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Daily News - Tuesday, 23 December 2008

DR1 breaks for Christmas
DR1 daily news updates will not be published tomorrow, 24 December, on Christmas Day or on Friday 26 December. News will be compiled for the Monday, 29 December digest. Breaking news may be covered in the dr1 forums that are open 24/7 for posts from readers from all around the world.
See: www.dr1.com/forums/

Migration fees increased
Staying over the 30 days covered by the US$10 tourist card will now cost more. The Department of Migration has raised the charges for longer stays. Visitors staying for up to 90 days/three months will now need to pay an extra RD$800 upon departure or at the Department of Migration at the Centro de los Heroes in Santo Domingo. The fee scale increases with the duration of the overstay period. This means that anyone who stays for up to a year will be charged RD$2,500.
For the breakdown, see www.migracion.gov.do/tarifas/vextranjeria.htm

Freight restriction
As of noon today, freight vehicles will not be allowed to transit in the DR between 24, 25 and 26 December or between 31 December and 2 January. The decision by the Public Works Ministry was taken in the hope of reducing the number of accidents on the nation's roads and highways. The Land Transport Department will issue permits to freight trucks, if necessary, on a case-by-case basis.

14th wage turned down
President Leonel Fernandez has vetoed the bill that proposed the payment of a 14th wage to public servants in 2010. The 14th wage would have been paid in July and was aimed at helping government employees to buy essential school supplies for their children. The Executive Branch said that the amount had not been contemplated in the 2009 budget under study in government.

Legalizing docs now easier
Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso has announced the incorporation of the Dominican Republic into The Hague Convention apostilles procedure, a time saving process to legalize official documents. An "apostille" is a certificate issued by a designated authority in a country where the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents applies. The international mechanism will enable Dominicans to legalize their documents in the DR and these will be valid in 172 countries. The apostille replaces the previous four legal procedures with one single procedure. "Today we celebrate the fact that President Leonel Fernandez has signed, after its approval by Congress, the Hague Conference on Private International Law signed in The Hague in 1961" said Morales. This eliminates the tedious procedures to legalize foreign public documents, as reported in El Nuevo Diario. The Ministry of Foreign Relations will be in charge of the apostilles to legitimize official documents.

Metro a big hit
This holiday season is filled with the excitement of the Santo Domingo Metro. Yesterday was the Metro's unofficial inauguration with the government allowing passengers to ride the Metro for free throughout the holiday season. Hoy reports that taking a ride on the SD has become somewhat of a family outing with families happily riding the train and enjoying the novelty of the Metro system. Though there has been much debate about the cost and need of the Metro it was the furthest thing from passenger's minds. Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) director Diandino Pena and sub director Leonel Carrasco also rode the Metro during the first free night. A ride from Villa Mella to Centro de los Heroes, which takes around an hour by car, now takes 20 minutes.

Senate passes budget
After two consecutive sessions the Senate has passed the 2009 budget for a total of RD$328.99 billion, as presented by the Executive Branch. The Senate also approved an addendum that replaces the US$1.9 billion four-year authorization for foreign loans with one that assigns RD$100 million to each of the 32 provinces for infrastructure works. Of the US$1.9 billion the government had requested, US$312 million have been approved for spending in 2009, as reported in Listin Diario. The funds are allocated to 24 infrastructure projects, including several hydroelectric plants, aqueducts, and hospitals in cities, among others. They will also go towards purchasing speedboats for the Navy. The bill will now pass to the Chamber of Deputies.

ADN agrees to temp parking
Diario Libre is reporting that the National District Municipality has agreed to allow temporary parking in the Chinatown area of Santo Domingo. The temporary agreement will allow parking from 23 December until 7 January, typically the year's busiest commercial season. Once the holiday season is over the former no parking restrictions will go back into effect. This decision comes after traders in Chinatown staged a confrontation with municipal authorities in protest against the parking prohibition that affected two key streets in the area. In response to the disturbance, a Municipal Police contingent headed by Colonel Dival Peguero arrived at 2pm to restore order and remove the vehicles. This resulted in verbal and physical confrontation between the traders and police. The president of the Chinatown Traders Association, Juan Paniagua, was beaten without provocation, according to his associates, by Dival Peguero. He was hit in the left eye with handcuffs used as a club by the colonel and was taken to the Abreu Clinic. According to reports, Paniagua received 15 stitches and could need an operation.

