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Daily News - 20 May 1999

Committee to seek funds to raise doctors' wages
The Dominican Medical Association accepted to appoint a committee that would present the source of funds to raise their salaries to the Executive Branch. The decision was the outcome of the meeting of the leading Dominican medical association with President Leonel Fernández at the National Palace yesterday. The AMD seeks a salary increase for medics employed in public hospitals. The AMD has been calling strikes and threatening to strike to pressure the government for the wage increase. The government says the increase is not contemplated in the National Budget and thus the funds must come from a new source.

Exit tax charge in US$ is illegal, but Dominicans must pay
The Supreme Court of Justice ruled it is illegal to oblige Dominicans to pay the departure tax in US dollars. The Supreme Court said it cannot repeal the 1994 decree that established the charge. In 1994, then President Balaguer ordered that both Dominicans and foreigners pay the US$10 charge in US$ currency. Previously, Dominicans and residents paid in RD$. Despite the ruling, the charge is likely to continue. Dominicans can protest and cite their constitutional right, but they risk not being allowed to leave on their programmed flight.

Police lieutenant fired for accepting a Toyota Camry
Press reports highlight the case of Police Lieutenant Idelfonso Jiménez, formerly of the security force of the Monte Plata jail. He was fired by the Executive Branch for accepting a Toyota Camry from Florián Féliz, who was in jail on drug trafficking charges. Reportedly, the lieutenant would travel to Haiti where he would meet with a sorcerer and recruit her services so that Féliz would not be found guilty by the judge studying his case. Despite the services of the Haitian sorcerer, Féliz today serves a 20 year sentence in jail.

Investment in landfill would be lost if Higuero goes
The Mayor of Santo Domingo Johnny Ventura said that if the government moves the Duquesa landfill, in order to build the La Isabela airport in the Higuero area, two kilometers from the dump, it would be sacrificing a RD$100 million investment. He said this would be in violation of agreements signed by the Municipality of Santo Domingo with Japan, agreements that were endorsed by the Executive Branch. He described the Duquesa landfill as a model project for Latin America. The Fernández government has said it will move the Herrera Airport of Santo Domingo, which is primarily used for domestic flights, to Higuero in the northeast of Santo Domingo. In addition to the opposition of Mayor Johnny Ventura, the move has the opposition of almost all aviation sectors that operate out of Herrera at the present time, as well as of the tourism industry. Even Minister of Tourism Felix Jiménez has spoken up against the move to Higuero. Omar Chahín, president of Air Century, suggested that the airport be built at Autopista Duarte Km. 22.

Two suspect of upper class home assaults
The National Police has said that they seek two men that have been identified by the Tojo and Holguín families that were assaulted last week. The press has carried reports of a gang of good-looking and well-dressed men that carry radio telecommunications equipment and have assaulted homes. The owners had large amounts of cash on hand at the time of the assaults, according to press reports. The gang assaults took place at a Gazcue neighborhood penthouse apartment and in the upper middle class neighborhood home in Ensanche Paraiso. The thieves primarily stold cash and jewelry and vehicles. In both instances, the gang threatened the dwellers with a hot iron they connected in the home.
The National Police advises Dominicans to take precautionary measures to avoid being victims of a similar gang assault. Families are advised to not leave their dwellings alone, nor their doors open. Precaution is to be taken when someone knocks, requesting the name of the person. If the person is not a known person, the door should not be opened. If the person identifies himself as a policeman, a call should be made to the National Police to verify this information and the reason for the visit.
The Police also recommend installing good outside lighting and avoiding the stashing of cash in the home, regardless of the existence of a safe.

US$99 round trip from Miami to Santo Domingo
Aeromar has a sale on for Mother's Day, which this year in the DR falls on 30 May. The US$99 round trip sales price is valid for travel all throughout May and through 14 June. The airline operates one flight a day to Miami from Santo Domingo. They use a Boeing 727-200 with capacity for 170 passengers. Aeromar is a cargo airliner with 30 years doing business in the DR and Miami that is now offering passenger service. This flight is the lowest cost option for flying from the DR to Miami.

Steven Spielberg uses Dominican's music to promote film
Steven Spielberg chose the music of Dominican composer Michael Camilo to promote "The Love Letter", a romantic comedy that opens tomorrow in the US. Two scores from his album "Too Much" are being used in the trailers of the film. Michael Camilo will be on stage this Friday at the National Theater, in a performance with Tomatito, a Spanish flamenco guitarist. He will also perform on Saturday, at the Gran Teatro Cibao in Santiago.

15% salary increase for free zone workers
The director of the National Salary Commission of the Ministry of Labor announced that free zone workers will receive a 15% wage increase starting 1 July 1999. Ircania Jiménez Mora said that the adjustment in the minimum wage of the free zones increases the minimum wage from RD$1,932 a month at present to RD$2,222 a month.

Dollar expected to drop against the RD$
The president of the Asociación Dominicana de Empresas Remesadores, the organization that groups companies that send moneys of expatriate Dominicans home, forecast a decline in the US$ value in relation to the Dominican peso. He told the press that they are receiving an increase in remittances, which are expected to result in a decline in the exchange rates. He said remittances are up 9% this year. He forecast the dollar should decline to RD$16 down from RD$16.60 levels for selling dollars in the DR at present. The official Central Bank rate is at RD$15.88 for purchasing dollars but exchange houses are paying more than RD$16 to the dollar. He forecasts that total remittances this year will reach US$1,400 million.

Provisions need be taken for major earthquake
Christine Herridge, executive director of the Project for Mitigation of Disasters in the Caribbean, sponsored by the Organization of American States, alerted that the Dominican government has not yet taken measures to prepare the nation for an earthquake. The DR is located on a major fault and could suffer a major earthquake. The earthquake would primarily affect the Northeast of the country and the central Cibao area. Members of the Geologic Society of the Americas met in Puerto Plata for the Penrose Conference in January and released recommendations to the Dominican government that have not been acted upon. A major earthquake has not affected the DR since 1946.

Central Bank governor says there are less poor
The Governor of the Central Bank, speaking during the American Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, said yesterday that the gap between rich and poor in the DR has narrowed. The Central Bank estimates some 2,050,000 Dominicans live in extreme poverty, contrasting with affirmations of international organizations that estimate that 5 million Dominicans are poor. The Governor of the Central Bank Hector Valdez Albizu said that the economic growth in the past three years has averaged 7.5%, which has contributed to reduce poverty and social inequity, contributing to a better distribution of wealth. He said that all efforts have to continue towards these objectives.

Danilo Medina scores more than Vice President Fernández
A Listín Diario/Sigma Dos poll showed that 47.3% of those that say they will vote for the ruling Partido de la Liberación Dominicana prefer Danilo Medina, Secretary of the Presidency for presidential nominee of that party. He leads by 6% over Vice President Jaime David Fernández, who received 40.9% of the preference of PLD voters. Minister of Tourism Félix Jiménez received the support of 2.4% of the PLD voters. The PLD has announced a committee of 3,000 PLD members will chose the presidential nominee of the party on 27 June.

Sammy Sosa hits his 12th home run
Sammy Sosa is maintaining a faster home run pace than in 1998 when he along with Mark McGwire broke the legendary home run record. Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs slugger batted his 12th home run in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 1998, by game 37 of the season, Sosa had batted only seven home runs. Fellow Cubs' teammate Henry Rodríguez batted two home runs in the game the Chicago Cubs defeated the Florida Marlins 8-7.

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