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Daily News - Friday, 12 December 2008

Fernandez offers support
In an unexpected move, President Leonel Fernandez was in Bonao yesterday to offer support to 900 workers who recently lost their jobs with the Falconbridge mining company. Fernandez announced that the government would help them find new jobs, and that 90 workers over the age of 55 would be awarded government pensions. The President also said the government would cover workers' debts with the company cooperative. This means the workers would be able to fully enjoy the severance payments they are receiving from the company. Fernandez also offered higher interest rates on deposits the workers will make with their severance savings when deposited in the governmental Banco de Reservas, or lower rates if they wanted to use the money to start a small business.
Fernandez announced a RD$300 million fund for the inhabitants of the provinces of Monsenor Nouel, La Vega and Sanchez Ramirez.
He said that the new tourist project at Punta Perla in Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana has pledged to employ at least 200 of the displaced workers.
Falconbridge recently announced the dismissal of the employees due to the low price of ferronickel on international markets.

President at Vista Cana
Yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez and Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia attended the launch of the new Vista Cana Resort and Country Club in the Punta Cana area. The Venezuelan tourism project will include the construction of 6,000 rooms, a commercial center with 100 stores, a 27-hole golf course and an artificial 180,000 square meter lake set in a total area of 6 million square meters. The investors talk of initial cost of US$1.2 billion. Fernandez highlighted that with this and other upcoming projects, the DR continues to diversify its tourism inventory while maintaining its "bread and butter" offer. Fernandez said the resort project seeks to attract "baby boomers" in search of a nice place to visit and retire to. Fernandez added that while 2009 should be a tough year, the DR would continue its efforts to attract foreign and tourism investment.

Investment up; real estate down
Foreign direct investment more than doubled in 2008, but real estate investment declined, according to statistics from the Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD). Investment in 2008 totaled US$2.35 billion, for a 55.1% growth from 2007. Real estate investment was down to US$576.4 million, compared to US$1.33 billion in 2007. Eddy Martinez, director of CEI-RD says that total foreign direct investment equaled US$836.5 billion. Martinez said this increased investment is a result of the international ties established by President Leonel Fernandez.

Parties open to changes
Seven political parties and the Central Electoral Board (JCE) have signed a cross-party agreement, with the aim of cultivating trust in the DR's political party system. Representatives from the PLD, PRD, PRSC, PRSD, APD, PRI and PPC met at the Spanish Embassy to discuss and sign the agreement. Miguel Angel Encimas from the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI), Mauricio Ramirez Villegas from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas served as witnesses. Listin Diario writes that the agreement seeks to improve the quality of electoral campaigns, efficiency and transparency of government appointments, transparency in the electoral process and civil involvement in the political process.

Garcia threatens bus drivers
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia has said that bus drivers who use violence or cause disruption to services in tourist zones would have their licenses cancelled. He made this statement after bus drivers from two unions that shuttle workers to and from Higuey blocked the flow of traffic outside the city on Tuesday. The bus drivers were protesting against the arrest of a bus driver who is accused of threatening a union election candidate at gunpoint. Haydee Kuret, president of Asonahores, said that the protest meant that many workers arrived late at their jobs in Punta Cana.

Hubieres continues to pressure
Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier said that if drivers or transport leaders in Santo Domingo continue to cause trouble, they will be arrested. Police stopped a march by protestors from reaching the Presidential Palace yesterday and transport union leader Juan Hubieres is still on hunger strike. Hubieres and the bus drivers are campaigning to be assigned the feeder routes for the new Metro, which is expected to begin operations later this month. Hoy reports that there was some tension and violence as police and drivers clashed with police firing shots and wielding clubs against protesting drivers. Two drivers were taken to the hospital, 20 people were hurt and as many people arrested. Listin Diario reports that the march was originally intended to be non-violent.

Judicial honesty
Judge Franny Gonzalez has withdrawn from hearing the trial of Financiera Nacional de Credito (CONACRE) executives because, according to her, a man who identified himself as Marcos Perez approached the judge and on two occasions, on 3 and 9 December, and offered her "a millionaire" bribe to rule in favor of the defendants. The judge is quoted in Hoy as saying that the event gravely affects her impartiality and her independence within and outside the Judicial Branch. In November the Central Bank brought charges against Narciso Chaljub Rizik, Roberto Torres Lara, Miguel Calzada Hernandez and C & P Servicios, S.A., as well as Ingeniero Narciso Chaljub y Asoc. for crimes including money laundering and violating Finance Law.

Misuse of antibiotics
Hoy features a recent report, "Use of Antibiotics in the DR," which found that 80% of doctors in the DR incorrectly prescribe antibiotic medicines and that an alarming number of Dominicans self-medicate, without a doctor's advice. A total of 918 doctors were interviewed but only 629 agreed to participate in the study. The study considers failure to administer the correct dose or the right type of antibiotic as an incorrect prescription. The study included doctors with more than 20 years experience in both the public and private sector. The study also revealed that 75% of parents or guardians refused to give their children antibiotics.