Pardons for Vivian and Renove
President Leonel Fernandez used his constitutional right to pardon Baninter banker Vivian Lubrano de Castillo, exempting her from serving a five-year jail sentence. She had been found guilty of a part in the RD$55 billion Baninter fraud. Fellow bankers Ramon Baez Figueroa, financier Luis Alvarez Renta and former bank operations executive Marcos Baez Cocco are serving 10-year sentences for their roles in the crime. Lubrano has been hospitalized ever since the sentence was first served on 11 July. She appealed, but the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the sentence.
Likewise, President Leonel Fernandez ended the jail sentences for Casimiro Antonio Marte Familia (Conatra), Pedro Franco Badia, Milciades Amaro Guzman (Terrabus) and Gervasio de la Rosa, of the Plan Renove scandal, which involved the purchase of public transport vehicles with state funds.
Franco Badia had been under arrest on the grounds of health problems.
The pardon is contained in Decree 847-08 issued by the President. After the pardon was announced, journalist Huchi Lora and Nuria Piera resigned from the Presidential pardon commission in protest. Lora said that last week they had discussed a list of recommendations for the pardons with the Prosecutor General and neither Lubrano nor the Renove detainees were on the list, as reported in Diario Libre.
The General Controller of the Nation prepared a report on the Renove fraud, and the State Prosecutors stressed that of the 4,415 vehicles imported under the program, only 418 were distributed to the true public transporters leaving taxpayers to pay millions in foreign debt that the government took on to purchase the units. On Monday, President Fernandez appointed another transport kingpin, Alfredo Pulinario Linares (Cambita) as transport advisor to the President. He was also charged in the Plan Renove scandal. Linares represents the MOCHOTRAN transport consortium.

Quirino pleads for family
In a deal with New York prosecutors, former Dominican army captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo has agreed to plead guilty to charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. In return, charges against eight members of his family, based in the DR, will be dropped. Quirilio Paulino Castillo, Zaira Castillo Ramirez, Luis Marmolejos, Felicita Consuelo Medrano, Elba Feliz Matos de Marmolejos, Ricardo Encarnacion, Anderson Paulino Ubri and Diomaris Marmolejos had all been charged with involvement in Paulino's drug enterprise. Also, the five-year prison sentence given to Belkis Elizabeth Urbi Medrano will be rescinded. As part of the agreement, Quirino's relatives and others close to him will travel to an unspecified location, not necessarily the United States, to protect them from revenge by organized crime rings.
As part of the deal, Paulino's sentence will also be reduced to 20 years, down from a possible 50. Quirino has been in a New York state jail since he was arrested and extradited to the US in 2004. Hoy reports that the State of New York has forfeited any claims to Quirino's assets in the DR, valued at an estimated US$14.5 million. Hoy also reports that Quirino has at least RD$325 million in bonds in the DR's BanReservas. The Dominican government commits to assign these assets to drug prevention and combating initiatives.
Quirino, also know as "El Don," was arrested on 18 December 2004 with a 1,387kg cocaine shipment, with an estimated value of RD$900 million, the largest in the country so far. He was extradited to the US on 19 February 2005 to stand trial with at the New York Southern District Court. The reciprocal judicial agreement was signed on 19 December, and announced in Santo Domingo by David Searby, US Embassy press officer, and Dominican prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra.
Quirino's defense lawyers argued that no one could be tried twice for the same crime, especially with the ongoing case in New York. Thus the local court desisted so the case could proceed in New York. El Caribe newspaper reports from its sources that as a result of the investigations in the United States it has been established that Quirino was only a pawn used by more powerful international drug traffickers. El Caribe says news will soon be released on what the former army officer has revealed about his accomplices and other members of organized crime rings.
Paulino Castillo is on trial for having introduced shipments of 30,000 kilograms of cocaine to the US from 1996 to 2002. US prosecutors Allan Norman and Peter Reilly acted on behalf of the US justice system in signing the agreement with the local prosecutors. The agreement does not amount to impunity for Paulino Castillo, and releases information that will be useful in dismantling drug trafficking structures that were active in the DR and abroad. The successful extraditions announced on November 16, 2005 were the result of a joint investigation between the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the DR's National Drug Control Department (DNCD).

