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Daily News - Thursday, 18 September 2008

Fernandez to the US
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to the US on Sunday to address the 63rd United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, 24 September at around 11am. He is scheduled to hold a meeting that same day with US President George Bush and counterparts from Central American nations to evaluate the first year of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. Fernandez will also meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss regional security and drug trafficking.
Also on his agenda are meetings with the Presidents of Brazil and Colombia. During his visit to the UN, he will present a proposal for a resolution to create the Global Fund for Petroleum Security to benefit countries that do not produce petroleum. He is scheduled to return on the following weekend.

Preparing for constitutional reform
President Leonel Fernandez is to present his bill proposal for constitutional reform to Congress today. There is speculation that the ban on running for President more than twice consecutively will be maintained, and that the congressional and municipal elections will be merged with the presidential election. The reform proposal is the most comprehensive ever to be presented to Congress, according to initial reports. The ruling PLD party holds the majority in Congress, and 139 votes out of 178 are needed to pass the reform.

Clientelism to Chamber of Accounts
PRD secretary general Orlando Jorge Mera says that the President's suggested members for the Chamber of Accounts "reflects the clientelism resulting from the re-election pacts". Jorge Mera was speaking on the Rafael Molina Morillo morning talk show on 106.5FM. President Fernandez has presented a selection of 27 names, dominated by dissident politicians who backed his re-election aspirations. Dissident members of the PRSC party dominate the list.
The Chamber of Accounts' role is to audit government. The previous nine judges were dismissed and resigned in June after major irregularities were detected, and poor performance was found to be the norm. The nine judges receive one of the most attractive remuneration packages in the private and public sector.
The President's list includes Licelotte Marte de Barrios, Jose Heredia Corporan, Jose Nicolas Almanzar, Jorge Suncar, Ivan Rondon Sanchez, Pedro Ortiz, Pablo del Rosario, Jose Attias Juan and Juan Luis Seliman, among others. The term for the new judges would be through December 2010.

New ambassadors
Roland Dubertrand (France), Luis Carresse (Uruguay), Gregoire Laitan Houde (Benin) and Johannes Dahl-Hansen (Denmark) presented diplomat credentials to President Leonel Fernandez yesterday. Fernandez was accompanied by VP Rafael Alburquerque and Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso.
Dubertrand has served as ambassador to the DR in the past and has a Masters Degree in Public Law from the Bordeaux Law Studies Institute. Carresse is a career diplomat. Dahl-Hansen began his career in 1972 and served as Danish Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina between 2001 and 2006.

Ambassador to Malaysia
Dominican Ambassador Hans Dannenberg to Malaysia presented his credentials yesterday to King Kizan Zainal in Kuala Lumpur. He is the first Dominican ambassador to Malaysia. He presented his credentials together with the new ambassadors of Luxembourg, Bulgary, Germany, Czech Republic, Sudan and Canada. "Malaysia and the DR have much in common," said Dannenberg. He said there is room for cooperation in science and technology, tourism and renewable sources of energy.
He explained the decision for full diplomatic relationship came after President Fernandez met Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi during the Summit of Non-Alligned Nations held in September 2006.
Dannenberg is also Dominican ambassador in India and concurrent in Phillippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Blame Ike
Dominican officials are blaming Hurricane Ike for the continued high prices of gasoline in the DR. Industry and Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul says prices remain high because 17 refineries were closed in the US due to Ike. He said there have been significant reductions in oil reserves due to the storm. Fadul is denying reports that officials are manipulating the market to keep prices high and increase government tax revenues. Fadul pointed to the Platts Oilgram Report that uses the Gulf Coast as a reference for the price of fuel. Citizens have complained that while international fuel prices have dropped by more than US$50 to below US$100 per barrel of petroleum, fuel prices have only dropped by RD$9 in the last month.

