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Daily News - Wednesday, 10 September 2008

New cedulas in November
The Central Electoral Board announced the start of renewals for the identity and voting card (cedula) as of 3 November. 6.1 million citizens need to obtain the new "cedulas" in order to vote. The new IDs will contain digital fingerprints and other biometric information, a photograph and signature. The deadline for renewing the IDs is 30 September 2009. The voting card would be used for the first time in the 2010 mid-term congressional and municipal elections. The JCE said the cards could be renewed at civil registry offices, and other JCE offices nationwide and abroad, but also at other government offices, shopping malls and universities.
The JCE also said it is studying implementing electronic voting in 2010.

Doing Business 2009
The Dominican Republic has placed among the top Doing Business reformers, according to a report by the World Bank. Nevertheless, the DR is ranked 97th of 181 countries, including 32 in Latin America and the Caribbean, showing there is room for much more improvement. Data in the Doing Business 2009 report is current to 1 June 2008.
The DR improved its ranking from 110th for the previous 12 month period.
Doing Business ranks economies based on 10 indicators of business regulation that record the time and cost to meet government requirements in starting and operating a business, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business. This year's report ranked 181 economies and reported on reforms in 113 of those economies. The rankings do not reflect such areas as macroeconomic policy, quality of infrastructure, currency volatility, investor perceptions, or crime rates.
See the full report at http://www.doingbusiness.org/Documents/...
http://www.doingbusiness.org/ExploreEconomies/...
http://www.doingbusiness.org/economyrankings/
http://www.doingbusiness.org/Features/Feature-2008-21.aspx

AIRD calls for electricity efficiency
The Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic proposes that the government make major changes in its focus on the electricity sector. The AIRD says that government intervention in the sector has failed. AIRD indicates that the electricity market now is a major source of losses for the state, has contributed to an increase in political patronage and there has been a worsening of the electricity deficit. In a written statement, Manuel Diez Cabral, president of the AIRD, recommends the government limit itself to its regulatory role through the Superintendence of Electricity. He also points out that the Corporation of State Electrical Companies (CDEEE) should no longer be a part of the market, nor take on a quasi-monopoly role. He recommends that the power distributors (EdeNorte and EdeSur) return to private hands, arguing that being 100% government-owned opens them to patronage, and stimulates inefficiency and an increase in costs.
"The authorities have insisted on state intervention but this not only mortgages the viability of the electricity sector, but also employs enormous funds that are poured into non-lasting solutions, such as the growing electricity subsidy and the signing of new agreements with some generators under conditions that are not favorable to consumers," said Diez Cabral.
He urges a return to the integral solution of the sector and reforms that were begun nine years ago, but abandoned because of the politicization of the sector.
"We aspire that once and for all the technical electricity tariffs as ordered in the General Electricity Law be implemented, so that this can make transparent the real costs of the system and we can arrive at a rate that we consumers can understand better," said Diez Cabral.
"Distributors need to be obliged to become efficient in a reasonable term, with goals for the gradual dismounting of the subsidy that they receive," he pointed out. He said that it has been easier for the distributors to just await the bulk sums furnished by the government in the form of the subsidy than to fulfill their responsibility to collect from the clients.

Focus on drugs and security
President Leonel Fernandez met for three hours at the Presidential Palace with members of the National Council for Democratic Security and agreed to re-launch the Safe Barrio Program and support a reform to the Law on Drugs 50-88 that dates back 20 years. Present at the meeting were Secretary of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio, Aristipo Vidal of the Presidential Commission for Barrio Development, Interior & Police Minister Franklin Almeyda, Presidential advisor on drug matters Marino Vinicio Castillo, attorney general Radhames Jimenez and the president of the National Council of Drugs, Mabel Feliz Baez. Also Secretary of the Armed Forces Lieutenant General Pedro Pena Antonio, Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, National Investigations Department director Major General Ramon Antonio Aquino Garcia, director of the National Drug Control Department Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez.

