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Daily News - 23 October 2002

The National Debate, shorter agenda
During the first round of talks part of the National Debate, chaired by Monseignor Agripino Nuñez Collado, rector of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, the number of items on the agenda was narrowed down from 23 to 3. But most of the attention, nevertheless, focused on item 1. The agenda for the debates now stands at: 
The problem of the Central Electoral Board and the need to ensure the credibility of the 2004 presidential elections; 
The economic policies that will ensure macro-economic stability for the country; and
The development of an agenda for national development in the short, medium and long term.
Press reports highlighted that, despite the fact that priority is being given to the issue of the Central Electoral Board in the debates, neither representatives of the Senate nor the Central Electoral Board have attended the debates. 
Meanwhile, Andres Bautista, president of the Senate, said that there are no legal mechanisms that could reverse the appointment of the judges chosen by the Senate. The president of the Central Electoral Board, Ramon Morel Cerda, maintains that he will not resign. 
Yesterday 57 private sector organizations, including the National Business Council (CONEP), the association of free zones, banks, hotels, and the American Chamber of Commerce, issued a joint statement requesting that the country have a Central Electoral Board elected as a result of consensus and above suspicion. This coincided with the publishing of a press release from the Permanent Council of the Conference of the Episcopate of the Catholic Church, whose appeal was along the same lines. 

PRSC announces it will stay out of Congress
The two leading opposition parties, the PRSC and the PLD, confirmed yesterday that they would not return to Congress unless a consensus is reached during the currently underway National Debates, regarding the future of the judges of the Central Electoral Board. There is a perception that the judges confirmed or elected by the Senate in September are partial to a particular faction of the ruling PRD party - that of President Hipolito Mejia (PPH). 
As reported in Diario Libre, the 50-member Executive Commission of the PRSC met yesterday and rejected the recommendations of president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rafaela (Lila) Alburquerque, and Dominican Municipal League president, Amable Aristy Castro, who implored the PRSC legislators to return to Congress. Aristy Castro seeks PRD support to be re-elected to his post as the head of the Dominican Municipal League in January. President of the Chamber of Deputies Alburquerque (PRSC-San Pedro de Macoris) has been partial to the interests of the PRD and those of President Mejia.

Differences within the PRD now out in the open
With his “I agree with you” in English, to the proclamation by his close collaborators for re-election in a party-sponsored event on Monday, Hipolito Mejia’s cards are now on the table, according to the Que Se Dice column of Hoy newspaper. Diario Libre newspaper also comments that the political event has drawn criticism and censorship by the faction of the PRD, which opposes re-election within the party. The most visible opponents to the re-election are Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch, president of the party Hatuey de Camps, Enmanuel Esquea, and Rafael Subervi Bonilla. Vice President Ortiz sent a letter declining the invitation to participate citing that she had not been informed of the agenda of the meeting that took place at a city hotel. 
Hoy newspaper emphasizes that the words of President Hipolito Mejia, in which he called for his followers to “march at a pace of winners”, and his plea to renovate the leadership of the party, have caused friction within the party. 
President of the PRD, Hatuey de Camps, was interviewed during his participation in the National Debate talks at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, and was critical of the fact that the government officers are not using their time to deal with several important national issues. Among these, he mentioned the economic problems of the country. He also criticized the government officials for not leaving the resolution of political issues to the party leaders. As reported in Diario Libre, politician Esquea Guerrero protested that the meeting had been touted as a gathering to unify the party, when in reality it became an event to promote the re-election of President Mejia, with no room left for any dissidence.

Money to register Dominicans abroad
The Central Electoral Board approved a RD$39.9-million budget, or approximately US$1.9-million, for the implementation of the absentee voter program in time for the 2004 presidential election. The amount is 100% more than what had been approved for last year. The program calls for the opening of nine voting registration cities in the United States and Europe. At present there are offices open in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Puerto Rico, Miami, Barcelona, and Madrid, according to a press note in Hoy newspaper. There are plans to open offices in Boston and Caracas, said engineer Americo Rodriguez, who is in charge of the program.

Supreme court urged to act
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Subero Isa, told the Listin Diario that all criminal cases in which the accused are free on bail should be reactivated immediately. “I am one of those who believes that all of the cases, without exception, should be re-opened - all of them,” he is quoted as saying. He said cases for review should include those of corruption tied to governmental programs, such as the social program known as PEME, that dates back to the Leonel Fernandez administration.

Good business for buscones
As if Dominicans didn’t have enough troubles already, the government sees it necessary to enforce the car inspection stickers. Dominicans have had to queue up in long lines to procure the document. Supposedly, the “revista” is issued to certify that cars are fit to be driven on Dominican roads. The revista nevertheless developed into just another tax after the Department of Transportation regularly issued them to cars that clearly were not fit to be on Dominican roads and the stickers were issued in batches with rarely an inspection of the vehicle. In reality, the government does not have the staff nor the facilities to actually comply with the inspections that should be carried out to issue the stickers. 
But now AMET traffic cops have been given instructions to retain the driver licenses of all those that do not have the inspection sticker on their cars. 
Diario Libre says that the “buscones”, or people who have friends inside the department that issues the RD$45 stickers, are now assisting drivers in getting the documents for a RD$200-RD$400 fee. The buscones are hard at work at the Department of Transport and its branches located at the Multicentro La Sirena (Churchill and Charles De Gaulle), Plaza Lama, and Olympic Stadium. 
Diario Libre says that on Monday alone AMET officers issued 805 tickets, of which 542 were for the missing inspection sticker. 

