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Daily News - 16 March 1999

Canadian-led consortium wins airport bid
The Government announced last night that a Canadian-led consortium, Aeropuertos Dominicanos Siglo XXI ("Aerodom"), won the bidding for a contract to operate four of the DR’s airports. In a formal ceremony convened by the Public Works Minister Diandino Peña but presided over by President Leonel Fernández, yesterday’s rumors that Aerodom had won were formally confirmed. The contract now goes to the Congress for formal approval. The four airports involved are Las Américas International (AILA) (Santo Domingo), Gregorio Luperón (Puerto Plata-Sosúa), María Montez (Barahona) and Arroyo Barril (Samaná). The consortium promises to invest US$203 million (US$96 million in AILA, US$47 million in Gregorio Luperón, US$55 million Arroyo Barril and US$5 million in María Montez) in a 24-month program to improve the infrastructure of all four airports to meet project traffic increases until the year 2015, and then a second round of improvements worth US$106 million (US$52 million, US$32 million, US$14 million, US$8 million, respectively) to meet needs until the year 2030. It also promises to invest US$85 million during the contract period to promote and foster tourism in the Dominican Republic. Under the terms of the concession, the government can at any time during the first 20 years demand changes in modernization plans for the airports. The consortium’s investments are guaranteed not to raise present taxes on passengers and cargo, although it is allowed to impose a special US$5 charge for the use of Arroyo Barril airport in Samaná. The Aerodom consortium includes U.S.-based Ogden Aviation Services, Canada-based Vancouver Airport Services (YVR), Italy-based Impregilio and DR-based Operaciones Aeroportuarias del Caribe (OPASA).

US Asst. Secretary of State meets with President
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Peter Romero met with President Fernández yesterday at the National Palace. The U.S. official also met separately with the nation’s Attorney-General and the President of the Supreme Court. In a subsequent press conference, Romero said that he expressed to each his government’s concern over recent political disputes in the Dominican Republic and to urge that these in no way be allowed to interfere with plans for national elections in May 2000. He said that President Fernández had assured him that the parties were discussing their differences in a positive atmosphere under the political dialogue that Fernández convened. While welcoming the dialogue, Romero said that none of its agreements should "impact negatively" Dominican democratic processes, including the elections. Romero said that he also discussed with President Fernández the U.S. concern over Dominican protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs).

It’s official: Santiago sisters committed suicide
The official forensic report released yesterday confirmed what has been suspected since the teenage Albino sisters were found dead in Santiago: the two committed suicide by consuming rat poison. The girls, 13 and 15, had been found on March 9th in an advanced stage of decay, rat poison at their side, with no signs of violence or struggle. Forensic pathologists from the Santiago Institute of Forensic Pathology confirmed that the autopsy confirmed that the cause of death was ingestion of the same rat poison found at the scene, and that the girls’ bodies showed no signs or struggle or sexual violation. It was also revealed yesterday the previously undisclosed fact that a note had been found at the scene, but officials refused to reveal the contents of the note, saying that was "a private family matter." The forensic report was delivered to the District Attorney. The case gained national attention because a nationwide search for them was mounted after they were reported missing on February 26th. At the time the National Police were operating under the theory that the girls had been kidnapped and were in a brothel in some tourist area.

Cadet to resign government post
Lidio Cadet announced yesterday that he will shortly submit his resignation to President Fernández from his post as Minister without portfolio. The announcement came on the heels of the election of José Tomás Pérez to replace Cadet as the new Secretary-General (SG) of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Cadet that while his Minister post was not formally tied to the SG position, in reality most of the job had to do with interaction between the Party and the Government, so it did not make sense for him to leave one post and not the other.

PRD to insist on LMD position in dialogue
The directorate of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), the Presidium, decided yesterday to insist on its current stance regarding the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) when the political dialogue is reconvened at the National Palace. The PRD is calling for a group of eminent persons be appointed to run the LMD until the courts can decide who is the real SG of the League. On January 26th parallel national municipal assemblies were held, one where PLD and Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) delegates "elected" then-Senator Amable Aristy Castro (PRSC-Altagracia) as SG, another where PRD delegates chose to "re-elect" the prior SG, Julio Maríñez Rosario of the PRD. The courts have been asked to decide which election was legal and who should govern the League. "Amable Aristy Castro is an insurmountable barrier," insisted PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, who yesterday was designated by the Presidium as the party’s sole spokesman regarding matters in the dialogue.

