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Daily News - 17 March 1999

Hope of a breakthrough in dialogue
The various participants left the fourth session of the political dialogue at the National Palace yesterday claiming significant progress in the talks and suggesting that Thursday’s session may bring actual concrete agreements. The "moderators" (not mediators) and official spokesmen for the dialogue, monsignors Agripino Núñez Collado and Francisco José Arnáiz, said that the four-hour session yesterday evening had been "the most productive yet." Núñez Collado said that the delegates from the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) had "analyzed concrete proposals" and as a result the dialogue "advanced notably in solving the more sensitive points of top agenda items." "Top agenda items" is code for the disputes over the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE) and who should be the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). The priests said that the dialogue participants agreed to convene again on Thursday at 4 pm in order to take advantage of the positive momentum in the talks.
The dialogue was an initiative of President Fernández, who proposed that leaders of all three major parties meet with him at the National Palace to resolve their differences in a "historic pact" to guarantee democratic stability and peaceful and fair presidential elections in the year 2000. In addition to the JCE and LMD questions, the dialogue has agreed to discuss (1) the election of the Chamber of Deputies directorate; (2) the selection of the Chamber of Accounts (Cámara de Cuentas); (3) President Fernández’s proposal to convene a Constituent Assembly in May 2001 to reform the Constitution.
Questioned by reporters, dialogue participants refused to provide details of yesterday discussions, but all agreed that progress had been made. PRSC leader Donald Reid Cabral characterized yesterday’s session as "extremely fruitful...we are very near an agreement" regarding the LMD. Outgoing PLD SG Lidio Cadet also called yesterday’s session "the most fruitful yet." PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero said that "The dialogue has been successful...we are advancing on everything."
Why the movement? Reporters following all the various players noted that yesterday at noon President Fernández called in PLD delegates Danilo Medina and Félix Ramón Jiménez to his office, reputedly to discuss a draft PLD proposal on the LMD. Shortly thereafter the two were seen entering the home of ex-President Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, presumably to explain the proposal to the PRSC head. Meanwhile a PRSC delegation met yesterday with Amable Aristy Castro, the former Reformista Senator for Altagracia Province who was "elected" by one of two national municipal assemblies on January 26th as one of two men contending for the SG post at the LMD [the other assembly "re-elected" PRD candidate Julio Maríñez Rosario]. PRD has said from the start of the dialogue that a group of eminent persons should be appointed to run the LMD until the courts can sort out who is the proper SG, Aristy Castro or Maríñez Rosario.

PRD wants to bring socioeconomic issues into dialogue
PRD President Esquea Guerrero told reporters yesterday that his Party plans to raise a number of socioeconomic issues in the political dialogue once the LMD and JCE agenda items are concluded. Among the issues he says that the PRD intends to raise are (1) higher salaries for teachers and doctors; (2) improvements in public hospitals; (3) improvements in the school breakfast program; (4) reconstructing neighborhood roads; (5) lowering the cost of petrol sold at the pump.

Senate approves export promotion bill
The Senate yesterday approved on second reading the Export Reactivation and Incentives bill, which now goes to the Chamber of Deputies to be accepted or rejected. The bill approved yesterday is a fusion between the original proposal submitted by the Executive Branch and a rival bill drafted by Senators of the opposition PRD. Among other things, the bill calls for the rebate of tariffs and import rights (such as quotas) on primary materials, intermediate goods, inputs, labels and packaging imported when those items are incorporated into goods exported from Dominican territory. On this point, the bill’s version yesterday includes an amendment suggested by the Executive Branch and sponsored by the PLD senators that specifies that the value of the drawbacks should not exceed that of the import taxes paid by the exporter for the inputs.

Senate approves first reading of procurement bill
The Senate yesterday approved on first reading a bill that would prohibit the government to avoid rules on submitting public works to open bidding by chopping the same project into smaller pieces. The bill, proposed by the Chairman of the Justice Committee, Milton Ray Guevara (PRD-Samaná), would require any project whose total value is over RD$3 million must be put up for open public bidding. Public works valued between RD$2-3 million would be decided by a drawing organized by the College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA). Guevara argues that the bill is needed because the practice of dividing up project to avoid bidding rules is a common practice and "a major source of corruption in the Dominican Republic."

CONEP & UNE express interest in dollarization concept
The heads of two important DR business associations have expressed their support for the idea of "dollarizing" the Dominican economy, i.e., pegging the Dominican peso explicitly to the U.S. dollar at a 1:1 ratio, or creating a single monetary unit for the Western Hemisphere anchored to the dollar. Interviewed by the news daily Listin Diario, both Celso Marranzini, president of the National Council of Private Enterprises (CONEP), and Andrés Dauhajre, president of the National Union of Businessmen (UNE), said that the idea of a single currency offers more benefits than drawbacks. Marranzini expressed particularly strong support, saying that dollarization would stop the headache of devaluations, eliminate fiscal deficits, maintain the purchasing power of Dominicans and facilitate trade flows. But he cautioned that the switch to dollarization will be gradual, even among economies (such as the DR’s) already heavily influenced by the dollar. Marranzini said that CONEP is considering organizing a seminar to bring together businessmen, government officials, economists, political party leaders and other interested parties to examine and the debate the idea. Meanwhile, Ignacio Méndez, head of the Association of Industrial Firms of Herrera (AEIH), while acknowledging possible benefits of a single currency, declared that "so far we see it as a utopia, an economic philosophy discussion." He pointed out that it took the European Union (EU) decades to adopt a single currency.

