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Daily News - 05 March 1999

Dialogue resumes today
The political dialogue between the three principal political parties – the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – will have its second meeting today at the National Palace at 6:00 pm. The first meeting was held on Wednesday at the Palace at the invitation of President Leonel Fernández. As agreed on Wednesday, today’s session will start with a discussion of the election of the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD), followed by discussion of the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE), the election of the Chamber of Deputies directorate, and the selection of the Chamber of Accounts (Cámara de Cuentas). Today’s session will be "moderated" (but supposedly not mediated) by a representative of the Catholic Church, Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, who also serves as the dialogue’s spokesperson.

PRSC insists present JCE must resign
After a 2 ½-hour meeting with party head and ex-President Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, leaders of the PRSC said that they will not agree to any formulas regarding the JCE that does not include the resignation of its present members. Staking out their stance before this evening’s dialogue on this very topic, the party leaders declared that the PRSC would not accept a simple expansion of the Board from the current five Members to seven or nine, as some PLD officials have suggested in the past. PRSC President Donald Reid Cabral stressed to reporters that the party’s position is not a personal vendetta against the present members. The PRSC "doesn’t object to the personal or moral or any other qualities of the [JCE] Judges, but there has been a politicization within the Board, and that must be changed," said Reid Cabral. The PRSC objected to the way the current JCE members were selected. [The current JCE was picked by the PRD-controlled Senate without prior consultation with the other political parties, as had been done for the previous Board.] Reid Cabral even offered that the current members could be put on the list of proposed members for a new Board once the present one resigned, and that some could be selected.

Balaguer interviewed by CBS
The former president of the DR and PRSC leader, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, was in classic form during an interview broadcast yesterday by CBS. The interview by journalist Raúl Peimbert of the program "América habla" had been conducted in Miami before Dr. Balaguer returned to Santo Domingo last Friday. Dr. Balaguer’s statements on a wide variety of topics made front-page news this morning on all three major dailies of the DR. Among other things, he did not discount being nominated by his party to run for President in the year 2000 elections. While saying he was not "indispensable," he asserted that he was "useful" because of his 22 years running the country and that people tended to look to him "because they know I’m not going to serve myself, but rather that I’m going to serve my country." As customary with Dr. Balaguer, he said he would bow to "popular will" on the question of whether or not he should run for office again.
Some of the topics covered:
President Fernández: "We meet, talk often."
Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, the former PRD leader who died in 1998: "He was a great politician. A great political figure because he was an intelligent man and always accessible. With me he maintained cordial relations. He attacked me fiercely but at heart we understood each other very well. We made many agreements together and we had almost the same opinions. He was a man of the extreme left many times but he knew how to evolve toward the center and he became my ally many times, in spite of the fact we appeared to be enemies."
Juan Bosch: "A different character...Bosch is very rigid in his concepts, in his opinions. He is a great writer. A great intelligence, a great citizen, but he does not have like Peña Gómez [did] the policies necessary to govern the Dominican Republic."
Accusations of Fraud in Prior Elections: That’s a myth. There [in the DR] they always accuse one of fraud in every election...those that lose always use [accusations of fraud] to justify their losses."
Honesty in government: "All countries look for rulers who are honorable. They are anxious to be governed by honest people that do not have money as their goal...There will never be, and could never be, a more honest person managing the State’s funds than me. Of that I am proud."
His health: "The results of those tests [in Houston] were that I have no serious illness. I have a sound body in spite of my 92 years. The only serious problem for me is my eyesight."
Relations with the U.S.: "It is necessary for Latin America to have a better understanding with the U.S., because in the end the greatest weight on the history of our countries has been this country, the U.S. There has been a poor understanding because many times American policy has not been well oriented or well-informed...I believe that [relations] have improved much and they have to improve. There is a better understanding now than before."
Fidel Castro: "My best advice [to him] would be to retire already because Cuba needs to grow, to expand, to have full freedom and to live at the same levels as the rest of the American nations."

Senate approves electricity project for SPM
The Senate yesterday approved a government contract to build and operate a 300 megawatt (MW) electricity generating plant for San Pedro de Macorís (SPM). The contract was signed by the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) last September. It was approved without problem largely because the Dominican Government does not have to fund it, and the only guarantee on the international loans used to build the power plant will be the income it generates from electricity sales. CDE will buy the electricity, but only has to pay for power actually delivered. Under the contract, it will buy at 4.9 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour, rather than the 7.7 it is now paying other companies.

President submits anti-corruption package to Congress
President Fernández yesterday sent to Congress yesterday a package of five measures he says will help fight corruption. The package includes: (1) an Ethics Code for Public Servants, which draws heavily upon the principles of the 1994 Inter-American Anti-Corruption Convention agreed under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS) [although the DR signed the Convention in March 1996, it has yet to ratify it]; (2) a draft law on money laundering; (3) a draft law against "transnational" bribery; (4) changes in the Legal Declaration of Goods public servants must make to better reveal conflicts of interest; (5) modifications in the Penal Code to toughen sanctions against "classic manifestations of corruption."

