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Daily News - 11 May 1999

American Express Cards to be issued in DR
Banco del Progreso and American Express announced an independent operator agreement in which Banco del Progreso will issue American Express Cards in the Dominican Republic for local use in pesos, the country's currency. Cardmembers will be able to use the card at American Express establishments in the Dominican Republic and throughout the world.
Under the agreement, Banco del Progreso will conduct the American Express card issuing business as well as the merchant acquiring and processing business in the Dominican Republic. Banco del Progreso will be responsible for all operations supporting the American Express Card - including billing and payment systems, accounting, customer servicing, credit and fraud control, and charge authorizations as well as marketing the card in the Dominican Republic. Banco del Progreso will also take over responsibility for servicing local merchants accepting the American Express Card in the Dominican Republic. As a result of this agreement, the number of merchants accepting the American
Express Card in the Dominican Republic will be expanded, significantly enhancing the relevance and utility of the card to customers living in or visiting the country.
American Express currently provides a U.S. dollar-denominated American Express Card to Dominican customers. Current American Express Cardmembers will have the option of converting their card to the new product, retaining their dollar-denominated card, or carrying both cards. American Express Travelers Cheque and travel businesses are unaffected by this agreement.

President authorizes move of La Romana International Airport
President Leonel Fernández authorized the move of the La Romana International Airport, responding to a request from Central Romana Corporation. Decree 205-99 authorizes the move of the airport to Batey Cacata, in the center of the La Romana province. Central Romana is the owner of the new Batey Cacata airport that is under construction. The present La Romana Airport is located within the Casa de Campo complex. The new more northerly location will provide closer access to the resorts located in Bayahibe, Dominicus, where major tourism developments are taking place.

New Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations
President Leonel Fernández appointed Luis Iván Brugal Velásquez, former vice rector academic of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), deputy minister of the Foreign Relations in charge of administrative affairs. He replaces Pablo del Rosario who in turn was appointed deputy technical secretary of the Presidency.

Automated system to reduce driver's license processing time
The Dirección de Tránsito Terrestre, the government department in charge of issuing driver's licenses, said that almost all is ready to implement new measures whereby drivers will be able to renew their license in 10 points throughout Santo Domingo, and in the interior cities of Santiago, Puerto Plata, La Romana, San Francisco de Macorís and Azua. The new computerized system is being tested prior to its opening to the public within days. The required taxes may be previously paid at the branches of the Banco de Reservas, the government commercial bank, avoiding long lines. The new automated systems that are in place promise an elimination of corruption and that the entire process be completed in hours and not days as at present. Licenses can now be renewed in one hour. New driver's driving tests will now take place at areas reserved at the Mirador Sur and Mirador Norte Parks and in the Botanical Gardens area. Offices for renewing of licenses have been opened at Casa Haché (John F. Kennedy Avenue and Km. 9-1/2 Carr. Mella); Supermercado Nacional (27 de Febrero Avenue); Farmacia Carol (Av. Bolívar); La Sirena (Mella and Winston Churchill avenues); post offices (Los Guaricanos, Km. 10-1/2 Av. Independencia); Ferreteria Americana (Av. John F. Kennedy).

Generation park privatization bid this Thursday
At least six companies of 13 that qualified are expected to bid to take over the Haina and Itabo power generation parks. The Comisión de Reforma de la Empresa Pública (CREP) is in charge of the bid that will take place on Thursday, 13 May in Santo Domingo.

Unisys International to the rescue of JCE
The Junta Central Electoral, the government organization in charge of organizing presidential, congressional and municipal elections in the DR, announced it will contract Unisys International to improve the technology applied in the process of issuing cedulas, or voting and identification cards in the DR. Dr. Manuel Ramón Morel Cerda, president of the JCE, made the announcement yesterday. He said that Unisys International will send a commission to the DR with a formal proposal of how the process of issuing the cards can be accelerated so that the JCE can get back on schedule for the 2000 election. Some 4.4 million cedulas need to be issued, of which only a third has been issued.

Balaguer continues to be by far preferred candidate of PRSC
The Listín Diario-Sigma Dos poll shows that former President Joaquín Balaguer continues to be the preferred candidate for Partido Reformista Social Cristiano voters. The survey, carried out from 23-25 April throughout the national territory, showed that 87% of PRSC voters would prefer to vote for the 92-year old former statesman. This is a 16-point increase over the preference registered by Balaguer in February of this year, and reflects the "new" image he brought back after about a month in convalescence and medical check ups in the US. Other PRSC candidate ratings are Jacinto Peynado, 7.1%, Carlos Morales Troncoso, 1.9%, and José Hazim, 1%. Balaguer has yet to announce if he will run again. Regardless of his voting again, political analysts say that to whomever he gives his support is likely to be the next President of the Dominican Republic, as his followers are enough to make the difference.

PRD convention postponed
The Partido Revolucionario Dominicano pre-candidates accepted the postponing of the convention for 20 June. It was originally set for Sunday, 16 May. The contenders for the presidential candidacy of the leading opposition party are Hipólito Mejía, Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Rafael Suberví, Hatuey Decamps and José Rafael Abinader. The postponing of the convention, until irregularities in its organization are ironed out, is mentioned as a way to save the PRD from internal crisis. Only Mejía and Ortiz favored holding the convention on the scheduled date. They are the two leading candidates for the presidential nomination.
Pedro Caro, political analyst for the Listín Diario, says that Suberví and Decamps have maneuvered in order to seek a party reorganization that would place them in better positions prior to the announcement of the party's presidential candidate. The idea is that if Mejía wins the nomination, Decamps would become president of the party and Suberví would be secretary general. The present party president, Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero opposes this formula. He represents the former President Salvador Jorge Blanco group within the PRD. Caro says that the party has bought time to come up with a formula that will also give the Jorge Blanco group key positions within the power struggles of the PRD.
Angel Barriuso, another political analyst, describes the PRD as the sum of the different mini-parties that revolve around the presidential hopefuls.

Danilo Medina explains his government priorities
Danilo Medina, who seeks the presidential nomination for the ruling Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, said that if the party is able to stay in power it would execute a government of national consolidation and effectively fight poverty, following up with the efforts of this first PLD government in which he is Secretary of the Presidency. In a meeting with top executives of the Listín Diario newspaper, he mentioned five priority actions that would be part of his government:
1) Continuing with the process of improving justice in order that there be clear rules for doing business. This in turn is seen as a base to attract investments.
2) The role of the state as a facilitator, only intervening as a regulating agent in market activities, while promoting macroeconomic stability.
3) Direct investments of the government in social areas and necessary infrastructure works needed to convert Dominican society into a modern society.
4) Assist the most needed sectors of Dominican economy and the poor.
5) Implement actions to preserve the environment.
In the conversation at the Listín Diario, Danilo Medina said he would emphasize the creation of jobs during his government, implementing measures that support micro, small and medium-sized businessmen. He commented that the next government will have considerable savings from the privatization of the money-losing state enterprises being carried out at present and that traditionally the government had subsidized.

Senate to study proposed new JCE judges
The President of the Senate, engineer Ramón Alburquerque said that that organization will do an in-depth search into who the proposed new judges are prior to approving their status as new members of the Junta Central Electoral, the organization in charge of organizing the election. The judges were proposed by the PLD and the PRSC, and not opposed by the PRD, as part of the concerted solution of the three leading political parties at the National Palace in the presence of President Leonel Fernández.

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