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Daily News - 15 September 1999

Assailants kill two and steal near RD$3 million
Assailants armed with bullet-proof jackets and a M-16 rifle as well as other guns assaulted armed guards of the Remesas Vimenca (Western Union agents) remittances company who were on their way to deliver more than RD$3 million in cash to offices in Santiago and Puerto Plata. The four guards were in a white Isuzu pick-up truck that was intercepted at around 6 am at the intersection of Abraham Lincoln Avenue and Jacinto Mañón streets, across from St. Thomas School and the Codetel headquarters. The three masked assailants, using anti-bullet jackets reportedly drove up in a grey car with official license plate, and intercepted the security guards pick-up quickly firing at the guards killing two and injuring two. They rapidly snatched bags containing RD$1.7 million and US$72,000. The deceased were former military Benjamín Cuello, 56, and Luis Francisco Paulino. Two two injured are retired military 30-year old Christian Montero and 63-year old Ramón Canela. They are interned in the intensive care unit of the military hospital.

10 sugar mills leased to private firms
The Commission for the Reform of Public Enterprise (CREP) leased the 10 State Sugar Council (CEA) sugar mills to five companies yesterday. The government will receive US$11,001,299 a year for the lease.
Winners of the leases are:
Impulsora Azucarera del Noroeste, S. A. (Zucarmex): Rio Haina, Ozama, Boca Chica, Quisqueya, Consuelo sugar mills. US$6,395,700 annual payment.
Consorcio Agroindustrial Caña Brava: Amistad and Montellano sugar mills. US$450,000 annual payment.
Consorcio Dominico Franco-Americano: Barahona sugar mill. US$1,805,000 annual payment.
Consorcio Pringamosa: Santa Fe and Porvenir sugar mills. US$2,350,599 annual payment.
The winners were awarded 30 year leases to sugar cane fields, cattle ranches, sugar mill infrastructure and production facilities.
This is the first phase of the privatization of the State Sugar Council (CEA) property. A second phase will involve the concession of lands with tourism or urban development potential.

Government praises school breakfast program, but doesn't pay suppliers
President Leonel Fernández has proudly extolled the school breakfast program as one of his administration's achievements. The breakfast is a magnet to get the children to go to school. Parents send their children to school because they avoid the expense of feeding the children at home.
But suppliers of milk for the program complain the government is maintaining arrears of more than RD$100 million with them. This is causing serious strains on several of the company's finances. The Association Dominicana de Suplidores del Estado denounces that the government did not make due on its promise to catch up on payments during the summer vacation period.
Recently, Codetel, the leading telecommunications company disconnected the Ministry of Education for lack of payment. Unfortunately, milk suppliers fear that if they discontinued supplying the product, the delays in payment would be longer, or they would run the risk of never getting paid.
Suppliers complain that to make matters worse, the government, apparently for political reasons, has promised local milk producers that the milk packaged for the school breakfast program will be purchased from them. The problem is that while vendors of powdered milk sell on credit, the local milk producers want payment upfront.

Privatization affects baseball league
Privatization is not good news for the Dominican Professional Baseball League. For years, the government has subsidized the league, absorbing the cost of lighting up the baseball stadiums for the four-month (October-February) tournament. But now that the distribution and collection of electricity has been privatized, the baseball clubs will have to negotiate directly with the new companies. The Aguilas Cibaeñas and Gigantes de San Francisco will have to sit down with Edenorte; the Estrellas Orientales (and the Azucareros del Este, once their stadium is repaired) will have to talk to AES Distribuidora del Este; and the Tigres del Licey and Leones del Escogido will have to talk to Edesur.
Meanwhile, to make matters worse, the Dirección General de Impuestos Internos, the local tax bureau, announced that it will be collecting taxes from the professional baseball players salaries. Baseball player wages had been exempt in the past, as part of the government policy to subsidize the event which was given a kind of quasi-public service treatment.

Passengers now insured on commuter buses
More and more minibus unions are instating travel insurance programs on their routes. Depending on the length of the trip, passengers are being charged RD$2-RD$5 extra on the travel ticket. Some passengers feel this service should be optional, but most are happy to pay for the insurance. The insurance provides coverage for medicines and even funeral expenditures for up to RD$40,000. Seguros La Antillana provides the coverage on routes to Higuey, La Romana, San Pedro, Hato Mayor, El Seibo and Miches in the East. Ruddy Rafael Rodríguez, adjunct secretary of the Sindicato de Choferes de la Provincia de La Altagracia and one of the promoters of the new service, also told El Siglo that they had purchased two ambulances to service the routes.

