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Daily News - Thursday, 24 July 2008

Taiwan President to visit
President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan will be in Santo Domingo for the inaugural of the second consecutive term of President Leonel Fernandez on 16 August. The DR is one of 23 diplomatic allies that recognize Taipei over Beijing. Taiwan keeps an embassy and China has a commercial office in Santo Domingo.

Fernandez submits bill
President Leonel Fernandez has submitted a bill to Congress that would regulate the sale of fireworks in the DR. The bill would limit the sale of fireworks to licensed companies and prohibit the sale to the general public and small-scale vendors. The bill also stipulates that the detonation and use of fireworks will be left solely up to pyrotechnic experts and firms who specialize in this. These firms must register with the Ministry of Interior and Police.
The bill proposes a penalty of between six months to two years for violators as well as a fine of 20 minimum salaries. The large number of accidents suffered by children motivates the bill.

Drugs: True catastrophe for DR
The narcotics advisor to the Presidency, lawyer Marino Vinicio "Vincho" Castillo says that the Dominican judicial system has not had either the courage or the honor to judge drug cases. As reported in Hoy, he added that political parties have also demonstrated indifference to the issue.
Castillo spoke during the inauguration ceremonies for the nation's strategic Drug Program 2008-2012. President Leonel Fernandez and many of the highest-ranking military officials were present.
Castillo then turned his criticisms to the US. Castillo says that the current Bush administration, contrary to the Clinton administration, has not shown solidarity in its logistical support to fight drug trafficking. "Today, the Caribbean is suffering from a very serious major negligence on behalf of the US that has concentrated its efforts on the Iraq war," he said.
According to Castillo, the trafficking and consumption of drugs is a "true catastrophe" for the DR. He said the DR doesn't have the proper framework to deal with the issue. He said that at all levels drug traffickers are treated with impunity and absolution.
Castillo's concerns echoe the comprehensive journalism report published in Hoy. Investigative reporters Minerva Isa and Eladio Pichardo explained that the increase in micro trafficking in the poorest neighborhoods is partly due to a lack of policies geared towards curving the problem. The journalists conclude that state policy is not coherent, systematic nor conscientious and thus so far has had minimal reach. The journalists explained how the National Anti Drug Plan 2000-2005, which was developed with the help of the Inter American Commission for the Drug Control and Abuse (CICAD), was ratified in 2000, months before the PRD took over, but the plan fell by the wayside. The journalists conclude the government is weak in the fight against drugs. The organization in charge of developing the policies, the National Drug Council (CND) has a limited budget but also lacks institutional support to carry out its duties. National Drug Control Department head Rafael Ramirez Ferreira says the pink elephant in the room is corruption and that the responsibility to fight drugs isn't just the government's. The journalists explain that the fight against drugs should be part of a broader plan consistent with cooperation and development models.

Montas defends government
Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, during his speech at the American Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, said that economists Carlos Despradel, Miguel Ceara Hatton and Isidoro Santana claims that the government lack's credibility are unfounded. Montas says that an example of credibility is the government's ability to maintain its Stand-by Agreement with the IMF for three years. He added that the government fulfilled all of its obligations with the IMF, including the Austerity Law, highlighting the fact that it was the first time in Dominican history that a government was able to fulfill IMF requirements three years in a row. The economists, speaking during an interview for Hoy, argued that that the government ignored the measures ordered in the 2006 Austerity Law, a decision they concluded has undermined the President's credibility.
During his speech at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon, economist Miguel Ceara-Hatton said it was vital that citizens empower themselves by participating in the democratic process and influence how social assistance programs are managed. Ceara-Hatton spoke on the findings of the "2008 United Nations Human Development Report" that once again confirmed that economic advances are not trickling down to the people. Ceara-Hatton urged that citizens empower themselves and ask for change. "The President has just announced a policy of austerity. We must ask him to give us numbers, how are you going to build this, how are we going to do that?," said Ceara-Hatton a strong advocate of accountability in government.
Former president of the National Council of Business, Celso Marranzini, also spoke at the meeting commenting that the UNDP report shows that economic development has outpaced human development. Marranzini says that the unequal distribution of wealth is to blame for this. "The inconsistencies of public policy, low quality of public education, and the levels of corruption are, in my opinion, the factors that distort the distribution of income and bring an increase in the levels of poverty." He cited examples of countries like Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru that have lower economic indicators but higher rankings in math and reading.

