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Daily News - Friday, 04 September 2009

Mendez considers sabotage
The general blackout on Wednesday at 6:03pm began with a breaker at a sub-station that interconnected with AES Andres, but it is still not known if it was an accident, negligence or poor handling of an operator. Sabotage is also being investigated, according to Francisco Mendez, the superintendent of electricity.
Sources in the electric sector said that 10 persons have been detained, according to Diario Libre.
Mendez explained how the blackout happened: At first, it was thought that it had been AES that went off line, but the first to do so was Cogentrix with its units 1, 2 and 3, in San Pedro de Macoris, followed by AES Andres. With the loss of energy, things accelerated and they went off line and the San Felipe in Puerto Plata went off line, too.
As reported in Diario Libre, Mendez explained that these units were 35% of the magawatts that were on line at that moment, and with their loss, the system in the North and South became unbalanced with the drop in frequency and subsequently of voltage, causing a total collapse and the general blackout occurred.
Mendez said that "we are well aware that when one plant or another goes off line there should not be a cascade effect such as happened," and therefore he ordered contingency measures to be put into effect. He mentioned that San Felipe has committed to recalibrate their frequency relays that they had unilaterally modified, and this will give greater flexibility to the operation of that plant that does not have to be impacted when others go off line.
Another decision that was taken was to readjust the protection of the 24-hour circuits that they have isolated.
AES Dominicana reported yesterday that at the moment of the general blackout it was supplying 474 megawatts to the National Interconnected Electric System (SENI) and that its units tried to regulate the frequency to avoid the total collapse of the system. The company rejected that their Andres plant located in Boca Chica triggered Wednesday's event. The operation records show that the failure that caused the blackout happened in the high tension line of 138,000 volts between Boca Chica and Punta Caucedo.

Universities reject attempt at controls
The Dominican Association of University Rectors (ADRU) rejected yesterday a proposal from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology that would establish mechanisms to control the number of students admitted to careers in much demand. ADRU president Elizabeth de Windt said that the proposal by Minister Ligia Amada Melo was counterproductive. She defended students being able to choose the course of study, regardless of the popularity of a career.
The rector of the Open University for Adults (UAPA), Angel Hernandez favors instating obligatory examinations for professionals to exercise, but is against limiting choice of study. He said, "The academies are there to form people. There is a human right to education and we, as academies cannot limit the free exercise and enjoyment of this right."
The most demanded careers are: education, law, marketing and accounting.
Minister Melo wants more students studying engineering. She says that many of the courses at the university do not respond to the real demand for professionals.

Finjus calls for high court
The Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) formalized today its request that a Constitutional court or chamber be included in the new Constitution. Deliberations for the second and final reading of the 255 article new Constitution begin next week. The proposals were delivered to the president of the National Constitutional Revisory Assembly, Reinaldo Pared Perez.
In addition to its call for special attention to the creation of an independent constitutional court, Finjus would like the to see a reinforcing of the control function of the Legislative Branch and the incorporating of measures to limit growth of the legislature. The document was delivered by Marino Ginebra and Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, president and vice-president of Finjus.
Finjus also requested a change to the controversial Article 30 that establishes the right to life beginning with conception. Diario Libre says the Finjus favors the proposal made by the vice president of the Revisory Assembly, Julio Cesar Valentin, which calls for the adoption of Article 4 of the American Human Rights Convention, to which the country is a signatory. This article establishes: "Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."Finjus considers that abortion debates should not be a constitutional issue.
Finjus argues for a change in the ban on foreigners participating in local politics. Approved in numeral 1 of Article 53 is that "the foreigner cannot participate in political activities within the national territory, except to exercise their right to vote in their country of origin." But the foundation understands that this item should be eliminated given that it would be contrary to treaties and conventions regarding immigrant rights the DR has signed.

