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Daily News - Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Queen Sofia in DR
The Queen of Spain, Sofia, is expected in Santo Domingo this coming Sunday, 18 January. As reported in Diario Libre, she will be in the country until Tuesday. She will visit Spanish Cooperation Agency projects. As reported, 15 projects are under way, and total Spanish government development cooperation reached EUR19.3 million in 2008.

Summit: focus on institutions
Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, president of the Foundation for Institutionality and Justice (Finjus) has criticized the fact that while the government has stepped up controls to secure more tax collections, there is no control over the use that government is giving to the money collected. "While we are being controlled, we have a state that no one is controlling," said Castanos Guzman in an interview with Huchi Lora on the CDN radio talk show yesterday. He says the main problem is one of weak institutions.
He made the comments while recommending that the upcoming government-promoted summit should focus on the need to strengthen institutions. "Congress has to take on its role as a controller of the Executive Branch," he said. "While the economic problems are transcendental, the country's problem today is one of institutions. He said the lack of controls by society on the state is a problem that needs to be given priority in the 28 January Summit agenda.
He said that governance is only exercised through institutions. He criticized the frequency of corruption scandals, such as the recent Chamber of Accounts, Sun Land, presidential pardons, and the new National Lottery scandal.
On the question of this latest scandal involving "donations" of toys the National Lottery says were worth RD$27 million, Castanos said that the Lottery was violating Law 87-01 that establishes in its Art. 20 that all the revenue from duties on gambling needs to be deposited with the Social Security Treasury.
Castanos said there is a need for institutions, political sectors and society to come together for a new social pact. According to Jose Francisco Pena Guaba, general administrator of the governmental National Lottery, he was not doing anything new. He stresses that the money was used for donating toys over the holiday. There is no record of what was actually donated, or what the RD$27 million purchased. As reported, the money was distributed in vouchers worth a pre-set RD$50,000 and RD$100,000 of toys to be procured at Importadora Metro warehouse. Pena Guaba says there is no list of the recipients because the vouchers were delivered to party spokesmen in Congress. The Dominican Anti-Corruption Alliance has made a complaint against the administrator of the National Lottery with the Department for Prosecution of Administrative Corruption.

Lack of trust in President's word
Guillermo Moreno Garcia's Miuca party was the leading minority political party in the 2008 presidential election (18,136 votes or 0.44%). Moreno is a former state prosecutor and Unibe law school dean. As reported in El Nuevo Diario, he is highlighting President Leonel Fernandez's lack of credibility in the run up to the proposed 28 January summit to which only the PLD, PRD and PRSC have been invited. As reported in El Nuevo Diario, Moreno said that the summit's biggest problem is the fact that the person who is calling it (President Fernandez) is known for not fulfilling the commitments he makes. He said that the President has taken part in similar meetings in the past, but does not implement what is decided, and is known for not keeping his promises. Moreno was interviewed on the El Tribunal de la Tarde program produced by Julio Martinez Pozo. He also expressed the opinion that the government does not have the will to fight drug trafficking, corruption or crime. He said that if the will were there, Navy chief Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet and general prosecutor Radhames Jimenez would have resigned or President Fernandez would have asked for their resignation.

Promises for security equipment
President Leonel Fernandez has promised new vehicles to help the security forces in the fight against crime. After a meeting with the Democratic Security Council yesterday, Presidency Secretary Cesar Pina Torribio said the Presidency would step up support for the Armed Forces and the National Police. Police Chief Guillermo Guzman Fermin reported at the meeting that the crime rate has gone down throughout the DR.

Senator investigated in US?
There are rumors that the Dominican Senator Alejandro Williams (PLD-San Pedro de Macoris), is being investigated by US authorities for possible Medicaid fraud. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez said he is willing to launch an investigation into William's dealings, while maintaining that he only has limited details on the Williams case. Pared says he's spoken with Williams, who informed him he would be back for Thursday's session. Listin Diario points out, however, that Williams could not be allowed to leave the US while his case is being investigated. The newspaper adds that Williams is leading somewhat of a double life. The Senator is a dentist by trade and owns a clinic in the Bronx, New York, "Medical Dental Office Dr. Alejandro Williams," where he treats at least 50 patients per day. Williams has served as the senator for San Pedro since 2006. Listin mentions that Williams is frequently absent from the Senate and is officially recorded as being absent 33% of the time. A former secretary for Williams says the Senator has become a master of excuses, taking the "excuse" letter and changing the dates and resending it to Senate president Pared Perez. Members of the San Pedro community consider Williams one of the province's "worst senators ever" and say he is rarely available. Student Michelle Cano is quoted as saying that it is no mystery that Williams lives outside the country and does no work for the community. Listin quotes Williams as saying, "that Senate position means little to me. What I earn in a month as a senator I earn in a day here." Williams had campaigned successfully on the ruling party PLD ticket against veteran PRSC senator Jose Hazim, pledging to bring an extension of the state UASD to San Pedro. Hazim owns the private San Pedro based UCE University.
Yesterday Williams was not available for talking to the press.

