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Daily News - Thursday, 06 November 2008

President winds up visit to Qatar
President Leonel Fernandez finished his visit to the Gulf State of Qatar last night and announced the designation of a coordinating committee and the execution of several investment projects discussed with the Qatari governmental authorities and businessmen. Fernandez, his wife Margarita and the rest of the DR delegation left on a private flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where they will meet with Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayen and seek investors for the country during several meetings on the agenda. The committee designated by the President, according to sources quoted in Hoy newspaper, is composed of the director of the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) Eddy Martinez, the executive secretary of the National Energy Commission Aristides Fernandez Zucco and by the Dominican ambassador to Qatar, Hugo Guilliani Cury. Martinez, who spoke to Hoy, said that the government commission of the Emir of Qatar and the Qatari Business Association, a private entity, would be traveling to the Dominican Republic to explore and discuss investments in the areas of energy, real estate, tourism, mining - especially bauxite and the processing of aluminum - as well as infrastructure projects under the system of concessions. In contrast to Tuesday, when he began his visit to the Gulf, on Wednesday Fernandez was accompanied by his wife Margarita, as he worked through an agenda that included visits to the real estate firm of Qatari Diar, the Qatari Diar Foundation, a technology park and the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, where he spoke with the director general. Qatari Diar is a state-owned real estate entity that develops investment projects in several parts of the world, and according to Guilliani Cury is the closest to doing something in the Dominican Republic.

Only 50% have renewed their plates
The grace period for renewal of vehicle license plates ends on 28 November. Fines will be levied on those without renewal stickers. According to Diario Libre only 50% of vehicle owners have bought their stickers. According to the Tax Department (DGII) they have collected more than RD$300 million so far. According to spokesperson Germania Montas, people are leaving it for the last minute, and if they go past the 28 November deadline, the renewal will cost an additional RD$500. The official made her statements after a meeting with the Senate Hacienda Commission that is studying a contract for a US$10.5 million loan to be used to strengthen the DGII. Personal experience shows that the renewal can be done in less than five minutes at almost any of the Banco de Reservas offices or any savings and loan office. All that is needed is a photocopy of the registration, a cedula and RD$1,600 if the car is pre- 2002 and RD$2,200 of the car is 2002 or later.

Budget or Constitutional Reform?
Congress is debating whether to approve the convening of the Constitution Revision Assembly to study and decide on proposed changes to the Constitution or to approve first the National Budget for 2009. As reported in Hoy, once the assembly is convened, Congress needs to focus exclusively on the reform. The approval of the budget would have to be postponed until the constitutional reform is passed.

Deputies rebel on Tucano loan
The fact that the PLD's Political Committee had instructed its deputies to ratify the loan agreement for US$93.6 million to buy eight Super Tucano airplanes from Brazil, a loan negotiated with the National Bank of Social and Economic Development and the Embraer Company of Brazil, and which had been approved by the Senate, did not matter, and it stayed on the table. According to Diario Libre, lobbying with their nearly-always-faithful allies, the PRSC party deputies, was not much help as only eight of them voted in favor of the agreement. The Dominican Revolutionary Party bloc of deputies abstained from voting, leading to a loss of quorum. The loan will have to wait until next week, giving time for its supporters to find the necessary backing. The agreement was left on the table due to the lack of quorum, since the PRD withdrew from the session. The contract for the loan had been approved by a special commission that was assigned to study it, headed by PRSC deputy Rafael Molina Lluberes.
Hoy newspaper attributed the putting on hold of the passing of the US$93 million loan to a letter circulated by PLD deputy Elso Segura Martinez. In the letter addressed to chamber president Julio Cesar Valentin, Segura claimed that money was going around to grease the approval of the bill by the deputies. Segura also pointed out that "the money god has intervened so that the US$68 million loan for the completion of Pinalito dam with a Brazilian bank also be passed" and another loan with the Deutsche Bank of Spain for US$19 million for the completion of an aqueduct in eastern Santo Domingo.
The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin asked Segura to identify the legislators that were taking money. Segura is the president of the ethics commission of the Chamber.

