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Daily News - 18 March 1999

Trade and Investment Forum opens
The First Caribbean-U.S. Forum on Trade and Investment opened yesterday morning at the Jaragua Hotel in Santo Domingo. The event brings together some 300 official and private sector delegations from the U.S. and the Caribbean region to discuss trade and investment policy issues and opportunities. The first welcoming speech was from Eddy Martinez, Investment Promotion Office (OPIN) Director and the President of the Organizing Committee for the event. He recalled that the Forum’s origins were an agreement at the May 1997 U.S.-Caribbean Summit in Barbados to create ways to foster greater commercial interchange between the U.S. and Caribbean nations. He was followed by Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rosello, who lauded DR President Leonel Fernández as a primer mover in promoting closer ties among Caribbean nations. Next up, Jules Windenjbosch, President of Suriname and current President of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade bloc, pointed out that the Caribbean region is a stable and peaceful place for foreign investors to look to. Windenjbosch was followed by President Fernández, who in his speech stressed the importance of U.S.-Caribbean commercial ties and pointed out that, taken together, the Caribbean nations are the U.S.’s 13th largest trading partner. Wrapping up the inaugural morning session, U.S. "interim Ambassador" Linda Watt, who said that the Forum demonstrated the U.S. commitment to the region’s development.
The two-day Forum ends this afternoon. It includes a series of presentations and workshops on emerging trade and investment issues and current policy topics, such as textile parity and electronic commerce. The Forum will be followed by an international trade fair (see below), and then next Monday and Tuesday the DR will host a meeting of the Caribbean region’s investment promotion offices.

President announces creation of "cyber-city" trade zone
In his welcoming speech yesterday to the First Caribbean-U.S. Forum on Trade and Investment being held here in Santo Domingo, President Fernández announced the creation of a new kind of free trade zone (FTZ, or "zona franca" as they are known in the DR) – a "cyber-city" that will be devoted to attracting investors linked to telecommunications and electronic commerce. The cyber-city – to be designated "Siglo 21" ("21st Century") – will aim to attract businesses such as international calling services, software design and production and computer graphics design. Recalling that the DR recently lowered its tariffs on computer and computer-related software and hardware, he revealed that the Investment Promotion Office (OPIN) will soon send to Congress a draft law to provide special incentives to high technology investments in the DR’s zonas francas.

Political dialogue resumes today
The fifth session of the political dialogue is due to be convened at the National Palace at 4 pm today amid hopes of a breakthrough. Participants claimed that the last session, on Tuesday, saw significant progress made on the two thorniest political issues, the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE) and who should be the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). Some participants even talked of possible final agreements on these two issues at today’s session. Since then speculation has run rampant in the media and in the streets on just what sort of formula might be on the table for these two disputes. Officially, none of the participants are providing details, although hints and rumors have been leaked. The scenario heard most often would have the JCE expanded from five to six or seven members, while JCE President Morel Cerda would resign in order to take up a diplomatic post in Europe. Yesterday Morel Cerda hotly contested such speculation, saying that he would under no circumstances resign and that there was "no legal way" to make him leave his post. A rumor circulating regarding the LMD would have the Interior and Police Minister or a priest appointed as interim SG of the League until the court cases regarding SG elections are resolved. Former PRSC Senator Amable Aristy Castro, one of the two contenders for the SG post who insists that he won the post in fair elections, has said he would resist stepping down.
Yesterday, the two "moderators" (not mediators) and official spokesmen for the dialogue, monsignors Agripino Núńez Collado and Francisco José Arnáiz, warned that final agreements may take longer than optimists would wish and that all Dominicans should have patience with the process.
The dialogue was an initiative of President Fernández, who proposed that leaders of all three major parties – the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD, which currently controls Congress) and the Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – meet with him at the National Palace to resolve their differences in a "patriotic 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.

