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Daily News - 25 February 1999

Government threatens to shut down TV channels
The Telecommunications Directorate-General (DGT) yesterday threatened to shut down television stations and cable operators who illegally tap satellite signals for their programming. DGT Director Rubén Montás has called a meeting of all television and cable executives for next Tuesday, March 2nd, to discuss piracy of satellite signals. The meeting will clarify what the government considers to be signal piracy and the measures that will be taken to stop the practice. After the meeting DGT will shut down any station or operator who ignores the advisory. The step is being taken as the DR’s government becomes increasingly worried that it will end up on the United States’ "Priority Watch List" under the so-called "Special 301" trade law. Under the law, countries placed on the Priority Watch List by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) can be subjected to trade sanctions if they do not take steps to combat intellectual property rights (IPR) problems identified by USTR. This could mean, for example, that the DR would lose its free entry or preferential-tariff treatment under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a step that would devastate the Dominican textile industry. USTR has for years warned the DR that U.S. officials regularly receive complaints from U.S. broadcasters that Dominican companies are pirating their satellite signals, tapping programs without paying royalties for the privilege as called for under international law. USTR officials have also complained several times that Dominican authorities are not doing enough to curb the practice.

SCJ: citizens can petition to protect constitutional rights
The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) yesterday handed down an historical judgment. In a case involving a worker-employer dispute, the SCJ said that any Dominican citizen who feels that his constitutional rights have been violated can petition the Court of First Instance for direct protection of the court. Such practice is long accepted in many nations, such as the U.S., where a single citizen can alter national policy by challenging in the courts any law or regulation as violating their constitutional rights. This has not been the legal tradition in the DR, and until now the SCJ’s attitude on the question has not been clear. Interestingly enough, in its judgment the SCJ invokes articles of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which, although ratified by the DR in 1977, was not declared fully applicable here until President Leonel Fernández did so by decree just last Friday.

President approves labor measures
In ceremonies at the National Palace celebrating the DR’s 75th year as a member of the Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations body responsible for labor and work safety issues, President Fernández issued three labor decrees and formally dispatched an ILO Convention to the Congress for ratification. With representatives from the ILO, employers’ and workers’ groups and top cabinet members watching on, the President signed the three decrees and the letter transmitting the Convention to Congress. Decree 74-99 creates a national Labor Consultative Council to advise the Labor Ministry on all labor relations matters. Decree 75-99 expands the application of the Civil Service Law to include the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, the Labor Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Attorney-General’s Office. Previously the Law covered just the Finance Ministry and its dependencies. The Law is intended. to build a professional civil service based on merit rather than political connections. Decree 76-99 alters the insurance premiums which must be paid to cover different types of risks of workplace accidents. The Convention, No. 138 on a Minimum Age for Employment, calls on ratifying states to set a minimum age for work no lower than 15 years of age and then progressively raise it. Under certain conditions, including regular reporting/justification to the ILO, a developing nation may adopt a minimum age of 14 years old. The Convention was originally open for signature in 1973; currently is ratified by 71 countries, including 14 Latin American and Caribbean states [notable for their continued absence: Brazil, Colombia and Mexico]. Ratification and application of the Convention are two steps envisioned in the ILO’s technical assistance program for the DR to eliminate child labor.

SCJ rejects challenge of judge in Orlando case
The SCJ yesterday rejected the request of two defendants in the famous Orlando case to have the judge hearing the case removed. The SCJ felt that the charges that Judge Katia Miguelina Jiménez Martínez had demonstrated bias against Retired General Joaquín Antonio Pou Castro and co-defendant Rafael Alfredo Lluberes Ricart ("Lluberito") were unfounded. The trial can resume just as soon as Judge Jiménez sets a new court date. The trial concerns the 1975 murder of journalist Orlando Martínez Howley. Martínez had been critical of the government of then-President Balaguer, but it is believed that he may have been assassinated because he was about to uncover in his column an economic scandal involving the State Sugar Council (CEA). In his famous biography, "Memories of a Courtesan," Dr. Balaguer left a bank page (No. 295) about the case that he said would be filled in after his death, hinting that he knows critical secrets about the murder or its original police investigation. Five former military men are standing trial for the murder: in addition to Lluberito and Pou Castro, standing trial are retired Generals Salvador Lluberes Montás ("Chinino") and José Isidoro Martínez, plus former military man Luis Emilio de la Rosa. Dr. Balaguer has been called as a witness in the case, but had repeatedly declined to attend court proceedings, pleading ill health.

López Rodríguez: Dialogue without church mediation
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez said yesterday that if the political parties ever finally decide to dialogue, they will have to do so without the Catholic Church’s mediation used so often in the past. "We’re going to leave them to those who make the effort," he declared to reporters. "I believe that they have sufficient capacity, maturity, to reach an understanding."

Tele-medicine comes to the DR
An agreement signed yesterday will bring "tele-medicine" to the Dominican Republic. Under a pact between the Center for Diagnosis, Advanced Medicine, Medical Conferences and Tele-medicine (CEDIMET), part of the Plaza de Salud complex in Santo Domingo, and Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Dominican doctors will be able to routinely consult American specialists on cases through a teleconferencing line that will remain constantly open beginning in April. The agreement was signed here by Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, in his role as president of the CEDIMET board. The tele-medicine service will be available for all cases, regardless of the social class of the patient.

