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Daily News - 7 June 2002

President to meet with Leonel
President Hipolito Mejia is scheduled to visit the Fundacion Global offices of former President Leonel Fernandez today at 1 pm. Diario Libre reports this will be the second time that the two have met since August 2000, when they met during the transition ceremony in Congress. The meeting is part of encounters President Mejia is having with opposition members who won positions in the congressional and municipal elections. He recently met with National District senator-elect Jose Tomas Perez, Santo Domingo mayor-elect Roberto Salcedo of the PLD, and with Jose Enrique Sued, mayor-elect for Santiago on the PRSC ticket.

Stop to multi-million dollar loans?
Hoy newspaper reports that President Hipolito Mejia is open to reviewing and possibly suspending several loans approved by Congress. They include the questionable US$180 million loan for the construction of 14,000 houses granted to a mysterious company identified only by its initials and no address, and another loan for US$143 million to build a produce market north of Santo Domingo. 
The Executive Branch has sent millions in loans to Congress, and they have been approved but not disbursed. Senator Bautista Antonio Rojas Gómez (PLD-Salcedo) has denounced that loan sponsors are more interested in Congress approving the loans than in their disbursement. Once Congress gives its approval, the lobbyists for the loans collect their commission regardless of whether the loan is disbursed or not. It is unknown whether this would apply to the two aforementioned loans, which could be suspended by mutual agreement by the President and Congress. The US$180 million deal alone would require the state to pay a 2% commission, equal to US$3.6 million, regardless of whether the money is used or not. 
Hoy newspaper says the President met yesterday with 18 senators and the leading directors of the Proyecto Presidential Hipolito (PPH). During the meeting, he told congressmen that he would not execute any loan that was not strictly in the national interest.

Drive defensively near overpasses
DGTT statistics show that in 1998 there were 536,753 vehicles on the road. By 2001, that number had increased almost fourfold to 1,900,170 vehicles. Some 2.1 million vehicles are expected to be in on the roads by the end of this year. 
An analysis of traffic accident statistics shows that most of the accidents today are occuring at points near the new speedways, tunnels and overpasses. 
In 1998, before these structures went into use, the Department of Ground Transit (DGTT) statistics showed there were 19,380 accidents. By 2001, they had increased to 22,648, or almost 17%. 
The new road works have made life easier for those driving East-West, but not for those driving North-South. At the same time, the entrances and exits have become the most dangerous places for drivers and pedestrians alike. 
Miguelina Facundo told the Listin Diario that the problem with the new overpasses and tunnels is that drivers enter and exit them speeding so when they reach an intersection, it is difficult to slow down. 
The city stretches where most accidents occurred last year are the following, where drivers should exercise maximum caution: 
John F. Kennedy from Lincoln to Lope de Vega, where there is an overpass: 675 crashes. 
Maximo Gomez with Ortega y Gasset, where there is a tunnel: 630 accidents. 
Stretch of John F. Kennedy from Churchill to Lincoln: 555 crashes. 
27 de Febrero from Luperon to Privada: 600 collisions. Maximo Gomez to Tiradentes: 540 crashes.
Leopoldo Navarro to Maximo Gomez: 480 crashes.
Leopoldo Navarro near the head of Duarte Bridge: 450 crashes.
Inside 27 de Febrero tunnel: 420 accidents inside the tunnel, and 330 at the East and West exits of the tunnel.
27 de Febrero, from Churchill to Nuñez de Caceres: 405 accidents.
27 de Febrero, from Isabel Aguilar and Luperon: 375
27 de Febrero from Nuñez de Caceres to Privada: 390 crashes.
Luperon with Independencia and 30 de Mayo, where there also are overpasses: 432 crashes. 
The Listin Diario also interviewed urban architects Manuel Salvador Gautier, Omar Rancier, Emilio Brea, Jaime Felipe and Rafael Lora who agreed that the authorities had been warned that resolving the East-West traffic situations with the overpasses and tunnels and ignoring the North-South problems would create dangerous situations that would increase the number of accidents due to a large number of vehicles traveling at high speeds. 
Meanwhile, an above-average number of pedestrians are dying in traffic accidents. The numbers confirm Santo Domingo is becoming a dangerous city for those on foot. The Listin Diario report indicates that in 2001, 150 of the 333 persons who died in vehicle crashes were pedestrians. In January, February and March alone, there were 2,371 accidents, in which 26 pedestrians were killed. 
The urban architects say the city of Santo Domingo needs to be adapted for human traffic, after millions were invested to accommodate thousands of new vehicles. They say the city needs to start by expanding the sidewalks and building underground pedestrian crossings. 
The main reason for accidents in Santo Domingo, according to the DGTT, is bad driving, mechanical problems, pedestrian behavior, lack of signs and the poor condition of city streets. 
An analysis of March traffic statistics shows that most accidents occur on Sunday. This is because of traffic returning from outside the city, less attentive driving, and drunk driving. Interestingly, Thursdays and Saturdays are the days with fewer traffic accidents. 
To reduce your likelihood of having an accident, you should stay alert at all times, concentrate on the road and drive defensively. 

