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Daily News - 17 August 1998

New congress and new city governments
Most of the 1,921 government officers elected in the 1998 congressional and municipal elections were sworn in yesterday in events held all throughout the nation. Seventy-two deputies of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano chose to abandon the Chamber of Deputies without being sworn in. The senators and deputies representing the 29 provinces and one national district, mayors and aldermen, representing 115 municipalities were elected to office for the period 1998-2002.

Political twist of fortunes makes a loser of a winner
In politics anything is possible. Despite strong differences and confrontations, the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (the party of former President Joaquín Balaguer) and the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (the ruling party) allied with dissident forces within the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano to re-elect president of the Chamber of Deputies, Hector Peguero Méndez for a two-year term. This is Peguero Méndez's third term as president of the Chamber of Deputies. Other members elected to direct the Chamber of Deputies are Rafael Francisco Vásquez Paulino, vice president, Fátima Pérez and Radhamés Castro. The fact that Vásquez is known as a close ally of Hatuey Decamps raised many questions that may be answered in the short term future.
All deputies, with the exception of Cesar Santiago Rutinel Domínguez (Tonty), who was abroad, attended the session.
Máximo Castro Silverio is the new spokesman for the PRSC. Joaquín Bidó Medina is the spokesman for the PLD. Pedro de León is the spokesman for the new Bloque Peñagomista made up of the 10 dissident PRD members. The first working session of the Chamber of Deputies was called for 25 August at 10 am.

Divide and conquer
The today president of the Chamber of Deputies, Héctor Rafael Peguero Méndez was strongly opposed by the leading faction within the PRD that had proposed Winston Arnaud. Politically astute, Peguero Méndez was able to win the election with the vote of nine fellow dissident PRD members, that are now calling themselves the Bloque Peñagomista within the Chamber.
The Chamber is now split into three forces - PRSC with 17 members; the PLD with 49 members and the PRD/Acuerdo de Santo Domingo with 73 members. News commentators said that the Chamber of Deputies now enters into a period of virtual paralysis.
Peguero Méndez, a 12-year term congressman, is a close friend of Danilo Medina, his classmate from the South, and former congressional and party colleague. (Note that the PLD was born when the PRD split into two groups.)
With the division within the PRD, the party, despite having won with majority in the lower house, is now subject to having to negotiate with the other political forces in order to pass any bill or motion.
Peggy Cabral, the widow of the former leader of the PRD, the late José Francisco Peña Gómez, in a press release, attributed Peguero Méndez's win to the inadequate handling by some PRD directors of the present institutional crisis that affects that political organization. She called for party unity. The PRD is a party where internal conflicts are the norm, but in the past her husband, José Francisco Peña Gómez, was known as the chief conciliator and the party was always able, even though at last minute, to resolve its differences. Reputable polls point to the fact that the PRD is the party with the largest following.
Peña Gómez's widow recalled that during a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee on 8 August she warned that outside interests were attempting to destroy the unity and discipline within the party. She had favored a conciliatory position, such as would have been the presentation of a third candidate by the party, Hugo Tolentino Dipp, instead of Peguero Méndez or Winston Arnaud. The party rejected the position.
The PRD's internal conflict reflects the fact that the party has yet to decide who will be the choice for presidential candidate in the year 2000 presidential elections. The party is seen as the strongest political force to win the next presidential elections and several party members have announced their aspirations to be the party's presidential candidate.

PRSC director says it was all fair game
Angel Lockward, a PRSC director, said that what has happened with the election of Peguero Méndez is fair game in politics. "It is normal that the parties take advantage of the errors of the others and the expelling of Peguero Méndez was a costly error," he said. Lockward explained that the PRD board underestimated Peguero Méndez's political pull. Lockward mentioned a similar case occurred not too long ago when Julio Maríñez of the PRD won the presidency of the Dominican Municipal League despite the PRSC having won the most city governments. At the time, the PRD allied with the PLD.

