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Daily News - 03 September 1999

There will be no electricity bill price hike after all
President Leonel Fernández met yesterday with government officials and top executives of the two private companies that have been entrusted with the distribution of power in the DR. As a result of the meeting, the companies agreed to not apply Resolution 237-98 of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce that authorized a 5% increase in electricity bills, reflecting accumulated inflation. The electricity rate will be kept as it was on 1 August 1999. According credits will be granted to customers.
In a note issued to the press on the outcome of the five-hour meeting, the government announced that blackouts will be cut short with the incorporation of 148 megawatts in coming days. This is the result of the going online of the following power plants: Cayman Power Barge II with 48 megawatts; Pimentel, with 35; Maxon in Barahona with 30 and Haina II with 35 megawatts.
The government attributes the glitches in the service to a decline in the generation of energy, technical and logistical problems that are normal during the transition period of a privatization process.
The government also called for an increase in coordination of sectors involved.
The five-hour meeting took place at the National Palace.
Participating were Karl Huber, for Empresa AES Distribuidora del Este and Mario Lopez Cabalero, for Unión Fenosa-Empresa Distribuidora del Sur and Empresa Distribuidora del Norte. In addition to President Leonel Fernández, the government was represented by Radhamés Segura, administrator of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE); Antonio Isa Conde, director of the Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprise (CREP); Minister of Industry and Commerce Luis Manuel Bonetti; Secretary of the Presidency Alejandrina Germán; Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás and by the president of the Superintendency of Electricity, Marcos Cochón.
While the Superintendency of the Electricity said the increase had been 5%, industries and residences complained they received bills with 20-40% increases.
The increase met with opposition from business sectors and all political parties, including the ruling PLD.
The main gripe was that the government had promised several times during the pre-privatization days that the privatization would not mean an increase in the price consumers paid for the service.
Radhamés Segura, general administrator of the CDE, told the press afterwards that Congress needs to immediately pass the General Electricity bill. He said the bill need to be modified to incorporate provisions to protect Dominican consumers.

Unión Fenosa explains employees' gripes
El Siglo newspaper carries a report whereby the Spanish company explains the paycheck reductions several employees received, including union leaders formerly employed by CDE that were rehired at the newly privatized electricity distribution company. A spokesman for the company said that several employees were receiving fixed amounts for extra hours of work, regardless of having carried out the extra work. The company also explained that the employees will receive a better medical insurance plan once they complete three months on the payroll.

Electronic voting in 2000?
The president of the Junta Central Electoral is in favor of carrying out a trial run of what it would be like to vote electronically. They are in favor of installing electronic voting systems on three polling stations during the 2000 election. A US, Dominican and Colombian company have presented proposals for electronic voting systems to the organization that is in charge of organizing the presidential, municipal and congressional elections in the DR.

Navy reduces illegal boat trips
The Dominican Navy said the US Coast Guard has detected 200 less Dominicans making the crossing to Puerto Rico this year than in 1998. Only 317 Dominicans have been rescued from Mona Channel waters, compared to 514 in 1998.
The Dominican Navy under Rear Admiral Victor García Alecón is for the first time carrying out a widespread serious effort to reduce boat trips, which transport illegal persons (Dominicans and foreigners), weapons and drugs to Puerto Rico. They have arrested 594 persons, including 16 foreigners, that attempted to make the crossings. The Navy also recently created the Compañía Motorizada contra Viajes Ilegales, a group of 55 Navy officers that are patrolling the coasts on modern all-terrain motorbikes, and are equipped with night vision and communication equipment. The Navy frustrated 22 trips so far this year. The officers also have been instructed to protect the ecology and the fauna from human predators.

30 porters fired at Puerto Plata International Airport
The general administrator of the Puerto Plata Airport, Ramón Antonio Rodríguez, fired 30 luggage porters at the Gregorio Luperón International Airport in Puerto Plata after confirming complaints from several tour operators that their passengers were being hassled by the porters. The porters hassled tourists to let them carry their bags and then tried to intimidate them into paying big tips.

Aeromar to fly to Miami and San Juan from Santiago
Aeromar announced it will soon start offering service to Santiago International Airport. Routes to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida will be offered from the second largest city in the DR. The airline has so far been able to compete with major carriers, such as American Airlines, by offering excellent on board service and better fares. Most travelers that have used Aeromar say they are pleased with the better service on board. Nevertheless, they say they are aware that because Aeromar does not have the luxury of spare aircraft, long delays may be more frequent than with the larger airlines.

Private sector opposes granting privileges to Dominicana Airlines
The decision of the government to grant a six year exclusivity on routes to Dominicana Airlines, the state airline, to make its privatization more attractive, has met with strong opposition from the private sector, inside and outside of the travel sectors. Celso Marranzini, president of the National Council of Businesses (CONEP) said Resolution 281 of the Civil Aviation Board that granted the privilege contradicts the call for open competition supposedly supported by the government.
Former Minister of Tourism and spokesman for Air Santo Domingo and Air Europa, Fernando Rainieri considered the resolution is illegal and abusive because it stops airlines that had plans to fly the route once US aviation restrictions are lifted. He favors equality of conditions for all airlines. Rainieri says that the DR tourism industry would be the first to benefit from competition, and that instead of putting obstacles to new airlines, what the government should do is promote their coming to the DR.
One of the major problems affecting local tourism is the dependency on charter flights, especially on US-DR routes.

