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Daily News - 22 October 2002

Taxman after doctors and lawyers
The Listin Diario reports today that the director general of the Department of Internal Revenue, Teofilo (Quico) Tabar, has notified doctors and lawyers to voluntarily register themselves. Tabar said that his department was not declaring war on the professionals, but rather sending them a wake-up call. He further said that official notices and letters would probably be left at medical centers and law offices as well as consultants’ offices. He said he hoped there was no misunderstanding. “This is not pressure, but rather the result of research done by an expert polling consultant,” he explained. “We just want to remind them to get up to date.” The officer agreed with an editorial published in the Listin on Sunday that spoke about the bigger income earners having a greater responsibility than the smaller ones, and, therefore, these should come forward and register.

Dialogue has more than 20 items
The National Dialogue began yesterday, in a setting full of optimism and the desire to reach agreements. The first session was headed by President Hipolito Mejia and included the participation of representatives from political parties, business associations, the civil society, and developmental entities. The Catholic Church is acting as mediator. The first work sessions were limited to sifting through the proposals of more than twenty items that could potentially be placed on the agenda. The most relevant point was the issue of the election of the judges to the Central Electoral Board. The most noticeable absentee was the president of the Senate, Andres Bautista, whose chair remained empty. Monsignor Agripino Nuñez Collado chaired the meeting with Auxiliary Bishop Jose Arnaiz. They described the start of the talks as “exemplary”. 
The political parties and the other participants were optimistic in the results of these talks. Debates will begin today at 9 am. Nuñez Collado, in his statement, said, “In this first meeting all the participants stated their positions about items to be included in the agenda. There has been an abundance of ideas and most of them have coincided in that the number one item for the talks needs to be the Central Electoral Board.” Asked whether the absence of the president of the Senate, Andres Bautista, affected the talks, Nuñez Collado replied that he (Bautista) had formally excused himself. 

23 points on the Agenda
Of the 27 different organizations that partook in the opening session of the National Dialogue, each presented one or more items to be discussed during the talks. These 23 items seem to be the most agreed upon:
The Central Electoral Board; the balance of payments; the 2003 Budget; financing for small and medium-sized businesses; the need for a National Agenda; a 10-year development plan for the country; development a legislative agenda; Dominican-Haitian relations; defining the maritime limits; energy policies; privatization of potable water infrastructure; unemployment; employment security; Social Security; public safety; fiscal policies; internal and external debts; farming sector; poverty; juvenile delinquency and drugs; the penal system; lagging moral values.

Dominican kidnapped in Venezuela
Ruben Dario Angustia Felix, the Dominican kidnapped in Venezuela last Tuesday, “is alive and well,” according to Amado Isabel, also a Dominican and the contact between the Hanover Compressor Company and the family of the victim. The father of the victim has denied statements that the kidnappers wanted US$40-million in ransom money. Ruben Dario Angustia is an electrical technician, trained at the Loyola Politechnic Institute in San Cristobal, who worked for Hanover Compressor Company in Barahona. The company recruited technical personnel in Barahona to travel to Venezuela, where they would work near the border with Colombia. There is speculation that the kidnapping was carried out by the FARC of Colombia.

Illegal, yet VIP, trips to Puerto Rico
The Listin Diario and other newspapers are reporting that there is a new way for illegal immigrants to get to Puerto Rico: fast boats. They are calling this new service “VIP”, as it offers a safer and faster way to get to the “Isle of Enchantment.” The gangsters heading the operation have a new modus operandi; instead of the trip originating in the Dominican Republic, the VIP boatmen travel from Puerto Rico to pick up their customers, according to Navy chief of staff, Rear Admiral Eurípides Antonio Uribe. He said the Navy was surprised to find that many of those who have been arrested recently had been arrested not so long ago for the same crime. He blamed the justice system for being lenient with the boat trip promoters.

AMET and the inspection stickers
Also making front page news today is the blitz the AMET traffic police are carrying out to oblige car owners to place the required fit-to-drive sticker on their cars. The blitz has caused major inconveniences to citizens, as hundreds crowded into the offices of the Department of Transportation or lined up at outlet branches, such as Multicentro La Sirena, in order to obtain the inspection sticker needed to travel the roads in the Dominican Republic. The information office of the Metropolitan Transit Authority said yesterday that the first phase of the operation has seen the temporary confiscation of 420 licenses, to be returned once the drivers obtain the necessary stickers for their cars. Yesterday, about 1,300 officers of the transit police were dedicating themselves to enforcing the law. AMET chief Pedro de Jesus Candelier said that they had waited long enough and had given enough extensions to the motoring public. At the beginning of the year, the transportation office ran out of the stickers, but yesterday the gneral announced that they would issue citations to those that did not have the required decals on their cars. One small group of drivers marched in a picket line in fornt of the AMET offices, asking for a further extension. There was some controversy as to the efficiency of the inspection process, while others just said that “we (Dominicans) are irresponsable and always wait until the last minute.” Article 117 of Law 241 (the DOT traffic laws) says that driving a vehicle without the mandatory sticker is an offense punishable by a fine of RD$5.00. Repeat offenders may be fined twice that amount.

DR to become haven for imported goods
Dominican Republic companies will be at a significant disadvantage with the foreign imports expected to flood the market once new free trade agreements with the United States and Canada go into effect. These agreements may be signed either before or after the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the Americas, which itself is set for 2005. The conflicts that have affected the normal sessions of Congress since its start on 16 August impeded the legislators from acting on the petition from local business that sought to increase tariffs so they could be gradually reduced, as other countries have done, in compliance with the World Trade Organization. The deadline to do so was 15 October. Thus, the Dominican Republic now becomes a haven for the export of foreign goods.
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