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Daily News - 22 April 2002

Focus on nuclear transport ship
Listin Diario reports that President Hipolito Mejia ordered the Armed Forces to prevent a plutonium-loaded ship on its way from France to Japan to pass through Dominican waters. The Caribbean opposes the passage of the nuclear transport ships because of the slight possibility that an accident could transform the region into a radioactive wasteland for thousands of years. Even the suspicion of contamination could kill the nations’ economies. 
However, Navy chief Luis Rafael Humeau Hidalgo and ecologist Carlos Michelen say Mejia’s order is not practical because it would require the ship to pass 200 miles from the country. If the ship uses the Caribbean route, it has to enter Dominican territorial waters. Caribbean nations have lobbied nuclear transporters to use the alternate route around South America.
For more information, see 
http://www.greenpeace.org
http://www.foreignwire.com
http://www.greenpeace.org

10,141 new legal residents
The Department of Migration has issued 10,141 new residencies in the past 10 months, an average of 46 a day. Immigration director Miguel Vasquez said his department is carrying out a census to determine how many foreigners live in the Dominican Republic. He said on the Dia por Dia TV program that there could be upwards of 800,000 foreigners living in the country
The breakdown of residencies issued in the past 10 months per nationality was:
US citizens: 2,073 residencies
Spaniards: 1,066
Cubans: 722
Italians: 700
Colombians: 696
Germans: 564
Chinese: 536
Haitians: 466
Swiss: 238
Canadians: 236
Mexicans: 170
Venezuelans: 147
Argentineans: 140
Taiwanese: 125
Indonesians: 55
Danish: 54 

Cost of the elections: RD$1.2 billion+
The congressional and municipal elections will cost taxpayers more than RD$1.2 billion, said electoral judge Salvador Ramos. He said 12,000 voting stations will open to 4.7 million Dominican voters and will employ 70,000 that day. 
The cost includes RD$295 million that already has been distributed to the political parties to help finance their campaigns. 
In addition, the political parties and the candidates themselves are adding several hundred million more to make their faces known among voters. 
For instance, newspapers have reported that in the National District and the newly-created Province of Santo Domingo, the three leading parties are spending RD$427 million on their campaigns. A deputy’s campaign is estimated to cost RD$2 to RD$4 million. A campaign for senator ranges from RD$7 to RD$10 million. 
The nation will elect 32 senators and 149 deputies.

Solution for young voters problem
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has reached an agreement with delegates representing the three majority parties (PRD, PRSC, and PLD) to resolve the problem of the new voters who were left off the voting lists. The JCE will prepare a special list with names of the new voters who just turned 18. According to the JCE president, some 3,028 young voters were excluded from the general voting list. 

PRD avoids senatorial debate
The senatorial candidate for the National District for the ruling Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) was a no show at the senatorial debate televised on Cadena de Noticias on Sunday.
The candidates to senator for the PRSC and PLD, Johnny Jones and Jose Tomas Perez, participated in the televised debate organized by the Asociacion Nacional de Jovenes Empresarios (ANJE). 
Missing was Rafael (Fafa) Taveras, PRD senate candidate. PRD president Hatuey de Camps had ordered the PRD candidates not to participate in debates. But last week, Peggy Cabral, candidate for mayor for Santo Domingo, did attend a televised debate. 
As reported in the press, both Jones and Perez concurred during the debate that the government should eliminate the 1.5% tax on gross sales, the exchange commission, and the high cost of power because they all affect the competitiveness of local products. They also favored the holding of tenders for all government projects to prevent corruption. And they spoke up against the massive influx of Haitians. 
Johnny Jones wants a review of the privatization of state enterprises. Perez feels the contracts of those who received concessions should be rescinded in case of non-compliance. 
Perez spoke up against the recent borrowing spree of the Mejia government, which in 18 months in government has taken on US$1.2 billion in new debt. He said that the PLD government had reduced the foreign debt from US$3.8 billion to US$3.6 billion. Jones defended his party’s voting in favor of the loans in Congress, saying that his party would not be an obstacle to the government’s plans. 