Melo not mellow
The UASD has announced the creation of a new science department by a 56% majority vote. But not everyone is happy. Higher Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo is furious about the UASD's decision to approve the creation of the new department, arguing that the DR lacks the necessary staff to run it. She adds that the country needs professors with doctorate experience to run such a department properly, saying that the department is just a way of giving people jobs. Melo says she wasn't consulted about the creation of the department.

AMET system archaic
In the past two years the Metropolitan Transport Police (AMET) office has announced a series of costly measures aimed at modernizing the institution, increasing efficiency and reducing the number of traffic offenders. But few objectives have been accomplished, despite hefty investments. Diario Libre reminds readers about the purchase of 1,200 automatic ticket machines costing RD$31 million. The machines were supposed to register a driver's information and send it to a database for storage. But a drive around Santo Domingo shows that officers are still using pens and paper to write tickets. Some 300 machines were originally received in 2006, and previous AMET director Jose Sigfrido Fernandez Fadul said at the time that they would put AMET on the same level as transit cops in New York and Miami. The failure of AMET's modernization also includes the inability of the body to implement breathalyzer tests, which quickly disappeared from Dominican roads in 2007, despite another costly purchase at taxpayers expense.

LADOM case drags on
A judge has authorized the use of public force to seize archived tapes from the offices of investigative journalists Huchi Lora and Nuria Piera. The unedited tapes are said to include unaired footage of interviews with Ladom managers. Ladom, beneficiary of 40% of public school breakfast drink supplies in last school year, sued the journalists after they refused to retract statements about substandard quality milk produced by the company for the public school breakfast program. The minimum protein level established by the Ministry of Education was 3.3%, but a lab test aired by Piera showed that the protein level in Ladom's milk was below 1%.
The judges also asked for the samples and proof obtained at the Milk Training Center at the UASD and Agricultural Laboratories to be seized in order to verify the claims made by Lora and Piera.
Lora says that the order is an attempt to intimidate investigative journalists in the country. Both Lora and Piera's lawyers posted an opposition to the court order. Piera said that the remaining material was never aired and so cannot be used as part of the suit by Ladom's lawyers. However, she added that material could be used to defend their own case, and will be brought to court in due course.
Piera's and Lora's reports led new Education Minister Melanio Paredes to announce a 15-day nationwide monitoring of company supplies nationwide. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education announced it was lowering the nutritional minimum standard to 3% protein.

Change changes nothing
Though Monsignor Nouel (Bonao) governor Nestor Francisco Melenciano was removed from his post following the housing distribution scandal, the Catholic Church and Bonao residents say the change means nothing. According to residents quoted in Hoy, they could have 20 new governors and nothing would change. One resident of the donated houses declared: "If they try to take us out there will be many deaths. They've allocated us these houses and they are ours, they'd better leave it be, because no one is taking us out of here." Ignacio Garcia Ovalle has been appointed as governor, replacing Melenciano, but former senator Santiago Batista comments that changing the governor solves nothing and argued that Melenciano was removed in order to ease tensions with the Venezuelan government.

Paya suspect killers charged
National Police spokesperson Nelson Rosario has announced that 13 men will be charged with the 4 August massacre of seven men in Bani. An eighth man, Olin Gomez from Nicaragua, survived the killing by playing dead, and has served as key witness.
The accused include former National Police officer Major Frederick Guillermo Medina Abud, Noe Martin Sterling Villalon (a son of the Barahona senator), Andres Berroa a.k.a. Rene Rueda Martinez and Quilvio Santana Feliz. Also charged will be Pedro Gonzalez Estevez, Jose Luis Montas Vargas, Alexander Carmona Restrepo, Domingo Onesimo Marmolejos Santana, Joaquin Feliz Perez and Felix Mora Terrero. Officials say that the men were found with money, guns, phones and other items linking them to the crime ring. However, the large drug shipment, which was the cause for the massacre, has yet to be recovered, as well as the money. Police believe that on the night of 4 August the massacred men tried to intercept a drug shipment was arriving in the DR from Colombia. Of the group, four were released after posting bail.