Senate to look at US$80 million loan
Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez has announced that next Tuesday the contract for a loan for US$80 million would be placed on the agenda. The loan would be used to pay part of the CDEEE's debts. Pared Perez provided this information after a visit from CDEEE executive vice-president Radhames Segura to talk about the loan package. The loan will be between the Dominican Republic and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development and executed by INDRHI and the CDEEE. He reminded reporters that this loan was sent for study to the Hacienda Commission chaired by Tommy Galan. Pared Perez emphasized that, "given the urgency that the country has for improving its electric service, we are giving instructions for the report to be prepared for the Senate session on Tuesday, so the vote can take place." As soon as the loan is approved by the Senate, it will go to the Chamber of Deputies. Pared Perez said that, "in the Senate we will do what we can to see that this is passed in the next session." For his part, Segura explained that the debt with the generators had also gone up due to the increased costs of oil. He said, "The CDEEE as well as the government decided to pay this debt so that the generators can have the funds needed to buy fuel and guarantee a normal supply of electric energy." Segura said that the government will ask for a special dispensation from the World Bank to disburse US$50 million to the generators.

Vega thinks US will pressure DR on Haiti
Economist and historian Bernardo Vega says that the Dominican Republic could be subject to political pressure from the United States, once Barack Obama takes office, on the issue of the presence of Haitians in the DR. In this sense Vega pointed out that Obama has advisors who feel that the Dominican Republic has to do something about the undocumented Haitian issue. He said, "Political pressure is going to be applied from that direction."
Vega appeared on the El Dia program on Telesistema, where he also analyzed what bilateral relations between the DR and the US might be like under the Obama government. He indicated that based on what was said during the campaign, John McCain's position was more convenient for the Dominican Republic on the issues of trade, immigration and drugs. Vega said that McCain, in his campaign, favored new legislation on immigration that would have permitted Dominican relatives living in this country to join their families living in the United States. In contrast, Obama, who is influenced by the unions, was less in favor of immigration. On the question of free trade agreements (FTA), Vega reminded viewers that Obama had refused to vote in favor of an agreement of this type with Colombia and he has announced that he would review the NAFTA agreement between the United States Canada and Mexico, but Obama "has said nothing about the DR-CAFTA agreement.
Clave newspaper reports today that a poll by The Economist showed that Dominicans in the DR were the most enthusiastic supporters of the Obama candidacy. Nevertheless, editor Fausto Rosario makes the point that Obama has said he would revise US free trade agreements and has very good relations with the Black Caucus that supports the Haitian lobby in Washington on controversial migration issues.
Interviewed for a morning TV talk show, Rosario Espinal, professor of political sociology at Temple University, told journalist Huchi Lora that if pressure comes for resolving the status of Haitians in the DR this should be welcomed. She criticized the traditional laissez-faire attitude of Dominican governments to years of unchecked migration. She observed that if the US government becomes more open to its own illegal migration, there could be increased pressure on the DR to assimilate the illegal Haitians.

Obama victory seen as hope for world
Several Dominican politicians and sociologist Rosario Espinal share the view that the Obama victory in the United States elections represents a message of hope to the world. PRD secretary general Orlando Jorge Mera said that the election reflected the change that the US wanted in the face of the economic crisis. He hoped that Obama fulfills his promise and understands that relations with the DR will not experience any changes in the short term because they are based on basic principles. He said, "The most important thing for us is for the international policy priorities to change." For Joaquin Ricardo, a member of the PRSC Political Commission, the milestone that Obama's election creates goes beyond the frontiers of the US. Ricardo thinks that the world has high hopes for this election, but "we will have to wait and see Obama's first decisions." The former Foreign Minister pointed out that the theme of Latin America had been absent from the election debates. "In the meantime, we have to focus on our problems which are many and severe." With greater optimism, PLD member Juan Francisco Santamaria predicted that the change would benefit the country through a more favorable application of the Free Trade Agreement. He said, "I told them that you are going to see a change in style, the system is the system, but the leadership is not irrelevant. In other words, whoever is at the top sets the tune." Max Puig, leader of the Democratic Alliance (ADP), said that the "victory is a message of hope for the American people and for a world in crisis." PRD member Pedro de Jesus Candelier called the elections "the expansion of popular feeling in the region started by Chavez in Venezuela." For sociologist Rosario Espinal, the Obama victory sends a message of a desire for change in the US society, which implies that reforms need to take place that take the people more into consideration in areas like education and health. She said, "In international terms a foreign policy that places more emphasis on diplomacy and less on military force." She envisaged that any direct effect on the Dominican Republic would be in the long term.

