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Daily News - Thursday, 08 January 2009

Fernandez to Obama inaugural
President Leonel Fernandez has confirmed that he will be attending the 20 January inauguration ceremony for US President-elect Barack Obama. Fernandez will fly to Washington, D.C. on 19 January. DR Ambassador to the US Flavio Dario Espinal will also be attending the event.

FDI up for '09
Yesterday, government officials announced that the DR expects to receive foreign direct investment totaling approximately US$2.4 billion in 2009, only US$100 million less than in 2008. During a press conference at the Presidential Palace, Luisa Fernandez, representing the National Council of Free Zones (CNZF), Andres Vanderhorst from the National Competitiveness Council (CNC), Eddy Martinez from the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) and presidential press director Rafael Nunez said the money would be invested in tourism, energy, farming (greenhouses) and mining projects. They forecast continued growth in the tourism sector and new projects for free zone industries.
Eddy Martinez of CEI-RD announced projects for US$1.4 billion in the tourism sector alone, including US$879 million in Punta Cana area developments. The developments focus on the provinces of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, La Altagracia (Punta Cana), Puerto Plata, Samana and Barahona. He forecast that the balance of payments would end with a surplus of US$240 million in 2009 due to the predicted investments.
Andres Vanderhorst of CNC said that the foreign investments are attracted by the climate of peace that President Leonel Fernandez has secured for the country, as reported in El Caribe.

Good year for DR stock exchange
According to Darys Estrella, General Manager of the Dominican Republic Stock Exchange (BVRD), "2008 was a good year for the Bolsa, despite the global crisis." The local stock exchange continued to grow as a reliable source of financing for local business. By year's end, the companies that accessed the capital market in 2008 were: Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, Inca, La Fabril, BHD Valores, Motor Credito, Franquicias Dominicanas, and Metro Country Club. There was more than RD$8 billion in new issues.
Total volume for 2008 was RD$42,971,338,524, compared to RD$15,414,587,959 in 2007, representing a 179% increase. Of the total volume, 19% was in the primary market and 81% was in the secondary market. Estrella says, "I believe this demonstrates confidence in the local markets and in the exchange."
For the start of the year, Estrella highlights that the big accomplishment in the local market, was the start of "delivery versus payment". The Cevaldom (Custody and Clearing house) is liquidating through the Central Bank in real time as of 6 January 2009. "This is an international standard and many people, especially international investors, were waiting for this day to come," she points out.

Students still on break
As expected, attendance at schools throughout the country yesterday was minimal. No shows prevailed for the first day of school yesterday, as the 20-day holiday period came to an end. Students who did turn up ended up leaving early. According to Hoy, only 14 out 1,400 students attended classes at a school in Villa Juana sector of Santo Domingo. A low turnout was also reported throughout the DR. Education Minister Melanio Paredes commented that the nation is destined to fail if it can't break the "chit-chat" culture, in order to complete simple tasks.

Mission accomplished
The thirteen-day hunger strike by former Constitutionalist soldiers has ended after the National Lottery agreed to give them a pension of RD$8,000 per month, medical insurance and 1,000 food rations. The National Lottery also agreed to donate RD$40,000 to the Former Constitutionalist Soldiers Foundation, as well as RD$100,000 to pay the rent on their office space and RD$150,000 to buy a bus for the foundation. Protest leader Moises Ramirez del Villar assured the public that he fought in the 1965 Civil War and that he is 55 years old. Nevertheless, this would mean that Ramirez was just 11 years old when fighting broke out.

Cineas not happy
Haitian Ambassador to the DR Fritz Cineas is not happy about the mass repatriation of an estimated 500 Haitian nationals. The repatriation took place yesterday after the Haitians took shelter in a church in the border town of Dajabon. Priest Regino Martinez had opened the doors to the church to the Haitians who despite not having any legal documentation were asking to be allowed back into the DR to resume their work activities. They had traveled to Haiti for the holidays. Cineas argued that those Haitians were only acting in good faith and that they had been promised entry back to the DR.
Hoy reports today that Martinez says that the workers were gradually returning to the DR "after paying people smugglers to allow their re-entry."

More time to get gun permits
The Interior and Police Ministry has given citizens an extension on the renovation of their gun permits. This will allow an estimated 84,828 people to renew their licenses, which at the moment are expired. Once the licenses have expired they will be suspended and canceled and those owing the guns will lose the right to get another permit.

Insurance going up
Insurance premiums will increase 15% in the first month of 2009, including coverage for hurricane, fire and earthquake insurance. There could also be a second rate hike by mid 2009. Insurance Superintendent Euclides Gutierrez says the Dominican insurance market has maintained consistency but said that pressures from the international financial crisis have had an effect on the insurance market, resulting in these increases. A spokesman for the country's private insurance companies, Miguel Villaman said the insurance sector has suffered losses and the only way to break even is to increase premiums.