Forecast shows Hurricane Gert moving to the north of the Caribbean
Hurricane Gert maintains a northwestern course which would bring it to pass well north of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic included. Hurricane Gert is the seventh hurricane to enter the Atlantic Basin. The DR has been sparred from hurricanes so far this season. Peak season for hurricanes in the Caribbean is August and September. Optimistically speaking, the worst is over for the Caribbean, as it takes about two weeks for a hurricane to develop from the African coast and there no new tropical depressions are in formation to date. See the tracking charts and explanations available at:

Nuria Piera weds Pablo McKinney
37 year old TV producer Nuria Piera wed 40-year journalist Pablo McKinney in a simple very private ceremony at the Meson de la Cava. They had 40 guests. They married shortly after 1 pm and then sat down to a luncheon at the underground cave restaurant. They will honeymoon in France and Spain. Vice President Jaime David Fernández (McKinney is his assistant) presented the groom and Sonia Piera (she is Nuria's sister and partner in their production company), the bride.
In the story on the wedding, Hoy newspaper journalist Jorge Ramos commented on the irony of how Nuria Piera impeded journalistic access to her wedding. Nuria Piera makes a living interrupting and invading the privacy of others with her investigative reporting cameras. This is Nuria Piera's first wedding. Some journalism reports say it is McKinney's second wedding, other's state it is his third. He is the anchorman for the daily news service of the state television channel, RTVD, Channel 4.
A news report said the couple married with separation of assets. Nuria Piera said that the request was made by her today husband.

Calendar of upcoming activities
National Symphony Orchestra season opens tonight
National Theater presents, Symphony Season 1999.
The first concert of the second half of the National Symphony season will take place on Wednesday, 15 September. Julio De Windt, conductor. Alex Velinzon, violin solo. Works by L.V. Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); M. M. Miniño, Canto a la Madre Tierra; N. Paganini, Concert No. 1 for violin and orchestra in Re Major. Tickets: RD$150-RD$120 for sale at the National Theater.
National Theater Drama Season continues this weekend
The National Theater's drama season resumes this weekend, 15-19 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 also be shown 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.
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.
Handicraft fair coming up this week
Feriarte 99 will be held 16-19 September at the Hotel Embajardor. Feriarte, in its ninth year, is the leading handicraft fair held in the DR. It is organized by the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce. The fair is an exhibition of Dominican crafts where those attending can purchase items at attractive prices.
CTO annual conference in Santo Domingo
Final organization works are taking place for the celebration in Santo Domingo of the Caribbean Tourism Organization,s 23rd annual Caribbean Tourism Conference. The event will be held 23-25 September at the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino of Santo Domingo. President Leonel Fernández is expected to address the delegates at the opening session. Chris Mottershead, managing director of Airtours Holidays, a leading UK tour operator, will be the keynote speaker. Workshop topics include:
Tourism marketing in the new millennium;
Cruising into the 21st century: Trends, forecasts and implications for Caribbean destinations.
Developments in the Caribbean time-share industry;
E-commerce: How to buy and sell on the information highway
Health, safety and security expectations of the visitor: Is the Caribbean ready?
Charting a new course for tourism education and training.
For more information, see the Caribbean Tourism Organization web page at www.caribtourism.com
Tribute to bolero music in October
"Con la Magia del Bolero...100 Años Despues" will be an evening dedicated to romance at the stages of the Teatro Lafiesta in Santo Domingo (Friday, 1 October) and Centro Español in Santiago (Saturday, 2 October). Romantic boleros will be staged by legends such as Lucho Gatica, Olga Guillot, Lope Balaguer, Anthony Ríos and Francis Santana.
Expo Europa set for October
More than 130 Dominican and foreign companies will participate in the Vth Expo Europa '99 exhibition, sponsored by the Federation of European Chambers of Commerce of the DR and the Office for the Promotion of Foreign Investment (OPI). The event will take place at the convention center of the Hotel Dominican Fiesta from 7-10 October.
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.

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