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Daily News - Monday, 08 December 2008

President Fernandez speaks tonight
President Leonel Fernandez will address the nation from the National Palace at 9pm tonight. The Presidency said the government would be announcing measures for dealing with the global financial crisis and the agreement by which the International Monetary Fund will monitor the Dominican economy. The President has not spoken to the nation since his address upon taking office for a second consecutive term on 16 August of this year. President Fernandez is rarely available for interviews with the local press.
Yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez gave an advance talk on the global financial crisis and the impact it will have on the Dominican economy in 2009 to the members of the party's Political and Central Committees, provincial, municipal and sectional leaders as well as governors, mayors and legislators.
Members of the so-called "progressive bloc" in Congress were also in attendance at the meeting, which took place at the Lina Hotel in Santo Domingo.
According to Diario Libre, the President said that the themes of the meeting were practically identical to those discussed during the seminar recently held in Casa de Campo on "The Global Financial Crisis and its Impact on the Dominican Economy".
Pared Perez added that the party leadership and membership have to be well informed about the financial crisis and they have to be prepared to confront the situation if the Dominican economy were to be impacted by the situation next year.

Jaime David wants jail for violators
Minister of the Environment Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal said that powerful people are trying to undermine the environmental protection laws. With this in mind, he said that he was submitting legislation to the Congress aimed at sending violators of the environmental laws to jail. He said that "was why I have said that I need eight more years (in the ministry) although that sounds like Balaguer, but we need a national project." He made these comments to Miguel Guerrero on the Portada 15 program on Channel Digital 15. Fernandez Mirabal said that ecocide is a crime of "lesa patria" worse than killing a person, because it threatens future generations. At the same time the Minister of the Environment said that some eleven sand and gravel companies continue to operate around the rivers in spite of the fact that the grace period for dismantling them is over. He cited the Yaque del Sur, Haina and the Camu as three of the rivers still being exploited. He said that the areas will be replanted with trees purchased from local farmers.

Worries over storm alerts
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have expressed their concern about the fact that most of the population does not understand the emergency alert system; the different levels of alerts and the action that needs to be taken in each case.
COE director Colonel Juan Manuel Mendes and UNDP Disasters Prevention and Preparedness Program coordinator Marc Van Wynsberghe agreed that action needed to be taken to improve and perfect the mechanisms for informing the public about these alerts and to establish debate between vulnerable sectors of the population and the response organizations.
They also agreed to seek mechanisms aimed at raising public awareness so that people do not resist evacuations. These are some of the conclusions of a workshop sponsored by the UNDP and the European Community on the lessons learned during the recent hurricane season.
Colonel Mendez said that the evaluations of the COE's performance during the 2008 hurricane season found that one of the main problems they faced was people's resistance to being evacuated and leaving their homes, mainly in the most vulnerable areas, when a dangerous situation is developing.
He announced that they would be launching an information campaign, starting with a brochure in January.
It was also decided to simplify the COE procedures manual.

Now nine weeks and counting
Much to the delight of most drivers on the island, fuel prices have gone down once again, making it nine weeks in a row. This week the prices of gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and propane gas were all reduced, in some cases substantially. Premium gasoline fell by RD$9.30, regular by RD$8.20, regular diesel by 5RD$5.90, and avtur by RD$7.40. Propane went down by RD$2.47 a gallon.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (SEIC) reported that "in keeping with the trend of the last eight weeks, the local prices for both types of gasoline, both types of diesel, LPG, avtur and kerosene, will go substantially lower on Saturday 6 December and be in place until Friday 12 December."
The ministry press release said that premium gasoline will cost RD$126.90, regular will cost RD$117.60, regular diesel will cost RD$111.80 and premium diesel will be sold for 117.60. The most important single item is the price of LPG that is used to fuel most of the public transport system. This product will be sold for RD$53.21 a gallon this week.
The Ministry of Industry & Commerce bulletin said that the lower oil prices on the international markets are attributed to a fall in demand for fuel in the United States due to the financial crisis, according to reports from Platts & Opis LPG. This group said that the decrease in the energy market has forced the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to consider another round of cuts in production when they meet on 17 December in Oran, Algeria.
"It is certain that we will cut production again in Oran" said Abdullah al Attiyah, the Qatari Oil Minister during a meeting in Dubai.
The SEIC added that another aspect that contributed to the lower process was the notably stronger dollar. A report from the United States Department of Energy said that petroleum demand was 6.2% lower than a year ago.