First Dominican-born mayor in US
Dominican doctor Alex Blanco was elected mayor of Passaic, New Jersey on US Election Day, and is the first Dominican to be elected mayor in US history. Cid Wilson, former president of the Dominican-American Round Table, called the election "a historic achievement." Dr. Blanco, a podiatrist, won in a five-man race for the unexpired term of former mayor Samuel "Sammy" Rivera who resigned after he was sentenced for accepting bribes in exchange for approving city contracts. He defeated runner-up Vincent Capuana by 400 votes. Blanco, who is a member of the Passaic Board of Education, won with 3,872 or 28.01% of the vote. Code enforcement inspector/School Board president, Capuana received 3,465 votes, real estate developer Jose Sandoval received 2,741 votes, landlord/City Councilman Jose Garcia received 2,626 and bail bondsman Carl Ellen received 1,052 votes. The election was regarded as the most highly-contested local race in Passaic County. Passaic is a small town of 56,665 residents, 37,873 of whom are Hispanic, according to census figures, and the city has been without a mayor since May when Samuel Rivera resigned after being sentenced to 21 months in a federal prison. The Mayor-elect was born in La Vega 36 years ago, arriving in the United States at the age of 12. He will take over the mayor's job for the six months remaining in Rivera's term, until 30 June 2009. Rivera. Blanco promised a change in the administration of Passaic and said that he would do away with corruption. He said "we will work for the unity of Passaic in order to eliminate the division that has worked against us for years. We will work to unite the Hispanics with all of the communities." In New Jersey, Democrat Barack Obama, the President-elect of the United States, won 57% of the popular vote.
For more background on the new mayor, see: www.myheraldnews.com/view.html?type=stories&action=detail&sub_id=42291

More on Dominicans in US Election
In another election, 36-year old Nelson Castro became the first Dominican elected to the New York State Assembly for the Bronx as of the 4 November. This is the first time a Dominican is elected to any major office (city or state) in the history of The Bronx. The Bronx has one of the largest populations of Dominicans in the US and has seen significant population growth of Dominicans over the last ten years. In Bergenfield, New Jersey, Carlos Aguasvivas won his election to city council as a newly elected official. He is the son of former West New York, New Jersey Commissioner/Councilman Ercides Aguasvivas.
According to the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) in Washington, D.C., an estimated ten Dominicans won elections, three of whom were newly-elected officials. This brings the total number of Dominican elected officials to approximately 36, including one mayor, one state senator, six state representatives, 21 county and city council members and seven elected judges.

Today is Constitution Day
The Dominican Constitution celebrates the 164th anniversary of its birth in the middle of a controversial and broad process aimed at a reformation in which one part is arguing for a Constituent Assembly and the other argues for a National Review Assembly. The proposed reforms to the Constitution, submitted by the Executive Branch, for the 38th time since 1861, a year in which it was modified three times, touches on a number of important points, including the Central Electoral Board (JCE), the Judicial Branch, the unification of the elections and the theme of re-election. On the question of the proposed changes to the Constitution, there is a great deal of debate among the political parties, the civil society, the Justice Department and the JCE. On the issue of the Electoral Board, the proposal is that the electoral system would be governed by two entities - the JCE and a Higher Electoral Tribunal. The suggested changes to the Judicial Branch consist of the creation of a Constitutional Chamber to deal with issues of the constitutionality of laws, which has generated some conflict, since the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Subero Isa, wants the Constitutional Chamber inside the Supreme Court. He feels that if such a court were created outside the SCJ, political interests would dominate the Dominican justice system. Another aspect that is under scrutiny is the phrase "never again" that refers to presidential re-election. The current Constitution rules that the Executive Power is carried out by the President of the Republic, elected each four years by direct vote with the option of a second, consecutive and unique constitutional term of office but "never again" can a President run for office, or that of the Vice-President. The reform wants to allow the President to be allowed to run for office after one term out of office. On the issue of unifying the elections, the proposed changes consist of holding the elections on the second Sunday in May, every four years, to elect the President, Vice-President and all congressional and municipal candidates. Each election would be separate. For the creation of this reform package, the President put the question to the National Dialogue process that consisted of a series of public hearings, before preparing the draft.
Constitution Day will be celebrated with a holiday on Monday, 10 November.

