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Daily News - Wednesday, 01 October 2008

President Fernandez to Miami
President Leonel Fernandez is traveling to Miami to speak at the Miami Herald-sponsored 12th Annual Americas Conference. This is his second trip to the United States this month. Last week he was in New York, Boston and Rhode Island to attend the UN General Assembly and hold meetings with academia.
Leading business, government and academic leaders are invited to the 2-3 October event to discuss key issues and trends affecting political and economic relationships between Latin America, the United States and the Caribbean. In addition to President Fernandez, other speakers confirmed for the conference are Haitian President Rene Preval and Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca. Also confirmed are Vice President Julio Cobos of Argentina, Vice President Samuel Luis Navarro of Panama and Chilean Economy Minister Hugo Lavados Montes. Florida Governor Charlie Crist will also address the conference.

Online education with Harvard
The Ministry of Education has signed an agreement with Harvard University's Wide World educational online coaching program. Education Minister Melanio Paredes was in Boston to sign the agreement. The government will spend US$116,924 to participate in the program. The program is part of the Fernandez administration's efforts to improve the quality of education in the DR.
According to their website, Wide World builds on thirty years of classroom-based research from Project Zero and the Harvard Graduate School of Education to provide professional development programs that incorporate the essential elements - the DNA - of effective teaching. Their online courses, on-site workshops, and individually designed district plans guide teachers, teacher leaders, coaches, and school leaders on coordinated journeys towards wide-scale improvement in classrooms and schools.

Lucrative corrections
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) derives considerable revenue from correcting errors in civil documents, mostly made by their own staff. Today's Listin Diario reports on the costly and time-consuming process that the law requires for correcting a misspelled name or date in a civil document. Most of the errors were committed by JCE staff when the documents were digitalized from hand-written books. Corrections can cost from RD$15,000 to more than RD$30,000 because interested parties need to hire a lawyer for the procedure. Lawyer Zacarias Payano told the Listin that this is a senseless process because it is clear that the errors are the result of the JCE's own negligence. In his opinion, there should not be a cost to correct the errors and the procedure should be simpler. The newspaper reports that in 2007 alone, 15,618 people requested the costly procedure, and so far this year, 13,543 corrections have been requested. According to JCE figures, this has resulted in RD$8.6 million in revenue between 2007 and so far this year.

PRD constitutional proposal
The main opposition PRD party submitted a proposal to legislators yesterday to modify the Constitution via a special members assembly, known locally as "la constituyente." When in opposition, President Leonel Fernandez strongly supported this body, a stance that has changed since he was elected President and holds a majority in Congress. President Leonel Fernandez presented an extensive bill with modifications to the legislators on 18 September, to be reviewed by the PLD-majority Congress. The PLD, with the support of the PRSC, would have the necessary votes to modify the Constitution utilizing the "review assembly" mechanism currently in effect. The special members assembly, which would be open to representatives of society other than the legislature and the Executive Branch, would require for the election of experts who would then be entrusted with reviewing and passing the Constitution. The proposal is to create a body of 210 members elected by direct vote.
Interestingly, when the PRD was in power and held the majority in the legislature, it also favored modifications being made by its legislators (at the time also majority in Congress), instead of the "constituent" mechanism it is currently advocating, while in opposition.

Impact of the US financial crisis
Remittances, tourism, investments and exports could be affected by the US financial crunch, according to deans of economics from the UASD, INTEC, UNIBE and PUCMM universities. They urged the government to reduce its spending and give priority to local production, as reported in Listin Diario.
The deans said that the DR is vulnerable because of the marked dependence of the local economy on the US. The US is the primary source of remittances and tourists to the DR, as well as its leading trade partner.
Melvin Perez Sarraf, director of the UASD University's School of Economics, said that the DR economy benefits from the strict prudential regulations that were implemented in the banking system after the Baninter bank collapse in 2003. The country does not trade in stocks so it has not suffered from a stock market crash either.
Fabrizio Gomez Maara, coordinator of the School of Economics at INTEC Univesity advised the government to implement an austerity program, to reduce its spending and to back local production. He said the US financial crisis comes at a time when the DR is affected by a fiscal deficit of the current account of the balance of payments and a decline in the Central Bank's international net reserves.
Jose Paulino of the PUCMM University says that events in the US will affect the DR because the US is the country's largest trading partner. He forecast a decline in remittances because of job losses by Dominicans in the US and a decline in tourism, as middle class Americans who make up the most travelers to the DR may cut their travel plans.
Manuel Moises Ramirez of UNIBE University also believes that the situation will be felt in a reduction of remittances, tourism and foreign investment.

Vulnerable shield
During his recent trip to the US, President Leonel Fernandez told audiences that the Dominican economy is "shielded" from the present US crisis. In today's Hoy newspaper Rosario Espinal of Temple University comments that the PetroCaribe oil agreement with Venezuela that enables the government to postpone payment of the oil bill for 25 years, remittances and foreign investments have helped the DR ride the present crisis. But she states that it is not true that the economy is "shielded."
Espinal writes that the effects of the crisis will be reduced if the US is able to overcome the present financial crisis without experiencing a strong economic recession. She comments that the remittances have a greater impact on the economy than large investments. She explained these trickle down to middle class and low-income Dominicans enabling them to cover their rising daily expenditures, and Dominicans who live overseas are investors in many of the DR's housing developments, with positive ripple effects on the economy. "The Dominican economy is shielded when three key factors may come to play," she writes. These are macro-economic stability, the flow of remittances and the oil subsidy. She states that if macroeconomic stability is maintained, the government will be able to place new Central Bank certificates of deposit, but that the Dominican government does not have any control over the last two key factors.