Strike suspended
The announcement by the Alternative Social Forum (FSA) that the strike called for today be suspended because of the possible effects of tropical depression Erika was greeted by government officials as a good thing. Vice President Rafael Alburquerque greeted the halt to the 12-hour strike. He said that there was more to be gained through dialogue and agreements than by strikes.
Regarding the accusation by the FSA that the nationwide blackout on Wednesday was a ploy by the new CDEEE administrator Celso Marranzini to facilitate the privatization of the electricity sector, the Vice President rejected the idea. He attributed the general blackout to a technical problem.
On the "pilgrims"that are marching on foot from Moca to Santo Domingo, Alburquerque said that everyone has the right to protest for their communities' needs. He said that the government is working and gradually solving the most important problems.

PRD says no to sovereign bonds
Arturo Martinez Moya, the president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party's economic commission, told reporters that there is no need to place US$1 billion in sovereign bonds, such as the government is trying to do once it signs an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. He speculated that the main priority of the government is to reduce the "financial blackouts" and that this would be covered by the US$750 million in funds from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Martinez Moya pointed out in a written release to the media that the new stand by agreement with the IMF should mean an improvement in the quality of public spending and put a brake on the frenzied race of foreign indebtedness. He says recent borrowing has concentrated on contracting expensive loans that come with little controls and thus are open to corruption.
Martinez suggested that to free up resources the Central Bank should register as a contribution of capital the nearly RD$10 billion (US$275 million) that in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) the bank received from the IMF.
He said that the Central Bank does not have an obligation to pay interest nor to return the IMF resources and it can use them at its convenience. By registering the funds in its books this way, the government would commit to return them in 2010 and 2011.
Finally, the former Central Bank governor said that as a result of the poor handling of the public finances, the fiscal accounts are showing a deficit of RD$28 billion as of 20 June 2009. This includes RD$15 billion in capitalization funds for the Central Bank, the accumulated debt in the electric sector and debts with suppliers and other creditors.

Milagros, senator for Santo Domingo?
Former Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch said that she had talked with Miguel Vargas Maldonado, the president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) regarding the possibility of her standing for election as senator for the National District. Ortiz Bosch said that while she herself has not made up her mind whether to run or not, she has talked things over with friends and fellow politicians.
She spoke during an interview with CDN journalist Tony Pina.
Ortiz Bosh was also asked if the mere possibility of her bid for the senate chair could be part of a PRD strategy to win more legislative positions in the 2010 elections. But she downplayed the coattail effect, or the tendency for a popular political party leader to attract votes for other candidates of the same party in an election.
"I am a human being, but I am not nor is the senator of the National District the person who pulls in the deputies." She added that politics is not an individual pursuit. She said if she were to become a candidate it would be the result of teamwork.

Pared: Keep those jobs!
President of the Senate, PLD politician Reinaldo Pared Perez has gone to bat for the political appointees in government. As reported in the Listin Diario, Pared Perez said that not all those who have been fired at the CDEEE and National Lottery were political job-holders. "I think that the political board of the party needs to analyze this situation because, I insist, indiscriminate cancellations are not advisable."
Listin Diario political analyst Orlando Gil comments that new electricity department head Celso Marranzini has expressed the need to rid the department of politics. He wonders out loud if the management problems at the CDEE will be turned into a political problem for the government party. "Can the Political Committee put its nose or hands in and pressure Marranzini to hold the firing squad and reduce cancellations to a minimum?

RD$150M not RD$1B
Neney Cabrera, of the bloc of deputies of the PRD opposition party, says that the Political Parties Bill could be implemented with only RD$150 million, not RD$1 billion, as commented by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) president. One of the most expensive innovations of the bill would be the obligation for the JCE to fund the primaries of the political parties.
Cabrera questioned the fact that the discussion regarding the Law of Political Parties and Groups has been limited to whether the PRD wants it and the PLD does not, and this downplays the benefits that are contained in the law, he said, as reported in Diario Libre.

