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Daily News - 28 January 2002

Official rate to float
The Central Bank announced it will implement later this week the agreed-upon mechanism that takes an average of exchange rates to establish the day’s official rate. The idea is to make the official rate more dynamic. This is part of new policies to liberalize the exchange market and let the peso float according to the market. 

Government is main obstacle to exports
Santiago Tejada, in charge of trade negotiations for the DR, told El Caribe newspaper that governmental red tape is still the leading obstacle for Dominican exporters. He said exports are subject to a long list of revisions and permits that no other country requires and that only increase the cost of Dominican exports. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations says the government and its institutions have to develop an exporter mentality. “We are working against the exporters. The greatest obstacles come from red tape, permits, and forms that the Dominican Center for Promotion of Export (Cedopex) requires,” he complained. The center is ironically in charge of promoting exports. 
The documents exporters need for each shipment include: a certificate from the Ministry of Public Health, two from the Ministry of Agriculture, three forms and Cedopex revisions, in addition to passing through Customs and the Drugs Department, among others. 
He said that when Cedopex was asked to reduce its red tape it agreed, but alleges that the bureaucracy is the source of revenue that funds their operations. Tejada says the department should instead be funded by the National Budget so that it does not depend on bureaucratic red tape to pay for its costs.

Foreign debt payments on schedule
Central Bank Governor Frank Guerrero Prats, in an interview with El Caribe, said the Dominican government foresees no problems in keeping up its payments on the foreign debt. He explained that the government has been making regular payments using funds generated by the exchange commission and the tax on fuel. Guerrero said: “If we were able to meet payments last year when the conditions were not the most favorable in terms of economic growth, generation of taxes and exchange commission, it is logical that in the course of this year, even when the servicing of the debt will be higher than previous years, with the added dynamism to the economy, there will be more resources available to pay the debt.” 
He rejected a renegotiation of the foreign debt. He explained, “the conditions for the renegotiation would be less favorable than those secured in the past decade, because our country has substantially improved its macroeconomic situation, its international financial solvency, and its country risk rating.”

Four key farming projects on hold
El Caribe reports that four projects President Mejia had announced as key to injecting new energy into the farming sector are on hold. The projects depend on external financing. They include three loans from Spanish commercial banks for RD$3.7 billion, and another RD$384 million from the InterAmerican Development Bank. The projects include: the construction of Merca Santo Domingo, a mega market for farm produce; the construction of cold storage facilities nationwide; and the planting of nurseries nationwide to improve productivity. 

Didier Schuller is still here
President Mejia said that French fugitive Didier Schuller is still in the country. El Caribe reports today that the former French government officer is willing to meet the President. Mejia said, “I cannot lend myself so that a political conflict out there (France) can be aired here. I instructed the security bodies to handle the matter and we found out that the man is here.”
The President released the information on the Ramon Colombo and Juan TH news show on Channel 4. 
Schuller entered the country as a legal resident in 1995 using his real name. Thereafter, he passed for a retired Belgian businessman, Jean Wiser, and lived in Sosua for four years. He abandoned the Sea Horse Ranch home where he had been living in Sosua and his whereabouts are not known.

President Mejia optimistic on alliances
President Mejia said he trusts that in due time the PRD and the PRSC political parties will unite for the upcoming congressional and municipal election. The President left empty-handed when he visited the home of PRSC leader, former president Joaquin Balaguer. The PRSC is the diva among parties, with the PLD and the PRD eagerly seeking alliances with it. Mejia told the press: “I am convinced that in the short or long term we will come to agreement in some municipalities and provinces with some candidates. I insist that the country needs to be presented with the best, and the best, I have said, is in all the political parties.”

Jaquez arrested, relatives say he is the wrong man
On Saturday, police arrested businessman Rafael Jaquez Martinez, the suspected intellectual author of the murder of Senator Dario Gomez last December. The 54-year-old businessman was arrested at his residence in Sabaneta, in Santiago Rodriguez province. He said he was waiting for the police to come. Diario Libre explains that the row between Jaquez and the Senator was because the Senator had questioned the origin of Jaquez’s fortune. But the Listin Diario interviewed Gomez’s relatives who demanded that the police search elsewhere for the intellectual authors of the crime. They denied that Jaquez had ever visited the Senator’s home in Santiago Rodriguez.
Moreover, Jaquez’s sister-in-law explained that the businessman had immigrated to New York 30 years ago where he owns a bodega and only visits his hometown on occasions. She denied that Jaquez knew the late Senator or had any ties with him. 
Jaquez will be questioned by Judge Nelson Rodriguez Solis who is preparing the first phase of the case. 

