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Daily News - 16 January 2002

President of Haiti visits today
Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide and First Lady Mildred Trouillot arrived today for a nine-hour visit. They landed at the San Isidro Air Force Base at 8:30 am and were received by Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp. Tolentino was to accompany them to the National Palace for their first meeting with President Hipolito Mejia. Aristide is scheduled to visit the Supreme Court, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Also on his agenda are visits with former President Leonel Fernandez and former President Joaquin Balaguer. Aristide is scheduled to fly back to Haiti at 6 pm.

RD$40 million in unfair billing
Diario Libre reports that the Power Superintendence has ordered Edenorte and Edesur, the major power distributors, to return RD$40.9 million in unfair charges to consumers. The Power Superintendence says the companies, owned by the Spanish Union Fenosa, made unilateral changes in their tariffs. They billed consumers RD$184.7 million; the Superintendence determined the charge should only have been RD$140.9 million. For more information on the Power Superintendence, see http://www.sie.gov.do, Tel. 683-2500.

Congressional agenda?
Senate President Andres Bautista now says the senate is not rejecting the idea of resubmitting the constitutional reform bill if President Hipolito Mejia convenes a special congressional session. But he confirmed that his top priority is to pass the financing for the northwest aqueduct. This is the same financing project that the PRD legislators had turned down when it was submitted during the previous PLD administration. 
Bautista is in favor of holding the special session because in his opinion the deputies and senators will have even less time for their legislative work once the congressional electoral campaign kicks off in March. The regular session is due to open on 27 February. 
El Caribe newspaper publishes a list of bills still pending in the Chamber of Deputies:
Constitutional reform
Police reform
Choice of the nation’s ombudsman
Preparation of a new customs bill
New trade code and the financial/monetary code
New penal code and penal processing code
Bills for environmental protection
Money laundering bill for drug trafficking
Consumer protection bill
Maritime tourism bill
Free trade and unfair practices law

Child labor poll grim 
The Child Labor Poll carried out by the DR Ministry of Labor shows that 240,000 children under 14 work. This is 56% of the children in that age group. Dominican law bans children under 14 from working. 
The survey also shows that 428,720 children 17 or younger work in the DR. Of these, 21% are 14-15 years old and 23% are 16-17 years old.

Use of sovereign bonds money
A spokesman for the Public Works Ministry gave the Listin Diario a list of the main public works where the government spent sovereign bonds money in November and December. 

November (RD$298 million):
Autovia del Este RD$75 million
Juan Bosch Bridge RD$30 million
Santiago-Navarrete Highway RD$50 million
Expansion of Las Americas Highway RD$45.3 million
Tunnel and boulevard, Las Americas Highway RD$2.5 million
Supervision of public works RD$95 million

December (RD$214.7 million):
Santiago–Navarette Highway: RD$50 million
Juan Bosch Bridge RD$13.8 million
Las Americas Highway RD$40 million
Santiago-San Jose de las Matas Highway RD$10 million
Autovia del Este RD$83 million
Reconstruction of highways and roads RD$41.67 million

Freedom of speech case
District Attorney Maximo Aristy Caraballo has sent the case of the government versus former Director of Planning Rafael Camilo to the courts. Camilo had inquired in November about the government’s allocation of the sovereign bonds money, pointing out some extraordinary allotments that appeared in the October budget. President Mejia called for his arrest on grounds of defamation. The case has been sent to the 11th Penal Court of the National District. 
The incident has become an example of intolerance against freedom of speech in the DR, with even high-ranking PRD officers defending Camilo’s right to question the use of the funds. News commentators raise doubts as to whether the President actually has a case against Camilo. Meanwhile, the Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa used government funds to purchase two pages of advertisements substantiating his case. One news commentator said that no one could read the expensive advertisement because the print was so small, it would require a magnifying glass. 
Bienvenido Alvarez Vega of Hoy comments that in this case, President Mejia has acted “with more passion than reason.” He reminds Mejia that his predecessor, Joaquin Balaguer, confronted his opponents with elegance, with statistics in hand, explanations and justification for his reasoning and actions that never went beyond a verbal confrontation. 
He recalls a comment by the legendary statesman: “I believe that those who succeed in politics are not the most intolerant men, but the most understanding; not those with the most rigid ideas, but those with the most flexible ideas.”

