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Daily News - 09 March 1999

PRD wants dialogue televised
The executive body of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), known as the Presidium, last night agreed to ask that political dialogue being undertaken at the National Palace at the invitation of President Leonel Fernández be televised once the dialogue resumes this Friday. PRD spokesman Tony Raful told reporters that the measure was requested to "guarantee transparency" in the discussion of differences between the three major parties – PRD, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and the Reformist-Social Christian Party (PRSC) – over the composition of the Central Election Board (JCE) and the election of the Secretary-General (SG) of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD).

Doctors demand dialogue with President
At a press conference yesterday, Dominican Medical Association (AMD) President Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero called upon President Fernández to dialogue directly with them about their demands for a pay increase. He said Public Health Minister Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino "is unqualified" to continue negotiating with the AMD, that they must deal directly with the President. He claimed that the Public Health Ministry (SESPAS) is only interested in dialogue when they wish to derail AMD "battle plan" to gain the salary raise. He said that if the current dialogue is not a trick, Minister Guzmán Marcelino would have proved it at the bargaining table, "but with her attitude, she has done all the opposite." He said that the AMD will announce tomorrow its "battle plan" to force higher level talks on the raise demand. It is expected that the AMD actions will start with work stoppages in National District hospitals, although the AMD’s National Assembly has authorized the Executive Committee to invoke a full-fledged strike, lead marches on the National Palace and occupy airports, public offices and tourism spots.

Police no longer allowed to seize drivers’ licenses
The Office of Information and Public Relations of the National Police (PN) announced yesterday that the new PN chief, Major General Pedro de Jesús Candelier, has issued an order to all PN commandants to halt immediately the common practice of seizing the driving licenses of drivers accused of committing a traffic violation. Instead, officers are to note the name, license number and cedula (identity card) number of the alleged offender, and that information will transmitted to the Director of Land Transit. If the alleged offender does not appear in traffic court, the information will be used to deny him a copy or renewal of his license. The Police chief said that officers can still seize licenses in "instances established by Law 225," although he did not specify what this meant. When asked by reporters, the PN’s Traffic Department said that this meant when the offender has been involved in an accident.
Also announced yesterday were orders by the PN chief for officers to crack down on cars without their lights (headlights, brake lights, turn signals), trucks with cargo not covered by tarps, and drivers without their license and car ownership papers.

Díaz to deliver "proof" to JCE today
Migration Director-General Danilo Díaz and a PLD delegation are due to visit the JCE today at 4:00 pm to deliver a packet which he says will prove that people are obtaining identity cards ("cedulas") fraudulently from the Board. On February 22nd Díaz created a sensation by charging that the JCE was issuing cedulas to Haitian nationals. The JCE has repeatedly denied the charge, and has even trotted out its records to show that the cards Díaz flashed during his initial statement belong to Dominicans or aliens legally residing in the DR and pre-vetted by Migration and the National Department of Investigation (DNI), not illegal aliens. Last week JCE President Manuel Ramón Morel Cerda challenged Díaz to back up his charges with concrete examples that the JCE can investigate.
In an interview published this week in PLD’s official news sheet, Vanguardia del Pueblo (The People’s Vanguard), Díaz said that he will not try to prove that Haitians are receiving cedulas, but rather that there are no JCE controls to impede dishonest people from using a Dominican citizen’s information to falsely receive a cedula with proper information but the wrong picture.

CARICOM negative list to be shorter
The news daily Listin Diario reports that a confidential source has told it that Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) Trade Ministers told the DR'’ delegation in Suriname last week that the revised CARICOM proposal for the "negative list" of products to be outside the trade liberalization measures of the DR-CARICOM trade treaty will be substantially shorter than the one CARICOM first proposed last November. The new CARICOM proposal is expected to be delivered to the DR within two weeks. In November, the DR suggested 11 products, while CARICOM suggested nearly 900; the DR walked out of the talks in protest. According to Listin’s source, the DR is now proposing 15 products (seven of them agricultural products included in the DR’s "Technical Rectification" to the Uruguay Round Agricultural Agreement), while Trinidad and Tobago wants CARICOM to agree on only 14 and the other CARICOM members are pushing for up to 200.

