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Daily News - 01 June 1999

Minimum wage increased
Employers and workers reached an agreement yesterday that establishes a new minimum wage salary effective today, 1 June. The Listín Diario newspaper reported that the wage will be announced tomorrow. They are expected to vary 15-20% depending on type of work and the size of the company. Last week, industrial free zones announced a 15% increase in the minimum wage applicable to that line of work. The increase in the minimum wage has a domino effect on other salaries. The present minimum wage is RD$2,456, and it had not been increased in two years.

DR Ambassador to US resigns
The Dominican Republic's ambassador to the USA, Bernardo Vega has resigned from the post and will return shortly to Santo Domingo. President Leonel Fernández has yet to announce who will replace him. Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre said that Ambassador Bernardo Vega, a former governor of the Central Bank, will remain in the post through 30 June. He will return to SD to dedicate himself to his private business, cultural activities and to marry bank employee and poet/writer, Soledad Alvarez. The DR has not had a US ambassador for several years now as the US Congress has not yet approved a replacement for Donna Hrinak.

Princess Margaret of Holland visits
Princess Margaret of Holland arrived to the DR via the Gregorio Luperon International Airport of Puerto Plata yesterday to participate in the 16th InterAmerican Red Cross Conference. The event will be held in Boca Chica at the Coral Hamaca Resort, from 1-4 June. The event brings together the 35 national societies in the Western Hemisphere, plus the International Red Cross directors and representatives of Red Cross societies in Belgium, France, Holland and Spain.
Princess Margaret is president of the Permanent Commission of Red Cross International. She traveled to the DR with Kathleen Graf and Bodden Hosang, secretary and advisor of the Commission, respectively. She arrived on a Martinair flight from Amsterdam.

15 days to remove stuck tanker
The District Attorney gave the owner of the tanker that ran aground the Malecón coast 15 days to remove the ship. The ship contains 3,000 gallons of petroleum in its cisterns. Jansen Rafael Santiago Asilis Forastieri is the owner of the ship that ran aground alongside the Banco Agrícola. The ship had a contract with the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) to supply fuel to power plants located in San Pedro de Macorís and the Ozama River. It ran aground when Hurricane Georges swept through Santo Domingo.

Government offices to be remodeled
The Ministry of Public Works announced it will invest RD$98 million to modernize the El Huacal government offices building and the Archivo General de la Nación, the nation's archives. RD$49 million will be invested in each. The government also announced the construction of an overpass that will connect Carretera Sánchez and Autopista 30 de Mayo. The expansion of Avenida Independencia to six lanes from four at the stretch between Km. 12 and Prolongación Luperón is also being contemplated.

Núñez de Cáceres Avenue could be new AMET bus route
El Siglo newspaper speculates that the Metropolitan Transport Authority will soon initiate a bus route along the Núñez de Cáceres Avenue. Speculation is based on the signs that have been posted along the avenue. The Núñez de Cáceres Avenue crosses Santo Domingo North South from John F. Kennedy Avenue to the Malecón.

What the RD$92 million are for
The Junta Central Electoral, the government body in charge of organizing the year 2000 presidential elections, said that the RD$92 million allotment requested from the Central Government will be used to purchase equipment and hire personnel to complete the issuing of the voter and identification cards in 180 days. According to the plan, RD$6.4 million will be used to set up more voter card issuing centers, RD$20.8 million to purchase additional computer equipment and power plants, and RD$15 million to hire additional personnel, including 18 technicians that Unisys is sending from abroad to accelerate the process.
The JCE is behind in the organization of the elections, primarily due to technical difficulties confronted during the implementation of the issuing of new voting and identification cards. Unisys has requested that the government give over to them an administration contract to supervise the process in order to get things back on schedule. The JCE has rejected this, saying it will hire the personnel, but the administration of the project is its responsibility.

Pull for power continues within PRD
The Secretary General of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), Hatuey de Camps continues to insist that the PRD is not ready to celebrate its national convention to choose the party's presidential candidate. The convention is set for 20 June.
Hatuey de Camps is seeking the presidential nomination, but he is ranked in the fourth position by polls. De Camps is now suggesting that the party hold a Convention of Delegates, instead of the primaries.
All surveys show that if the primaries were held today, his contender for the nomination, Hipólito Mejía would overwhelmingly win the nomination. De Camps feels his suggestion would avoid a "disaster" of a convention if the party goes ahead and holds it on 20 June.
The president of the PRD, Enmanuel Esquea has said that the pre-candidate that does not want the convention to be held 20 June should retire from the race.
Pedro Caro, political analyst of the Listín Diario, reported that Milagros Ortiz Bosch could be the loser. He speculates that Hipólito Mejía may not be able to resist the pressures of presidential candidate hopefuls Rafael Suberví and Hatuey de Camps. These two seek the vice presidential candidacy and the presidency of the PRD, respectively, in exchange for not hampering the national convention. At the convention, Hipólito Mejía expects to win because he is by far the most popular contender. Mejía has paired with No. 2-ranked candidate Milagros Ortiz Bosch. Suberví and De Camps percentage points together account for only 25% of the PRD vote. The potential losers also are threatening not to support the PRD winner during the electoral campaign.
El Siglo newspaper mentions that other posts that are being negotiated are the secretary general of the party, the Senate seat for Santo Domingo, the presidency of the Senate and that of the Chamber of Deputies, and cabinet positions if the PRD reaches power. The newspaper's page two commentary concludes that "definitely, the PRD should become more of an institution, and less the sum of interest groups." Power pulls are an intrinsic part of the history of the PRD.

