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Daily News - 19 February 1999

PRD will reply Monday on dialogue
The President of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, indicated yesterday that the PRD will send its formal response to President Leonel Fernández’s Wednesday letter rejecting PRD’s preconditions for entering into a political dialogue with the government. As with PRD’s Tuesday letter to Fernández responding to the President’s invitation to enter into a dialogue, this new PRD letter will be written by a special committee composed of Senate President Ramón Alburquerque, Senator Milton Ray Guevara and Deputy Ivelisse Prats de Pérez. A trusted source that attended the Thursday strategy meeting of the PRD’s executive body, the Presidium, told the news daily Hoy that PRD will insist in its new letter that no dialogue will commence as long as Senator Amable Aristy Castro [Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – Altagracia] remains in the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). The PRD will insist on its original demand that a commission of eminent persons ("notables") be appointed to run the LMD instead of Aristy Castro until the courts decide whether Aristy Castro or PRD’s Julio Maríñez Rosario is the real LMD Secretary-General (SG). [Two parallel municipal assemblies were held on January 26th which elected Aristy Castro and Maríñez Rosario as SG, both after making dubious rule changes.] President Fernández had said that it was not up to the President to make such a concession, since the LMD technically is not under his jurisdiction, and in any case, making such a concession would damage confidence in the courts to decide such disputes.
PRD reportedly will also insist that the President’s political party, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), be represented in the dialogue in addition to the President. PRD officials evidently fear that any agreement made by the President could later be disavowed by his party.

Congress closes, leaving much unfinished
The Congress closed out its extraordinary session yesterday, leaving a long list of important legislation uncompleted. Most of these measures will have to be formally reintroduced when the new session of Congress is opened on Independence Day, February 27th. As such, they will have to go through a new round of hearings, committee reports and two readings in each chamber before they can be sent to the President for signature – even when some of them, such as the Financial and Monetary Code or the new export promotion law, have already been passed by one chamber. Other measures left to this fate include: the General Electricity Law; the new Health Code; the ratifications of the free trade agreements with Central America and the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM); the tariff and tax reform bills; approvals for a series of international loans, including those for reconstruction after Hurricane Georges; the new law to allow the government to issue bonds; and the social security reform law.

DR to take steps on ship pollution
Dominican officials announced yesterday that they will take steps to prevent coastal marine pollution caused by ships. The announcement was made at the closing of an international Forum on the subject held in Santo Domingo under the sponsorship of the London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized body charged with shipping and marine environment matters. Among other things, it was promised that the DR would finally ratify the 1973 International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and its Technical Annex V, which deals with garbage discharges from ships. [The DR has a poor ratification record for IMO-sponsored treaties, with only a few technical treaties and the 1969 convention on liability for oil spills ratified.] The DR will receive technical assistance from the IMO to create adequate port facilities to accommodate safe waste discharges and unloading from docking ships, and to create a system of inspections of ships passing through Dominican territorial waters to ensure that they are not dumping while offshore. The Forum held included government delegates and experts from 30 nations, including the Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, the Netherlands (which still has several territories in the Caribbean, such as Curacao), Nicaragua, U.S., Venezuela and the nations of CARICOM. The Forum resolved that all nations should ratify and take the necessary implementation steps for MARPOL Annex V by the year 2003, and they called upon the April meeting in Santo Domingo of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) to agree on a concrete joint action program on ship pollution in the Caribbean Basin.

DR joins regional group on migration
The Dominican Republic has joined the Regional Consultation Group on Migration, Migration Director-General Danilo Díaz revealed yesterday. The Group comprises Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and the Central American nations. It analyzes, discusses and promotes cooperation between its member states over immigration policy and illegal traffic in immigrants. Díaz also revealed that the DR recently helped the U.S. dismantle the largest illegal immigrant trafficking operation in the U.S. The group of some 30 persons ran a trafficking business worth more than US$200 million and dealt in getting Indians and Pakistanis into the U.S. and Canada illegally through third countries.

