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Daily News - 01 March 1999

An inspirational state of the address speech
President Leonel Fernández gave an inspirational state-of-the-address speech at the National Assembly on Saturday, 27 of February. In his two and a half hour talk he listed innumerable indicators on why he has no doubt that the DR is much better off today than six years ago. From The Economist's forecast that the DR will have the largest growth rate in the world in 1999 to the fact that 40% of all Dominican households today have washing machines and the number of motor vehicles has tripled from 200,000 in 1992 to 600,000 in 1998, the statesman seemed to imply that the nation is moving ahead to modernization and he would do all possible to keep it on that track. He stated the nation had grown an average of 7.8% average in the first two years of his administration. President Fernández stressed that the internal dynamism of the economy is so strong, that the enormous cost of Hurricane Georges has not set the country back.

Proposals for moving ahead with democracy
In the final third of his speech, President Fernández stated that what has been described as a political crisis is not so. He said that what there has been is "strong competition among political parties that reflects in the government's institutions and the entire society."
The statesmen said that what is occurring is the nation's political organizations are living through a transition from the days when authoritarian figures such as Joaquín Balaguer (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano), Juan Bosch (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana) and José Francisco Peña Gómez (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano) ruled. He commented that from times when life in the DR revolved around the prestige of these three figures to days when it needs to base itself on the emerging national institutions. He stressed that cold heads are needed so that politicians can concentrate on solutions to the main national problems.
President Fernández proposed in his state-of-the-nation address that the three leading political parties meet at the National Palace on Wednesday at 2 pm to sign an Historic Pact that would go beyond the political impasse and difficulties of the moment. President also proposed that the members of the Chamber of Accounts and the Central Electoral Board be elected by a collegiate group, such as the National Council of the Magistracy that elected the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice that went on to reorganize and rid justice of politics. He also proposed that the referendum and plebiscite be made part of the Dominican Constitution, and that the constitution be reformed by a Constitutional Assembly with the participate of the civil society. He proposed that electoral districts be established and mechanisms created to better control government employees. He favored instituting the right to peace as the expression of the will of the nation to resolve its internal conflicts.

President makes changes in his cabinet
Minister of the Armed Forces: Major General Manuel de Jesus Florentino
Armed Forces advisor to the President: Major General Ruben A. Paulino.
Chief of the National Police: General Pedro de Jesus Candelier
National Police advisor to the President: Major General Jose Anibal Sanz Jiminián.
Minister of Interior and Police: Norge Botello
Chief of the Navy: Victor Garcia Alecont.
President of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery: Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández.
Dominican Port Authority director: Francisco Javier Garcia.
Supervisor of Government Works: Felipe Abreu Roedan
Deputy Minister of Public Works: Rafael Serulle
Dominican Agrarian Institute director: Quilvio Cabrera
President of the Coordinating Commission of Natural Resources and Environment (with rank of Minister): Paino Abreu.
Deputy Technical Secretary of the Presidency: Alejandro Herrera. Agriculture advisor to the President with rank of minister: Wilton Guerrero.
Deputy Minister of Labor: Roberto Rosario.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce: Elpidio Baez.
Civil Defense director: General Jose de los Santos.
Director of Forestry Department: Navy Captain Cesar Batista Valdespinola.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs-Foreign Policy Matters: Minerva Tavarez.
Deputy Minister for Cultural Affairs: Rosario Graciano.
Deputy Minister for Economic Relations: Marcelo Puello.
Deputy Minister for administrative affairs: Gedeon Milán.
Ambassador based at the Ministry: Gloria Milán.
Director of the National Heritage Office (Patrimonio Cultural): Wilfredo Feliz.
Deputy National Treasurer: Conrado Peguero.
Deputy Minister of Interior and Police: Vernon Cabrera

