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Daily News - 1 March 2002

Focus on Balaguer and alliances
Nonagenarian former statesman Joaquin Balaguer is front page news again as political analysts speculate on whether he will openly ally with the PLD or the PRD. President Hipolito Mejia has on his agenda a visit to the 25 Maximo Gomez home of the PRSC leader at 1 pm today. He will be accompanied by PRD party leader, Hatuey de Camps. This visit takes place shortly after the general assembly the PRSC is holding to choose its candidates and decide upon possible alliances for the 16 May congressional and municipal ballots. The PRSC assembly was scheduled to start at 10 am at the Club San Carlos. 
President Hipolito Mejia told the press that something had to be achieved from the meeting and that the time is up. But Diario Libre speculates that what the PRD really seeks is an agreement that there be no agreement, in other words the PRSC will not ally with any party for the 16 May election. In exchange, the PRD has offered to keep the presidency in the hands of the PRSC as well as control of the Dominican Municipal League, which manages the funds for the country’s municipalities. 
The deadline for alliances to appear on the ballots is 12 midnight on Saturday, 2 March. 
In 1996, former President Leonel Fernandez won the presidency with Balaguer’s endorsement who subtly told his supporters who to vote for. That endorsement redirected hundreds of votes away from the PRSC's own presidential candidate.

Teachers’ strike continues
The three-day strike called by the Dominican Association of Teachers lost momentum yesterday, as more teachers returned to their classrooms. Nevertheless, most schools nationwide remained closed, according to news reports. 
Meanwhile the spokesman for the striking factions said the teachers would be more flexible in their demands and would accept a 60% wage increase, down from the 100% increase originally demanded. Radhames Camacho, leader of the striking faction, said a calendar is being prepared so that teachers can work on holidays and weekends to recover the hours of classes lost. The strike ends today. 

Money arrives for daycares and orphanages
News reports say the Ministry of Public Health began to pay its arrears in the subsidies to public hospitals, daycare centers and hospices going back to December 2001. El Caribe newspapers says that so far state institutions run by religious orders have received their payments, but not the non-governmental organizations that were allotted funding in the national budget.

Who prepared the speech?
Political commentator Orlando Gil writes today in the Listin Diario that President Hipolito Mejia’s speech and televised appearance was prepared by Jose Lois Malkum, Andy Dauhajre, Fernando Duran and Iñigo Larrazabal. The speech was commended for its incorporation of audio-visual aids and effects.

PRD says 600,000 voted in primaries
Hatuey de Camps, president of the PRD, said that almost 600,000 voted in the PRD primaries held in February. This is 35% of the 1.7 million registered voters the party had earlier announced it had. 

Focus on the Competitiveness Plan
Free zone entrepreneur Jose Clase wants Dominican business to support the Competitiveness Plan promoted by President Hipolito Mejia in his state of the nation address. He urged all businessmen to take President Mejia on his word and back the Competitiveness Plan under Minister of Industry and Commerce Hugo Guiliani. 
“With that plan we can gain strength to the point that the private sector can demand that the government assume a true role as facilitator of the nation,” he commented.
Clase, who is president of the Dominican Association of Free Zones, said if the government wants to increase the competitiveness of Dominican companies it should start by removing taxes like the ITBIS, 1.5% tax on gross sales, and the exchange commission duty. 
In an interview with the Listin Diario, he said high taxes have obliged many businesses to fold and pointed to the collapse of the entire local footwear industry. He advocated zero taxes on imports for the footwear industry. He also said the government should allow tax-free imports of production machinery. He said when footwear companies went out of business, about 20,000 skilled laborers were left without jobs and probably became construction workers, but these people would return to their jobs if the industry recovered.
He also called for assistance for the tobacco industry, mentioning the irrationalities that affect this sector. He said thousands of tourists would take back Dominican cigars in their suitcases if the government would change the rule that limits the local sale of cigars manufactured in the free zones. “If the tourists were allowed to export the cigars in their suitcases as with other products, the demand would increase, more cigars would be produced and more taxes would be paid, but we are blind,” he complained.
Clase noted how hard it is to buy an authentic cigar here and how this stimulates the production of fakes. “And this is damaging the business because the fakes are discrediting the Dominican cigar.”

