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Daily News - 13 December 2002

Government to use highway tolls to pay debt
President Hipólito Mejía had justified the increase of tolls from RD$5 to RD$15 saying that the money generated would be used to maintain Dominican highways. However, the truth seems to be coming to the surface. 
Next Tuesday, the Senate will vote to decide whether or not the funds collected by highway tolls should be used to pay the debt due to Banreservas, the government owned-commercial bank. The amount of the government debt is RD$3.25 billion and the highway tolls generate revenues of approximately RD$53 million every month. 
Only after the debt is paid will toll money be used to maintain highways, specified a bill under review. 
President of the Senate Andres Bautista Garcia declared that the project has a consensus and is on the Senate’s agenda for next Tuesday. 

Conflict with gas stations continues
The National Association of Gasoline Retailers (ANADEGAS) warned there could be a serious shortage in the supply of fuel within the next six days. A spokesman for the gas station association said that if the government does not act quickly to compensate the alleged losses suffered by retailers from evaporation and mis-measurement, they would no longer purchase fuel from suppliers. Anadegas has decided not to restock its inventory until the government grants a RD$1.90 increase in its profit margin. The present margin, which is regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, gives retailers RD$3.34 per gallon of regular gasoline. Retailers claim, however, that they lose RD$0.62 per gallon due to evaporation and RD$0.33 due to a difference in measurement caused by variances in temperature. 
According to the law of hydrocarbons, the distributors purchase fuel at the international standard temperature of 15 C. The problem is that the distributors do not sell the fuel to the retailers using the same standards. This means that if retailers purchase from distributors at 25 C, the retailers are lose out due to the expansion of the fluid at the higher temperature. 
ANADEGAS has 456 member gas stations, who, as of 16 December, will no longer purchase fuel to refill their tanks unless an agreement is reached. According to ADENEGAS, its member gas stations supply 75% of the fuel retailed in the country. This means that when their fuel inventory is depleted, the remaining 164 gas stations belonging to a handful of independent retailers and distributors, such as Shell, Texaco, Esso, Isla, Nativa, and Coastal, will be hard-pressed to meet the demands for the national supply. 
The Department of Hydrocarbons, a branch of the Ministry of Finance, agrees that retailers should be compensated for the losses suffered as a consequence of evaporation, but says, however, that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to deal with such issues. Luis Taveras, Shell’s corporate manager, supports the petition made by ADENAGAS, but does not agree with the proposed measures, due to the potential for negative impact to the general public. He affirmed that the 25 Shell gas stations will continue servicing the public.
The Minister of Industry and Commerce Sonia Guzman said that the matter should be resolved through the courts, however reports say that Guzman will meet with the spokesman for the gas station retailers some time today. 

Loan for Pan American Games?
tHoy newspaper speculates that the US$54.1 million loan that had been approved by the Senate but was rejected this week by the Chamber of Deputies would have been used to complete construction of the venues for the Pan American Games. In a page-two commentary today, the newspaper says that the money was earmarked for sports installations, however, PRD deputies did not vote in favor of the loan. The newspaper doubts that the resistance of the legislators is due to their genuine concern regarding the propriety of the loan at a time when there is a generalized anxiety over increasing indebtedness of the country. Instead, it says, as a group of legislators from the southwest put it frankly, that those people do not want to approve what other people will enjoy, given the hefty commissions involved in the loans.

Venezuelan conflict affects 2003 Pan Am Games
Minister of Sports Cesar Cedeño said that the works to remodel the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center are being affected by the political crisis in Venezuela. He explained that while the money for the remodeling is coming from Venezuela, the actual funds have yet to be disbursed. Venezuela authorized an expenditure of US$33 million for the renovations however the stadium and the pool are far behind their work schedules. 
Cedeño said that the alternative was to relocate those sports events, for which the venues would not be ready, to other places.
“We have to be realistic because the work is advancing at a slow pace, but we are committed,” he said. 
During the Pan American Sports Organization meeting held early this week in Mexico, it was agreed that the sporting events whose venues are not completed by May would be reassigned to another country. 
The only pool that meets the standards for the Pan Am Games is in the one under construction at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. 

Million signatures vs. power distributors
Father Rogelio Cruz is leading a movement to secure one million signatures in a petition that asks that the power distributors leave the country and that the government rescind the controversial contracts. The outspoken Catholic priest is setting up tables in the barrios to register the signatures. He said the movement would go nationwide.

