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Daily News - 18 June 1999

The Pact won’t be signed tonight after all
It was announced late last night that the "Historic Pact" on priority legislation and constitutional reform scheduled to be signed by the three major parties tonight has been postponed to an unspecified later date. The pact, calling for constitutional reforms in the year 2001 and priority action to win approval for 16 key bills awaiting action in Congress, was the product of negotiations in the "political dialogue" convened by President Fernández. Yesterday one of the three parties in the dialogue, the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), asked dialogue members to agree to a postponement so that the PRD presidential candidate picked by the party convention this coming Sunday would be able to participate in signing of the pact. The request, submitted by PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero and conveyed by dialogue moderator Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, was readily agreed to by the two parties, the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and the Reformist Social Christian Party (PRSC).

Dialogue agrees 3 parties will nominate for JCE technical posts
The national political dialogue between the three major political parties agreed in negotiations yesterday that two key Central Election Board (JCE) technical posts – Director of the Registry and Director of Elections – should be agreed by consensus on the basis of names nominated by each party.

Government, defiant, will still collect departure tax
The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) ruled in May that the US$10 departure currently charged passengers when they leave Dominican air and maritime ports is unconstitutional in its present form. Wednesday the Court also rejected as without merit and unconstitutional Administration attempts to appeal the ruling or to get the Attorney-General to declare the ruling improper. Yesterday the Director of the Airport Department, Melanio Paredes, ordered airlines to continue collecting the tax despite the court’s pronouncements, although they can accept payment in the equivalent amount in Dominican pesos (determined at official exchange rates, of course). Many legal experts are warning the Administration to stand down on this issue in the interest of not calling into question the power of the authority of the SCJ to decide on the constitutionality of laws and regulations. Meanwhile, the President of the influential National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), Celso Marranzini, yesterday urged Congress to move rapidly to adopt a constitutionally-sound law that would reinstate the departure tax. The tax revenues generated are too important for the national budget, he argued. However, he reiterated his organization’s opposition to raising the tax from US$10, as some in Congress are proposing as part of the way to fund an increase in doctors’ salaries. The doubling of the tax to US$20 not only might anger many tourists, he said, but it would also set a bad precedent – hiking taxes every time a segment of the population working for public institutions demands a raise.

PN head submits Najayo officers to military court
National Police (PN) chief Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier Tejada has submitted nearly the entire former contingent of officers at the Najayo prison to a military tribunal for trial and punishment for "irregularities" and "immoral acts" committed in their management of the prison. The group includes two colonels, one lieutenant colonel, a major, three captains and six lieutenants. The prison officials were arrested last April 26th during a surprise raid on the jail facilities led personally by the PN chief.

DR to propose broad EU-Latin America free trade pact
The news daily Listin Diario reports today that the Dominican Republic will push for the upcoming Rio Summit to endorse launching negotiations for a European Union-Latin America free trade agreement (FTA) that would include the DR. The EU-Latin America Summit is being hosted by the Government of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. The technical working groups are to begin convening this weekend, with the heads of state and government and other high-level officials due to meet toward the end of the week and endorse a "Rio Declaration" on 29 June. Although 60 EU and Latin American nations are sending technical teams to Rio, only 48 will be represented by heads of state and government such as President Fernández. Listin says that the Dominican delegation is pushing for endorsement of opening talks for a EU-Latin America FTA that would encompass the 15 EU nations, 17 Latin American nations and 16 Caribbean nations (including the DR).

Doctors to resume work stoppages?
Doctors are angry that the special committee appointed by the Chamber of Deputies to work on the bill to fund a pay raise for them has indefinitely postponed a debate on the bill originally scheduled for next Tuesday. The Dominican Medical Association (AMD) has called a meeting of its Executive Committee for Saturday to decide whether or not doctors will resume the work stoppages and strikes in order to pressure Congress to take rapid action on their salary demands.

Third Eco-Tourism Fair Opens in Hato Mayor
The nine-day Third Annual Eco-Tourism Fair opens at 9 am tomorrow in Sabana de la Mar, Hato Mayor, in the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic. The previous two fairs, held in Jarabacoa in the DR’s central-west mountain regions, were very successful. Organizers expect this year’s event to attract about 400,000 people over the course of nine days, both Dominicans and foreign participants. Beyond discussions, presentations, exhibitions and educational events concerning the growing eco-tourism trade in the Caribbean, the fair will include excursions to Samaná, Los Haitises National Park, Tropical Plantation, Cayo Levantado, the waterfalls of Yanigua, Magua and Miches, and the caves of Fun Fun. The fair is organized by the DR’s Fundación Cienca y Arte (Science and Art Foundation) and cosponsored by Presidency of the Republic, the Canadian Embassy, several United Nations agencies and dozens of private groups.

PanAm Villa will cost RD$746 million to build
The President of the Organizing Committee for the 2003 Pan American Games ("PanAm Games"), Dr. José Joaquín Puello, told reporters yesterday that the villa for the Games’ athletes should cost about RD$746 if the government puts the project up for opening bidding. Dr. Puello personally favors opening the project to bidding so as to keep its costs in check. He said that plans for the Villa are now being drafted by a team of engineers commissioned by the Public Works Ministry, and the plans should be submitted "soon" to the President of the Republic and thereafter to the Organizing Committee. As presently conceived, the Villa would consist of six 21-story towers containing 640 three-bedroom apartments to house the 6,000 athletes expected to attend the PanAm Games to represent the 42 participating nations. The Villa is to built on the grounds of a former soap factory obtained by the government; the property located between John F. Kennedy and San Martín avenue, just blocks from the Duarte Olympic Center. According to Puello, because of the close proximity of the property, the usually considerable cost of transporting athletes from a sports villa to event facilities will be minimized. He opined that all that would be needed is a series of pedestrian bridges across avenues separating the villa from the Olympic Center.

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