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Daily News - 19 April 1999

II Summit of Heads of State and Government
The II Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States concluded on Sunday, 18 April in Santo Domingo. President Leonel Fernández in the closing session celebrated the spirit of renewed optimism and strengthened will to make the necessary changes to adapt to globalization.
In addition to host Leonel, Fernández of the Dominican Republic, other participating Presidents were: Andrés Pastrana, Colombia; Hugo Chávez, Venezuela; Ernesto Zedillo, Mexico; Miguel Angel Rodríguez, Costa Rica; Armando Calderón, El Salvador; Alvaro Arzú, Guatemala; Janet Jagan, Guyana; Rene Preval, Haiti; Carlos Flores, Honduras; Arnoldo Alemán, Nicaragua; Ernesto Pérez, Panama; Jules Wijdenbosch, Suriname; Fidel Castro, Cuba. Prime Ministers Hubert Ingreham, Bahamas; Said Musa, Belize; Edison James, Dominica; Keith Mitchell, Grenada; Percival Patterson, Jamaica; Kenny Anthony, St. Lucia; Basdeo Panday, Trinidad & Tobago.
"With the advent of the new millennium, an encounter of this kind is especially important because it provides the appropriate scenario to identify concerted actions to face the opportunities and challenges that the globalization of markets brings," said President Fernández in his closing remarks.
The Declaration of Santo Domingo signed on Saturday, 17 April compiles agreements reached during the meeting. Among these:
Establishment of the world's first Sustainable Tourism Zone.
Motion to move forward for the establishment of a regional tariff system to prepare for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Increased cooperation in view of natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
Motion to take measures for a Caribbean Sea free of contamination by toxic wastes and nuclear wastes where coastal marine biodiversity and natural habitats be preserved.
Appeal to the US (Caribbean Basin Initiative and sought NAFTA-parity) and Europe (Lomé Convention benefits with Europe) for a temporary extension of Caribbean trade preferences, to allow more time for these small economies to adjust to the globalization of markets.
Embracing of democratic rule as essential to development. Appeal to the US to eliminate economic sanctions against Cuba, under the Helms-Burton Law.

Challenge to create a Great Caribbean
President Leonel Fernández, in his speech during the general assembly of the ACS Summit challenged attendees to create what would be the world's fourth-largest trade bloc, giving a new dimension to the Caribbean nations. Member states have a population of more than 200 million and a $500 billion gross domestic product. He sees if cohesion is achieved, the region as a unit would bring a new dimension to the Caribbean diplomacy. The cohesion would permit the region to have better negotiating capacity before world forums such as the Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization.

Democracy is not placing obstacles
President Leonel Fernández, speaking at the II Summit, advocated taking the example of the US and Europe and that all political forces within a nation pursue a common goal for the development of the nation, regardless of who the president is. He said that pacts need to be established that lead to a concerted development strategy to avoid political chaos and the sabotaging of the democratic system.
"Democracy cannot be a Chinese wall where all initiatives that are beneficial for the population are blocked; nor a field mined by interests in conflict, nor a Roman circus in which the prestige of the role players of the system be at the mercy of intolerant creatures.
"Through the Association of Caribbean States we seek to create an international climate that is advantageous for our nations. It is up to each of our peoples to create the internal conditions of freedom and progress that can only come forth from patriotic convictions and a spirit of tolerance.
"There are big questions ahead to be answered. We don't know which will be the next scenarios of the financial crisis of global capitalism and we lack all the answers to the impact of the changes in democracy within the next years. We are only convinced of one criteria: that the unity of the peoples of our region is essential for, in common agreement, the seeking of a common solution that will shelter us from the unavoidable changes and conflicts that will confront humanity in the next years."

Mexico and DR to begin talks for free trade agreement
President Ernesto Zedillo and President Leonel Fernández announced their intention to initiate negotiations for the signing of a free trade agreement between Mexico and the DR. The governments signed a program between the Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior (Bancomext) and the Centro Dominicano de Exportaciones (Cedopex) for exchange of information, trade missions seeking to increase bilateral trade and promote direct and joint investments in both nations on occasion of the visit of President Zedillo to the DR.

