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Daily News - Thursday, 20 November 2008

Presidents, Soros & Stiglitz
President Leonel Fernandez will be hosting a world-class economic summit at Casa de Campo, La Romana this weekend, 22-23 November. The workshop, which is organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Dominican government, will be inaugurated at 4pm Saturday with a keynote speech by President Fernandez and another by CEPAL Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena. Sunday's session will be opened by Economy & Planning Minister Temistocles Montas, who will speak on "The New Financial Architecture: Challenges and Prospects for the Region."
As of yesterday the Presidents of El Salvador, Elias Antonio Saca, Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and Haiti, Rene Preval had confirmed their attendance.
Other speakers will include George Soros, president of the Soros Fund Management, economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, Nicholas Eyzaguirre, Western Hemisphere director for the International Monetary Fund and other influential figures in the economic world. Also expected are the secretary general of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza and the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Alberto Moreno.

Budget talks start today
President Leonel Fernandez will head up a meeting of the National Development Council (CND) to start discussing the budget law for 2009. The meeting will examine and analyze budget requests from the Ministries, autonomous organizations and decentralized government entities. The meeting between the Ministers, administrators and director generals of all state dependencies was set for 9 o'clock this morning in the Government Cabinet Chamber.
According to Diario Libre, the estimated total for the 2009 budget has not been released. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa said at the beginning of the week that the budget proposal has not been submitted to Congress for approval because it had to be recalculated due to the world financial crisis and the new element of declining fuel prices. The lawmakers are also asking for more time for proper analysis.
Bengoa pointed out that the institutions in charge of working out the budget, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development, had to make changes to the first draft. It is expected that President Fernandez will discuss aspects related to the requests from the ministries, such as Education and Public Works during the meeting. Provincial governors and city mayors are also calling for increased funding.
At the same time, nurses' and doctors' demands for salary increases will also be considered.
The 2008 National Budget totaled RD$300,889,000,000, of which RD$264 billion were generated internally and RD$36 billion came from outside sources.

March against gender violence
Hundreds of people marched against domestic violence yesterday in an event organized by the Attorney General's office. On the theme "Zero Tolerance for Violence against Women", the march started at 4 in the afternoon, and left from Kilometer 0 of Mirador Sur Park, and went down Winston Churchill Avenue ending in front of the Justice Palace in the Centro de los Heroes. Minister for Women, Alejandrina German, was the first speaker to address the crowd, stressing the importance of working towards gender equality as a way of creating real development in society.
As reported in Diario Libre, assistant attorney general for Women's Affairs Roxanna Reyes spoke of the importance of the march as a means of calling attention to the issue of violence against women. Meanwhile Attorney General Radhames Jimenez outlined the progress that has been made in the fight against domestic violence through the creation of 14 centers in different parts of the country. Also taking part in the march were Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, National Police Chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin and other officials. Most non-governmental organizations that work in favor of women were not present at the march.

Constitution reform put off to 2009
The Joint Commission that is studying the proposal that will declare the need to carry out a reform of the Constitution has postponed any further discussions on the initiative and the changes in the Constitution until January in order to give top priority to the budget and other pending initiatives. Nevertheless, the commission will meet next Thursday, 27 November, to study a proposed agenda of priorities as presented by the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC). This information was given to the press by Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez after a meeting of the Joint Commission. According to the proposal, the budget proposals for 2009 will head the list and each political block will present 10 initiatives to be included in the priority agenda, which will be heard in the extended session of Congress and in the next Congress.

Tests on school breakfast quality?
Despite having started the distribution of the school breakfast on 5 September, so far over 62 million servings have been distributed, but nobody knows the nutritional level of the snacks since the government has not made public quality monitoring tests that may or may not have been carried out. According to Hoy reporter Carmen Matos, after the sub-standard quality of the milk being served in the schools was uncovered by investigative reporter Nuria Piera last school year, several entities said that they were in favor of periodic checks and promised to do so and present the results to the public. In a similar manner, the Minister of Education Melanio Paredes designated a multi-sectorial commission that was charged with guaranteeing a good nutritional level by carrying out random testing every 15 days. Both the minister, as well as the director of the Student Welfare Division that manages the breakfast program, have announced on several occasions that the studies have begun and they have even set dates to present the results, but the public has yet to hear their findings. NGO Citizen Participation, the pediatric association and the Dominican Teachers Association have all supported the idea of the studies and promised to finance several of these during the school year.

