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Daily News - 31 August 1999

Ports to be privatized
The new director of the Dominican Port Authority, Melanio Paredes said that the government will again look into the privatization of maritime ports. While the process to privatize airports moved ahead and is just awaiting congressional approval for implementation, the privatization of sea ports stagnated under the administration of Javier García. Javier García was recently appointed campaign director for government party candidate, Danilo Medina.
Recently, leading opposition party candidate, Hipólito Mejía accused Javier García of issuing a RD$50 million check to be used to motivate PLD votes in favor of Medina in the PLD primary. The government has denied this, saying the moneys were deposited in a government account.
Paredes, the new Port Authority director, says that he has appointed a commission of technicians to prepare the documentation for the privatization process. He said all sectors that he is opening the process to all sectors that interact with port activity.

AMET in Santiago as of 19 September
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) will begin offering modern bus transportation services in Santiago de los Caballeros, the DR's second largest city, as of 19 September. Some 40 buses, of a total of 200 to be stationed in Santiago, will start servicing Santiago residents on three routes.
These are:
Autopista Duarte and Avenida Hispanoamerica, Mirador del Yaque, General López, Imbert, 27 de Febrero, Ensanche Libertad, free zone.
Gurabo, Avenida Bartolomé Colón, General López and Hato del Yaque.
Rotonda Ensanche Libertador, through the center of the city.
Bus service in Santiago will be under the Santiago Metropolitan Authority. Major Vásquez Jérez is the new commander of the AMET transport police force.
While the establishment of the service met initially with protests from taxi unions and even the city hall, engineer Hamlet Hermann, director of AMET, said that its installation in Santiago has been easier than in Santo Domingo. He said that the residents of Santiago are more identified with their city than those of Santo Domingo.
The new AMET offices will be located at the Barranquita Sports Complex. Engineer Hermann has vowed to contribute to the restoring of the sports complex, that has been practically abandoned. The complex was site of the 1986 Central American and Caribbean Sports Games.

Repaving of Las Americas begun
The Ministry of Public Works began works to repair and repave the Las Americas Highway. The highway links Santo Domingo with Las Americas International Airport, the principal airport of the country, and continues on to eastern beach area destinations.
Works include the closing of several left turn intersections, where accidents have frequently occurred. The central islet will be replaced by low diving walls. Traffic distributors, to facilitate left turns, will be built, such as that leading to the V Centenario Race Track.
The Ministry announced that the highway will be repaved from the toll booth station to the Juan Carlos Bridge.

President Fernández in Colombia
President Leonel Fernández concluded his two-day official visit to Colombia. In a joint declaration, both Fernández and President Andrés Pastrana committed to strengthen dialogue and promote friendship ties between both nations. They agreed to work for the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement.
During the visit, President Leonel Fernández offered the collaboration of the DR as facilitator to contribute to the peace process between the guerrilla and the Colombian government.
President Fernández signed five cooperation agreements and two financing agreements for a total of US$43 million. The financing will be used for the Tres Saltos hydroelectric project that will increase irrigation in the central region farm areas. Financing will also be used to build low cost housing.
Cooperation agreements were signed in tourism, education, justice and diplomacy.
President Fernández said there is the possibility that Colombian investors will participate with Dominican investors in the construction of the nation's first natural gas plant.

JCE new host computer is now working
The Junta Central Electoral, the government body in charge of organizing elections, said that a new host computer is now in operation. The new computer, facilitated on loan by Unisys International, has capacity to issue 30,000-40,000 voting cards a day. The JCE's previous computer had capacity for 6,000 a day. The JCE is way behind its schedule for issuing the voting cards, and hopes to catch up in time for the May 2000 presidential election. The JCE has still to issue about 4.5 million voting cards, to replace previous cards, by December. The JCE says it is issuing cards at about more than 15,000 a day.

Government contributes RD$1 million to save teenager
President Leonel Fernández, prior to traveling to Colombia, authorized a government contribution of RD$1 million to the Save Ilianov campaign. Ilianov de León Albino is a 14-year old boy who needs a bone marrow transplant. He is interned in the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center of New York City, but needs RD$7.2 million (US$450 thousand) for the operation. His family has sponsored a campaign that has collected more than half of the moneys in less than two months, or RD$3.8 million. The family hopes to gather the needed RD$7.2 million by 30 September. For more information, call 809 533-4912, 809 565-8069, 809 565-0336.

Who is enrolled
The Ministry of Education has a registration of 8,630 grade school and high schools. Some 2,119,729 students were enrolled last year, of which 1,772,285 studied in public schools and 347,436 in private schools. Public schools open next week. Many private schools are already open. The Ministry of Education postponed the start of the public school system to allow additional time to distribute books and so that President Fernández could be back in the country to personally inaugurate the school year.

The future of Dominican agriculture
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana held this year in Barahona, Osmar Benítez the executive vice president of the organization spoke of challenges ahead for farmers and agribusiness in the DR.
He said that at present, production is at RD$3,500 million a year to supply the Dominican population and additional two million tourists. He said that Dominicans have ahead the challenge to produce for nine million tourists by year 2010, or crops for RD$17 million.
Benítez highlighted the increasing world market demands for organic farm produce, urging Dominican farmers to get on this bandwagon. He said demand is at more than US$10,000 million, with Europe alone demanding US$4,650 million in organic produce.
The Vice President of the JAD said there are many opportunities in tropical agriculture, producing exotic tropical fruits and vegetables that are sought by tourists and international markets.

Unión Fenosa announces power supply bill reductions
Unión Fenosa-Distribuidora del Norte and Unión Fenosa Distribuidora del Sur announced a 0.56% reduction in their billing as of 1 September. They attributed the decline to reductions in the exchange rate for the US$ dollar and inflation. The new rates reflect the change in the consumer price index that declined from May to June from 100.46 to 99.91 points. Likewise, the exchange rate declined from 16.01 to 15.92 during the same period. Unión Fenosa, the Spanish power company that won the bid for half of Santo Domingo and north and southern regions of the DR, explained that electricity bills may vary depending on the cost of petroleum, inflation and exchange rate to the US dollar.
Last week, AES Distribuidora del Este announced a 5% increase in their billing. The increase was controversial as government authorities had repeatedly told Dominicans privatization would not bring an increase in the cost of electricity to consumers.

Penal Court of Appeals confirms 20-year sentence
The Penal Court of Appeals of Barahona confirmed the sentence of 20 years levied on Rafael Mendez Díaz who was found guilty of raping and later killing Haitian woman Segá Pié in the frontier province of Pedernales. The murder took place on 30 October 1997 in La Altagracia in the frontier province of Peravia where the Haitian woman resided.

Pedro Martínez wins his 19th game
Pedro Martínez won his 19th game yesterday, striking out 11 to increase his total to 242. He pitched six innings in the game the Boston Red Sox won against the Kansas City Royals 9-1. Martínez is the strongest contender for the American League Cy Young award.

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