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Daily News - Monday, 01 December 2008

AMET tough on procastinators
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) impounded 314 vehicles last weekend in operations against drivers who had not renewed their license stamps on time. Metropolitan Police commander Colonel Ernesto Rodriguez Garcia said the vehicles were taken to the old Dog Track, where, after paying a fine and purchasing the sticker, they were returned to their owners. The number of vehicles taken by AMET in the capital was greater than the Dog Track parking capacity.
The fine for impounding the vehicle is RD$1,030, plus the RD$500 late fee for not obtaining the sticker within the three months allowed by the Department of Taxes (DGII). The stickers cost either RD$1,200 or RD$2,200.
The period for renewals was up last Friday 28 November. Only 10% of the 800,000 vehicles that were supposed to renew their stickers failed to do so.

Customs' Christmas easing up
Since the weekend, the Dominican Customs Department began to allow returning Dominican expatriates to bring in US$2,500 worth of goods, duty free. The traditional Christmas tax exemption only applies to one appliance, as per Law 9-96.

Funds for Metro and Cibao train
The Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET), in charge of the Santo Domingo Metro construction, is going for its second line, and RD$337 million has been assigned to the project in the 2009 budget.
Also appearing in the 2009 national budget is an item for RD$371 million for the construction of a train line for freight and passengers from Haina to Santiago. The item says that the resources for this project will be borrowed abroad. According to Hoy newspaper, the RD$329 billion budget legislation sent to Congress last Friday allocated a sum of RD$371 million for the freight and passenger line to Santiago.
President Leonel Fernandez first announced this project in New York City on 22 September. On that occasion, the mayor of Santiago said that the rail line was not a priority for the Cibao region or for the people of Santiago.
A RD$284 million project connected to the Santo Domingo Metro, an overpass at the intersection of Charles de Gaulle and Hermanas Mirabal Avenues also figures in the budget.
The OPRET budget assigns RD$284,197,500 to the construction of the overpass at the intersection of the two avenues. The budget for the first rapid transit line in Santo Domingo is RD$2.07 billion. The budget does not state the amount that will be used as a subsidy for the first Metro line operation, which is due to start running this month.

Biometric data is obligatory
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) warned yesterday that as of January, anyone who has not supplied their biometric data will not be able to make any banking transactions or get a firearms permit, for instance. The biometric data is unique to each individual, and includes scans of fingerprints, retinas, iris, facial patterns, veins in the hands, and the geometry of the palm, all of which will be handled by state-of-the-art technology. The new IDs, to be issued next year, will include this information with the aim of combating identity fraud.
The Association of Commercial Banks will be requiring biometric information for banking transactions.
Roberto Rosario, the president of the Administrative Chamber of the JCE told reporters from El Caribe that the Minister of the Interior and Police have told him that beginning next 1 January, it will be obligatory to supply biometric data to get a firearms license. The biometric registry started at the JCE headquarters in October. The registry of the biometric data has also taken place at prosecutors offices, leading hotels in Santo Domingo, the National Police headquarters and several media companies in Santo Domingo and Santiago, as reported in El Caribe.

Municipalities fight for their 10%
The new president of the Dominican Municipalities Federation (FEDOMU) and mayor of La Romana, Jose Reyes, has asked all the country's mayors and council members to join him in his fight to secure the fulfillment of the required 10% of the budget as required by Law 166-03 on municipal governments.
The president of the Dominican Municipal League, Amable Aristy Castro also said that he expects Congress to fix the practice by the Executive Branch that violates the law on the assignment of money to the municipalities.
As reported in Listin Diario, Reyes called for the transfer of the tax base of municipal concerns, such as license plates, remittances, property taxes and others that are currently channeled to the central government by order of the Executive Branch.
Reyes promised to maintain the 3% tax on the electricity distributors (EDEs) and telephone service as set out in law 176-07, and to continue to strengthen the Regional Municipal Associations.

Archaeological finds in North
The steep slope did not bother Rafo Sanchez who at 200 meters above sea level, without getting excited or losing a drop of sweat, took long steps along a ridge named after a relative of his.
"Before, I used to come up here to plant tobacco" he said, and at nearly 60 years of age he has learned to take a different product from the earth.
These are pieces of incredible archaeological value that are found underneath a hundred mounds spread out on this hill called Julio Martinez on the north slope of the Cordillera Septentrional, and recently documented by experts from the Museum of Dominican Man (MHD) and the Italian university La Sapienza of Rome.
According to Jorge Ulloa, an archaeologist with the MHD, "this is the most important find in the Northwest of Hispaniola, an area little studied until now."
Ulloa is joined by Adriano Rivera, Petrucci Giovanni, Alicia Angeletti and Alfredo Coppa on the dig site where they are studying over 35 pre-Columbian formations that suggest the presence of a very high population density, extending into present-day Haiti.
The most relevant aspect is that the excavations could confirm the co-existence of Tainos and Macoriges (from Macorix), two of the main indigenous communities that lived on the island before the arrival of the Spanish.

