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Daily News - 18 April 2002

AMET agents vs. traffic lights
With the public more in favor of traffic lights, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transport Authority has announced it will no longer place AMET agents at intersections where stoplights are working. The frequent practice of having AMET agents directing vehicles under working traffic lights was rated as “disparate” or “foolishness”, in a poll carried out last week by Diario Libre newspaper. Drivers approaching a stoplight had to ascertain if there was an AMET agent giving directions prior to crossing. A recent fatal accident on Abraham Lincoln Avenue when a truck driver did not notice the AMET agent brought the problem to the forefront. Diario Libre comments that the general opinion is that wherever there was a traffic jam for sure you would find an AMET agent giving different directions from the stoplights.  

PRSC deputies say no to more borrowing
PRSC deputies have said no to a US$38.7 million loan with a Miami, Florida commercial bank to finance the expansion of the Ramon de Lara Military Hospital. The same amount had been slated earlier for the construction of a hospital for legislators but was turned down because of widespread public opposition. 
The PRSC deputies thus put an end to their almost two-year support of costly government borrowing. 
The president of the Chamber of Deputies Rafaela Alburquerque had said on Tuesday, when a US$20 million commercial loan for a government shipyard was approved, that the deputies could not vote against what the Executive Branch was sending them. But yesterday, PRSC deputy Fernandez Saviñon announced that the PRSC deputies would let those elected in the 16 May poll decide on any further loans. Congressional elections are scheduled for then. 
“This is a good opportunity to make a stop in the loans that have been studied here,” said the PRSC deputy for Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris) province. 
“We have already voted in favor of US$2.5 billion submitted by the government. 18% of the nation’s revenues now are needed to pay that foreign debt, or 18 centavos of each taxpayer peso,” he argued. 
The PRSC has until now acted as an ally to the Mejia administration, contradicting the traditional stand of PRSC leader Joaquin Balaguer who was extremely reticent to finance local public works or programs with international financing. 

Criminal procedures code passes
The Chamber of Deputies has passed the second reading of the Codigo Procesal Penal, the criminal procedures code. The code now passes on to the Senate for a vote. The code seeks to make justice swifter by simplifying legal procedures. El Caribe newspaper reports that the legislative houses will probably create a bi-chamber commission to consolidate this bill with another similar bill passed earlier by the Senate. 

Deputies take extended leave of absence
The Chamber of Deputies suspended its sessions yesterday until further notice. A large number of the 149 deputies are up for re-election in the congressional poll of 16 May, including the president of the Chamber, Rafaela Alburquerque (PRSC-San Pedro de Macoris). Alburquerque had said earlier that work would be suspended from 1-15 May to allow for the campaign period, but apparently there was a general consensus to suspend their congressional work right away. 
The deputies are the best paid of Dominican government employees. 

Curious twist in the May election
Diario Libre reports that dozens of candidates to municipal and deputy posts will not be able to vote for themselves in this election unless the JCE (Central Electoral Board) issues a resolution making an exception in their cases. Under the electoral law, citizens can only vote for candidates in their voting district. A subsequent Supreme Court revision allowed politicians to run for posts in districts outside of their own pre-established voting district. 
Candidates who will not be able to vote for themselves include: Rafael Alburquerque, Tonty Rutinel, Victor Gomez Berges, Lidio Cadet, Andres Vanderhorst, Modesto Guzman, Annie Felipe, Consuelo Despradel, Joaquin Ricardo and Anibal Paez among others.

Dominican nationality, please
Orlando Gil, political commentator for the Listin Diario, reports in his column today on the plight of Dominicans in Switzerland. Apparently, parents seeking passports for their young children have met with resistance from the Dominican Migration Department and Passport Office. The Passport Office reportedly insists that the children should have Swiss passports as they were born in Switzerland. But, under Swiss law, only the children of Swiss citizens are due Swiss nationalities, not the offspring of foreigners. 
Gil agrees with the parents that the Dominican constitution says the offspring of Dominicans are Dominicans and thus the Passport Office should issue the passports without question. He urges the bureaucrats to rectify their error. 

