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Daily News - 11 March 1999

President declares national mourning for Hazím Azar
President Leonel Fernández declared yesterday, today and tomorrow to be official nationwide days of mourning for the death of Dr. José Hazím Azar, and ordered flags at government and military sites to be lowered to half-mast. Dr. Hazím Azar died on Tuesday of natural causes and was buried yesterday in his beloved home town, San Pedro de Macorís (SPM). In addition to family and friends, large numbers of mourners came to pay their respects to the lawyer, including President Fernández, Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal, Chamber of Deputies President Rafael Peguero Méndez (Dominican Revolutionary Party – PRD), PRD Presidential candidate Hatuey Decamps, and ex-Vice President Jacinto Peynado (Reformist-Social Christian Party – PRSC). Unexplained was the absence of PRSC leader and ex-President Joaquín Balaguer. Dr. Hazim Azar had been a friend of Dr. Balaguer since their university days together, and had run for SPM Senator in 1990 as the PRSC candidate, but lost that race.
Dr. Hazím Azar is known as a visionary, who asked why not here, too, and promoted development in his impoverished hometown when many left for the greener pastures of the capital city of Santo Domingo. He was one of the principal founders of the Central University of the East (UCE) in 1970, pioneering in attracting foreign medical students to the DR. The university later purchased the UCE Medical Center on Ave. Máximo Gómez in Santo Domingo. He also promoted the arrival of a ferry boat that connected San Pedro with the city of Mayaguez, in Puerto Rico. In addition, Dr. Hazím Azar was also well-known in 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.

President to ask US to reconsider deportation policy
Upon his arrival last night in Guatemala to attend a summit of leaders of Central America (including Belize and Panama) and the DR with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Dominican President Fernández told reporters that he will ask President Clinton to reconsider U.S. policy of large-scale deportations of foreign nationals that have finished serving criminal sentences in U.S. jails. Acknowledging that it was a sensitive subject, Fernández said it must be raised nonetheless, particularly now during the period that the DR and Central American countries are trying to recover economically from Hurricanes Georges and Mitch. "A poor economy, affected this way, is not capable of receiving two or three thousand Dominicans repatriated because they were delinquents in the United States." He added that he was in no way denying the right of the U.S. as a sovereign nation to deport aliens that violate its laws.

JCE admits it has given cedulas to Haitians
The Central Election Board (JCE) yesterday admitted that it had mistakenly issued identity cards ("cedulas") to Haitians and other foreign nationals. The admission came after Migration Director-General Danilo Díaz delivered to the JCE his evidence backing charges to that effect that he made two weeks ago. JCE President Ramón Morel Cerda suggested that the JCE’s inability to detect the fraud was probably due to "technical failings" and announced a commission of three JCE technicians who will work with counterparts in the Migration Directorate-General to weed out similar frauds, take back cedulas from aliens who obtained theirs fraudulently, and work to establish controls to prevent similar problems in the future. "[Migration] have the advantage on us in that, because they have mechanisms to detect whether someone is Dominican or not that we do not possess," Morel Cerda explained. He promised that every improperly issued card detected will be investigated carefully, and if it is found that it was issued due to the "human error" or participation in fraud on the part of any JCE employee, "they will be sanctioned drastically."

Administration to submit amendments to tariff reform bill
The Director of the National Planning Office (ONAPLAN), Rafael Camilo, told reporters yesterday that the Fernández Administration will send to Congress next week a series of amendments to the draft tariff reform bill it submitted last autumn. Camilo explained that there will be no changes to the basic thrust of the law, but rather in tariff treatment of select sectors. Each change reflects recommendations made by businesses arguing that the changes originally proposed would harm them. The changes involve the pharmaceutical, plastics and graphics products.

PRD asks for halt in airport privatization
The PRD has sent a letter to President Fernández calling on his government to stop the process underway to "privatize" four of the nation’s airports. The PRD letter, signed by PRD President Emmanuel Esquea Guerrero, could not come at a worst time for the airport project. On January 12th the Airport Commission received bids from several consortia to gain long-term concessions to run Santo Domingo’s Las Américas International Airport (AILA), Puerto Plata’s Gregorio Luperon Airport, Samaná’s Arroyo Barril Airport and Barahona’s María Montez Airport. The bid winner is expected to be announced shortly, perhaps as early as next week. PRD claims that the bids cannot be awarded until Law 9-69 is changed by Congress. Article 2 of that law specifies that "all airports of the country will be under the control and responsibility of a specialized organization with legal personality and public ownership known as the Airport Commission, which will provide the administration, maintenance of the same..." Although the current concessions do not give away ownership of the airports to the private sector, they will hand over day-to-day management and maintenance thereof, and PRD argues that this will violate the current law.