Roof repair completed at Sports Palace
Giscosa, the Spanish firm that was responsible for the new roof of the Palacio de los Deportes of Santo Domingo handed in the finished work to Nelson Morrison, president of REM Ingenieria, the contractor. Only days after the company had completed the work, Hurricane Georges ripped off the roof. The company had guaranteed the roof for 20 years and stood by the guarantee, repairing it at no cost to the government. A squad of specialized Spanish workers was sent in to repair the roof and ensure it was hurricane-proof. The facility was originally built for the 1974 Central American and Caribbean Sports Games. In 1979, the original roof withstood the much stronger winds of Hurricane David. Investigators showed that the problem occurred because of the vacuum produced because the facility was closed shut as air-conditioning was installed as part of the general remodeling.

Samana ferry enters into operation
Hoy newspaper reported that the long awaited Sabana de la Mar-Arroyo Barril-Samana ferry will initiate operations this 15 June. Elupina I is managed by Agencia Naviera del Caribe. The ferry trip will take 1-15 minutes. The ship will make four round trips per day. The ferry was purchased in Vancouver, Canada and is 150 feet in length. The ferry has capacity for 38 standard-size vehicles and 300 passengers. It will have a cafeteria service on board. Tourists staying at hotels in the Punta Cana-Bavaro area (an estimated 13,000 hotel rooms) will now be able to easily travel to Samana to take the whale excursions and visit the virgin beaches of this northeastern province. The ferry will also make trips to and from the North Coast shorter for tourists staying in either the North or East. The inaugural of the new service will coincide with the opening of the Sabana de la Mar Ecotourism Fair, set for 19-27 June.

World fishing tournament taking place in Punta Cana
The 59th World Fishing Tournament of the International Light Tackle Tournament Association (ILTTA) and the 34th Alberto Bonetti Burgos Fishing Tournament opened yesterday at the Cabeza de Toro Yacht Club of Punta Cana. Some 70 fishermen are participating on board 23 yachts. Anglers have come from the US, Costa Rica, Curaçao, South Africa, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala and host DR. The national record is 139 lbs. for men, and 130 lbs. for women.
The Cabeza de Toro Yacht Club is the center of the tournament action. Participants are staying at Punta Cana and Bavaro area hotels. The area is primarily known for its white and blue marlins.

Hurricane season begins today
The Hurricane Season for the Atlantic Basin, which includes the United States and Caribbean/Central America/Mexico, starts today. Predictions are for a very active season, with four hurricanes of at least Category three (winds of 178 kms per hour) affecting the region. Hurricane Georges hit the DR last year with Category three force. Hurricane David, which blasted through the DR in 1979, was a Category four hurricane.
The names of this year's hurricanes in order of appearance will be: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Floyd, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lenny, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy , Vince, Wilma.
Atlantic basin tropical cyclones typically occur in August and September. Since the hurricanes generate off the northern African coast, there is a good lead-time to predict when a hurricane will be passing by the region. These can easily be tracked today on the Internet.
Forecasts are for another year of intense hurricanes in the region, resulting from the past year's El Niño evolving into its oceanic counterpart, La Niña. La Niña produces the opposite kind of climate variations from El Niño that brought long drought periods to the Caribbean. La Niña promises to increase the Atlantic's hurricane risk this fall. La Niña is defined as the cooling of eastern tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures, lasting at least six months. The cooling waters create dramatic changes in the upper-level air currents that play major roles in storm development.
To start the season, those interested in understanding all about hurricanes can refer to the FAQ of the http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/tcfaqA.html#A2 page.
Note that 20 years went by between Hurricane David (1979) and Hurricane Georges (1998), the two most recent hurricanes to affect the DR. If you are a tourist visiting or planning to visit the DR, note that the possibility of your getting stuck in a hurricane is very slim. If it did occur, you will be in for an experience you will never forget. Anyone can be in the Caribbean for a beautiful sun-filled vacation. But only a few will experience the full blast of nature. Hotels are well prepared for hurricanes, and especially after the present experience. You will be asked to stay in a reserved area or in your rooms until it passes, usually less than six hours, with 2-3 hours of intense winds and rains. Afterwards, the problems are not yours. The big problem with a hurricane is not the storm, it is the clean up. More so, the worst damage caused by hurricanes occurs due to flooding, and may occur hours after the hurricane has passed. Note that with the exception of the hotels in La Vega, tourist hotels in the DR are located along the coastline and thus are not in danger of flooding.
If you are a resident in the DR, you will know by now, after experiencing Hurricane Georges, the vulnerable areas of your residence. Regardless, now is the time to prepare your list of tracking sites and get underway preparations for a potential hurricane.
The US web sites provide helpful general preparedness and tracking information:
Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov/fema/trop.htm
Orlando Sentinel:
National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico: http://www.upr.clu.edu/nws/
Tampa Tribune:
NASA's Global Hydrology and Climate Center: http://www.ghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/
The Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/breaking_weather/trop_update/
Intellicast Weather Site:
Weather Underground web site: http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/
Puerto Rico government weather page (in Spanish): http://fortaleza.govpr.org/Servicios/huracanes.htm
USA Today Hurricane Page: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wfront.htm
Caribbean Hurricane Reports:
And, of course, the DR1, through this Daily News page, email subscriptions and the Message Board, will keep its readers posted on any hurricane that may pass our way.

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