DR to participate in San Salvador talks
Jose Clase also addressed the success of a recent trade agreement task force to El Salvador. He said the Dominican government and private sector mission was able to convince President Roberto Flores and the business community of Central America to allow the DR to be part of the talks with President George Bush on 24 March in San Salvador regarding a possible Central American free trade agreement with the US. 
“We understand that because of the similarities we share with Central America, and because of our free zone industries and apparel plants, we could be significantly affected if they secure trade advantages beyond our present ones.” He is in favor of negotiating as part of the Central American bloc. 

OAS secretary on Haitian situation
El Caribe newspaper interviewed the Adjunct Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) who visited Santo Domingo on his way to Haiti for the 18th time seeking an agreement between the Haitian government and the opposition. Luigi Einaudi acknowledged that the Haitian crisis is a burden on the DR. “It is evident that the Haitian problem is felt here more than anywhere else in the world. The absence of aid is worsening the standard of living in Haiti which is a threat to its neighbors, and that is felt in this country. Dominicans feel that not much will be achieved with economic sanctions or pseudo sanctions.”
He denied there is a plan among developed nations to leave the problems of Haiti up to the DR. He explained, “The ignorance in those countries is such that there are many people that are not aware the countries share the same island,” he said. 
“Haiti needs to stabilize its political situation and work on its democracy. The re-establishing of aid is not easy. There is not a Haitian state capable of receiving this aid, of using it well, they live under uncertainty and lack of transparency,” he explained.

Mario Vargas Llosa gets Dominican award
Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa visited the DR to receive the Caonabo de Oro award of the Dominican Association of Journalists and Writers (ADPE). The annual award was given to him for “La Fiesta del Chivo”, a historical novel based on the dictatorship of Trujillo. During a press conference, Vargas Llosa said negotiations were far advanced to turn the book into a movie. He said he has reviewed copies of the script but nothing is definite yet. He said he would like the movie to be filmed here.

Johnny Ventura celebrates 45 years in music
Mayor Johnny Ventura, the legendary merengue band leader-turned-politician, goes on stage tonight for the first of his three shows at the Olympic Stadium. Slated for 1, 2, and 3 March, the shows will bring together many Latin music maestros like Celia Cruz, Oscar de Leon and the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Grupo Niche from Colombia. 
Friday, 1 March: Oscar de Leon, Fernando Villalona, Cuco Valoy, Kinito Mendez, Frank Reyes, Los Reyes del Mambo, Milly Quezada, Johnny Ventura.
Saturday, 2 March: Luis Vargas, Hermanos Rosario, Grupo Niche, Ilegales, El Gran Combo, Los Reyes del Mambo, Johnny Ventura.
Sunday, 3 March: Celia Cruz, Jose Alberto (El Canario) orchestra, Los Toros band, El Gringo de la Bachata, Los Potros del Caballo, Los Reyes del Mambo, Johnny Ventura.

Lord of the Rings to open in Santo Domingo
Lord of the Rings, the movie based on the J.R.R. Tolkien masterpiece that received 13 Oscar nominations, opens on Thursday, 14 March, at Caribbean Cinemas movie houses in Santo Domingo. The film’s nominations include Best Picture, Best Director Peter Jackson and Best Supporting Actor Ian McKellen. 
The film brings to the movies an epic adventure of good against evil and a story of the power of friendship and individual courage. See http://www.lordoftherings.net

Julio Bocca at the National Theater
One of the world’s finest classical and contemporary dancers, Julio Bocca, is booked for a Saturday, 23 March performance with the Ballet Argentino at the National Theater. Bocca is principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. As a guest artist, he has danced with some of the world’s most prestigious companies: the Royal Ballet of London, Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, the Kirov of Saint Petersburg, the Paris Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The performances of the Ballet Argentino have been described as a sizzling blend of modern dance, with hints of classical ballet, firmly rooted in tango.
See http://www.abt.org/
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