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Daily News - 10 April 2001

The Clintons to vacation in Punta Cana
Former US President Bill Clinton will vacation in Punta Cana this Easter. It is uncertain whether he is coming with his wife, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea. The former President is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, 12 April for an eight-day vacation, as per some news reports.
The Clintons would stay at the vacation home of designer Oscar de la Renta, a personal friend of theirs. The villa is located next door to Club Med Punta Cana.
If she visits with her husband, this would be Mrs. Clinton's second visit to the DR. She visited in November 1998 shortly after Hurricane Georges. At that time, she also stayed at the designer's Punta Cana villa.
The Clinton's expected visit comes at a time when Punta Cana is becoming one of the most popular Caribbean destinations for US tourists.

Attention focused on train and city tram
President Hipolito Mejia announced on Friday that his government is studying a proposal for a passenger and cargo train service from Haina, where the main cargo port is located, to Santiago, the second-largest city. In a second phase, the train would be extended to reach Puerto Plata and Manzanillo Port on the north coast. This project would call for an investment of US$100 million. The government also announced it would re-open the tender for the construction of a tramway or similar facility connecting Los Alcarrizos with the Dario Contreras Hospital in eastern Santo Domingo. The Technical Secretary of the Presidency, Rafael Calderon, says companies from Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United States have shown an interest in this project.

Bani real estate scam?
More than 150 families of the Las Dunas area in southwestern Bani feel they have been swindled. After the Bienes Nacionales-Av. Charles de Gaulle property scandal broke, they brought their case to the press and to the authorities. The families say they paid RD$1,500 to RD$8,000 to duly identified personnel of Bienes Nacionales, the government department in charge of state property. Under the agreement they would have received the titles to the property where they have been living for over 20 years. Receipts for the money paid were not issued on official Bienes Nacionales documents, according to media reports.
The Bani dwellers say that Daniel Bencosme, director of Bienes Nacionales in Baní, visited them in October and November and told them about the program that would let them regularize the status of their property. Ernie Ivan Tejada fears the worst. He says that so far none of the families that paid have received a property deed.

More on the Bienes Nacionales scandal
The Listin Diario has revealed that the deposed administrator of Bienes Nacionales, the department in charge of state-owned property, was building a house valued at RD$8 million in Los Restauradores neighborhood. (His full name?) Tio said the money for the house came from contributions from his friends. The construction was entrusted to the same engineer who is building an annex to Bienes Nacionales, the newspaper reports.
News reports indicate that Tio had a track record of suspected corruption prior to being put in charge of Bienes Nacionales. He had been suspected of corruption in office shortly after he was appointed Deputy Minister of Public Works during the Salvador Jorge Blanco administration in 1982. He was appointed in August 1982, and in January 1983 was removed from the post for suspect activities.
He was not a public figure again until President Hipolito Mejia hired him to head the government real estate department in August 2000. In less than a year's time, he was arrested for suspected corruption again.
Tio defended his work at the department saying that the decree by which he was hired gave him the authority to sell, lease or donate lands of the state.
Hoy newspaper today publishes the first part of the case against him prepared by the Departamento de Prevencion de la Corrupcion and sent to the Procuraduria General de la Republica.
Recent news stories on the case reported that money collected for irregular sales was distributed among personnel of Bienes Nacionales as well others involved in the sales.

Another scam in the making?
El Caribe is raising eyebrows on a deal signed by the Technical Secretary of the Presidency Rafael Calderon and the Minister of Public Health Jose Rodriguez Soldevilla with a little known private foundation, MAPET International based in Miami, Florida, and headed up by Spaniard Mario Perez Rivera. As part of the deal, signed 23 January 2001, the government commits 300,000 square meters of land and allows the Miami foundation to import duty free everything it needs to operate and build four medical centers.
MAPET commits to invest US$518.75 million to build the centers. El Caribe is especially concerned that the foundation has agreed to donate US$30 million towards a US$40 million reforestation program agreed to by the Technical Secretary of the Presidency and the Minister of Agriculture Eligio Jaquez. In turn, the government will contribute US$10 million.
El Caribe newspaper warns that this could take the form of an irrevocable letter of credit, with enormous risks for the Dominican government, since the contract is negotiable. It reminds readers of the case of Hydro Quebec. "The foundation could borrow on the US$10 million without the authorities being able to stop this, and without having received anything in return," writes the newspaper.
Newspaper investigators say that the foundation's address is the home of its president in Miami Lakes, and its principle officers are the Perez family members.
More investigation by the newspaper indicates that the company that would design and build the hospitals has an inactive corporate status as per records of the Florida State Department.
The deal is pending congressional approval.
El Caribe says that Perez Rivera has not been available for an interview by the newspaper, despite efforts over several weeks.

Dominican beauty queens chosen
Claudia Cruz, representing the southwestern province of San Juan de la Maguana was chosen as the DR's representative to the Miss Universe pageant and Jeimy Castillo from the province of Monseñor Nouel (Bonao) will represent the country in the Miss World pageant. The Miss DR contest was held on Saturday at the Hotel Jaragua. Miss Cruz is brunette, with body measurements 90-60-90. She studies law at the Pontificia Universidad Madre y Maestra and is fluent in English and French. In an interview with Hoy newspaper, she expressed her admiration for President Mejia.
Other queens that were chosen are Carolina Peña Cordero, Miss Atlantico; Flor Curet Veras, Miss Intercontinental; and Yesenia Rosario Mota, Miss World Coffee.

Supreme Court president comments on judiciary
The president of the Supreme Court of Justice Jorge Subero Isa said that there has been a progressive deterioration in the government's public prosecutors (Ministerio Publico) in recent months. He told students gathered at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) that all the work that went into preparing government prosecutors has been undone. The new government authorities hired new personnel upon taking office. Subero Isa praised the advances made in the judiciary under former district attorneys Guillermo Moreno and Francisco Dominguez Brito.
He told his audience that the judiciary has two legs -- public prosecutors and the judges. He said corruption has been eliminated in the court rooms, with influence pedaling a thing of the past. Nevertheless he said that for good administration of justice there needs to be rulings that establish the independence of public prosecutors so that they can't be removed from their positions with a mere telephone call.
He also said cases accumulate because of the many delays permitted by the present legal codes.

Purchase of helicopters followed normal procedures
Minister of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez, said that the purchase of 11 helicopters and 120 all-terrain vehicles was carried out following procedure. He said that a tender was not carried out for security reasons. The Ministry of Armed Forces recently ordered the purchase of 11 Bell OH-58 and Robinson 44 Raven helicopters, and 120 Wolverine 450 4 x 4 and Wolverine 600 6 x 6 all-terrain vehicles. They will be financed by an Eximbank loan.
Minister Soto Jimenez says that the military does not conduct tenders, leaving the Ministry of the Armed Forces free to make a recommendation to the Executive Branch after studying offers by suppliers.

President Mejia to go on vacation as of Wednesday
President Hipolito Mejia will take a break as of Wednesday. He will spend the Easter Week vacation with his family at the Presidential vacation beach home in Juan Dolio in San Pedro de Macoris.

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