Buy your hands-free mobile phone adaptor now
It is time to get your hands-free mobile phone adaptor if you do not have one yet. The new director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, General Pedro de Jesus Candelier, warns that his agents will be arresting anyone caught talking on their cell phones while driving. The measure goes into effect on Thursday. Law 143-01 prohibits mobile phone conversations by drivers with the exception of hands-free calls.

Doctors don’t like controls
Hoy newspaper reports on a confrontation between the administration of the Moscoso Puello Public Hospital and many of its doctors. The confrontation occurred after the administration began requiring hospital employees to check in and check out using an automated system. 
The physicians held an assembly with the president of the Dominican Medical Association (AMD) Jorge Chain Herrera who supported their rejection of the clock. 
Dr. Enmanuel Abreu Reyes, deputy director of the medical center, justified the use of the clock saying that some doctors come to work and some do not. He said when the clock was first installed, the physicians complained but he never thought the AMD would support their position. He said that some 220 physicians are on the payroll, many of whom do not fulfill their obligations despite receiving pay from the government.
He said he is awaiting a decision from the Ministry of Public Health on the matter, but in the meantime the clock will stay in use. 

91-year-old writer receives Literature Award
Hilma Contreras has received the National Literature Award funded by the Fundacion Corripio and granted by the Ministry of Culture. She lived in Santo Domingo for many years, but when her younger sister died, she moved to her hometown of San Francisco de Macoris where she has lived alone for about a year now. 
Contreras went to grade school in France for six years and later returned to France for five years to study French at the Sorbonne University. As a young woman in Paris, she met many famous writers and famous people who had an influence on her including Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jacques Cousteau, she recounts. 
She returned to Santo Domingo in 1933 and published her first short stories in 1949. Critics comment favorably on the psychological depth of her stories of strong women. 
In an interview with the Listin Diario, the new laureate explains that her dominant father influenced her work and her life. She never married, afraid of becoming the victim of another strong man.
Her works include: Cuatro Cuentos, Doña Endrina de Catalayud, El Ojo de Dios, Cuentos de la Clandestinidad, La Tierra Esta Bramando, Entre dos Silencios, Facetas de la Vida, Cuentos y Minicuentos.

Social trip to Puerto Rico turns into scandal
President Hipolito Mejia made an unscheduled trip to Puerto Rico last Sunday, 20 January, to attend the baptism of a friend’s child. US Ambassador Hans Hertell also attended as godfather to the child. 
Days later, El Caribe broke the story that Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon had asked for the extradition of Ramon Cabral, brother of Manuel Cabral, the father of the baptized child. 
News reports indicate that the Puerto Rican governor said after the visit of the President and the Ambassador that Cabral was not untouchable despite his ties with President Hipolito Mejia and local and US government officers in Puerto Rico. 
Ambassador Hans Hertell guaranteed that the US Embassy in the DR will process any order of extradition it receives from the US government. The extradition papers have not yet been received at the US Embassy.
Manuel Cabral is sought for defrauding the Puerto Rican government. News reports say he failed to meet commitments to the Puerto Rican Port Authority. A Puerto Rican court released him on US$90,000 bail. 

Honorary consul suspected of money laundering
The honorary consul of the Dominican Republic in Nicaragua, Byron Jerez, has been blacklisted by the US State Department. He is suspected of laundering money in Nicaragua. El Caribe newspaper reports that the Dominican honorary consulate is located in the Dominican Embassy in Nicaragua, which places the country in a difficult situation. A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Nicaragua, Kathy Bentley, confirmed that Jerez’s US visa was cancelled for suspected money laundering. Jerez is reportedly a close friend of former President of Nicaragua Arnaldo Aleman. Jerez is also accused of defrauding the Nicaraguan state of US$412,861.

New Spanish ambassador
The Spanish government has appointed Maria Jesus Figa Lopez-Palop to replace Ambassador Fermin Prieto Castro who will be leaving the DR on 25 February. She is expected to arrive almost as soon as Ambassador Prieto leaves. The 50-year-old diplomat has a law degree and is a career diplomat. At the time of her appointment, she worked as advisor in the Department of International Relations at the Presidency, La Moncloa. She has worked at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Spanish embassies in Ivory Coast, Mexico and Lisbon. This is her first ambassadorial post. 

