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Daily News - 06 August 1998

Congress embarrasses Dominicans
Orlando Gil of El Siglo explained the debacle of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate in a commentary in the newspaper. He speculates that what is going on is that President Leonel Fernández and the PLD want to please the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano. The PLD would like to stay in the good graces of that party's leader, former President Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, who while as of 16 August . He speculates that the same can be said of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, that while prompt in its criticism of the government and the PLD, refrains from confronting the PRSC, regardless of whether it is that party that is leading the "disorder" now present in Congress.
President Leonel Fernández called for a reopening of congressional sessions, with only three weeks remaining. What has followed is a parade of approvals of self-interested bills, such as pensions, and of other controversial bills, such as the Chamber of Accounts report on the budgetary exercise for year 1996, corresponding to the final half of the Balaguer administration. The passing of the judicial career, consigning four years immobility to judges, and the school of the magistracy bill has been controversial. Several sectors have requested life immobility for the judges, especially the Supreme Court judges. Senator José Hazim rejected criticism, that has come from many sectors, including the influential Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada, the largest business organization, saying that the bill approved was the same one submitted by PRD Senator Milagros Ortíz Bosch. Ortíz Bosch has criticized the shortening of the working span of judges to 4 years. The bill needs to be promulgated by President Leonel Fernández in order to be converted into law.
The Senate suspended its sessions yesterday, but Virgilio Castillo, second in charge of the Chamber said that there is a consensus to modify the constitution and extend to year 2000 the term of the senators, deputies, mayors and aldermen. There is a movement, that is head by the president of the Senate, Amable Aristy Castro that seeks to reform the Constitution. The Constitution was last reformed in a 48 hour marathon session in 1994. Hoy newspaper reported that the legislators seek to extend in a year the time period of the legislators, mayors and alderman and incorporate the presidential re-election possibility. The legislators also want to reduce to 40% the percentage necessary to avoid the need of a second round. The reformed constitution requires a President to win in the first round at least 50%+1 of the vote. The legislators say they would also include the possibility of holding a referendum in the reformed Constitution.
The Listín Diario reported that the session of yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies got to such an extreme that legislatures of the PRD party pulled the microphones away from the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Peguero Méndez, who is leading a dissident group within the PRD, affecting the audio of the hall. They did so when the deputies were voting on modifying the internal mechanisms of the organization.

Cardinal favors referendum on presidential re-election
Monsignor Nicolás de Jesús Cardenal López Rodríguez favored that the presidential re-election be submitted to a plebiscite so that the entire population could have a say on the important political issue. Consecutive presidential re-election was banned in the constitutional reform that took place in 1994. President Leonel Fernández favors the referring the important political question to the electorate for a direct decision by a general vote.

President Fernández to travel to Puerto Rico
President Leonel Fernández will make a day trip to Puerto Rico later this month to participate in a meeting of governors of southern states of the United States. The announcement was made by Adriano Miguel Tejada, press secretary of the Palace. President Fernández was invited by Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Roselló.

Advancing on notorious crime
President Leonel Fernández handed to the General Attorney of the Nation, Abel Rodríguez del Orbe, the preliminary report prepared by the nation's military and security forces on the disappearance of university professor Narciso González on 26 May 1994. Present were the Secretary of the Armed Forces, Admiral Ruben Paulino Alvarez; the director of the Department of Investigations, Rear Admiral Sigfrido Pared Pérez; the chief of the National Police, José Aníbal Sanz Jiminián. Also present were members of the Comisión de la Verdad (Truth Commission) - the widow Altagracia Ramírez de González, priest Alberto García Sánchez, Tomás Castro and Virgilio Almanzar. Also present was Francisco Domínguez Brito, National District attorney. Upon receiving the report, Attorney General explained that the investigations will continue with the corresponding judge. Priest García Sánchez commented that despite its preliminary nature, the document contains sufficient pieces of evidence and elements of conviction to assist the judge in taking the opportune measures.
Narcizo González's disappearance coincided with his call to civil disobedience due to the alleged fraud electoral against then presidential candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, the late José Francisco Peña Gómez.

New Bishop of Baní
The Vatican appointed 40-year old priest Freddy Bretón as Bishop of Baní. He replacing Monsignor Príamo Tejeda Rosario, who resigned at the end of 1997. The announcement was made by Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Francois Bacque.

Free zone exports on the increase
According to the executive director of the Consejo Nacional de Zonas Francas de Exportación, Gabriel Castro, exports of free zones will reach US$3,000 million in 1998, generating foreign exchange for US$800 million. Exports are up 15% compared to last year's total US$2,600 million. This is a 52% increase over year 1996, when exports were US$1,900 million. There are 492 free zone companies in the DR that generate employment for 191 ,000 persons, up from 182,000 employees in 1997. Estimates are that by the end of this year some 500 companies will be in operation generating 200,000 jobs.

Power generators have great contracts
AES Dominican Power and Smith and Enron told El Siglo newspaper that their contracts include clauses that guarantee the state's obligation in case of the dismantling of the state electricity utility, Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad. The contracts of both these companies are under the limelight because of the high cost of the energy they oblige the CDE to purchase from them, around 100% above market prices for energy generated. Together the utilities generate some 380 megawatts. The contracts were signed during the Balaguer administration. The government has mentioned the possibility of subsidizing the cost of the electricity produced by these companies with privileged contracts.

Australian fugitive may now have DR passport
An Australian current affairs TV program reported that fugitive businessman Christopher Skase has secured Dominican Republic passports for himself and his wife Pixie, as reported in "The Australian," a leading Australian newspaper. The program claims that should Skase be forced to leave Spain, since that country is about to implement an extradition agreement with Australia, there is "no doubt" he will "call the Dominican Republic home". Skase is sought by Australian authorities for illegal financial maneuvers and fraud.
"Today Tonight" has also been told that Christopher Skase secured the new passports for himself, wife Pixie, his business associate Tony Larkins and Larkins's wife Amanda. The total Dominican passport package cost Skase just US$65,000, it was claimed.
The program quoted a lawyer who said there was no extradition treaty between the Dominican Republic and Australia.

Sammy Sosa hits 43rd home run
Sammy Sosa hit his 43rd homer yesterday. He is now only four homers away from the record of 47 for a Latin American batter. The record of 47 is shared by Dominican George Bell, Andrés Galarraga and Juan González. Sosa is also a contender to break the Major League record of Roger Maris of 61 home runs. He also leads in the National League in runs batted in, with 111. Sosa has hit 250 home runs in this career in the Major Leagues.

Dominicans win medals in blind persons games
Dominican athletes won a silver and a bronze medal at the World Blind Persons Sports Games, Madrid 98. Athletes Ceferino Ventura, Andres Núñez Nova and Antonio Ventura, Robert Jimenez and Jose Bobadilla participated for the DR. Antonio and Ceferino Ventura won medals in the games that were organized by the Federación Española de Deportes para Ciegos, with the support of the Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles and the Federación Internacional de Deportes para Ciegos. The games were held 17-25 July in Madrid. Some 73 countries participated in track and field, goal ball, judo and swimming.

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