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Daily News - 17 December 1999

DR and US sign Open Skies agreement
US Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater capped off his tour of Central American and Caribbean by signing an Open Skies aviation accord with the DR yesterday. The agreement is the US's 9th in the Caribbean and 39th in the world. The agreement is expected to benefit US aviation and DR tourism. Dominican airlines will not benefit as the country has Category Three status, which bans DR airlines from flying to the US until safety and security programs are fulfilled.
Slater said the agreement was signed because the Dominican leadership (President Fernández) decided that the time was now. He said the open skies accord is part of the general efforts of the Fernández administration to position the DR in the regional arena.
Dominican tourism will benefit if more US airlines fly in and are able to break the present gridlock of lack of seats and high rates due to the virtual oligopoly of the few airlines that cover the US-DR routes.
The Open Skies aviation accord will permit US airlines to operate air services between the two countries without restrictions on how often carriers can fly, kind of aircraft used and prices charged.
In the Caribbean region, the US has Open Skies agreements with the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

DR drug trafficking avenues closed, says Slater
US Secretary of Transport in Santo Domingo for an official two-day visit commended the efforts of Rear Admiral Victor García Alecont to combat drug trafficking and save lives. Slater called the work of the Dominican Navy "exemplary," referring to the strong search and rescue program, migrant interdiction and drug trafficking reduction. He believes that the Dominican Navy, assisted by the US Coast Guard, has closed off DR waters as an avenue for drug trafficking. He praised Dominican efforts to combat the free flow of drugs through the Caribbean. Unfortunately, he said, the business lure is so great that when you close off one avenue, another will open. He said that the pressures from Haiti continue to be significant, regardless of the commitment made by Presidents Fernández of the DR and Preval from Haiti.
Slater said that the Dominican Navy made around 5,000 search and rescue efforts in 1999.
Slater visited the Aries coast guard ship, one of three that the US has donated to the Dominican Navy. With him were Thad W. Allen, chief of the US Coast Guard Service and Rear Admiral Victor García Alecont.

AMET gets praise for impressive express bus services
Secretary of Transport Rodney Slater also met with the local director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, Hamlet Hermann. He had praise for the AMET program. "I am very impressed with the express bus services," he said. He commented the DR could in the future use its telecommunications capabilities to implement Intelligent Transport Technology. He commented that the strengthening and support and sharing of know-how will continue, and Mr. Hermann is invited to the US in January to participate in transport-related activities to broaden his knowledge. The visit is part of efforts on behalf of the US government to ensure US companies are well positioned to supply transportation products and provide them with opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

New RD$2,000 bills
Central Bank has placed into circulation new bills for RD$2,000 and RD$10 that will begin to circulate today. The government has issued new bills for RD$500, RD$100, RD$20 and RD$10. The new bills have a special mark so that blind persons can identify the amount. The new RD$2,000 bill is printed in blue and gray.

President could travel to Asia and Europe in early 2000
President Fernández could travel to Asia and Europe early next year. At the end of January, President Fernández could travel to Brussels, to assume his role as president of the African, Caribbean and Pacific bloc of nations, columnist Manuel Jiménez who covers the Presidency for Hoy newspaper reports. Fernández could travel in February to Japan and Thailand, say his sources. In Asia, the President would continue to promote the Santo Domingo Cyberpark. He seeks to attract high tech industries to the park. This would be the President's 28th and 29th trip abroad.

US$615,000 for helicopters and old training planes
A US firm, Cuyler S.A. won the bid for the purchase of eight Bell 205-A1 helicopters and two AT-6 planes of the Dominican Air Force that were auctioned by the Air Force. They bid US$615,000. The Air Force will use the moneys to repair other planes.

Public Health urges parents to vaccinate their children
The Ministry of Public Health confirmed that nine children have died from diphtheria in the past two months in the country. Given the low incidence of diphtheria, the outbreak of diphtheria caught the Ministry of Public Health unprepared. In the DR the anti-toxin to fight the disease is not available. Minister of Public Health Juan Octavio Ceballos said that the department had ordered the antitoxin from Puerto Rico and was expecting it to arrive today.
The physician urged the parents to go through with the recommended vaccination program. There are sufficient vaccines to prevent the illness, but parents' cooperation is needed so the children get vaccinated. He says the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing the disease.
Of 38 suspect cases of diphtheria in the past year, 28 have occurred in the province of Santiago, where four children have died. Other cases occurred in Dajabón, Puerto Plata, San Cristóbal and the National District.
In the Robert Reid Cabral, the main children's hospital, have cared for 10 cases, of which eight have died. Dr. Josefina Fernandez, an expert in infectious diseases, said that when a child falls ill with the disease, there is little physicians can do.
"If a case comes there is nothing we can do but pray," she said.

