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Daily News - 24 May 2002

President Hipolito Mejia in Canary Islands
President Hipolito Mejia and his family traveled to the Canary Islands on the final stop of his Spain and Morocco trip. The President is scheduled to visit the Parque Nacional del Teide, which could become a model for the development of the Bahia de las Aguilas area located within Jaragua National Park in the southwest. Sectors are divided on the possible tourism development of the 20-kilometer long beach located in an ecologically fragile area. 

Moroccan art to be made in the DR?
A business group from Morocco has plans to install a chain of eight Morocco handicraft stores in the Dominican Republic. The goods would be part of a US$8 million investment that also includes a manufacturing operation at a Dominican free zone. 
Danilo del Rosario, executive director of the Dominican Office for the Promotion of Investments (OPI-RD) made the announcement to the Dominican press covering President Mejia’s trip to Morocco. President Mejia met yesterday with 193 Moroccan businessmen in Rabat. 
Del Rosario said Moroccan entrepreneurs are interested in starting charter flights from Casablanca to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata airports. They also are interested in importing amber and larimar items from the DR, as well as more tobacco and coffee products. Morocco imports US$1.8 million a year in tobacco and synthetic fibers from the DR. 
The two countries signed a package of cooperation agreements including an investment guarantee and protection agreement and a partnership accord between the foreign investments departments, according to Del Rosario.
OPI-RD's manager said the President’s visit heralded a new era in political and trade relations between the two strategically-located countries, giving the DR greater access to European, African and Arab markets.
The two heads of state held talks in the presence of Dominican Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp, and Dominican ambassador to Morocco (based in Paris), Norman De Castro. 
President Hipolito Mejia was in Morocco on an official visit at the invitation of King Mohammed VI. This was the first visit of a Dominican statesman to an African country.
Local press also reported that the Dominican government chose to freeze its relations with the Republic of Saharaui in the territory of West Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco.

President cancels reception party
President Hipolito Mejia has cancelled a massive reception that Minister of Agriculture had planned for him. The reception was intended to celebrate the PRD expansion of its majority in congress. But Jaquez said Mejia asked that the event be shelved in order to contribute to harmony among Dominicans. 

Pressure to pass original money laundering bill
Representatives from the United Nations Drug Control Program, US Embassy, the National Police, the Dominican Medical Association, the National Council of Drugs and the Nacional Social Security Council visited the President of the Chamber of Deputies Rafaela Alburquerque yesterday to request the passage of the money laundering bill as approved by the Senate. Alburquerque had sent the bill to committee for further study instead of passing it as received from the Senate. 
Alburquerque, who presides over the committee as well, said that the committee would meet on Tuesday, issue a final report on Wednesday and the bill could be approved on Thursday. If changes are made, the bill would be delayed further since it would have to return to the Senate. 
The controversy began when the bill was altered after being passed in the Senate. The modified bill was then sent to the Chamber of Deputies with the error, then to President Mejia for his signature. 
Money Laundering Law 55-02 went into effect after President Mejia chose to sign it and publish it in the Official Gazette even though he knew of the irregularity. Mejia subsequently returned the bill to the Senate, which made the correction before sending it to the Chamber of Deputies. 

Salcedo vows to chop his own salary
Santo Domingo’s mayor-elect Roberto Salcedo promises to implement a general austerity program in the city government. He said he would start by cutting his own salary in half and eliminating expense accounts for city government officers as part of a plan to get city finances under control. He also expressed his concern over how city funds are used during the transition period between mayors. Yesterday, city government aldermen approved pensions for 14 employees and an alderman for a total of RD$100,000 a month. Salcedo also is concerned about Mayor Johnny Ventura’s efforts to secure a RD$75 million loan to pay debts to garbage collection companies.

Who will be the next senator of Santiago?
The president of the Central Electoral Board, Manuel Ramon Morel Cerda was in Santiago yesterday and attended a seven-hour long meeting to deal with allegations of vote tampering. After the meeting, he personally acknowledged the differences between the number of votes candidates received on the election certificates and the numbers entered into the computerized tally. PLD candidate Francisco Dominguez Brito claimed the election certificates showed him as the winner of the senate seat. The Santiago Electoral Board earlier ruled Santiago governor PRD candidate Victor Mendez had won. 
Santiago Archbishop Juan Flores Santana took the side of Dominguez Brito. Both he and Dominguez Brito said this was not a case of simple human error but of fraud. 
After the meeting, Morel Cerda said the winner of the Santiago senate seat was not yet official, that the Central Electoral Board would evaluate the findings and issue its verdict. 
Dominguez Brito developed an excellent reputation nationwide during his term as Attorney General during the Fernandez government.

8.4% more Dominicans voted in 2002 elections
Listin Diario reports that 8.4% or 184,445 more Dominicans voted in the 2002 congressional elections than in the 1998 ballot. According to Central Electoral Board statistics, 2,371,247 Dominicans voted in 2002. This is up from 2,186,802 in the 1998 congressional election. 
In 2002, 51.1% of those able to vote did so, up from 47% in 1998. 
The PRD received 1,166,574 votes, up from 1,077,167 in 1998. 
The PLD received 657,267 votes in 2002, slightly up from the 654,713 votes in 1998. 
The PRSC was the party that received the largest increase in votes, going from 361,871 in 1998 to 555,950 in 2002. In 1998, the PRSC subtly endorsed the candidacies of several PRD candidates. This year, the party ran alone.