JCE open to outside monitoring
In paid newspaper ads in today’s morning news papers, the Central Election Board (JCE) stressed its willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure that public confidence is created that the year 2000 presidential elections will be organized and conducted in a clean and transparent manner. This includes, says the Board, cooperating with auditing and monitoring by outside experts, whether national or foreign, of all aspects of its work, from the process of issuing new identity cards ("cedulas") to Dominican voters to the actual vote count on election day, May 16, 2000. Since its appointment by the PRD-dominated Senate last August, the new JCE has had its impartiality questioned by the PRSC and ruling PLD. This week new aspersions were cast on its credibility when Migration Director-General Danilo Díaz claimed that his department had indications that large numbers of aliens are receiving Dominican (as opposed to resident alien) cedulas from the JCE, and that most of these aliens are Haitian.

EU will fund sanitation project in SD’s Northern barrios
The 15-nation European Union (EU) will fund a sanitation project to benefit 25 poor "marginal" barrios in the Northern part of Santo Domingo. The US$25 million project, currently in the study stage, will install a delivery system for potable water for the barrios as well as a sewer system and waste water treatment plant. Funded by the EU’s executive body, the Commission, the project will be executed at the beginning of the year 2000 under the local supervision of the National Commission for Urban Matters (CONAU).

American Ballet Theater performs tonight
The American Ballet Theater of New York will hold a benefit for the Instituto Oncológico Dr. Heriberto Pieter and the Residencia Geriatrica Dr. Carl Georg of San Pedro de Macorís. The performance will be at the at 8:30 pm. Eight dancers from the American Ballet Theater will be on stage. Featured is Angel Corella, who at 23 years old is compared to Nureyev and Baryshnikov. Others are Yan Chen, Giuseppe Picone, Keith Roberts, Irina Dvorovenko, Carmen Corella, Erica Comejo and Herman Comejo. Corella has starred as Basilio in "Don Quixote", Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet," Albrecht in "Giselle" and Soler in "La Bayadere," among other American Ballet Theater performances.

Dominican and Venezuelan win fifth leg of cycling race
Wilson Vásquez and Tomy Alcedo won the first and second parts, respectively, of the fifth stage of the 20th National Independence Tour, the most important bicycle race of the year in the DR. Vásquez, part of the Dominican Cycling Association of New York, barely edged out Dominican Wendy Cruz (of the Montecarlo team) in the morning portion of Stage V, which ran from Santo Domingo to Bonao. Venezuela’s Tommy Alcedo left all rivals behind in the climb to Jarabacoa to win the afternoon portion, which ran from Bonao to La Vega to Santo Cerro to Jarabacoa. Today’s stage involves a 10:00 am departure from Santiago, with passage through Navarete, El Túnel, Altamira, Puerto Plata, La Gran Parada and Sosúa to conclude in La Cumbre, for a total distance of 123.1 kilometers.

Schedule of Carnival festivities
Brugal rum is sponsoring the following big band orchestras to play at the Avenida del Puerto in the Colonial City, starting at 9 pm:

Thursday, 25 February: Banda X
Friday, 26 February: Parada Joven y Juan Manuel
Saturday, 27 February: Grupo Contagio y Diómedes y el Grupo Mío
Sunday, 28 February: K-Libre y La Banda Chula

Presidente beer is also sponsoring big band orchestras at the Avenida del Puerto. Bands to play as of 8 pm. Their schedule is:

Thursday, 25 February: Banda Chula
Friday, 26 February: Rokabanda
Saturday, 27 February: Sin Fronteras
Sunday, 28 February: Coco Band, Toño Rosario, Eddy Herrera.

Other planned carnival activities are:
Gran Gala Carnaval 99 at the Teatro La Fiesta, Hotel Jaragua on Friday, 26 February at 8 pm.
Grand Carnival Parade, Sunday, 28 February starting at 2 pm along the Malecón.
Casa de Teatro at Arz. Meriño Street in the Colonial City is exhibiting of works of art commemorative to Dominican carnival. Exhibiting are many well known Dominican painters, including Cándido Bidó, Jorge Pineda, Antonio Guadalupe, José Morillo, Fermín Ceballo, Paul Leonor, Limbert Vilorio, Polibio Díaz, Pascal Macariello, Daniel de los Santos, Marcos Lora, Marino Hernández, Domingo Batista, José Mercader, Paul Giudicelli, Dionisio Banco, Silvano Lora, Bismarck Victoria and Miguel Ramírez.

For those who are not aware, the best Dominican carnival takes place, not in Santo Domingo, but in the city of La Vega, about an hour's drive from Santo Domingo. EnviTravel Tours, a local travel agency is offering excursions to see the carnival parades of "diablos cojuelos" with tours departing 28 February from Santo Domingo. The excursion price of RD$325 includes round-trip transport, visit to the Santo Cerro Church and the old city of La Vega, open bar, lunch at the La Vega Country Club, tee shirts, and watching of the carnival parade in the afternoon. Departures are at 8:30 am, returning to Santo Domingo at 9:30 pm. Those taking the excursion should preferably wear two pairs slacks or jeans because the "diablos cojuelos" mischievously will bop their balloons against those watching. For more information, call 565-5558 or email [email protected]
Services Travel's excursion departs from the agency locale at Rómulo Betancourt 1567 on 28 February. Tel. 535-4290
This is a once-and-a-lifetime adventure, highly recommended to tourists and residents in the DR. Fun for the entire family. Just follow the crowds, put your wallet in a safe place, and stay out of the reach of the fearful Diablos Cojuelos.

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