Extortion in onion crop scandal
The president of the Vallejuelo Farmers Board, Simeona Morillo Vicente and Sister Maria Marciano, director of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters, have stated that each onion farmer was made to pay Ministry of Agriculture officials between RD$10,000 and RD$50,000 just for weighing their onion crops. Both women stated clearly that it is not enough to fire those responsible, but that they must be brought before the courts to answer for their actions. Morillo Vicente revealed that during the first week of the harvest, everything was normal, but in the following week those in charge of weighing the onions began to engage in extortion. Meanwhile, Marciano said she felt that high-ranking Ministry of Agriculture officials should also be investigated, saying, "this is not something from below, this is something that has to be investigated a little higher up." The Bishop of San Juan de la Maguana, Jose Dolores Grullon described the extortion as "criminal", according to Listin Diario, and called for those responsible to be punished. The Ministry of Agriculture said that the final report on the case is almost complete and will be handed over to the Justice Department for action. According to Morillo Vicente, if the farmers did not pay, their crops were not weighed. In another scam, the people in charge of weighing would put several farmer's crops together for weighing, allowing for the inclusion of some family members as owners of the crop. According to the two whistle blowers, this sort of thing has been going on for years.

14 years in Quirino-related case
Judge Kimba Woods has sentenced Luis Eduardo Rodriguez Cordero to 14 years in jail on charges of laundering drug-dealing related assets and conspiracy in the case of former Dominican army colonel Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, accused of heading an international drug trafficking ring. The case is 04CR1353. As reported in El Nacional, Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty, had expected a less severe sentence. Rodriguez has already spent four years in jail, as reported in El Nacional.
See www.elnacional.com.do/article.aspx?id=62402

Former deputy killed in robbery attempt
A merchant killed two of five alleged robbers, one of whom, according to the police, was wanted by the National Drug Control Department (DNCD). The other dead man was named as a former PRD deputy from Villa Altagracia. Two of the men who took part in the alleged robbery attempt were detained by the police and the other, who is said to be a policeman, escaped. The incident took place at the Centro Comercial del Oro on Paris Avenue at the corner of Juan Bautista Vicini, across the street from the Chamber of Accounts in the National District. The former deputy, in the 1982-1986 and 1986-1990 terms, was identified as Eladio Antonio Perez, 52, who lived in Villa Altagracia. The other victim, Freddy Manon, lived in the Las Caobas section of Santo Domingo West. The two men detained by police in Villa Francisca were identified as Jose Miguel Columna Santos and Lorenzo Vicioso. Both were arrested by separate police patrols that arrived at the scene in middle of the shooting. Residents, who spoke to Hoy reporters on condition of anonymity, agreed when they said that Paulino identified the group because about seven months ago they had kidnapped him, and Paulino had paid them RD$1.5 million of the RD$3.0 million demanded in ransom.

Baseball summary
The Tigres de Licey defeated the Estrellas Orientales 7-5 in the Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo last night. The victory came as a result of good hitting by Jake Fox, Amaury Casana and Ronnie Paulino. Fernando Tatis had a good night for the Estrellas with two hits in four at-bats and scoring three runs. Jose Guzman went 3-5 and batted in three runs for the losing cause.
In San Francisco de Macoris the Leones de Escogido defeated the league-leading Gigantes 7-1 behind good pitching by Susumu Kawai who went five innings of scoreless ball, allowing just four hits. Home runs by Diory Hernandez and Tony Batista sealed the game for the Leones who are now at .500.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the island in La Romana the Aguilas Cibaenas had to deal with the also league-leading Toros. Stellar pitcher Jose Lima threw six strong innings before getting into trouble in the seventh. However, a two-run rally in the top half of the ninth inning gave the defending champions their one-run margin of victory.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 11 - 6 .647 --
TOROS 11 - 6 .647 --
LICEY 9 - 8 .529 2.0
ESCOGIDO 8 - 8 .500 2.5
AGUILAS 8 - 9 .470 3.0
ESTRELLAS 3 - 13 .188 7.5

(No games are scheduled for tonight)
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