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Daily News - 7 March 2002

President on the exercise of power
President Hipolito Mejia, speaking at a luncheon of the Cooperativa Nacional de Maestros (National Teachers’ Cooperative) at the Hotel Jaragua yesterday commented on the use of power. “When you have the majority, you do not have to play the game of demagoguery and politics; you exercise the power you have in your hands.” He spoke of how he had been elected in 2000 with a majority vote. 
He also emphasized that his government would not increase wages in any sector. Speaking during the visit, he said: "I want to be sufficiently serious when confirming that in no moment the President has made commitments with anyone, absolutely nobody in increasing wages. I have said that the wages will be adjusted exactly the same for all sectors. Anything else is politics."
During the luncheon, he repeated that he was “happy with the little job.”  

8,856 military promoted
President Hipolito Mejia promoted 8,856 members of the Armed Forces and the police yesterday. The promotions come with significant wage increases. The promotions are: 2,899 in the police; 1,927 in the Navy; 1,851 in the Air Force; and 2,854 in the Army. The promotions ceremony was held in front of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. 

US$90.7 million more in government loans
The Executive Branch sent new loan contracts for US$90.7 million to the Senate yesterday. The breakdown of the loans is:
-US$38.7 million contracted with the Bank of Miami for the construction and equipping of a hospital for congressmen. 
-US$16.9 million with the Bank of Miami for the equipping of 44 military hospitals. 
-US$20.3 million with the BNP Paribas Bank of Belgium for the modernization of the Astillero Naval de Caldera, Bani, a state-owned shipbuilding yard and the construction of six ships. 
-US$14.9 million for electrification and potable water networks benefiting 65 rural communities. This agreement was signed between the state and the French Development Agency and is a 17-year loan at 2.55% interest.
Yesterday, the Senate also received for study the concession granted by the state to a private company for the construction of the San Pedro de Macoris-La Romana highway at a cost of RD$4 billion. The contractors would recover their investment by collecting tolls. 
The Senate also received for study a contract for the sale of Ozama sugar mill property at RD$64 million to be used for the construction of housing projects.

Focus on the Chamber of Accounts
El Caribe newspaper editorial focuses on the changes in the Chamber of Accounts made on Tuesday by the Senate following a request from the Executive Branch. The Senate retired and replaced all but one of the members of the Chamber of Accounts.
El Caribe says this violates the Constitution. The Chamber of Accounts is a government body that audits the government’s use of loans and tax money. The members’ terms expire on 14 August. They were to present a report on government use of funds to Congress in April. 
El Caribe laments the politicizing of this important body. It says strengthening local institutions is not impossible, pointing to the case of the Supreme Court of Justice. 
The editorial states: “Citizens had the right to expect the same thing would happen with the Chamber of Accounts. But deep down, our politicians do not want separation of powers in the state, nor the system of checks and balances that is the essence of democracy. Instead of advancing, the political reform has lost impetus.” 

How did he get the job?
Diario Libre reports that the Customs Department messenger missing with RD$1.5 million in cash and RD$4 million in certified checks belonging to the Las Americas International Airport had a considerable police record. The newspaper says 35-year-old Pedro Medina, who was responsible for depositing day collections for the Customs Department, appears in police records for theft in 1986 and faking travel documents in 1996. 
The native of Paraiso, Barahona was given the job despite not having a fixed home address. 
The newspaper says that he carries a gun that belongs to the customs department. Medina is suspected of having left the country, given his expertise in forging travel documents.

Voters in National District
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) says 656,525 people are registered to vote in the National District (Santo Domingo). The breakdown per electoral district is as follows:
Electoral District 1: 233,535
Electoral District 2: 144,694
Electoral District 3: 279,296
Province of Santo Domingo has a total of 846,735 voters:
Santo Domingo East: 402,955
Santo Domingo West: 240,763
Santo Domingo North: 165,622
Boca Chica: 37,395
JCE records show a total of 4,644,000 Dominicans are eligible to vote in the May 2002 election. Of these, one million live abroad. 
In the 16 May election, the JCE will operate 12,000 voting stations nationwide to serve 400-600 voters each.

Campaign to revise US Census of Dominicans
The Dominican American National Roundtable, a non-profit group that focuses on Dominican-American issues in the US, is calling for a revision of US Census statistics on the Dominican-American population. 
DANR and the Dominican Studies Institute in New York say the Census Bureau has under-reported the number of Dominicans living in the US. 
The census reported there are 765,000 Dominicans. But DANR and DSI say independent studies confirm that more than a million Dominicans live in the US. They say the discrepancy can be corrected using available data. 
For more information on this story and how to join the campaign see http://www.danr.org/

American Airlines to add new flights
American Airlines has announced that as of 15 June it will begin a Santiago-Miami route at the soon-to-open Cibao International Airport. It will also offer Santo Domingo-Boston and Punta Cana-New York routes, as reported in El Caribe newspaper. AA has traditionally been highly profitable in the DR given its dominance of the market.