Lawyers cannot abuse their position
The Supreme Court of Justice ordered a one-year suspension of Radhames Espaillat Garcia’s license to practice law. Espaillat was found guilty of notoriously bad conduct in the management of property. The judgment said that Espaillat abused his position and legal knowledge to avoid meeting commitments regarding the property he occupies. The judgment, considered important as a legal precedent, establishes that lawyers must observe irreproachable conduct not only in the exercise of their profession, but also in their private lives.

President signs leaves of absence
President Hipolito Mejia says he has already signed the leaves of absence for government officers running for election in the 16 May poll. The PLD and the PRSC had accused the government of allowing those running for congressional and municipal posts to remain in their jobs and use their official vehicles, gasoline allotments and cell phone allotments while campaigning. 
President Mejia said he is not endorsing any particular candidates because he puts his role as President of all Dominicans first. 

Making Santo Domingo more livable
A group of outstanding city planners from Europe and Latin America is meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Relations to present the conclusions of a widespread search for urban renewal solutions for critical areas of Santo Domingo. 
The “Program for Urban Ideas for Santo Domingo” is sponsored by the Municipality of Santo Domingo and real estate company, Inmobiliaria BHD. The presentations are open to the general public. 
The architects are focusing on solutions to 27 critical areas including the Herrera airport area, the coastal area of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and Andres communities, Enriquillo Park, Metaldom-Feria Ganadera, and Avenida Mella, among others. 
Santo Domingo is the third city chosen by the prestigious group. In 1982 the urban planners focused on Madrid and in 1987 they made proposals for Buenos Aires. 
The proposals are intended to make the city more livable for residents and revert the present chaos while making better use of available space. 
In the interview with Hoy newspaper, one of the project’s principals, Santo Domingo’s urban planning director Pablo Bonnelly, said the proposals are just proposals - that political will and a general consensus are needed to build the city that Santo Domingo residents would like. He said the biggest challenge is to convince politicians that it is in their best interest to listen to city planners when deciding what to build.

Urban planners urge no more overpasses
The coordinator of the Urban Ideas for Santo Domingo 2002 program, architect Antonio Velez said the program seeks to create a consensus so that urban planning mistakes are not repeated. 
He criticized the construction of tunnels and overpasses in Santo Domingo from 1997-2000 that did not turn out to be a true solution to urban traffic problems. 
The Fernandez government, in its effort to resolve traffic jams in Santo Domingo, converted the 27 de Febrero and John F. Kennedy Avenues into expressways. But traffic jams continue. The city lost its lovely tree-lined avenues and commercial real estate values in the area plummeted. The overpasses gave priority to vehicles over foot traffic, when most city residents are pedestrians. 
City planning director Pablo Bonnelly told Hoy newspaper that the government ignored the warnings by city planners that the expressways through the center of the city were not the solution to the traffic problem. 
He is now concerned that the current government will continue to build more of them, as announced by Mejia’s Minister of Public Works Miguel Vargas. 
Bonnelly criticized the overpasses as things of the past and urged the government to look at cities such as Boston and San Francisco. Architect Eduardo Leira points out that in the US overpasses built in the 60s are being demolished. 

Santiago-Port au Prince flight missing
Santiago tobacco businessman Alvaro Quesada, his son Alvaro, his right-hand man Julio Fajardo and the pilot are missing after a Caribair flight from Santiago to Port au Prince, Haiti went missing. The control tower lost communication with the pilot, Icinio Felix, about an hour after takeoff. The pilot had radioed that he intended to return to Santiago because the conditions in Port au Prince were not good for landing. 
The four were on board a Cessna 172 whose whereabouts were still unknown Thursday morning. 
El Caribe newspaper points out that there is still hope of finding them alive because a signal has not been received from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter, which activates on impact. Search efforts primarily are focusing on Haiti. 
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