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Daily News - 17 February 1999

AA’s US-DR flights back to normal
As more pilots returned to work from their "sick-out," American Airlines yesterday managed to fly its full schedule in and out of the DR, and on-time as well. On February 6th AA pilots began to call in sick to protest AA plans to integrate less experienced (and thus lower-paid) pilots from the Reno Air chain AA bought last year. AA has had to cancel some 6,000 flights because of the de facto strike, costing it $67-90 million in losses. In the initial stages of the sick-in flights to the Caribbean, particularly the DR, were especially hard-hit as AA scrambled to rearrange its flight schedule. More and more flights returned to the schedule after a U.S. District Judge ruled the sick-out to be an illegal action and he threatened to begin imposing daily fines on the pilots union.

PRD places conditions on dialogue
As expected, the leadership of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) decided yesterday to impose preconditions on its participation in the dialogue proposed by President Fernández. A letter to President Fernández from PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero laid out three principal conditions. One is that a "Committee of Notables" be appointed to run the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) instead of Senator Amable Aristy Castro [Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – Altagracia)] until the courts decide whether Aristy Castro or PRD’s Julio Maríñez Rosario is the real LMD Secretary-General (SG). [Two parallel municipal assemblies were held on January 26th which elected Aristy Castro and Maríñez Rosario as SG, both after making dubious rule changes.] A second major demand was that PRSC and ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) negotiate as one in the dialogue. A third demand was that before any dialogue commence a clear agenda be set.
Reaction from the National Palace was immediate but vague. Press Director Adriano Miguel Tejada said that President Fernández would lay out his position on the dialogue in a letter to Esquea Guerrero. It is not clear yet what relation his position will have with that of his party, PLD. For example, several PLD leaders, including Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal PLD SG Lidio Cadet have already publicly expressed their preference to enter the dialogue with a preset agenda.
Reaction from PRSC leaders was swift, rejecting any suspension of Aristy Castro from the SG post, arguing that he won it legally. PRSC officials also rejected the demand that they negotiate in tandem with PLD. PRSC leader Angel Lockwood labeled the demand "a lack of respect" to PRSC and its leader, ex-President Joaquín Balaguer.

It’s official: PRD will select candidate by convention
The National Executive Committee (CEN) of PRD yesterday ended several weeks of speculation and rumors by confirming that PRD’s National Convention will be held on May 16th and it will be responsible for selecting the PRD candidate for the year 2000 presidential elections. In recent weeks proposals had been circulating among party leaders to forego the convention and select a presidential candidate on the basis of consensus among the Party’s top ranks. This option had been publicly rejected by most of the PRD "pre-candidates" as undemocratic, with a decision made by rank-and-file preferable.

World Bank pushes for loan ratification
The World Bank has decided to go beyond media declaration to actively push for Senate ratification of Bank loans for post-hurricane reconstruction projects. A Bank delegation from Washington, led by the Bank’s DR representative, Dr. Marisela Montolium Muñoz, met yesterday for over two hours with a group of Senators led by Senate President Ramón Alburquerque. As part of its effort to win approval of the loans, Bank officials guaranteed that they would strictly monitor and inspect how the Government uses the loan money to ensure that it goes to the projects targeted under the loan agreement.

More U.S. post-hurricane aid to DR proposed
The White House is sending to the U.S. Congress a legislative package to provide new help for countries hit by Hurricanes Georges and Mitch that includes US$29 million earmarked for the DR. In a press event at the White House presided over by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presence of Secretary of State Madeline Albright and DR Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Vega, it was explained that the part of the package intended for the DR includes US$7 million for health projects in areas affected by Hurricane Georges, US$6 million for housing for those left homeless by the storm, and US$16 million in credits for microenterprises, agricultural development and repair of small farms. The package must be approved by Congress.
Separately, the U.S. Army announced yesterday that reserve troops and members of the U.S. National Guard will come to the DR to do US$10 million in reconstruction work, including rebuilding a bridge in Jarabacoa and raising eight schools and a few medical clinics. U.S. Army doctors will do three tours in the countryside offering free medical checkups.

