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Daily News - 12 March 1999

President calls for more US investment in region
During the summit of leaders of Central America (including Belize and Panama), the DR and U.S. held yesterday in Antigua, Guatemala, President Leonel Fernández called on U.S. President Bill Clinton to find ways to stimulate more U.S. investment flows to the region. "We don’t have another option," he declared. "If we don’t do it, thousands of Central Americans, just like thousands of Dominicans affected by the poverty or politics will continue putting their lives in danger, traveling to the North, crossing the waters of the Caribbean Sea in search of a better situation in the United States." He indicated to Clinton his interest in concluding soon a bilateral agreement on protection of intellectual property (IP) and a bilateral investment treaty (BIT). Noting that Hurricanes Georges and Mitch had destroyed or hurt much of the productive sectors in Central America and the DR, he asserted that "now more than ever foreign investment is the basic ingredient for transforming and reconstructing our economies."

Clinton promises action on immigration, deportations
As promised, President Fernández raised with President Clinton problems the DR sees in the current immigration policy of the U.S. and the negative effect upon Central American and Dominican economies and societies of massive U.S. deportations of aliens who have finished serving a criminal sentence. Clinton recognized the impact such deportations can have, and promised to use the full flexibility open to him under current law to stem the tide until Central American and Dominican economies can recover fully from the effects of the 1998 hurricanes. He said, however, that could by its nature only be a temporary measure, and that the problem really needs to be addressed through a legislative reform of current law. He promised that his Administration will submit a proposal for immigration reform that would address this and other issues.

Dialogue resumes this afternoon
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 resume today at the National Palace at 6 pm. This will be the third dialogue meeting – the first, on Wednesday, March 3rd, agreed on the agenda, and the second, Friday, March 5th, was the first substantive session. Today’s session is expected to return to two key issues discussed last Friday, namely the election of the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) and the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE). There are conflicting signals about whether the three parties believe any progress can be made in this dialogue, many of them coming from the PRSC. Earlier this week it was revealed that PRSC leaders were studying alternatives to the dialogue because they were not satisfied with its direction. Then PRSC leaders suggested that they be more receptive to a PRD suggestion on the LMD if the PRD was more flexible about the JCE. In a nutshell, the PRSC suggests that it might agree to having the LMD governed by a group of eminent persons (instead of ex-PRSC Senator Amable Aristy Castro) until the courts decide who is the legal LMD SG, but only if the PRSC gets the resignation of all or some of the current JCE (something the PRD has adamantly and repeatedly refused to agree to).

PLD, PRSC ask for halt in JCE cedula issuance
The PLD and PRSC delegates to the JCE yesterday petitioned to have the Board halt issuance of voter identity cards ("cedulas"). The requests were prompted by Wednesday’s admission by JCE President Ramón Morel Cerda that the Board had mistakenly issued "cedulas" to Haitians and other foreign nationals. That 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. Both parties urge that the issuance of cedulas be halted until the current voter registration list can be purged of fraudulent cardholders and JCE can set up effective controls to ensure that the problem is not repeated.

Government has been subsidizing CDE, CEA, AMET fuel
For over a week journalists have been asking Central Bank and government officials to explain why Bank and Finance Ministry figures do not match regarding 1998 the petrol tax thereon known as "the differential." This petrol tax was imposed upon most petroleum-derived fuels by the Fernández Government with the express purpose of paying off external debt, with collections to be deposited directly with the Central Bank. After various conflicting explanations from Bank and government sources, Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás yesterday cleared up the mystery. He admitted that in 1998 some RD$1.45 billion of the revenues collected from the petrol tax did not go to paying debt, but rather were used to subsidize activities of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE), the State Sugar Council (CEA) and "the modernization of public transport" [presumably an allusion to the start-up of the new OMSA buses routes in Santo Domingo under direction of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET)]. He explained that when revenue amounts generated exceeded those needed to make scheduled debt payments, the extra "went to the public sector." He promised that, starting in July 1999, ALL revenue generated will go to the Bank for debt payment, even when it exceeds that needed for scheduled payments. This revelation by the Government is likely to spark renewed calls from business and community organizations for a cut in the petrol tax, so that the average consumer and the economy at-large can benefit from cost savings.

