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Daily News - 08 March 1999

President to travel to Guatemala to meet with Clinton
President Leonel Fernández will travel on Wednesday, 10 March 1999 to Guatemala to participate in the Central American, Belize and Dominican Republic Heads of State and Government Summit. US President Bill Clinton will meet with the statesmen during his visit to Central America. The Presidency said that President Fernández will be in Guatemala from 10-12 March.
This will be the fifth meeting of Fernández with Central American statesmen. The DR signed its first free trade agreement with Central America. The treaty has yet to be ratified by the National Congress. The Presidents of Central America have visited the DR on two occasions. President Fernández has attended summits in San José, Costa Rica and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. In April, Fernández will host a summit of Association of Caribbean States heads of government, with the attendance of statesmen from Central America, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.

President Fernandez readies for trip to Asia
President Leonel Fernández is slated to travel to Japan and Taiwan in April. During his visit, he is expected to sign donations for over US$200 million, as well as low interest loans for development programs. An advance Dominican government mission traveled to Taiwan and Japan last week to prepare the trip.

Catholic Church intellectual criticizes the Senate
Monsignor Francisco José Arnáiz is regarded as the intellectual of the Catholic Church hierarchy, and sits along with President Leonel Fernández and Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado as arbiter during the ongoing talks among the nation's three leading political parties taking place at the National Palace. Over the weekend, he criticized that the Legislative Branch has assumed an opposition role to the Executive Branch, rejecting bills that are important to the nation for political reasons. It was apparent he was referring to the Senate, whose president, Ramón Alburquerque has been vocal saying that the Senate would not pass bills sent by the President until the political impasse regarding his party's leadership of certain national institutions is resolved. Arnáiz, nevertheless, said he is optimistic that the talks at the National Palace will end well. He said, though, that one of the major problems is that those representing the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano and the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano do not have the authority to make decisions. The people of the PRSC have to consult with former President Balaguer, and the people of the PRD probably have to consult with the pre-candidates of the party.
The talks have been suspended until next Friday, awaiting the return of President Leonel Fernández from Guatemala. Sticky issues continue to be: (1) the composition of the Central Electoral Board (the JCE), opposed by the PRSC on grounds that among the judges elected by the PRD-majority Senate are PRD political activists, and by the PLD on grounds that the electoral law was violated when two former judges were removed; (2) and the election of Amable Aristy Castro to be secretary of the Dominican Municipal League.

1,500 minibuses for feeder routes
The government will import 1,500 minibuses to serve passengers on feeder routes of the six main bus routes or corridors being installed. The 26-passenger minibuses will replace 2,300 dilapidated minibuses and microbuses that circulate today on city streets. The government plans to purchase the vehicles from the present bus operators/owners. The purchase price will serve as the down payment for these to acquire the new units. The first feeder routes will serve passengers needing transport along the Avenida Tiradentes, from Cristo Rey to Centro de los Heroes, passing through the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo; and the Núñez de Cáceres, down to the Independencia Avenue.

Fake pilots arrested at Las Americas International
Airport authorities arrested 44-year old US citizen Hugh Dennis Carvel for trying to introduce a contraband of jewelry into the DR. Carvel was dressed as a US commercial airline pilot. The contraband was in his hand luggage. He was deported on the next plane out. During questioning he said he had been transporting merchandise to the DR successfully for the past six months. The jewelry would be sold in Santo Domingo to different stores.
As a result, Customs increased security at the airport detecting in less than 24 hours another fake pilot contraband operation. This time, a former pilot of Dominicana Airlines was caught trying to introduce a contraband of cellular phones and accessories valued at RD$176,000. According to a report in El Siglo, Carlos García Espino arrived on American Airlines flight AA423 attired as a pilot. García observed the stepped-up security at the airport and returned to the airplane to change into civilian clothes. He later remained hidden in the terminal for several minutes. All this was being observed by airport authorities. After arrested he told the authorities he was paid US$1,000 for each trip and that the merchandise was for Electro-Compus. Offenders caught for contraband are not taken to jail, but most pay heavy fines.
As a consequence of the detected contraband cases, now all carry-on luggage of airline crews is being checked.