Congress mediates doctors deal
The congressional mediators and the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) have yet to reach an agreement to increase doctors' salaries. However, the presidents of the Senate, Reinaldo Pared Perez and the CMD, Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero, assured reporters from Hoy that the process is ongoing and said that they felt that there would be a positive understanding within "three or four days." After revealing that differences do persist on the question of the salary increase percentage, Dr. Suero called on the doctors to remain calm, repeating that there would be a positive outcome. Dr. Suero said, "Now just a little bit is lacking to reach a definitive agreement," after pointing out that the understanding would be reached in a few days. He added, "Things are going well, the doctors don't need to get desperate, they need to trust their president, their board of directors, we are not going to disappoint them." When he was asked about whether the proposal consisted of increasing their salaries by 40% in 2009 and by 60% in 2010, Dr. Suero said that the CMD made its proposal, and he added that Congress and the government will also make theirs, and that after this a discussion of the proposals and counter-proposals would take place. Dismissing rumors that he had resigned from his post as CMD president, Suero said that this is the desire of a few, specifically two PRD members who are looking for "jobs" and that "he would reveal their names when the time was right."

Court favors senator Guerrero
Former Police Commander for Peravia province, General Hilario Gonzalez said that he would file an appeal against the sentence handed down by the Supreme Court that said that the complaint against Senator Wilton Guerrero was unacceptable. The police officer, speaking through his lawyers Candido Simon Polanco and Freddy Calderon, sued for defamation, supported by articles 29,30, 32, 33 and 34 of Law 6132 on Expression and Diffusion of Thoughts because the senator accused the general "of protecting drug traffickers in Bani, Peravia." Lawyers Miguel Angel Prestol, Norberto Rondon, Marino Felix, Rafael Familia and Rafael Cordero defended Guerrero. The Supreme Court declared the case unacceptable because his accusations about Gonzalez's alleged complicity with drug traffickers were made in the protected forum of the Senate. They also alleged that the charges were poorly formulated and that they simply presented a chronology of newspaper articles cut from local papers. They said that the complaint was not very precise about when and how Senator Guerrrero incurred in the defamation and perjury against the general. When the court secretary finished reading the verdict, Polanco, one of the general's lawyers was visibly surprised and promised that he would file an appeal "tomorrow" (Thursday). He said that the complaint is well substantiated in the statements that say "General Hilario is a criminal at the service of crime, delinquency, prostitution and drug trafficking." The lawyer pointed out that he would continue to seek justice "unless justice does not answer as is proper and in that scenario, it is out of his hands."

Macarrulla re-elected in CONEP
The National Business Council (CONEP) has unanimously chosen their board of directors for the 2008-2010 period. Current president Lisandro Macarrulla was re-elected. Macarrulla said that electricity, illegal migration, especially relating to Haitians, and public safety were the most important problems to be addressed. Others on the CONEP board of directors are Lina Garcia de Blasco, second vice-president, Manuel Estrella, vice-secretary, Manuel Diez and Francisco Garcia as first and second vice-presidents, Maria Isabel Gasso, secretary, Rafael del Toro, treasurer and Alfonso Paniagua, vice-treasurer. Ligia Bonetti de Valiente, Fernando Capellan, Ernesto Izquierdo, Rafael Blanco Canto, VinicioMella, Campos de Moya, Manuel Andres Brugal and Stella Leon de Fernandez are members and Francisco Jose Castillo is the executive vice-president.

