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Daily News - 04 March 1999

Parties agree on dialogue agenda
Representatives of the three major political parties – the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – met yesterday with President Leonel Fernández at the National Palace and agreed on several agenda items for the political dialogue convened by the President. According to Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, the Catholic Church representative invited to be "observer, witness, moderator and spokesman" (but not mediator as in past dialogues), the three-hour meeting was completely cordial and civil. President Fernández suggested that the dialogue formulate a "Patriotic Pact" to guarantee democratic stability and peaceful and fair presidential elections in the year 2000. He also asked that the dialogue discuss the social and economic reforms needed, proposals for many of which his government has already made to Congress. Further, he suggested that the dialogue consider agreeing that a Constituent Assembly to reform the Constitution be convoked on May 16, 2001, exactly one year after the election of the next President. For its part, PRD suggested that the dialogue agenda include the election of the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) and the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE). The PLD and PRSC suggested putting the election of the Chamber of Deputies directorate on the agenda, as well as the selection of the Chamber of Accounts (Cámara de Cuentas). All these items are agreed. The dialogue will next convene in the National Palace at 6:00 pm on Friday.
Representing the PLD in this first round were its SG, Lidio Cadet, Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina, Tourism Minister Félix Jiménez, and José Joaquín Bidó Medina. The PRD delegation included PRD President Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, plus Tony Raful, Ivelisse Prats Ramírez de Pérez, Hugo Tolentino Dipp and Vicente Sánchez Baret. The PRSC delegation included Political Secretary Federico Antún Batlle, Jhonny Jones, Alexis Joaquín Castillo and Ramón Rogelio Genao. PRSC chief Donald Reid Cabral did not attend for health reasons.

Senate approves slew of measures
Apparently stung by criticisms that its slowness was the reason many key measures did not emerge from the last session of Congress, the Senate yesterday acted on several bills. It approved on second reading two bills it had approved on first reading just the day before: one would create a new National Rice Institute (Inarroz), the other would amend the Electoral Law to raise from 25% to 40% the congressional and municipal electoral slots to be reserved for female candidates. These bills now go to the Chamber of Deputies for final action. The Senate also approved on first reading the Monetary and Financial Code and the General Health Law. All four of these measures had been acted upon by the Senate in the extraordinary session of Congress that ended last month, so they could be moved ahead quickly now in the same forms that won approval before.
The Senate also passed a resolution asking President Fernández to prohibit for six months the importation of kidney beans so that bean growers in San Juan de la Maguana are not driven into bankruptcy.

Presidency asks Senate to change export promotion bill
The Technical Secretary of the Presidency, Temístocles Montás, has written the President of the Senate, Ramón Alburquerque (PRD-Monte Plata), asking the Senate to reconsider some of the provisions it included in its first reading approval of the Export Reactivation and Promotion bill. Montás says that President Fernández could not accept current provisions regarding the compensation to exporters of traditional goods, since as formulated they would be rebates in excess of imports tariffs paid and as such would violate the DR’s commitments under the treaties of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Montás submitted a new text for Senate consideration that would include most provisions agreed by the Senate, minus the offending passage.

Widow sworn in to finish husband’s term as Deputy
Guadelupe Bisonó, widow of Deputy Winston Arnaud Guzmán (PRD-National District), was elected by the Chamber of Deputies and sworn in yesterday to serve out her husband’s term of office. Arnaud died on December 28, 1998.

New AMET police chief
The Director-General of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET), Hamlet Hermann, announced yesterday the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Santamaría Fondeur as the Commandant of the Metropolitan Police. Santamaría, who had been number two at the Metropolitan Police, replaced Colonel Bienvenido D’Oleo Moreta, who is returning to the National Police (PN) to be its new head of the Personnel Department.

New Governor criticizes law on provincial governments
Just hours after taking office as Santiago Province’s new Governor, Ramón Ventura Camejo roundly criticized the existing national law on provincial governments as "obsolete." Ventura Camejo was appointed by President Fernández as a replacement for industrialist Marcelo Bermúdez, who resigned in December. Ventura Camejo said that the existing law is badly out-of-date and needs to be amended to reflect the modern needs of provinces. He argued that any modification of the law should allow for decentralization of public investments and income, that is to say, that the provinces receive more directly public revenues derived from their province and have more say over how the money is spent on projects within their territory.

President creates commission for public administration reform
President Fernández yesterday created a new permanent commission of experts to examine all the various laws, decrees, regulations, resolutions, manuals, instructions, etc. relevant to the administration of the national government with a view to rationalizing, updating and amending them to create a more modernized public administration. Decree 98-99 names Dr. Cristóbal Gómez Yangüela to head the new commission.