Santiago flight was not the first
Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero says that organized crime rings are behind people smuggling and the transport of drugs and cash using private flights and charters. As reported in Diario Libre, Guerrero commented on the disappearance of a private flight with 12 people on board that took off from Santiago airport after filing a private flight plan to Bahamas. Reportedly, the pilot, Adrian Jimenez only had a valid US student license after his Dominican license had been cancelled. "That was not a casual or spontaneous flight, or the first flight, as the authorities have tried to make it seem," he told Diario Libre. "That trip was organized by a criminal organization that smuggles deportees and drugs, and transports arms and dollars to the country, and the authorities are aware," he stated. Guerrero said that the same organization had tried to take Mayobanex Rodriguez Montero, accused of carrying out the Paya killings, out of the country.
Guerrero also told Hoy that two of the passengers who were on the flight piloted by Jimenez were on the list of suspects in the Paya murder case. Two others died in a traffic accident near Bonao. In a related news story, the National Police said it has arrested "Guancho", one of four people suspected of organizing the illegal trip to the United States on board an Atlantic Aviation plane with the registry number N650LP. The airplane and its occupants are missing. The plane piloted by Adrian Jimenez departed on Monday, 16 December and made a stopover in the Turks and Caicos before continuing its flight, disappearing without a trace shortly after. As reported in Diario Libre, one of the investigators said that this case could involve a people-smuggling ring into Miami, using the Bahamas as stepping point.

Tourism's November dip
According to the Quisqueya Foundation, tourism took a 5.8% dip in November 2008 after only 268,469 visitors visited the DR compared to 284,969 in November of 2007. The Foundation says that the decrease of 16,500 visitors is partly due to an 11.7% decrease in arrivals among Dominicans living abroad and a 4.83% decrease in arrivals among non-resident Dominicans. Dominican arrivals decreased by 4,672, going from 39,956 in 2007 to 35,284 in 2008, while non-resident arrivals went from 245,013 in 2007 to 233,185 in 2008. North American arrivals also decreased, by 3.3%, going from 68,343 in 2007 to 66,174 in 2008. According to the Foundation, North American and non-resident Dominican arrivals equaled 37.8% of total arrivals.

Former exec pays fine
A French court has ordered Didier Bidaut and his wife Denise to pay EUR4,500 to a Dominican domestic worker, as well as a EUR1,000 fine each for illegally hiring a foreigner and abusing a domestic worker. Listin Diario reports that Didier Bidaut, former director of Air France in the DR, and his wife, have been sentenced to three and five months in jail for abusing "Angelita," the domestic worker. Listin reports that "Angelita" was tired of the abuse she was suffering at the Bidaut home in the Picardie region of France, and eventually managed to escape. A Spanish-speaking woman helped "Angelita," and took her to a police station where she filed a complaint against the couple.
Reports indicate that the housekeeper was forced to work from 7am to 9pm seven days a week, for EUR300 per month, which is one third of the minimum salary in France. She was also "lent" to friends to do domestic work.

Doping dopes
Major League Baseball has suspended two more Dominican baseball players for failing doping tests. The suspensions will total 50 games. One of the players, Damian Taveras is a catcher with the Yankees and the other is Ambiorix Suero, a pitcher with the Orioles. The latest announcements add to the astronomical number of Dominican athletes caught doping and could put the Dominican Summer League's integrity in question. Of the 69 drug-related MLB suspensions this year, 42 have come from the Dominican Summer League.

Manny a Yankee?
Although Manny vowed never to don the hated Yankee pinstripes reports are starting to surface that the Bronx Bombers are courting Ramirez. The story, first reported by the New York Daily News, has many interesting aspects including the fact that the Yankees are the only team in baseball willing to take on a massive contract like the one Ramirez wants, as well as give him the three-year deal he is looking for. Add to this the fact that Ramirez isn't making as big a splash in free agency considering that Mark Teixera is this off-season's prime catch, leaving Ramirez to play second fiddle for the first time in his career.
What'd also interesting about a potential deal would be the clubhouse atmosphere in the new Yankee Stadium, as it would include C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. The final obstacle would be Ramirez's long locks. Yankee policy stipulates that all players must be clean-shaven and have trimmed hair, another thing Manny vowed he would never do.

Christmas in Santo Domingo
Cane Restaurant on Abraham Lincoln Avenue has an exhibition of several works of art, part of the collection of nativity scenes created by the Santos de Palo de Bonao arts group. The works of art commemorating Christmas are for sale, but meanwhile they are being used to decorate the restaurant this Christmas to the delight of its patrons.
For listings on holiday events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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