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Daily News - 03 March 1999

Politicians to sit down to talks today
The three leading Dominican parties will sit down to talks today at the National Palace at 6 pm. Leaders of the parties accepted an invitation made by President Leonel Fernández during his state-of-the-nation speech before the National Assembly on Saturday.
Attending for the PRSC will be Donald Reid Cabral, Federico Antún Batlle, Johnny Jones and Alexis Joaquín Castillo.
For the PRD, Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, Tony Raful, Ivelisse Prats de Pérez, Vicente Sánchez Baret and Hugo Tolentino Dipp.
The PLD did not announce who would represent the party.
President Leonel Fernández will preside over the talks.

Poll shows undecided voters will decide next presidential elections
The Listín Diario/Sigma Dos poll shows that it is very likely that undecided voters will decide the upcoming presidential election of year 2000. The poll makes it apparent that a runoff electoral round will be needed, as it is unlikely any of the candidates will achieve the 50%+1 vote required to win in a first round. The poll showed that the PRD has 36% of the vote, the PLD has 24% and the PRSC has 7%. 32% said they are undecided over whom they will vote for. The survey was carried out nationwide from 20-23 February with 1,200 persons of voting age polled.

Senate passes export promotion bill
The Senate passed the bill for the promotion of exports, a modification to the electoral law that would increase the electoral posts for women in the congressional and municipal elections of year 2002 from 25% to 40%, and a bill that creates the National Rice Institute.

A plea to ban radioactive waste transport
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Latorre called for unity among Caribbean nations to impede the passing of ships loaded with radioactive wastes. He said there is a need to create an awareness among heads of government and the Caribbean population in general that alone there is not much that a nation can do to impede the passing of the ships. The topic will be discussed during the II Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States that will be held in Santo Domingo April 16 and 17. Minister Latorre said the DR will take the lead to press for regional unity to pressure against ships passing through Caribbean waters. Since these are international waters, legally the ships can do so. But the Caribbean seeks to present the point of view that a spill would mean a hecatomb for the tourism industry which today is the principal hard currency generator and employer in the region.

DR-World Bank to host investment roundtable
The investment promotion agencies of the governments of Caribbean countries have been invited to attend a "Roundtable on Investment Promotion" that will be held in Santo Domingo following the Caribbean-US Trade & Investment Forum set for 16-18 March in Santo Domingo, also. The Roundtable is to be held at the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel, also the venue of the Forum, following it 19-20 March. It is to e conducted by the Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS), a joint facility of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. It is coordinated by the DR Office for Promotion of Invesment (OPI).
Participating in the roundtable, entitled "The Common Interest: Exploring the Harmonization of Investment Policies and Investment Strategies in the Caribbean," are experts in the field from FIAS, the UN Economic Commission on Latin America & the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the CARICOM Secretariat, the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Hotel Association and from countries as diverse as Australia and St. Lucia. "The roundtable will be an oustanding opportunity for regional investment promotion agencies and cooperation/donor institutions to discuss present as well as future trends affecting foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, to review past efforts and, to ultimately find innovative ways to work together to face hte many challenges ahead of us," said Ambassador Eddy Martinez, the OPI executive director. To confirm participation, email the organization at [email protected] or telephone (809) 683-6633 or fax (809) 683-6641.

Construction costs expected to increase 12%
The cost of the 100-lb. bag of cement went up RD$10 on Monday. A bag of cement now costs RD$74. Builders say this will represent an increase in building costs of 12%.

TV stations agree to eliminate movie piracy
Local television stations and cable TV stations agreed to eliminate piracy of channels in three months during a meeting at the Dirección General de Telecomunicaciones presided by deputy director, engineer Andres Ferreiras. The meeting lasted two hours. Representatives of TV channels, VHF, UHF and cable TV said they would sign the needed agreements with film distributors and TV program suppliers prior to 28 May.

Several hour blackouts programmed for the East
The Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) announced an increase in blackouts in southeastern and eastern provinces due to scheduled maintenance to turbogas power plants. The power in the provinces of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, La Altagracia, Hato Mayor and El Seibo comes from local sources after the transmission lines linking to the nationwide electricity grid through Santo Domingo were severely damaged during Hurricane Georges. Work has not yet begun on their repair as funding, contracted with international organizations, has not yet been passed by the Senate. CDE administrator Radhamés Segura reported power availability would drop 50% in those provinces. Tourism resorts and large business in the area will not be affected as most of these have their own power standby facilities.
The DR is enjoying a period of stable electricity generation, with blackouts at record lows in the DR, a major relief especially to small business that could not afford generators that could run several hours straight.

Inmates escape from La Victoria jail
At least 14 inmates escaped from the La Victoria penitentiary yesterday. The National Police is carrying out an investigation. The Department of Prisons reported that the escape occurred at 10 pm, during a blackout. A prisoner had complained of severe stomach pains, and a group of inmates assisted carrying him to the medical dispensary of the jail. Those that were helping carry the "sick" man attacked the guards on service and escaped with their guns. To get away, they sequestered a pickup of the Dominican Electricity Corporation that was later found abandoned in the Villa Consuelo neighborhood. The fugitives shared two cells at the jail. The director of the Department of Prisons, General Manuel de Jesús Pérez Sánchez attributed the escape to "negligence and the habitual vices of the custody of the jail." Only three guards watched over 300 inmates in the area where the escape occurred. Some 3,100 inmates are detained at the La Victoria Penitentiary, the largest in the DR.

