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Daily News - 13 December 1999

ACP and European blocs agree in Brussels
African, Caribbean, Asian and European Union ministers, diplomats and officials will meet again in early January to finalize the new post 2000 Europe/ACP arrangement. The revised trade, aid and other provisions need to be in force by the end of February 2000 when Lomé IV Convention expires. The negotiators met 8/9 December in Brussels where they were able to successfully overcome most differences that had divided the 71-member group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states and the European Union. Agreements were achieved on issues such as the essential elements of good government, settlement of disputes, accession to the new agreement and its ratification, the role of the private sector, matters relating to trade relations and cultural issues. Matters relating to migration, the drafting and the duration of the arrangement remain to be resolved in January. The blocs agreed to take forward a virtually immediate application to the World Trade Organization for a waiver that will allow the enforcement of the new arrangement which calls for an extension of trade preferences through year 2008.
Agreements were also reached regarding bananas, rum, rice, beef and veal and sugar through a roll over of existing protocols, their modification or a joint declaration on the commodity concerned. The group also advanced on agreements to improve market access, changes to rules of origin, and the ways in which Stabex and Sysmin could be retained within new structures and a new approach.
The successful negotiations over a vast range of highly technical and globally difficult trade issues in Brussels contrasts with the failure of the WTO's Seattle ministerial conference which preceded the post Lomé negotiations. The Seattle conclusion that a small group of wealthy nations could no longer determine what is best for all benefited the work climate in Brussels, bringing more balance to the discussion table and focusing the negotiators on development rather than trade as an end in itself.

Budgetary dilemma
The Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, the leading opposition party, is pressing the Executive Branch to increase allotments for several institutions. The PRD is requesting that the Executive Branch increase allotments as follows:
Judicial Branch, RD$200 million
Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, RD$225 million
Junta Central Electoral, RD$153 million
Chamber of Deputies (lower house of Congress), RD$20 million
Lions Club, RD$14 million
Municipality of Santo Domingo, RD$300 million
Political analysts say that it's up to the Executive Branch to accept the demands or not. As it turns out, the PRD, which is absolute majority in the Senate, does not have enough votes in the Chamber of Deputies to override a presidential veto.
If Congress modifies the agreement, it risks a presidential veto. This could mean the Fernández administration would operate for its final six months in office using the 1999 budget and having a free hand with an estimated RD$4,000 million budgetary surplus. If Congress rejects the budget as submitted, the Fernández administration could also operate using the 1999 budget, again having a free hand with the surplus.

President blames PRD for not passing economic reforms
President Fernandez said during a conference at the University of Miami that his main frustration in office has been that he has not been able to implement the economic reforms package. The economic reforms package has not been passed by Congress, which is controlled by the PRD opposition party. He also criticized that Congress has not ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement that was promoted by the Dominican government.
President Fernández believes that if the PRD is elected to power in the 2000 presidential election, the country's economic development will stagnate. In his opinion, PRD candidate Hipólito Mejía does not have a vision of the future.
President of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata) attributed the country's present high economic development rate to the lack of Congress passing the economic reform package which he said would have been detrimental to national producers.

Highway to link Haina Port and Duarte Highway
The Ministry of Public Works announced it will complete the highway leading from the western side of Haina Port to Km. 14 of the Duarte Highway (the main thoroughfare that connects the North and the South of the DR). Construction will start in January. The highway will help reduce the amount of cargo trucks that have to enter Santo Domingo when they are headed for the north. The ground link was started six years ago but works, that were advanced, were suspended. The highway construction includes the construction of an overpass linking into Duarte Highway at Km. 14.

Successful PLD mega political congregation
The Partido de la Liberación Dominicana organized a successful mega political congregation to close the first phase of the presidential campaign of Danilo Medina. President Leonel Fernández and Vice President Jaime David Fernández were present at the political meeting that took place at the head of the Francisco del Rosario Sánchez Bridge (Puente de la 17). Danilo Medina called out for a vote of confidence from the Dominican people to continue the work of the PLD government. He committed to close the gap between the rich and poor in the Dominican Republic. In the DR more than 50% of households have earnings below the minimum RD$6,000 needed, and 19% live in extreme poverty, while the country reported highest sales of Jaguar cars in Latin America this year, and has the highest economic growth rate in the world.

