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Daily News - 18 July 2002

DR included in AIDS agreement
The Dominican Republic was included in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) pact signed with six leading European and United States pharmaceutical companies for the sale of discounted HIV drugs. Presidential AIDS Commission technical coordinator Jaime de la Rosa told El Caribe that the drugs would be available also in the DR for the agreed 70-90% discounts. The agreement was signed during the XIV International AIDS Conference that took place 7-12 July in Barcelona, Spain. 
Hoffmann-La Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim of Europe and Merck, Abbott and Bristol Meyers of the United States signed the agreement with the Caribbean countries. 
De la Rosa explained that the cost of drugs required for a month’s treatment would be sold for RD$3,500-RD$4,500, down from RD$20,000-RD$18,000 a month. 
He recognizes that even with the new discounts these medications are prohibitive to most affected with HIV. He said that the government would also use programs available through the Medications Fund of the Panamerican Health Organization to further reduce the enormously expensive drugs that are said to have kept hundreds of thousands of AIDS patients alive in the U.S. and Western Europe. Wider availability of one of the drugs, AZT is expected to have a major effect on preventing mother-to-child transmission. 
El Caribe reports estimates that some 130,000 persons in the Dominican Republic could benefit from the lower cost of the pharmaceuticals.

Unprecedented final homage to Balaguer
Hundreds of thousands of Dominicans yesterday paid homage to Joaquin Balaguer, the legendary Dominican politician and seven-time president of the Dominican Republic. The massive funeral procession started at 8 am from Balaguer’s home at 25 Maximo Gomez, where he had been mourned for two days. 
It then proceeded to the Presidential Palace, where President Hipolito Mejia and First Lady Rosa Gomez paid their respects. In his goodbye, President Mejia recognized that Balaguer was the man of most influence in Dominican history. 
Diario Libre reports that after leaving the Presidential Palace, the entourage advanced to the tune of “A Pasito Lento,” the merengue theme used during Balaguer’s last presidential campaigns. By advancing on foot, many felt they were showing their devotion and respect to the aging politician campaigned who many times campaigned for office using a very short step. 
For the past 10 years, Balaguer was only able to move very slowly. Balaguer was blind and suffered from crippling phlebitis in his last years. Thus, in his honor, on Wednesday, 17 July, hundreds made the entire 30-kilometer long trek on foot. 
From the National Palace, the entourage proceeded to the Iglesia La Paz for a solemn mass. 
The Partido Reformista Social Cristiano headquarters was the next stop. At the headquarters of the party founded by Balaguer, the funeral entourage only remained 15 minutes, reportedly due to the disorganized crowd that congregated there. The National Anthem and the party’s song were played prior to the procession continuing on to the Cristo Redentor Cemetery.
The final rites and burial at a packed cemetery began at 11:30 pm and ended at 12:30 am. Balaguer’s personal secretary of 46 years Rafael Bello Andino read the final words, followed by eulogies by Federico Antun Batlle (PRSC second vice president), Alexis Joaquin Castillo (rumored for years to be a son of Balaguer), and Joaquin Ricardo (a nephew). 
Balaguer was buried in the family mausoleum, at the side of his late mother, sisters, and a brother-in-law. 
Diario Libre reported that the funeral lasted nearly 16 hours and was televised live nationwide by Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 21, 23, 27, 33, 35, 37, 41, 53 and 57. 

May the caudillos rest in peace
In its editorial today, El Caribe newspaper comments on the funerals of the three caudillos that have dominated politics in the Dominican Republic during the second half of the 20th century.
Coincidentally the three have died in a period of less than four years. 
El Caribe expresses hope that with the death of Balaguer, the last of the three great charismatic figures that attracted unconditional followers, the heyday of the caudillo figure in Dominican politics may be over. 
The newspaper recalls that Jose Francisco Peña Gomez, the first to die, was so irresponsible that he ran for President when he knew he was fatally ill. He won 47% of the vote (to latter lose in the second round when the PRSC and PLD allied). El Caribe editorialist comments that if Peña had won that election, he would have spent most of his term in the hospital. He died two years later. 
Juan Bosch, seen as an enemy of the right, the great democrat, varied his political ideology to the point where he supported a dictatorship with popular support and saw in Mao’s China a model to copy. 
The last to go, Joaquin Balaguer, held on to power at any cost. In December 1961, a 13-day strike and the personal pressure of then President Kennedy were necessary to convince him to abandon the presidency. In 1978, he used the military to stop Antonio Guzman of the PRD, who had won the elections with a wide margin, from becoming President. And after much national pressure and foreign pressure, he turned in the government, but before doing so maneuvered for additional seats in congress to maintain his influence. In 1994, he used fraud in disregards to the popular will expressed in the polls, only turning in the presidency two years latter. 
El Caribe editorializes that the Dominican Republic instead of caudillos needs just simple people as politicians. The newspaper mentions Latin American politicians such as Oscar Arias, Andres Pastrana, Belisario Betancur, Jose Maria Figueres and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. It comments that the Dominican Republic also produces people like them. May the time of the caudillos be over. 
“At the end we will not be able to blame anyone for our problems. We will be the only ones to blame,” says the newspaper. 

Making Puerto Plata a better place
Listin Diario reports today on the efforts of the private sector and the government to improve the Puerto Plata as a tourism destination. 
Minister of Tourism Rafael Subervi Bonilla said that the government is investing RD$200 million to repave the streets, RD$18 million to relocate the Granero slum area, RD$200 million for the management of residual wastes, and has distributed RD$100,000 to the vendors of Playa Dorada Beach for improvement of their stands. He also said that the government has installed two power plants at the Puerto Plata sky lift, a major north coast attraction. Also on the agenda is the implementation of a new hotel rating system for the area. 
Julio Llibre, president of Coral Hotels & Resorts, told the Listin Diario that there is opportunity in crisis. Travel to Puerto Plata had declined, as the newer East Coast destinations of Punta Cana and Bavaro were born. Now, is the time for tourists to rediscover Puerto Plata, says Llibre. He said that the private sector and the government are working to secure more airline seats and implement promotional programs.

Merengue Festival
The Festival de Merengue begins today in Santo Domingo at 8 pm. The opening event is scheduled for the Plaza Juan Baron on the Malecon. President Hipolito Mejia and Minister of Tourism Rafael Subervi Bonilla will be present for the opening. Free presentations with Sergio Vargas, Alex Bueno are scheduled for the Plaza Juan Baron and the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park. 
Santo Domingo hotels have also joined together for two weeks of presentations of some of the best merengue bands at 9 pm and for RD$300 per person. 
The hotels program is as follows: 
Thursday, 18 July. Barcelo Gran Hotel Lina. Los Toros Band and Parada Joven. 
Saturday, 20 July. Hotel V Centenario Inter-Continental. Wilfrido Vargas and Yarumba.
Thursday, 25 July. Hotel Renaissance Jaragua. Fernando Villalona and Raffy Matias. 
Friday, 26 July. Hotel Santo Domingo. Milly Quezada and Dionis Fernandez.
Saturday, 27 July 2002. Hotel Melia Santo Domingo. Johnny Ventura and Grupo Mio.
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