Migration will present cedula fraud proof next Tuesday
The Director-General of Migration, Danilo Díaz, announced yesterday that he will go to the JCE headquarters next Tuesday at 4:00 pm and personally deliver proof to the Board that some of voter identity cards ("cedulas") that have issued have fraudulently gone to illegal aliens, many of which are Haitians. On February 22nd Díaz created a sensation by charging that the JCE was issuing cedulas to Haitian nationals. The JCE has repeatedly denied the charge, and has even trotted out its records efforts to show that the cards Díaz flashed during his initial statement belong to Dominicans or aliens legally residing in the DR and pre-vetted by Migration and the National Department of Investigation (DNI), not illegal aliens. This week JCE President Manuel Ramón Morel Cerda challenged Díaz to back up his charges with concrete examples that the JCE can investigate.

DR no longer a bridge for illegal migration
In an interview in yesterday’s edition of the afternoon daily Ultima Hora, Migration Director-General Díaz asserted that the DR is no longer the "bridge" for undocumented aliens seeking to go to the U.S. that it once was. He attributed the change to "harsh" measures adopted by the Fernández Government. He said that under prior governments, there existed a mafia of people traffickers working closely with unscrupulous people in Dominican consulates in European and Asian nations. The flow of illegals heading toward the U.S. via the DR were mostly from Asia. The Fernández Government has stopped the flow by taking "drastic measures," including the dismissal of around 300 employees. Cases involving undocumented aliens have been frequently caught and acted upon. In cases where the DR has discovered that the aliens involved are wanted for misdeeds in their home countries, they are deported immediately.

New Ambassador to Colombia
President Fernández yesterday appointed a new DR Ambassador to Colombia. Architect Manuel Del Monte Urraca became the new ambassador under Decree 99-99. Mr. Del Monte Urraca has been Director of the Office of Cultural Patrimony over the last two years.

CDE "regularizing" illegal users and gaining record income
The Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) reports that for the month of February 1999 it collected RD$459,195,000, a new monthly record for the firm in a month shorter than others. Part of the increase, says CDE, is due to its efforts to "regularize" homes with illegal connections to power lines. CDE "regularized" 35,000 homes during February, most of which now must pay a special low minimum charge of RD$100-150 per month. Part of the increase is also due to CDE efforts to collect from businesses and government offices and entities that are behind in their payments. CDE has been conducting widely publicized power cutoffs to government offices to get them to pay their bills. Just yesterday CDE forced the National Congress and the Supreme Court to start paying their arrears.

SD Mayor starts European tour
Santo Domingo’s Mayor, Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura, left yesterday with a delegation from the municipal government to tour Europe and Israel seeking aid for the capital city’s plans and programs. In Italy he will visit Milan to talk with city officials there about the garbage collection services and technologies they utilize, and in Rome he will discuss follow-up to that city’s offer to President Fernández to help improve SD services. In Paris the Mayor will attend a world meeting of Mayors and Governors to discuss common problems facing all local governments. There he will also sign an US$60 million agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) to help SD improve the traffic signals and signs of the city. In Madrid he will negotiate an agreement for help in constructing marketplaces in SD. In Barcelona he will meet with officials to discuss how they tackle environmental problems of that city. He will also meet with officials responsible for Barcelona’s hosting of the Olympic Games several years ago, for tips on how SD should handle hosting the 2003 Pan American Games. Finally, in Israel Mayor Ventura will negotiate an agreement for technical help in municipal services.

Half all imported cars quite old
According to the news daily El Siglo, Customs data indicated that 49.6% of all cars imported during the 1994-98 period were 1987 models or older. 75,579 (49.6%) were 1980-87 models; the rest (76,744) were 1988-98 model years.

PanAm Games Committee to be presented today
Today President Fernández will officially present the Organizing Committee for the Pan American Games ("PanAm Games") to be held in Santo Domingo in the year 2003. The Committee President is 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 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. In ceremonies at the National Palace, the following Committee members will be sworn in:
Dr. José Joaquín Puello Herrera (President, COD)
Public Works Minister Diandino Peña
Luisín Mejía Oveido (Secretary, COD Executive Committee)
Roque Napoleón Muñoz (IOC)
Santo Domingo Mayor Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura
Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo de Cardona
Sports Minister Juan Marichal Sánchez
Industry and Commerce Minister 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)
Businessman Carlos Espinal
Rev. Manuel Estrella (evangelical church)
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez (Catholic Church)
Ramón Menéndez (Central Romana)
Francis Malla (Grupo Malla & Cia.)
Businessman 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)

PP Carnaval to feature salsa stars
This year’s Carnival party in Puerto Plata – commencing at 3:00 pm on Sunday -- will feature Dominican merengue star Sergio Vargas plus three stars of salsa: Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco and José Alberto ("El Canario"). The televised events are being organized and sponsored by SECTUR, Cervecería Nacional Dominicana (brewers of Presidente beer), American Airlines, the Association of Playa Dorada Hotels and the Tour Operators Association.

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