Maximum sentence for US police officer
New York City police officer Joseph Gray was sentenced to the maximum term of 15 years in prison for manslaughter in the deaths of four Dominicans on 4 August 2001. The police officer rammed into the family on a Brooklyn street after drinking more than a dozen beers at a party with fellow officers. 
Victor Herrera lost his wife, 23-year-old Maria Herrera and their sons, Andy Herrera 4, and Ricardo, who was born by emergency caesarean section at the hospital but later died. Maria’s sister, Dilcia Peña, also died in the tragedy. For more information, see http://www.courttv.com/

An amazing police story
In a story worthy of the movies, Santo Domingo police officers set up and framed one of their own. 34-year-old Elizabeth Martinez Perez was a real actor in what most people only see in crime movies. 
The story began when on 1 May, Martinez Perez was arrested at around 9 am for questioning for the third time in the case of a murder that occurred near her home three years ago. She was taken to the second floor of the Police Station for questioning. She said she was not allowed to eat or go to the bathroom. At around 1 am, Police Colonel Francisco Beras Santos showed up, visibly drunk, slapped her and threatened her with his gun. Reportedly, he had been drinking at the birthday party of Police Chief Jaime Marte. Martinez said Beras wanted her to testify against one of her neighbors. She said that even though she witnessed the crime, she was not able to identify the suspect. 
She says Beras told her she would have to do whatever he said if she wanted to get out of there, and holding her by the hair, forced her to have oral sex with him. At 3 in the morning, he took her back to her house. And then at 4 am he called to threaten her to not tell what had happened. 
But the next day, Martinez told her brother and together they filed a claim at the Department of Sexual Abuse of the Police. The agents on duty believed her and decided to set a trap for the colonel in order to get proof to incriminate him. 
Movie-style, they wired her and sent a team to videotape him because they suspected he would agree to see her again in order to pressure her to keep quiet. Martinez invited Beras to meet at her home to talk about what had happened. He wanted to meet in a public place, but she convinced him. The first time, the meeting did not happen. But she tried again and he went to her home. He renewed his threats to her, not realizing he was being taped: “I am a lawyer and a colonel, if you talk I will defend myself like a cornered cat.” 
The case was prepared by Generals Made and Morrobel of the police, together with Colonel Encarnacion and Judge Socrates Dotel of the Attorney General’s office. 
Martinez, who runs a beauty salon, is married and has four children. She, her husband, and 16-year-old son are receiving psychological counselling to help them deal with what happened. 

Genetic testing for Columbus’ remains?
El Caribe newspaper reports that two Spanish professors, Marcial Castro and Sergio Algarrada have petitioned forensic doctor Jose Antonio Lorente to conduct tests on Christopher Columbus’ remains. The Spanish city of Seville still claims to have his remains in their cathedral, but most sources agree the remains are located at the Columbus Lighthouse Monument in Santo Domingo. Lorente, who heads the genetic identification laboratory at the University of Granada, has been successful using DNA testing to solve criminal cases. 
The professors want to exhume the remains of Columbus’s illegitimate son, Hernando, to compare his DNA with that of Columbus’ alleged remains in both Seville and Santo Domingo. Samples of the remains from both locations would have to be tested to determine if there is even enough material to do the DNA testing. Since the remains are no longer in the Santo Domingo Cathedral where they used to be housed, the approval of the Catholic Church is not seen as necessary. However, the government of the Dominican Republic would have to give its approval to the investigation. 
The studies may be done in time for the 500th anniversary of the death of the famous admiral in 2006. 
Luis Valdez Yapur, director of the Columbus Lighthouse Monument said it is universally accepted that the remains of Columbus are in Santo Domingo. He says this matter was decided during an Organization of American States meeting held in 1929 in Costa Rica and the documents that substantiate the claim are at the monument. He reaffirmed that it was the final wish of the admiral to be buried in Hispaniola. 
On the other hand, anthropologist Carlos Andujar Persinal, who is the director of the Museum of Dominican Man, said there has always been a theory that the remains of the discoverer are not in one single place, but were distributed in different locations. He said the speculation is to please the egos of each of the countries making the claim. He feels there should be no problems with the Dominican government granting permission if a formal request is made.

Aeromar links Santiago and New York
Aeromar became the first airline to link Santiago and New York City with a direct flight. Flight 809 arrived with 207 passengers and seven crew to the new Santiago Cibao International Airport yesterday at 6:19 pm, after a three hour and 15 minute flight. Aeromar is flying a B757-200 with capacity for 210 passengers. 
The flight leaves Santiago at 9 am arriving to NY at 12:40 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The return flights are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 2 pm arriving to Santiago at 5:40 pm. 
Aeromar president Raymundo Polanco highlighted how Cibao residents now have an alternative to fly to New York. Previously, only American Eagle offered a link to New York via San Juan, Puerto Rico. American Airlines is scheduled to start service into the new Santiago airport 15 June.
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