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Daily News - 16 February 1999

AA managing all flights again
American Airlines yesterday finally managed to get a full day’s slate of all regularly scheduled flights to and from the Dominican Republic, albeit with some difficulties. Several flights in from New York and Miami arrived late, although evening flights 1901, 422 and 423 met their regular schedules. One from Santo Domingo to New York, flight 588, left four hours late.

PRD accepts invitation to dialogue – or does it?
The Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) announced yesterday that it would accept President Leonel Fernández’s invitation to initiate a dialogue after Independence Day (February 27th). However, PRD just as quickly said it will contemplate today imposing conditions on its attendance. The Party’s directorate, the Presidium, designated a special committee that will craft PRD’s formal response to the President’s invitation to dialogue. The committee is composed of Senate President Ramón Alburquerque, Senator Milton Ray Guevara and Deputy Ivelisse Prats de Pérez. Today the Presidium will discuss placing the following conditions on PRD attendance: (1) that the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) negotiate as one bloc; (2) that an impartial person be designated to run the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) until the legal case involving the LMD is resolved; (3) that both Julio Maríñez Rosario (the PRD candidate) and Amable Aristy Castro (the PRSC) cease proclaiming themselves as the "real" LMD Secretary-General (SG) until the court case is decided; (4) that the PLD, including President Fernández, sign any agreements emerging from the dialogue to ensure that it does not backslide on the commitments later. Imposing such conditions would beg the question of whether PRD truly wants the dialogue. For example, it is unlikely that the PLD and PRSC would agree to the first condition, as they generally like to retain distinctions between themselves in the minds of voters. The other conditions would also not be received well by PLD and PRSC.

Senate approves Monetary Code
The Senate finally approved the Financial and Monetary Code last night, sending it to the Chamber of Deputies. The key outstanding issue – whether savings and loans associations (S&L’s) would be authorized to offer the same range of financial services as commercial banks – was sidestepped by leaving it up to the nation’s Monetary Board (Junta Monetaria) to decide. The Senate made several key changes in the second reading in response to criticisms leveled at its first draft. Chief among these was changing its earlier restriction to one year on the term of office of the Central Bank Governor, the Superintendent of Banks and the members of the Monetary Board to open-ended, two-year and four-year appointments, respectively. Many analysts and expert observers had criticized the tight restriction on term of office for these positions as an open invitation to political tampering and lack of continuity in monetary policy. The Senate refused, however, to give back the Central Bank its exclusive right to designate the DR’s representation to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Under the bill now head to the lower legislative chamber, the Executive Branch would designate Dominican representatives to these financial institutions.

Social security bill submitted
The Technical Secretary of the Presidency, Temìstocles Montás, announced yesterday that the Executive Branch is finally submitting its long-promised bill to reform the DR’s social security system. Montás made the announcement in a speech given to a meeting at the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS). He offered few details of the reform package. He instead focused on pointing out how this fulfills a promise made when President Fernández took office in 1996, underlining how important and needed reform is, and urging Congress to deal with the proposals seriously and in a nonpartisan fashion.

New DR tourism push in U.S. market
Tourism Minister Félix Jiménez announced yesterday a new high-profile DR tourism promotion in the U.S. market. A new television spot promoting vacations in the DR will feature Dominican home run king Sammy Sosa on the beach at Bayahibe. The spots will be shown not only in the 15 TV markets now featuring DR vacation ads, but also most of the other markets where major league baseball games are televised in order to capitalize on the wide and positive public recognition of Sosa. In another departure from past practice, the ads will be televised year-round, rather than just in the winter months. Jiménez warned DR hotel owners to be prepared to cater to American tourist preferences, because this promotion, he opined, will prompt "a massive increase" in American tourism to the country.
Rather than get paid for the spot, Sosa asked that RD$1.5 million in building materials be donated to his foundation so that it could repair houses in Juan Dolio and Guayacanes hit by Hurricane Georges.

CDE to build dam on North Yaque River
The Dominican Electricity Corporation’s (CDE) new Hydroelectric Generation Company formally announced yesterday that it will build the Manabao-Bejucal-Tavera Dam on the Rio Yaque del Norte. The hydroelectric dam project was originally slated for construction in the mid-1980’s, but was abandoned by the government under President Balaguer in 1987. CDE has openly toyed with the idea of "completing" the project ever since President Fernández took office in 1996, so yesterday’s announcement was not a complete surprise. CDE says it will invest RD$210 million in building the dam, projected to generate 140 megavolts electricity once completed and brought on-line.

Poll: PLD members now prefer Medina
The news daily Listin Diario continues to trickle out the results of its latest poll, conducted with the Spanish polling firm Sigma Dos. Today’s headline-maker is that among acknowledged PLD partisans, Vice President Jamie David Fernández Mirabal is no longer the favorite to be the Party’s candidate in the year 2000 presidential elections. Secretary of the Presidency and PLD strategist Danilo Medina has jumped from 33.8% firm support in a December poll to 39.7% in the current sounding, while Vice President Fernández has dropped from 37.1% to 32.8%. When asked which candidate they sympathize with (as opposed to definitely intend to support), the gap widens a bit more: 42.4% for Medina vs. 34.4% for Fernández. The other two candidates – Tourism Minister Félix Jiménez and Norge Botello – both have support in the low single digits. Asked to rate the qualities of the four "pre-candidates," most respondents rank Medina and Fernández equally in most areas, the notable differences being higher leadership capacity (97.1%) and international recognition (93.1%) for Fernández (vs. 92.0% and 80.5% for Medina, respectively), but Medina rated as having a greater capacity to win an alliance with other political parties (96.9% for Medina, but only 86.9% for Fernández).

Teachers call another strike
The Dominican Teachers’ Association (ADP) has called another strike beginning tomorrow. The first was for two days just one week ago. This one is slated to last 72 hours (three school days), effectively giving teachers a five-day weekend. The ADP says this strike is to underline its determination to see all teachers receive the incentive bonuses envisioned under Education Law 66-97. The Education and Culture Ministry and ADP differ over how many teachers were supposed to receive the bonuses with their January paycheck. In announcing the strike, ADP Director-General Olimpia González denounced plans by many teachers with PLD sympathies not to join in the strike. She deplored this "politicization" of ADP and claimed that it was part of a plan directed by the PLD-run National Palace to split the teachers’ union asunder. González heads a PRD slate elected to ADP last year.
The strike will not affect private schools, and if as peaceful as the last one, will hardly be noticed by visitors to the DR.

Sammy Sosa, Humanitarian Athlete of the Year
Dominican home run king Sammy Sosa was proclaimed "Humanitarian Athlete of the Year" last night. The Dominican player for the Chicago Cubs received the honor at the ESPY Awards, a new series of sports awards launched yesterday with a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Sammy’s competitor in the contest to hit the most home runs in one season, Mark McGwire, received three awards, including Male Athlete of the Year.

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