The light side to politics: "Pichirrí" Food Festival on TV
TV producer Rafael Corporán de los Santos capitalized on the humorous aspects of doing politics in the DR and presented on Saturday, the nation's first Chicken Tail (Pichirrí) Gastronomy Festival. The nation's most renowned chef, Maestro Mike Mercedes was in charge of presenting around two dozen dishes that featuring the chicken delicacy. The chicken part reached notoriety when a CBS TV interviewer asked President Leonel Fernández his opinion of a comment by PRD presidential candidate Hipólito Mejía that he had PLD presidential candidate Danilo Medina caught by the "pichirrí". President Fernández expressed his concern that a man who used such language would govern the nation. From then on the very phonetic and colorful expression caught on and became the talk of the town.

Modes of transportation
A statistical brief published by Hoy newspaper says that 39.8% (47.1% in Santo Domingo) of Dominicans have their own mode of transportation, be it a car, pick-up, motorcycle or bicycle. The same survey shows that nationwide, 9% get around using their own cars, 4.6% using their own motorcycles, 52.2% uses public buses, 12% use multi-fare paying taxis, and 4.3% use motorcycle taxis (motoconchos).

Southwestern dam is a time bomb, says expert
A former director of the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidraulicos (Indrhi), Augusto Rodríguez Gallart commented on a TV program that a new drain needs to be urgently built into the Sabana Yegua Dam, that is located in the southwest, and is fed by the Yaque del Sur River. He said that in its present state, the dam is a time bomb. He said that if Hurricane Lenny had passed over the DR, the overflow would have wiped out several southwestern cities. Rodríguez explained that this did not occur during Hurricane Georges because the dam was empty, and even though the waters came within a dangerous three meters from overflowing.
Rodríguez urged that the government specialize 50% of the income from the sale of electricity from the dams for maintenance and improvement of the dams. He says that the dams generate about RD$1,000 million a year. He spoke up against privatization of the dams, from the point of view that if they were in private hands these would concentrate on the production of electricity, and not on using the waters for farm irrigation.
Engineer Frank Rodríguez, the present director of the Indrhi, said that the government is seeking a US$50 million financing from the government of Japan to build the drain.

Police agents are drug vendors' accomplices in slum areas
Father José Núñez of the Parroquia Domingo Savio said that many police agents stationed in the slum areas of La Ciénaga, Los Guandules, 27 de Febrero and Agua Dulce are accomplices of drug traffickers operating at points there. He said that the people in the area do not denounce the drug traffickers for fear of reprisals. He denounced that the police agents give protection to the drug vendors.

Union hot heads blamed for death of security chief
Caribe Tours, a leading bus company, suspended its bus services nationwide yesterday to protest the murder of its chief of security. On Sunday,
Caribe Tours buses transported friends and relatives to the funeral of Colonel Pedro Pablo Simé Jorge at the Cristo Redentor Cemetery in Santo Domingo. Simé died when Jimaní transport union members, that apparently fear the new Caribe Tours route to Haiti will affect their revenues, ambushed a company bus in which Simé was traveling. Caribe Tours is accusing the Sindicato de Dueños y Cobradores de Minibuses de Transporte de Pasajeros de Jimaní of ambushing the 61 year old man. Administrative director of Caribe Tours, Ivonne Montes de Oca said that Simé murder was planned by the members of the union that assaulted the bus. The company is accusing Francis Medina Ferreras, Claudio Soto and two others identified as Siler y Marcelo for the ambush. Montes de Oca said that the violent reaction of the union is irrational as the bus only picks up passengers at the Caribe Tours terminals, while the union covers short distance routes in the area.
The director of the Oficina Técnica de Transporte Terrestre, which regulates ground transport in the DR, Germán Peña Guadalupe said that the interests of consumers are above those of individuals.

Educational toys for guns
El Gordo de la Semana television program gave its support to the District Attorney program that seeks to encourage parents to not give toys that encourage violence this Christmas. The popular Sunday program was televised from the Palacio de los Deportes during an event in which the District Attorney's office gave out educational toys to children in exchange for toy guns.

American pilot crashes into northern mountain
Sabina Christine Johnsen (Passport 036818107), a 54-year old woman died in an airplane crash on Thursday at around 5:30 pm. She crashed into a coffee farm in a mountain of the Septentrional Mountain Range. She was flying to Santiago de los Caballeros from Grand Exume, in the Bahamas. Her mutilated body was found by rescuers that reached the site at around 8 pm and taken to the Pathology Department of the José Cabral y Báez Hospital of Santiago. The single-engine plane registration is N1291Z. The airplane was completely destroyed.