PRSC could win presidency of LMD
If the PRD does not watch it, the party may suffer another political defeat. Press reports indicate that eastern political strongman, Amable Aristy Castro seeks the presidency of the Dominican Municipal League and just might win. The reports suggest that the PLD could ally with the PRSC to give Aristy Castro the sufficient votes to overturn the majority of the PRD. The election is set for 26 January 1999. If elected, Aristy would have to resign his seat in the Senate. The PRD won 95 of 115 municipalities, but the party does not have absolute majority in the number of aldermen elected. A PRSC and PLD alliance could result in a new defeat for the PRD.

Best paid government employees put on big show
It was nothing new for a government branch that has accustomed the nation to only acting in favor of individual interests. On Sunday, 16 August, the Chamber of Deputies presented for the Dominican people a laugh-or-cry show. PRD politicians took their internal problems to the congressional floor on Sunday and the nation watched as several of the best paid employees of the Dominican government staged a battle of fist fights, door-breaking, verbal insults and even glass-throwing at the Chamber of Deputies that was televised. Those in favor of the PRD accused the government of having bought the vote of the deputies with government money.
Trouble began when former deputy, Dr. Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, who is acting president of the PRD, requested on the floor that the house admit the general public to the hall. Peguero Méndez asked Esquea to leave the hall, as he is no longer a deputy. The motion to admit outsiders was turned down by deputy Rafael Adriano Valdez Hilario, who led the session to elect the president of the house as he is the oldest deputy.
Commotion followed and Valdez Hilario threatened to postpone the sessions for next Tuesday. Then deputy Reinaldo Pared Pérez of the PLD warned that if Valdez Hilario abandoned his post, the session would continue with Rafael Kasse Acta leading the sessions.
Three vote counts were called. In the first, Peguero received the sufficient number to win 75 versus 73 of Winston Arnaud, the candidate of the PRD. A second resulted in 76-72 and a third in 76-0, when the members of the PRD/Acuerdo de Santo Domingo political coalition chose to abandon the hall. 77 deputies attended the session, but Rafael Valdez Hilario, who presided the session abstained from voting.
During the session, the nation was able to watch how a group of PRD fanatics broke open a door and made their way into the hall. What followed was sheer chaos. Even an overzealous PRD man, identified by the press as Nelson García, threw a glass at Peguero Méndez and got into a fist fight with Peguero's brother, Nelson Peguero who was acting as bodyguard.
The chief of the National Police himself had to rush to the scene as in a "Die Hard" film to avoid that the confrontation get out of hand. Together with General Bienvenido Martínez of the Police's Swat team, they managed to not allow over-zealous PRD fanatics to bring the situation to a tragic ending. Note that all was transmitted on television.
The PRD fanatics sought to break the quorum so that the re-election of Peguero Méndez would have to be postponed.
In his acceptance speech, Peguero Méndez thanked the PLD and the PRSC deputies for their support. He said he would endorse all bills that are in the better interest of the nation. At noontime, he took a flight to his home province, Independencia, accompanied by the former president of the Senate Amable Aristy Castro, and his nine political allies A victory party with stewed goat and merengue dancing to the beats of Fernando Villalona and Anthony Ríos awaited him.
A recent report in the Listín Diario by Panky Corcino pointed out that the Chamber of Deputies just spent RD$33 million of state money to remodel their hall. Furthermore, she estimated that legislators make RD$87,741 a month in salary (policemen make RD$1,500 a month in salary), plus multiple benefits such as two unlimited vehicle exonerations, chauffeur, and vehicle expenses, a RD$57,573 Christmas bonus among others. Legislators are estimated to work less than 12 hours a week. Major bills are pending in both houses of Congress.