Changes for the Code of Penal Process
The commissioner of the Reform and Modernization of Justice, Lino Vasquez Samuel reported yesterday that 79 articles of the Penal Process Code would be modified.
The official said that the reform project was worked out by the National Commission for Execution of the Penal Process Code (Conae) after a proposal was agreed upon by the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General and the chief of the National Police and others.
President Leonel Fernandez appointed the well-known jurist Marino Vinicio Castillo (Vincho), Cesar Pina Toribio (the Presidential Minister and one of the original writers of the Code), Abel Rodriguez del Orbe (the Presidential Legal Advisor) and the Prosecutor General Radhames Jimenez Pena to review the changes and give their opinion before sending the bill to Congress.
The changes would instate preventive custody as a means of restraint.
Vasquez said that property crimes and crimes involving checks were among the issues dealt with in the new proposal.
Also included is that a person that has committed a punishable crime and that is free on bail or some other judicial measure and commits another serious offense will not be able to obtain the benefit of bail, travel restrictions and periodic reports to the prosecutor's office. He added that another aspect that will be changed is that regarding treatment of foreigners that are hired to come to commit murders and other crimes.

Large marijuana plantation discovered
The National Department for Drug Control (DNCD) dismantled yesterday afternoon a plantation of marijuana that was said to contain 10,000 plants. The plants were found in a community near El Cercado in the province of San Juan de la Maguana.
In Azua, agents seized 15 packages of cocaine during an incident in which a man who attacked the agents resulted with a gunshot wound.
General Rolando Rosario Mateo, the head of the DNCD said the three arrests were made in El Cercado.
According to the general, the marijuana crop was being cultivated by Rafael Rodriguez Rodriguez, who was known as "Sin Nombre" (No Name) and who voluntarily took members of the DNCD to the side of a high hill where he had the plantation. He was arrested on Wednesday afternoon during a search of his home where 16 pounds of marijuana were found. His son, identified as Martin Rodriguez Montero, managed to escape and according to his father was the person in charge of harvesting the marijuana for later sale in San Juan de la Maguana and Santo Domingo through contacts that the DNCD are trying to capture and send to trial.
The DNCD has seized more than 100 pounds of marijuana over the past few months in the area of El Cercado and Hondo Valle, a crop that is cultivated in the hills near the community of Juan Santiago.
Rodriguez Montero is also a fugitive involved in two other cases of marijuana trafficking, although the crop seized yesterday was being grown in an area known as "La Vereda".

Erika weakens but will bring rains
Erika weakened yesterday and is no longer a tropical depression. Downpours are still expected in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and starting Friday evening, in the DR.
In the DR, emergency operations have issued a green alert on possible flooding in 9 provinces. The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) put the provinces of Duarte, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Samana, Hato Mayor, El Seibo, La Altagracia San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana and Monte Plata on alert.
According to the report from the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) recommends that people living near river banks, creeks and arroyos should be aware of the possibility of flooding.
The good news also is that the storm has picked up speed, and is now moving at 19 kms per hour to the west-northwest. It is expected to continue along this path until it dissipates into the Atlantic.
Check out discussions at http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/

Last chance at FIBA World Cup
The DR goes against Canada for the fourth automatic berth to the FIBA World Championship in Turkey next summer. Teams already qualifying are Brazil, Puerto Rico and Argentina. The DR yesterday beat Mexico 86-73, despite ace players Francisco Garcia sitting out the game to rest, and fellow NBA players Charlie Villanueva and Al Horford only playing limited minutes, also to rest. The winner of the game moves on to the FIBA Americas 2009 Championship semifinals, also.
The strongest Canadian players are Carl English, Saski Baskonia and Andy Rautins.
The game is scheduled for 6:30pm.
To follow the event, see http://puertorico2009.fiba.com/

Danny Rivera at the National Theater
Danny Rivera, the popular Puerto Rican singer, is booked for a Saturday, 5 September performance at the National Theater . Danny Rivera Serenata will be an evening with all his best hits. He will be accompanied by the orchestra of maestro Amaury Sanchez. Tickets at the National Theater box office.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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