Are we becoming accustomed to abuses?
Journalist Bienvenido Alvarez Vega, writing today in Hoy newspaper, warns that Dominicans may be becoming accustomed to being victims of abuse by the government. He highlights the case of a cab driver, who was beaten by an AMET agent and tied to his car for hours following a dispute for not having his car inspection sticker. The incident was televised by Channel 11 reporters, who could not be dissuaded by AMET agents who tried to impede the filming. “There is no doubt that there is a vocation of repression among the AMET agents, he writes. 
Vega goes on to say that Dominicans have tolerated other abuses and infringements of their basic rights, such as the Centella and Guaraguao operations, in which the military are authorized to search vehicles for weapons and to confiscate drivers licenses in the process.
“I believe that little by little Dominican society is sliding backwards to tolerate the old Trujillo regime practices - practices of an era that we thought we had overcome,” he writes.

Malkum tells Dominicans to complain
Minister of Finance Jose Lois Malkum urges Dominicans to protest if they feel they are being irregularly charged for power consumption, as reported in Hoy newspaper today. Malkum confirmed that accounts of irregularities found in the invoices sent to consumers by the power companies have been corroborated. 
Furthermore, he said that the power negotiators for the state met with the Union Fenosa and AES companies to urge that the power outages be reduced. He said that during the meeting the company officials agreed to reduce the number of hours of so-called maintenance, which translates directly into power outages for consumers. He said that the maintenance programs need to be scheduled in a way that will not create further irritation among the population that at the same time is receiving hefty increases in their power bills. Hoy reports that Malkum explained that with the power now costing much more, it is not logical that power outages should continue or be of even longer duration. 
Listin Diario says that the number of scheduled power outages announced by Union Fenosa affiliates have increased after President Hipolito Mejia authorized the increases in the power tariff. Mario Lopez, general manager for the Union Fenosa, defended the maintenance programs by saying they are necessary. 
Furthermore, Superintendent of Power Julio Cross said that the government commission studying the indexing formula currently used by the power distributors to pass on to consumers the increases in the cost of petroleum, inflation and the depreciation of the dollar will determine whether there are conceptual problems that lead to a greater than authorized increase in the power bills. Cross has also criticized the power companies for their increase in the number of hours of power outages following the tariff increase authorization. Studies show that by increasing power outages the companies indirectly increase their earnings.

DR at trade disadvantage with Central America
El Caribe newspaper says that if one were to analyze the initial results of the signing of the free trade agreement with Central America, one could only conclude that free trade is not of benefit to the Dominican Republic. Since 1998, when the treaty was signed, the trade deficit of the Dominican Republic with Central America has increased 156% as a consequence of the increased imports from Central America and a decline in exports. In 2001 alone, Central America exported US$93.5-million to the Dominican Republic, compared to imports of US$14.9-million, producing a US$78.6-million trade deficit. In 1997, Dominican exports were valued at US$27.1-million and imports at US$57.8-million. The newspaper concludes that the problem is not the free trade agreement itself but rather the fact that Dominican companies have not been able to take advantage of it. Celso Marranzini, a former president of the Dominican Council of Business, explained the obstacles: higher interest rates, higher cost of and deficit power service, higher trucking costs, higher maritime transport costs, higher taxes on everything including exports, and higher tariffs on imported raw materials.

Goodbye to Neon disco
The Rainieri family is extending invitations to good-bye parties for Neon Discotheque. The Neon is probably the oldest running discotheque in Santo Domingo and was a preferred hangout for several generations of Dominicans. The disco will close on Thursday, 31 October after 29 years of business. The owners say the closing is due to “circumstances beyond our control.” 
Two good-bye parties have been organized; the first is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 26 October at 10:30 pm, where the Eddy Herrera orchestra will perform. The soirée will be open to the new group of Neon regulars.
The final farewell festivities will take place on Wednesday, 30 October at 9 pm, with a performance of the Familia Andres (sponsored by Brugal rum). Both evenings feature an open bar for RD$500 per person. 
Proceeds of both parties will go to the longtime employees of the disco. 
Reservations can be made by email to the children of pioneers Fernando and Frank Rainieri: Paola Rainieri at [email protected] or by telephone at 541-2714. You may also contact Fernando Rainieri at [email protected] or Frank Rainieri at [email protected] Tickets must be bought in advance.

World Series win for Ramon Ortiz
Anaheim Angels pitcher Ramon Ortiz, a native of Cotuí, was the winner in the World Series game last night against the San Francisco Giants, who were playing in their home stadium. Ortiz let through a couple of home runs in the fifth inning and was pulled for a reliever in the sixth inning. Ortiz pitched five innings, allowed four home runs, five hits, and struck out three players. The Angels won the game 10-4 and now have a 2-1 lead in the World Series. Ortiz becomes only the fourth Dominican to win a World Series game, joining the ranks of Joaquin Andujar, Jose Rijo and Miguel Batista.

Sporting News votes Alex Rodriguez
Major league baseball players polled by the Sporting News magazine chose 27-year old Alex Rodriguez as their Major League Player of the Year. Born in New York City of Dominican parents, A-Rod received the votes of 197 of his peers in a poll of 327 major league players. Barry Bonds came in second with 48 votes and Miguel Tejada was third with 31.
The online version of Sporting News highlights that a year after setting a big-league record for home runs in a season by a shortstop, A-Rod broke his own mark and flirted with the A.L.'s first 60-homer season in 41 years. But Rodriguez's offensive performance was only part of the argument for him. He was a complete player, playing hard every day and handling a premier defensive position with style and grace.
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