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Daily News - 07 October 1999

President Fernández to speak today
President Leonel Fernández is expected to address the nation tonight on the effects the increase of petroleum prices has on the Dominican economy. A restructuring of local fuel prices is expected to be announced. The Listín Diario said the President will speak at 8 pm from the National Palace. His speech will be telecast by Channel 4 and Channel 5.

President Fernández gets good ratings
Three years into his government, President Fernández's ratings are high. The Listín Diario/Sigma Dos poll indicates that 47.1% of every 100 Dominicans rate President Fernández's performance as "good" or "very good." 22.9% said it has been "neither good nor bad". And 29.3% say it has been "bad".
The poll was carried out 15-20 September and 1,200 persons of voting age were interviewed throughout the nation.
The Sigma Dos poll shows that 42.4% of the population feels that things have gotten better during his government, with 37% thinking their situation has worsened, and 19% saying things have stayed the same.
44% responded that during the first three years of the Fernández government the country has progressed more than during previous governments. The government's ratings are highest in Santo Domingo and the East.
Another poll carried out by Hoy newspaper/Hamilton Beattie & Staff, from 17-22 September, showed 45% of the 1,000 persons interviewed felt that President Fernández had done a "good government."
According to the Listín Diario/Sigma Dos poll, the areas where Dominicans feel that there has been the most progress are international relations, education, public transport, and public health.
Weak points of the government are the economic situation and job situation.
Main concerns of Dominicans are the citizen safety and electricity. Dominicans have seen an increase in crime and a return of the blackouts with privatization. The Fernández CDE had practically made blackouts a matter of the past. Now the private companies say they are repairing the lines which have resulted in long blackouts all throughout the nation.
The Sigma Dos poll shows there is optimism among the population. 49% trust there are many possibilities for progress, 46% have little hope.

More poll results
The Hoy/Hamilton, Beattie & Staff poll shows that 68% of Dominicans feel privatization of government enterprises has not been a good thing. Only 24% see it as a positive. The same poll also shows that only 34% of voters trust the work of the present Central Electoral Junta, that is in charge of organizing the year 2000 presidential election. 43% say they trust them a little, and 8% say they have no trust in the institution.

Improving the National Police force
People are talking about the National Police, and the need to reform it. District Attorney Francisco Brito Dominguez feels a new police force should be created, eradicating the military hierarchy within the force, and in their place creating inspectors and directors as department heads. The new police would be more community-oriented. Onofre Rojas, executive secretary of the Commission for the Reform and Modernization of the State, said that the purge, professionalizing and substantial improvement of the Police's human resources cannot be accomplished in a short time. He explained there is a culture that needs to be changed, and this needs time. The government established a committee to modernize the police force, made up by the Chief of the Police, the District Attorney's Office, the General Attorney, the Armed Forces, Dialogue House, and other institutions. Already, they have created the new Police Institute of Superior Education, that has been assisted by several international organizations.
Aura Celeste Fernández, Commissioner for the Reform and Modernizing of the Judiciary, and one of the most respected women in the DR, concurs with Attorney General Cesar Pina Toribio that an in depth cleaning up is necessary with the police. The Police has admitted that 15 officers have been involved in cases of murder, assault, drug trafficking and others. She praised the work of present chief of the Police General Pedro de Jesus Candelier (he comes from the Armed Forces not the Police), and mentioned his efforts to confront police involvement in jail mafias. She mentioned he has had to confront inadequate behavior of the high and low ranks. She favors sending delinquent police to civil justice.

Congress studies airport privatization contracts
The National Congress told the press that it is advancing on the passing of the privatization of the nation's principal airports. Aerodom won the bid for the privatization of the Las Americas (Santo Domingo), Gregorio Luperón (Puerto Plata), Arroyo Barril (Samaná) and María Montez (Barahona) airports. When a controversy arose over whether the contracts were in the best interest of the nation, the Commission for the Reform of Private Enterprise (CREP) sent the contracts to Congress for their information, and now Congress is studying the articles to reach an agreement with representatives of Aerodom. Subsequently, the revised contract will be returned to the Executive Branch so it can be resubmitted for approval. Several modifications have already been made. And more meetings are scheduled.

Congress passes intellectual property agreement
The Chamber of Deputies says it has passed the agreement signed with the World Intellectual Property Organization, dating back to 14 July 1967 and modified on 28 September 1979. The Senate has already approved the agreement. Once the agreement is ratified, the DR will become a member with full rights in the organization that promotes intellectual property rights.

Haitian children dilemma
Deputy Pelegrín Castillo said the Catholic Church proposal to award Dominican nationality to all children of Haitians born in the DR is absurd. He said if the DR would do so it would be indicating to the international community that the country is able to take upon itself Haiti's poverty. He says that the international community has washed its hands from the Haitian problems, while the DR suffers from being peacefully invaded by thousands of Haitians seeking to make a living. While the Haitians are cheap labor, their indigence places a heavy burden on social services (primarily public health and public education), increases deforestation and increases poverty in the DR in general.
Castillo complained that the Haitian government does little to resolve the Dominican problem because the migration of Haitians to the DR is in a way a solution to Haitian problems. More so, he says time is on the hand of the Haitians.
The Dominican Constitution specifically states that children born in the DR of diplomats or parents in transit (such as are illegal Haitians) are not Dominicans. The Haitian Constitution states that all children born of a Haitian parent, regardless of where they are born, are Haitian.
Many parents of the children don't even have legal Haitian documents themselves. Meanwhile, as time passes more people are involved, and the problem could be a three generation one soon. Making matters worse, the third generation will have no ties whatsoever to Haiti.
Aside from the humanitarian aspects, the matter is of political importance, too. Several politicians argue that if Dominican nationality is granted to the Haitians, then at some point in the not too far future they will decide who governs the DR.
While this debate is going on, the Haitian and Dominican Bilateral Commission is meeting in Santo Domingo. The migration issue is one of the most difficult being debated.

Xmas bonus and vacation for house workers
The Senate has legislated to modify the Labor Code to include a provision which makes it obligatory for employers to give a 15-day vacation and full months salary bonus at Christmas time to maids and house help. This has been a general practice in many households that can afford to do so, but may have a boomerang effect for maids and house help in homes where the employers may have a hard time at making the payments. The Labor Code does not grant protection to jobs of maids and house help, and these can be fired at any time without severance payments being made.

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