Mejia picks on Fernandez
President Mejia accused former President Leonel Fernandez of being lazy, not having worked when in office and having allowed the irresponsible use of government funds during electoral periods, mentioning the case of the National Lottery scandal. 
He said that Fernandez is way up in the stratosphere and that while he was President he spent his time in the Presidential Palace playing on the Internet. He also accused Fernandez of dealing out construction projects to those he favored. Fernandez is the leading figure in the PLD and a vocal supporter of PLD candidates running in the congressional and municipal election scheduled for 16 May. 

Boom in medium-priced property sales
Sales of houses and apartments were up 56% in January-March of this year compared to the same period in 2001. The president of the Association of Real Estate Companies (AEI), Melido Marte, said most of the sales were dwellings listed for under RD$1.2 million. He says there is a lull in sales of apartments and houses priced over RD$2 million. Also, there is an oversaturation of around 300 units selling for over RD$3.5 million in the area known as Poligono Central, between Winston Churchill and Naco neighborhoods. Marte also said there are some 200 units for sale on Anacaona Avenue costing over RD$5 million each.

Major water source closed down as precaution
The Haina-Manoguayabo aqueduct source was closed down after levels of contamination were found to be above normal. Director of the Santo Domingo Potable Water Company (CAASD) Julio Suero Marranzini said that petroleum levels in the water are not critical, but the aqueduct source was closed as a precaution. 
Several weeks ago, a breakage in a fuel pipeline to the Falconbridge mining plant resulted in an estimated 100,000-gallon leakage of petroleum into the river system. Falconbridge denies the leak could have caused the aqueduct contamination. 

Venezuela removes its ambassador
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the removal of Venezuelan Ambassador Julio Portillo from the Dominican Republic. The notice was sent by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Friday. Counselor Guido Gonzalez will assume the role of business attaché in the interim until a new ambassador is appointed. Portillo did not remain loyal to Chavez when a new Venezuelan government took over for a brief period.

Teofilo Barreiro dies of a heart attack
The man who best described the Dominican psyche, Teofilo Barreiro, died last Friday. A sociologist, Barreiro was masterful at portraying Dominicans in a humorous way. El Caribe newspaper described him as the father of popular Dominican sociology. The man who brought tears of laughter to the eyes of all who attended his conferences on being Dominican, died of a heart attack after lunch at home on Friday. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Beaches family resort for Punta Cana
Frank Rainieri of the Punta Cana Group has announced that construction will start this September on the Beaches Punta Cana Hotel. Beaches is the all-inclusive family brand affiliated with Sandals Resorts of Jamaica. The 305-room resort will go up next to the Club Med Punta Cana and will be completed by November 2003, as reported in El Caribe.
The president of Sandals-Beaches, Butch Stewart, is also president of Air Jamaica. So Rainieri is optimistic that Air Jamaica will fly into Punta Cana. The airline has flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, markets the DR has not yet tapped. He also sees it as a plus that Sandals/Beaches is an upscale resort product. He mentioned that one night at a Sandals property costs US$150 on average. He said that existing hotels in the area are selling rooms for an average of US$50 a night. 
Sandals has held the rights to build on the property since 1987, but was waiting for the market to mature. The chain spends upwards of US$30 million a year to attract the US market. 
For more information on these properties, see
http://www.beaches.com

Lung diving world records set
Two lung diving world records were set in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. On Saturday 20 April at 11 am off the cost of La Romana, diver Patrick Musimu broke the Constant Ballast World Record by reaching a depth of 87 meters in 2:55 minutes. 
Then, Pipin Ferreras and Audrey Mestre went for the Tandem Mixed World Record, reaching a depth of 103 meters in 2:10 minutes. With this dive they broke their own World Record of 100 meters, established in May of last year in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 
The International Association of Free Divers (IAFD) and Viva Dominicus Resorts sponsored the event. 
For more information, see http://www.iafdusa.com
 
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