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Daily News - 10 March 1999

President leaves for Guatemala today
President Leonel Fernández travels to Guatemala today to attend the Summit of Central American nations (including Belize and Panama) and the DR with U.S. President Bill Clinton. The Summit will be held in Antigua, the colonial capital of Guatemala. Although the Summit is due to touch on a long list of topics, President Fernández is expected to lead a push by the Latin Americans to get a commitment from President Clinton to do whatever it takes to get passage in 1999 of the "textile parity" bill, which would put textiles from all Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) nations on the same market access footing in the U.S. as those from Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Other topics due to be discussed are reconstruction after Hurricanes Georges and Mitch, migration, external debt, environment and the fight against narcotics trafficking. Traveling in the Dominican delegation with President Fernández are Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre, Industry and Commerce Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti, Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás, President of the National Drug Board (CND) Marino Vinicio Castillo and the Director of the Office of Investment Promotion (OPI), Eddy Martínez.

OAS SG says DR a model for Latin America
Pointing to recent economic figures released by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and others, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General (SG) César Gaviria said that the DR is on the road to becoming a role model for the rest of the region. Speaking to the news daily El Siglo during a break in the meeting of the Review and Implementation Group for the Summit of the Americas being held this week in Santo Domingo, the OAS SG and ex-Colombian President lauded the DR’s economic growth, its opening to the global economy and its commitment to democracy. He said that the DR "is living through a dizzying process of growth, economic modernization and political changes that have no parallel in your history." "This doesn’t mean that in the Dominican Republic that there are no problems, or adjustments or tasks yet to be realized," he added. "But without a doubt I am certain that you will reach agreements that will allow you to fortify your democracy."

PLD doesn’t want dialogue televised, PRSC does
Although Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina has declared that the National Palace will study seriously PRD request to televise the political dialogue being undertaken at the National Palace at the invitation of President Leonel Fernández, his party wants the idea rejected. Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) SG Lidio Cadet expressed to reporters yesterday his party’s opposition to the PRD proposal. "The more prudent thing is to maintain the methodology that we’ve been using, [namely talking behind] closed doors and at the end give an explanation of what was agreed." Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal also said that televised sessions could spoil the dialogue because politicians might be less inclined to make concessions under the light of the cameras.
In contrast, Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) leaders Donald Reid Cabral, Jacinto Peynado and Johnny Jones announced last night that the PRSC’s Executive Committee decided that it had no objection to the PRD request. Reid Cabral said that the PRSC hopes it can be televised, since "it would be a more transparent conversation, everybody would have the right to see what is happening and who is who in this situation." According to Hoy newspaper, Felix Jimenez, one of the PLD representative at the talks, was whom originally proposed the idea.

Senate approves General Health Law
The Senate last night approved on second reading the draft General Health Law. The measure was approved by 17 of the 18 Senators present after voting down a motion by a Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) Senator, Dr. Bautista Rojas Gómez, to force the measure to be read aloud article-by-article. The measure now goes to the Chamber of Deputies, where it stalled in the last legislative session.

Chamber condemns radioactive waste barge
The Chamber of Deputies yesterday adopted a resolution condemning the passage of the barge Pacific Swan through Caribbean waters. The barge is carrying radioactive wastes to Japan. Its passage has been condemned by the legislatures of several Caribbean nations. The Chamber’s resolution was introduced by PRSC Deputy Ramón Rogelio Genao Durán. One of his colleagues supporting the measure, Deputy Angela Jáquez, said that the barge’s passage and the DR’s current inability to legally stop it from passing close to the island point to the need for DR ratification of the 1989 Basel Convention on the Transfrontier Movements of Hazardous Solid Wastes. The DR is one of the few Latin American and Caribbean nations that has not ratified the treaty.

IDB approves US$21.5 million loan
The InterAmerican Development Bank yesterday approved a new US$21.5 million loan to the DR to modernize its public sector. The Dominican government is providing US$5.3 million in cofinancing. The 20-year loan has a 4½-year grace period and an interest rate of 6.98%. The loan is intended to help modernize the state institutions involved in social and economic policymaking. Among other things, it will finance the creation of a new interagency Macroeconomic Policy Coordinating Committee, add a Office of Macroeconomic Advisors to the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, and strengthen the National Planning Office’s (ONAPLAN) role in social policymaking.