Quirino plot thickens
Listin Diario is reporting that the drug trafficking cartel believed to have been led by former military captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino (Quirino) is still in full swing. The newspaper quotes an anonymous source as saying that after sifting through court documents from as far back as 2005 the names of two men in particular emerge as the true ringleaders of the drug cartel and information has surfaced that these men are still controlling a large chunk of the drug business in the DR. According to the paper these men are connected to two foreigners, a Colombian and a Venezuelan, with strong ties to drug trafficking rings in the US, South America and Europe, and who use the DR as their distribution point. Listin also claims that these men travel throughout the country and overseas without any problems. In, addition these cartels hire violent "sicarios" or hit men to do the cartels' dirty work. It is becoming increasingly evident that Quirino was in fact just a pawn in a highly complex drug trafficking ring. Listin Diario's source claims that Colombian bosses regularly come to the DR to supervise their drug trading activities and money laundering operations and that they work with almost complete impunity. The source continued by saying that one of those supervisors was recently arrested in Cotui and quietly extradited to the US.

Quirino gets off as a millionaire
El Dia newspaper reports that Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, who has struck a deal with US and DR judiciary, will get to keep RD$500 million of his assets estimated at RD$1.1 billion. The state received US$14.5 million. Quirino is standing trial in New York for cocaine trafficking. Eighteen of his relatives are expected to travel to the US this month under the Federal Witness Protection Program. A New York Southern District Court prosecutor determined he was involved in drug trafficking operations from 1996 to 2004. The argument for his keeping the RD$500 million is that he had accumulated this fortune in his cross-border commercial operations prior to 1996. Prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra represented the Dominican prosecutors and Michael J. Garcia and Virginia Chavez and John O'Donnell acted for the US judiciary.
Castillo was arrested following the confiscation of 1,387 kilos of cocaine linked to him after he was arrested on 18 December 2004. The confiscated cocaine had an estimated value of US$26,400,000. Paulino was extradited to the United States for hearings in a drug-smuggling case pending in New Jersey. Castillo's extradition was the first to take place under a newly adopted criminal code in the Dominican Republic, and was the result of a joint investigation involving cooperation between the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Dominican National Drug Control Department (DNCD). The investigation was sponsored by the US Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The US vs Castillo criminal case is being heard in New York's South District Court by judge Kimba Wood.

Focus continues on IDAC
The Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) has fired an inspector and suspended another at the Cibao International Airport in Santiago, for their role in the 15 December disappearance of a plane that left the airport illegally. Dionisio Parra Segura, inspector of air navigability at the airport was fired for not doing his job and Virgilio Cordero Matero, security inspector at the airport, was suspended because health issues impeded his ability to fulfill his duties. A report released by the IDAC on the investigation about the disappearance found that pilots Julio Romero and Pascual Reynoso had not violated any civil aviation regulations. IDAC has been slow in its investigations and has released little information on the case.
Eric Christopher, son of the former director of air-navigability at the IDAC who was murdered three weeks after canceling Adriano Jimenez's license to fly a plane, said on Tuesday's Huchi Lora radio talk show that he had information that one of the dismissed officials "had filed a report on the Santiago situation to IDAC". "Justice is being done by the weaker side," he complained. Christopher said that an IDAC official called Ivan Vasquez was aware of Jimenez's background, and asked, "Why does he not take responsibility?"
Diario Libre today reports that the Association of Commercial Airlines (Alarcom) says that in 2007 it warned the IDAC about irregular flight operations by airplanes and pilots who were not authorized to fly commercially. The National Pilots Association said it could identify the owners of private planes that have made irregular flights. In a letter dated 11 September 2007, Bolivar Batista and Hector Genao of Alarcom had warned Ivan Vasquez, deputy technical director of IDAC about the irregular operations. "Without any kind of authorization, facilities, training or investment, supervision and often using private pilots, they operate with all facilities and normalcy as if they were established companies," complained Alarcom to IDAC back then. They were concerned that these irregular flights constituted unfair competition with the Alarcom members.
Yesterday, Jose Tomas Perez had denied the existence of a mafia in the IDAC, but Pedro Dominguez of the Pilots Association responded by saying that "If Jose Tomas is interested, we are prepared to provide him with the names of the owners of private planes that are carrying out irregular flights, because from him down, we do not trust any officer at the IDAC". Dominguez added that the irregular flights are both domestic and international.