Study finds erosion in North Coast beaches
A diagnostic study done by Cuban and Spanish consultants to the Tourism Ministry (SECTUR) has found significant erosion in key beaches of the North Coast, namely Sosúa and Cabarete. The preliminary study done by the firms CADIC and CESIGMA says that the beaches from Río San Juan to the western edge of Cabarete is experiencing serious erosion, particularly in the western portion of Cabarete. The situation in Sosúa is not as bad but needs attention. The consultants say that the causes are both natural and man-made, included the extraction of materials from the beach for construction purposes. They recommend both engineering solutions and regulatory changes in order to address the erosion detected and keep it from recurring.

DR’s largest commercial center opens in SD
Yesterday was the grand opening of the Multicentro Churchill in Santo Domingo, said to be the largest commercial center ever built in the DR. The ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the mall was done by Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal (on behalf of President Fernández, who was out of the country) and Román Ramos Uría, President of the Grupo Ramos, which built the mall. The anchors for the mall will be Pola Supermarket and La Sirena department store, both Grupo Ramos companies. Already in the mall are also Codetel, Banco Popular, Banco de Reservas, Banco Mercantil, Punto Expreso, Centro Optico Espaillat Cabral, Pollos Victorina, Pizarelli and Helados Nestle. The mall cost about RD$300 million to build and has 60,000 cubic feet of space. It is located on Churchill Avenue between Gustavo Mejía Ricart and Angel Severo Cabral.
During the inauguration ceremony, Ramos Uría announced that this year his firm will build a similar mall in the eastern portion of the city (i.e., east of the Ozama River) on Avenida Charles de Gaulle.

Vice President criticizes inattention to wastewater problem
Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal yesterday criticized harshly the attitude of most Dominicans, including business and professional sectors, regarding the problem of wastewater. The keynote speaker at a seminar on the management of liquid wastes held yesterday at the Hotel Melía in Santo Domingo, the Vice President said that Dominicans constantly call for building projects without giving thought to the consequences for the sewer and water treatment systems (where they exist). People want government money spent on new projects, not maintenance of existing water purification and wastewater treatment facilities. And they do not demand changes in wastewater discharges polluting the nation’s waterways. "We have never heard some sector of the population protesting in front of a factory that discharges wastes into the waters of our rivers, never have we seen our people nor the professional sector protesting in front of the eco-suicide that is being committed in the Dominican Republic with the discharge of liquid wastes or wastewater in the Ozama, Higüamo, Yaqui and other rivers." He said local functionaries and professionals in charge of this problem focus more on laying sewer lines and pipes rather than treatment facilities, which simply means that the problem is transported out of the sight of locals to contaminate another spot. They never think about the effect such practices ultimately might have on their drinking water supply. He asserted that the Fernández Government is trying its best to address this issue, that it is being given priority by the new National Environmental Protection Institute (INPRA). Yesterday’s seminar was cosponsored by the Santo Domingo Aqueduct and Sewer Corporation (CAASD) and the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA).

Narcizaso case witness requests special protection
The judge in charge of the investigation into the 1994 disappearance (and presumed murder) of university law professor Narciso González ("Narcizaso") has requested special security protection for one of the witnesses in the case. Judge Eduardo Sánchez Ortíz asked the District Attorney for the National District (DN), the National Directorate of Investigation (DNI) and the National Police (PN) to provide special protection for Carlos Batista, brother of Captain Silvestre Ferreras Batista. Before his death in a "suspicious" traffic accident, the captain reportedly told his brother that he saw Narcizaso alive in a jail cell at San Isidro airbase. It has long been suspected that the Air Force’s intelligence unit, A-2, picked up Narcizaso for questioning and had something to do with his disappearance. Narcizaso was a vocal critic of then-President Joaquín Balaguer, and one of the loudest voices alleging fraud in the May 1994 presidential elections. Batista would not be the first person in this case granted special security protection: Paulina Alba, who worked in dispatch of the Armed Forces at the time, had been given protection once she testified that she overhead General Constino Matos Villanueva issue an order by telephone that Narcizaso be transferred to a PN Palace jail cell. General Matos Villanueva was recently ordered by Judge Sánchez Ortíz to be held in preventive detention.

