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Daily News - Friday, 01 August 2008

Fernandez in Colombia
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to Cartagena, Colombia today to attend the Regional Summit on International Drug Problems. Also expected to attend are the Presidents of Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will open the anti-drug summit. Then the participants will meet to discuss key issues related to the international drug trade. The summit will close at noon followed by a luncheon. Fernandez is expected to be back later today.

Business: don't touch CB money
Business sectors are expressing concern that the Fernandez Administration seeks to reduce funds allotted to recapitalize the Central Bank and pay interest on certificates of deposit, as per a bill sent to Congress. The complementary budget bill calls for the approval of an increase in the Central Government deficit to the tune of RD$20.76 billion.
As reported in El Caribe, in the 2008 National Budget RD$9 billion were allotted to make interest payments on the certificates that are part of the quasi-fiscal deficit. But in the bill the Executive Branch sent to the Senate on Wednesday, the government is requesting permission to reduce the payments by RD$5.05 billion, or 56%.
Former Central Bank governor Carlos Despradel, former president of the Council of Business (Conep) and Pablo Piantini, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (Anje) concur to maintain macroeconomic stability, the government would be better off reducing administrative spending, such as money used for government advertising campaigns that do not help the economy.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says they are just postponing the payment. "We are before a profound situation of imported crisis, that obliges the authorities to postpone the disbursement of the RD$5.05 billion to the Central Bank for the remainder of the year." The government attributes the deficit to rising international costs, but local sectors say the deficit would be manageable if the government had not overspent into the 2008 presidential election, especially because the Department of Taxes (DGII) is expected to post a surplus of RD$17 billion this year.

CNSS extends coverage
The National Social Security Council (CNSS) is extending their coverage and will allow single persons between the ages of 18 and 21 to be covered under their parents' health plan even if they are not in school, as long as they are financially dependent on the parents. The measure is part of resolution 184-05 that stipulates that those children will be considered part of the family nucleus and can be considered dependents.

Credit card extra is illegal
Carmen Natividad Melendez, director of the new National Institute for the Protection of Consumer Rights (Pro Consumidor) warned the National Association of Gasoline Retailers (Anadegas) that Art. 87 of Law 358-05 on the Protection of Consumer Rights prohibits businesses from charging consumers extra for the use of their credit cards. Juan Ignacio Espaillat, president of Anadegas, recently said the stations would levy a charge on those paying with the cards, so they could compensate for their rising costs. Melendez urged consumers to dispute the charge. "Anadegas cannot charge consumers extra for paying with their credit cards, and more so because the price of the product they sell, in this case gasoline, is regulated by the state," she said.

Spanish VP coming
Spanish Vice President Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega is expected Friday, 8 August in Santo Domingo, the third stop of a 12-day tour of Latin America. She will visit the Mexico, Haiti, the DR and El Salvador. It is the VP's fourth official trip to the region.
The goal of her trip is to strengthen Spanish ties in the region. In the DR, she is expected to meet with President Leonel Fernandez to discuss the EU's new immigration policy, amongst other things. In addition to being First Vice President of the Spanish government, she also is Minister of the President's Office and Spokesperson of the Government.

No tolls for you
Public Works Minister Victor Rua Diaz said that the government will not allow Concesionaria Dominicana de Autopistas y Carreteras (Codacsa) to keep collecting the tolls on the La Romana-Santo Domingo highway. He said he would not allow a group of foreigners "to live off of the DR's money". Rua Diaz's comments are in response to CODACSA's announcement yesterday that they would sue the Dominican government, in a Parisian court, because it didn't fulfill its contractual obligations. The Minister said CODACSA is trying to swindle the government. He also said they lied to the Senate when they approved CODACSA's contract to build the highway. The contract to build the highway was agreed upon in 2002 and began in 2003 with an expected cost of RD$4 billion. The project would have three tollbooths and the investment would have been recovered in tollbooth revenues over 30 years. According to Public Works, only 30%, or 17 kilometers of the road have been built.