Limits on rental contracts approved
The Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that property owners can set a time limit on rental contracts. The court said that the ruling that prohibits property owners from setting a limit to the rental contract violates the Constitution. The explanation is that the ruling dates back to the 1950s when owners right to limit the term of rentals was restricted because there was a state of emergency. The Supreme Court establishes that the years old decision considerably reduced the number of units on the rental market. The Supreme Court now establishes that the rental contract will end as established in the written contract, without the need of having to begin the eviction procedure.

Economist says development on hold
Economist Pavel Isa Contreras said that he felt that the budget submitted to the Congress by the President leaves a clear impression that development and economic and social change in the Dominican Republic not on the government's agenda.
He explained that the budget structure is basically the same as the 2005 budget, the year in which the government worked to come out of a crisis.
Isa Contreras said that the country has had some four or five years of fairly stable prices and nevertheless the budget remains the same, "that is to say, we do not go from the agenda for stabilization to the agenda for development".
The economist said he thought that a fundamental part would be to strengthen social spending, pointing out the in times of crisis expenditures should be redirected towards the protection of the people with more expenditures in health, education and better spending.
During his interview on Channel 11 Telesistema, the economist said: "At a time of crisis, unemployment increases, the purchasing power of households deteriorates, there is a series of basic necessities that sustain homes, especially the poorest homes, that are the most vulnerable, and begin to deteriorate fastest."
The economist said that priority has to be put on the people, adding that personally he does not see any significant priority, despite the fact that strengthening agriculture was one of the things most often mentioned as a way of making the country less vulnerable to outside events.

Europe as an export market
The president of the Dominican Exporters Association (Adoexpo) says that outside of free zone exports, the DR exports more to Europe than to the US. Ricardo Koenig of Adoexpo said that the European Union imported 29.33% of all Dominican exports, while the US imported 26.47%.
Koenig says these are good times for Dominican exporters to make the most of the opportunities available under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Community. Koenig said that the country should establish a new target for exports, and in the same way develop the European market "as a door towards growth and development." He described the EPA as the best trade deal worked out by the government.
Speaking at the first seminar organized by the European Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the Dominican Republic and the CEI-RD, he invited the export sector to visit Adoexpo to obtain better knowledge of the tools needed to make the most of the treaty.

Falconbridge pledges help
Falconbridge Dominicana has let go hundreds of its workers, but they understand that for this reason they should provide more assistance to the community, including supporting municipalities in repairing rural roads and leveling fields for agriculture.
The Falcondo Foundation sponsors 129 schools in Bonao and La Vega. Luis Rosario, representing the mining company that belongs to Xstrata Nickel, said over the weekend that "We are going to maintain all these programs because we know the terrible impact that the temporary closure of the mine is having on these communities."
The demand for nickel has fallen partly as a result of the economic crisis caused by the financial debacle in the United States. In response to this situation, Xstrata Nickel decided on the temporary shutdown of the Falconbridge mining operation until the price of nickel recovers. One of the measures taken was the dismissal of 900 of the 1,640 workers. The repercussions of this decision have plunged the people of Bonao into uncertainty about their future, as most of the trade in the area is indirectly related to income generated from the mine.
The greatest concern about the situation was expressed by the Bonao Chamber of Commerce, whose 400 members' livelihood mostly depends on trade resulting from the payroll of the mine that used to total US$2 million each month.
Rosario said that Falconbridge would hire an agency to help workers find new jobs.
Reportedly, many of the workers commuted to the mine from neighboring areas, so the impact will be felt beyond Bonao. The company announced that it would be paying around US$20 million in severance payments, but many workers already owe large part of their due money to the company cooperative.

