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Daily News - Friday, 09 January 2009

LF will not attend inauguration
The Ministry of Foreign Relations says that President Leonel Fernandez will not be attending the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama on 20 January after all. Correcting earlier reports in the press, the ministry said that heads of state are not invited to the inauguration, only the chiefs of each diplomatic mission. As a result, President Fernandez will be represented at the ceremony by Ambassador Flavio Dario Espinal, who received an invitation from the US State Department.

DR financial system passes test
In a letter sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Dominican government says that the stress test carried out by the Superintendent of Banks "suggests that the banking sector can resist the current global financial conditions without any great problems."
"The banks are well capitalized, are earning money and are blessed with sufficient liquidity and solvency," says the policy letter that the government sent to the IMF as a prerequisite for a monitoring agreement, post-Stand-by.
The policy letter is a kind of letter of intent that is sent when an amplified agreement is being negotiated. The letter is published in several dailies today.
The Central Bank said that following instructions from President Leonel Fernandez, on 7 January the government's economic team presented the policy letter that will be read by the IMF Board of Directors for a monitoring agreement.
In the letter, signed by the Minister for Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas, the Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa, and Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu, the economic team points out the maintenance of macro-economic stability, in spite of the upsets caused by the international economic crisis.
The letter details the actions taken to slow down credit by increasing interest rates three times during 2008, which helped to stem inflationary tendencies and maintain a relatively stable exchange rate.
The letter also admits to the need to implement a realistic fiscal program while at the same time ensuring that the combination of macro-economic policies promotes moderate growth with stability.

Short on income, long on spending
Total expenditure by the central government during 2008, excluding financial applications, exceeded the total income for the same period during the previous year by RD$26.488 billion, according to the Ministry of Hacienda.
In a report, the ministry indicated that as of 30 December 2008, central government expenses reached RD$270.78 billion, a figure that exceeded the RD$244.29 billion that was reported as income.
According to El Caribe, the Hacienda Ministry reported that income from taxes, excluding donations and loans as of 30 December 2008 was 0.21% lower than the estimates. It was 4.33% higher that the year before, however.
According to the report on accumulated collections, the Department of Taxes (DGII) produces RD$159.78 billion (65%), Customs brought in RD$57. 59 (24%) and the National Treasury collected RD$26.96 (11%). The report also states that the government received RD$4.1 billion from the sale of a liquor company.

Bill to correct civil record errors
Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario suggests that the JCE recommend that the Executive Branch submit a bill to Congress aimed at modifying Civil Registry Law 659 to enable local civil registry officials to correct errors in official civil registry birth, death, marriage or divorce documents themselves. Currently, to make the corrections a court order is required at a cost of over RD$20,000. A large number of errors were made during the digitalization of the handwritten civil registry records, and now citizens are being asked to pay the cost of amending them. The errors include misspelled first and last names and the wrong sex and dates. Even in cases when the citizens can present other legal documents that show the corrected spelling or data, these are not accepted, and the law requires them to hire a lawyer and go through a time-consuming court case.
He also suggested that name changes could be made directly at the local election boards or in the Disputes Chamber during election years, without having to go to the presidency of the board.
In addition to this change, Rosario's proposal would allow civil registry officials to transcribe adoption orders into the book intended for these records.
Civil registry officials would also be able to transcribe divorce decisions when the divorce is by mutual consent, and requested previously by either of the parties after submitting certain documents.
The proposal for modification also enables the JCE to provisionally suspend the issue of civil registry documents with irregularities or errors, and allows the Disputes Chamber to issue a notification annulling the document.
The proposal also establishes that a child born to a foreign mother can be registered in an original book that will remain in the civil registry office until the presentation of the pink sheet issued by the hospital where the child was born.

