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Daily News - 6 March 2002

Moving ahead on the Hispaniola Fund plan
The Haiti-DR Bilateral Commission met yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Relations and decided to move ahead on the Hispaniola Fund Plan. The plan would be funded with money primarily from the release of the Dominican Republic debt with the US. It would be used to plant trees, save river basins, build industrial free zones, hydroelectric dams, ports, highways, and develop small and medium-size businesses along the border with Haiti. 
In the meeting, both governments agreed to prepare a concrete agenda to begin lobbying for the creation of the fund. The scope of the fund has been expanded to include other donations from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, said Santiago Tejada, in charge of trade negotiations for the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
Haiti’s Minister of Finance Gustave Flaubert said that the Haitian private sector is motivated by the advances in the creation of the fund given the lack of investment in Haiti. “We are very pleased to work with our Dominican friends. This is creating a synergy among the two countries that will increase the programs to benefit both nations,” he said.

Emam Zade recommends joining NAFTA
Economist Frederic Emam-Zade, who headed up negotiations for the first free trade agreements signed by the DR, feels the DR should try to join the North American Free Trade Agreement instead of pursuing a bilateral deal with the US. In an interview in the Listin Diario, Emam Zade said he thinks the authorities should start talks to sign up with NAFTA, joining Mexico, Canada and the United States, the present signatories. 
He feels there are scant possibilities of the DR securing a bilateral free trade agreement with the US and it is unlikely the DR will become part of the Central American block that seeks a free trade deal with the US. 
He says the fact that NAFTA already exists is an advantage because the DR will know from the start what it is getting into. He said the country would only have to negotiate the terms of its participation. Belonging to the agreement would allow the country to import products from any of the three member countries, which would put the DR on par with Chile and give it a greater leadership position in the region. 
Emam Zade said there are reports the Central American block is also evaluating the possibility of requesting membership in NAFTA, as an option to drawing up a bilateral agreement with the United States. Emam Zade said that if this occurs, the DR would be left in a very weak trading position. 

Modernizing shipping in the DR
Listin Diario reports that the renovation of Haina Port is advancing at a fast pace. Manuel Arias Mella and Teddy Heinsen, spokesmen for the RD$400 million Haina International Terminal (HIT) project said that the first phase of the remodeling will be completed in May of this year, with all the works finished in May 2003. This is the first major renovation of the port in 28 years. Cargo passing through Haina, the country’s main shipping port, has doubled in the past five years making the renovation urgent. The government chose to give the administration and investment of the port to a consortium made up of seven shipping companies, all key users of the port: E. T. Heinsen, Ageport, Maritima Dominicana, Frederic Schad, Agencia Naviera B y R, Agencia Naviera Perez y Compañia, and Agencia Maritima y Comercial. 
The renovation will bring about a significant reduction in the time needed to load and unload cargo and thus a reduction in the cost of shipment. Port capacity is being increased from 14,000 containers to 25,000 containers.

Borrowing blitz in first day of legislature
The Chamber of Deputies returned to work yesterday and promptly passed US$104 million in loans as well as ratified the Santo Domingo-Samana highway concession to private contractors. Diario Libre said the deputies passed the loans and the highway concession blindly, without access to the contracts they were passing. The newspaper pointed out that Chamber of Deputies president Rafaela Alburquerque had said she would be more prudent in the passing of loans, and President Hipolito Mejia told the nation in his 27 February address that the government had decided to only pass long-term loans with multilateral agencies. 
The commercial bank loans passed by the Deputies are:
-US$47 million and US$32.4 million with Fortis Bank for the equipping of the Cabral y Baez Hospital (Santiago) and Los Alcarrizos Hospital (Santo Domingo).
-Two loans for US$7.4 million with the Bank of America of Los Angeles to build sewage plants in Las Caobas, Santo Domingo, El Seibo and San Cristobal. 
-Two loans for US$8 million with the ABN Amro Bank to rehabilitate the Valdesia dam power generator. 
-A US$9.2 million loan with the Banco Español de Credito to finance rural electricity plants in the east. 
The PLD legislators abandoned the session in protest. Diario Libre reports that the PLD deputies said the PRD would be solely responsible for the new indebtedness.