A dispute over highway toll collection
It is all about who gets the revenue. Rafael Ubiera Padua, Director of Municipal Taxes and Revenues for the National District, told the news daily El Siglo that Santo Domingo’s city council adopted last Friday a resolution (16/99) that seeks to impede the national government from collecting tolls on vehicles entering the city on Las Américas, Duarte and Sánchez Highways. Currently tolls are only collected on vehicles leaving the city, not those entering. The resolution asserts that neither the city nor the national government is authorized to collect a new toll without explicit consent of Congress. It calls for a special committee of regulators and legislators to draft a national law under which Congress would so empower the city to collect the money. Ubiera is drafting a municipal law that would claim all tolls on incoming vehicles passing through the new highway toll booths being erected by the Public Works Ministry. The municipal law will cite as the basis for the city’s claim Law 3456, which cedes control of Santo Domingo streets and avenues to the city. Ubiera points out that the sums involved are not trivial: estimates are that the incoming tolls collected would amount to RD$3 million monthly, or RD$36 million total annually, which is 75% as much as the city’s top revenue-generator, the tax imposed on city hotels.
In a related story, President Fernández yesterday issued a decree creating a new Directorate-General of Control, Maintenance and Supervision of the Toll System under the Public Works Ministry.

1998 statistics for traffic accidents
The National Statistical Office (ONE) released yesterday the statistics for 1998 regarding traffic accidents in the Dominican Republic. Using statistics gathered by the National Police, one says that 1,683 were killed last year in 1,494 accidents nationwide. Of these, 1,433 were men, 250 women. The area with the highest fatality numbers was Santo Domingo, where 345 died, followed by Santiago with 157, San Cristóbal 143 and La Vega 121. Of the 1,494 accidents, 630 were vehicle-to-vehicle collisions and 532 involved people being hit by vehicles.

Schedule announced for Music Festival
The schedule for the Second Music Festival of Santo Domingo to be held at the National Theater March 10-20. The Festival is being directed by pianist and conductor Philippe Entremont. The schedule is as follows:

March 10 – Russian pianist Eldar Nebolism, playing the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff

March 12 – The Canadian Brass, a quintet known for mixing music with humor

March 13 – The music of Rossini, Mozart and Mahler, with the Festival Orchestra and featuring violin prodigy Shunsuke Sato and Metropolitan Opera House soprano Rebecca Copley

March 15 – piano duo Christopher O’Riley and Pablo Ziegler, interpreting the music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzola

March 16 – Vienna Chamber Orchestra, directed by Entremont, playing the music of Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky

March 17 – "American Night" with the Festival Orchestra, directed by Carlos Pianitini, and featuring Richard Stoltzman on clarinet, playing the music of Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin

March 19 – "Spanish Night," featuring "The Royal Family of Guitar," the Romeros

March 20 – "French Night," with the Festival Orchestra directed by Entremont and featuring French cellist Anne Gastinel, playing the music of Debussy, Saint-Saens and Berlioz.

For information about tickets, contact the Fundación Sinfonía at 809-532-6600, or by fax at 809-533-1941.

The mystery of the stadium takeover
When it was announced on Tuesday that President Leonel Fernández had signed a decree to dissolve a foundation ("patronato") managing three baseball stadiums and give management of the stadiums to the Sports Ministry (SEDEFIR), both the Dominican Professional Baseball League and the head of the foundation expressed complete surprise. Yet, as the numbering of the decree cited in the press (343-97) suggests, the presidential decree was issued as long ago as October 17, 1997. It was even published in the Official Gazette on October 31, 1997, issue number 9966, page 41. So why, asks the news daily El Siglo, was it a surprise to so many involved with the nation’s favorite sport, and why was it never announced nor applied by SEDEFIR before now? The paper calls on Sports Minister Juan Marichal to explain how he could let two winter baseball tournaments pass without applying the presidential decree.

Mets & Expos to play exhibition in Santo Domingo
SEDEFIR will announce this afternoon that two Major League baseball teams, the New York Mets and the Montreal Expos, will play an exhibition series in Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya Stadium March 12-14. The match is being financed by the national government.

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