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Daily News - 23 February 1999

DR & Mexico agree to strengthen ties
The DR and Mexico have agreed to strengthen their bilateral economic, trade and investment ties, with a particular emphasis in the energy, tourism and air transport sectors. That is the announced outcome of the Second Meeting of the Dominican-Mexican Bilateral Commission recently concluded in Mexico City. The Commission was created by the two countries last June with a view to strengthening ties between the two countries through regular dialogue. This second meeting of the Commission was headed by DR Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre and Mexican Foreign Minister Rosario Green. Among the agreements signed were new cooperation agreements on agriculture, health and social security, as well as information exchanges on phytosanitary regulations and on agricultural research and training programs in the education area. An agreement was also reached on information exchange regarding drug trafficking and related subjects like organized crime, money laundering and illegal arms shipments. The Dominican delegation also delivered new proposals for projects to be funded under the San José Agreement. Under the Agreement, the DR buys oil from Mexico at full market price, but 20% of the bill is to be plowed back into investment projects in the DR that include participation by Mexican firms. Among the Dominican proposals is to create a special Investment Fund using Agreement money that would target tourism projects in the DR.

SECTUR fights lowering of service standards on North Coast
The head of the Tourism Ministry (SECTUR), Félix Jiménez, yesterday publicly reproached those hotels on the North Coast which are cutting their rates by cutting service standards. He spoke to the press after a meeting in Gaspar Hernandez between him, the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (ASONAHORES), the Proprietors of Playa Dorada Hotels and the Department of Financing for Projects and Development (Definpro) regarding the issue. He said that SECTUR has recently received reports that hotels are trying to attract tourists with lower rates achieved by cutting quality of services. "This attitude of some hotels in Puerto Plata is truly reproachable, because by doing so, far from elevating Puerto Plata as a touristic destination, they are hurting it." "I believe that the Dominican Government has to do everything it can to tell hotel chains and [individual] hotels that they should respect service and tariff standards."
Jiménez said that the government is working to improving Puerto Plata-Sosúa as a tourist destination. He announced that the Public Works Ministry will complete long-delayed construction on the streets of Sosúa within the next 60 days, and that reconstruction of the Puerto Plata-Cabarete, Sánchez-Samaná and Las Terrenas-El Limón-Samaná will be completed during 1999. He also promised that the cable car ("Teleférico") to the summit overlooking Puerto Plata will soon reopen. The cable car has been closed since 1996 due to a fire.

Tourism association fights oil buoy
The Association for Tourism Development in Juan Dolio and Guayacanes is fighting a project to install an oil off-loading buoy near the coast of these beach resort areas. The project, originally requested by the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) and already approved by the Dominican Government, would allow off-loading of No. 2 petroleum at a buoy some 600 meters offshore, for transport by underwater pipeline to a storage facility serving a new 300 megawatt electricity generation plant in San Pedro de Macorís. The buoy-pipeline project is being constructed by Cogentrix Energy and the Commonwealth Development Corporation. The Association has written to the Tourism Ministry and the SPM Mayor protesting the project. They say that while they wholeheartedly support resolving the electricity problem, they fear that the buoy puts at risk all the investments made to make Juan Dolio and Guayacanes attractive tourist destinations.

Aristy Castro alleges corruption in Maríñez LMD administration
Senator Amable Aristy Castro [Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – Altagracia] told reporters yesterday that he has found evidence of corruption in the administration of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) under its prior Secretary-General (SG), Julio Maríñez Rosario of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). He also said that he would ask law authorities to take steps to prevent Maríñez from leaving the country until the matter can be investigated further. He says auditors have found an "administrative mess" and evidence of "real mischief" in the LMD retirement and pension plan, which has led him to block paychecks to several ex-mayors and ex-LMD employees. He also claimed that signs of unusual activity has been detected in other accounts, although he refused to offer details.
Two parallel municipal assemblies were held on January 26th which elected Aristy Castro and Maríñez Rosario as LMD SG, both after making dubious rule changes. A case now pending in the courts would decide which, if either, of the elections was legal and who should be SG.

