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Daily News - 22 May 2002

Spanish businesses want to invest here
President Hipolito Mejia said Spanish investors have made proposals for investment projects worth more than US$500 million for the Dominican Republic. This is in addition to the US$460 million Dragados S.A. proposal for power generation projects announced yesterday. 
The investors who met with the President in Barcelona, Spain are interested in investing in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, port construction, ethanol fuel, and tourism projects. 
Danilo del Rosario of the DR’s Office for the Promotion of Investments reported on several of the proposals presented to the President during his meeting with more than 100 investors. 
Among them is a Spanish group that wants to be part of the Manzanillo Port construction, a French project underway in the northwest. 
Grupo Cata expressed its interest in building the City of Wine, a Roman Coliseum theme park to be located in Cap Cana south of Punta Cana in the east, which would go up at a cost of US$80 million. 
H-10 wants to invest US$20 million to purchase an existing Puerto Plata hotel. 
Grupo Eurohostel wants to promote middle-income housing in Santo Domingo, a project worth US$250 million. 
Grupo Gulova proposes investing US$22 million to create a merchant marine for trading with the Caribbean islands and US ports. 
Chematur proposed to invest US$80 million to produce ethanol. 
Laboratorios Echerverney wants to install a pharmaceutical plant in a free zone, at a cost of US$28 million. 

Plan Renove loans to Congress
The government is asking for congressional approval for new loans to purchase some 879 vehicles. The government is the guarantor of the loans. Originally, the plan was intended to improve public transportation, but on the purchase list are 145 trucks and 10 freight elevators. Plan Renove has been very controversial, with accusations of widespread corruption keeping it from moving ahead. 
The biggest purchase of vehicles will be made from the Hyundai Americas Corporation dealership. A loan contract of US$40.9 million backs the purchase of 724 buses of all sizes, the 145 trucks and 10 freight elevators. 
Plan Renove loans also will finance the purchase of 70 Volvo buses and 268 Marcopolo minibuses from the Alpha Motors dealership at a cost of US$17 million. Another contract will finance the purchase of 200 Marcopolo microbuses from Ruedas Dominicanas dealership at a cost of US$7.8 million. 
The Dominican government also sent a contract for US$15.1 million with Toyota Tsusho Corporation of Japan for the purchase of 900 Toyota Hiace microbuses and 35 Toyota Coaster minibuses. Another contract is for the purchase of 200 more Toyota Hiace microbuses and 25 Toyota Coaster minibuses for US$4 million. These contracts were signed with the Delta Comercial dealership.

More loans
Press reports also focus on other new loans that President Mejia submitted to the Senate to build new housing, finance solar energy projects, irrigation and plant cloning. 
They include a US$180 million loan negotiated with Bank AGS SRL of Italy for an Instituto Nacional de la Vivienda low-income housing program. US$51.8 million are allotted for the construction of irrigation systems in Azua. 
Hoy newspaper also reports that the President sent to the Senate a loan contract for US$1.3 million to purchase solar electricity systems for an electrification program on the border with Haiti. And $6.7 million euros for the construction of a cloning laboratory able to produce 10 million plants a year.

Exports down, balance of payment deficit climbs
The Central Bank reveals that non-free zone exports are down 24.7% in the first quarter of the year, declining from US$1.33 billion in 2001 to US$1.26 billion in 2002. Free zone exports are down 1.2%, from US$1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2001 to US$1.09 billion for the same period in 2002. The declines are attributed in part to a drop in the price of coffee, tobacco and ferronickel on the world market. 
The decline of exports is of concern, especially at a time when the government maintains a steady pace of borrowing on international markets and the cost of fuel imports remains high. 
The Listin Diario also reports today that the Central Bank says the balance of payments registered a negative balance of US$187.9 million for January-March, which is up 870.6% compared to the same period in 2001.

Congress extends the session
The Senate and Chamber of Deputies announced they will extend their session another 60 days. The present legislature was scheduled to end 27 May. The presidents of both houses will now resume work on 28 May.

Who will preside over Chamber of Deputies?
Rafaela Alburquerque, Hector Marte, Licelotte Marte, Maximo Castro, Rogelio Genao of the PRSC and Alfredo Pacheco of the PRD all want the job of Chamber of Deputies president. Current president Rafaela (Lila) Alburquerque says the decision is up to President Hipolito Mejia, PRD president Hatuey de Camps and former President Joaquin Balaguer. The PRD has a majority in the chamber, but President Mejia has said he will leave the presidency in the hands of the PRSC as compensation for its agreement not to ally itself with another party, which led each political party to campaign on its own. This divide and conquer strategy was key to the PRD maintaining its majority in Congress. 
The presidency of the Chamber of Deputies is important because that person decides what gets put on the chamber’s discussion agenda.