Cleaning up paradise
Some 6,000 cubic meters of contaminated land will be cleaned up in the notorious God's Paradise, one of the world's most polluted places on earth. The area is filled with lead and factory waste, but the Ministry of Environment and the Blacksmith Institute have pledged to clean up the area. Engineer Victor Garcia, who is in charge of filling the contaminated areas, says lead traces have been found as deep as three meters down. Hoy reports that cleaning crews are taking precautions to limit the spread of lead in the area. Garcia explained once the area has been completely cleaned it will be filled and then turned into an ecological park.

Telecoms should compensate
The president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) has said that telephone companies that experience service outages should compensate their users for deficiencies in the service. As reported in Hoy, Jose Rafael Vargas said that there are eight million telephones in the DR, of which seven million are cell phones. He said that tele-density in the DR is 83%. Of the cell phones, he said 98% are digital. Recently, Claro Codetel users have suffered numerous service outages. These were unheard of when the company was managed by Verizon of the United States. Orange Telecom users have also suffered deficiencies in their service.

Trade deficit doubles with the US
The Dominican Republic's trade deficit with the United States has doubled. The DR has a free trade agreement with the US. As reported in Hoy, economist Luis Vargas says that figures from the US Department of Commerce for the first 10 months of 2008 show that the trade deficit grew 70%, or US$939.3 million, going from US$1.34 billion to US$2.28 billion for the period. He said that exports are down 5.16% or US$182.9 million, while imports were up 15.47% or US$755.5 million.

Good news for property owners
The Supreme Court has ruled that property owners can evict a tenant when the tenant uses the property for a purpose other than agreed in the written contract. The ruling overrides Decree 4807 from 1959 that strongly favored the tenant. Listin Diario reports that the ruling came about as a result of the case presented by Antun Hermanos & Co that wanted to end its lease to tenant Julio Victor Giraldez Casasnovas.
The Antun company had leased a house for residential use and it was used as a veterinary clinic. The 1959 decree enabled the tenant to give the property a different use and the owner would not be able to evict him unless they could demonstrate that this use damaged the owner or breached the public order. The Supreme Court ruled that the decree was in violation of the Civil Code Art 1729 that establishes that if a tenant uses the property differently and could damage it in the process, the contract can be rescinded. The Supreme Court also based its decision on the Civil Code Art 1737 that establishes that the lease ends at the expiration of the fixed term, when this was established in writing, without need to notify the eviction.
Listin Diario reports that while the ruling was specific to a particular case, it sets a legal precedent that can be applied to future cases. The Supreme Court decision should encourage more owners to put their properties on the market, now that eviction of tenants who breach a contract will now be easier.

Intec and Penn State
Intec University and Penn State University have signed a cooperation agreement that will allow Intec students to study at Penn State. The agreement will also include the installation of the Haas Technical Education Center in the DR. Michael Immel, Director of Corporate Relations for the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Penn State, announced that the new 2+2 program would allow students from INTEC to attend Penn State and complete their bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering, Biological Engineering, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Engineering Science or Nuclear Engineering. Penn State will also automatically give credits for courses completed at INTEC enabling the students to carry out majors at Penn State that are not available at INTEC. To qualify for the 2+2 program, prospective students must successfully complete two years of engineering courses at INTEC and then enter Penn State to complete their degree requirements. The program officially begins in August 2009. For more information:
www.ie.psu.edu/NewsEvents/News/NewsItemDetails.cfm?ID=430

Horford the All-Star?
Al Horford, the second year center for the Atlanta Hawks, is among the top-ranked centers in this year's All-Star voting. According to initial stats released by the NBA, Horford has received 45,284 votes behind Dwight Howard, Sam Dalembert, Rasheed Wallace and Jermaine O'Neal. Horford is following a strong rookie year with a solid second campaign putting up 11.2 points per game, 8.1 boards, 2.5 assists while shooting 53.5% from the field. Go to www.nba.com for more information.

Baseball updates
After taking a week off, the Dominican Winter League was back on center stage last night with all six teams seeing action. In last night's first game the Aguilas took care of the Escogido with a 5-3 victory at Estadio Quisqueya. Though it was intended to be a pitcher's duel with Fausto Carmona and Francisco Liriano on the mound it was Jarrod Saltalamacchia who took the spotlight with a homerun that put the Aguilas over the top. Last night's second game saw Licey easily win over the Toros, 7-2, behind a strong pitching performance by Ramon Ortiz. Last night's final game saw the Estrellas take care of the Gigantes 10-6 behind the bat of Major Leaguer Robinson Cano and Estrella hitter Juan Richardson. Both hit home runs.
 
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