Luperon Highway almost impassible
The condition of the Luperon Tourist Highway that links Puerto Plata and the north coast with Santiago and the Cibao region is as bad as ever, and local inhabitants are saying that their patience is wearing thin. Travelers to Puerto Plata from Santiago have the option of the Navarrete highway and the highway through Moca-Sabaneta, which are in good condition.
According to Hoy newspaper, the Luperon highway is nearly impassable in many sections and its condition has driven many traders along the route to bankruptcy. The constant landslides just destroy the little work that takes place. Drivers who use the important route defined the stoppage of repairs as regrettable.
According to Gabriel Guzman from Yaroa, "this is a never ending story, a place where something is always beginning or being continued but never finished, because nobody pays it too much attention. This is a forgotten highway."
According to locals, a lot of work was done before the elections but since then nothing has been done. The former attractive route for people going from Santiago to the north coast or vice-versa is now abandoned.
According to Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua, the project is well advanced and the government has a lot of interest in finishing this highway because of its importance to the tourism industry. He said that it was not finished as originally scheduled due to the landslides that have increased the scale of the job, but they are working hard for it to be finished by mid-next year.

Troncoso bridge impassable
The poor condition of the Presidente Troncoso Bridge over the River Haina once again halted the normal flow of traffic to and from the southern region of the country. The bridge had to be closed to traffic at 10:15am on Friday. Reporters from Hoy were told that it would be partially re-opened today, Monday. This route carries 40% of all the freight between Santo Domingo and the south west of the country. The entrance to the capital on the Sanchez Highway was closed on Friday due to the poor condition of the bridge that is located just past the toll station. Drivers and pedestrians who use the bridge complain of the bad condition and the frequent traffic interruptions, all without a definitive solution to the problems. Employees of the Peaje Dominicana Company that manages the toll booths at km12 of the Sanchez Highway said that each day the bridge is closed they lose RD$430,000. Deputy Public Works Minister Mayobanex Escoto Vasquez told reporters that the ministry would spend RD$20 million on repairing one of the main columns, requiring in-depth work. He said that traffic was stopped during the work because the weight of the bridge forced a footing of the column to move. He promised that the repairs would extend the bridge's lifespan by 20 years.

The plight of those with HIV
For over 15 years the Dominican Republic has had the AIDS Law, a piece of legislation which, like many others, is more real on paper than in actuality. Most of the nearly 60,000 people who live with HIV/AIDS, according to the latest statistics, prove this on a daily basis.
Marcos (not his real name) worked as a watchman at a discotheque located in the tourist area of Bavaro. At the beginning of August he, along with all his fellow employees, had to undergo medical tests. Several days later he was fired on the grounds that they were reducing staff. He was never given the test results. As a result, he went for several tests and found out he was HIV+.
Miriam Slujalkovsky, coordinating lawyer of the Integrated Care Technical Working Unit (Utelain) -that has been working since 2007 - told Diario Libre that Law 55-93 prohibits, in Article 3, HIV tests as a requisite for obtaining a job or to remain employed. Many businesses break this law.
She explained that since businesses do have the right to test employees for tuberculosis or hepatitis, many of them contract laboratories to test for HIV without telling anyone or they change the name of the test.
Test results are usually not given to the employees or job candidates and, according to Slujalkovsky, there is no legal mechanism to force the employer to do this.
She said, "As the law prohibits it, supposedly it is not done. In reality, the businesses do not tell, they always give some excuse... unfortunately, we can do nothing in these cases because there is no contract or verbal agreement upon which to base a complaint."
Although violation of the AIDS Law in the labor market is "normal", the Presidential Commission on AIDS (COPRESIDA) Legal Advisor assured Diario Libre that there has been some progress. Erika Suero, the assistant legal advisor, said that educational issues for both employers and employees are at play.
Up until now, 46 businesses all across the country have signed agreements to apply non-discriminatory policies to people affected by HIV+ or AIDS. She said that many cases of discrimination in the workplace occur due to a lack of knowledge by the employers. She said that many employers have approached her office for guidance in that respect.
Suero points out the importance of workers being aware of the law, since in many cases they do not know their rights or do not admit them out of fear of social stigma of being HIV+.
Since it was set up, UTELAIN, working jointly with the Ministry of Labor, has helped resolve 10 out of 11 HIV+/AIDS related discrimination cases. One case is still in the courts.
Suero said that her office is also helping people with HIV or AIDS to fulfill their duties by informing their partners or former partners of their condition. According to Article 22 of the law, a person with HIV+ is under no obligation to reveal this to their employer.
At national level, 60 integrated units provide care to people infected with HIV or AIDS. The infrastructure is provided by the government, as are the doctors and psychologists who work in them. Nonetheless, the resources that provide them with the necessary medicines (such as anti-retroviral and proteins) come from external sources.

Gun carry ban starts today
Although public figures, politicians and associations have complained, the ban on civilians carrying handguns begins today. According to the decree, citizens can still possess licensed weapons, but may not carry them in public. A gun may still be carried inside a handbag or in a vehicle glove compartment.
The measure is set out in Resolution 01-08 signed by Police and Interior Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier, with the aim of "reducing crimes and providing an environment of coexistence without violence."
The restriction has been rejected from many quarters, with calls on the population to ignore it, to avoid being at the mercy of the criminals who, in their opinion, are better armed than the police.