Within or outside of the SCJ?
Major debates are ongoing regarding a proposal that President Leonel Fernandez has included in the Constitution Reform bill to create a Constitutional Chamber and Judicial and State Council, after comments made by Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa on occasion of Judicial Branch Day events. Subero Isa in his speech commemorating the day said the new entities suggested by President Fernandez would create "inevitable conflicts between government branches and the chambers it proposes to create." He equated this to a dismemberment of the present system of administration of justice. Subero Isa favors the Costa Rican model, where the Constitutional Chamber is part of the Supreme Court of Justice.
Subero also said that the cost of putting a new structure into effect, as proposed by Fernandez in the Constitution Reforms bill, would cost the state RD$3.55 billion in the first year, an amount almost equal to the total allotted to the Judicial Branch this year.
National District prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso comments that discussions on the Constitutional Chamber should be focused on whether to create the new entity within the Supreme Court jurisdiction or outside it, as reported in Listin Diario. The new court would review Constitutional issues. Moscoso said it could be part of the Supreme Court of Justice, while maintaining independence of judgment. He said this is a model that operates successfully in Costa Rica, where decisions have been taken that overrule those taken by the Supreme Court of Justice.
Javier Cabreja, executive director of civil society organization Participacion Ciudadana agrees that the new institutions as proposed would create a branch parallel to the SCJ, generating confusion. As reported in Hoy, Cabreja said that it is true that there have been decisions by the judiciary that have been questioned, bringing about setbacks in the application of justice, such as restrictions on citizens' access to justice. "We need a judiciary that operates with equity, that is equal for all. "In the DR justice still does not operate that way", he said during the commemorative event for the Day of the Judicial Branch. He said that while the judiciary continues to show weakness there will be a lot of criticism, and called for a new wave of judicial reform.
The president of the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (FINJUS), Servio Tulio Castanos does not feel the new courts would dismember the current system. "I do not believe the creation of the hall would disarticulate the Judicial Branch because it is already in operation in many countries, and obviously in some it works better than in others". He said the trend is to eliminate the system where the assembly of Supreme Court judges has the last say on Constitutional issues. In his opinion, the argument that conflicts would be created is not valid. He said that conflicting issues is what constitutional justice is all about.
Constitutional expert Eduardo Jorge Prats believes that the new constitutional chamber should be independent of the Supreme Court judges, and expressed hope that this would constitute a mechanism for "ending the situation where the government is the leading violator of laws in our country." He backed the proposal that a model similar to Costa Rica's could be implemented in the DR. He said that Supreme Court of Justice president Jorge Subero Isa himself has said on several occasions that the Supreme Court needs a different leadership.
The president of the Senate, Reinaldo Pared Perez supports the Supreme Court of Justice president's view against a separate constitutional entity. The congressional bi-chamber commission says that the bill aimed at summoning the Review Assembly that would be in charge of modifying the Constitution is ready. He said the changes to the Constitution would be studied in an extraordinary legislature that would run through 25 February, as reported in Hoy.

Constitutional Chamber debates
Legal experts Eduardo Jorge Prats, Aura Celeste Fernandez and Justice Commissioner Lino Vasquez also reject the idea that the creation of a Constitutional Chamber would put judicial security, democratic governance at risk, and produce a "train wreck" between the three powers of the State as claimed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Subero Isa.
A constitutional export, Jorge Prats argues for the creation of a supreme electoral jurisprudence, one constitutional and the other administrative and for the Supreme Court to keep to its attributions in civil, commercial, penal, labor and property issues.
He says that contrary to what was said, the proposal for constitutional reform submitted by the President would strengthen the administration of the judicial system and the institution itself. "It is not some invention by the commission of jurists, it is not something that was forced upon us, but something that responds to the idea that in a constitutional democracy there is a need to divide powers, because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
For judge Aura Celeste Fernandez, a member of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), the creation of a Constitution Chamber would contribute to a more credible and independent justice system and would help reduce the heavy concentration of powers in the Supreme Court.
In her opinion, in spite of the efforts and the work towards the reform and the modernization of the justice system, there are still gray areas "that all of us should recognize, and that these precisely are part of the challenge for 2009, so that they do not continue to exist, and that there should be no interference or influence in a court."
Fernandez emphasized that "life itself, after ten years of judicial reform, has told us that it is necessary to reduce the excessive power of the SCJ in such a way that justice can be meted out with more independence and in a much less concentrated fashion, and this in no way, in my humble opinion, will hurt what has been built, the small or large amount that has been achieved."
Lino Vasquez emphasized that the country needs a Court for Constitutional Guarantees, with the idea of guaranteeing access for all citizens interested in filing a case on the violation of constitutional rights.
He said, "No way do we believe that this endangers the country's institutionalism. In countries where constitutional guarantee tribunals work, there is a law of constitutional procedures that regulates everything."
Lino Vasquez feels that the Constitutional Chamber and the Superior Administrative Tribunal represent a step forward when it comes to guarantees, because decisions on constitutional issues have not been developed, as has occurred in other countries.
The reaction of the jurists came in response to the stance taken by the Chief Justice of the SCJ, Jorge Subero Isa, during his speech at the ceremony marking the Day of the Judicial Branch.

