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Daily News - 23 March 1999

Foreign Minister calls for CARICOM-DR-CCA alliance
Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre yesterday called for a strategic trade alliance between the DR, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the members of the Central American Community (CCA) to confront jointly emerging trade challenges. Latorre promoted the idea at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of CARICOM, CCA and the DR being held this week in Georgetown, Guyana. He pointed out that most of the region will lose its special trade preferences from the European Union (EU) in the year 2000, and that the U.S.’s Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade benefits are slated to disappear in 2005. With increasing trade friction and confrontations between the U.S. and the EU in the global theater, and growing competition for the global trade and investment pie, the DR, CARICOM and CCA need to make common cause in order to increase their bargaining leverage vis-à-vis other global trade actors.

European diplomats lobby for Senate loan approval
A delegation of European diplomats went to the Senate yesterday to try to persuade Senate President Ramón Alburquerque (Dominican Revolutionary Party-Monte Plata) and members of the Senate Finance Committee to stop blocking Senate approval of international loans and project contracts. Senator Alburquerque has put a hold on Senate action on these measures since January 26th, when he and several other PRD Senators had confrontations with police while trying to penetrate a security cordon in order to enter the headquarters of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). In similar confrontations and protests one Senator was shot by a police agent. The diplomatic delegation visiting him yesterday consisted of the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and the U.K., as well as the head of the European Union (EU) delegation in the DR and senior diplomats from the embassies of France and Spain. Instead of offering promises to approve the measures, Alburquerque stressed to them on the importance of fostering respect for the Constitution and laws (which he has long maintained that the Administration violated repeatedly during the LMD affair), gave them copies of the Senate’s internal regulations on approving such measures and had Senator Fernando Alvarez Bogaert list, one-by-one, the loans and projects that the Senate has approved since the PRD won control of that body on August 16, 1998.

Tourists drown at site closed y Civil Defense
The National Police reported late yesterday that four tourists – reportedly three with French passports and one an Italian -- drowned yesterday while "practicing water sports" at the La Trifulcación bathing spot by the Yuna River in the Quita Sueño section of Cotuí. The spot recently had been ordered closed by Civil Defense because of drowning risk due to the rain-swollen waters of the Yuna. The drowning victims were identified as Vicente Levy, Sylvie Forence Contrere, Wiliam Diez Sanchez and Italian tourist Vilma Morillo. Local Civil Defense officials say that the tourists were thrown overboard their boat attempted a fast, sharp turn. They drowned while trapped in a whirlpool. Civil Defense authorities in Cotuí stressed that La Trifulcación, El Puente and the Hatillo Dam bathing sites are off-limits for good reason. In the area bathing is only permitted in El Platanal, Las Palmas, La Soledad y the Chacuey River falls.

There’s gold in them there hills!
According to reports given at the International Convention of Mining Investors held in Toronto, Canada, fields in the DR’s Monte Plata Province have veins with enough gold and zinc to be profitable to mine commercially. Octavio López, Director of Mining in the DR, reported to the convention that a study conducted recently at the San Antonio Uno concession site at Yamasá revealed 8.55% concentration of zinc in samples of the vein there, 3.39% gold and 0.13% lead. An executive of Energold Mining Ltd. quoted by Ultima Hora said that all their explorations in the area indicate sufficient gold to be profitable to mine. "Every hole we dig there finds a massive mineral deposit." López said that his office has granted 12 licenses to explore for minerals throughout the DR, while applications for 11 more are pending.

CEA has been an economic failure
According to an internal report prepared by its own Statistics Department, the State Sugar Council (CEA) has been a spectacular economic failure in its 34 years of existence. The report, leaked to the news daily El Siglo, shows that out of 33 sugar harvests since the CEA was created in 1965, only 11 have shown a profit for the CEA, and all of these marginal. The last time the CEA had a profitable harvest was 1983-84. Over the years the gains have only amounted to RD$204.4 million, while the losses amassed have reached RD$5.2099 billion. Put another way, the gains have only been 4.6% of the losses. It is not hard to see why: last year, for example, the production costs were RD$4.98 per pound of sugar produced, but the sales price was RD$2.98. CEA lost RD$180 million last year alone, and is expected to lose more in the 1998-99 harvest.

EU increases DR’s banana quota
The 15-nation European Union (EU) has increased the DR’s import quota for bananas from 55,000 to 65,000 metric tons. This, taken together with the 15,000 crates of bananas now sent weekly to Puerto Rico, will mean that 90% of the DR’s production will be absorbed this year by exports, reports the Association of Northeast Banana Producers. The exports to PR in part reflect the damage done to banana plantations there by Hurricane Georges, which did not hurt many Dominican plantations. The EU quota increase is attributed not only to the price and quality of Dominican bananas, but also because the DR has supported the EU in its trade dispute with the U.S. over EU banana import restrictions. The new quota gives the DR about 8% of the EU’s imports total import quota of 800,000 metric tons.

