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Daily News - 04 August 1999

GDP grows 6% during first seven months
The Gross Domestic Product grew 6% during the first semester of the year, according to Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu. He said that inflation in the first six months of the year was negative, at ­0.62%. Average interest rates have dropped from 27% to 25% for loans, and 18 to 16% for savings. Valdez estimates that the DR will meet the forecast of the International Monetary Fund for a 7% increase in GDP at year's end. The DR's economy is the fastest growing in the world, according to the IMF. The sectors of the economy spurring the fast growth are construction, 27.3%; communications, 18.2%; electricity and water, 10%; commerce, 8.8%; and tourism, 4.9%.

JCE says only 17 equipment are missing
The Central Electoral Junta, the body in charge of organizing the 2000 presidential election, said that investigations have shown that only 17 equipment are missing and not the 37 that was reported in a CAPEL audit. CAPEL is a body of the Organization of American States that carried out an audit into the procedures and status of the organization of the elections. The JCE and Datocentro (the company that had the contract to deliver the machines) told the press that only 10 Hitachi cameras and seven datacard machines are missing. The other equipment is being repaired or was found at the JCE. More so, the JCE said that the security keys were counted and that it is not possible that the missing equipment could have been used to issue voting cards (cedulas) as denounced by lawyer Marino Vinicio Castillo. Datocentro has agreed to replace the missing equipment.

Frontier senators concur with President on Haiti
Opposition party senators representing Haiti-DR frontier provinces agree with President Leonel Fernández's statement that the DR needs to lobby for international aid for Haiti. Senator Darío Gómez (PRD-Santiago Rodríguez) and Dagoberto Rodríguez (PRD-Independencia) and Francisco Jiménez (PRD-Bahoruco) expressed their own concern that there may be an avalanche of migration to the DR spurred by the conditions of hunger, misery and lack of opportunities in Haiti. Speaking at the start of classes of a new promotion of future Dominican diplomats at the new School of Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, President Leonel Fernández said that the only way the Dominican Republic can put a stop to illegal Haitian migration is by helping Haiti develop. President Fernández called for the assistance of the international community to promote development in Haiti, the same way it spent millions on promoting democracy.
Senator Gómez said that the policing of the frontier is not the best way to contain Haitian migration. He said that the DR needs to motivate the international community to help Haiti develop socially and economicallly.
Commenting on the president's statements, Hoy newspaper says that it makes good business for Dominicans to help Haiti. As conditions in Haiti improve, less indigent Haitians will seek to migrate to the DR. In "Coctelera," the newspaper urges Dominican to press the international community to help Haiti to avoid future confrontations with the DR on the issue of migration. It criticizes that President Rene Preval has not received international assistance that was promised when democracy was restored.
"Right now, with the problem of the Haitians, we are up against the wall: if we repatriate illegal Haitians, it's bad, very bad, because it complicates the internal situation in Haiti and is said to be a violation of human rights The US defends with full force its Haitian brothers, as long as they are migrating to the DR and not to Miami. And the same can be said for Canada. Of France, little can be said. They are too far away to be affected by Haitian migration."

PRD to return to National Dialogue
The leading opposition party, the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, has accepted to return to the National Dialogue talks at the National Palace. The talks, at the invitation of President Leonel Fernández, brought together leaders of the three main political parties (PRD, PLD and PRSC) for discussions of key items on the national agenda. The PRD decided to add the president of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque, and Santo Domingo Mayor Johnny Ventura to the PRD commission at the talks. Other PRD members are Hatuey DeCamps, Tony Raful, Rafael Subervi Bonilla, Ivelisse Prats and Vicente Sánchez Baret.