Candelier is new Police Chief
The appointment of Armed Forces General Pedro de Jesus Candelier as new chief of the National Police was interpreted by the local press as a message to delinquents that the government intends to reduce the surge in crime in recent years. Crime has increased, with slum areas reporting statitistics such as 84 victims in January-February 1999 alone.
With the appointment, the President also seeks to make up with president of the Senate Ramón Alburquerque who confronted then Police chief Sanz Jiminián, who was on site at the Dominican Municipal League and tried to impede Alburquerque from entering the headquarters of the league. The appointment also seeks to resolve the controversy over who was the authority over directing transport in the city. Police agents had clashed with Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) agents.
Prior to his appointment, Candelier was a deputy director at AMET. The better-paid and more educated traffic agents of AMET have garnered the respect of the population, for their better education, firmness and not taking bribes for violations or invented violations.
Sanz Jiminián had directed the National Police since 20 May 1997, and is recognized for his efforts and improving and making more technical the police force.
The new chief of Police is a career military who is known for "not fooling around." Forty-three years old, he recently graduated as a lawyer from the Universidad de la Tercera Edad. Candelier is usually sent in when a situation needs to be resolved. He made a name for himself when confronting wealthy industrialists as director of the Department of Forestry. He was in charge of a program that obliged the later to install water treatment plants.
He began his career in the security of former President Salvador Jorge Blanco, and then began to make a name for himself when stationed in the frontier zone combated contraband from Haiti. He was later stationed as commander of the Third Brigade of the Army in San Juan de la Maguana from where he performed outstanding efforts at reforesting the area. This led him to be appointed director of Forestry during a Balaguer administration. Made a name for himself arresting violators regardless of their His appointment did not meet with approval of the higher ranks of the Police, as he was an army man brought in to direct the Police. But it was a happy day for thousands in the Police, as the appointment coincided with a presidential promotion of 2,204 members of the Police, including nine lieutenant colonels, 14 mayors and 29 captains.

New governor of Santiago
President Leonel Fernández appointed a new Governor of Santiago. The post had been vacant for many months after businessman Marcelo Bermúdez resigned. The new governor, Ramón Ventura Camejo is a militant government party man. He will be based in Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest Dominican city.

Senate promises to resubmit bills
The National Senate will reintroduce several of the bills that expired after months or years without congressional approval. The Senate promised to pass the monetary and financial code, the tariffs reform, social security bill and a bill that would provide incentives for Dominican exports within this legislature. President of the Senate Ramón Alburquerque promised during his speech at the National Assembly on Saturday that the Senate would pass the electricity bill and the market order code. The National Congress has a reputation among Dominicans for only working for their own interests, such as passing hundreds of pensions and being quick on passing salary increases for themselves, while slow as turtles when it comes to studying and passing important national bills.
During his speech at the National Assembly, Alburquerque criticized the government for being an exporter of capitals. He rationalized that the Senate had not passed international loan projects because the government has not produced the counterpart payments for loans already passed. Nevertheless, contrary to what he has said earlier, that the Senate would not pass initiatives coming from the government for political reasons, Alburquerque said that the Senate does not oppose external financing when the later favors the most needed sectors, contributes to increase the national productive capacity or promote exports.
The government wants the National Senate to pass loan international organization loans for US$355 million. The moneys are being lent by the Interamerican Development Bank and the World Bank and would be used to rebuild infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Georges.

Alburquerque speech transmission interrupted
The local press was very critical of the interruption of the transmission of the speech of Ramon Alburquerque, president of the Senate, minutes after it started. Instead of transmitting the speech, the state television station presented a panel of Onofre Rojas, Sandra Severino and Rafael Núñez. Political analysts questioned where those people came from if the reason cited by the station was correct. The "signal" returned in time to transmit the end of the speech and the entire speech of President Leonel Fernández.
Alburquerque, a very vocal and foul-mouthed strong adversary of the government, was commended for exercising moderation in his speech. Political analysts commented on how President Fernández corresponded, omitting several pages of his speech, including pages where he supposedly criticized the Senate for violating the Constitution by appointing judges of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) that are PRD party militants.
The speech was transmitted by radio by La Cadena de Noticias.