SEOP building "touristic highway" in Northeast
The Ministry of Public Works (SEOP) announced yesterday that it is investing RD$285 million in the construction of a 37.56 kilometer "touristic highway" linking Samaná-El Limón-Las Terranas. The highway will also provide a direct connection between Portillo and Arroyo Barril airports. SEOP Sub-secretary Leonel Carrasco said that not only will the new highway provide a panoramic view of hills and valleys covered with coconut groves, but it will also help local coconut, citrus and tuber growers get their produce to market. He asserted that work on the highway should proceed quickly, since SEOP has already paid the construction firm 50% upfront.

AMD strike in Eastern hospitals 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 eastern provinces. During the 24-hour period beginning at 8 am this morning, doctors will only attend emergencies. Private clinics are not affected. Similar work stoppages have been held in Santo Domingo, the southeast and in the Cibao region over the past two weeks, 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. In fact, AMD President Waldo Ariel Suero announced to reporters yesterday that the AMD is studying whether to file an action in the Supreme Court against Dr. Guzmán Marcelino. AMD would accuse the Minister of violating labor laws 4471 and 6097 by trying to force doctors to sign work contracts and by allegedly withholding pay from doctors participating in the stoppages.

UCE closes 4 extension campuses
The University High Council of the Central University of the East (UCE) decided yesterday to close UCE’s provincial extension campuses in Elías Piña, Las Matas de Farfán, Monte Plata and Dajabón. The Council said that students attending classes on these campuses could continue their studies at UCE’s main campus or one of the few remaining extension campuses. Although no reason was cited officially, one Council member told the news daily El Siglo that "there were problems with the physical plant." Most of the facilities used by UCE for its extension campuses belong to the Education Ministry.

More ex-officials blocked from leaving country in Narcisazo case
The judge in charge of the investigation into the 1994 disappearance (and presumed murder) of Professor Narciso González ("Narcisazo") yesterday asked the Attorney-General to block two former top Balaguer officials from leaving the country. Judge Eduardo Sánchez Ortíz asked that former National Police (PN) chief General Rafael Guerrero Peralta and former National Department of Investigations (DNI) head Francisco Núñez Jiménez be prevented from leaving the country until the judge can question them in the case. He also asked that a Major Cubilete (the rest of his name was not available at press time) be blocked from traveling abroad until he can be questioned. These requests bring to 22 the number of people for which Judge Sánchez Ortíz has blocked travel privileges while his investigation proceeds. Judge Sánchez Ortíz also has imprisoned former Armed Forces Minister Constantino Matos Villanueva, Air Force General Rafael Reyes Bencosme and his former aide, Lt. Colonel Manuel C. Pérez Vólquez, on suspicion of complicity in kidnapping Narcisazo. Today another judge, from the Third Penal Chamber, will consider a habeas corpus petition from Reyes Bencosme’s lawyers to have him released.
Narcisazo, a vocal critic of then-President Joaquín Balaguer, was rumored to have been picked up by agents of Air Force’s (FAD) A-2 Intelligence group just before his disappearance, so the investigation initially focused on FAD officials past and present. Recently it has branched out to other sectors of the Dominican security establishment.

Licey strike racks up large losses
The strike convened last week by populist groups in the town of Licey al Medio has gotten ugly and racked up considerable losses. Originally called in sympathy to the violent "popular strike" held by similar groups in Salcedo last week, the Licey strike has proceeded even after the Salcedo strike ended. In five days of the strike over 100 people have been arrested y police and one young man, Luis Alberto Suárez, was shot dead by police. Losses from closed businesses and impeded transport are estimated at around RD$15 million. Yesterday a truckload of cigarettes from the E. León Jimenes company was stopped on a road outside Licey, its driver and guard removed, and the truck set on fire. The new governor of Santiago Province, Ventura Camejo, tried yesterday to negotiate with strike leaders an end to the strike, with local Catholic Church representatives mediating. The talks broke down, however, when strike leaders insisted on the immediate release of all detainees and the immediate withdraw of police troops from the town. Ventura Camejo asked for time to meet the demand, but the leaders refused. After the meeting the Church representatives and a local lawyer participating in the talks, Maribel Gabot, were detained by police. The detention has been roundly criticized by human rights organizations.

DR selection eliminated from Caribbean Cup play
The DR’s national selection soccer team was eliminated this past weekend from further play in the Caribbean Cup. At an elimination round held at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the DR tied the British Virgin Islands 0-0 on Wednesday, March 17th, was trounced by round favorite Haiti 4-0 on Friday, March 19th, and beat Puerto Rico 2-0 on Sunday, March 21st. One of the Dominican goals was knocked in by the Puerto Rican goalie by error, the other by DR team member Luis Sánchez ("Pelé"). Haiti now proceeds to the Caribbean Cup match in Trinidad and Tobago in June. Haiti shut out PR 2-0, DR 4-0 and the VI 6-0, gaining 12 points, far ahead of second-place VI with 7. The DR had 3, PR 0.

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