Income tax exemption
The Department of Taxes (DGII) reports that wages up to RD$27,525 per month will be exempt from paying taxes. This is up from RD$26,334 tax exemption for 2008. The DGII reports that wages up to RD$330,301 a year are exempt, which on a 12 month base breaks down to RD$27,525. Those earning from RD$330,301.01 to RD$495,450.00 will pay 15% on the difference above RD$330,301.01. Those from RD$495,450.01 to RD$688,125.00 will pay an additional 20% on the difference above RD$495,450.01, and those from RD$688,125.01+ will pay RD$63,307 plus 25% of the difference above RD$688,125.01.
The rates are adjusted for the 4.52% inflation rate published by the Central Bank. The lower than expected inflation rate is a result of the drop in oil prices.
The DGII also reports that the exchange rates for calculations for fiscal year 2008 will be RD$/US$35.39 and RD$/EUR$48.12.
For more on tax adjustment numbers, see www.dgii.gov.do

New company formation law
On 15 December President Leonel Fernandez signed Law 479-08 - the Ley General de las Sociedades Comerciales y Empresas Individuales de Responsabilidad Limitada - into law, establishing new simplified criteria for the formation of companies in the Dominican Republic. Just two, down from seven shareholders, are needed to form a company of limited responsibility. The new law also establishes new grounds for subsidiaries, branches and agencies of foreign companies in the DR.
See www.suprema.gov.do/pdf/leyes/2008/Ley_479-08.pdf

RD$1.6 billion for Bellas Artes
The Fernandez administration now admits it spent RD$1.6 billion to remodel the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The government originally reported that the renovation had cost RD$700 million. Journalist Alicia Ortega had revealed the discrepancies in the actual cost and the published cost in a TV documentary. According to El Caribe, project supervisor Alejandro Lugo confirmed that the government had spent RD$800 million on the parking areas alone.

More on the Quirino case
National District prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra has told Listin Diario journalists that another agreement will soon be reached with the United States judicial authorities for the seizure of assets from people implicated in the drug trafficking network that was supposedly headed by Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo (Quirino).
"We are awaiting this agreement, the next phase. Right now there is an agreement aimed at seizing these assets," said the prosecutor during the Listin breakfast meeting.
He said that about US$16 million worth of assets had been seized in the Quirino case, not the US$14 million that was mentioned initially, because the value of the assets was greater than initially thought.
Among those incriminated in the file are businessman Ramon Perez Ferreras, Juan Cruz Crisostomo, Richard Pena Mejia, money changer Jose Abel Burdiez, Faustino Perozo, Federico Miranda Hernandez, Jose Ortega de Leon, Marcos Taveras Jimenez, Luis Eduardo Cordero Rodriguez, Bladimir Garcia Jimenez, Fatima Henriquez Diaz, twin brothers Luis David and Jean Paul Ulloa and Juan Samuel Rodriguez Cordero, Eleuterio Guante and Colonel Nin Terrero.
Many of these people have made deals with the New York Southern District Federal Court prosecutors and received lighter sentences or were released in exchange for the information provided.
Moscoso Segarra said that although former Army captain Paulino Castillo was not the chief of the drug trafficking network that operated in the country for several years, he was still an important part of it. Moscoso said that Paulino Castillo was just a part of the cartel, but not the person who actually gave the orders.

Grand Jury on extraditions
The prosecutor of the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York City is preparing to convene a Grand Jury that will listen, in a preliminary secret hearing, to probable causes and could recommend arrest warrants to judge Kimba M. Wood in order to proceed with the process of extradition requests against other people implicated in the now famous drug trafficking case against former Dominican Army captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, according to a source in the court.
Meanwhile there is said to be a lot of nervousness spreading across different sectors of the DR, following suspicions that certain individuals who have been named by Quirino could be included in the extradition requests.
The process is in the secret phase and this means that the decisions by the Grand Jury that studies the evidence presented by the prosecutors will remain "sealed," and, therefore, not available to the media or the public, until the arrests are made and later the accused will be formally charged in court.
"We do not have any information about the case, and we can't talk about what the Grand Jury is or is not doing; this is strictly confidential", said assistant federal prosecutor John O'Donnell through the press officer of the prosecutor's office, Janice Oh.
After the Grand Jury decides whether arrest warrants are needed, the Office of International Relations of the Justice Department and at the request of the District Attorney, the extradition requests will be sent through diplomatic channels, either the Dominican embassy in Washington or the Dominican Foreign Ministry. From there the requests go to the Dominican Republic General Prosecutor, the agency that should implement the arrest warrants and later present the case to the Supreme Court which will then decide who will be extradited to the United States.
Later, the Executive Branch has to sign or reject the decrees that authorize the requested handing over of the accused. It has been said that even though the former captain has cut a deal and handed over a list of more than 30 names, the process is not that simple or swift, especially in cases that involve people implicated in international narcotics trafficking. These technical details have not been well explained by local lawyers who practice in the Dominican Republic or by the Dominican journalists who are following the process.
This information was leaked by someone connected to the intelligence service of the Washington police who was working with some Dominican officials on investigative strategies to assist in verifying the list presented by Quirino in New York.
Within the Dominican community in New York there is a lot of expectation about who the next people to be extradited are likely to be and even though it was expected that the list, as was rumored some months ago, would include some political figures from the three major parties, Quirino's lawyer in Santo Domingo Carlos Balcacer stated that the former military officer has been "careful" not to involve anyone in the Dominican political leadership in his list.
According to the source, "The number of people who could possibly be extradited will depend on whether the Grand Jury feels that the alleged proof submitted by the prosecutors is sufficient or not." The same person said that just because it was Quirino himself who supplied the list, it does not necessarily mean that all of them can be accused the same way. He also pointed out that the category, quantity and degree of the accusations could vary depending on the situation. Meanwhile, panic continues to spread in different parts of the DR and in areas outside of normal procedures, the "morbid" are beginning to suggest names that could have been mentioned by the extradited former officer, who has been in jail since 2005.
With the exception of Fatima Henriquez Diaz, everyone implicated in the case has cut a deal with the Federal prosecutors in exchange for lighter sentences.
The plea deal implies the collaboration requested by the US authorities, with the idea of establishing the size and workings of the drug trafficking machinery that operated in the Dominican Republic, including who did the work and under whose protection.