Lots of talk, little action
El Caribe’s editorial focuses on the massive migration of Haitian labor to the DR. The newspaper says this is causing a perverse effect in Dominican society: It worsens the already unfair distribution of wealth, making rich Dominicans even richer, and poor Dominicans even poorer. 
The newspaper says that those who employ Haitians, primarily sugar cane mills, rice plantations, coffee plantations, construction engineers, the military and others who profit from this illegal traffic, would make less profit if they had to hire Dominican workers, invest in automation or modernize their harvests. He says wages for Dominican laborers would be higher if it were not for the thousands of Haitians willing to work for less. Likewise, the editorial writer points out that Haitian migration puts a big burden on the health sector, which uses its already scarce resources to treat Haitians instead of improving social services to the Dominicans. 
“The fact that our governments have favored landholders, engineers and the military over unskilled laborers explains why our politicians talk so much of the presence of Haitians, but do little to confront the situation,” writes the newspaper. It points out that someday politicians may realize that there are more votes to be gained helping the hundreds of thousands of laborers even if business finances are affected. 
The newspaper made the comment referring to a statement by President Hipolito Mejia in Constanza. The President criticized the use of Haitian labor on Dominican farms. Constanza is a major agriculture center. 
The World Bank has said that 6%, or 1 of every 17 people living in the DR, is a Haitian laborer. 

Airfare competition on Miami route
Fares have dropped considerably on the Miami-Santo Domingo route after Mexicana introduced a US$199 fare for the non-stop service. Normally, it costs about the same to fly to Europe as to fly to Miami from the DR, a route where American Airlines dominates. Shortly after the Mexicana flight began, American dropped its rates to US$225, which is not too far behind. Aeromar offers fares of US$213.

PhDs to debate the issues on new TV Show
Three PhDs have joined forces to comment on local and foreign issues every Sunday evening. Flavio Dario Espinal, Pedro Silverio and Fernando Ferran will present “En Contexto” on Sundays from 10 to 11 pm on CDN (Cadena de Noticias), channel 37. 
The backgrounds of the three make the program worth watching. Lawyer Espinal is director of the Center for Conflict Resolution at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), and former ambassador to the Organization of American States. He has a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Virginia. 
Pedro Silverio is director of Cenantillas, the economic think tank at the PUCMM. He has a doctorate in economics from Fordham University in New York.
Fernando Ferran is opinions editor at El Caribe daily newspaper. Ferran has a doctorate in Anthropology from Frankfurt University, in Germany.

The rising cost of VIP service
Unlimited phone calls (VIP) service in the DR now costs RD$615 plus taxes, at least for Codetel users. Codetel is the main telecommunications supplier in the DR. Hoy newspaper reports on how the company has consistently been raising the cost of the service. In January 2001, VIP service cost RD$495, in July 2001 it was increased to RD$540 and now to RD$615 per month. 

Rod Stewart booked for Altos de Chavon
Rod Stewart, the legendary rock star, is booked for a 23 March performance at Altos de Chavon in La Romana, reports the Listin Diario. The visit will be part of his Latin American tour: The Very Best of Rod Stewart, which is also taking him to Chile, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico. Details for the show are still being worked out. For more information on Stewart, see http://www.rodstewartlive.com

Licey gives the Aguilas big battle
Felix Rodriguez was the star pitcher in the duel between the Tigres del Licey and Aguilas Cibaeñas last night at the Quisqueya Ball Park. The pitcher was praised for his 100 mile/hour pitches. Old timer pitcher Ramon Ortiz opened the game for the Licey, only allowing two hits, one of which was a home run by the Aguilas’ Raul Mondesi. The Aguilas lost 4-2, and the Licey tied the final series 2-2. The games continue tonight at the Cibao Stadium with Dario Perez pitching for the Licey and Micah Bowie for the Aguilas. 
The next games are: 
Tuesday, 29 January. 8 pm. Quisqueya Ball Park (Santo Domingo)
Wednesday, 30 January. 8 pm. Cibao Ball Park (Santiago)
(only if necessary)
Tickets at the ballparks cost $350, $200, $150 and $20 for the bleachers. The
Baseball Page

Lots happening in the DR
Disney on Ice, the legendary Celia Cruz, and many more shows and performers from the world over are coming to the Dominican Republic. To follow up on what’s coming, from Pavarotti and Placido Domingo to the La Vega carnival, check the Dominican Republic One web site calendar page at: http://www.dr1.com/calendar 
 
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