Update on Indotel
Orlando Jorge Mera, president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) says that 80% of the claims they have received from consumers have been resolved in favor of the consumers. He said that 72% of the complaints are about telephone billing and 21% relate to problems with cable TV service providers. He said they have resolved 736 claims. Jorge Mera told the Listin Diario that last year RD$8.3 billion was invested in the telecommunications sector with an estimated RD$7.8 billion to be spent this year. 

Taking over Herrera Airport?
The National District was split into four municipalities last year making it necessary to find new homes for the new bureaucracy. Now, mayor-elect Francisco Peña of Santo Domingo West, one of the newly created municipalities, says that he has been authorized to locate his city government offices at Herrera Airport.
Diario Libre reports that the government will begin working out of Herrera even though the airport has not yet been relocated to the Higuero-La Isabela Airport site, which is still under construction in the north part of Santo Domingo.
Diario Libre says the new Santo Domingo West government will have about 3,500 employees.

112,359 more public employees
El Caribe reports that the government has 112,359 more employees today than nine years ago. According to a report prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in 1993 the Dominican government employed 257,264. By 1996, during the PRSC-Balaguer governments, the bureaucracy had increased to 283,058. 
From 1996 to 2000, during the PLD-Fernandez government, some 50,000 staff were added, bringing the government personnel to 330,800. 
The PRD-Mejia administration, in turn, added 39,000 more people in its first year and three months for a total of 369,723 employees by March 2002. 
Most of these jobs are considered non-productive and a burden to taxpayers. For instance, the Ministry of Education went from 65,051 employees in 1996 to 126,914 employees in 2001. Of that total, only 60,000 are teachers. 
Breaking the new jobs down by sector:
The decentralized autonomous organizations of the government increased their payroll less than 8%, going from 37,449 employees in 1993 to 42,870 by March 2002. 
Central government jobs have increased 47%, going from 201,250 public servants in 1993 to 296,030 employees in March 2002.
The city government jobs have increased 66%, going from 18,565 in 1993 to 30,823 by March of this year. 

New Mexican ambassador to DR
Isabel Tellez de Ortega will be Mexico’s new ambassador to the Dominican Republic. It was published erroneously yesterday that she would be the Dominican ambassador to Mexico. Previously, she was Mexico’s ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago.

Police captains sent to civilian justice
The National District Attorney accused two police captains, Luis F. Sanchez Mejia and Ramon Antonio Marte Reyes, of abusing their positions and torturing a youth accused of robbery. The case was sent to the Juzgado de Instruccion de la Segunda Circunscripcion. 
Carlos Mendez denounced that the officers tortured him at Police headquarters to force him to confess. 
This case is unusual because it has been sent to a civilian court… normally such matters involving police officers are resolved internally. New Police Chief Jaime Marte Martinez maintains that he will not tolerate abuses against citizens during his term at the head of the corps.

Why students drop out
The Listin Diario reports that 33% of students who begin high school do not complete their studies. More boys drop out than girls. The main reasons are that students don’t have time to both work and study (in the case of male youths), teenage pregnancies, gang membership (which may result in their being expelled) and lack of parental guidance.

More rains forecast for the weekend
Diario Libre reports that seven children have died in the past two weeks as a result of the torrential rains… and more rain is in the forecast. The deaths occurred in Puerto Plata, Sanchez Ramirez (Fantino), and Santo Domingo. 
Meanwhile, press reports say that San Pedro de Macoris has received the most rain, with major flooding in barrios. 
The Dominican Weather Department says the rains will continue for another 72 hours, extending what is already an unusually long wet streak for the Caribbean. 
Weather reports indicate that while the showers and thunderstorms have been quite active with a trough stretching south over Hispaniola into the central Caribbean, they aren’t organizing into any substantial storms.
Minister of Agriculture Eligio Jaquez says the rains have been good for agriculture so far and he is not aware of any weather damage to crops. 
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