PRD asks its Senators to be flexible
Leaders of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) held a meeting with its senators yesterday and asked them to be more flexible about passing Executive Branch proposals for loans and laws. The 2½-hour meeting was held in the offices of Senate President Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata), although he did not attend because he is traveling abroad. PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero led the meeting, along with PRD Presidium members Tony Raful, Vicente Sánchez Baret, Ivelisse Prats de Pérez and ex-President Salvador Jorge Blanco. Although the Presidium members refused to talk to the press afterwards, one of the senators attending it told the news daily El Siglo off-the-record that the senators were urged to "be more flexible" about approving certain measures, especially those considered important for the development and modernization of the country. Among the measures mentioned by the source include the anti-corruption package just sent up to Congress by President Fernández last week, as well as a US$10 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help five provinces.
In a related story, in joint hearings yesterday, the Chairmen of the Senate Finance and External Public Debt Committees, Senators Darío Gómez (PRD-Santiago Rodríguez) and Enrique López (PRD-Monseñor Nouel), respectively, declared yesterday that they could not recommend approval of a loan agreement with the Banco España under its present terms. They object to a clause in the loan agreement which would allow the bank to impose a 1% penalty for every day the DR is late in making its payments. The Senators call the clause "excessive."

Agricultural inspections to be tightened at airports
The Agriculture Ministry has announced that it is installing a U.S.-style inspection system at airports to check all imports of fruit, vegetables and meat products for possible pests and diseases. Minister Amílcar Romero said that his Ministry is putting 40 new inspectors and special x-ray machines at the nation’s airports and maritime ports to check both tourists and cargo. The inspectors have been trained with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and will follow phytozoosanitary regime used in Puerto Rico.

USAID donates RD$55 million for reproductive health programs
In ceremonies held at the Public Health Ministry (SESPAS) yesterday, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced yesterday that it is donating RD$55 million to reproductive health programs conducted by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) here in cooperation with SESPAS. USAID also donated a mammography unit. The donations are part of a multi-year program that USAID has sponsored since 1993 and will continue until September 2000. The program has received RD$194 million since 1993. The NGOs working in the program are the National Association Pro-Family Well-being (Profamilia), the Dominican Association of Family Planning (Adoplafam) and Women in Development (Mude).

Authorities investigating charter plane incident
A review board of officials has been formed to investigate why a Spanish charter flight nearly ran off the runway on Monday evening at Gregorio Luperón Airport in Puerto Plata. The Airbus 310 plane was landing a charter flight from Madrid containing 248 tourists and 8 flight crew. The plane, operated by Air Plus Comet, experienced brake failure while landing and went most of the length of the runway, finally stopping just 50 meters from a canal. No passengers or crew suffered injuries. The plane has been grounded until the cause of the incident can be determined and fixed. A spokesman for the board, Air Force Lt. Colonel Enmanuel Souffont, said that there were no visible damages to the plane to explain the incident, but a team from the Airbus company has arrived to inspect it minutely.

Founder of UCE dies
One of the principal founders of the Central University of the East (UCE) died yesterday in the capital of natural causes. The well-known 85-year old lawyer, Dr. José Hazim Azar, had been experiencing kidney and cardiovascular problems since June 1998 and had been in and out of the hospital several times. His body was sent to San Pedro de Macorís (SPM) last night for people to pay last respects at UCE’s Library. He will be buried in SPM’s municipal cemetery today at 4:00 pm. In addition to his fame as UCE founder, Dr. Hazim was also well-known in his home town of SPM as a former mayor; the president of the local chamber of commerce; one of the catalysts for the creation of, and a past president of, the free trade zone ("zona franca") in SPM; one of the founders of the Banco Higuamo de Ahorros y Préstamos. His son is the Senator for SPM, Dr. José Hazím Frappier. Dr. Hazim Azar, a friend of ex-President Joaquín Balaguer since their university days together, had run for SPM Senator in 1990 as the PRSC candidate, but lost that race.

Santo Domingo Music Festival
The II Santo Domingo Music Festival, directed by Maestro Phillippe Entremont, opens today at the National Theater of Santo Domingo, concluding 20 March. Eight recitals are scheduled starring Edgar Nebolsin, The Canadian Brass, Shunsuke Sato, the Christopher O'Riley and Pablo Ziegler duo, Richard Stoltzman, Los Romeros and Anne Gastinel. The Festival is directed by Dominican Carlos Piantini and Frenchman Phillippe Entremont. The Vienna Boys' Choir is also scheduled for a performance at the National Theater, on 25 March.

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