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Daily News - 01 September 1999

Guru of Dominican politics turns 93
He's 93 years old today, he's blind and hunched, but he's incredibly but truly still calling the shots in Dominican politics. Born Saturday, 1 September 1906 at 8:30 pm in the province of Santiago, doctor of law Joaquín Amparo Balaguer Ricardo has plans to run for President of the Republic in the 2000 presidential election if his health permits.
This would be the seventh time he runs in a presidential election. He has been President seven times, including a les than two year term as puppet president during the regime of Dictator Rafael Trujillo (1960-62). Balaguer was democratically elected in the 1966-70, 1970-74, 1974-78, 1986-90, 1990-94, and 1994-1996.
In 1996 he gave his personal support to today President Leonel Fernández so the later could defeat PRD contender, José Francisco Peña Gómez in the second round of that year's election.
Balaguer is a mythical figure, he has a fine sense of when to wait and when to act, depending on the circumstances. He was said to be finished in 1978, when he lost to PRD's Antonio Guzmán. He was democratically voted in again in 1986. He was "finished" in 1996, only to again bounce back by offering his endorsement to Leonel Fernández. He was said to be finished in 1998, when his party did poorly in the municipal and congressional elections. Two years later, the PRD offered his party the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies on a silver platter. Two years later, the PRD dares not oppose the election of former Senator Amable Aristy Castro at the helm of the Dominican Municipal League.
He is loved and hated by contending Dominican politicians and Dominicans in general. He has been described as a hybrid between a dictator and a democrat; his charm envelopes whomever sits with him, such as the head of Medusa.
The PRD described the "Pacto Patriótico" he signed with the PLD that resulted in the win of today President Leonel Fernández as a "Satanic alliance," but today that party would like a similar alliance, and seeks to not antagonize him to secure his endorsement in the presidential election of 2000.
While he is decrepit, Balaguer maintains a prodigious and lucid mind.
Press stories on occasion of his birthday have revealed that he regularly eats chicken consomme, toast and fruits.On occasions he will have white rice with lentils, chick peas, or stewed guandules. His austere diet is one of the reasons he has survived his contenders in politics, principally Juan Bosch who is senile and José Francisco Peña Gómez, who died of cancer.
He never married. Known for his cynicism and distrust of humans, his best friends are said to be his dogs, two collies that live in an air-conditioned room in his Máximo Gómez home. Biographers say that he has had three offspring - Joaquín Antonio Balaguer, Alexis Joaquín Castillo and Mercedita Solís.
His close collaborators continue to be Aníbal Páez, Rafael Bello Andino and General Luis María Pérez Bello.
Lawyer Belarminio Ramirez Morillo is releasing today a book on Balaguer. The 10-chapter 240-page book was published in installments earlier in the year in the Hoy newspaper and provides interesting insights into the personality of Balaguer.

Government authorized electricity price hike
The president of the Superintendency of Electricity, a body of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, said that the government authorized the 5% increase in electricity billing by Resolution 237-98. The increase covers nine months of inflation, from November 1998 to July 1999. Marcos Cochón, president of the Superintendency, told the press that the government does not have legal mechanisms to penalize the distribution of electricity companies if they do not fulfill their obligations, nor if they increase billings beyond what is authorized. He said that the penalties are contemplated in the General Electricity Bill that has not been passed by Congress. The bill has been debated for years and is stagnated due to individual interests of certain congressmen and influential figures and sectors that wanted to modify the bill or maintain the status quo which provides advantageous tax exemptions to electrical companies.

Drivers' education is essential in DR
Luis Alba, an analyst of traffic in charge of transit at the Dominican Red Cross said that most of the transit problems in Santo Domingo have their root in the lack of education on behalf of those driving in the capital city. He estimated that 60% of those driving do not have licenses, and thus did not acquire even a basic driver education. He said to make matters worse, in 1994 the government granted tax facilities that made importing used cars cheap, thus thousands of cars were imported. He says that if one compares the number of license plate registrations and the numbers of drivers licenses granted, it is obvious there are thousands of persons out there driving without a license. He urged the implementation of drivers' ed programs to improve transit in the capital city.

108 women graduated for public school force
The National Police graduated a first group of 108 women that received specialized education to make up the first public school force. Known as the Policía de Protección Escolar, the women will work the day shifts in public schools throughout the country. The Police will be graduating a second group of 170 men next month. The men will be stationed at high schools with high delinquency rates and will work night shifts. The new police force received instruction in dealing with juvenile delinquency, traffic, and control of narcotics.

State-of-art communications service for Juan Dolio
Codetel, the leading local telecommunications company, is advancing on the installation of a RD$94.5 million underground optical fiber 35-kilometer long network that will communicate the southeastern beach community of Juan Dolio with Santo Domingo. Systems for data, voice and video are being installed. The installation is part of a nationwide effort to communicate the East with subterranean installations in order to avoid what happened during Hurricane Georges, when the East of the country was incommunicado when lines fell. Hurricane Georges hit Santo Domingo hard, but the city maintained its telecommunications system for the most part intact, and telephone communications went on during the peak of the hurricane.
Earlier this year, Codetel completed the installation from Santo Domingo to the Boca Chica rotunda.
The company says the new digital system means a 100% improvement over the quality of telecommunications in the area.

Abraham Lincoln Avenue for pedestrians on Sundays
The city government of Santo Domingo is in favor of converting the Abraham Lincoln Avenue stretch from 27 de Febrero to Gustavo Mejía Ricart Street into a pedestrian route on Sundays. A trial will take place in November (Month of the Family). The idea is to celebrate multiple family-oriented activities on the wide stretch on Sundays. Suggestions of activities include exhibition of paso fino horses, speed racing cars, Jaguars, Porches, Harley Davidson motorcycles, exotic animals, mimes, caricature painters, jazz musicians, cyber cafes, clowns, animated entertainment, sales of antiques, exhibition of aerobics, and others.

Iberoamerican Theater Festival starts 11 October
The National Theater is announcing the Second International Iberoamerican Theater Festival. The festival was first held in 1997. This time, Dominican works will be included in the program of plays to be presented. Dominican plays that will be shown are "Amanda," "Quijote," and "Wish-ky Sour."
The festival is a series of theatrical presentations, forums and workshops on theater. The activities will take place at the Eduardo Brito and Ravelo halls of the Teatro Nacional, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museo de Historía y Geografía, Paraboloide del Museo de Arte Moderno and the Museo de Historia Nacional through 24 October.
The event has become a place for the encounter of leading playwrights from Ibero America. Participants are coming from Spain, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Argentina.

José Lima & Sammy Sosa update
Dominican José Lima of the Houston Astros became the first player in the National League to win 18 games. Last night he defeated the New York Mets 6-2 at the Astrodome. The 18 games mark is better than his last year seasonal win record of 16 games won. Lima has won 18 games and lost 7. He averages 3.35.
Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs increased his lead over Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals by four. Last night he batted his 55th home run in the game the Cubs lost to the San Diego Padres 7-3.

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