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Daily News - 18 February 2002

Driver requirements to be enforced
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) announced it will step up enforcing Law #241 today. AMET agents will be checking that drivers and front seat passengers wear their seatbelts. This has been law for several months now, but has not been enforced. AMET said it would be flexible with drivers in cars whose seatbelts had been removed. AMET will be stricter on traffic violations at traffic lights, driving at low speeds in express lanes, cars on white lines for pedestrian crossings, and parking on sidewalks. 
Drivers also are being required to have a fire extinguisher and a medical emergency kit. This is in addition to the obvious: a current driver’s license, registration, insurance, “revista”, license plate and updated sticker. 
Motorcyclists driving without their helmets or mufflers have been given until 27 February or they too may have to pay a RD$100-RD$500 fine and have their driver’s licenses confiscated. 
For more on the requirements of the Traffic Law, see Fabio Guzman’s response on the DR1 Legal Forum at http://dr1.com/forums/

Interest rates will not increase, says CB Governor
Economists have said that one of the ripple effects of the stepped-up borrowing of the government will be an increase in interest rates. But the Governor of the Central Bank Frank Guerrero Prats does not agree. He said that the issuing of RD$3.7 billion in Treasury Certificates will not have a negative effect on the cost of money lent to the private sector. “The present objectives of the monetary authorities are to keep inflation low, foster economic growth, and keep the interest rates competitive,” he told El Caribe. Furthermore, he said the peso would not continue losing value to the US$. He said the US$192.8 million injected over the past 30 days has contained the run on the peso. 
News reports say the run on the peso produced RD$18 million in additional profits for exchange houses and commercial banks carrying out transactions. There is about a one peso spread between the price at which dollars are purchased and the price at which they are sold.

92% of Dominicans live in urban areas
A study carried out by the Consejo Nacional de Asuntos Urbanos (National Council of Urban Affairs) reveals that 92% of the Dominican population lives in urban areas. Rural population is estimated to be only 8%. The council for the study of urban affairs warns of urban sprawl, which increases the cost of providing basic services. 
Council members architects Augusto Sanchez, Pedro Mena, Raul de Moya, Emilio Jose Brea and Luis Martinez expressed their concern to Hoy newspaper about the accelerated growth of the city of Santo Domingo. They say the city increased its population 2.54% from 1993 to 2000. They forecast that from 2000 to 2015, the city will grow 1.92%. This would mean that Santo Domingo could double its population within the next 20 years if the present growth rate continues.
92% of Dominicans live in urban areas
A study carried out by the Consejo Nacional de Asuntos Urbanos (National Council of Urban Affairs) reveals that 92% of the Dominican population lives in urban areas. Rural population is estimated to be only 8%. The council for the study of urban affairs warns of urban sprawl, which increases the cost of providing basic services. 
Council members architects Augusto Sanchez, Pedro Mena, Raul de Moya, Emilio Jose Brea and Luis Martinez expressed their concern to Hoy newspaper about the accelerated growth of the city of Santo Domingo. They say the city increased its population 2.54% from 1993 to 2000. They forecast that from 2000 to 2015, the city will grow 1.92%. This would mean that Santo Domingo could double its population within the next 20 years if the present growth rate continues. 

US$11 million for 11 helicopters
Armed Forces Minister Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez said that the US$11 million loan for the purchase of 11 American-made helicopters that the government purchased from Spain for the Armed Forces was passed by Congress in June last year. He denied the helicopter purchase was overpriced, as denounced in the press. Soto Jimenez said that the Robinson 44 and 42 used helicopters and 110 new vehicles are expected in the next three months. The Mejia administration has been very generous in equipping the Dominican military.

Hotel offer far exceeds demand
Ramon Prieto, president of the National Association of Hotels & Restaurants, again urged the government to restrain the growth of the hotel sector in the DR. Prieto told El Caribe newspaper that neither the private sector nor the official sector have taken action to stop the growth in hotel rooms. He raised the red flag of the drop in demand. He said the Dominican Republic already has 54,000 hotel rooms in operation, the largest supply of any Caribbean island. Another 4,172 rooms are under construction, including 1,642 in Puerto Plata (north coast) and 1,253 in Punta Cana (east coast).