Shocking for what was not said
In an editorial in Diario Libre, Homero Figueroa says that the police report and accusations are surprising, not for the 13 names that are on the list of accused, but for the ones that are omitted. "The report on the Paya case provides details about the men who carried out the murders, but it says nothing about the mastermind moving the pieces, he writes. "The body of the criminal is headless," he comments. "The Dominican public was expecting a report that would disclose the denounced complicity entanglements. The country will be shocked, the Police had said. The shock did occur, without doubt, but because of what was not said, more than for what was said. The capture of the workers, leaving the boss free, only paralyzes the criminal factory momentarily. But the abundant criminal labor force will put it back into production", he concludes.

Big bribes in Paya case
Guillermo Tejeda, father of murdered National Drug Control Department officer Guillermo Antonio Tejeda Kranwinkel, said yesterday that several people linked to the Paya massacre of seven men suspected of drug dealing operations had paid hefty sums to be left out of the case the National Police has classified as an "international drug trafficking" case. As reported in Clave Digital, Tejeda said he has it on very good authority that large bribes have been paid. He urged the authorities to investigate bribes of US$500,000, as reported on RNN Channel 27 program, produced by Miguel Angel Nunez and Napoleon de la Cruz. Tejeda is offering a reward of RD$1 million for anyone who can provide proof of who killed his son, Army lieutenant Tejeda Kranwinkel on 3 March in San Cristobal. Tejeda Kranwinkel was chief of the DNCD in Jarabacoa when he was shot dead at the intersection of General Leger and Padre Borbon streets in San Cristobal.
Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero has asked the authorities to come forth with the true intellectual authors of the crime.

More troubles for Renta
Convicted banker Luis Alvarez Renta, who was also president of Wadeville Investments Ltd, Interduty Free and Bankinvest, has been ordered by a US court to pay US$176 million in fines for making fraudulent transfers in relation to the 2003 Baninter bank scandal. The courts had rejected a petition for revision of the judgment that was handed out on 10 September 2008. The court had determined that Alvarez Renta was president of Bankinvest, described as a go-between entity used to transfer money from Baninter to other banks and financial institutions. Alvarez was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the DR for his role in the Baninter case. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion for alleged health problems.

Beach Cleaning Day
This coming Saturday, 20 September, from 9am, all are invited to join a global beach cleaning campaign organized by volunteers the world over. In the DR, the effort has the backing of the Ministry of Environment. Those who would like to participate are invited to email the volunteer leaders in the list below to get information on the tasks for the day. Beaches & Rivers to be cleaned up:
South Coast - Santo Domingo: Guibia, Boca Chica/Andres, Haina
Southeast Coast - San Pedro de Macoris: Juan Dolio, Guayacanes, El Soco River
Central - Yaque del Norte River
Northwest Coast - Monte Cristi: Punta Rucia/La Ensenada, El Morro
Southwest Coast - Barahona
East Coast - La Altagracia: Macao, Cabeza de Toro
North Coast - Puerto Plata: Cabarete
Maria Trinidad Sanchez: Rio San Juan
Barahona: Oscar Oviedo - [email protected]
Boca Chica/Andres: Laura Marte - [email protected]
Guibia: Katherine Bojos - [email protected]
Juan Dolio: Carolina Guisande - [email protected]
Guayacanes: Jessika Nina - [email protected]
Punta Rucia/La Ensenada: Hector Mota - [email protected]
Rio Yaque del Norte: Sahadia Cruz - [email protected]
Macao: Ana Paula Gomez (Fundacion Menta) - [email protected]
Cabeza de Toro: Sofia Chihab (Paradisus Punta Cana) - [email protected]
Monte Cristi (La Granja, El Morro): Douglas Escotto - [email protected]
Playa El Soco: Herdy Rodriguez - [email protected]
Nagua/Playa La Entrada: Edwin Espin - [email protected]
Haina: Dario Solano (Fundacion Haina Cultural) - [email protected]
Cabarete: Oscar Andres Sanoja - [email protected]
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