Canadians contribute to help people with disabilities in the DR
The Canadian Paraplegic Association is about to begin a project in the Dominican Republic to assist people with disabilities.
David Hinton, manager of International Development for the Canadian Paraplegic Association will be bringing a group of experts to Santo Domingo with the first arriving 10 September. These experts will offer four days of seminars, workshops and training in wheelchair basketball as well as wheelchair maintenance and repair.
Apart from the training, the Canadians will be donating 20 wheelchairs to the Asociación Dominicana de Rehabilitación who have taken on the role of in-country coordinator.
A mutually agreed upon project between these two organizations will entail six visits of Canadian professionals over the next 12 months to deliver seminars, workshops and training in such areas as sport/recreation, barrier free design, employment, transportation, peer counseling, personal heath problems and wheelchair construction/repair.
The project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency with additional support offered by the M. A. Motz Foundation and the Roncalli International Foundation.
The Dominican Republic Project for People with Disabilities is a continuance of similar projects recently delivered by the Canadian Paraplegic Association in Costa Rica, Guyana and Cuba.

35 Jaguars sold in 15 days
Jaguars on the streets of Santo Domingo will no longer be a rarity. El Siglo newspaper reports that in its first two weeks, the new Jaguar dealer in Santo Domingo has sold 35 of these vehicles. Note that the Jaguars sell for RD$995,000 to RD$1,665,000 (about US$62,000 to US$100,000).
There have been Jaguars in the DR since the 1950s. One of the first models to come to the DR, if not the first, was a XJ12 property of Pacho Saviñón Trujillo.
Viamar, the local distributor of Ford cars in the Dominican Republic opened the offices of its subsidiary, Jaguar Dominicana at the corner of Roberto Pastoriza and Tiradentes. They are selling the XJ, XKI8 and the S-Type models.
El Siglo points out in a front page story today that there is an extraordinary boom going on in the sale of luxury vehicles. The boom of luxury vehicles began with the sale of luxury jeeps, to be followed by BMWs and Range Rovers, and now the Jaguars.

Piano contest winners to play at National Theater
The National Symphony Orchestra will accompany the winners of the Santander International Piano Concert during their presentation on Wednesday, 8 September at the National Theater. They will be here participating in a benefit for the Asociación Pro Educación y Cultura. The Santander contest is organized by the Foundation Isaac Albeniz, that was founded in 1972 by Paloma O'Shea, a world-recognized supporter of young piano talents. The award-winning pianists are Koreans John Hwa Park and Yung Wook Yo, both US trained, and Plamena Mangova from Bulgaria. For tickets contact Sinfonía at Tel. 532-6600 or the National Theater at 682-7255. Tickets: RD$500-RD$300.

Speed car racing at Las Americas Race Track
Those who enjoy speed car racing should visit the Las Americas International Race Track on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. Located on Las Americas Highway on the road to Las Americas International Airport, the race track will be hosting the 4th Race of the National Speed Car Racing Championship this Sunday.

National Theater Drama Season starts this weekend
The National Theater's drama season resumes this evening, 3 September with the presentation of the play, "Bachata para María Viveza." This play will last through 26 September.
Radhamés Polanco wrote and directs this play that was chosen "best drama" by Casa de Teatro in 1997.
The action takes place primarily in a brothel. Actors play the role of eight Dominican stereotypes.
The play will be shown 3-5 September, 8-12 September, 15-19 September, 22-26 September at 10 am and 8:30 pm at the Sala Ravelo.
Starring roles are played by Laura Guzmán (María Viveza), Henry Mercedes (Pedro Baile), Ramón Matrille (Deputy Medina Rubirosa), Clara Luz Lozano (Maria Paulino), and Doris Sánchez (Rosa Velorio). The play is produced by Mariela Freundt.
This weekend, the National Theater's main hall is showing a comedy, "Estoy amando a mi suegra," a Roberto Salcedo production.
The National Theater's drama season continues with: "Creonte" from 1 October to 7 November; "La Trinitaria Blanca," from 12 November to 5 December and "Chicken Cordon Blue," from 14 January to 6 February.

Presidente Beer Summer Games in Boca Chica next weekend
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 are 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 final location for the games is in Boca Chica, next 11 September. The games were held previously in Salinas Baní; and Cabarete, Puerto Plata.

Tie in the finals of Basketball Championship
San Lazaro tied the finals of the Santo Domingo Basketball Championship, defeating Mauricio Baez 109-88. The series is now tied 2-2. The fifth game will be played today, Friday, 3 September at 8 pm at the newly remodeled Sports Palace of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo.

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