Paya case accused to be extradited
A source at the United States Embassy has told El Nuevo Diario reporter Carlos Corporan that former Lt. Colonel Ricardo Guzman Perez and former Major Eduard Mayobanex Rodriguez Montero would be extradited to stand trial in a Federal Court for drug trafficking in the United States.
Both former naval officers are accused of killing seven Colombians and wounding Orin Clinton Gomez, from Nicaragua, who became the star witness in the Ojo de Agua massacre case, since he provided details that led to the capture of the military officers and civilians suspected of the killings.
Meanwhile, El Nuevo Diario correspondent in New York city, Miguel Cruz Tejada pointed out that the Dominican Embassy in Washington was not aware of any request from the United States Justice Department to extradite the former major Rodriguez Montero, who, together with a group of other officers and some civilians, is accused of carrying out the murders in Ojo de Agua in August.
The reporter said that sources close to the investigation being carried out by the DEA and other federal agencies had told a grand jury that they had found probable cause to accuse the group of transporting thousands of kilograms of cocaine and heroin from the Dominican Republic to the United States and Puerto Rico, and because of this a federal court with jurisdiction in New York had submitted a request for the extradition through the Washington embassy.

Police kill two in shootout
Two men who were being pursued for allegedly committing robberies and assaults were killed by police yesterday when, as reported by the police, they holed up in a house in El Cacique, Haina, and took a woman hostage.
The police named one of the men as Tito, aged 42. The woman taken hostage was identified as Alba Lebron Reyes, 46. The other man's identity was not revealed.
The police said that during the incident a revolver and a shotgun were taken from the pair, and that these weapons had been used against police officers. The police said that Tito and his accomplice were being pursued for crimes committed in the Haina area.
The report says that as soon as the men noticed the patrol, they resisted arrest and took the woman hostage in an attempt to escape. The report states that, "in these circumstances the police agents returned fire and wounded both men." No police officers were injured in the incident.

Clinton Secretary of State
US President-elect Barack Obama has confirmed the appointment of New York Senator Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. The Clintons, in their private capacity, have been frequent visitors to the Dominican Republic, especially to the Punta Cana beach area. In fact, they chose the DR for their first vacation after President Bill Clinton ended his eight years in government.
See: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/...

Dominican to dress Miss Ecuador
Dominican fashion designer Jose Luis Victoria has won the Golden Thimble 2008 in Ecuador. The award gives him the right to design the costumes Miss Ecuador 2009 will use in the Miss Universe contest. He also won the rights to design costumes for leading soap operas in Ecuador and will compete in a fashion contest in Spain, representing Ecuador. Victoria, who lives in Santiago de los Caballeros, said that this was the first time he had participated in the contest that was open to contestants from all over Latin America. He presented 12 gala dresses, three wedding gowns and two casually elegant suits.

Major art auction
Santo Domingo's Museum of Modern Art will be holding an important art auction with major works of art being put on the floor. The auction will take place on Wednesday, 3 December at 7pm. The works to be auctioned are on display at the MAM from 10am to 6pm on the auction day. To view these, RD$500 needs to be paid. Gamal Michelen will be the auctioneer. Works of art by Enriquillo Amiama, Plutarco Andujar, Jose Luis Baldera, Candido Bido, Dionisio Blanco, Jose Cestero, Jose Cuevas, Enrique Garcia Godoy, Antonio Guadalupe, Angel Hache, Gilberto Hernandez Ortega, Alberto Houellemont, Clara Ledesma, Domingo Liz, Luichy Martinez Richiez, Virgilio Mendez, Yoryi Morel, Elsa Nunez, Ramon Oviedo, Jose Perdomo Cuquito Pena, Guillo Perez, Dionisio Pichardo, Hilario Rodriguez, Mariano Sanchez, Timoteo Santos, Alberto Ulloa, among others will be auctioned.

Baseball update
Yesterday Neifi Perez got three hits for the Leones del Escogido who continue to battle for a play-off berth. The Leones defeated the Tigres del Licey 4 - 1 in the Quisqueya Stadium.
In Santiago's fabled Estadio Cibao, the Gigantes defeated the Aguilas by a score of 10-8. Kendry Morales was the executioner, driving in four runs. The victory lifted the Gigantes to a game and a half over the Toros del Este and the Tigres del Licey.
In San Pedro de Macoris, the Estrellas Orientales continue to play the spoiler as they defeated the Toros del Este 7 - 2 in the Tetelo Vargas Stadium. Under their new manager the Estrellas have reeled off five consecutive victories. Japanese import Shouji Nagamine pitched seven innings of one-run baseball for the Estrellas.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 21 - 14 .600 --
TOROS 20 - 16 .556 1.5
LICEY 20 - 16 .514 1.5
AGUILAS 18 - 17 .514 3.0
ESCOGIDO 17 - 19 .472 4.5
ESTRELLAS 11 - 25 .306 10.5
Tonight's Game:
Julian Javier Stadium, San Francisco de Macoris, 7:30pm:
Aguilas (F. Carmona) vs Gigantes (A. Bastrdo)
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