DN will not give US Embassy security cordon requested
The Secretary of the National District (DN) government said yesterday that the DN could not agree to the U.S. Embassy request to block off streets surrounding the embassy in the Gazcue sector. Speaking at a press conference, Luis José Chávez said that while the American request will proceed through the channels, he gave it no chance of being approved. He cited two reasons, the first being that this particular request would seriously disrupt traffic flows. The Embassy is on a major West-East artery and sits between the National Library and the Central Bank. Secondly, if the DN agrees to this request, it will doubtless get a series of similar requests from other embassies and the several international organizations with offices in Santo Domingo.

New DR Ambassador to Canada
Before he left for Guatemala yesterday, President Fernández issued Decree 106-99, designating economist Julio Ortega as the new Dominican Ambassador to Canada. President Fernández during his address to the nation on Independence Day (February 27th) that he would reopen the Dominican embassy in Ottawa and send an ambassador to Canada. The DR closed its embassy in Canada 20 years ago. The appointment was well-received by business organizations, many of whom have long lobbied for a higher-level presence in Ottawa in light of strong Canada-DR economic ties.

Doctors’ strike in Santo Domingo tomorrow
The Dominican Medical Association (AMD) has called a 24-hour strike in all public hospitals in the DN beginning 8 am and ending at the same hour on Saturday morning. During that period doctors will only attend emergencies at those hospitals. Private clinics are not affected. The work stoppage may be just the first step in the AMD’s "battle plan" to get a large pay hike. The AMD wants the government to grant an over the board increase, the government wants the increases to be on a merit base as several government medics hold their primary jobs in the private sector. Earlier this week AMD announced that it no longer wants to negotiate the raise with Public Health Minister, Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino, whom it says it no longer trusts to negotiate in good faith. It is demanding direct talks with President Fernández. The AMD’s National Assembly has authorized the Executive Committee to invoke a full-fledged strike, lead marches on the National Palace and occupy airports, public offices and tourism spots. Dr. Guzmán Marcelino has urged AMD to drop such tactics and to return to the bargaining table, arguing that work stoppages only hurt the health of the poor. Most poor Dominicans go to public hospitals, where technically speaking health care is free (although patients often must pay for supplies). Those on company health plans or better-off go to private clinics.
In a related development, the Dominican Association of Graduated Nurses (ADEG), the group representing nurses with formal degrees, announced that it too is formulating a battle plan that might include a nurses’ strike. ADEG says that the government is not keeping its promise to raise their very low salaries 101%. ADEG says that the government has actually only given nurses a 25% raise, despite government claims to the contrary.

Book fair will honor 10 Dominican authors
The Second International Book Fair which opens April 22nd on the grounds of the National Conservatory in Santo Domingo will have each of its days dedicated to honoring a designated Dominican author. The Fair itself is dedicated to National Poet Pedro Mir, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his book "Hay un país en el mundo." On each day of the fair there will be a presentation at 10 am dedicated to the author and his or her works. The authors and their days are:
Friday, April 23rd Francisco Gregorio Billini, author of "Baní o Engracia y Antoñita"
Saturday, April 24th Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla, poet
Sunday, April 25th Domingo Moreno Jimenes, poet and founder of the DR’s post-humanism movement
Monday, April 26th Mariano Lebrón Saviñón, winner of this year’s National Literature Prize
Tuesday, April 27th Aurora Tavárez Belliard, educator
Wednesday, April 28th Franklin Mieses Burgos, a leading contemporary poet
Thursday, April 29th Vigil Díaz, poet and founder of VedrinismoFriday, April 30th Antonio Fernández Spencer, poet and critic
Saturday, May 1st Francisco Domínguez Charro, poet
Sunday, May 2nd Juan Sánchez Lamouth, poet

Flamenco star at National Theater in April
Sara Baras, widely considered the best female flamenco dancer performing in the world today, will give two performances at the National Theater April 6th and 7th. Her flamenco show, "Sensaciones" ("Sensations"), has been a big success in Europe. The press there says that "she has fire in her feet." Her show includes eight other dancers and seven musicians.

French jazz group records CD in colonial ruins
The French jazz group formerly known as "Illouz" currently is in Santo Domingo recording a new compact disc in the San Francisco ruins of SD’s Colonial Zone. They will give a concert tonight at 8:30 pm in the ruins, with much of the music expected to go on the CD. Entrance to the concert is just RD$100, and can be purchased ahead of time at the National Theater. The group, led by trumpet player Antione Illouz, has been restructured to include three Dominican musicians and renamed "Reserve." The concert is being sponsored by the French Embassy and the Alliance France, with help from the Tourism Ministry (SECTUR), the Historical Monuments Commission and the National Theater. The National Theater is also sponsoring Reserve performances in San Pedro de Macorís on Friday, March 12th, Wednesday March 17th at the Grand Regional Theater of the Cibao in Santiago, and Thursday March 18th in Puerto Plata.

Santo Domingo Music Festival underway
The II Santo Domingo Music Festival, directed by Maestro Phillippe Entremont, opened yesterday 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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