Trade Negotiations Committee expanded
The Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that the interagency Trade Negotiations Committee (CNNC) has been expanded to formally include four more entities: the Tourism Ministry (SECTUR), the Customs Directorate-General, the Office of the Lomé Convention Coordinator and the Office of Investment Promotion (OPI). The expansion was mandated by President Fernández via Decree 74-99. The CNNC was created by Fernández in 1997 as a mechanism to coordinate the government'’ approach to trade negotiations. The CNNC already includes the Ministries of Foreign Affairs ("Chancellery"), Agriculture and Industry and Commerce, as well as the Technical Secretary and Legal Advisor of the Presidency, the Central Bank, and the Dominican Center for Export Promotion (CEDOPEX). The CNNC is chaired by the Chancellery.

Caribbean-U.S. Trade & Investment Forum Opens Today
The Caribbean-U.S. First Trade and Investment Forum will formally open tonight at 7 pm with a welcoming ceremony at the Museo de las Casas Reales in the Colonial Zone. The event really kicks off, however, at 9 am tomorrow at the Jaragua Hotel in Santo Domingo, where it will continue until closing at 5:30 pm on Thursday, March 18th. The inaugural session tomorrow morning will feature welcomes from President Fernández, Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rosselló, and Dr. Jules Wijdenbosch, President of Suriname and current President of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Eddy Martínez, Executive Director of OPI and the General Coordinator of the Forum’s Organizing Committee.

Hermann: tramway is not a sure thing
Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) Director Hamlet Hermann told the news daily El Siglo yesterday that, all impressions to the contrary given in recent weeks, the tramway project for Santo Domingo is by no means a sure thing. He revealed that AMET originally opposed the proposal, and that he retains serious doubts about its possibilities to become profitable. He said that the original feasibility study was only done because France, which financed the study, has been pushing the idea for years and insisted that a study be done. He pointed out that even the study suggests that in order for the project to cover costs it would require about 12,000 passengers moved per hour, and that this is not projected to occur until the year 2005, implying some five years of deficits. He questioned the need for the tram project, saying that AMET’s current efforts to establish reliable and efficient bus service may preclude the need for it.

DGII: business tax dodgers must register by April 8th
The Directorate-General of Internal Revenue (DGII) has given until April 8th a group of some 7,000 companies that have never registered for tax purposes to sign up and "regularize’ their tax reporting. The deadline applies to companies formed prior to 1996. The companies have to add their names to the National Register of Taxpayers (RNC), pay up taxes due and pay a RD$10,000 fine for not having previously registered.

Airport operations netting drug "mules"
The National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) held a press conference yesterday to display large quantities of drugs recently seized in the nation’s airports and to discuss the cases of several "mules" – people hired to transport drugs – captured during the last week with cocaine and heroine. In one case, two Ecuadorians and one Dominican were captured at Punta Cana Airport after debarking from a flight from Colombia. The two Ecuadorians had cocaine packets in their stomachs – 121 in one, totaling 69 grams, and 104 in another, totaling 1,031 grams. The Dominican was arrested as an accomplice. In another case, a Venezuelan was arrested and has disgorged 84 packets of heroine, with a total weight of 999.5 grams. In a fourth case, at Puerto Plata’s Gregorio Luperón Airport, a woman fled from the airport while her baggage was being searched. The bags contained 53 grams of cocaine.

AMD calls for 24-hr work stoppage in Cibao today
The Dominican Medical Association (AMD) has called for a 24-hour work stoppage today by all doctors in all public hospitals and clinics in the Cibao region. During the 24-hour period beginning at 8 am this morning, doctors will only attend emergencies. Private clinics are not affected. A similar work stoppage was held in Santo Domingo last week, and is part of an AMD effort to pressure President Fernández to negotiate directly with them regarding a pay hike they are demanding. Prior negotiations with Public Health Minister Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino were recently broken off by AMD – the doctors’ group say that it no longer trusts her to negotiate in good faith and will only deal with the President.

Mao Hospital director murdered, subdirector seriously wounded
The Director of the Luis L. Bogaert regional hospital in Mao, Salcedo province, was murdered yesterday by a hospital colleague. According to witnesses, Dr. Marciano Santos Salado approached hospital director Dr. Jorge Antonio Guerrero as he boarded his car in the hospital parking lot and shot him dead without saying a word. Santos Salado also shot hospital subdirector Dr. José Leclerc, who was accompanying his boss when the tragedy occurred. At last word Dr. Leclerc was in serious condition, with a bullet abutting his spinal column. After shooting his colleagues, Santos Salado immediately departed in his own vehicle. The Police have not yet detained Dr. Santos Salado. According to hospital workers, Drs. Guerrero and Santos Salado never got along well and had just had an argument shortly before the incident. Luis L. Bogeart Hospital is considered the most important public hospital in the DR’s northeast.

Stores given 10 days to meet cement price ceiling
The Industry and Commerce Ministry announced yesterday that it will allow a 10-day grace period for stores to comply with its recent surprise decision to cap cement prices at RD$76 per bag of Portland-style cement. Currently such bags are selling anywhere from RD$78 to RD$86, depending on hardware store location.

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