SCJ to hear today mayors’ case on LMD
Supreme Court (SCJ) President Dr. Jorge Subero Isa said yesterday that the SCJ today will begin examining the petition filed before it by 12 PRD mayors regarding the LMD SG elections. On February 26th 12 PRD mayors filed a petition with the SCJ to declare the actions of then Interior and Police Minister Ramón Andrés Blanco Fernández and former PRSC Senator Amable Aristy Castro vis-à-vis the LMD elections as violating the DR’s Constitution, the Penal Code and LMD regulations. Responding to questions at a signing ceremony for a technical cooperation agreement with the French Magistrates School, Subero Isa explained that the SCJ has not considered the case before now simply because it was not scheduled to convene until today. The case involves the events of the week of January 26th, during which two parallel municipal assemblies were held to elect the LMD’s SG: one held by the PRD "re-elected" prior SG Julio Maríñez Rosario; the other, convened by Blanco Fernández and attended by delegates from the ruling PLD and from the PRSC, elected Aristy Castro. During the week surrounding the event police and troops cordoned off the LMD headquarters and refused entry to PRD politicians. The 12 PRD mayors claim that during the course of these events Blanco Fernández and Aristy Castro violated Articles 18, 19, 20, 46, 99, 106 and 113 of the Dominican Constitution, Articles 114, 123, 124, 127, 128 and 186 of the Penal Code, and LMD Regulations 12, 13, 35, 37 and 44. The suit is part of a PRD to have Aristy Castro’s election declared unconstitutional and illegal thus to be nullified by the SCJ.

Amendments to Immigration Law due soon
During a luncheon discussion with the news daily El Siglo, Foreign Minister Eduardo Latorre revealed yesterday that the Chancellery, the Directorate-General of Migration and the Interior and Police Ministry will soon deliver to President Fernández their proposed draft of a new immigration law. The three agencies have been charged by the President with formulating a legislative bill to update the 1939 Immigration Law.

Project launched to elaborate National Environment Strategy
An all-day seminar was held yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel to launch a three-year project to create a National Environment Strategy. The project is sponsored and funded by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and will be coordinated by the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency (STP) and the National Planning Office (ONAPLAN). The project will include a series of studies, pilot projects and situation diagnoses all designed to identify the DR principal environmental problems and prioritize those that need immediate action under the Strategy. Its end-product will include a draft Constitutional provision on sustainable development and basic environmental rights, a set of policies, recommendations for institutional changes, a draft law or laws, and some draft policy instruments, including economic instruments. A concern voiced during yesterday’s presentation was how this project meshed with the existing work, under the Commission on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection (CORENAMA) and the National Environmental Protection Institute (INPRA), to formulate draft legal provisions to propose as changes to the draft general environment law that has been stuck in Congress over the last 3-4 years. Officials said that the projects are complementary and not mutually exclusive.

SESPAS to vaccine 500,000 against measles
The Public Health Ministry (SESPAS) is launching a nationwide measles vaccination aimed at immunizing 500,000 children ages 5-14, considered susceptible to the disease because they were not covered by the last major measles immunization campaign. The action is being taken after measles cases have been reported in Higüey, La Romana, Samaná and Santo Domingo. So far 137 suspected cases have been reported, 23 of which have been confirmed in laboratory tests. Health authorities suspect that the people have been exposed to foreign tourists carrying the disease, as happened recently in Brazil.

Industry & Commerce Ministry: cement price hike not approved
Industry and Commerce Ministry spokesman Federico Quezada said yesterday that contrary to claims by the industry, his Ministry did not authorize any price hike in cement. He said that the 12-15% price hike in gray cement imposed on Monday was done "unilaterally" by the members of the Dominican Association of Cement Producers, that the Ministry objected to the hike and called on the Association to justify the need for it. The sudden spike in cement costs is worrying the construction industry, which says it will substantially raise construction costs and may slow or stop some projects.

Attorney-General: Marchena’s death not due to negligence
The Attorney-General’s Office released a report yesterday asserting that the death in jail of Dr. Moisés Fernando Marchena Arredondo last Saturday was not due to negligence or any criminal act. Marchena died in his cell due to an untreated bleeding gastric ulcer. The report said that Marchena had refused medical treatment because he was depressed as a result of being denied release on bail. The Advisor to the National Commission on Human Rights looking into the case, Dr. Domingo Porfirio Rojas Nina, said that while he would "respect" the report, he did not share its conclusions. He said Marchena’s cell mates said that prison authorities at La Victoria ignored their repeated calls for authorities to transfer Marchena to a medical treatment facility.

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