DR recognizes jurisdiction of Inter-American Court
The Dominican Republic announced yesterday that it will recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The announcement was made at a Washington, D.C. meeting of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, a subsidiary body of the Organization of American States (OAS), by Dominican Ambassador to the OAS Flavio Darío Espinal. Although the DR was one of the original signatories of the 1969 treaty creating the Inter-American Court and ratified it in 1978, it has never before recognized the applicability of its decisions to the DR. Ambassador Espinal said the decision by President Fernández to formally recognize the Court’s jurisdiction was proof of this Administration’s commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

"Express Dispatch" service starts in Customs
Customs yesterday launched its new "Express Dispatch" service for those importers that demonstrate "clear and transparent behavior" in their customs operations. With the new service, certain types of imports can be off-loaded from ships and put on transport trucks within hours, rather than the days that such steps required in the past. The reduction in time and documentation steps required should help importers cut costs. Customs’ Operations Subdirector Gregorio Lora explains that the new service should primarily benefit importers of products that are easily verified or in large volumes, such as wood, metals, rice, refrigerated products and merchandise earmarked for companies in free trade zones (FTZs or "zonas francas" as they are known in the DR). He said that the companies which can utilize the service are those which have not been found to commit any type of customs fraud within the past year. "This is a way to reward those entities that have behaved correctly with Customs." Importers wishing to take advantage of the service have to present certain types of documentation to Customs in electronic form ahead of the arrival of the merchandise. Whether to prepay the anticipated tariffs and fees will be left up to the importer.

The Majluta Ave. debacle
Yesterday the President of the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA) announced that his organization was sending to the Attorney-General a report which lays responsibility on the former leadership of the Public Works Ministry for the faults and deficiencies of the RD$300 million Avenida Jacobo Majluta project north of Santo Domingo. The CODIA announcement was widely interpreted as a corruption allegation against former Minister Jaime "Jimmy" Durán Hernando, who ran the Public Works Ministry when the project was "finished" and inaugurated in August 1997. Yesterday Durán denied any wrongdoing to the news daily El Siglo and said that he would fight any and all such allegations. A report leaked to the press yesterday from Public Works’ own Department of Soil Laboratories and Materials Testing shows that structural problems in the road were recognized before the inauguration and that Public Works was still trying to correct them after the inauguration. An internal Public Works engineers’ report suggests that some of the problems in the project may have been caused by cutting corners to meet the August 1997 completion deadline for the project. The road project had been initiated in 1994 under the Administration of then President Joaquín Balaguer, but work halted after only a short segment was built. The Fernández Administration made completion of the full project within one year one of its priorities upon taking office in August 1996.
The Department of Corruption Prevention has requested copies of the Public Works reports in order to initiate its own investigation.

95% of petrol tax went to external debt, reconstruction in 1998
The news daily El Siglo reports that, according to statistics provided by the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry, 95% of the revenue generated during 1998 by the tax on petrol went to paying off foreign debt and to reconstruction after Hurricane Georges. Until the hurricane, the government was depositing most of the tax revenues in the Central Bank, which used the money to pay off bilateral and multilateral debts. After the hurricane, the government stopped making these deposits because it won a moratorium on debt payments until March 1999. Even so, RD$2.8471 billion, or 50.7% of the petrol tax revenue generated in 1998, went to paying external debt. In the three months after the hurricane the Government poured RD$2.5116 billion (44.7%) into housing and agriculture reconstruction programs. The rest of the 1998 petrol tax revenues went to municipalities (RD$224.4 million) and political parties (RD$28 million).

Spanish expert contracted to fortify bank supervision
The Central Bank and Superintendent of Banks have contracted with Spanish bank expert Aristóbulo de Juan to work with them to strengthen the system of bank supervision in place since 1993. De Juan formerly was the Director of the Banco Popular Español, and subsequently worked for the World Bank as a banking reform advisor before forming his own consulting firm. His firm has designed banking inspection programs for Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Poland and Yugoslavia.

Investment promotion roundtable to be held
The Office for the Promotion of Foreign Investment in the DR (OPI) will host the "First Roundtable of Caribbean Investment Promotion Agencies" March 19-20 in Santo Domingo’s Jaragua Hotel. The event is sponsored by the World Bank Group’s Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) and Bank affiliates the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The event will bring together investment promotion agencies from throughout the Caribbean to discuss how the region’s nations can better attract foreign investment. In addition to participation of experts from IFAS, IFC and MIGA, those of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Secretariat of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) are expected.