Cardinal wants stiffer sentences
The head of the Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic, Nicolas de Jesus Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez, has called for much stiffer sentences for people linked to drugs and drug trafficking. The Cardinal spoke after celebrating Mass at the IX National Ultreya, a group of the faithful from all of the nation's dioceses. Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez told reporters from Listin Diario that as well as more vigorous sentencing, the nation needed more controls on trafficking.
"They should have gone after these people with clubs a long time ago, and not just the Justice Department, everyone," he said. The Cardinal said that he had no doubt that some people here know who the masterminds behind the Paya massacre are, but they remain silent out of pity."
The Cardinal said he has no doubt that the international narcotics trade had penetrated the political parties and all social strata. He called for the rehabilitation of the family as the main way of rescuing Dominican society from "these dogs that do not believe in anything or anybody, and are willing to sell their souls to the devil..."

Rock ash minister sentenced
The Penal Chamber of the Santo Domingo Court of Appeals has sentenced former Deputy Environment Minister Rene Ledesma to six months in jail and the payment of 10,000 minimum salaries for allowing the dumping of 50,000 tons of rock ash (fly ash) in Samana.
Judges Olga Herrera, Hirohito Reyes and Dario Gomez Herrera, accepted the arguments of assistant prosecutor Carlos Castillo. Defense lawyers Rafael Mejia Guerrero and Jacinto Trejo Liranzo had requested the ratification of the decision by the Court of Appeals in San Francisco de Macoris to discharge the accused. The tribunal revoked the lower court's sentence and found Ledesma guilty of violating Law 64-00 on the Environment. The court ordered the sentence to be suspended under a series of conditions. These include the requirement that the guilty party remain in his house, refrain from traveling outside the country, and provide service to an organization that protects the environment outside of his normal work hours. Although in its reasoning the court said that rock ash was not toxic, it rested its conviction on the handling of the substance that sent dust clouds that could damage the health of residents and harm marine life. The court rejected any civil cases against Ledesma filed by environmental protection organizations. According to Diario Libre, defense lawyer Rafael Mejia Guerrero said that the defense team would be examining the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Murders and "gun fight" deaths up
Violent deaths registered an increase of 320 cases in the first nine months of 2008 in comparison with the same period in 2007.
Between January and September 2008, there were 1,807 homicides, and last year there were 1,487.
This information is contained in a report by the Prosecutor General Office's Statistics Department that shows a 5% increase in the violent death rate for every 100,000 inhabitants.
While in 2007 the violent death rate for the January-September period was 20,73/100,000 inhabitants, this year the figure climbed to 25.30/100,000 inhabitants.
The homicide rate increased from 17.98 to 20.5 per 100,000.
The deaths attributed to "exchanges of gunfire" between citizens and the police registered a drastic increase. From 197 incidents in 2007, the number increased to 343 for this year.
Diario Libre says that the report cites gender-related murders at 128 women killed in 2007 and for the same period in 2008 the number is set at 157, an increase of 29 female victims.
According to the Attorney General's report, homicides directly related to crime went from 569 to 638.
Drug related disputes left a toll of 253 deaths, compared to 241 for the same period last year. Victims of robberies and assaults, which last year totaled 169, reached 248 for this January-September period.
Deaths not directly related to criminal activity totaled 1,205 in comparison to 924 last year.
According to the report, homicides that occurred during attempted robberies or assaults increased by 17 cases from last year, going from 80 to 97.
Fights in nightclubs and other entertainment centers left 118 dead, while last year the number was 81.
"Stray bullets" caused nine deaths in the 2008 period and in 2007 there was just one case on the books. In a statistical rarity, personal fighting left the same number of dead in 2007 and 2008, 311, for the January-September time frame.

