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Daily News - Tuesday, 01 May 2007

Court orders transparency in metro case
Lawyers at the Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) will study the judgment issued by the Disputes, Taxation and Administrative Tribunal on Friday, which ordered them to present journalist Luis Eduardo Lora (Huchi) with documents detailing plans and geological studies for the Santo Domingo Metro. Lora took OPRET director Diandino Pena and the Presidency to court on 13 February demanding the information. Diandino Pena said that once lawyers receive the ruling it would be studied in order to determine if it is line with the law. Pena's initial reaction was that the judgment was aimed at damaging the metro and the government.
Nevertheless, a Monday press release from OPRET that was distributed from the Presidential Palace indicated that OPRET would supply all the information requested about the metro construction.
An editorial in Monday's Listin Diario comments that the judgment is a first success for the Dominican freedom of information act (Law 200-04), observing that "until now journalists had to stand by and watch how the law was met by the veil of impunity and indifference from government officials".
"It was high time that the Free Access to Public Information Law was recognized and respected, with a judgment that is more than fair and sends a clear message to society: as of now, it is a law that will be applied whether they like it or not, that is, defeating the resistance, negative or suspicious attitude of many government officials to providing the information that the public has a legitimate right to know".
Lora said he would be at the OPRET offices today (Tuesday) in order to pick up the Metro plans and studies, "because the judgment says that OPRET needs to deliver the requested documents immediately."
In an interview with Diario Libre, Lora described the judgment as "historic, and a judgment in favor of transparency and democracy." "It is a blow against secrecy, the darkness with which the state has traditionally handled itself. Governments believe they are the owners of power, and that citizens only exist to vote for them and pay taxes, as they do not recognize that citizens have the right to demand accountability. This sets a precedent that will allow society to take a quantum leap; it is one of the most important things that has happened here."
"I believe that from the moment the court issued that judgment, this society changed because it has implemented this law that not only gives journalists the right to ask questions, but allows anyone to ask the government to be accountable, and ask what is done with public money," commented Lora.
The historic judgment was delivered by judges Sara Henriquez, Yadira de Moya, Judith Contreras, Julian Henriquez and Federico Fernandez. It establishes that OPRET needs to pay RD$5,000 for each day that it delays handing over the information.

Family Insurance (SFS)
The Seguro Familiar de Salud (SFS) begins today but several press reports indicate that the SFS still has no agreement in place with doctors or with the companies that are providing services for the Plan, which is due to go into full swing on 1 July. The National Social Security Council (CNSS) has an official meeting scheduled for today where they will begin invoicing payments for the new insurance policy, equivalent to 8.6% of worker's salaries, of which 6.2% will be provided by employers and 2.58 will be provided by employees. As of today the authorities have a 30-day period to come up with "satisfactory" agreements with the service providers (doctors, nurses, laboratories), including 236 private clinics that will serve as Primary Care Centers (CAP) to resolve the remaining issues with the Plan. According to statistics from the Dominican Social Security System, 13% of workers have private insurance, 6.5% are insured under the Dominican Social Insurance Institute (IDSS), and 2% are insured under the Armed Forces insurance. Through the new system, four million poor and very poor Dominicans will be entitled to services at any of the country's 156 state hospitals.

Fernandez meets Japanese delegation
President Leonel Fernandez held a meeting with a Japanese delegation of public officials yesterday. Among the officials present was Japanese Chamber of Representatives member Yoshinori Ohno as well as ambassador Nobutaka Shinomiya, Norio Sudo and other high-ranking officials. Fernandez and the delegation are reported to have discussed issues of mutual importance.

Fernandez ranked seventh in approval
In a study conducted by the Quito-based polling service Cedatos, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez is ranked seventh in terms of approval rating in comparison to other Latin American heads of state. Diario Libre writes that Ecuador's Rafael Correa has the highest approval rating with 76%, while Paraguay's Nicanor Duarte has the region's lowest rating at only 33%.

Dona Chucha gets a break
One of the best-known orphanages in the country, Hogar de Ninas Dona Chucha got a break after Listin Diario reported their financial plight. Several government entities have since come forward. The National Lottery announced that it would provide a new monthly RD$80,000 subsidy to help the orphanage cover its costs. Presidency Administrative Secretary Luis Manuel Bonetti also said that the government would restore a subsidy that was suspended in a recent National Budget cut. The director of the government's essential drugs program Elena Fernandez said that they would consider opening a pharmacy at the orphanage if this meets the requirements. Listin Diario published a series of articles about the situation last week. Director Nieves Sierra had announced that as a last resort for regaining government support they were planning a hunger strike on 2 May.