Poll: PRSC faithful would pick Balaguer
In today’s installment of Listin Diario’s slow trickle of results from its recent poll conducted with the Spanish firm Sigma Dos, PRSC party faithful were asked who they would vote for in primaries to decide the Reformista candidate for the year 2000 presidential elections. To no one’s surprise, 71.4% said PRSC leader and ex-President Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, with ex-Vice President and businessman Jacinto Peynado running a distant second at 16.8%. Balaguer’s numbers dropped two points since a similar poll in December, while Peynado’s rose 1.5 points. Both changes, however, are within the poll’s margin of error.

International marine pollution forum opens
The International Forum on Protection of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean opened yesterday at the Melia Hotel with a keynote address by Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal. The focus of the forum is marine pollution caused by ships (as opposed to land-based sources). The Vice President urged the nations of the Caribbean to work collectively to address this problem, or else face not only damage to the environment, but economic damage to fisheries and tourism businesses as well. He also called on all delegates attending the Forum to work to ensure that their delegations to the April meeting in Santo Domingo of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) come with concrete proposals for joint action on ship pollution in the Caribbean Basin. The Forum, attended by government officials and experts from 30 nations, is sponsored by the London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations affiliate responsible for shipping and marine pollution issues. The IMO has several instruments addressing pollution from ships, including the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution, Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC) and Annexes IV (sewage) and V (garbage) of the Marine Pollution Convention (MARPOL). The IMO is trying to get more Caribbean and Central American nations to ratify these instruments and take advantage of IMO technical assistance to implement the agreement’s commitments. In his speech Vice President Fernández Mirabal urged all nations in the region to ratify MARPOL’s Annex V. The local organizers of the Forum are the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, the National Planning Office (ONAPLAN) and the Forestry Directorate-General.

Government takes over baseball stadiums
President Fernández yesterday signed a decree (433-97) transferring control of the professional baseball stadiums in the DR to the Sports Ministry (SEDEFIR). The decree affects Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium, Santiago’s Cibao Stadium and San Pedro de Macorís’ Tetelo Vargas Stadium, all of which previously had been run since 1995 by a foundation headed by Dr. Leonardo Matos Berrido. Unaffected is San Francisco de Macorís’ Julián Javier Stadium, which is already administered by SEDEFIR. The measure was taken to ensure better upkeep of the stadiums.

National Independence Tour bicycle competition
The twentieth National Independence Cyclist Tour will be held in the Dominican Republic February 20-27. In a press conference with sports reporters held yesterday at the offices of the Dominican Olympic Committee (COD), the President of the Dominican Cyclist Federation (Fedoci), Germán Betemit, explained that the Tour will consist of eight segments covering 10 provinces and 1,116 kilometers and will feature at least 14 teams from other countries. On Saturday, February 20th, the Tour will be launched at 9:00 am with a closed circuit race in Mirador Sur Park for a total of 125 kilometers. On Sunday the 21st the cyclists will ride from Santo Domingo to La Romana via San Pedro de Macorís. On Monday the 22nd the cyclists will do the return trip to Santo Domingo. Tuesday the 23rd the competitors will ride to Baní via San Cristóbal before turning back to Santo Domingo. On Wednesday the 24th they will ride from Santo Domingo to Bonao in the morning; in the afternoon they will ride from Bonao to La Vega, to Santo Cerro and then ascend to Jarabacoa. Thursday the 25th they depart from Santiago to go to Puerto Plata via La Cumbre, to return to Santiago via Altamira. Friday the 26th the cyclists will leave from La Vega, ride through Bonao and Villa Altagracia before going on to Santo Domingo. The final segment, on Saturday the 27th, the cyclists will do another closed circuit, but this time on Avenida España, the avenue following the coast in the part of Santo Domingo east of the Ozama River.
Twenty-one national teams are confirmed to ride in the event, plus teams from Belize, Cuba, Curacao, Grand Caymen, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, as well as teams from the U.S. cities of Buffalo, Chicago, Miami and Washington.

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