Former Armed Forces minister arrested
Former Minister of the Armed Forces Constantino Matos Villanueva was arrested on Friday, 5 March after undergoing 10 hours of questioning by the judge Eduardo Sanchez Ortiz, who is in charge of the first phase of the case regarding the disappearance of professor Narciso Gonzalez. The questioning would continue today, 8 March. This is the second time Matos Villanueva is arrested in regards to the case. He was minister of the Armed Forces at the time of the disappearance of the former professor. He told the press that he is innocent and that his arrest is just part of the investigations. In addition to Matos Villanueva, two Air Force military have been detained.

Indifference of authorities affects National Park of the East
The Listín Diario denounced that the indifference of National Parks Department authorities has resulted in the looting of the Manantial de la Aleta", a well that Dominican archaeologists and experts from the University of Indiana have said is the most important archaeological discovery in the Caribbean in years. Important clues to the Taino civilization of pre-Columbian days were discovered, preserved by the waters of the well. Now that the guarding of the site has passed to the National Park Department authorities, the Listín criticizes that the lack of surveillance makes it easy prey to persons who later display found artifacts in their shops and bars, ignorant to their historic worth, or others who steal them for sale to private collectors. Writer Eleuterio Martínez criticized that despite the Department of Parks earning thousands of pesos from the fees charged those taking the tours to Saona Island in the National Park of the East, the moneys are not used to maintain security in the area. He said that the shelter used by park vigilants was destroyed by Hurricane Georges and has not been replaced. In his story, he also criticizes the construction of tourism projects that have affected the environment.

Two teenage sisters found dead
Dominicans awoke on Monday morning, 8 March to learn that the two missing teenage girls from Santiago had been found — dead. The girls were missing from 26 February when one left for her high school and the other to buy school supplies at a nearby store. The girls, described by friends and teachers as model girls, were last seen boarding a taxi cab. The cadavers in advanced state of decomposition of 13 and 15 year old half sisters were found about half a kilometer from their home in Colorado, Santiago. The cadavers did not show signs of violence. The bodies were taken for autopsy to the Hospital José María Cabral y Báez, the largest in Santiago, as there are no clues to why they died. An anonymous call led to the discovery of the cadavers. The National Police had undergone a nationwide search, suspecting they had been kidnapped and were in a brothel in some tourist area. The girls lived with their father, police officer Jose Rafael Albino. The bodies were found by their brother, José Andrés in a hill nearby their house.
Earlier last week, the Police resolved the case of two other teenager girls that had been reported missing, a 12-year old and a 14-year old. The girls, who resided in Santo Domingo, were found in a Santiago night club where they had gone to work. They were paid RD$750 every two weeks to dance and serve drinks to Dominican patrons at the Night Club Moran, that police authorities closed after detecting the employment of the two minors. The girls said they were not obliged to remain in the night club and did so in order to have money on their own. They were returned to their parents homes by the Police.

Santa Maria replica sets sail in Boca Chica
Restaurant Neptuno, one of the most successful restaurant operations in the DR, is now offering Boca Chica tourists a sunset sail tour on board a replica of the Santa Maria caravel Christopher Columbus used on his first trip to the New World. The ship is 42 feet in length, and has capacity for 34 passengers. The tours will depart from Neptuno Restaurant at 5:30 pm returning 7:30 pm. Bar service and snacks will be available on board. The ship is being promoted for weddings, birthdays and other special events.

Soon to be the largest hotel in the DR
Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez was present at the ground-breaking of the construction of 750 more rooms at the Bahía Príncipe Resort in Gaspar Hernández, María Trinidad Sánchez province along the Northeast Coast of the DR. The 750 additional rooms will make the hotel the largest in the DR. It originally opened with 250 rooms in 1995, and at present has 941 rooms. During the ground-breaking ceremony, Minister Felix Jiménez announced that works would start soon on the Puerto Plata-Cabarete highway and the Sánchez-Samaná stretch. He also said works would commence on the Las Terrenas-El Limón stretch and on the streets of Sosúa.