Rethinking the future
In his keynote address upon the opening of the conference, President Leonel Fernandez spoke of the need to be cautious and to rethink the future. He cautioned about the transfer of speculative capitals, which could be very harmful for the economies of the Caribbean. He also said that the Caribbean nations are not obliged to take as dogma the theories elaborated in the think tank centers of industrialized nations, as these are not necessarily adapted to the Caribbean reality. He spoke of how the times have changed and that nation can no base their generation of wealth on commodities and the export of raw materials whose sales prices have declined by more than 40%. He mentioned the depressed prices of petroleum of Venezuela and Mexico, the Central American and Caribbean banana and the Cuban and Dominican crude sugar, as examples. He stressed that the region has moved on to export services, with advances in tourism, telecommunications, industrial free zones and financial services. He fostered further development in microelectronics, biotechnology and informatics as part of a knowledge-based growth strategy.
"To advance within a global economy, it is of high interest to attract investments that permit a transfer of technology and promote innovative projects that truly increase the capacity of our companies and raise the quality of life of our workers," he said.

Chavez doesn't like summits, invites to one in Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela questioned the worth of the summit as a modern tool for diplomatic networking. He highlighted that while regional statesmen are going from summit to summit, the people of the region go from abyss to abyss. While criticizing the summits, he invited his colleagues to attend a summit on occasion of the commemoration of the birth of Simon Bolivar. He emphasized the importance of regional integration, and called for great union of all Latin American nations, such as was Simon Bolivar's dream.

Castro in a rage over a pen
Fidel Castro, who during his first visit in August couldn't talk enough, avoided the press during his visit to the DR over the past weekend. He did make an interesting summit side bar story for the one minute rage over the pen he was given to sign the Declaration of Santo Domingo. The first pen given didn't work; neither did the second pen. He was seen on TV gesturing, and then took his own pen out from his pocket to sign the document.

Dancing Presidents
After an almost seven hour work day, visiting Presidents participated in the Dominican Night hosted by the Dominican government under the stars at the Fortaleza Ozama. Thirteen of 25 visiting statesmen attended the event. The press mentioned how the President of Suriname, Jules Wijdenbosch and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles Suzanne Camelia-Romer, tapped away to the beat of Milly Quezada's merengue band, to be joined by President of Costa Rica Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Mrs. Lissy Campos de Fernández, wife of Vice President Jaime David Fernández. The four reportedly converted their section of the presiding table into a giant drum. Several of the visiting heads of state and government danced merengue at the event.

First Ladies and One First Gentleman
The husband of Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles passed as a security or protocol attaché, but he took it with the best of humor as he enjoyed participating. The only man of attending spouses, he participated in the Colonial City (lunch at La Bricciola Italian restaurant), Botanical Gardens-Japanese garden fashion show and tea time and visit to the children's hospital organized for the wives of visiting statesmen. They were hosted here by the wife of Vice President Lissy Campos who acted as First Lady (President Leonel Fernández is single). The first ladies were hosted by Aura Celeste Fernández, president of the Commission for the Reform and Modernization of the Judiciary; former First Lady Renee Klang widow of former President Antonio Guzmán; Gladys Gutiérrez, Director of the Promotion of Women Department; Minister of Education Ligia Amada Melo; businesswoman Maribel Gassó; socialite Jenny Podestá de Vásquez, Janet de Candelier, wife of the Chief of the Police. Designers that exhibited their tropical fashions at the Japanese Garden of the Botanical Garden Jenny Polanco, Genarina Franco, Magalys Tiburcio, Elisa Morato, Iris Guaba and Isabel Reynoso. The fashion show was coordinated by Casa Virginia.

Dominican President invited to G3 summit
The Listín Diario revealed that President Leonel Fernández, in a recognition of his regional leadership, has been invited to participate in the summits of the Group of Three and Group of Rio. Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre confirmed the information. Presidents of Andean Group nations - Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Panama (observer) - will meet next month in Cartagena, Colombia . Likewise, Presidents of the Group of Rio - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela - will meet in Mexico. The Listin Diario revealed that a technical commission of the Group of Rio approved the admission of DR and five other Central American nations to that Latin American forum. The Dominican Republic sought admission in the Group of Rio on grounds that it is not a member of any other regional integration scheme, and its relations with Central America and the English-speaking Caribbean (Caricom) are based on trade agreements. President Eduardo Frei of Chile is supporting the DR's interest in being admitted to the Group of Rio. President Fernández will participate in the Summit of Heads of State of the European Union with Latin America and the Caribbean set for 28 and 29 June in Rio de Janeiro. The newspaper said that President Fernández expects to attend the inaugural of President Francisco Guillermo Flores.

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