New hospitals
Work started this week to build a new 120-bed hospital in Herrera, in the western edge of Santo Domingo. The hospital has been called for by residents and businesses in the area for years, and has been promised before by both the Balaguer and Fernández governments. It is being constructed by the firm Ingma on the grounds of the Employees Club of the Banco Agrícola. In a related development, yesterday Public Health Minister Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino signed a US$8 million contract with Hoop Hospital International to build a new 130-bed provincial hospital in Monte Plata. The company has promised the Public Health Ministry (SESPAS) to initiate construction on the Monte Plata hospital just as soon as Congress approves the loan, and that it will be ready for use within 12 months of groundbreaking.

Schedule announced for Music Festival
The schedule for the Second Music Festival of Santo Domingo to be held at the National Theater March 10-20. The Festival is being directed by pianist and conductor Philippe Entremont. The schedule continues as follows:
March 12 – The Canadian Brass, a quintet known for mixing music with humor
March 13 – The music of Rossini, Mozart and Mahler, with the Festival Orchestra and featuring violin prodigy Shunsuke Sato and Metropolitan Opera House soprano Rebecca Copley
March 15 – piano duo Christopher O’Riley and Pablo Ziegler, interpreting the music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzola
March 16 – Vienna Chamber Orchestra, directed by Entremont, playing the music of Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky
March 17 – "American Night" with the Festival Orchestra, directed by Carlos Pianitini, and featuring Richard Stoltzman on clarinet, playing the music of Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin
March 19 – "Spanish Night," featuring "The Royal Family of Guitar," the Romeros
March 20 – "French Night," with the Festival Orchestra directed by Entremont and featuring French cellist Anne Gastinel, playing the music of Debussy, Saint-Saens and Berlioz.
For information about tickets, contact the Teatro Nacional or the Fundación Sinfonía at 809-532-6600, or by fax at 809-533-1941.

Mets & Expos to play exhibition in Santo Domingo
US Major League baseball’s Hall of Famer Juan Marichal will throw the first ball, after Juan Luis Guerra, the reknown Dominican contemporary merengue king, signs the National Anthem. The anthems of Canada and the US will be sung by soprano Ivonne Haza and tenor Henry Ely. This sets the stage for the first time two US Major League baseball teams hold a spring training exhibition game in the DR. The New York Mets matches the Montreal Expos in a two-day series at Santo Domingo’s remodeled Quisqueya Ball Park, 12-13 March. The games will be held at 7:30 pm on Friday and 2 pm on Saturday and will also be televised. For the first time, Dominicans will be able to watch manager Felipe Rojas Alou leading players Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero. Bobby Valentine, who played with the Licey Tigers years ago, will be managing the New York Mets.
The roster of the Expos is: Brian Schneider, John Pachot, Darron Cox, Francisco Morales (catchers); Fernando Seguignol, Wilton Guerrero, Geoff Blum, Shane Andrews, Tomas de la Rosa, Jose Fernandez, Jose Vidro (infielders); Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Martinez, Chris Stowers, Derrick May, Ryan McGuire, James Mouton, Peter Bergeron (outfielders); Tony Armas, Miguel Batista, Matt Blank, Keith Evans, Rick DeHart, Dan Smith, Syane Bennett, Anthony Telford, Roberto Duran and Javier Vazquez (pitchers).
The roster of the Mets is: Pedro Grifol, Todd Pratt, Yovanny Valera (catchers); Jermaine Allensworth, Bobby Bonilla, Jerry Brooks, Roger Cedeno, Juan Lebron (infielders); Edgardo Alfonzo, Mariano Duncan, Todd Haney, Mike Kinkade, Rey Ordonez, Craig Paquette, Robin Ventura (outfielders); Rigo Beltran, Armando Benitez, Octavio Dotel, Mark Guerra, Josias Manzanillo, Rick Reed, Derek Wallace, Allen Watson, Paul Wilson (pitchers).

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