Helicopter and IDAC report
El Dia newspaper reports today that state prosecutors have located a helicopter belonging to missing pilot Adriano Basilio Jimenez in a Santiago farm. Reportedly, the National District prosecutor office had returned the helicopter to Jimenez once it had determined it did not belong to Quirino Ernesto Castillo, who is standing trial in New York on drug trafficking charges. Jimenez is known to have used the helicopter to give Quirino's son flying lessons. News reports have questioned how Jimenez, who had been dismissed from different branches of the army, and even had his pilot license cancelled, was still allowed to fly. At the time of his disappearance, the JCE showed he was active in the military.
The president of the Dominican Pilots Association said that the commission appointed by the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation (IDAC) had turned in a "very poor report" when checking whether there was government complicity in authorizing the missing Santiago-Bahamas flight, the last known to be made by Jimenez, who is now missing along with 11 passengers. The flight is suspected to have involved people smuggling. Jimenez's license to fly was cancelled in 2006 precisely for that reason. Dominguez asks how Jimenez was still allowed to make 68 flights even after his license was cancelled. He criticized the IDAC's response in merely recommending the dismissal of Santiago airport inspector Dionisio Parra Segura. "They are holding the snake by the tail," commented Dominguez.

Police and military pruning
President Leonel Fernandez says that in the wake of recent acts of violence and drug trafficking that have affected the Dominican Republic there is a need to continue the process of cleaning up the National Police and the Armed Forces.
He said that things are happening and that have happened in the country that are not acceptable, and this is reason enough for a clean up.
He said that nobody expected so many members of the Dominican Navy to have been involved in the massacre at Ojo de Agua, Paya, in Bani last August, "and nevertheless, that is what was revealed, that is what is happening."
Interviewed on the Channel 11 show "El Dia", the Chief Executive, according to El Caribe, said that Dominican society has become more vulnerable to a number of types of organized crime, and the only way to fight this is to strengthen the country's institutions.
He said that one of the manifestations of this strengthening process was the Dominican Republic's anti-drug policies and anti-crime policies. He said: "There is a proposal from the General Prosecutor and another made by the National Council on Drugs that can and should be discussed."
The President describes the changes in drug trafficking in the Dominican Republic, which has gone from being a drugs trans-shipment point to a consumer culture in many parts of the country, whereby the big drug trade has become a micro-business in the barrios.
He described the arrival of Nicaraguans and Colombians, who were prominent in the Paya case, as a "challenge."

Licey buries the Aguilas
The Tigres del Licey almost extinguished the Aguilas Cibaenas' hopes of making the final playoffs this year as they pounded out 16 runs to just 2 for the Aguilas. The highlight of the game was when Licey's left-fielder Timonel Perez hit for the cycle, something rarely done in baseball: a homerun, a triple, a double and a single in one game.
In La Romana, left-fielder Kendry Morales connected his fourth homerun of the Round Robin tournament, a huge shot over the centerfield fence to help give the Gigantes del Cibao a 4-1 victory over the Toros del Este.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 7 - 3 .700 --
LICEY 6 - 4 .600 1.0
TOROS 5 - 6 .455 2.5
AGUILAS 2 - 7 .222 4.5
Today's games:
Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo : 7:30pm, Gigantes (J. Capellan) vs. Licey (J. Sosa)
Estadio Cibao, Santiago de los Caballeros : 8:00pm, Toros (E. Volquez) vs Aguilas
 
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