Professional thief publishes book on how to prevent being robbed
A professional Dominican thief has just published his first book. After a 25-year career as a robber, 39-year old Ramón Ventura Chapman presents tips to help residents in the DR reduce the likelihood of being affected by a robbery in "Cómo protegerse del arte de robar". The book, in Spanish, should be available soon at the Librería La Trinitaria in the Colonial City.
Ventura Chapman graduated from high school while at the Rafey Jail in Santiago.
He is also writing another book, "Dos mil robos sin una gota de sangre" (two thousand robberies without a drop of blood).
During the presentation held in Santiago, commissioner for human rights, Nelson Cerda highlighted the increase in crimes that has brought about new concern from the citizenry. Attending was Mayor National Police Ramón Ventura Paredes, who represented the regional chief of the Police.

Two teenage girls missing
A 13 year old and a 15 year old girl are missing in Santiago, the second largest city in the DR. The Albino Rodríguez sisters left their home last Friday at 6 pm, one on her way to high school where she studies 10th grade, and the other to buy paper for a school project. When the girls did not show by 10 pm that evening, the parents began a search. The girls' father is a corporal with the Police.

Car robberies
A report in the Listín Diario indicates there are at least 11 car robberies a week in the DR, not including break-ins to steal car radios or valuables within the car. Most stolen cars are of the Toyota Corolla and Camry brands or Honda make from the years 1987 to 1994. These are preferred because they do not attract the attention that new cars do. More so, there are criminals that will take apart the cars and sell them for parts.

What's a worker's life worth
The Listín Diario reported that the Riu hotel chain would indemnify employees family members of employees that died in last month's minibus crash with RD$100,000 each. The hotel chain said that it is only awaiting to determine the inheritors of their employees to make the payments. Last month, a minibus of the Meliá Tropical clashed with another of the Riu hotel chain on the way from the Punta Cana to Higuey. Nine employees died in the crash.

US residence visa info now available by phone
Those interested in "precise official information" on the status of their residence visa can contact the US Consulate in Santo Domingo using a new telephone helpline service. The service went into effect on Monday, 1 March 1999. Those interested can call 1-976-1000 (RD$20 + taxes) from 8 to 5 pm if in the DR, or Tel. (809) 221-7370 from abroad. The rate is RD$20 per the call.

Rochester visitors are special guests of Puerto Plata
The City Hall of Puerto Plata honored a group of special guests from the city of Rochester in the State of New York. A delegation of 107 Rochester residents visited Puerto Plata as part of the cultural exchange sister cities program. Mayor Ramón Ortiz of Puerto Plata said he hoped this initial visit would result in many planes full of Rochester residents coming to visit the North Coast to enjoy the beaches and the hospitality of the people.

Tourism stats
Manuel Quiterio Cedeño, writing for El Siglo newspaper, reported that by year's end 1998, an additional 4,146 hotel rooms were added to the national hotel room inventory. This represented a 10% increase in the overall total of hotel rooms. He said the hotel room count as of 1 January is now at 40,847 rooms. Tourist arrivals last year were 2,308,189.

Central Bank seeks buyer for Playa Grande project
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic invites national and international investors to participate in a tender for the purchase of the Playa Grande tourism project in the province of María Trinidad Sánchez on the North Coast. The project has a hillside area reserved for the development of residential villas with an area of one million sq. meters, a 0.7 million sq. meter golf course, a beach area of 1.4 million square meters for the construction of hotels, and a golf villas area of 0.4 million for the construction of villas and apartments. The total project area is 3.5 million meters, including a 1.6 kms. beach front area. Playa Grande is located between the cities of Puerto Plata and Nagua. The golf course was designed by Arch. Robert Trent Jones, and is considered one of the best in the Caribbean, with all holes offering a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. Infrastructure has been installed for 6,000 rooms. Interested companies must present their credentials by 31 May 1999 and then final bids by 30 July 1999. For more information, contact the Departamento de Desarrollo y Financiamiento de Proyectos (Definpro) at the Central Bank, Calle Pedro Henríquez Ureña in Santo Domingo, Tel. (809) 689-5311, or email the bank at [email protected]

All is ready for Expos vs. Mets game in Santo Domingo
Ministry of Public Works construction workers are putting the final touches on the Quisqueya Ball Park this week. They say almost all is ready to host the Montreal Expos as they take on the New York Mets on the weekend of March 12-13 in Santo Domingo. The Dominican government spruced up the Quisqueya Ball Park in Santo Domingo to ensure that the city stadium met specifications for a Major League spring training baseball game. Four leading companies are sponsoring the event that has a total price tag of US$400,000. All the Dominicans Major League ball players that play for the teams will be in Santo Domingo for the two-game series. These include Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero, Miguel Batista, Guillermo Mota, José Fernández and Manny Martínez.

Great jazz in Santo Domingo this month
Heineken Live is a show that those who enjoy good jazz should not miss. The Altos de Chavón 5,000-person amphitheater will be the stage for the likes of Taylor Dayne, No Mercy, Giovanni Hildalgo, Hilton Ruiz, Johnny Pacheco, Charlie Sepulveda, Juan Pablo Torres, Eddie Palmiere, Bacacha Tropical Jazz on Saturday, 27 March at 7 pm. Tickets are RD$300 per person and can be purchased at Pizzarelli stores, Esso Tiger Market, the Hotel Santo Domingo and Altos de Chavon (in La Romana).

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