Electricity bill reintroduced
The bill to create the General Law on Electricity was finally reintroduced yesterday by three Senators from the Santo Domingo Agreement (ASD) bloc. [The ASD groups PRD with a series of small allied parties). The bill’s chief sponsor is José González Espinosa (Dominican Workers Party – Barahona), who claimed that the bill is a "consensus document" that does not favor any particular special interest and counts on the full support of Senate Energy Affairs Committee. A prior version of the bill had been passed by the Congress during President Fernández’s first year in office but was vetoed by the President, who argued among other things that the bill as then formulated tended to favor particular parties. A new version of the bill was introduced in the last session of Congress, but was never passed by both chambers. The bill was one of the few major pieces of legislation not immediately reintroduced when the current session opened on February 27th.

Chamber of Deputies approves anti-litter law
The Chamber of Deputies approved in first reading yesterday a bill that would prohibit the littering of streets, sidewalks, parks, public places and empty lots. The bill would apply to both ordinary people and "judicial persons," i.e., legally incorporated entities such as stores. The bill would impose a RD$500 fine or six days imprisonment or both on violators. The bill would also prohibit the placing of trash on curbside between the hours of 12 midnight on Saturday and 6 am on Monday morning, hours during which sanitation firms do not collect trash.

Bosch flies to Cuba for health reasons
Professor Juan Bosch, ex-President and founder of the ruling PLD, flew yesterday to Cuba for unspecified medical treatment. On March 10th Bosch had been admitted to the Central University of the East Medical Center (Centro Medico UCE) in Santo Domingo for tests after experiencing what was characterized at the time as "a bad nose bleed." UCE doctors said that they could find no serious health problem. It was then announced late Tuesday that Bosch would travel to Miami for medical exams. However, yesterday just before noon Bosch instead flew out of Herrera Airport on a private plane to Havana, Cuba. He was accompanied by his wife and a medical team. Asked why Bosch flew abroad for tests and why the sudden change to Havana instead of Miami, Dr. Juan B. Maggiolo, Director of the UCE Center, explained that Bosch’s family "wanted a second opinion" and they convinced Bosch to go to Havana instead of Miami because of strong ties with that nation. He pointed out that Bosch’s son resides in Cuba and Bosch himself has been treated for health problems there before.

Second International Trade Fair Opens
The Second Annual International Trade Fair was officially opened last night with a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Vice President Jaime David Fernández Mirabal. Sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic (CARD), the Fair will run through Sunday at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel near the Mirador Sur Park in Santo Domingo. 32 Dominican firms are exhibiting in the Fair, as well as firms from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago. The Fair will also feature discussion sessions on various topics, including: the investment climate in the DR; customs procedures in the DR; franchising in the DR; how to export to the U.S.; the future of electronic commerce.

Civil Defense announces beach closings for Holy Week
The head of Civil Defense, General José de los Santos Sánchez, announced that 48 bathing spots and 23 beaches will be closed to the public during Holy Week as a preventive measure to avoid drownings. He stressed that this still means 96 bathing spots and 76 beaches will remain open to the public during the holiday weekend. He said 1,390 Civil Defense brigade members will be spread out across key points in the country to keep order and respond to accidents and other emergencies.

Police chief continues ordering changes
The new chief of the National Police (PN), Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier Tejada, continues to shake things up at the PN. Yesterday he ordered all PN investigators to wear uniforms when working at night, rather go plainclothes as is often the case now. The step, he explained, was to put a stop to claims by some that plainclothes policemen commit illegal or deceitful acts. Only the Department of Homicide Investigations will be allowed to continue plainclothes operations. The directive became effective last night.
Major General Candelier also ordered all judicial and tourist police officers receive special training at the Police Academy in San Cristóbal. These officers will also have to wear special uniforms whose color differentiates them from normal police or traffic cops.
Since taking office on February 27th he has, among other things, made a number of changes in top personnel, dismantled the press office, dismantled some road patrols and ordered traffic cops to stop seizing drivers’ licenses and stop seeking bribes, stopped large-scale raids in troubled neighborhoods in favor of regular patrols, forbidden policemen from serving as de facto private guards for the rich and connected.