IDB approves US$150 loan guarantee for energy project
The Interamerican Development Bank approved the granting of a US$150 million guaranteed loan in favor of Cogentrix Energy of the US and Commonwealth Development Corporation of Great Britain. Money will go to the Compañía de Electricidad de San Pedro de Macorís. It will be used to help finance a US$318 million thermal combined cycle plant that will produce 300 megawatts. The project also calls for the construction of port facilities. First support of the IDB to a private company for the production of energy. It is expected that the success of this project may lead to other similar foreign investments.

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).
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).
To plan ahead, note the schedule through the weekend:

Thursday, 16 December
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Superintendency of Banks Christmas Concert. Directed by Edgar Martínez. Parque Colón.
8 pm. National Symphony Orchestra Concert. Directed by Amaury Sánchez. Sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism. Arcades of the Borgellá Palace.
9 pm. Christmas Festival. Marianela Sánchez's Children's Choir.
Palacio Consistorial.
9 pm. Christmas partying. Juan Pablo Duarte neighborhood. From Parque Colón to the Convento de Santo Domingo (Padre Billini corner Duarte)

Friday, 17 December
5 pm. Opening Handicraft exhibition (through 19 December). Parque San José (19 de Marzo corner José Gabriel García), sponsored by the San José/Montesinos neighborhood.
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Christmas Concert by the Choir of the Banco Popular. Directed by Prof. Ramón E. Restituyo. Parque Colón.
8 pm. Christmas Cinema, A Christmas Nightmare, starring Tim Burton. Plazoleta de Regina (Padre Billini corner José Reyes).
8 pm. Christmas Concert. Municipal Chamber Orchestra. Directed by Prof. Rodolfo Manzano. Parque Colón.
9 pm. Christmas Festival: Concert by flutist Luis Ruiz, accompanied by violinist Jazmina Gavrilovich. Palacio Consistorial.
9:30 pm. Christmas partying. Santa Clara/Cathedral neighborhood. From Parque Colón to Parque Pellerano Castro (Isabel la Católica corner José Gabriel García).

Saturday, 18 December
6 am. "Mañanitas," early morning caroling. Carmen neighborhood, leaving from Calle Sánchez 112.
5:30 pm. Puppet show: "Christmas Tree". Teatro Papalote. Parque Colón.
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Christmas Concert by the choir of the National Army. Directed by First Lieutenant Medina Cuevas.
8 pm. Luchy Vicioso in Concert. Accompanied by Maestro Tito Delgado, sponsored by the Municipality of Santo Domingo. Parque Colón.
9 pm. Christmas Festival: Concert of the Vocal Ensemble Group of Santo Domingo. Accompanied at the piano by Maestro Ramón Díaz. Palacio Consistorial.
9 pm. Christmas partying. San Antón neighborhood. Groups leave from Parque Colón to the Plazoleta de San Antón (Restauración corner Hostos).

Sunday, 19 December
3 pm. Tour of the nativity scenes in the Colonial City. Organized by the Conde/Mercedes neighborhood. Leaving from Atrio de las Mercedes, Calle Mercedes.
6 pm. Christmas Sunsets. Men's Choir of the Instituto Cultural Dominico-Americano. Directed by Prof. Ramón E. Restituyo. Parque Colón.
8 pm. Fernando Casado in Concert. Accompanied by Maestro Tito Delgado. Sponsored by the Municipality of Santo Domingo. Parque Colón.
9 pm. Christmas Festival. Concert by the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra. Directed by François Bahuad. Palacio Consistorial.
9 pm. Christmas partying. San José/Montesinos neighborhood. Leaving from Parque Colón to Parque San José (19 de Marzo corner José Gabriel García).

Winter baseball games and standing
Friday, 17 December 1999
Santo Domingo: Estrellas vs. Escogido
San Francisco de Macorís: Licey vs. Pollos

Team standing as of Thursday, 16 December 1999:
Leones del Escogido 24-14 (.632)
Aguilas Cibaeñas 22-14 (.611) 1 games
Tigres del Licey 17-20 (.459), -6.5 games
Estrellas Orientales 18-22 (.450) ­7 games
Pollos del Cibao 13-24 (.361) ­10.5 games

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