Pan Am to fly again to DR
Pan American Airways is about to try a second time for a Latin American comeback. The airline is laying the groundwork for a major expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean, using the smaller suburban airport, the Orlando Sanford International Airport as its base. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the company would be using Boeing 727-200s purchased from United Airlines for flights to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas within months. 
Pan Am president Dave Fink met with President Hipolito Mejia on Tuesday to arrange commercial flights into the DR. In the interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Fink said, "We look at South America and the Caribbean as a growth area. We met with the president and he was so excited and refreshing, it gave us a real spark."
New Hampshire-based Guilford Transportation Industries acquired the bankrupt Pan Am in 1998. 
For more on this story: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

Tourism industry woes
As reported in El Caribe, Ramon Prieto, president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, spoke up again for the strengthening of the DR’s tourism industry. At a seminar on tourism in a global world held at the Madre y Maestra Catholic University, he criticized the lack of a coherent plan and political will behind the industry. He pointed out that the industry represents 20% of the Gross Domestic Product.
He said the industry is in the hands of tour operators who take advantage of the present problems to increase their power to manipulate rates. He said making matters worse is the oversupply of hotel rooms, when Dominican rates are already the lowest in the region. 
He criticized that the country has become a destination for low budget tourism. “The country has never invested the minimum necessary nor has it handled itself with professional criteria to develop and sustain a strong image, not even in times of crisis,” he said. He said the country earned US$400 million less in 2001 because of a decline in travel. He said if measures are not taken this year, the country could lose another US$400 million, which would wipe out the positive effects of the US$500 million in sovereign bonds. 
As reported in Diario Libre newspaper, Prieto also mentioned the extraordinarily high cost of power in the DR (costing 11% of tourism revenues) and the hefty taxes and social benefits that eat up another 23.5% of gross revenues. 
Prieto said the industry’s profitability depends on generating large numbers of travelers.

Used clothing imports from Haiti
Dominican apparel and footwear manufacturers complain today in an El Caribe story of the dumping of used clothes in the Dominican market. Most of it is imported from Haiti. 
Law 991 dating back to 30 August 1945 prohibits the manufacture, import, or sale of used mattresses, pillows or clothing. But this commerce has been going on for years and is gaining in volume, reports El Caribe. 
The government approved the operations of Worldwide Clothing and Globo in free zones in southwestern Pedernales and in the East. These firms import packs of used clothes for sorting and export to Haiti. The clothes are later exported from Haiti back to the DR through a long legal and illegal distribution network involving custom agents, the military and hundreds of small-time Dominican and Haitian entrepreneurs. 
Store owners on Duarte Avenue complain that while they have to pay 1.5% on gross sales, the 12% ITBIs sales tax, power, light and telephone bills, the informal merchants are allowed to set up their shacks right in front of the larger stores. They feel this is unfair competition. 
David Cortes, of the Association of Jean Manufacturers said the competition has forced the closing of 90 companies that manufactured jeans. Of 150 companies in operation in 1998, only 60 are left and production is down 70% due to the unfair competition coming over the border from Haiti.
Likewise, Celestino Jesus Dieguez of the Dominican Association of Footwear Manufacturers (Adocalza) says the situation is critical. He said that 50 of 75 footwear factories have gone bankrupt, and of the 900 small workshops, there are only 60 left.

June Rosemberg passes away
A 30-year professor of Anthropology at the state’s Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, US researcher June Rosemberg was mourned yesterday at the university and at the Museum of Dominican Man. She is especially recognized for her long-term studies of African influences in Caribbean culture. 

Danny Almonte puts focus on ball players
Yadira Morel, local immigration expert, says the young baseball pitching phenomenon is to blame for increased scrutiny of Dominican ball players’ documents by US consular authorities. Danny Almonte, who was believed to be 12, made headlines when he threw a perfect game for his New York team and then it turned out he was actually 14 years old and ineligible to play. 
Three months ago, officers at the US Consulate began demanding interviews and birth certificates from returning Dominican ball players for the first time. The new scrutiny uncovered more than 30 players with fake birth certificates, a practice used by many to make themselves more attractive to scouts and managers.
Pointing out that nearly 25 percent of the players in the major league system come from the Dominican Republic (birthplace of 1,644 players under contract), The Washington Post focuses on the story in a recent edition. See
http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Calendar events
DR1 keeps a listing in its Calendar Page on what’s happening in Santo Domingo (and some other cities). Posted is the 14 March National Choir presentation, Swiss folklore dances on 18 March, and opera at Bellas Artes from 23-29 March. Also showing this weekend in Santo Domingo cinemas are two recommended French films, Amelie and An Affair of Love. For more details on these events, and many more, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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