PRD board reacts expelling more party members
The members of the PRD met after at the party headquarters and expelled six more PRD deputies from the party for violation to the party's directives. The Political Commission expelled Rafael Vásquez, Radhamés Castro, Manuel Mesa, Fátima Pérez, Eurípides Pérez and Emilio Crespo that voted in favor of Peguero Méndez. The party reasoned the elected deputies are "traitors to the thoughts of doctor Peña Gómez", the late leader of the party. The widow of Peña Gómez, Peggy Cabral, abstained from raising her hand to vote in favor of the expulsion.
The party earlier in the month had expelled deputies-elect Tony Pérez, Dolores González, Pedro de León, Freddy Terrero, Dionisio Quezada and Carlos Gomez on 21 July.
Party directors also said that the government could forget about the PRD reaching a consensus with the government on congressional bills and other issues, and that the PLD's endorsement of Peguero Méndez had been a vote asking for confrontation with the PRD.
Lic. Hatuey Decamps, party secretary, and Milagros Ortiz Bosch, senator for Santo Domingo said it is unlikely that the PRD will be able to sit down to talks with the government on national issues.

Ramon Alburquerque elected to preside Senate
The 30 senators of the National Senate unanimously voted in favor of Ramón Alburquerque, PRD-Monte Plata. Other members elected to the board of the Senate are Jesús Vásquez (PRD-María Trinidad Sánchez), vice president; Dagoberto Rodríguez Adames and Ginnete Bournigal de Jiménez, secretaries.
The Senate announced its work sessions will begin on Tuesday, 18 August.
Alburquerque improvised his speech as his original speech had been written thinking that the PLD would have cast its vote in favor of Winston Arnaud, the PRD candidate to preside the Chamber of Deputies. Alburquerque considered the election of Peguero Méndez as a humiliation to the party. He said it killed the possibility of dialogue and consensus with the government. He threatened not to ratify the free trade agreements the government has signed with Central America and is expected to sign with the English-speaking Caribbean this week.
In his talk, which was held at the National Assembly Hall (where the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate gathers on 27 February and on occasion of the swearing in of the President) instead of at the Senate hall, he saluted the presence of President Leonel Fernández. President Fernández did not attend the session.

Let's think of the best interests of the country
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez congratulated the new members of the National Congress and the municipal governments and called them to "think more of the better interests of the nation and not of personal profit." He spoke on the "Fe y Acontecer" TV program and urged the Congress to labor to rescue the soiled image of the legislature.

Johnny Ventura is mayor of Santo Domingo
Johnny Ventura, the most popular merengue orchestra band leader of all times, was sworn in as mayor of Santo Domingo. The widow of former PRD leader José Francisco Peña Gómez, Peggy Cabral was sworn in as vice mayor. In his first speech as mayor, Ventura said that top priorities of his administration would be to decentralize the municipality and to secure more resources to develop city government plans. He also advocated for harmonious relations with the Presidency.

President Fernández guarantees independence of government branches
President Leonel Fernández said on Saturday, on occasion of celebrating the second year anniversary of the PLD government, that in the DR there is independence of the branches of the state. He ensured during the meeting with PLD leaders held at the Club Mauricio Báez that all state enterprises would be privatized by the end of his administration, or year 2000. The Executive Branch has had strong differences of opinion with the Judicial Branch and the Legislative Branch.

El Gordo de la Semana celebrates 25th anniversary
TV producer Freddy Beras Goico commemorated the 25th year of his popular Sunday TV program, El Gordo de la Semana by presenting live Spanish singer Julio Iglesias and many other renown Latin American and Dominican stars. These included Lissette Alvarez, Willie Chirino, Raul Vale, Danny Rivera, Chichí Peralta and Grupo Yarumba. During last Sunday's show, President Leonel Fernández called to congratulate Beras Goico.

Gold in track and field for DR
Dominican Juana Arrendel won the gold medal in high jump at the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games taking place in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She jumped 1.90 meters to win her first gold. Nicke Gibson of Trinidad & Tobago and Nora Lusson of Cuba.
This is the fifth gold the DR has won in the Games. DR is in seventh place with 37 medals, including five gold, eight silver and 24 bronze. Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname and Puerto Rico lead the games.

Sosa ties Latin American record
Sammy Sosa hit his 47th home run to tie the record of most home runs in a Major League season hit by a Latin American. The record is shared by Dominican George Bell, Puerto Rican Juan González and Venezuelan Andrés Galarraga. George Bell had set the record in 1987 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Sosa has hit 254 home runs in his career in the Major Leagues.

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