Senate renovates Chamber of Accounts
The Senate increased the membership of the Chamber of Accounts from five to nine members. The body is in charge of auditing government spending. Yesterday, the PRD majority Senate also retired the president of the organization, Hugo Arias Fabian who had been critical of the present administration. The new head of the Chamber of Accounts is lawyer Raul Reyes Vasquez, a known PRD activist. New appointees Mario Alba Morillo (PRD), Rafael Victorio Espinal (PRD) and Katiuska Bobea de Brenes (PRSC) are also known political activists. Other members are Maximo R. Castillo, Hector Dotel Matos, Angel Santana Sanchez (the only survivor of the Chamber of Accounts shakeout), Junior Danes Moya Mejia, and Vicente Rosario de Jesus. 
Hours before, President Hipolito Mejia had issued Decree 145-02, which retired four of the five members of the Chamber of Accounts with pensions of RD$35,000 a month. Former president Arias Fabian was retired with a pension of RD$46,640 per month. 
Fabian said his removal was a violation of the Constitution. “If you have a small wound on a foot and you do not pay attention to it, it can become a hole. That is what is happening in the DR. As measures are not being taken to control or prevent corruption, in that same proportion corruption is becoming more widespread,” he told the press. 

Where is the messenger?
Security forces are on the lookout for 35-year-old Pedro Medina, who went missing with bank deposits from the Las Americas International Airport Customs Department. Normally, Medina made the deposits accompanied by an officer of the department, but on Saturday he left alone to do it. He had RD$1,033,569 in cash and another RD$4.2 million in certified checks. Medina had been working there for a year and a half. A native of southwestern Barahona, his current address is unknown. The Customs Department learned of his disappearance when at 4 pm they were notified by the Banco de Reservas that the usual deposit had not been made. 

Cesar Medina quits campaigning for senator
Diario Libre reports that TV producer Cesar Medina resigned the PLD candidacy for senator in San Cristobal province under pressure from the PRD and President Hipolito Mejia himself. The newspaper says that Medina complained he was no longer able to campaign in San Cristobal. Reportedly, he accused the mayor and present senator of San Cristobal of vandalizing his campaign posters. “President Hipolito Mejia took this personally. He decided I would not be senator and did everything he could to make this happen,” said Medina. Medina said this is an example of the intolerance of the present government, which feared he would denounce the wrongdoings of the present administration if he made it to Congress.

Looking for a Latin American leader
Journalist Andres Oppenheimer focuses on the sudden lack of leaders in Latin America in an article in the Miami Herald. The newspaper says that there is an urgent need for a Latin American leader with enough stature to help President Bush deal with the crises in Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, which have led Latin America to one of its most difficult times in recent memory.
In the article, the journalist includes the Dominican Republic’s former President Leonel Fernandez among the better leaders of the recent past. Other strong leaders mentioned are Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Costa Rica), Fernando de la Rua (Argentina) and Andres Pastrana (Colombia). To read the story, see http://www.miami.com/

Three lost at sea rescued
Gustavo Torreira, owner of Gus Diving, the leading Santo Domingo scuba diving shop, TV producer Fernando Baez and Allen Guerrero were found unharmed after being lost at sea for a day and a half. 
They were out on Sunday filming the whales in the Silver Banks of the north east coast from a small Zodiac boat. The Zodiac’s anchor let go, distancing them from the main 100-foot boat. They spent Sunday night in the open waters of the sea, floating but alert under the moonlit sky. A day and a half later a US Coast Guard and Navy patrol located them 40 kilometers from the point where they had been diving. 
Baez, who has been diving for 15 years, said he would continue to dive. He admitted in an interview with Diario Libre that he had never been so close to death.
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