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Daily News - 09 April 1999

Political parties start reaching agreements
The three leading political parties and the government announced several agreements had been reached during the eighth round of talks at the National Palace. These include the decision to expand to seven the members of the board of the Junta Central Electoral (JCE), the body that organizes the national elections, and the appointment of a commission that will manage the Dominican Municipal League and distribute funds until the judiciary issues a judgment. The announcement was made at 1:15 am by Monsignor Agripino Núñez, spokesman for the politicians. The three leading political parties, the ruling Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), and the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) had been meeting since 4 pm.
The two new members of the JCE and substitutes will be proposed by the PRSC and the PLD and appointed by the Senate. The PRSC had complained that the Senate had unilaterally appointed the JCE board, and that several appointed members were PRD militants. The decision is a step down from the non-politicized board of the 1996 and 1998 elections, but it is a step forward to resolving political impasses so that institutions can move on to work for the nation's benefit.
The politicians chose Monsignor Francisco José Arnaiz, Senator Andrés Bautista (PRD-Espaillat) and Reverend Braulio Portes to supervise the distribution of funds by the Dominican Municipal League to the municipalities while the judiciary resolves the validity of the past electoral process at the organization.
Prior to the eighth round, President Leonel Fernández visited former President Joaquín Balaguer at his home yesterday. They met for about 40 minutes to discuss issues related to the agreements.
President Leonel Fernández was recognized by Monsignor Agripino Núñez and the president of the PRD, Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero as the decisive factor behind the reaching of agreements.
Monsignor Núñez Collado said that other points on the agenda, such as the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, the make up of the Chamber of Accounts, democratic stability, constitutional, economic and social reforms will be studied in upcoming work sessions.

65% of Dominican population is very poor
65% of the Dominican population does not generate enough income to cover the basics, while 35% of the population has earnings far superior to the minimum needed. The Central Bank estimated that the monthly minimum needed for an average household (4.3 members) to live is RD$6,240.85. The findings are from the III Survey of Expenses and Income of Households (ENGIH) carried out by the Central Bank.
The study revealed that 22.6% of the population spends only RD$2,528.22 a month, or 40% less than the basic budget. Another 21.6% of the population has income at a level of RD$3,755.08, or 60% of the basic minimum level. A third group, 20.08% of the population spends RD$4,955.39 a month, or about 80% of the minimum. To carry out the survey, 4,810 homes were polled. This is considered a representative sample of the 1,919,064 homes in the DR. The study showed that 19% of the families had income levels of RD$6,694.16, while 16% had levels of RD$13,271.38 or more a month.
The study showed that the highest cost of living is that in the capital city, with RD$8,520.33, income levels of residents in urban areas of provinces is at RD$6,160.52 and it cost less to live in the rural areas, about RD$4,065.82.

Too expensive for JCE to change computer company
The president of the Junta Central Electoral, Dr. Manuel Morel Cerda said it was impossible to rescind the contract with Dato Centro because it would mean having to start from scratch. He said that they have advanced too much money to the Dominican computing firm, Dato Centro that won the bid to offer the service of issuing new ID and voter's cards to Dominicans. The Dato Centro contract is for RD$178 million, of which half has already been disbursed to the firm. Ten months into the process, only a third of the Dominican population has received its voting card. Much of the delays are attributed to technical difficulties related to the service provided by the company. In talks yesterday, the political parties suggested that the JCE hire a complementary firm to be able to accelerate the cedula process.
Dr. Morel accepted the suggestion of chosing key personnel of the JCE by political consensus.

Labor statistics
The Ministry of Labor said that there was an increase of 10% in the number of persons employed full time. Some 33,586 companies registered their payrolls with the Ministry last year, up 14.61% from 1997. The companies declared they had 676,553 persons on their payrolls in 1998. Companies paid out RD$2,726 million in salaries, up RD$537 million over 1997. In 1998, some 80,688 new jobs were generated, or 29% more new jobs than in 1997. The number of women employed was up 36%, compared to the 25% increase in men employed. Women make up 42% of the employees of the manufacturing industry. Some 38% of all jobs were in the 38% manufacturing area, 26% in commerce and 39% in services companies.
Minister Rafael Alburquerque said that worker benefits, in addition to wages, accounted for 38.10% of total salary last year.
He also reported that in the past three years 187,958 jobs have been created. In 1997 62,348 jobs were created. In 1998, some 80,668 jobs were created.
The Ministry was quoting statistics included in the newly released Bulletin No. 4 of Labor Statistics, 1998.

Costa Rican airline to close SD-Havana and SD-San Juan routes
Lacsa, the Costa Rican airline that is part of the Grupo Taca Central American airline consortium, announced it will discontinue the Santo Domingo-Havana route as of 12 April. Grupo Taca said it will concentrate on flights within Central America. Lacsa had begun operating the route 26 November with flights to Santo Domingo-San Juan and Santo Domingo-Havana as part of an expansion program to the Caribbean. Executives say problems with scheduling, equipment, and government procedures motivated the company to close the routes. Other airlines part of the TACA group are Aviateca, Guatemala; Lacsa, Costa Rica; Nica, Nicaragua; Taca, Honduras and Taca of El Salvador. Overall, they fly to some 35 destinations in America and 60 in Central America. With its Santo Domingo-Havana flight, the airline provided travelers with an alternative for flying to Cuba. The discontinuation of the flight leaves only Cubana, the Cuban state airline, providing service fro the DR to Cuba.