Eighteen new FTZs
The National Free Trade Zone Council (CNZFE) has approved 18 new businesses, a possible investment of RD$3.9 billion, that will begin operating soon. The companies could generate an estimated US$25.4 million in revenue and will create 2,282 new jobs. Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes announced that the private sector will invest RD$629 million in building two new free trade parks. The parks could generate US$1 billion in revenue and will create an additional estimated 14,765 new jobs. The announcements come at a time when the Dominican Free Zone Association is urging the government to maintain subsidies, support a revision of the labor laws, enforce free transport of cargo, in order to rescue the sector that has seen the loss of thousands of jobs due to competition from China.

Guatemala VP visits
During a a visit to the Presidential Palace, Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada called the Santo Domingo Metro project "extraordinary" and said that his government would be interested in learning from the Dominican transit reorganization experience. Espada met with President Leonel Fernandez yesterday at the Presidential Palace and with Metro officials to study the Dominican metro case.
During his meeting with President Leonel Fernandez, Espada also discussed details of the PetroCaribe oil financing agreement with Venezuela. Guatemala has asked to be part of PetroCaribe.
It was also announced that local goods manufactured in Dominican free trade zones are now part of the Dominican Preferential Export System and can enter Guatemala duty free. The announcement was made during a press conference with Espada and Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes.

No more untouchables
Lawyer Marisol Vicens Bello criticizes today the intervention of the President of the Republic in the Chevron conflict with the Association of Petroleum Transporters (ATP) and the Autonomous Syndicate of Petroleum Transporter Chauffeurs (SACTPA). She stresses that more than a conflict between two parties, what is on the table is whether a contract, the Constitution and court judgments will prevail versus the protection of individual interests.
She writes that the ATP and SACTPA seek to forcefully maintain their exclusive right to transport Texaco fuel. Three years ago, Chevron decided to seek more efficiency in the transport and choose what they consider their better options. Vicens writes that unvariably the attitude of the government has been to protect the interests of the transporters and chauffeurs above the contracts, the Constitution and the laws.
She highlights that this case could have been handled as a business conflict, and probably a definite solution would have been reached in the courts or with a negotiated solution between the parts. But, "the intervention of the authorities has delayed its solution, and the authorities have even requested that Chevron postpone their optimization plan to 2013."
"Aware that their claims would not be upheld by the correct application of law, the transporters and chauffeurs, under the protective blanket of their supposed unions, have decided to appeal to force and blackmail to impede that Chevron exercise its right to business," she writes in El Caribe.
Vicens commends Chevron for its stand of defending its rights in court. "And the court that ruled in their favor ordered the immediate cease of actions that are placing obstacles to the freedom of transit, freedom of doing business, trade or industry of Chevron." The ATP & SACTPA cartel had blockaded the Dominican Petroleum Refinery, impeding Chevron tankers to load fuel. A SACTPA spokesman even announced that they would not heed the court order.
Vicents criticizes that after this announcement, President Fernandez himself would intervene in the private conflict. She writes that he achieved, "not that the tankers comply with the judgment, but rather that they accept to provisionally halt their actions trusting in promises that the privileges would continue."
"With these facts before us, all citizens should demand the government cease protecting these untouchables, that are only defending their individual interests and have been allowed to be above law and justice, which is unthinkable in a state that pretends to be one of rule of the law."

AmCham behind Chevron & Caribe Tours
The American Chamber of Commerce directors addressed the present conflicts of Chevron and Caribe Tours as recent examples of how governments have allowed mafias to control transport in the DR. Christopher Paniagua, president of AmCham criticized that a person or group take the law in their own hands, and said this sends a negative signal regarding the state of rule of law in the country. He said that the state needs to defend not only for foreign investors, but Dominicans in general. Furthermore, former president of the National Council of Business, Celso Marranzini Perez said, "Unionized mafias have taken over the country. These groups are capable of paralyzing the country to seek their individual profit, never for the general good." Marranzini mentioned that the groups demand concessions, tax exemptions and financing that they never pay back and violate the laws with the indifference of the authorities. He also criticized that the government has allowed them to distribute among themselves all the transport routes. He mentioned the recent known case of them attempting to blackmail a government minister. The conflict has surfaced because this time, the transporters have not met with full complacency from the Ministry of Industry & Commerce and because Chevron has stood up for its rights and taken the case to the courts.
In another similar case against freedom in the transport business sector, Caribe Tours, a leader in inter-urban service that after securing all permits to transport passengers on the Santo Domingo, Santiago, Cap Haitien route has seen politics intervene and their right to the route declined. The Governor of Dajabon reacted and pressured the Transport Office (OTTT) to rescind the permit bending to pressures from mini-buses that transport passengers on the route. The owners of the mini-buses are concerned that the competition would affect their business.