Leaving Haiti up to the DR
Listin Diario today comments that international aid to Haiti has been insignificant. In an editorial, the newspaper emphasizes the burden that Haiti continues to place on the DR. It points out that while Dominican investors could channel funds into Haiti to create industries and jobs, there is a lack of political stability and guarantees for those investments, as well as a state of law, true justice, democracy and freedom. The newspaper says President Jean Bertrand Aristide can’t fully guarantee any of these. 
The newspaper points out that the DR’s progress is a magnet that attracts Haitian legal and illegal labor, creating a human and economic drama, “a drama of a nation with an uncertain immediate future.” 
The newspaper is critical of the World Bank plan for both nations, treating them the same. The editorial wonders where the funds will come from for the development of Haiti. It laments that the so-called friends of Haiti, still see the DR as the “primary solution”. It laments that the so-called friends of Haiti [such as Canada, the US and France] still see the DR as the "primary solution."

Head of public medicine program seriously injured
Physician Juan Francisco Benoit, the director of the government’s Programa de Medicamentos Esenciales (Promese) was flown to a Miami hospital’s special trauma unit. He suffered serious contusions after the four wheel ATV he was riding in a weekend rally in Dajabon capsized on top of him. Benoit is in coma, but his physicians at the Santiago Clinica Corominas said he still has brain activity and recommended he be transferred to the Miami center.

Government corruption?
Hoy newspaper’s page two editorial criticizes Administrative Secretary of the Presidency Siquio Ng for making light of the fact that some government employees had purchased or used fake ID cards to benefit from a public school welfare program. Ng said that this is not corruption, it is “bad distribution and abuse of power”. 
Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch (who is also Minister of Education) denounced the irregularities and suspended the program. 
Hoy criticizes that this is another case where the government treats perpetrators lightly. It also mentions the case of the government-built houses in San Juan de la Maguana that should have gone to victims of Hurricane Georges but instead were distributed to those with political influence. 
The newspaper says that by not penalizing the responsible parties, the government grants immunity to government officers for incorrect management of public funds. “What causes the most concern is that in these cases there is no will to apply any kind of penalty, and the government wants to let these things pass as simple slyness (bellaqueria) of crafty officers, and not for what they are: crimes of intention, but after all, crimes.”

Scandal unfolds in Senator’s murder
Listin Diario reports that Carlos Manuel Geronimo Alfonseca (Carlos “Collares”), one of the supposedly confessed assailants of Senator Dario Gomez, told journalists at the Ciudad Nueva courthouse that he was not the person who wore the mask when the Senator was killed. “I was not the masked person. That is a lie. The police shot me in the leg to make me (confess that it was me), I have the bullet there,” he said pointing at his leg. He said he was not present when the Senator was shot at the home of Martin Duran Jaquez on 11 December 2001. He said that another confessed assassin, Domingo Jimenez “El Mago”, knows the truth. El Mago acted as the spokesman for the group of five accused that the police presented during a press conference after the assault on Senator Gomez. News reports say Martin Duran has confirmed that the person who wore the mask was light-skinned, which Collares is not. 
The case continues in court, with the main focus on the reasons why the Senator was killed.

XVI Juan Marichal Golf Classic
Former Major League Baseball players Bill Mazeroski, Don Larsen, Mike Cuellar, Eduardo Figueroa and Luis Tiant will be in Juan Dolio to participate in the 1-3 February XVI Juan Marichal Golf Classic. Larsen is the only player in the Major Leagues to have pitched a perfect game in a World Series. The benefit funds this year will go to handicapped children. Some 200 golfers are expected to participate. The tournament will again be held at the Metro Country Club in Juan Dolio, San Pedro de Macoris.

Estrellas tie with the Aguilas
This year’s semi-finals of the Dominican Winter Professional Baseball Championship are the most exciting in many years. The Estrellas Orientales, favorites to take the championship away from the Aguilas Cibaeñas, caught up to this team yesterday. Major League Baseball’s Alfonso Soriano, Julio Cesar Franco, Felix Jose and Vladimir Guerrero again turned in star performances. On the Estrellas team other key players are Morgan Ensberg, Manny Alexander, Abraham Nuñez, Cesar Devarez, Francisco Morales, Ruddy Pemberton. And the team has pitchers Jose Mercedes, Pedro Julio Astacio, Odalis Perez, Efrain Valdez, Willie Roberts and Esteban Yan. Julio Cesar Franco alone has a batting average of .375 in the round robin. 
Still the underdog, if the Estrellas accomplish the feat, it would be their first championship since 1968. To tie the Aguilas, they batted for 8-4 in their home stadium in San Pedro de Macoris last night. 
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