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Daily News - 3 July 2002

Agreement on constitutional reforms
Senate president Andres Bautista Garcia has announced an agreement between the PRSC and the PRD to lower the percentage of votes needed to win the presidency in the first round to 45%. Bautista Garcia says PRSC leader Joaquin Balaguer is in agreement with the new accord and he reassured that President Mejia is also behind it. 
El Caribe newspaper says the deal comes as a compromise between the 50 percent +1 vote that Balaguer wanted and the 40 percent supported by the PRD. As a result of the accord, President Mejia yesterday published the decree that convenes a Constitutional Review Assembly, which should meet within 15 days.

Punishing power executives for blackouts
The Dominican Electricity Corporation detained two executives from the EdeEste power distribution company for more than five hours yesterday, according to El Caribe news. EdeEste was accused of threatening national security by blacking out poorer neighborhoods for long periods of time. These blackouts have prompted street protests that lead to the deaths of at least five people in recent months.
EdeEste expressed its surprise and indignation over the arrests of Manuel Lopez San Pablo and Otto Felix, calling it "unjustified and inexplicable." However, both Jose Lois Malkum (Secretary of Finance) and Julio Cross (Electricity Superintendent) were in agreement over the executives' detention. Malkum, who presides over the negotiating committee trying to solve the electricity problem, said the government will not stand for pressure tactics from the distributors and warned EdeEste that if it doesn't improve service to the barrios, the negotiation process will be suspended. He said EdeEste should not be allowing lengthy blackouts while the committee is trying to find a way out of the crisis. He was especially critical of the blackouts suffered this past weekend in the barrios. "It was criminal, what they did. This weekend was disastrous." 

Stalemate in garbage crisis
The garbage collection crisis remains in a state of limbo. Four out of five collection companies have stopped service. The fifth, MADRAS, only operates in the markets. The companies continue to say they are unable to work due to a lack of payment from government authorities. For its part, the National District council is resorting to force and has issued a summons for the collection companies to go back to work within 48 hours or their equipment will be confiscated. 
Yesterday, National District Mayor Juan de Dios Ventura submitted a resolution to city council that would allow them to begin legal actions towards confiscating URBASER's trucks. The council approved the mayor's proposal. 
URBASER stopped its garbage pickups last Wednesday. The lawyer for URBASER, Lino Vasquez, said, "URBASER paralyzed its services because it didn't have the economic means to send out its trucks; we couldn't pay the workers; there's no gasoline for the trucks and no possibility of getting an answer." He said legal action would be taken if the council tries to take their equipment. 
The association that represents the collectors says they are owed a total of RD$356 million. 
Even if the impasse came to an end today, the cleanup would be lengthy according to Daniel Bodden, the director general of PROASEO and COLIMEC. He says that for every day there is no garbage collection, it will take ten days more to get the city back to normal. "If the work stops one day, 1,800 tons accumulates. Tomorrow, that's 3,600. And I only have equipment to collect 2,000 tons daily," he explained.

Boycott over Balaguer Highway
Last night, PRD senators boycotted a proposed bill that would name the new Navarrete-Santiago Highway after PRSC leader Joaquin Balaguer. The draft bill was sent to the Senate by President Hipolito Mejia. PRD legislators argued that "Balaguer has done a lot of damage to the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano." 
Among the senators rejecting the bill sent by the President are César Augusto Matías, Iván Rondón and José González Espinosa.
The Senators also insisted on the approval of a simple majority to win in the first round of presidential elections, saying "Balaguer can't impose himself." (Balaguer supports the absolute majority principle.)  

Fifteen textile factories close this year
Fifteen textile companies located in free zones across the country closed their doors in the first four months of this year, throwing 3,000 people out of work, according to El Caribe. Factories affected are those in La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris and other free zones. Director of the National Council of Export Free Zones, Jeannette Dominguez, said that the first quarter of the year is always slower in the clothing industry compared with the "hot" months of October to December. She says that in spite of this situation, there is stability in the sector and one indication of that is the anticipated expansion of two industrial parks. "It's true that our exports to the US decreased in the first quarter, but thank God in the last few months there has been a rebound and improvement in the economy," she said. 
Meanwhile, Listin Diario points out that although 15 businesses closed in the first quarter, 33 new ones opened during that period. 
By the end of March, the free zones had a total of 518 companies, 54 percent of them related to textiles, 15 percent services, nearly 5 percent tobacco and related products, 3 percent shoe manufacturing, 4.6 percent electronics and 18.7 percent other sectors.

Haiti tries for Caricom membership
Haiti took the final legal step yesterday towards becoming a full member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) by presenting its application documents to the organization. Haiti's Foreign Relations Minister, Phillippe Antonio, delivered the document one day before the opening of the Caricom summit in Guyana, which begins today and wraps up Friday. Caricom leaders have said in the past that in order for Haiti to be accepted as a full member, it needs to make improvements in human rights and democracy. Antonio told the media, "We are firm in doing the most we can to stop those things (human rights violations) and work towards improvements." Haiti joined Caricom as an associate in 1997. If its petition for full member status is approved, it won't go into effect for another six months.

More visitors for Punta Cana in June
Punta Cana continues to be the star of Dominican tourism. A report in El Caribe today says the number of tourists arriving there in June went up 19% compared to the same month a year previous. A total of 76, 295 passengers from 24 countries landed at the Punta Cana airport in June, over 12,000 more than in June 2001. 
The number of US visitors rose 58% from last June to this June. France increased by 72%. Canada: 42%. Spain: 18%. 
Argentina's case was dramatically different. Last June, 2,500 Argentineans came for a holiday. This June, that troubled nation didn't send a single visitor to Punta Cana. 

Sosa's spat with Sports Illustrated
Sammy Sosa walked out on an interview with a Sports Illustrated journalist when the reporter asked him to take a steroids test. Rick Reilly says he didn't mean to insult the Dominican baseball hero, he just wanted to offer him a chance to help clean up the image of major league baseball and put to rest allegations of steroid use among players. "I only wanted to do something good for baseball, something good for Sammy." 
Sosa took it as a lack of respect and is still fuming. He told Listin Diario, "I don't need any kind of substances to develop my athletic condition, mine is natural." 
He added that he is open to testifying before Major League Baseball on the issue and taking a drug test if necessary, but "a journalist is not the person who tells me I have to do that." 
More on this story at: http://www.listin.com.do/cuerpos/deporte/dep7.htm
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