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Daily News - 19 May 1999

US Congress moves on expanding DR trade
The US House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee voted by voice yesterday to extend to the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean and Central American nations many of the trade conditions that apply to Mexico and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The legislation was approved to boost nations in the area that were hard hit by hurricanes Georges and Mitch last year. The bill would expand the items that enter the US duty-free under the Caribbean Basin Initiative act. The DR will mostly benefit from the export of handbags, textiles and apparel that would be included is the final bill is passed. Some restrictions apply. The provision states that textile products from the area will be only admitted duty free if they are made from fabric formed and cut in the US. A final bill must yet be approved by the legislators.

"Absurd" 48-hour strike ends after first 12 hours
President Leonel Fernández described the nationwide strike that affected the DR yesterday as "thoughtless, crazy and absurd." A so-called collective that primarily represents transport unions, was requesting a 100% increase in salaries and reduction in fuel and food prices. President Fernández said that the only thing that is achieved by a strike is to create a negative image for the country. Shortly after he made his comments at the inaugural of the nation's new School of Diplomacy, the collective that had called the 48-hour strike, called it off.
The 12-hour strike was uneventful, and while it did not have popular support, it gave a Saturday morning appearance to the bustling city of Santo Domingo. Several shops and businesses that depend on incoming clients closed down as they expected no business. Many who didn't have to go to work, didn't and stayed home to play domino and basketball. Many who live off street sales, found themselves on forced vacation, or seeking alternate business locations.
Most businesses, government offices, banks, free zone industries and tourism resorts and hotels operated as usual. Tours operated as usual. A spokesman for the Herrera industrial zone, the largest in the city of Santo Domingo, said that almost 100% of workers attended. A spokesman for Haina, in a far out western suburb of the city, said that only 50% showed, alleging transport problems.
Stores that felt they weren't going to sell anything, remained closed. The city shopping area, Av. Duarte, remained closed, but the middle class centers of Plaza Central, Naco and Multicentro and supermarkets and hardware stores throughout the city remained open.
The Listín Diario said that only nine provinces of 30, adhered to the strike. These were the southwestern provinces of San Cristóbal, Peravia, Azua, Barahona, San Juan de la Maguana, Bahoruco, Independencia, Elías Piña. Intercity public transport was affected.
The organizers of the strike called it off around 7 pm. At that time traffic was almost back to normal, and adherence to the strike was expected to dwindle down to only 20% on the second day. The organizers, a vocal collective of primarily transport union members, said the strike had been successful 100%. They said they would wait for the government to fulfill their demands before calling another for the end of June. The government has said it cannot fulfill their demands of a 100% salary increase and a reduction in the price of fuel. One of the spokesmen for the strikers, Ramón Almánzar, seeks to get enough popular support to organize a party in time for the 2000 presidential elections.

Decoration committees honor President Leonel Fernández
The Ministry of Foreign Relations decorated President Leonel Fernández with the Collar de la Orden de Duarte, Sánchez y Mella and the Orden Heráldica de Cristóbal Colón, in recognition of the President's efforts to reposition the DR in the world today. President Fernández received the decorations during his visit to the Ministry of Foreign Relations where he inaugurated the new building of the School of Diplomacy and Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. It is the first time a Dominican President is honored with these two decorations. The Duarte y Sánchez Mella decoration's committee is made up by: Luis Julián Pérez, Fernando Amiama Tió, Ambrosio Alvarez Aybar, Tomás Báez Díaz, Virgilio Díaz Grullón, Homero Hernández Almánzar, Ulises Pichardo and Arturo Calventi Gaviño. The Orden Heráldica de Cristóbal Colón is made up by Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Marino Ariza Hernández, Eugenio Pérez Montás, Jesús Hernández López Gil, Heriberto de Castro, Alfredo Lebrón Pumarol, Frank Bobadilla and José Chez Checo.

