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Daily News - Tuesday, 07 October 2008

DR and Canada stir rumors
The DR and Canada have resumed free trade talks, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Deputy Minister Manuel Trullols explains that both sides have agreed to exchange information and continue developing the foundation for trade negotiations. The Canadian Embassy is compiling updates on investment, cooperation, competitiveness, commercial rights, the environment and tourism to prepare for the agreement. Dominican officials explained that negotiations had been put on hold because the DR had given preference to negotiating DR-CAFTA with the US. Once those talks were completed, the DR moved on talks with the European Union and Caribbean Community. These were concluded with the approval of the European Partnership Agreement, early this year, albeit with opposition from Caricom states. Regardless, the time seems to have come to give priority to the Canadian trade talks.

Lockward named ambassador
President Leonel Fernandez has appointed controversial politician Angel Lockward Dominican as ambassador to Colombia. Lockward has served as Minister without Portfolio in the Fernandez government. Lockward has appealed against a judgment that implicates him in a major case of alleged fraud against the state involving coupons used to subsidize propane gas purchases when he was Minister of Industry and Commerce under PRD President Hipolito Mejia. Lockward is a PRSC dissident. Lockward was a supporter of President Leonel Fernandez's 2008 presidential campaign.

SD wastes water
The city of Santo Domingo consumes 500 million gallons of water per day when the average consumption should be around 280 million gallons per day. According to water authority (INAPA) director Mariano German, the increase in water use affects communities that still lack basic water supplies. German added that the issue is especially relevant because many cities and towns outside Santo Domingo have to endure water shortages, or even drought, for extended periods of time.

Right-hand drive cars banned
Customs (DGA) officials have prohibited the import of vehicles with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. The DGA says that they endanger road safety. The DGA is giving a 30-day deadline for all vehicles currently at the ports to be returned to their country of origin. Recently, illicit street-racing groups imported numerous high-performance right-hand drive vehicles from Japan. Cars currently on the road with right-hand steering will be impounded on sight, says the DGA.

Financial crisis: impact on DR
Former Central Bank governor Bernardo Vega warns that several business deals could fall through this year due to the global financial crisis. As reported in Hoy, Vega said that foreign acquisitions of Dominican companies, investment in tourism projects and real estate purchases are some of the deals that may be put on hold. He says the crisis affects the flow of foreign investment. He also commented that he has reports that tourist bookings for October and November are lower than last year. He added he would be pleased if remittances remained at last year's levels, even if there were no growth. According to Vega, the DR would also feel the effect of reduced ferronickel exports this year. He forecasts that reduced demand in the US will affect contracts awarded to local manufacturing free zones.
Given the expected reduction in hard currency due to drops in tourism, foreign investment, exports and remittances, said Vega, it remains to be seen whether reverse capital flight, with Dominican capital returning seeking higher interest rates in local banks, and the present relief with the declining oil and food prices on international markets, would be enough. Vega made his comments on Channel 11's Telematutino show.
Last week Vega said he was in favor of the DR signing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund as a way of demonstrating willingness to tighten its belt in order to tackle the difficulties that the economic crisis in the US will bring. He said the signing would restore confidence and reiterated the need for the government to reduce public spending.

Austerity is kryptonite
According to economist Guillermo Caram, the Dominican economy is on the decline and now is the time for austerity and changing the focus of public spending. Caram seemed particularly skeptical about whether the government would implement austerity measures. "Talking to the government about austerity is like talking to the devil about a crucifix," he commented. He scoffed at the idea that the DR's economy was ready to withstand the current international economic crisis.

World Bank calls for overhaul
Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, says that the financial crisis affecting the US and Europe will be critical for developing nations. He says that the world needs to rethink the way it tries to solve its economic problems. According to Zoellick the crisis could affect the level of exports, foreign capital inflows, could decrease the level of investments and could affect growth. Zoellick added that some nations could have a crisis with their balance of payments.
Warning about the effects of the financial crisis, Zoellick said: "The events of September could be a tipping point for many developing countries. A drop in exports, as well as capital inflow, will trigger a falloff in investments. Deceleration of growth and deteriorating financing conditions, combined with monetary tightening, will trigger business failures and possibly banking emergencies. Some countries will slip toward balance of payments crises. As is always the case, the poorest are the most defenseless."

Traveling pants
As part of the 2x1 exception to the DR-CAFTA treaty, which is part of US Law HR 7222, Dominican manufactured pants will be allowed in the US without paying tariffs. The 2x1 offer stipulates that pants manufactured in the DR with at least two yards of US cloth and one yard of cloth from another country could enter the US without paying taxes. The 2x1 offer is a specific measure available only to the DR and to no other DR-CAFTA nation.