PRD candidate wins UASD rector post
Miguel Rosado, the candidate backed by PRD in the elections for rector of the state-funded Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), won yesterday’s second-round of elections with a solid margin: 1,414 votes (60%) versus 942 (40%) for his PLD-backed opponent, Iván Brugal. The highly-politicized UASD is the oldest university in the Americas. It is heavily subsidized by the state. Most students study free. Studies have shown that with the subsidies the government pays the UASD, it could grant scholarships to the students to study at private universities. A large number of students at the UASD are known as professional students, constantly repeating courses. This practice is not allowed in most private universities.

American wins third leg of cycling race
American John Cipolla won the third stage of the 20th National Independence Tour, the most important bicycle race of the year in the DR. Cipolla, part of a four-member team from Miami, won the 126.3 kilometer segment from La Romana to Santo Domingo with a time of 2:35:33. After yesterday’s segment, the individual in first place remains Venezuela’s Tommy Alcedo, with a time of 9:08:50. However, Erico Poittshke of the DR’s Aro y Pedal team has taken over second place from American Emile Abraham with a time of 9:10:08, with Cipolla a close third at 9:10:25. In the team competition the DR team Asodoci is in the lead with a combined time of 27:31:28, with the Cuban national team in second at 27:42:10 and the Chicago Cycling Club a tight third at 27:43:08. Today’s Tour segment will leave Independence Plaza on Ave. 27 de Febrero, headed to Baní via San Cristóbal for a total of 139.5 kilometers.

Time for Carnival!
Brugal rum is sponsoring the following big band orchestras to play at the Avenida del Puerto in the Colonial City, starting at 9 pm:

Tuesday, 23 February: Víctor Roque y la Gran Manzana
Wednesday, 24 February: Manolé y La Banda del Truco
Thursday, 25 February: Banda X
Friday, 26 February: Parada Joven y Juan Manuel
Saturday, 27 February: Grupo Contagio y Diómedes y el Grupo Mío
Sunday, 28 February: K-Libre y La Banda Chula

Presidente beer is also sponsoring big band orchestras at the Avenida del Puerto. Bands to play as of 8 pm. Their schedule is:

Thursday, 25 February: Banda Chula
Friday, 26 February: Rokabanda
Saturday, 27 February: Sin Fronteras
Sunday, 28 February: Coco Band, Toño Rosario, Eddy Herrera.

Other planned carnival activities are:
Gran Gala Carnaval 99 at the Teatro La Fiesta, Hotel Jaragua on Friday, 26 February at 8 pm.
Grand Carnival Parade, Sunday, 28 February starting at 2 pm along the Malecón.
Casa de Teatro at Arz. Meriño Street in the Colonial City is exhibiting of works of art commemorative to Dominican carnival. Exhibiting are many well known Dominican painters, including Cándido Bidó, Jorge Pineda, Antonio Guadalupe, José Morillo, Fermín Ceballo, Paul Leonor, Limbert Vilorio, Polibio Díaz, Pascal Macariello, Daniel de los Santos, Marcos Lora, Marino Hernández, Domingo Batista, José Mercader, Paul Giudicelli, Dionisio Banco, Silvano Lora, Bismarck Victoria and Miguel Ramírez.

For those who are not aware, the best Dominican carnival takes place, not in Santo Domingo, but in the city of La Vega, about an hour's drive from Santo Domingo. EnviTravel Tours, a local travel agency is offering excursions to see the carnival parades of "diablos cojuelos" with tours departing 28 February from Santo Domingo. The excursion price of RD$325 includes round-trip transport, visit to the Santo Cerro Church and the old city of La Vega, open bar, lunch at the La Vega Country Club, tee shirts, and watching of the carnival parade in the afternoon. Departures are at 8:30 am, returning to Santo Domingo at 9:30 pm. Those taking the excursion should preferably wear two pairs slacks or jeans because the "diablos cojuelos" mischievously will bop their balloons against those watching. For more information, call 565-5558 or email [email protected]
Services Travel's excursion departs from the agency locale at Rómulo Betancourt 1567 on 28 February. Tel. 535-4290
This is a once-and-a-lifetime adventure, highly recommended to tourists and residents in the DR. Fun for the entire family. Just follow the crowds, put your wallet in a safe place, and stay out of the reach of the fearful Diablos Cojuelos.

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