Shopping or touring Price Smart is "in" thing to do
Visits to Price Smart were the thing to do over the weekend. "Have you been to Price Smart?" was the talk among diligent shoppers in Santo Domingo. The membership shopping warehouse is expected to revolutionize shopping in the DR. The US company is investing US$20 million in its locales in Santo Domingo and Santiago. The warehouse offers a wide variety of imported items, and several Dominican brands. Items range from fresh produce to hardware, furniture, apparel and electronics. The store expects to lure Dominican consumers with better prices. Their secret, they mark up only 8% compared to 30% of many local supermarkets.
The first Price Smart to open is located at Charles Sumner Avenue, near Winston Churchill Avenue. The Santiago store opens tomorrow.

More poll results
Hoy Hamilton & Staff survey showed that 57% of Dominicans believe Haitians should only be allowed to migrate to the DR if they have a work permit. Moreover, 76% are not against Haitian migration.
Sigma Dos/Listin Diario Poll showed that 62.7% of Dominicans feel that Mayor Johnny Ventura has not fulfilled his campaign promises. Those thinking he has done a bad city government are a high 43.2%. This is up from former mayors Suberví (20.5%), and Corporán (37.4%).
Mayor Ventura is one of the legends of Dominican merengue music. The late leader of the PRD, José Francisco Peña Gómez, handpicked him for the post.

Sunday Juan Luís Guerra concert
Ticket sold out fast for the Saturday show of Juan Luis Guerra, the most internationally outstanding of all Dominican performers, at the Altos de Chavon. Promoters of the show are now announcing a Sunday show. Tickets are only available through tour operators that are selling the whole package of bus transport and admission. Tour packages are going for RD$850.

Cuba to help DR in Pan Am Games organization
The president of the Santo Domingo Pan American Games organizing committee, José Joaquín Puello signed an agreement with the director of the leading Cuban sports organization for assistance in organizing the 2003 Pan Am Games. Humberto Rodríguez, president of the Instituto Nacional de Deportes of Cuba signed for Cuba.
Cuba will be assisting the DR in 15 critical areas. Among these are managerial assistance, organization, technical direction, informatics, inaugural and closing events, awards ceremonies, press centers, Pan Am villa, logistics, protocol, accreditation, timing, volunteers, support to Dominican sports federations.

Christmas in the Colonial City
"Navidad 99" is the celebration of Christmas organized by the Ayuntamiento de Santo Domingo (city municipality), Secretaría de Turismo (ministry of tourism), Comisión de Monumentos (historic monuments commission), Oficina de Patrimonio Cultural (office of cultural heritage), and the Patronato de la Ciudad Colonial (board of the colonial city).
Activities start today, Wednesday, 1 December and continue all month long. Most of the events take place at the Parque Colón (Isabel la Católica corner Conde), the Patronato de la Ciudad Colonial (Isabel la Católica 103) or the Palacio Consistorial (Arz. Meriño corner Conde), Cathedral of Santo Domingo (Arz. Meriño corner Arz. Nouel), Capilla de los Remedios (Calle Las Damas corner Mercedes).
The schedule for the next three days is as follows:

Monday, 13 December
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Christmas music concert by the Choir of the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.
8 pm. Grupo Afro Tambú. Parque Colón.

Tuesday, 14 December
8 pm. Vinicio Franco in concert sponsored by the Municipality of Santo Domingo. Parque Colon.
9 pm. Christmas Festival. Soprano Ivonne Haza concert. Palacio Consistorial.

Wednesday, 15 December
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Christmas Music Concert by the choir of the Central Bank. Parque Colón.
8 pm. Performance of the Folklore Ballet of the Municipality of Santo Domingo. Parque Colón.
8 pm. Convento de los Dominicos. Christmas music concert by the National Choir.
9 pm. Concert for piano and violin. Olga Voigt and Zvedana de Tavar, Palacio Consistorial.

Winter baseball games and standing
Monday, 13 December 1999
San Francisco de Macorís: Escogido vs. Pollos
San Pedro de Macorís: Licey vs. Estrellas

Team standing as of Sunday, 12 December 1999:
Leones del Escogido 21-12 (.636)
Aguilas Cibaeñas 21-14 (.600) ­1 game
Estrellas Orientales 17-18 (.486) ­5 games
Tigres del Licey 14-20 (.412), -7.5 games
Pollos del Cibao 12-21 (.364) ­9 games

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