guests staying at the hotel are businessmen. Only 20% of guests are leisure travelers. Special services for businessmen will be offered in 32% of the hotel's 245 rooms, on the 9th, 10th and 11th floor. The remodeling also encompasses the opening of a cigar room for smokers. The Omni will be turned into a semi-private club-disco. Previously, the hotel was operated by the US Sheraton Hotels chain.

Music Festival scheduled for March
II Santo Domingo Music Festival, directed by Maestro Phillippe Entremont, is scheduled to open at the National Theater of Santo Domingo on 10 March, concluding 20 March. Eight recitals are scheduled starring Edgar Nebolsin, The Canadian Brass, Shunsuke Sato, the Christopher O'Riley and Pablo Ziegler duo, Richard Stoltzman, Los Romeros and Anne Gastinel. The Festival is directed by Dominican Carlos Piantini and Frenchman Phillippe Entremont.

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