General sues Senator Guerrero
Former Peravia police commander, General Hilario Gonzalez has sued Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero for defamation. Gonzalez is asking for a year in prison sentence and RD$50 million in indemnity. Furthermore, General Gonzalez denies that he was a "compadre" to attorney general Radhames Jimenez (meaning he was the godfather of a child of Jimenez). The General defends his 39 years in the police force.
The senator publicly denounced that Gonzalez profited from protecting drug dealers in the area following the murder of seven supposed drug dealers in Paya, Bani. Reportedly, there was a lot of cash and 1,200 kilos of cocaine at the property where the seven were killed. President Leonel Fernandez appointed a high-level commission to investigate the murders.
Senator Guerrero has questioned the origins of the fortune of Gonzalez. He says he is not afraid and that the lawsuit is an opportunity for him to expose more on illicit acts by Gonzalez. The suit was received at the Supreme Court of Justice because the senator has privileged legal jurisdiction.
"If he sues me then I have the opportunity to tell the country what kind of 'scum' (granuja) he is, and if the governor does the same, then I will have the opportunity to tell things that I have not yet said," he told Hoy. Guerrero, in the Senate, accused General Gonzalez, and Peravia Governor Bienvenido Montero of being part of a threesome with the district prosecutor that facilitated drug operations in the province.
Guerrero was interviewed by Hoy after meeting with environmental prosecutor, Andres Chalas, regarding the illegal cutting of forests in an area near the Valdesia Dam in Peravia. Guerrero said that the land was purchased by Governor Bienvenido Montero for below market price.
Senator Wilton Guerrero suggested that General Hilario Gonzalez used police subordinates to protect eight Dominican-Yorks that operated and directed drug trafficking rings in Bani. The legislator said that the criminals were lucky, because the policemen also cared for their farms while Gonzalez was in charge of the police in Peravia, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.
He said that three of the Dominican-Yorks were in charge of the monthly meal budget for all of the policemen in Bani.
He said that Gonzalez has placed the suit because he has high-up protectors in government. As reported in El Nuevo Diario and the Listin Diario, Guerrero said that Gonzalez does not believe in Dominican justice. He questioned what justice can General Hilario Gonzalez believe in when he took a son that had been arrested in possession of drugs with him to place the defamation suit in the Supreme Court. His son, Hilario Radhames Gonzalez Diaz, at the time a police sargeant,was released after being arrested with 20 kilos of cocaine at JFKennedy airport in 2004, and he was retired at his own request from the Dominican police with no mark against his record, while others without influence are publicly dishonorably discharged by the police, said Guerrero. He said anyone can go to the attorney general office and they will not find any file against Hilario Radhames Gonzalez Diaz. At the time Hilario Gonzalez, his father, was a colonel in the police.

Guerrero focuses on Jimenez Pena
Senator Wilton Guerrero says that if the PLD Political Committee is going to meet to hear his claims against General Hilario Gonzalez, then attorney general Radhames Jimenez Pena should be present. He has accused Jimenez Pena of not investigating his earlier drug dealer claims in Bani and ignoring documentation he presented two years ago on the situation, as reported in the Listin Diario.
Guerrero attributed responsibility to attorney general Radhames Jimenez Pena for omissions in the case of the massacre in Bani of seven suspected drug dealers.
Furthermore, Senator Wilton Guerrero says he has identified those who have offered a bounty of RD$10 million for his life. He fears for his life after he denounced that authorities are accomplices to drug dealers. He said he will deliver this information in person to President Leonel Fernandez as he does not trust other officers.

Son of Barahona senator is suspect
Martin Sterling, son of senator for Barahona Noe Sterling Vasquez is under investigation for his possible participation in the massacre of seven suspected drug dealers in Paya, Bani, Peravia province. The Police located his number as one of numbers for recent calls found on the cell phones of the massacred during the police probe. As reported in Diario Libre, Senator Noe Sterling himself personally delivered his son to the investigatory commission for questioning, after requests were made by the commission, according to a police source.

Disaster in San Jose de Ocoa
The rich farmlands of San Jose de Ocoa seem to be of the most affected by Yaque del Sur River flooding due to intense rains that accompanied Hurricane Ike. While Ike did not strike the DR, it did bring intense rains that dumped too much water on already saturated land. The Senate approved yesterday a request to declare the southwestern province a disaster area. Agriculture was affected, electricity service cut, houses, bridges, and several communities isolated. The bridge that connects Ocoa and Constanza was damaged, and parts of the road collapsed, impeding the transport of farm produce such as peppers, carrots, potatoes and cabbage, as reported in the Listin Diario.