AMET gives bus drivers a week to move to the Malecón
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) allowed minibuses from southwestern provinces to operate along the Av. Independencia for this week only. Hamlet Hermann explained that the decision to move them to the Cayetano Germosén or the Malecón is part of the efforts to organize transport in the city. He said that the buses that come from the Southwest compete with the urban buses because they pick up passengers as they enter the city along key city routes. He said these should drop off their passengers at the Km. 12 AMET bus route terminal, upon entering the cities. Commuters will be better off taking the AMET buses to continue on to their final destinations. AMET buses are more comfortable and cheaper. Southwestern bus owners had violently protested on Monday the decision of AMET to restrict their access to the Av. Independencia, affecting commuters that live in the southwestern province San Cristóbal but work in Santo Domingo.

More troubles within the PRD
The Listín Diario reported that Rafael Suberví and Hatuey Decamps, two Partido Revolucionario Dominicano presidential candidate hopefuls, continue to dispute the party's electoral register, or "padrón." An audit carried out by the party, with participation of delegates of each of the five contending presidential nominee hopefuls, showed 9% irregularities, or about 135,000 mistaken names. Hatuey Decamps does not agree with the results and his political team sent a document exposing further irregularities in 46 municipalities and zones to the PRD national convention organizing committee. Suberví and Decamps are ranked a far away third and fourth, respectively, in the preference of PRD voters to win the presidential nomination. Political analysts say their disputing the register is because they seek to negotiate political spaces within the party.

It's a buyer's market in the DR
The Listín Diario reports that hotel occupancy declined 3.7% last year, while the nation's hotel inventory increased 4.2%. The steady increase in new hotel rooms places a heavy toll on local hotel operators that continuously need to seek new markets or accept lower prices for their product given the intense competition for travelers. The surplus of rooms versus the demands has turned the DR into a buyer's market, affecting profitability of hotels. A Central Bank quarterly report attributes to multi-destination tourism the shorter stays of tourists in the DR. Other reasons for the decline in occupancy was the press reports on the Dominican Municipal League clash between political parties. The same report states that overall there has been an increase in travelers compared to the same time last year, and that these are spending more. Tourist card sales were up 17.6%. The increase of arrivals is attributed to arrivals from new source markets. Travel was up by way of Puerto Plata and Punta Cana airports. 78% of foreign travelers visiting the DR come from the US, Germany, Canada, France and Italy. For more information, see http://www.bancentral.gov.do

Plastic surgeons obliged to remain in prison
Judge Ramón Horacio González ordered that plastic surgeon Edgar Contreras and cardiologist Chanoc Mieses be kept in prison. They are accused of involuntary homicide in the case of journalist Isabel Vargas. His brother, Juan Francisco Contreras and surgeon Juana Pimentel, were released on a RD$1 million peso bail. They were banned from practicing medicine until the case is heard. The Contreras brothers are being tried for negligence in the cases of deceased Puerto Rican Dhelmalys Ríos and Dominican Isabel Vargas, as well as Carmen Villanueva, who suffers from health problems after a body reduction procedure. Dominican legislation is very lenient with medical malpractice. If they are found guilty, they face a sentence of six days to two months in prison and a fine of up to RD$50 pesos. In their case, the worse that could happen is that they be banned from practicing medicine. They are in jail at the remodeled Palacio de la Justicia.

Problems with the exhibition of Star Wars
Star Wars is scheduled to premiere in Santo Domingo 1 July. But a story in the Listín Diario says that there are problems with the opening of the film. Only two movie houses have the Dolby Stereo sound capability required by the film owners. Dolby stereo is said to be available only at the new theaters at Diamond Mall and two of the Palacio del Cine. Another problem affecting the showing of the film is that Pepsi, the firm that is sponsoring the film, demands that the brand be sold in theaters where the film is shown. Coca Cola is the prevailing soft drink sold in Dominican theater houses. The Star Wars sequel, The Phantom Menace", opens today in the US theaters.

Pedro Martínez has another great day
Pedro Martínez (8-1) pitched his seventh straight double-digit strikeout game, yesterday and defeated the New York Yankees 6-3. This feat was last accomplished by Nolan Ryan of California in 1977. The victory was especially sweet as it was against Major League ERA leader David Cone (4-2), Martínez's toughest contender so far for the Cy Young award. Martínez said it was a hard game. Martínez allowed 10 hits but only two runs. The Yankees batted at least one hit in each of the seven innings against Martínez. Boston is now in first place in the American League East, one-half game ahead of the Yankees.

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