Where will the PanAm Games Villa Go?
This week’s guessing game in Santo Domingo: where will the Olympic village ("Villa") for the 2003 Pan American Games ("PanAm Games") be built? Last week rumors started flying that Campus #2 of the National University Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) on John F. Kennedy Avenue would be the site when bulldozers and other heavy equipment appeared on campus and began clearing the area. [A similar incident at the Plaza de la Salud last summer sparked rumors that the Villa would be located there, ultimately denied by the Public Works Ministry and the bulldozers departed.] Yesterday the President of the PanAm Games Organizing Committee, José Joaquín Puello, admitted that the UNPHU site is one of those under serious consideration. This led Listin Diario to report the UNPHU site as a near-certainty. However, an UNPHU spokesman told Hoy that UNPHU grounds "are not up for sale," but that UNPHU would study any proposal made by the government. Puello says that other options under study include (1) land facing the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center between 27 de Febrero Avenue and Enrique Sánchez Valverde street; (2) land currently occupied by a nails factory between avenues Máximo Gómez and José Ortega y Gasset; (3) land occupied by the Quinto Centenario race track; (4) land along the Avenida Jacobo Majluta.

Girls’ death now suspected to be suicide
Although nothing is official until confirmed by an autopsy, police officials now suspect that the two teenage Santiago girls found dead yesterday were not murdered, but rather committed suicide. Evidence at the site where their bodies were found suggests that they had not been hurt or raped. Police say that interviews with people who knew the girls, 13 and 15, revealed that one of them had said that she wanted to die. The bodies of the two, in advanced state of decay, were found along with rat poison, the suspected means of death. The girls had been reported missing since their disappearance on February 26th, when the two were seen boarding a taxi. The National Police had undergone a nationwide search, suspecting they had been kidnapped and were in a brothel in some tourist area. The girls lived with their father, police officer Jose Rafael Albino. The bodies were found by their brother, José Andrés in a hill nearby their house.

U.S. Embassy asks for security cordon
The executive of the National District’s city government, Fabio Ruiz Rosado, confirmed yesterday that Mayor Juan de Dios ("Johnny") Ventura has received a formal request from the U.S. Embassy to close off several streets surrounding the Embassy in Gazcue with a view of creating a security cordon around it. Ruiz Rosado refused to comment on the petition pending a report on its implications from the city’s Urban Transit Department, headed by engineer Deligne Sención. The request could be quite tricky for the city to agree to, since the Embassy is on a major West-East artery and sits between the National Library and the Central Bank.

Report suggests ecological damage in Bávaro & Bayahibe
A report by the DR’s Academy of Sciences due to be formally presented tomorrow, but leaked today by the news daily Hoy, alleges significant ecological damage to the coastal areas of Bávaro and Bayahibe by construction firms and hotels. "Report on the Environmental Impact of Tourism in Bávaro and Bayahibe" refutes claims by Tourism Minister Félix Jiménez that recent press reports on environmental damage by tourism projects are all false. Among other things, the Academy report says that (1) the Natura Park Hotel has seriously harmed the vegetation and hydraulic balance of Bávaro Lagoon, which is supposedly protected by Presidential Decree 309 of 1995, and may be endangering a disappearing fish species that cannot only be found in this lagoon; (2) there is a high degree of beach erosion around the Hotel Caribbean Village; (3) extraction of sand is seriously threatening the ecosystems of nearby coastlines; (4) tourism is being developed in Bayahibe without the proper sanitary infrastructure being built, and the hotel complexes there are threatening the ecological balance of the National Park of the East while destroying valuable archeological sites.

DR the most popular Caribbean spot for Germans
Tourism figures released yesterday at the International Tourism Fair held in Berlin indicate that the DR is the most popular Caribbean stop for Germans. The Dresdner Bank released a report the DR took first place in 1998 with 400,000 German tourists, followed by Cuba with 149,000 and Jamaica with 40,000. The Bank said in 1998 42.6 million Germans took tourist visits abroad, 750,000 of them with at least one night’s stay in a Caribbean spot. Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) figures suggest that Germans head the list of European visitors to the Caribbean, followed by England, Spain and Italy.
Also at the fair, the head of the DR’s Tourism Promotion Office in Paris said that the DR’s Tourism Ministry will invest in an aggressive campaign in France this year to boost the number of French tourists traveling to the DR. Ivelisse Torres said that her office will start on March 29th an ad campaign in Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Niza, Nantes, Lille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg, together with US$42,000 in incentives offered to travel agencies. A television ad campaign will be launched nationwide next October.