Requests for US visas down 20% 
The United States Information Agency (USIA) informed that requests for visas to enter the U.S. are down 20 percent in the last 15 months. This decline is not limited to the Dominican Republic but is rather a trend occurring globally after the events of 11 September 2001. Also, as a direct consequence of the terrorist acts of 9-11, the cost of visas was upped from US$65 to US$100 and the US Consulate has significantly changed its visa renovation policy. Only visas that were issued for a period of five years or longer and those that have been expired for less than one year will be renewed automatically.

Al Gore will visit DR
Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, will be visiting the Dominican Republic next Tuesday to speak to a group of invitees at the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE), where he will speak on the subject of “Democracy and Development in Times of Globalization”. This will be Gore’s first visit to the Dominican Republic.

E. Leon Jimenes Group: “Most Admired”
The marketing magazine “Mercado” says that results of a survey conducted by Read & Asociados rank E. Leon Jimenez as “the most admired company”. Of the more than 500 individuals interviewed, most were subscribers to the magazine. Seventeen business categories were analyzed, to include: customer service; company image; market leadership; product quality; longevity as a leader in its field; and application of vanguard technology. The top-ranking companies were E. Leon Jimenes (23.2%), Banco Popular (11.2%), and Codetel (10.6%). Other notables were Cervecería Nacional Dominicana (an E. Leon Jimenes company), Baninter, Mercasid, Grupo Ramos, Brugal & Cia., Orange, Grupo Financiero Popular, Listin Diario, Tricom, Colgate-Palmolive, Grupo Intercontinental, and Grupo Malla. Within the same survey, four companies led the field of brand recognition and “top of mind” list: Baninter, Orange, Brugal, and Tricom.
It is worth mentioning that of the top three of the “Most admired” companies, two possess a large amount of foreign capital. The Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris Companies Inc.) is a main shareholder of E. Leon Jimenes and Codetel is a Verizon subsidiary.

English-language lodge for Santo Domingo
An English-language symbolic lodge of Free and Accepted Masons is being organized in Santo Domingo under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of the Dominican Republic. Freemasonry is a worldwide fraternal organization believed to have evolved from the medieval guilds of the stonemasons.
Membership requires no allegiance to any single faith or religion, although belief in God is necessary, and aims to enable its members to meet in harmony, and to promote friendship and charity. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Simón Bolivar, San Martin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Juan Pablo Duarte, among many other outstanding men, were Freemasons. Those interested, and who are already active members of regular lodges, are invited to contact the Grand Secretary at 682-4173 (in Spanish) or request information in English by sending a blank email to [email protected] The new lodge will be accepting applications from interested non-Masons in the Spring of 2003.

Siamese twin goes home
Military physicians at the Ramon de Lara Hospital in the San Isidro air force base sent home Siamese twin Lucy Velazquez Cabrera, at a weight of 3.2 pounds. She was separated from her twin sister in the unprecedented surgery that separated the infant from her Siamese twin 15 days ago. The baby was born prematurely at 35 weeks gestation and is the daughter of Lucia Cabrera, a student of architecture, and Desiderio Velazquez.

Luis Miguel arrives
The king of Latin pop, Luis Miguel, arrived today at the Romana International Airport at 4:15am in his private plane. The celebrity will stay at the same villa in Casa de Campo he has stayed at previously. The press, the fans and Luis Matos, the official representative of BANINTER, were on hand to receive him, as the star prepares for his performance at the amphitheatre of Altos de Chavon. This will mark Luis Miguel’s second performance this year in the DR, as he appeared at the National Theater in Santo Domingo several months ago. 
When asked about his expectations for the concert, Miguel said, “I am so anxious I want to go to Chavon and sing right now.” 
The concert forms part of his “Mis Romances 2002” tour and will be held this Saturday, 14 December, at 8:30pm. Tickets are available in travel agencies and at branches of Baninter for RD$2,500 and RD$7,000.

Deep Dish is coming
Two time Grammy winners will be performing at Santo Domingo's prehistoric
grotto the "Guacara Taina" on 27th December. Deep Dish, first rose to prominence following the 1998 release of their ground-breaking debut album, Junk Science. Since then, the two have spent the bulk of their time trotting around the globe at the request of the world's most famous clubs. Characterized by diverse and unexpected grooves, Deep Dish continues to enjoy main stream success and underground respect.
Many of the world’s top recording artists have called upon Deep Dish to remix
their songs, including Rolling Stones, Michael & Janet Jackson and Madonna to name just a few.
For more information, check out: http://www.dubcoast.com
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