Guerrero speaks out again
"I don't feel alone, I have the support of the Dominican people, and decent, honest people," said Senator Wilton Guerrero in an interview with El Caribe. Guerrero has accused high-ranking government sectors of complicity with drug trafficking after the government appointed a commission that has yet to identify the masterminds of the massacre of seven suspected drug traffickers in Peravia province, and the whereabouts of the missing cocaine and money. Guerrero says the government needs to appoint a new team of investigators, as reported in El Caribe. "The commission did not go to Bani to investigate, but rather to deliver a cover-up report," Guerrero told El Caribe. Guerrero has accused former Bani police chief General Hilario Gonzalez, who he says has close personal ties to general prosecutor Radhames Jimenez. Now he says that two more officers who worked with General Hilario Gonzalez are involved in the murder. He mentions them by the names of Major Arias and Lieutenant Toledo. He also called for the investigation of a civilian who lives in Escondido, Bani, who uses a military ID, and a Navy colonel who was arrested with eight kilos of cocaine. "That man was in contact with the people of Paya, those eight kilos were payment for work he had done," said Guerrero. He also called for investigating Captain Mejia, who is in charge of the National Drug Control Department in Bani, who was ordered to Barahona that day. He said that the DNCD in Bani "was at the service of drug trafficking."
Guerrero said that the commission appointed by President Leonel Fernandez, made up by General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena, Chief of the Police Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, and former Secretary of the Armed Forces Ramon Antonio Aquino Garcia "went to Bani for a show." He said they were in cahoots with Provincial Governor Bienvenido Montero, "who I say is the godfather of the criminal trio that operated in that province."
"A general who has eight or nine generals assigned to drug dealers, and then the commission does not find any evidence of guilt is cheating the people... even if the chief of the Armed Forces is there, I have to say they were covering up," said Guerrero.
Guerrero says that when he meets with President Leonel Fernandez he would take him "new elements that have not yet been disclosed." "I will make the President aware of situations where the authorities are involved with drug dealing so that he can be aware of what is happening in Peravia. Details, information that I have not disclosed or can do so but that need be known by the President," he insisted in the El Caribe interview.
Commenting on the statements made by the General Prosecutor about his son and his personal wealth, he said that all that Jimenez Pena does is repeat what his close friend General Hilario tells him. Jimenez Pena had called for an investigation into the New York arrest of his son. The Senator later proved his son had been arrested in a traffic accident in New York and released. The son hadn't even been driving the car. The Supreme Court has pending a 15 October hearing of a defamation suit that General Hilario Gonzalez and former Bani district prosecutor Victor Cordero have placed against the senator.

Couple describes Interpol case
Lidija Rizvanovic and her partner Massimo Dalla Mora have told the local media they were subjected to extortion by a colonel at the International Police (Interpol) office on the third floor of the Police headquarters. The couple says that after a minor traffic accident near their home on Delgado Avenue they were taken to the Interpol offices at the National Palace. Speaking to Hoy, the couple claims that they were threatened with deportation and even told they might lose their Dominican-born child. When his wife left the room, Dalla Mora alleged that the colonel said that he would not deport him if he paid US$30,000. He would have to leave his passport, as well as his daughter's and a cell phone, as reported in Hoy. If he did not return, he was told he would be declared a fugitive from justice and could even be killed. The couple is calling on the Police, the General Prosecutor's Office and the Chief of Police to look into the matter. The Police recently announced the suspension of the officer in charge of the Dominican division of Interpol, Colonel Frener Bello Arias.

Columbus Day celebrations
Organizers are preparing a weeklong celebration of the 516th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in what is now the DR, and therefore the "discovery" of America. The celebrations will conclude at the Columbus Lighthouse monument on 12 October. To mark the celebration, the Columbus's tomb will be opened for the public to view on Sunday, 12 October from 11:30am to 4:30pm. During the weeklong celebrations, admission to the Columbus Lighthouse will be free. This year's events also include the First Columbus Lighthouse Marathon.

Success in taekwondo
The Dominican delegation at the Pan American Taekwondo Championships has won two gold and two silver medals. The team won a total of nine medals and came in second place among 37 participating nations. Canada finished first. The DR outperformed nations like the US, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. During the Beijing Olympics, the DR's Gabriel Mercedes won a silver medal.

Baseball update
The Boston Red Sox pulled off a late inning thriller against the Anaheim Angels giving them a ticket to their fourth ALDS since 2003. The Sox held a two-run lead in the eighth, but after key mistakes the Angels took advantage and tied the game at two. The Sox came to bat in the 9th and Jason Bay, who was traded for disgruntled player Manny Ramirez, scored on a single by Jed Lowrie.
In other baseball news, the Tampa Bay Rays have punched a ticket to their first ALDS in club history. It's been a tremendous year for the Rays, led by Dominican Carlos Pena. Last year the Rays were the worst team in baseball and this year posted the best record in the AL. In the National League the Los Angeles Dodgers quickly disposed of the Chicago Cubs in a 3-0 sweep, keeping the curse of the Billy Goat alive while the Philadelphia Phillies sent the Brewers on an early vacation. Baseball playoffs resume on Thursday.
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