Second round for state university election
The dean of the school of economics of the UASD, Porfirio Garcia (708 votes) and the deputy rector of the university, Roberto Reyna (526 votes) must participate in a second round of elections. Both seek to be the rector of the state university, replacing incumbent Miguel Rosado. For the second round, both will try to win over those who voted for third and fourth place contenders, Mateo Aquino Febrillet (391 votes) and Ivan Grullon Fernandez (381). The second round will be held on Friday, 22 February. To win in the first round, 50% + 1 of the vote was necessary. News analysts commented that the UASD election was more of a political contest, with academic issues taking a back seat in the debate.

PRD to announce results of primary today
The ruling Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), the largest political party in the DR, is expected to announce the results of its primary held nationwide yesterday. The party had said that 1.7 million Dominicans were enrolled to vote for the PRD candidates to the congressional and municipal elections at 5,736 voting centers. 
Diario Libre advanced that first returns show Peggy Cabral with a comfortable lead over incumbent Johnny Ventura for Santo Domingo major. Rafael (Fafa) Taveras and Jose Antonio Najri were head to head for the National District senate seat. 
The PRSC and PLD parties are also expected to announce the results of their primaries held over the weekend. 

Peace Corps celebrates 40th anniversary in DR
Former Peace Corps volunteers met in Santo Domingo to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the US Peace Corps program in the DR, 15-18 February. Over 3,800 have served in the DR since 1962. 
Several Peace Corps members have moved on to important business and government positions in the US and keep in touch with the DR. For instance, the Governor of the State of New Jersey, James McGreevey and the Senator of the State of Connecticut, Christopher Dodd are former DR Peace Corps members. 
Meetings were scheduled for the Santo Domingo Melia Hotel, with a bash at the Sans Souci Club hosted by the Ministry of Tourism. 
For more information on the Peace Corps in the DR, see http://www.drfriends.org or write to Ed Warmoth at ejw5@msn.com 
Name change for the DR?
Jose Antonio Martinez Rojas writes in the Saturday issue of Hoy newspaper that Dominicans should consider a name change for the country. He comments on the frequent confusion with the small English-speaking island of Dominica. He says that the leading Spanish language dictionary considers a “Dominican” a person from Santo Domingo. He says there is no big deal about a name change for a country, mentioning: Ceylon-Sri Lanka, Siam-Thailand, and Rhodesia-Zimbabwe, among others. He feels the country should hold a public contest to choose a new name, followed by a plebiscite.
Come meet the ostriches
A new attraction has opened near Santo Domingo, the first Dominican ostrich farm. Guided visits of the farm are now possible. The entrance to the park costs RD$150, RD$250 with lunch. The farm has a pool and children’s play area.
Jaime Vargas, a former Dominican consul in Japan, is proud of his ostrich farm located on the outskirts of Bayaguana, Monte Plata, about one hour from Santo Domingo. El Caribe newspaper reports that after importing 100 birds from Zimbabwe, Africa, he expects 400 baby ostriches to be born this year. Some 600 eggs are already hatching in incubators. 
Vargas says he has a waiting list for 100 of the ostriches, with many of the interested parties planning to use them as watch birds. 
He explained he got the idea for the farm after noticing ostrich belts selling for US$180 each. Hermes sells ostrich skin bags for US$10,000, and Mercedes Benz will use ostrich skin in its cars.
Vargas is promoting the farming of ostriches. He said it costs less to breed the birds than to breed a cow or a pedigree dog. They eat soya, corn and grass and they live 60 to 80 years, with 80% of the eggs hatching. He forecast that next year, his farm will produce 2,000 eggs. 

Ozzie Smith visits today
The baseball player considered to be the greatest shortstop ever to play the game, Ozzie Smith visits today to give clinics to aspiring ball players in San Pedro de Macoris. He played for 19 years (14 years with the St. Louis Cardinals) and retired after the 1996 season. He won 13 straight Gold Gloves (1980-92); played in 12 straight All-Star Games (1981-92); MVP of the 1985 NL playoffs; all-time MLB assist leader (8,375). The 15-time National League All-Star and recent Major League Baseball Hall of Famer is a baseball analyst for CNN/Sports Illustrated. Ozzie Smith was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in his first year of eligibility (8 January 2002).
For more on this great ball player, see http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/
 
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