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Daily News - Thursday, 15 October 2009

Assembly work postponed
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly has postponed its sessions until Monday, due to conflicts that arose after the PLD party defied the pact signed between President Leonel Fernandez and PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The agreement signed by the two men stipulated that the opposition PRD majority in Congress could choose the last member of the National Magistrates Council, the body responsible for selecting judges. The PLD, in an alliance with the PRSC, violated the pact and voted to keep the status quo, angering the PRD and creating an impasse in the constitutional reform process. This simple act exposed the fragility of the pact signed between Fernandez and Vargas, which evidently does not guarantee that legislators vote for every stipulation in the act. As a result of this conflict, the Assembly was adjourned until Monday so that the Verification Committee can study Article 151 of the Constitution, on the National Magistrates Council. The joint PRD/PLD commission that was set up to explore possible solutions to the impasse was not able to come up with any tangible solutions, while the PRSC is concerned that the original decision, made on Monday, will be revoked. Vice President Rafael Alburquerque said that all would be done to make sure that PLD assembly members adhere to the terms of the agreement. He added that deals are made to be kept and is asking both sides to keep to their sides of the bargain. He said that he understands why PRD members are angered by this week's developments and that he regrets the fact that PLD members didn't adhere to the pact.

Progress in Paya case
Former naval officer Lt. Carlos E. Rosso Pena, dishonorably discharged from the Navy in 2008 for his involvement in a drug trafficking ring, has been captured by the Dominican police. Rosso was on the DR's most wanted list for his role in the 2008 Paya drug massacres and is also wanted for extradition to the United States (Puerto Rico). Listin Diario reports that Rosso had escaped capture by fleeing to Colombia via Haiti. Diario Libre says that he traveled on fake documents in the name of Angel Bolivar Alcantara Perez. He was arrested when he re-entered the DR after arriving on a flight from Colombia, via Panama. He was immediately transferred to National Drug Control Department headquarters. It is not clear how officials knew Rosso was on that flight, as details were not released, but Diario Libre reports that they were waiting at the door of the plane as he was entering the airport. Intelligence officials recognized him immediately and when he was captured he admitted to his real identity.

Dam 'not overvalued'
Former director of the National Hydraulic Resources Institute (Indrhi) Hector Rodriguez Pimentel is insisting that the constriction costs for the Monte Grande dam were adjusted properly and that they fall in line with international standards. According to Rodriguez, the costs are not overvalued, as has been suggested by Lawyer Marino Vinicio "Vincho" Castillo, who heads the National Ethics Commission. Rodriguez claims that the contract to build the dam was given to Brazilian company Andrade Gutierrez before his tenure as director of Indrhi and that through a public bidding the cost would have been for a total of US$254 million, or US$16 million less than a previous offer. Rodriguez said that of the three companies that bid on the project (Norberto Odebrecht - Brazil, Impregilio-Italy), Andrade made the best offer. Diario Libre reports that, in fact, Indrhi's board of directors did not know the details of the bidding. Diario Libre once again quotes Castillo, who says that Congress had approved a line of financing through the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) for US$270 million, but that the bids by two Brazilian companies were for US$358 million and US$377 million. These are the first public comments by Rodriguez, who initially refused to comment on the issue.

Beach pay makes no sense
The tourism sector is angered PRD deputy Eugenio Cedeno's proposal for a law making foreigners and Dominicans pay for using the country's public beaches. Foreigners would be charged RD$35 per day and Dominicans RD$17.50 for beach use. The bill would also control the types of water sports allowed in beach areas, like buggies and jet skis, and would restrict the items permitted for sale on the beaches, including food, life jackets and chairs. It would also ban all types of publicity on the beach. Arturo Villanueva, vice president of Hotels and Restaurants Association (ASONAHORES) said that it did not make sense to charge for using public beaches, since it is the job of the State to maintain them. He also questioned the practicalities of charging tourists.

AIDS patients concerned
Of the 25,117 people registered as affected by HIV/AIDS, some 10,000 are not receiving their anti-viral medications or their CD4 laboratory exams. Dulce Almonte, executive director of the Dominican Network for People Working with HIV/AIDS says the shortage in supplies began on 30 May and the concern is that HIV/AIDS patients must take their medication without interruption. Almonte is urging for HIV/AIDS patients to be included in the Social Security program and National Social Security Council director Max Puig says he is working towards this goal. Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez denies that there is a shortage of medications.