PRD pre-candidates sign NYC Pact
PRD presidential hopefuls signed a pact in New York City agreeing to guarantee the unity of the party above all. The aspirants to the presidential nominations swore to the ideals of their late leader, José Francisco Peña Gómez. Hipólito Mejía, Milagros Ortiz Bosch, José Rafael Abinader, Hatuey Decamps, Rafael Suberví Bonilla traveled to New York City to an event in honor of Peña Gómez organized by the New York chapter of the PRD, presided by physician Rafael Lantigua.

Balaguer returns to the DR
Former President Joaquín Balaguer arrived over the weekend from Miami, Florida after a month and a week absence from the DR for medical checkups and recovery. He was interned at the Methodist Hospital of Houston, Texas and then stayed on in Miami recovering at a friend's home. The 92 year old statesman was received by enthusiastic crowds of followers. The comment of the town was that "Balaguer llegó parao!, that is without any help he walked down the steps of the private jet that flew him in from Miami. Thousands at the airport were promoting his candidacy for the year 2000 elections. While blind and aging, the politician who governed the DR for the past 22 of 32 years, has maneuvered himself back into power from outside of power, and whom he backs in the presidential elections may determine who will be the winner. As has been his tradition throughout his entire political career, he declined to say whether he would run for President himself in year 2000.

Catholic Church asks politicians to take a vacation
The conference of the Dominican Episcopate issued their verdict in a Independence Day letter last week and in essence asked Dominican politicians to take a vacation. The Catholic Church hierarchy highlighted the need for independent branches of government and for reducing the levels of poverty. The letter focused on the need for passing important social and economic reforms that have stagnated in Congress. The Church criticized that the politicians spend so much time on sterile discussions that make them look like gossiping old maids. The letter expressed the popular sentiment that politicians are just interested in power for their own political power and not for the common good.

Sammy Sosa meets with leading politicians before leaving
Sammy Sosa met with leading Dominican politicians, from President Leonel Fernandez, former President Joaquin Balaguer (leader of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano), and Ramón Alburquerque, president of the Senate and vice president of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, prior to his departure to the States to start spring training. Sosa said he wanted to collaborate and urged the politicians to seek unity and concord among themselves. Sosa said he would dedicate his first home run of the year to Joaquín Balaguer, recognizing the former statesman's intelligence and how Balaguer has managed to stay at the forefront of political, social and economic affairs in the DR. Balaguer recommended that he stay out of politics. "I recommend that you do not get involved in politics because by handling yourself as you are doing now, all love you, and the Dominican family is not divided."
The Most Valuable Player of the National League, who batted 66 home runs last season, Sosa left the DR on Sunday for Chicago to participate in the Chicago Cubs spring training camp.

Bidding for light rail vehicle
Siemens (Germany), Alsthom (France) and Bombardieu (Canada) seek to build the Dominican Republic's first light rail vehicle. The feasibility study was carried out by Semalyb-Ceom-Mbg and the tender has been open for the companies to present their bids within the next two months, including the funding source. Listin Diario reports that the investment will be of over US$150 million as the project calls for the construction of an 11,250 meter long railway with 17 stations. The trams will travel at an expected speed of 23.9 kms. per hour and will transport about 136,000 users per day in the first year, tripling by year three.

Airport bids
The Director of the Civil Aviation Board, Vitelio Mejía said that the winning contract of the tender organized by the government for the expansion works necessary at Las Americas (Santo Domingo), Maria Montez (Barahona), Gregorio Luperon (Puerto Plata) and Arroyo Barril (Samana) airports will be sent to National Congress for approval. Mejía said this should achieve major transparency of the contract. Bids have been presented by Aeroport du Paris-Mendez Cabral-GTM, Grupo Calmaquip-Magna Compreica and Vancouver Airport-Ogden-Aerodom.

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