Tourism statistics
According to the Ministry of Tourism report presented to the National Congress last month, in 1998 some new 4,630 rooms entered into operation, a US$568 million investment made primarily by Spanish, Austrian, French, Italian and Canadian investors, in addition to Dominicans.
The rooms were built in:
Punta Cana: 1,945 rooms (Spanish and Dominican investment)
Puerto Plata: 630 rooms (Austrian investment)
Samana-Las Terrenas: 590 rooms (French investment)
Bayahibe-La Romana: 552 rooms (Italian investment)
Sosua-Cabarete: 463 rooms (Canadian investment)
The Ministry forecasts an additional US$280 million will be invested in the construction of new hotel rooms in 1999.
The Hotel & Restaurant Association recently reported that new hotel rooms opening in 1998 represent a 10% increase of the hotel inventory, bringing the national total to 40,847 rooms in the DR, the largest count in the Caribbean.
According to the Ministry, expenses per tourist in 1998 were US$974.95, with an average stay of 10 days. Tourist arrivals last year were 2,308,189.

Final days of the tender to choose partner to expand DR airports
A Comission of Observers will be holding individual hearings with each of the three contenders to win the tender for the administration of several of the nation's principal airports. The DR government seeks a partner who can administer the Las Americas (Santo Domingo), María Montez (Barahona), Arroyo Barril (Samaná) and Gregorio Luperón (Puerto Plata) airports and make investments estimated at US$200 million within the next three years. The companies will each have 30 minutes to present the content and of their proposals submitted to the Airport Commission. Members of the observer committee are TV producer Freddy Beras Goico; Bonaparte Gautreaux Piñeyro, director of La Nación afternoon newspaper; lawyer Jottin Cury; engineer Alejandro Montás, president of the Dominican College of Engineers; Braulio Portes and the representatives of the Hotel & Restaurant Association and hte Association of Airlines.
The contenders are:
Grupo Calmaquip. Calmaquip Engineering Corporation (United States), Airport Consulting Vienna (Austria), Birk & Hillman Consultants (USA) and Dominican partners Compreica, OTESA, Omega Electrica and Airline Services Maniño.
Grupo Aeropuertos de Paris. Aeroports de Paris, Grupo Dumez-GTM (France) and Constructora Mendez Cabral.
Grupo Aerodom. Vancouver Airport Services (Canada, Ogden Aviation Services (USA) and Impregilo (Italia). Dominican partners Operadora de Aeropuertos del Caribe, Colas (Francia), INITEC (Spain) and Banco de Santander (Spain).

Asian financial crisis affects DR tourism
The president of the Hotel & Restaurant Association, Rafael Blanco, interviewed at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB), the world's largest travel fair held in Berlin, Germany, said that the Asian crisis will affect German travel to the DR. German tour operators are pressing Dominican hoteliers to further drop their prices alerting they would take their business to Asian tourism destinations that are now cheaper because of the region's currency devaluation.

Trade with Great Britain up
The Ambassador of Great Britain in the DR, David G. Ward says that trade between the DR and Great Britain has increased dramatically during the past three years, following the opening of the Embassy. He said that overall trade is up 100%. Last year, Dominican exports to Great Britain totaled US$65 million, up 13% over 1997. Fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers make up a large part of the exports. He said that there has been an increase in British investment in the DR. British investors are primarily interested in investing in electricity, agriculture and industrial free zones.

US Consulate-Codetel call center opened
Those seeking information on the status of their application for a residence visa can now call 1-976-1000, from Monday to Friday, 8 to 5 pm. The new calling center, a joint venture of the US Consulate and Codetel-Opitel will provide information on the date of the appointments, status of the case, orientation on steps to follow, average waiting time between the different steps of the process, and other information that is constantly updated in the database. Carlos Espinal, president of Codetel, said that later this year, the call center will be expanded in order to provide information to those seeking a tourist or business visa. The cost of each call is RD$20.

Fed Ex to open fourth DR office
Dianne M. Stokely, president of Federal Express for Latin America and the Caribbean, visited the DR last week. Stokely said that the Fed Ex operations in the DR are second behind those of Puerto Rico in the area. Fed Ex in the DR processes 1,000 calls a day. The company is installing a new customer service office to better serve its clients. Fed Ex has three offices in Santo Domingo and one in Santiago.

Miss DR to be chosen 20 March
The pageant to elect the Dominican Republic's representative in the Miss Universe pageant will take place 20 March at the Salon La Fiesta of the Hotel Jaragua. Miss Dominican Republic will then travel to Trinidad and Tobago where the event will be held in May.

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