Ambassador dismisses claims
The Dominican ambassador in Costa Rica is challenging claims made by journalist Mario Ugalde that Dominicans living in Costa Rica are "lazy and shameless". In an article in the Costa Rican newspaper Diario Extra, Ugalde wrote about a specific area in the capital San Jose known as "Tierra Dominicana," and linked the Dominican presence to the vice that is prevalent in the area. Ambassador Adonaida Medina refuted the claims, saying that the area is not just inhabited by Dominican immigrants, and that it was actually named after a bar of the same name. The bar closed down in 2003, but the name has stuck. Medina says there are only three Dominican businesses in the area, including a cell phone store and a beauty salon.
However, Medina did not deny there were safety issues in the Tierra Dominicana neighborhood. She said the Dominican community in Costa Rica is small, made up of college students, laborers, diplomatic mission members and business people. Medina says that 500 Dominicans are registered as living in the country, but only 100 currently live there. She specified that in 2008 only six Dominicans were deported, none in 2009, and that only five Dominicans are currently in Costa Rican jails. As for Ugalde's claims, Medina is quoted in Listin Diario as saying, "That is a very personal opinion, which we respect, but it is not widespread, especially when we take into account the fact that Diario Extra is a sensationalist newspaper. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso has ordered Medina to send a formal letter of protest to the newspaper.

Portability goes well
The opportunity to change telephone companies while keeping the same phone number appears to be an attractive prospect for many Dominican customers. In the first 15 days since the introduction of numerical portability, an estimated 11,776 requests have been submitted. An average of 683 applications are being received daily. It is what most insiders expected, and the aim is to increase quality and competition between phone service providers. In response to some complaints from customers about excessive charges, Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) director Jose Rafael Vargas said that no company is allowed to charge more than RD$80 total for the service of switching service providers. Five companies have said they will not charge that RD$80, including One-Max, Viva, Orange and Sky Max.

My, my Metro
Technical problems brought the Santo Domingo Metro to a halt for the second time this week. This is the third time this year that the mass transport system has experienced problems. Diario Libre says the fault occurred during the morning rush hour at 7:10am. Once again a blown fuse was blamed and service stopped for about 20 minutes. Transport Reorganization Office (Opret) sub-director Leonel Carrasco said that mass transport systems often experience these problems and that passengers should get used to the situation.

Family presses charges
The family of a Dominican teenager has pressed charges against PRD deputy Julio Romero. Romero is accused of having sexual relations with the young woman when she was still under-age and is said to be the father of her 5-month old baby. Diario Libre says that Romero seduced the minor with the promise of a trip to Miami, an apartment and payment for her studies. Her parents say the deputy picked their daughter up from school to take her away for their rendezvous. The family found out about the affair when Yulimi Peguero was two months pregnant. Diario Libre also reports that on one occasion Peguero and her family went to court to try and get child support from Romero, but his wife attacked Peguero. Chamber of Deputies president Julio Cesar Valentin said that the CD would wait until the case was settled, but that Romero would be subject to sanctions. He didn't specify the nature or extent of the sanctions.

Wide world of sports
It's the training tool for many of tomorrow's best baseball stars. A broomstick, a water bottle cap and a lot of time on your hands, and you get the Dominican street game of "Vitillas." A long time favorite of Dominican children and adults, vitillas is similar to baseball, in that the offensive player must hit the small bottle cap with the broomstick. But who would have ever dreamed that this activity would have it's own major tournament. This was the case during the Red Bull Vitilla Classic 2009, held in the Villa Duarte sector of Santo Domingo. More than one hundred teams participated in the event, with the "Bandoleros" team from Cristo Rey taking home this year's title.

Pedro is pitching
His time has come. This is the moment Pedro Martinez worked so hard for and the former Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer will have one more chance to shine and add to his stellar baseball legacy. Martinez, who has come back from major injury plagued seasons, has proven that he still has something in the tank. Martinez was a late season signing for the Philadelphia Phillies and went ahead and won six crucial victories, which helped the Phillies thrust into the playoffs. Martinez was not able to pitch in the Phillies' first-round series against the Rockies, but he has been taped for a Game 2 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This could be Martinez's last chance to attain a World Series title. Game 2 will be on Saturday in Los Angeles, and Pedro will face fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez in a must-see clash of the titans.

Pet Shop Boys canceled
Fans of the classic English electronic dance music duo the Pet Shop Boys who were looking forward to seeing them perform in the DR will either have to enjoy their music on CD or fly to another country to catch their show. The Pet Shop Boys 28 October concert in Santo Domingo has been officially canceled. Concert promoter Saymon Diaz blames the lack of infrastructure in the DR for the decision. According to Hoy, promoters looking to put on a show in some of Santo Domingo's installations have to spend money on inverters, bathrooms, extra security, lighting and air conditioning, which increases the costs of putting on a show. He added that the concert is on hold until the Palacio de Los Deportes is fixed up, adding that he does not have the more than RD$1 million needed to put on the show.
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