Good news for economy
Former governor of the Central Bank, economist Carlos Despradel pointed out in an article in El Siglo yesterday that the government has been successful at maintaining macroeconomic stability. Despradel points out that the level of international reserves at the Central Bank is at a record high of US$800 million.
Despradel mentions that the Central Bank expects to receive over US$1,300 million in foreign investment this year, compared to US$690 million last year. The moneys are coming from private investment made in the privatization of the state electricity company (CDE), the state sugar mills (CEA) and government-owned airports.
Despradel also points out that Dominican capitals are returning and staying home as yield offered in the DR is better than that obtained abroad. The exchange rate has stabilized at around RD$16 to US$1, which has had a positive effect on the inflation rate that was below zero during the first six months of the year, and on bank interest rates which are declining.
Furthermore, he reveals that commercial banks have RD$3,300 million in excess liquidity for lending, in addition to RD$1,500 million in high yield certificates at the Central Bank.
Nevertheless, Despradel urged the government to not be tempting to overspend in investment projects during the next few months as part of campaign promises. Presidential elections will be held in May 2000, and traditionally the construction of government public works has been a way to secure votes. The economist is also concerned that government income may drop if petroleum prices continue to rise. The government reads millions from a differential on the purchase price of petroleum and the almost fixed local price to consumers.

Produce prices drop
Farm produce is selling for all time lows in Santo Domingo as the country begins to benefit from massive planting programs put into effect after Hurricane Georges last September 1998. Plantains are on sale for RD$0.50 in some supermarkets (down from a peak of RD$8.00 in the days after the hurricane). Plantains sold for RD$2.00 each in the days prior to Hurricane Georges. Likewise, avocados can be purchased for RD$1.50 and pineapples are on sale for RD$5.00. Supermarket ads are promoting six grapefruit for RD$5.00, a pound of beets for RD$0.55 and carrots for RD$2.25 the pound.

Espín warns of coming days of electricity monopolies
Antonio Espín, president of the Asociación de Empresas Industriales de Herrera (AEIH), one of the largest business organizations, wants to know if the Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprises didn't lie to Dominicans when it said that privatization of the state electricity company did not mean higher prices. Antonio Isa Conde, president of the Commission in charge of privatizing state corporations, repeatedly said that power prices would be frozen for four years. Now, the CDE is saying that prices will fluctuate according to inflation and the devaluation of the peso. Espín wonders if the peso gains in value, if the prices will decline. While the Fernández government promised to do this with the price of gasoline in 1996, when it raised fuel prices, when the price of petroleum on world markets declined, the prices did not come down accordingly.
Espín also alerted that citizens should brace themselves for the effects of being in the hands of two private monopolies. He says that the two companies that won the tender, the AES-Distribuidora Dominicana and the Unión Fenosa will operate as monopolies, having the control of power supply in the DR.

Colgate Palmolive opens new plant
Colgate Palmolive has just inaugurated a large plant for the production of cleaning products (bleach and detergents) primarily for the export market. Company general manager Paul Witmond said that the new Villa Mella plant that was built on an area of 72,000 meters will produce cleaning products for export to the Caribbean.

Hotel sectors want lower prices of airplane fuel
Rafael Blanco Canto, president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, told the Listín Diario that during the meeting of hotel industry leaders with President Leonel Fernández to discuss the state of the tourism industry, they petitioned the government for a reduction in the price of aviation fuel. One of the leading problems affecting the growth of the tourism industry in the DR is the lack of airline seats. The hotel sector feels that by keeping fuel prices above area average, the government is discouraging new airlines from flying here or increasing their flights.
The New York-Santo Domingo, Miami-Santo Domingo and San Juan-Santo Domingo air routes are among the most profitable in the world because of the combination of ethnic and tourist travel. But the tourism sector needs to encourage airlines to open alternate routes in the US that would be attractive to tourists. Hotel spokesmen feel the reduction of the price of airplane fuel would help.
The private sector also requested that the government expedite disbursements of resources to the Ministry of Tourism. They would like the government to invest US$45 million in an advertising campaign.
The hoteliers also delivered to the Presidency an immediate action plan that seeks to bring order to the tourism zones.

Occidental takes over Reina Cumayasa
Occidental Hotels took over the operation of Hotel Reina Cumayasa, in La Romana. Occidental signed a 10-year contract with Grupo Mongo for the operation of the 50-room hotel. Occidental has plans to build an additional 200 new rooms at this development, as well as to build a golf course. The hotel would then be an attractive destination for scuba divers (Catalina Island is nearby), golfers, small conventions and incentive markets.
With the addition of the 200 rooms to the Reina Cumayasa, Ventura Serra, Occidentals head in the DR, said the Spanish hotel chain would own up to 3,000 hotel rooms. The chain is opening the 800-room Flamenco Beach at year's end.

