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Daily News - 26 February 1999

Aristy Castro resigns as Senator
Amable Aristy Castro yesterday finally announced his resignation as the Senator from Altagracia Province, claiming that he was doing so at the specific instructions of his party’s leader, ex-President Joaquín Balaguer. The former Senate President had promised his resignation ever since being "elected" by a municipal assembly on January 26th as the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). Two parallel municipal assemblies were held on January 26th which elected Aristy Castro, of the Reformista-Social Christian Party (PRSC) and Julio Maríñez Rosario, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) 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.
The resignation was always a foregone conclusion if Aristy Castro wanted to retain the LMD SG post. Under Article 18 of the Dominican Constitution, a national legislator cannot hold another public office, and many have pointed to this provision to argue that LMD decisions Aristy Castro has made since January 26th are without legal merit. Although he had claimed more than once that he was only waiting for his party leader, Dr. Balaguer, to designate a PRSC replacement for his Senate seat, it was widely believed that Aristy Castro was reluctant to give up the Senate seat without first knowing the fate of LMD court case.

Balaguer returns today
Ex-President and PRSC party leader Dr. Joaquín Balaguer is expected to return to the Dominican Republic today after several weeks in the U.S. He is due to arrive midday at Las Américas International Airport on a private flight from Miami. A large crowd of PRSC members are expected to greet him at the airport. Dr. Balaguer left several weeks ago for medical tests and treatment at a hospital in Houston, Texas, followed by a rest and recuperation period at the Miami home of a longtime friend and PRSC ally.

President to address joint session of Congress tomorrow
As is the tradition, President Leonel Fernández will open the new legislative session of Congress tomorrow, Independence Day, by addressing a joint session of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. National Palace sources suggest that during his speech to Congress and the nation the President will reply to PRD’s latest letter on the proposed political dialogue, and that he will offer "specific proposals."

12 die in collision of Bavaro hotel employee buses
12 people died and 35 were injured as the result of the head-on collision yesterday of two buses carrying Bavaro area hotel employees to and from their homes. The accident occurred at about 1:00 am near Berón on the highway connecting Higüey and Bavaro. One bus carried employees of the Riu hotels, the other belonged to the Melía Tropical, but the driver was alone. The Police have not yet determined all the facts of the accident, but it did occur on a curve. Among the 12 dead was the driver of the Riu bus, Sotero Laureano Maldonado. The other driver was gravely injured.

World Bank, IDB loans for health sector modernization
In ceremonies held yesterday at the Council of Government’s chambers, Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás signed a US$75 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to modernize the DR’s health sector. The loan will go to three different Dominican agencies: the Public Health Ministry (SESPAS), the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) and the Program of Essential Medicines (Promese). Under the portion allotted to SESPAS, the money will help formulate new health policies, implement three pilot projects to bring basic health care to the poor and uninsured, and to "transform four public hospitals into modern institutions." The IDSS portion will seek to modernize the health care portion of the DR’s social security system. The Promese portion will finance the modernization of the drug inventory and distribution system to make it more efficient, cost-effective and transparent. Montás said that a US$30 million loan is expected shortly from the World Bank that will supplement this loan and go toward the same ends.

More details on projects proposed to Mexico
More details were released yesterday by the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency about the three projects proposed to Mexico for funding under the San José Agreement. Among other things accomplished during the Second Meeting of the Dominican-Mexican Bilateral Commission recently concluded in Mexico City, the DR presented three project proposals for Agreement funding. 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 are supposed to include participation by Mexican firms. One US$40 million project proposed would expand the highway currently connecting San Cristóbal and Baní. Another, for US$8 million, would buy buses for public transport. A third, for US$50 million, would fund infrastructure improvements in underdeveloped areas with substantial tourism potential, such as Samaná, Barahona, Azua, Baní, Montecristi, Río San Juan and Nagua.

ECLAC: DR unemployment will continue dropping
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, also known by its Spanish acronym CEPAL), predicts that Dominican unemployment numbers will continue to drop during 1999. ECLAC is the UN regional body based in Santiago, Chile that, among other things, produces economic forecasts for the region and gathers statistics of past economic performance. ECLAC says that the DR’s unemployment rate was 14.3% in 1998, down from 16% in 1997 and the 20% rate that dominated the 1994-96 period.

FAO to finance certification of Dominican coconut
The Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will finance a program to certify that Dominican coconuts are not contaminated by a plague known as "Lethal Yellow." Lethal Yellow is a sickness that, once it contaminates a coconut grove, can wipe it out within four years. In 1997 Brazil started blocking imports of Dominican coconuts on the basis of reports that Lethal Yellow had struck in the DR. The import ban remains even though Dominican and international experts have found no basis for the claim. FAO will provide US$89,000 to get official certification of Dominican coconut plantations as free of Lethal Yellow and otherwise healthy; in the face of such certification, import bans by Brazil or any other nation would be illegal under international trade rules. FAO says that it is taking this step because of the important economic role coconut trade plays in the DR. For thousands of Dominicans (estimated at 35,000 in Samaná province alone), coconut cultivation is the main source of income. FAO says that the DR has some four million coconut trees, most located in the Northeast, and its annual coconut production is about 20 million units, 90% of which is produced on small farms. Most of the DR’s coconut production is so healthy that it does not even require the use of pesticides, which makes the FAO confident that this Dominican sector has a future in promoting itself as organic produce.

