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Daily News - 28 June 2002

Constitutional reform passes in first reading
Last night, the Chamber of Deputies approved the first reading of the constitutional reform bill, as sent to them by the Senate. The bill proposes three changes: consecutive presidential reelection, elimination of closed electoral stations and elimination of the second round of voting for the presidency. The Chamber voted 86 in favor, 46 opposed. The bill now goes before the deputies for a second reading tomorrow at 3 pm. If passed, it would then continue on to the executive branch.

Presidential envoy meets again with Balaguer
For the second time in less than a month, a spokesman for President Hipolito Mejia has been sent to meet with the PRSC leader, Joaquin Balaguer. Presidential Legal Advisor Guido Gomez Mazara met yesterday with the 95-year-old leader to discuss constitutional reform issues. While Gomez Mazara wouldn't offer any details on their talks, he predicted that there would be agreements to approve a simple majority vote in presidential elections as well as other items on the national agenda. 
Earlier it had been reported that Balaguer was in agreement with all proposed constitutional reforms except the one that would remove the required 50% + 1 vote in the first round to win the presidency. Gomez Mazara said the flow of communications between the President and the reformist leader "continue because they are committed to the topics that are part of the national debate."

Garbage companies stop work due to debt
The garbage problem is about to get worse. El Caribe newspaper reports that two garbage collection companies are closing their operations because they are owed money by the National District and the government. TURSA, which serves Boca Chica and other eastern municipalities, will stop collecting trash starting tomorrow. And the company PROASEO, which operates in the National District, says it can't continue working beyond the beginning of July. 
Three days ago, URBASER, which collects garbage in most parts of Santo Domingo East, halted its operations as well. A total of 2,600 tons of garbage piles up in the capital every day. TURSA was collecting 500 tons daily while PROASEO was picking up 1,300 tons and URBASER 800 tons. According to the association that represents garbage collection companies, the debt owed to URBASER, COLIMEC, TURSA and MADRAS is RD$356 million. As well, PROASEO has a contract directly with the government, which owes it RD$213 million.

Gómez family and lawyer urged to tell all
Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa has advised the family members of deceased Senator Darío Gómez and their lawyer that they should reveal who told them about the death threat against the Senator's accused killers. Bello Rosa said that in order to deepen the investigation, he needs them to give all the details and added that they shouldn't be afraid of retaliation for giving information. "If they need protection, it will be given so they can say where the threat came from." 
Hoy newspaper reports that Bello Rosa revealed there were only seven hours between the issuing of the death threat and the killing of Carlos Collares in Monte Plata prison. He says the Director of Prisons was told the victim would be Domingo Daniel Minaya (El Mago), who is incarcerated at La Victoria jail.
Carlos Manuel Geronimo Alfonseca (Carlos Collares) was stabbed to death in prison earlier this week. He was one of the five men accused in the Senator's murder. Members of Gómez's family said they had tried to warn prison officials that the five accused were marked for assassination. The investigation is now in the hands of a commission made up of members of the police department and the Attorney General's department.

President Mejía gets "love letter" from US President
President Mejía told Listin Diario that he received a "positive" response from US President George W. Bush to a letter Mejia sent him that pushed for a bilateral free trade deal between the Dominican Republic and the US. Mejia told reporters, "I sent a letter and he answered me, like when you were young and in love and you sent a letter to your boyfriend and he answered it." The DR exports close to 90 percent of its production to the North American market, so a bilateral accord with the US (outside of the Central American block of nations) would be a major step forward for local producers.

Seventeen PRSC members expelled
The PRSC party has discharged 17 of its Villa Altagracia members on charges of treason during the recent congressional and municipal elections. Listin Diario reports that the president of the PRSC office in Villa Altagracia, Hector Rene Gonzalez, said the 17 members ordered Reformist Party members to vote for PRD candidates, violating PRSC statutes. Those expelled include youth secretary Porfirio Susana García and members Carlos Báez, Félix Confesor Colón, Newton Medina, Alejandro Pérez, Carlos Reynoso, Juan Arizo, Vicente Sosa, Francis Capellán, Eusebio Germán Pozo, Santiago García, Mariana Rodríguez, Fernando Corporán, Gabriel Márquez, Lucas Frías, and Amín Susana.

Financial Times tells the DR loans story to world
The Financial Times of London has published a report on the Dominican government's borrowing policy. The headline yesterday read: Borrowing spree 'is a threat to Dominican Republic's solvency.' The article went on to say, in part: 
"The government of the Dominican Republic is coming under increasing attack for going on a $2.3bn borrowing spree over its two years in office. Criticism from the business community has become so fierce that Hipólito Mejía, the president, has admitted that he must rethink his government's borrowing programme even while defending his policy in expansive newspaper advertisements.
"The National Business Council, a private-sector group, said: "We are borrowing in dollars to pay debt in pesos. This cannot be justified on fiscal grounds, given the external vulnerability of the economy and the limited elasticity of tax resources."
The article concludes by saying that, in spite of the problems of a growing debt and a devaluating peso, the economy grew by four percent in the first quarter of this year, after stagnating during the same period last year. And it said the Central Bank is predicting growth this year between three and four percent. 
Meanwhile, Reuters in Washington reports that yesterday the International Monetary Fund urged the DR to tighten its monetary conditions until private-sector credit growth slows to a more sustainable level. In its annual assessment the IMF "welcomed the move away from a managed exchange rate toward a more market-determined one, as well as the authorities' commitment to further build up official reserves".

The "War Against Deforestation"
The Third National Reforestation Project got under way yesterday, with a goal of planting more than one million trees and dropping millions of tree seeds from army helicopters across the country, with a special focus on river banks like the Camú, Haina, Manoguayabo, Isabela, Ozama and other important waterways. Eight Army brigades will work alongside community groups, Catholic church groups, university students and professors and business owners in a project coordinated by the Environment Department. Vice President Milagros Ortíz Bosch, who was present at the launch yesterday, said, "This army is engaged in a different war. This is the war of planting. Planting life, planting so Dominicans will have a better future." The first planting project several years ago dropped nearly 4 million tree seeds on the nation, the second more than nine million. By tomorrow, when this planting ends, 11.3 million seeds will have been dropped from the skies.

Parking meters come to capital
The Municipal Council of the National District decided yesterday to begin installing parking meters in the streets and avenues of the city. The meters will collect RD$5 for each hour of parking between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The resolution will allow the municipality to lock the wheels of vehicles whose meters have expired and fine the owners RD$500. The report in Hoy didn't outline which city streets would get the meters but it said they will not be installed in the poorer areas. The installation of the meters will be done by a private company, not yet chosen, and 30% of the revenues will go to the city government.
  
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