Bottlers agree to stop selling water in bags
The Public Health Ministry (SESPAS) has reached an agreement with the water bottling industry here to stop the sale of drinking water in plastic bags, but not before closing seven bottlers and ordering several others to suspend operations until they can meet minimum safety and quality standards. The agreement also calls for toughening the quality and safety standards and for the industry to conduct a public education campaign about safe drinking water practices. The pact is to be formally announced today by Public Health Minister Dr. Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino. Recent tests of bottled drinking water commissioned by SESPAS’ Environmental Health Directorate identified a quality control problem in water sold in plastic bags. The bags are individual portions that are sold in many neighborhood minimarts ("colmados") and by street vendors.

High-tech tele-medicine center opened
President Fernández officially inaugurated yesterday a new high-tech Center for Diagnosis, Advanced Medicine, Medical Conferences and Tele-medicine (CEDIMET) at the Plaza de la Salud in Santo Domingo. Under a pact between the CEDIMET and Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Dominican doctors will be able to routinely consult American specialists on cases through a teleconferencing line that will remain constantly open. CEDIMET will offer its services to all specialties and will be available for cases involving any Dominican, regardless of economic status. Doctors utilizing the CEDIMET services will be able to share x-ray, sonogram, laproscopic and other information and images with American colleagues in real-time.

Customs catches three "VIPs" trying to smuggle goods
Customs officials at the Las Américas International Airport (AILA) this week have caught three people authorized to use the "VIP and Ambassadorial" facilities at the airport trying to sneak in large quantities of merchandise without declaring it. The three cases all occurred within 24 hours of each other, beginning Monday evening. Each involve primarily large quantities of fine clothing. One of the people caught, not identified to the press, is said to be a "well-known" (female) clothes designer here in the DR.

Coming soon: charter flights from Brazil
The Vice President for Latin America for the Allegro Resorts hotel chain announced yesterday that starting on May 10th weekly charter flights will come from Brazil for stays exclusively within their DR hotels. Each week 180 Brazilians will come to stay on "all-included" visits at the Decameron, Allegro Bávaro, Bávaro Grand, Playa Grande, Club on the Green or Jack Tar Village hotels.

Three Dominicans nominated for news Emmy’s
The news daily Hoy points out in today’s edition that three of the broadcast news nominees this year for the Emmy Awards are Dominicans. One of them, Univisión’s chief editor Alejandro Guerrero, has been previously nominated for an Emmy (in 1997, for the coverage of local elections in September 1997). This time he and his colleagues Robert Yańez Jr., Maureen Strauss and Adriana Saldarriaga, are nominated in the category "Outstanding Single Newscast" for Univisión’s August 20, 1998 coverage of the U.S. bombing of Iraq. Guerrero, a native of Santo Domingo, twice was press chief for RTVD, was once a member of Hoy’s editorial staff and once served as a press aide to the DR’s President. After emigrating to New York about ten years ago, he worked at Radio Wado before landing at Univisión.
Evans Lewis worked as an editor for El Sol and other radio editorial teams in the DR before taking up the post of press aide at the Dominican consulate in New York. He later joined Radio Wado as an editor, where he still works in the morning hours. More recently he became chief news editor at Telemundo. Lewis and his colleagues on the program "Telenoticias" have been nominated for their January 22, 1998 broadcast.
Anthony Pérez worked for many years at the Dominican Union of Catholic Broadcasters (Unión Dominicana de Emisoras Católicas –UDECA) in La Vega before emigrating to New York. He presently works for Spanish-language broadcaster Univisión. He – along with collaborators Adriana Saldarriage and Héctor Moya -- has been nominated in the category "Outstanding Crime Programming" for their November 1977 series "Laberinto azul" ("Blue Labyrinth").

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