PanAm Games Organizing Committee revealed
An extraordinary assembly pulling together the various Dominican sports federations yesterday ratified the selection of the 28-member Organizing Committee for the 2003 Pan American Games ("PanAm Games") to be held here in Santo Domingo. The Committee will be officially presented to the nation by President Leonel Fernández on Friday, March 5th, just one day before the deadline set by the Pan American Sports Organization (ODEPA). The Committee President will be Dr. José Joaquín Puello Herrera, President of the Dominican Olympic Committee (COD), with Diandino Peña serving as Executive Vice President and Luisín Mejía Oveido as Secretary. Other members come represent a broad spectrum of interests, including the national and local governments, sports organizations, business, community groups, churches, the COD, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic committees of other American nations that will participate in the 2003 PanAm Games. The other members are:
Roque Napoleón Muñoz (from the IOC)
Santo Domingo Mayor Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura
Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo de Cardona
Sports Minister Juan Marichal Sánchez
Luís Manuel Bonetti
Businessman José L. Corripio ("Pepín")
Businessman Eduardo Pellerano
Aniana Vargas (community leader)
José Miguel Báez Figueroa (of Baninter)
Arturo Pellerano (of Bancrédito and Tricom)
Carlos Espinal
Rev. Manuel Estrella (evangelical church)
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez (Catholic Church)
Ramón Menéndez (Central Romana)
Francis Malla (Grupo Malla & Cia.)
Manuel Arsenio Ureña
Freddy Beras Goico (television producer & show host)
Arturo Valdez (Executive Director, American Chamber of Commerce of the DR)
Andrés Botero (President, Olympic Committee of Colombia)
Fernando Romero (President, Olympic Committee of Venezuela)
Leroi William (President, Olympic Committee of Antigua)
Héctor Cardona (President, Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico)
Michael Fennell (President, Olympic Committee of Jamaica)
William Hybell (President, U.S. Olympic Committee)
William Warren (President, Olympic Committee of Canada)
Melesio Rivera (President, Olympic Committee of El Salvador)

Dominican team advances to tennis regional semifinals
The DR’s team has advanced to the semifinals for Group II (the Americas) of the 1999 Tennis Federation Cup. In matches played yesterday in San José, Costa Rica the Dominican team beat their Guatemalan counterparts. Daysi Espinal won decisively over Guatemala’s Mariola Prado in a singles match 6-1, 6-2, but her teammate Glennys Cepeda lost to Guatemala’s Luisa López 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. A doubles match between the two teams was won decisively by the DR 6-1, 6-3. This result tied the Dominican team with two others, Costa Rica and Guatemala, for second place within their subgroup (A). However, since the DR team won a singles match over leader Uruguay and the others did not, it took the second slot. The first opponent the Dominican team will face in the semifinals is Peru.

Venezuelan wins sixth stage of cycle race
Venezuelan Omar Pumar won the sixth stage of the 20th National Independence Tour, the most important bicycle race of the year in the DR. Pumar, part of a Venezuelan team participating in this event, won the kilometer stage passing from Santiago to Navarete to Altamira to Puerto Plata to La Cumbre with a time of 3:08:55. After yesterday’s segment, the individual in first place remains fellow Venezuelan Tommy Alcedo, with a time of 19:51:36, followed by Nivaldo Enríquez of the Cuban national team at 19:53:06 and Erico Poitschke of the Aro y Pedal team close behind at 19:53:36. In the team competition the Cuban team has taken over the lead at 59:57:52, Venezuela’s team has moved into second place at 60:01:50 and the DR’s Selección Montecarlo has retained third place with a combined time of 60:26:55. Today’s stage takes the cyclists from Santiago to Santo Domingo via La Vega, Bonao and Villa Altagracia.

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

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:

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

Other planned carnival activities are:

Expect the leading Dominican night spots to have special carnival parties going on this weekend. For instance, Trio Café’s carnival fiesta is set for Friday, 26 February. Toño Rosario will be playing at Jet Set on 1 March, but that merengue grand stage is planning their carnival party for Friday, 26 February. Presidente Beer has set up a grand stage at Arcadas por big band presentations this weekend. Guacara Taino’s carnival night is Saturday, when Sin Fronteras merengue band will play, from 9 pm. Prizes for best costumes.
Gran Gala Carnaval 99 at the Teatro La Fiesta, Hotel Jaragua on Friday, 26 February at 8 pm.
The National Lottery sponsors a concert Friday, 26 February at 7 pm at Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Stadium featuring Marc Anthony, Toño Rosario, Ricardo Montaner and Servando y Florentino. Tickets are RD$150 and RD$200.
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 Blanco.

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