Officials seize assets
Following the recent discovery of connections between disappeared pilot Adriano Jose Basilio Jimenez Henriquez and former military captain Quirino Paulino Castillo, who is standing trial in New York for a major cocaine trafficking operation, officials have begun seizing the pilot's assets. Diario Libre reports that the Santiago District Attorney's office confiscated a plane belonging to the pilot at the city's Cibao International Airport. Officials have also taken a computer and documents belonging to the people he was illegally transporting when the plane and its occupants disappeared near the Turks and Caicos. Authorities will also confiscate a helicopter, farm, yacht, and various luxury cars owned by the pilot.

Guillermo Moreno comments
Former Presidential candidate and former District Attorney for the National District, Guillermo Moreno is unleashing some harsh criticism of President Leonel Fernandez. Quoted in El Caribe, Moreno said the Fernandez has become a "not credible and trustworthy" leader. In reference to a summit being organized by the nation's political parties Moreno said that these meetings are meaningless because ultimately Fernandez will end up doing what he chooses and that all these committees end up being useless. "So the man is his history, his practice, his conduct, we know President Fernandez, and he has fooled us many times, bringing us together and in the end he hasn't respected the results." He added that in order for the summit to be successful Fernandez needs to take measures to restore his public credibility.

Three more deaths
Three more men have been reported dead after "shootouts" with members of the National Police in La Altagracia province. The latest incident occurred at the Coco Loco-Friusa crossing in the Bavaro area. This comes on the heels of another incident where two other alleged criminals who were shot in the Veron-Bavaro-Punta Cana tourist area. The Police reported that the shooting occurred at 11:30pm on Tuesday. This brings to 23 the total number of people killed at the hands of police in the first weeks of 2009. Little has been released about the three dead men, other than they were alleged thieves. But the outcry at the police's "shoot first ask questions later" policy has gained strength in recent weeks.
Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin denies that police are targeting criminals and has defended the actions of his officers. In recent days he has said that criminals don't discriminate when it comes to their victims. Quoted in Hoy, Guzman said that criminals "nowadays are tougher." He added that "the police's job is to protect society. We won't permit excesses by the police, but we won't stop trying to do our jobs."
The DR's General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez says he supports the Police Chief, but added that he would investigate any misuse of force. Jimenez Pena is defending recent Police performance and the escalation in the number of deaths occurred in exchanges of fire with the Police. Jimenez pointed out that dozens of police officers have been shot by armed criminals.
President of the National Human Rights Commission, Manuel Maria Mercedes, is asking President Leonel Fernandez to remove Guzman from his post for being responsible for the deaths of 500 people. He added that the CHDH plans to submit a report on the police "shootouts" to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights this month.
In a related commentary in Diario Libre on 7 January, former prosecutor Guillermo Moreno said that the fact that the Police heads commissions that are investigating killings by police officers is evidence of the weakening of the role of the General Prosecutor's Office.
Moreno says that while the Penal Code establishes the contrary, the reality is that the Police have greater preponderance than the state prosecutors in the criminal policies of the state and the investigation of infractions. "This situation leads to a great distortion in our institutions and legality in the country and is the cause of the weakening of the state prosecution and precarious state of rights and liberties we are living despite these being established in our Constitution."
Moreno stated that what is most serious is what is happening with the state prosecutors office. "If it would make its legal competencies prevail, it would not only be strengthened as an institution, but it would submit the members of the police to judicial control and make an immeasurable contribution to the implementation of the rule of law and liberties in the country," he writes. He concludes by defining the root of the problem as the prosecutors' office and its lack of independence.

Minaya appointed
Dominican-born Omar Minaya, General Manager of the New York Mets has been appointed to the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Minaya was appointed to the position by President George Bush. This was one of Bush's last acts as acting US President. The council is an advisory committee of volunteers and is made up of 17 other members, including Olympic skater Michelle Kwan and former NFL receiver Jason Sehorn.

Baseball updates
It looks as if the Aguilas have had their wings clipped during the 2009 winter league post-season. The once dominant team from the Cibao has sputtered as of late and has lost six games in the round robin tournament. Though the post-season is still under way, it seems unlikely that the Aguilas will recover in time to make it to the championship round. Last night the Aguilas lost 4-3 to the Toros del Este. The Aguilas would have to win their last eight games and hope for a miracle in order to advance. In last night's other game the Gigantes took over sole possession of the top spot in the standings after beating the Tigres in a tightly fought contest with a score of 4-3. Though the Gigantes have looked strong it is still a wide-open race for the two spots in the championship series.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 6 - 3 .667 --
TIGRES 5 - 4 .556 1
TOROS 5 - 5 .500 1.5
AGUILAS 2 - 6 .250 3.5
Tonight's games:
Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo : Aguilas v. Licey 7:30pm
Estadio Fco. Micheli, La Romana : Gigantes v. Toros 7:30pm
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