More on the case of Claubian Jean Jacques
The Haitian ambassador in the DR, Guy Lamothe said that if the Dominican government will give 18-year old student Claubian Jean Jacques a birth certificate, the government of Haiti would issue his parents the papers they need. Jacques' parents came to the DR as sugar cane cutters, and like thousands of Haitians do not have personal identification documents such as a birth certificate or passport. Only a minority of the Haitian population bothers to register their children at birth. The civil registry authorities said that issuing him a birth certificate has not been considered because he has not presented the necessary documentation. If the Dominican government issues him a birth certificate, his case would be a landmark one that would set a precedent for thousands of Haitians, sons and daughters of illegal Haitian immigrants, to legalize their family status. The Haitian embassy say they have a department to issue birth certificates to all Haitians who have crossed the frontier without documentation. The issuing of Dominican nationality to Jacques would set a precedent. The Haitian government seeks that the Dominican government authorize all sons and daughters born of illegal Haitians in the DR during the past 15 years. The migration issue is a major bottleneck in negotiations between the DR and Haiti for a general bilateral agreement that would include a free trade agreement. Jacques case made the press headlines because just recently he had been recognized as a meritorious student by the Dominican government, as part of a program whereby the best public school students of the country get to visit the National Palace where they are honored.

Spanish firm recommends closing down sugar mills
A study carried out by a Spanish firm for the State Sugar Council (CEA) recommends closing at least four of the CEA sugar mills. The consultants point to the deteriorating machinery of the mills as well as the location of the factories. Sugar mills that are recommended to be closed are the Río Haina, the Porvenir and Santa Fe. Also recommended is the merge of the Monte Llano and Amistad mills and the Boca Chica and Quisqueya mills. The Rio Haina mill was until the 70s the world's largest producer of crude sugar.

Past 12 months accumulated inflation was 7.66%
Central Bank reported that inflation in the first trimester of the year was a negative 0.28%. The Central Bank says that the low inflation can be attributed to the abundance of farm products and the decline in money in circulation. In regards to a 12 month period, from March 1998 to March 1999, accumulated inflation was 7.66%.

NY branch of PRSC proclaims Dr. Balaguer as their candidate
The New York branch of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano proclaimed former President Joaquin Balaguer as that party's candidate for the presidential elections in 2000. Balaguer is 94 years old, and blind, but the short-sight of present politicians has kept him in a position to call shots in Dominican politics. While it is highly unlikely he will be again elected President, it is believed, that whomever he gives his blessing to, will be the next President of the Republic. He is being promoted with the slogan, "Balaguer, una vez más, por necesidad," (Balaguer, one more time, because it's a need.)

Vice President Fernández is leading candidate for PLD
The Hamilton & Staff-Hoy newspaper survey of 1,800 Dominicans throughout the national territory showed that Vice President Jaime David Fernández and Danilo Medina are the leading pre-candidates for the ruling Partido de la Liberación Dominicana. Vice President Fernández received 34% of the preference, and Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina 29%. The survey was carried out 13-19 March.

Most are against reforming Constitution to allow re-election
55% of every 100 voters rejected changing the Constitution to allow presidential re-election, as per the findings from the Hamilton & Staff-Hoy newspaper survey of 13-19 March. The rejection is three points less than when the survey carried out in November of last year showed. In 1994 the Dominican Constitution was modified and a clause prohibiting consecutive presidential re-election was incorporated. At the time, the object was to impede the re-election of then President Joaquín Balaguer.

More on the Dr. Edgar Contreras medical malpractice case
The District Attorney's office has banned the husband of late journalist Isabel Vargas from leaving the country. He lives in Puerto Rico where his wife worked as a press correspondent for reporting back to Dominican media. Initially it was believed Vargas died of a heart attack, as per comments by her husband. But the Listín Diario reported that she could have died from complications following a plastic surgery operation carried out by Dr. Edgar Contreras. Dr. Contreras is sought in Puerto Rico to stand trial for involuntary homicide against a Puerto Rican woman who died allegedly for complications due to a plastic surgery operation she underwent at his clinic in Santo Domingo. Dr. Contreras is not a member of the Dominican Society of Plastic Surgery, which does not endorse procedures he uses for injecting fat into patient's legs for esthetic reasons. The Listín Diario said that the reason why Vargas' husband has hidden the true cause of the death is because he and his wife were close friends of Dr. Contreras. Reportedly, they even promoted his service in Puerto Rico. The untimely death of Vargas, does not help Dr. Contreras case in Puerto Rico. If found guilty, he would face 1-3 years in jail.

German jazz band comes to play with Dominicans
The Blue Print Stage band from Germany is expected in Santo Domingo as part of its tour of the Americas commemorating the 50th anniversary of the German Federal Republic. The tour will take them to the US, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and will end in Santo Domingo. The group will be in Santo Domingo from 17-21 April, and on Saturday, 17 April will give a presentation at the Ruins of the San Francisco Monastery at 8:30 pm. On stage with them will be Dominican artists Jaques Martínez (guitar), Ania Paz (piano), Eglis Estrella (singer), Patricia Pereyra (singer), Sandy Gabriel (saxophone ) and Esar Simón (bass guitar).
Members of the band are Nadja Baroudi (drums), Tilman Ehorhor (saxophone), Marcus Gnadt (bass guitar), Martin Hornung (piano).

Marcel Marceau mime school in Santo Domingo
The complete school of mimes of Marcel Marceau will be in Santo Domingo for a single performance at the National Theater, Saturday 17 April at 8:30 pm. RD$500/RD$400. The presentation will coincide with the hosting in Santo Domingo of the II Summit of Heads of Government and State that will gather heads of government of most Caribbean Basin countries.

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