San Pedro-Romana highway contract approved
The Senate has passed the contract for an RD$4.48 billion expansion of the San Pedro de Macoris-La Romana highway. The construction contract was awarded to Concesionaria Dominicana de Autopistas y Carreteras, belonging to engineers Atilio de Frias Reyes, Manuel Bada de Cominges and Jose Rafael Mera. The company will recover its costs by collecting tolls. 

Mystery caller not important?
News analysts are focusing on recent comments by Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa who says the person who called the secretary of the Senate with instructions to change the contents of a proposed bill was “not an important person.” The document outlined which government entities would receive the proceeds from the sale of goods confiscated from criminals. 
Senate President Andres Bautista had originally said the call came from an influential person. As a result of the call, the secretary of the Senate altered the bill that was later sent to the Chamber of Deputies, passed and then forwarded to the Presidency. Hipolito Mejia signed the law, which grants the Executive Branch discretion over 50% of the revenues. The remaining 50% is allotted to drug control and prevention organizations. In the original unaltered bill, 100% of the revenues had been allotted to drug control and prevention organizations. 
Only days after signing the bill, President Hipolito Mejia returned it to the Senate for corrections. The Senate promptly reinstated the adulterated part and sent it to the Chamber of Deputies for approval. 
The Chamber of Deputies has now decided to send the controversial Law 55-02 on money laundering to committee for further study. If the Chamber of Deputies makes changes, the bill will need to return to the Senate for its approval. 

Analyzing the vote count by party
Diario Libre reports that the PRSC gained 204,162 more votes in 2002 than in the congressional election of 1998. In 1998 the PRSC allied with the PRD and received 351,347 votes. Running on its own strength in 2002, the PRSC received 555,509 votes, for an increase of 58%.
In 1998, 654,713 Dominicans voted for the PLD. In 2002, the party received 656,706 votes, or an increase of 1,993 votes, 0.3% more. 
The PRD declined in number of votes. The party received 1,075,306 votes in 1998, but in the 2002 congressional elections 936,234 Dominicans voted for the party, or 112,072 less than four years ago, for a 10% decline. 
For the vote tally, see http://www.dr1.com/news/2002/elections.pdf

Hipolito followers gain hold of Congress
Diario Libre reports that PRD deputies and senators who opposed presidential re-election lost their seats in Congress in the election. Those who favor reforming the constitution to permit consecutive re-election were elected, according to preliminary results. The newspaper points out that Ovi Saldivar of the province of Sanchez Ramirez was the only member of the PRD faction led by party president Hatuey de Camps who opposed re-election and survived in the Chamber of Deputies. Those who lost their seats were: Rafael Gamundi Cordero, Sofia Leonor Sanchez Baret of the National District, Angela Jaquez of Santiago, and Eulogia Familia and Manola Betzaida Santana of the National District. All deputies representing the so-called Proyecto Presidencial Hipolito (PPH) faction of the party were re-elected. 
The strongest opposition to reforming the constitution so President Hipolito Mejia can run again in 2004 came from members of his own party. 

The contested Santiago election
The PLD is expected to challenge the election results in Santiago to the Central Electoral Board (JCE). The PLD wants the JCE to check the elections certificate table by table to see if there were irregularities, and likewise to check the annulled and observed votes. The PLD candidate in Santiago, former district attorney Francisco Dominguez Brito, says there were errors at the time of entering the data from the certificate of elections into the computerized electoral system.
According to the official vote count bulletin, PRD governor Victor Mendez won the Santiago senate seat by a margin of 1,653 votes. The PLD challenged those results to the Santiago Electoral Board, which upheld the vote count. 
Meanwhile, Archbishop of Santiago Juan Antonio Flores Santana, who is known for being reserved, spoke up yesterday claiming that he had proof there was fraud in the Santiago election that favored the governor of the province. He demanded the errors be corrected so as not to taint the election.

PRD seeks re-count in Santo Domingo
Henry Mejia, PRD delegate to the Central Electoral Board, has requested a re-count of votes from 107 electoral stations, claiming that irregularities caused election certificates to be annulled. He said most of the affected electoral stations are located in district No. 3 where the PRD won with 41.51% of the vote versus 35.55% for the PLD. He feels the PRD should have won with a greater margin that would have helped the cause of PRD candidate, Rafael (Fafa) Taveras. The PLD won in the National District.

Ownership of Casandra name in dispute
The Asociacion de Cronistas de Arte, the local show business union, disputes the right of the Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana to have registered the names El Soberano and Premios Casandra with the national copyright office. Representatives of the show business union feel they have a right to the name. But the producers of Presidente Beer, which has sponsored the event for years, feel differently. According to a report in El Caribe, a spokesman for the company said they registered the name to protect the million-dollar investment they have made in the annual awards ceremony over the years.
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