Copper and gold, silver mine
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque led the inauguration of operations at the Canadian mining company GlobeStar Mining and the Dominican Mining Corporation in the Cerro de Maimon. The companies will process gold, silver and copper. US$100 million has been invested in the first phase and will create 225 new jobs on site. At full production, Cerro de Maimon is expected to produce approximately 33.5 million pounds of copper, 18,000 ounces of gold and 500,000 ounces of silver annually.
The Cerro Maimon mine is located in the community of Los Martinez, near the city of Maimon in the province of Monsignor Nouel (Bonao).
GlobeStar president Larry Sicarelly pledged that the operation would be carried out respecting environmental standards and added that the company is working closely with the local community. Canadian ambassador Patricia Fortier also spoke at the opening, telling the audience that this was just one instance of Canada's confidence in the DR's security and guarantees of foreign investment.
See www.globestarmining.com/

Rain, rain
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) says that the rains will continue, fluctuating from light to moderate over a large part of the country. The rains are caused by a frontal system that is slowly moving from east-southeast. The rain showers, accompanied by thunder, lightening and possible high winds will mostly affect the north, northwest, northeast and the Cibao Valley. Onamet issued an alert for residents of Montecristi, Dajabon, Santiago Rodriguez, Valverde and Puerto Plata, for these provinces to take the necessary measures against flash flooding and landslides. Onamet said that there would be light rains in Santo Domingo and other areas of the country as the system crosses the area. Temperatures will be lower in the central and northern parts of the country.

Possible cocaine smugglers detained
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) and the Dominican Navy were able to seize 104 packages containing an unknown amount of white powder, presumably cocaine being carried in a boat that capsized off the coast of Punta Cana, near the Cap Cana resort development. Two Puerto Ricans were arrested. The find was made thanks to intense combing of the area by Coast Guard and Navy vessels as they searched for survivors of a failed illegal boat trip to Puerto Rico said to have been transporting more than 90 would-be migrants.
According to naval intelligence authorities, the boat was damaged when it struck a reef while setting out to sea loaded with the suspected drugs and headed for Puerto Rico. The information given to El Nuevo Diario reporters Francia Valdez and Ray Castro indicates that the two occupants of the boat started to throw the cargo overboard when they saw Navy vessels closing in on their sinking craft. A DNCD report says that the boat was partially destroyed during the operation. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron said that the drugs were taken to their headquarters for laboratory tests.

Elderly kidnap victim released
Bienvenido Chalas Calderon, 80, a resident of San Jose de Ocoa, has been freed by the kidnappers who seized him from his home on Monday. According to Listin Diario, the kidnappers left the old man in a remote area without demanding any ransom from his family. Around the National Police headquarters it was rumored that the kidnappers had asked for a large ransom from Chalas's family. In order to rescue Chalas, the Police Anti-Kidnapping Unit carried out a major sweep of the area. Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman had said that if the man were not released, he would personally carry out the search. Guzman earned the nickname "the butcher" for his ruthless actions against criminals when chief of the police in San Francisco de Macoris. It has been said he would order agents to shoot at the legs of known criminals, to deter them from committing future crimes.
On Monday night the police rescued a young girl, Yohanna Licelot Aracena Castillo, 13, who had been taken that morning on her way to school on the Los Restauradores Avenue in Sabana Perdida. Her kidnappers had asked for a US$150,000 ransom.
Dominican Police authorities are known for their effectiveness in dealing with kidnappings.

Baseball
In last night's baseball action, the Tigres del Licey defeated the Leones de Escogido 6-5 in a tense game at the Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo.
Jorge Sosa pitched seven great innings for Licey and Erick Aybar and Amaury Cazana were the big bats for the Blue. Escogido tried to come back in the ninth inning but fell just one run short. This was the fifth loss in a row for the Leones.
In San Pedro de Macoris, the Toros defeated the Estrellas 6-4, after overcoming a 1-4 lead by the Estrellas. Eddy Garabito was the star batsman for the Toros.
Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 16 - 19 .616 --
LICEY 16 - 11 .593 0.5
TOROS 16 - 11 .593 0.5
AGUILAS 15 - 11 .577 1.0
ESCOGIDO 11 - 16 .407 5.5
ESTRELLAS 6 - 21 .222 10.5

Tonight's games
Santo Domingo, Quisqueya Stadium 7:30pm: Gigantes vs. Licey
Santiago, Cibao Stadium 7:30pm: Estrellas vs Aguilas
La Romana, Francisco Micheli Stadium 7:30pm: Escogido vs. Toros
 
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