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Daily News - 9 May 2002

More north-south highways announced
The Listin Diario reports today that the government is purchasing 31.2 million square meters of land to prepare for the construction of two highways linking the Cibao with Haina Port and Boca Chica. Tollbooth fees collected by the government’s chosen developers will fund the highways. 
The highways will link the north and south of the country and detour eastbound traffic away from the city of Santo Domingo. Several mega ports are going up both in Caucedo (beside Boca Chica) and San Pedro de Macoris (20 minutes away by a fast expressway).
 

Back to work to fix adulterated bill
Senate President Andres Bautista has called senators back to work to pass a corrected money laundering law. He is opening a special session today at 5 pm. 
El Caribe reports that Bautista (PRD-Salcedo) changed his version of what happened. On Friday, 3 May he had said that senate secretary Andres Moquete had received a call instructing him to make the changes. Despite questioning by Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa, the identity of the person who made the call continues to be a well-kept secret. When asked yesterday who made the call, Bautista answered, “But what call? No, what was said was that in the senate secretarial office they were investigating if a call had been made and that was what the secretaries of the department said.” 
The PLD had demanded that he resign after he minimized the error. Despite knowing about the error, President Hipolito Mejia passed the law and immediately published it in the Official Gazette. 
The bill established how goods confiscated from drug dealers and the revenues from their sale would be used. But a last minute change gave the Executive Branch discretionary power over half of the revenues.

New Cuban ambassador
Hoy newspaper reports that Omar Cordova will be the next Cuban ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He replaces Miguel Perez Cruz, who re-opened the Embassy when the DR resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1998, after almost four decades of isolation. Cordova is described as well known in leftist political circles. 
Ambassador Perez mentioned the important agreements signed for farming, sports, public health and in other areas during his tenure. He also mentioned that almost 400 Dominican youths have received Cuban government scholarships to study in Cuba.

Dominican style “party” politics
Hosting parties, handshaking, sponsoring sports events and big-name bands, catchy jingles on the radio and TV all day, and postering the city with a thousand faces is part of Dominican election tradition. El Caribe newspaper says today in its report on the municipal and congressional race that given most of the candidates’ lack of political platforms, the election campaign is a big fiesta, especially in the barrios. 
The newspaper highlights that those running for office start early in the morning offering coffee, ginger tea and chocolate to potential voters in the barrios. 
Santo Domingo University (UASD) sociologist Hugo Cedeño told El Caribe that the scant entertainment available in the barrios means elections are an excuse to party. “There are people who will go for an hour to one political party’s activity, change their T-shirt and go to another party’s bash.” He explained that these parties are social occasions for the residents and that politics for Dominicans is show time, a time to express oneself and have loud fun. 
He says it is easy to get people involved in the political frenzy, but if the campaign turned serious and were used to discuss real problems in the barrios, the turnout would be different. 
“Dominicans will participate in all the political campaigning that may pass by their street, regardless of what party is involved. Dominicans will listen to you, receive you and wish you luck,” said the sociologist. 
As proof, El Caribe points out that on Sunday, 28 April four political parties were holding simultaneous campaign activities in east Santo Domingo. When interviewed by the newspaper, the candidates admitted that people were going from one activity to another. Their loyalty was to the fiesta, not to politics. 
Political analyst Pedro Catrain is concerned about the festive environment around the campaigns. “They are not promoting policies, there is no debate of ideas.” He said many people are more concerned with planning their long weekend getaways. This year the elections fall on a Thursday, and the government has called a holiday from 15 May at noon to 8 am on Friday, 17 May.

Mayoral debate on TV
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) is hosting its next debate with the three leading contenders for mayor of Santo Domingo on Sunday, 12 May. See the debate on Cadena de Noticias, Channel 37 from 8 to 10 pm. The participants will be: Emeterio (Roberto) Salcedo who is running for the PLD; Ramon Perez Martinez (Macoris) running for the PRSC; and Alba (Peggy) Cabral, running for the PRD. The congressional and municipal election is set for 16 May 2002.

Survey results for Province of Santo Domingo
A Hamilton-Hoy survey released today shows the race is tight for senator in the Province of Santo Domingo. Tonty Rutinel Domínguez, running for the ruling PRD, leads with 36%; Rafael Alburquerque of the PLD is second with 33%. Víctor Gómez Bergés, running for the PRSC, got 20% support. The survey was carried out from 30 April to 3 May and has a 4.5% margin of error.
The mayoral race for the important Santo Domingo Oriental, the largest municipality in the Province of Santo Domingo has Domingo Batista, the candidate for the ruling PRD party, leading with 40% of the vote. Eduardo Selman follows with 35% and Juan Bautista Rojas Tabar with 21%. The survey has a 6.8% margin of error. 
According to the Hamilton Beattie & Staff poll, 94% of the voters in the Province of Santo Domingo say it is likely that they will vote on 16 May. Of these 76% say they are sure they will vote. 