JCE suspends cedulas
The Central Electoral Board is suspending the cedulas of baseball prospects Angel Luis Joseph (son of undocumented Haitian parents) and Eduard Starlin after alterations in their birth certificates were detected. Both prospects obtained their cedula identity cards irregularly. There is the concern there may be other baseball prospects that have altered their data to appear younger and be signed by an MLB ball club.
Not long ago, Houston Astros player Miguel Tejada admitted to being older than listed in official records and explained that he lied because he was already older than the average age for MLB prospects.
Judge Roberto Rosario said both have legal options to regularize their status. He said that the JCE has received lots of international pressure to issue the IDs to the youths as is so they can sign their baseball contracts, when there has not been anywhere near that support for the plight of 100,000 Dominicans that do not have ID cards.

Doctors back at it
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) announced it has once again suspended talks with the government and will call for a general strike of public hospital physicians on 14 August followed by a protest on 16 August, the day President Leonel Fernandez is inaugurated for his third term in office. CMD director Waldo Ariel Suero says doctors will restart their fight for what they consider are fair wages. The CMD had taken a break from its practice of calling doctors to strike in order to hear government proposals. Since February, the CMD has been asking for a RD$30,000 wage increase and better treatment by the government. Many strikes were held before the 16 May elections as a way to pressure the government into a new agreement. That didn't work. The government has continuously made offers to the CMD, but no offer has been satisfactory. Last week President Fernandez announced a 15% increase in salaries for all public employees, which includes doctors.

Basic education in a crisis
Celso Marranzini, president of the pro elementary education organization, Action for Basic Education (Educa) says the nation's educational system should be declared in a state of crisis, mainly because of its low quality. He said that while more children are going to school, quality has remained low. Marranzini based his comments on findings presented at the Second Comparative Regional Study released recently in Chile by the Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluacion de la Calidad de la Educacion that focuses on the quality of education in Latin America. The study was partly funded by UNESCO. 15 countries were evaluated, including the DR.
The DR was ranked last in learning. In third grade math, for example, the DR ranked last, while the percentages were abysmal. While Cuba was a tops on the list with 54%, learning rate for third grade students in the DR registers a mark of 0.13%, far behind Nicaragua, 1.9% and Peru, 4.77%. In reading, the DR also scored low. The county registered 0.52% reading rates while Cuba had 44% and Costa Rica had 18.22%.
Marranzini calls for changes in the why education is structured in the DR and the insufficient funding it receives. Marranzini says the hours of instruction are too short. Reports have shown public school children receive on average 2-1/2 hours of instruction a day. He explained that while classes should start at 8am, this rarely happens because neither the kids nor the teachers arrive on time. He also added that things like the flag ceremonies add distractions and take away from school time.

Social sector at a disadvantage
The DR's social sector is at a disadvantage, according to a report released by the Juan Montalvo Social Studies Center. According to the report, Observatorio de Politicas Sociales, the percentage of the budget allotted to the social sector dropped from 39.9% to 37.7% this year. The trend has been for less spending on education, health and drinking water.
The report indicates that 42% of the Dominican population lives in poverty. According to the report, the government routinely cuts short the social budget, reducing the scope and range of social programs throughout the year.
The report also indicates that the country has seen an increase in the GDP in the last few years but a decrease in the amount of social aid and a subsequent increase in poverty. The report indicates that between 2000 and 2005, 10% of the population controlled 38% of the nation's wealth.
The Juan Montalvo Center also criticizes that the government is placing too much emphasis on the Solidarity Card welfare program to solve poverty issues. The report points out that the program assumes there are schools to send the children, efficient health centers. He mentioned there is a deficit of classrooms in the barrios of Domingo Savio and La Zurza. He said in Domingo Savio, there is only one high school, installed by Fe y Alegria, a charity organization, despite the barrio having a population of 45,000, most of which are youths.