Public Works fixing highway link to Haiti
Public Works Minister Diandino Peña announced yesterday that his Ministry has begun work to reconstruct the international highway linking the DR with Haiti. The initial phase, he said, is focusing on places where land slides and shifts caused by heavy rains have created serious obstacles, namely those near Angel Féliz, Sabana Real, Cacique Enriquillo and Los Pinos del Edén.

Cable association pledges to expel pirates
The President of the Dominican Association of Cable Companies (ADEC), Frank Jorge Elías, announced to reporters yesterday that ADEC’s assembly has agreed to expel any member found pirating television signals from satellites. The measure is the latest of steps announced by government and business groups to avoid being named priority violators of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the U.S. Special 301 trade law, and thus targeted for trade sanctions.

Controller-General to start monitoring government income
The Republic’s Controller-General – essentially the country’s internal auditor – announced yesterday that his office will start inspecting government offices’ intake of taxes, tariffs and fees. Haivanjoe Ng Cortiñas explained that while the CG’s Office has long inspected how government offices manage and spend funds, until now it had not inspected income flows on a permanent basis. The CG’s office has acquired and trained 15 tax and tariff specialists and set up a modern computerized facility for them to operate from. Ng Cortiñas noted that inspecting income flows will be one of the central topics next week when the DR hosts the XIII Extraordinary Assembly of the Central American and Caribbean Organization of Superior Inspection Entities (OCCEFES), a regional grouping of controllers-general and inspectors-general. The meeting will be held March 18-20 in facilities of the Central Bank, and will include a presentation on the subject by International Monetary Fund (IMF) specialist George Kopits.

Insurance premiums rise confirmed
The Superintendent of Insurance, Euclides Gutiérrez Félix, confirmed yesterday that insurance premiums rose 14.5% in 1998. A press note released by his office said that total insurance income in 1998 in the DR was RD$3.372 billion, compared to RD$2.946 billion in 1997. Gutiérrez Félix attributed the rise to the "continuing development of the insurance industry" in the DR. He indicated that the national treasury has benefited from this growth to the tune of RD$337 million in taxes paid by the industry during 1998. The release also noted that remittances from international insurers after Hurricane Georges were US$280 million in 1998, and that 83% of hurricane damage claims have been paid.

Violence in Salcedo strike claims three
The 48-hour strike called by "popular organizations" (populists) in the northcentral provincial city of Salcedo ended in the death of three, at least seven wounded and an indeterminate number (at least dozens) imprisoned. The violence was the result of confrontations between protesters and the police; who initiated hostilities is unclear. Autopsies have been ordered on the three victims, whose bodies are being transferred to the Forensic Pathology Institute of Santiago for that purpose. National Police (PN) chief Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier has appointed a commission of top officials to got to Salcedo to investigate whether the deaths. During the two days the strike was observed by most stores, offices, student groups and drivers.
A 24-hour strike has been called for today by populists in San Francisco de Macorís. Neither SFM nor Salcedo are normal tourist destinations nor close to major tourist sites, so it is expected that neither will affect foreign visitors to the DR.

Manhunt underway for doctor’s killer
Police are searching everywhere for Dr. Marciano Santos Salado, wanted for the Monday murder of the director of the regional public hospital in Mao and for wounding the subdirector of that institution. It is believed that Dr. Santos has fled Valverde Province and may try to leave the DR. For that reason the Attorney-General’s Office has ordered that the doctor not be allowed passage on any flight or voyage leaving the country. According to witnesses, on Monday Dr. Santos approached the director of Luis Bogaert Hospital, 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. Leclerc is in serious condition at a clinic in Santiago with a bullet lodged next to his spine. A team of specialists is trying to decide whether or not they can chance removing the bullet surgically without damaging the spine.

DR plays British VI today in Caribbean Cup elimination round
The DR’s national selection soccer team will play that of the British Virgin Islands today in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the first game of an elimination round for the Caribbean Cup. The game will be played at 5 pm in Silvio Cator Stadium. The DR will play the Haitian selection – the favorites to win the elimination round – on Friday at 7 pm, and the Puerto Rican team on Sunday at 5 pm. The winner of this elimination round will play for the Caribbean Cup in Trinidad and Tobago starting on June 12th. The 11 players announced to start in today’s match are team captain Dinardo ("Lalo") Rodríguez, Miguel ("Pippy") Cabral, Roberto Delgado, Ramón Mariano, Vidal Mateo Mojica, Miguel Pérez, Miguel Rodríguez, Luis Omar Sánchez, Henry Tiburcio, Omar Zapata, and Junior Mejía as goalie. Before the team departed yesterday, Dominican Football Federation (Fedofutbol) President Osiris Guzmán complained loudly that the Sports Ministry (SEDEFIR) had not made good on promises to provide aid so that the team could attend the elimination round in Haiti. Fedofutbol was forced to take out a loan so that players could go, since the Dominican team cannot afford to miss this competition if it wishes to build international standing.

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