Child violations increase
Sexual rape and abuse has been increasing in the DR, according to Laura Román, in charge of the Department of Sexual Violations of the District Attorney's office. She said that parents should be especially vigilant during the summer months when reports of violations increase to about 15 per day. Some 287 cases of violations have been reported so far this year, most taking place in impoverished neighborhoods.
There has again been a debate on whether those that sexually abuse children should be chemically castrated. One case that has spurred the discussion is that of 24-year old shoe shine man, Daniel Rodriguez Martinez, who confessed to having raped and then killed Elaine Yamile, a three year old neighbor.

DR loses its only gold medal
Dominican high jumper Juana Rosario Arrendel was stripped of her medal after failing a drug test. Arrendel denied she had used the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol and said the test may have picked up a decongestant she used before the event. This steroid was the same substance that caused Ben Johnson to be stripped of his gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics. Arrendel denied that in her six years in athletics she has ever used substances to enhance her performance. In the Central American and Caribbean Games held earlier in Venezuela, Arrendel had jumped 1.91 meters and tested negative on the drug test. In Winnipeg, she jumped 1.93. The runner up, an Argentinean jumped 1.88.
Arrendel's medal had been the Dominican Republic's only gold in the Pan Am Games.
Arrendel returned to Santo Domingo and is staying at the home of the president of the Track and Field Federation. She is expected to participate in a press conference tomorrow to explain what could have happened.

Bronze in weightlifting
Weightlifter Guillermina Candelario won a bronze medal in the 48 kilograms category yesterday in the Winnipeg Pan Am Games. This is the DR's third medal in the medal ranking of the Pan Am Games. The DR is also listed with a silver won in women's karate, and a bronze in judo.

"Cartas" at the National Theater
The best of Dominican ballet will go on stage at the National Theater on Friday, 6 August and Saturday, 7 August. "Cartas", gathers talented Dominican dancers. Mercedes Morales, Michele Jiménez, Soraya Franco, Silvia Crespo, Victor Ramirez, Raul Valdez, Edwin Silfa, Armando Gonzalez, and Monika Despradel. Choreography is by Alberto Méndez (Cuba), Juan Fidel Mieses, Lourdes Ramírez, Antonio Gómez, Carlos Veitía, Mercedes Morales, and Victor Ramírez.
The ballet is a drama and the script is based on legendary letters written by Gabriela Mistral, Manuel Magallanes, Pablo Neruda, Rodolfo Boulanger, Gustave Flauber, Minerva Mirabal, Manolo Tavárez, Virginia Woolf, Van Gogh, Frank Kafka and Juan Pablo Duarte. Co-starring is actress Monina Solá and pianist María de Fátima Geraldes.
The letters will be read by Mariasela Alvarez, Nuria Piera, Milagros Germán, Mariela Mercado, Jesus Torres Tejeda, Jose Antonio Rodríguez and Felix Germán.

Santo Domingo marathon set for 7 August
More than 300 runners will participate in the 4th Hispaniola Marathon, set for Saturday, 7 August in Santo Domingo starting at 4:40 pm. Organized by the Club de Maratonistas de Santo Domingo, the 21 kilometer race along the Avenida de la Salud of the Mirador Park will offer cash prizes for RD$100,000.
The competitors will compete in 18-29 years men and women, 30-34 years men and women, 35-39 years men and women, 40-45 years men and women and 45 years+ men.
Organizers are charging a RD$50 inscription fee that can be paid from 2-6 August from 6-8 pm at the Mirador Park.

Presidente Summer Games
Presidente Beer is sponsoring what is being called its Summer Games. Sumo fights (with contenders inside inflated balloon sumo costumes), races, roulette, beach volleyball and other games scheduled. There will also be live music with some of the top rock groups, including Al Jadaqui and Toque Profundo, as well as the participation of leading DJs.
The locations are as follows:
8 August: Playa Salinas, Baní
22 August: Cabarete, Puerto Plata
5 September: Boca Chica, Santo Domingo

Michael Camilo at the National Theater
Michael Camilo, one of the most talented Dominican musicians and performers of all times, will perform his Concert for Piano at the National Theater. He will perform accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra that will be conducted by Carlos Piantini. The performance is slated for Wednesday, 11 August at 8:30 pm. Tickets are for sale at the National Theater box office.

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