Weather clamps down AILA
Torrential rains forced the International Airport of Las Americas (AILA) to close landing and departure operations yesterday from 3:35 to 5pm, as reported in Diario Libre. Several flights had to be rerouted to Punta Cana, Santiago and Puerto Plata international airports due to low visibility. The Listin reports that flight AA1520 from NY was detoured to Puerto Plata, while flight IB6501 from Spain was sent to Punta Cana. American Eagle flights 5039 and Jet Blue's 781 flight had to land in Santiago.
The Weather Department explains the tropical wave will pass over the DR today, but rains are forecast to continue through Saturday.

Killers go to jail
The First Courts of Santo Domingo sentenced retired police lieutenant Emil Reyes and Guillermo Antonio de los Santos to 30 years in prison for the murder of Air Force Major General Jose Manuel Herran Mancebo. Colonel Pablo Leonel Velazquez Taveras, the mastermind of the crime, received 20 years in jail for his role in the murder. The judge ordered the men to jail immediately and ordered Reyes and de los Santos to pay RD$15 million to Herran's widow, Maybe Alejandrina Guerra. Herran Mancebo was ambushed on 29 December 2005 while he was on his way to the San Isidro Air force Base. The assailants escaped on a Yamaha RX-115 motorbike. Listin Diario reported in 2006 that Emil Reyes admitted, in a tapped phone conversation, to killing Herran on the orders of Velazquez and that the murder was over a romantic relationship.
The Second Penal Court of Santo Domingo also sentenced to 30 years in prison four of the seven accused in the murder of school teacher Vilma Milagros Nunez Martinez. Ramon Guzman Corporan, Jose Lorenzo Perello Corporan, Ricardo Miguel Dilone D'Aza and David Rodriguez Pena were found guilty. In the same decision, Alexander Carmona Angomas received 20 years in jail, and Fausto Ortega Ortiz was ordered to spend 15 years in jail. Nunez was murdered on 20 May 1999.

Legal Advisor office goes digital
The Executive Branch's Legal Advisor office has placed all of the nation's laws, decrees, regulations, resolutions and judicial documents, since 1844, online as part of the "Online Access to the Presidential Judicial Archive" program. Cesar Pina Toribio, legal advisor to the President, says at the moment there are 223,850 documents online with 1.5 million total pages. Of these 136,075 are decrees, 11,988 laws, 6660 regulations, 78,457 resolutions, and 970 documents of different types.

Crime on the decline
The DR is still the safest nation in Latin America, according to Celso Marranzini, president of the Business Council for Crime Prevention (CONEPREC), which is part of the National Business Council (CONEP). Marranzini says that levels of crime, theft and hold ups have decreased. Marranzini applauded the work of the National Police, but said that the state prosecutors and courts are lenient towards criminals. He added that many times the police do their job, but the lawyers are able to present cases and secure the release of the criminals with the complacency of the judiciary.

Can't dodge this time
Will former Yankees manager Joe Torres nemesis, Manny Ramirez now become his ace? With the trade of Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, the team may get that chance to ride with him to a World Championship. MLB.com points out today that "Torres knows firsthand the type of player Ramirez is after his Yankees played Ramirez's Red Sox 18 or 19 times a season, not to mention their many playoff battles over the years."
The Boston pulled off the trade at the deadline yesterday that ships the perennial All-Star Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The move marks the end of an era in Red Sox nation. In a three-team trade the Red Sox will get Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay while the Pittsburgh Pirates get Andy La Roche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen and Class A right hand pitcher Bryan Morris. The Sox will also have to pay the remaining US$7 million of Ramirez's 2007 contract.
Still, Ramirez will be remembered as one of Red Sox Nation's most beloved players and one of best hitters to wear the Red Sox uniform in the team's 107-year history. For his career in Boston, he was fifth in team history with 274 homers, sixth with 868 RBIs and ninth with a .312 average.
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