Taiwanese may help train prisoners
Taiwanese ambassador Eduardo Cheng, quoted in Listin Diario, says that jails in the DR need to improve, as well as the penitentiary system as a whole. He continued by saying that an education system needs to be set up so that once young prisoners finish their sentences they don't fall back into the trap of crime. He says that living in jail in the most basic conditions leads many offenders to reject society.
Cheng also commented that he is ready to start a few projects in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture. Cheng says that he plans to meet with the Agriculture and Health ministries on 8 May to discuss the scope of possible projects.

French ambassador on investments
French ambassador to the DR Cecile Pozzo di Borgo has commended the DR's investment climate and says she is very pleased. Interviewed in Hoy, the ambassador was asked whether French investors had ever experienced problems with the judicial system or the investment process in the DR and she clarified that this has never come up. She says that the investment climate in the DR allows anyone who wants to invest in the country to do so without any problem. She said that French investors have never had the problems that others might have had. She commended the efforts by Dominican officials on this front.

DR's unemployment rate high
The DR, with 18% unemployment, has one of the highest rates in the region according to the Central American and Dominican Regional Labor Market Monitor. Within the population, the rate is highest among women and young people, especially in rural areas. This is in contrast to the rest of Latin America where the highest unemployment rates tend to be in urban areas. The DR has one of the highest female unemployment rates, with 29%. The study, printed in Hoy, shows that a total of 1.5 million people in Central America and the DR are unemployed and that the DR, along with Panama (with 10%) has the highest unemployment rates.

PLD still won't budge
With only four days left before the PLD primary election, the party's presidential pre-candidates have yet to reveal who contributed to their campaigns, as required by the Central Electoral Board (JCE). A press release from the JCE Administrative Chamber (AC) explains that disclosing the names of campaign contributors is an important part of fulfilling the law. The AC is asking the PLD candidates to submit their list. Although candidates have revealed the total amounts spent, the actual contributors have not been named.

Narcisazo case to be reopened
The case of disappeared writer and professor Narciso (Narcisazo) Gonzalez is being reopened. Gonzalez disappeared on 26 May 1994 and the statute of limitations on the case was due to expire tomorrow, forcing prosecutors to reopen the case. Prosecutor Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero made the announcement after he received the order from Attorney General Dr. Radhames Jimenez Pena. Hernandez said that investigations would begin with a group of 15 people who Gonzalez's relatives believe are responsible, including former Armed Forces Minister Ret. General Constantino Matos Villanueva, General Juan Bautista Rojas Tabar, and Ret. General Rafael Guerrero Peralta. The lawyer for Gonzalez's widow, Tomas Castro said that the choice to re-open the case was made by the legal authorities in conjunction with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Widow Altagracia Ramirez said that she hopes they find her husband's body so he can have a Christian burial.

The realities of sex tourism
The eastern Dominican Republic has become a center for sex tourism, and according to Diario Libre minors and teenagers are at the forefront of this illegal industry. Diario Libre writes that this is the case in Laguna de Nisibon in Higuey, and describes the alarming reality where some parents send their children to work in this business. Speaking on condition of anonymity a woman named "Maria" claimed that foreigners go to people's houses and discuss the price of their children's virginity over a cup of coffee.

Drug control agent murdered
In a case where drug traffickers are the prime suspects, Sergeant Fernando Vasquez Jorge was murdered as he was driving his Toyota Camry along Avenida Sol Poniente, at the intersection with Republica Colombia in Santo Domingo at 6pm on Sunday. He was accompanied by his sister, Natividad Rosario, who was seriously injured and taken to the Armed Forces hospital. Also with them was another sister, Cleotilde Rosario Vasquez, as well as his nine-year old daughter Johanna Maria Fernandez, eight-year old daughter Mairobi Vasquez, seven-year old son Anthony Vasquez, his 14-year old niece Joselyn Rosario Vasquez and one-year old baby Vanessa Cespedes. Reportedly, the main suspects in the murder of Sergeant Vasquez, a resident of the Simon Bolivar neighborhood, are drug traffickers that operate in that area.
The police are questioning an individual who showed up at the hospital with a bullet injury. One of Vasquez's sisters, using her brother's weapon, had fired at the two assailants who were riding a Yamaha RX 115 motorcycle.

Sammy needs just five
Texas Rangers' Sammy Sosa now only needs five more homeruns to get to the 600- career homerun mark after homering over the weekend. Sosa is batting .244 and has 20 RBI for the season.
Yankee killers Manny Ramirez and Ortiz both homered in the series finally against the rival New York Yankees. Boston's victory was the fifth in six games against the Yankees, and with this victory Boston consolidated its place in the A.L. East, with a 6.5-game lead against the last place Yankees.
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