Police dishonorable discharge
The National Police reports that the two members of a police patrol who detained a Haitian national and stole EUR37,000 from him, will be dishonorably discharged, stripped of their uniforms and led out of the Police headquarters before a full assembly of the troops tomorrow morning. The information was released by police spokesperson Colonel Nelson Rosario. They will then be sent to court to face kidnapping and robbery charges. Rosario said that former sergeant Obispo Montero Ramirez and former corporal Sandro Familia Paniagua had attacked Silver Tupa, 36, and will face charges.

Spanish citizenship
The Spanish Consulate will be holding an information meeting on Tuesday, 9 December at 7:30pm at the Casa de Espana for descendants of Spaniards in Santo Domingo who may qualify for Spanish nationality. Other meetings are scheduled for the Centro Espanol in Santiago on Wednesday, 17 December at 6pm, and the Centro Espanol in Constanza, on Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 3pm. A new Spanish ruling will benefit an estimated half a million descendants worldwide of people who fled the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. The Law of Historical Memory benefits children and grandchildren of people who left Spain from 18 July 1936 to 31 December 1955. They must also demonstrate that their relatives received pensions granted to exiles or took part in some work for refugees from Franco's Spain. Those who qualify need to apply between 29 December 2008 and 28 December 2010. The new law also authorizes Spanish nationality for offspring of Spaniards born abroad, but the parent must make the application in person. Manuel Hernandez Ruigomez from the Spanish consulate estimates that some 50,000-60,000 Dominicans could be eligible for Spanish nationality.
For more information, see www.maec.es/consulados/santodom

A-Rod to play for the DR
Alex Rodriguez has told Dominican fans that he will play for the Dominican team in next year's World Baseball Classic.
He told reporters, "I am 100% sure that I am going to play for the Dominican Republic." Rodriguez was speaking at a press conference in Punta Cana, in the east of the Dominican Republic where he was playing in a charity golf tournament organized by David Ortiz.
The slugger generated local controversy in the first World Classic in 2006 when he announced that he would play for the DR only to end up playing for the US.
On this occasion, Rodriguez promised that he would not change his mind. "This time there is no doubt and this is my mother's dream and I intend to fulfill it, and it is my dream too."
For some time, rumors have circulated about Rodriguez's participation in the series. The Dominican team organizing committee said that they were quite happy with the superstar's commitment.
According to Stanley Javier, the general manager, "This is great news. It is good news that Alex has decided to play with the Dominican team. The rules are clear, just signing now is enough for him to play with the Dominican team." Rodriguez pointed out that the rules of the Classic permit him to play for either team, since he was born in the US but his parents are Dominican.
He said: "It will be a very special day for my family to see me wearing the Dominican team uniform again." Rodriguez played winter league baseball with the Leones del Escogido in the 1994-1995 season before reaching the Major Leagues. That year the Dominican Republic finished third in the first World Baseball Classic, behind Japan and Cuba.
Rodriguez said, "I think that we have a good team and a chance of winning because there is a lot of quality material for the Classic."

Baseball updates
Escogido defeated Carolinas from Puerto Rico 4-3 and got closer to a play-off berth. Argenis Reyes got the hit that scored the winning run.
Over in San Juan Puerto Rico, the Aguilas Cibenas divided honors with the Santurce Cangrejeros, 1-0 and 3-4 in their two inter-league games. During the second game, Victor Diaz hit his 15th homerun, breaking the all-time season record for homers.
The Gigantes del Cibao defeated the Arecibo Lobos 6-3 in the Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris, and remain in first place.
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 24 - 17 .586 --
TOROS 23 - 18 .560 1.0
AGUILAS 22 - 19 .538 2.0
LICEY 21 - 20 .512 3.0
ESCOGIDO 20 - 21 .487 4.0
ESTRELLAS 14 - 27 .341 10.0
No games are scheduled until Thursday this week.
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