Leonel Fernandez on the campaign trail
Listin Diario reports that former President Leonel Fernandez has predicted the Mejia government’s borrowing debt after four years in government will reach RD$100 billion. Speaking to the nation on TV last night, Fernandez said the country will owe that much by 2004 if the government maintains its present borrowing pace. The foreign debt at the start of the government was RD$6.6 billion. In a year and a half, it had risen to RD$12.6 billion. Fernandez criticized the PRD-majority Congress for approving US$1.7 billion in loans. Since President Mejia has gone on record saying he will continue to borrow, the subject has become the campaign cry of the PLD. 
As reported in El Caribe, Fernandez, president of the PLD, questioned what kind of genius one has to be to build many public works when one has been given a blank check to borrow. He accused the key PRD people of having turned mathematics upside down. He says there is no logic in depositing leftover money from the sovereign bonds at 2% interest while having to pay 9.5% interest on the bond loan. A sixth-grader would have made a better deal than the government with the sovereign bonds, said the former president.
Fernandez, usually a very refined speaker, used insults last night to make his points. “I feel that if that is the criteria for a great statesman, then the country could have had as President such imminent figures as doctor Anamu, the Cienciologo, Chochueca and even a distinguished lady like Barajita,” he said, referring to foolish characters from Dominican folklore. 
President Mejia, he says, speaks “como un gallito con el pecho parado, en un tono de lo hago porque me da la gana.” (like the cock of the block, in a tone that states ‘I do so because I feel like it.’)
He said the recent scandal involving the money laundering bill was nothing but a deliberate fraud with deceitful intent. 
He said the way to put a stop to this situation is for people to become fully aware of the importance of their vote on 16 May. He said the PLD is an alternative to confront the authoritarianism of the present government, adding that congress and the bureaucracy have become instruments of the government’s insatiable ambition for power.
Rafael Subervi Bonilla, secretary of the PRD, defended the Mejia government saying that the people will decide on 16 May. He said the voters know what party was sly and didn’t pay its debts and which government was in power when 17 contractors committed suicide after going bankrupt from not being paid for government work. They [the PLD] started work on 3,000 projects to gain political points but didn’t have the money to finish them, he told El Caribe. 
Ramon Rogelio Genao, secretary of the PRSC, said the PRSC also rejects the PRD’s borrowing habits, but he said many of the sins Fernandez accuses the present government of committing date back to his own PLD government. He said many of the loans Congress has passed were first negotiated in the Fernandez administration. At the time the loans were not passed because the opposition controlled Congress.

Pay up or we’ll tell on you 
Hoy newspaper reports today that the AES Ede Este power distributor threatened to send Joseline Gazon de D’Alessandro’s personal data to US credit agencies and to the US consulate in an attempt to influence her chances of getting a visa if she did not pay a supposed debt of RD$154,411 to the power company. Gazon’s husband Rafael D’Alessandro says they did not consume the amount billed. He showed Hoy newspaper that his bills indicate an average consumption from July 2000 to December 2001 of RD$4,000, with the exception of September, when they received a RD$14,007 bill that they paid despite the discrepancy. 
In January, they unexpectedly received a RD$29,000 monthly bill which they refused to pay and their service was cut. After that, their only sources of power were a generator and an inverter. Despite that, the family received a RD$6,412 bill in February, another for RD$14,496 in March and another for RD$16,634 in April. 
D’Alessandro concludes that the company is not reading its meters. “How is it possible that I continue to receive bills when the service was cut?” he asks. He said he met all his bill payments up to January 2002, when the problem began.
The family has a notarized document certifying that the meter showed 3,673 kilowatts on 19 March, not what was on the bill. 
Joseline Gazon de D’Alessandro sued AES Ede Este for damages for RD$5 million on 3 April. The case will be heard in July at the First Instance Court of the National District. 
Rafael D’Alessandro says his case is one in a series of abuses committed by AES Ede Este against power consumers. The couple plans to take the case to its final conclusion and say they will not cave in to threats from the company.

Helping Puerto Plata’s dogs
Puerto Plata’s animal lovers have grouped together as Los Amigos de los Animales (LADA), a non-profit organization. Their main purpose is to help stray animals living on the streets. Their first fundraiser was held in February when they made RD$16,000. The money has helped their program to pick up and treat stray dogs from the streets of Puerto Plata and surrounding communities. They have two licensed veterinarians who are spaying and neutering the dogs, providing vaccinations, grooming and feeding them. 
They are also developing an adopt-a-pet program for the citizens of Puerto Plata and surrounding areas. To contribute to the animals of Puerto Plata, contact them at [email protected] or send donations to LADA via Noelle Gillin, BM 30141, 8357 W. Flagler St., Suite D, Miami, Fl 33144. 
For information in Puerto Plata, call 586-6411 or 586-6463.
 
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