US will cancel visas
Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge John Guliani says that any person found to be involved with fraud or forgery of civil registry documents could have their US visas canceled by the US Consulate in Santo Domingo. The JCE is currently studying fraud cases that have been denounced by the US, Swiss and Austrian embassies. Fifty of the forgeries were found in applications at the US consulate offices. The Spanish embassy has also reported cases of forgery.

JCE into real estate development
The latest scandal re government excessive spending touches on the Central Electoral Board, the government body in charge of the civil registry and organizing elections. As scooped by Diario Libre, the JCE is considering purchasing two city properties for RD$146.9 million to build a high rise and residential for employees and judges. The Commission for the Pension Plan, coordinated by Judge John Guiliani, seeks that the nine judges approve the purchase of a lot of 44,777.9 meters in Alameda neighborhood (Prolongacion 27 de Febrero Ave.) and a property on Avenida Romulo Betancourt, in Bella Vista neighborhood to be used for the construction of an apartment building. The construction would use part of the RD$700 million pension plan fund.

Lowering the standard for breakfast
Education Minister Alejandrina German has admitted that though the Ministry of Education contracts with milk suppliers stipulates that protein levels in the milk should be 3.3% or higher the Ministry doesn't adhere to this parameter. According to German, the suppliers are now following the lower protein level of 2.64% supposedly authorized by the Innovation in Biotechnology and Industry Institute. Hoy reports that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Fund (FAO) sets the minimum standard at 3.3%.
In related news, yesterday the Ministry of Education inaugurated six new schools in Santo Domingo that were built with an RD$193 million investment. The schools were built in the communities of Los Garcias, La Guayiga, Los Alcarizos, La Victoria, El Almirante and San Luis. German said that six new schools were part of the 73 schools that would be inaugurated between 2008 and 2009. The schools will serve a total of 5,000 children.
TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera had revealed that the company the Ministry awarded 40% of school breakfast drink supplies had protein levels much lower than even the 2.64% level now indicated by the Ministry as acceptable for the school breakfast drink. Piera earlier had published a report on the luxury vacation home the minister has built in Jarabacoa mountain recreational area.

No Parlacen slots for PRD
Senate President and PLD Secretary General Reinaldo Pared Perez rejects the PRD's suggestion that they be allotted 8 slots in the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN). The Senator said that the PRD did not adhere to that policy during the 2000-2004 PRD government and added that until PARLACEN changes its rules designations to PARLACEN will be at President Leonel Fernandez's discretion.

Polo wins gold
The under-18 national polo team won the gold medal at the Inter Island Swimming Championships, held in Kingston Jamaica. The Dominican team beat a strong group from Trinidad and Tobago. Anchored by the play of Jordi Bros, Lucas Estrellas and Paul Tejada, the Dominicans were able to earn victories over Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The team has dedicated the victory to President Leonel Fernandez and Sports Minister Jay Payano.

Thursday sales
El Nacional advertises a sale on wines and spirits with Blu Prosecco Colli Trevigiani for RD$279.95/75cl, Cava Jaume Serra Brut for RD$329.95/75cl, Vodka Grey Goose for RD$1,324.95/75cl, J&B Whisky for RD$449.95/75cl including a 330 bottle of Perrier, Gallo Wine Sierra Valley, Australia for RD$269.95/75cl, Pasquier Desvignes Chablis, France for RD$649.95/75cl, Barefoot White Zinfandel, 75cl for RD$299.95, Barcelo Cream Liquor for RD$479.95/70cl, among others. More sales in the meat and seafood department.
Pola Supermarket is advertising frozen chicken for RD$22.95lb, pork smoked spareribs for RD$74.95lb, chicken thights for RD$29.95lb, frozen chicken breasts for RD$54.95lb.
Caremax has a 50% sale on tires, batteries and lubricants.
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