Bookmobiles for Santo Domingo
President Fernández yesterday presided over the formal delivery to the National Library of the first seven of a fleet of bookmobiles intended to operate throughout the Santo Domingo metropolitan area. The bookmobile initiative is intended to bring books (and the love for reading) to some of poorer barrios so that citizens do not have to journey to the National Library. They will visit once a week on a fixed schedule until such time as a permanent library is built in the sector. In addition to books, the vehicles will carry computers, VCRs and works on cassette tape. The "Mobile Libraries" project is being supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Three of the bookmobiles were custom-built by the Dominican government, one was donated by UNESCO and another was donated by the French Government.

All bank deposits above US$10,000 being investigated
The head of the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), Rear Admiral Luis Alberto Humeau Hidalgo, warned yesterday that the DNCD and the Superintendent of Banks are investigating all bank deposits above the equivalent of US$10,000 for possible money laundering. All banks operating in the DR must report such deposits to DNCD and the Superintendent of Banks. A similar reporting requirement has long existed in the U.S. and banks here which also operate in the U.S. had to make similar reports to U.S. authorities. The Superintendent of Banks has long had a policy of "know your client," requiring banks to ask questions about the source of large deposits and to report any suspicious transactions. The current policy simply imposes mandatory, uniform minimum reporting requirements.

Ray Guevara: anti-corruption proposals will pass
The Chairman of the Senate Justice Committee, Milton Ray Guevara (PRD-Samaná), told reporters yesterday that he is certain that the five anti-corruption measures sent to the Senate last week by President Fernández will be approved by the upper chamber of Congress. The vocal support of the chairman of the relevant committee and a leading spokesman for the party controlling the Senate practically ensures passage of the President’s package. The package submitted last Thursday by President Fernández includes: (1) an Ethics Code for Public Servants, which draws heavily upon the principles of the 1994 Inter-American Anti-Corruption Convention agreed under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS) [although the DR signed the Convention in March 1996, it has yet to ratify it]; (2) a draft law on money laundering; (3) a draft law against "transnational" bribery; (4) changes in the Legal Declaration of Goods public servants must make to better reveal conflicts of interest; (5) modifications in the Penal Code to toughen sanctions against "classic manifestations of corruption." Senator Ray Guevara said that the Senate will also approve his bill to prohibit the Government from slicing up public works projects into small chunks in order to avoid putting them up to open bidding, since this "is a major source of corruption in the Dominican Republic." The bill, approved by the Senate in the previous session but not acted upon by the Chamber of Deputies, would require any project whose total value is over RD$3 million must be put up for open public bidding. Public works valued between RD$2-3 million would be decided by a drawing organized by the College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors.

Clean-up of PP’s Malecón initiated
A new program began this past weekend to effect a complete cleanup of Puerto Plata’s Malecón. The program is a cooperative effort between the PP municipality, provincial authorities and the Tourism and Public Works Ministries, and involves the stretch between Long Beach and La Puntilla. According to PP Mayor Ramón Ortiz, the crews will clean up the beaches lining the Malecón and create a series of traps on the more than 20 creeks and waterways that drain into the beach area so that any trash carried by these waters can be more easily picked up and will not end up on the beach.

Two more pilots caught with contraband at Las Americas
Hoy newspaper reported that Customs security agents detained two pilots of an international airline at the Las Americas International Airport with carry on luggage full of cellular phones. The cellular phones supposedly would be sold to stores in the DR. The news story says that the airport authorities believe the pilots regularly transported cellulars to the country. These two bring to four the number of pilots or fake pilots caught at Las Americas trying to introduce contraband.
Last week authorities at Las Americas International Airport arrested a 44-year old US citizen who dressed as a US commercial airline pilot was trying to introduce a contraband of jewelry into the DR. The contraband was in his hand luggage. He was deported on the next plane out. During questioning he said he had been transporting merchandise to the DR successfully for the past six months. The jewelry would be sold in Santo Domingo to different stores.
As a result, Customs increased security at the airport detecting in less than 24 hours another fake pilot contraband operation. This time, a former pilot of Dominicana Airlines was caught trying to introduce a contraband of cellular phones and accessories valued at RD$176,000. According to a report in El Siglo, Carlos García Espino arrived on American Airlines flight AA423 attired as a pilot. García observed the stepped-up security at the airport and returned to the airplane to change into civilian clothes. He later remained hidden in the terminal for several minutes. All this was being observed by airport authorities. After arrested he told the authorities he was paid US$1,000 for each trip and that the merchandise was for Electro-Compus. Offenders caught for contraband are not taken to jail, but most pay heavy fines.
As a consequence of the detected contraband cases, now all carry-on luggage of airline crews is being checked.

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