Migration hotline
The Department of Migration, now headed by Major General Jose Anibal Sanz Jiminian, has a 24-hour telephone hotline for complaints about inspectors or migration staff. The hotline number is 809 533-8466. Major General Sanz Jiminian said that any inspector, supervisor or staff member from the department could be penalized for extortion or seeking bribes, and that reports would be treated with confidentiality.

Journalism awards
Investigative TV reporter Nuria Piera has received a RD$1 million award from the Fundacion Corripio, a leading business group. The award comes at a time when she is being sued by Ladom, after airing a report on the low quality of school breakfast drink distributed by Ladom, which at the time benefited from 40% of the Ministry of Education contracts to supply public schools with breakfast drinks. The Presidency and the Ministry of Education defended the company that was never able to give an explanation for the breach in contract. As a result of the report, school breakfast supplies are now monitored and the results made public, showing that Ministry of Education standards are being met. On 16 August, President Fernandez appointed then Education Minister Alejandrina German to be minister of women.
See www.nuria.com.do for recent TV investigative programs.
Others receiving the million peso awards were historian Frank Moya Pons, physician Bienvenido Amado Delgado Billini and painter Domingo Liz.

Nothing happened here
In today's Listin Diario news commentator Orlando Gil observes that the chief of the Navy recently announced he had dismissed three more officers for "visiting drug dealers." These latest three bring the total fired in the Navy so far to eight. When journalists asked Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet for the consequences, the Navy chief explained that there would be none, and did not provide the officers' names either. Gil says that journalists had obtained the names from other sources. "The information was as simple as that, and he provided it as if it were a routine occurrence, as if it were normal to fire navy men, and that these have relations with the worst kind of criminals," writes Gil. But then he comments, "Ventura Bayonet is wrong, and this way of handling matters confirms that the armed forces are susceptible to the drug trafficking business and this is why their credibility is low.
Gil says there is another question left up in the air. "What happens to the officers who are removed from the armed forces for their relations to criminal events or with drug traffickers?" he asks. He comments that the authorities should investigate in order to ascertain that simple expulsion from the forces is not sufficient.

Losing sight of the real objective
In early August, seven men were killed in a drug-related confrontation in Bani, Peravia unleashing a volley of verbal confrontations between provincial Senator Wilton Guerrero and former police commander General Hilario Gonzalez, provincial governor Bienvenido Montero and General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez, points out El Caribe. The Senator accuses the latter of negligence and complicity with drug dealers in the area. But the newspaper highlights that essential points such as the identity of the masterminds behind the killing and the whereabouts of the 1,200 missing kilos of cocaine that are said to have been the motive for the killing have not emerged. In the meantime, General Gonzalez has sued Senator Guerrero for defamation.
The newspaper complains that all that has resulted is a clash between government officials. Presidential drug advisor Marino Vinicio Castillo and Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez agree with Senator Guerrero that the report prepared by the commission that investigated the killings is incomplete. PUCMM university rector Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado has also raised his voice: "Society expects the investigations to leave no doubts, regardless of who is involved in this affair."
The investigating commission appointed by President Leonel Fernandez established that 13 people were involved, but failed to provide the answers to key questions.

La Vega senator: complicity
La Vega senator Euclides Sanchez has added his voice to those who are making accusations of complicity between government authorities and drug dealers. As reported in El Caribe, Sanchez accused judges and state prosecutors in La Vega of complicity with well-known drug traffickers. He said that many have been arrested in possession of kilos of cocaine, but are later freed by the judicial authorities, and only have to pay a fine or post bail. Sanchez says this is a very damaging situation for Dominican society, and that there was complicity with drug dealers not only in his province, but nationwide. He called on the population to join the fight against drug trafficking and consumption. He made his comments on "El tribunal de la tarde", a program aired on Channel 4.

17 Dominicans in playoffs
Seventeen Dominicans are on the rosters of American and National League teams for the playoffs, ensuring local interest in the tournament is at a high.
Tampa Bay: Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar
White Sox: Juan Uribe, Octavio Dotel
Anaheim: Ervin Santana, Jose Arredondo, Eric Aybar, Vladimir Guerrero
Boston: David Ortiz, Manny del Carmen
Cubs: Carlos Marmol, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Felix Pie
Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Angel Berroa, Pablo Ozuna, Ramon Troncoso
Philadelphia: Pedro Felix
Milwaukee: Salomon Torres, Guillermo Mota, Carlos Villanueva.=

Folklore Dances of India
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations is sponsoring a visit by the 10-member Rajasthani Folk Dance group of "Living Arts" led by Shri Madan Lal on a tour of Spain and the Americas - Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The event is also sponsored by the Embassy of India (Cuba) and the ministries of Culture and Foreign Relations. Free performances are on Friday, 3 October 2008 at 6pm, Centro Cultural Narciso Gonzalez, Santo Domingo. Also, Saturday, 4 October at 8:30pm at the Gran Teatro del Cibao, Santiago. And on Monday, 6 October at 6pm at the Aula Magna of the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.
See: www.rajasthan-india-tours.com/rajasthan-cultural-tour/folk-dance
For more information on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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