Bauxite export affected
Sources in Barahona said that RD$10 million in warehoused bauxite ready for export was lost due to the intense rains that fell in the area. The bauxite was at the port ready for export. The port structure itself suffered damages of RD$25 million, and Urides Dotel, spokesman for the Sierra Bauxita Company that extracts and exports the bauxite, said that several weeks will be needed to repair the port facilities.
Barahona has been one of the areas most affected by the rainstorms brought by Ike. There are reports of flooding in Canoa, Penon, Cbral, Jaquimeyes, Cristobal, La Hoya, Hato Viejo, and Pescaderia.

Johnny Ventura, new ambassador
President Leonel Fernandez yesterday appointed merengue legend Johnny Ventura to be ambassador for cultural affairs, assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The appointment comes at a time when Ventura is in the news for his signing of a city hall guarantee for the RD$400 million loan used for the purchase of 432 minibuses for Fenatrano public transport union when he was mayor of Santo Domingo (2001). The guarantee was also confirmed by then President Hipolito Mejia. Several of the transporters have become delinquent on their payments, and now the Banco de Reservas is executing the guarantee. Ventura, a long time PRD party member, this year announced he was switching to the PLD and campaigned for President Leonel Fernandez. The decision by the Banco de Reservas to execute the guarantee is affecting the cash flow of the Santo Domingo municipality.

Alvarez Renta's health improves
The director of prisons, Manuel de Jesus Perez Sanchez said that in four or five days convicted financial advisor Luis Alvarez Renta is expected back at Najayo Jail where he is serving a 10-year sentence for his involvement in the Baninter bank fraud case. He was hospitalized at Corazones Unidos. Perez Sanchez said the psychiatrist of Vivian Lubrano de Castillo, another person sentenced in the case, still alleges his patient needs to be interned at the Abel Gonzalez Advanced Medical Center. She was hospitalized for a panic attack.

Villa Altagracia mayor goes mad?
What's going through the head of Pedro Peralta, mayor of Villa Altagracia? News reports indicate that he has dumped city garbage anywhere he pleases, and when stopped from doing that, he dumped it right on the Duarte Highway, impeding traffic on Monday and Tuesday. Then he dumped it on the private property of the Consorcio Citricos Dominicanos, the Rica brand orange juice company. Yesterday, trucks from the city blocked the Duarte highway demanding that Consorcio Citricos Dominicanos hand over property for the municipal dump for Villa Altagracia. The director of Environmental Affairs for the Villa Altagracia Bienvenido Arias said that the mayor is irrational. He said the mayor could be sent to court for dumping garbage in the Haina River and on the plantations of the Consorcio Citricos Dominicanos. He said the mayor has to find an adequate place for the garbage dumping. Consorcio Citricos Dominicanos has a lease on State Sugar Council government lands in the area.

Fashion Week announced
Dominicana Moda 2008 will be back this coming 13-18 October at the Hotel Embajador. Socrates McKinney, director of the event, highlights that along with the fashion exhibitions, this year 25 companies will show their wares, including designs, clothing and accessories. Twenty-three fashion exhibits are planned for the six day event that will be televised by Telesistema, Channel 11. Coming from abroad for the event are Dominican designers Sully Bonnelly, Miguelina and Lucia Rodriguez. From Colombia, Leonisa and Rocio Martinez will participate. From Ecuador, men's fashion designer Diego Pena will make an appearance. And Argentina's Maria Prior will participate. Also participating will be Arcadio Diaz and Ana Montan. Dominican designers that are booked for the event are: Gutierrez-Marcano, Robert Flores, Cynthia Avelino, Carla Carbonell, Jacqueline Then, Adela Dore, Laura Guerrero, Carlos de Moya, Larissa Salcedo, Marisol Henriquez, Belkola, Carla Riggs, Linda Javier, Veronica Lora, Luis Dominguez, Giannina Azar, Hipolito Pena, Marite Cabrera, among others.
For other coming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar/
 
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