Has the list already arrived?
Dorka Medina, cousin and lawyer of Diomaris Marmolejos Feliz, who is the mother of four of former Army captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo's children, claims that President Leonel Fernandez already has the list of people implicated by Quirino in his office. She added that the list includes military officials and claims that military personnel are involved in all aspects of drug dealings in the country. Medina, quoted in El Caribe, made her comments on the "Gobierno de la Manana," radio show and contradicted claims by Dominican prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra who denied that the Dominican government already had the list. Medina says she does not know the names, but assured that generals and high-ranking officers were on it. Marmolejos Feliz and her four children were the first of Quirino's relatives to leave the DR for the US under the Federal Witness Protection Program. "Those who are scared should know that I do not know who is on the list, but I know the list exists, that there are military personnel. I know that because there are always generals and those types of people, but I do not know the names, so they do not try to mess with me. The one who knows is the President, who has the list in his office, but that is a matter of State to State," she said on the radio program.

Chief admits difficulties
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet admits that it is very difficult to expose Navy members who may be involved in drug trafficking. Ventura said that the Navy is in the process of creating a counter-intelligence agency for investigating suspected drug traffickers within their ranks. He said that many members of the Navy have already been discharged for suspected drug trafficking. High profile cases such as the Quirino drug case, the Paya drug massacres and the disappearance of a plane piloted by Adriano Jimenez have revealed the grip that drug trafficking has on the DR's military and police organizations.

I&C denies charges
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is denying reports of fuel price gauging. Members of the public and private sectors want the government to explain why fuel prices in the DR continue to be high in relation to the decreasing price of fuel on the international commodities markets. Oil is currently at US$36 per barrel

Colonial Zone feels slump
Retailers in the Colonial Zone say that sales have dropped by a whopping 80% in recent months and that they have not felt the fruits of the current tourist high season. They claim that fewer tourists are visiting the Zone's museums and monuments. Some vendors believe that high taxes on small businesses and the high crime levels in the Colonial Zone are partly to blame for the decrease in shopping. A recent Central Bank report indicates that while overall tourism on an annual basis was up by 2.1% in 2008, tourist arrivals decreased by 27.6% in November. Some vendors, interviewed in Hoy, say that the cruise ship industry has helped to reactivate business, but that it hasn't been enough. Other vendors believe there are too many businesses selling the same products, which affects competitiveness, and that tourist packages run by large tour operators are monopolized, also hurting sales.

E-Z pass is popular
An estimated 15,000 drivers have signed up for the prepaid "E-Z Pass" program that allows drivers to drive through tollbooths without stopping to insert their coins in the collection machine. The electronic toll collection program saves drivers time and hassles while passing through tollbooths. The program is run by the Toll Booth Department at the Public Works Ministry. The Department is also offering companies a business account, which would include every company vehicle to be managed under one E-Z pass account.
For more information click here: www.pasorapido.gov.do

Middle East conflict hits home
Members of the Palestinian community in the DR and members of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) held a protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in Santo Domingo yesterday. Protestors called on Israel to stop the bombing in the Gaza strip. The conflict has been going on for three weeks. Arwad Darwiche, speaking on behalf of Dominican Palestinians, said that more protests would take place over the next few days. CNDH president Manuel Maria Mercedes is asking for the Israeli Ambassador to be removed from the DR as well as having the DR Ambassador in Israel removed.

Theft at the UASD
UASD Dean Franklin Garcia Fermin is reporting that 32 solar panels worth RD$14 million have been stolen from the Agriculture and Veterinarian Studies Department. Garcia did not dismiss the possibility that members of the University security team could have been responsible, because the Department is in front of the security offices. The first 20 panels were reported missing on 19 December 2008, while the remaining 12 were reported missing later. The panels were donated by the French Embassy to provide light to those departments.

Domestic violence a hot topic
Four senators are supporting a proposal to increase penalties for domestic abuse. The support for harsher domestic violence legislation comes after an increase in the number of reported cases in 2008. Statistics indicate that between 2005 and 2008 673 women were killed as a result of domestic violence and six women have already died in the first weeks of 2009. Senator Cristina Lizardo is calling on all women who are victims of domestic violence to report the situation to police. Though there has been a push to increase support for abused women, many feel they still don't have sufficient support to go through with pressing charges.
The latest horror story is that of Lenny Maria Urena, who sought the protection of the Department Against Gender Violence of the Prosecutors Office in Moca. She had placed claims of abuse by her husband Jose Hilario Rivas hours before. The man penetrated the department and beat his wife who was seven-months pregnant with a stick in front of all. He destroyed a camera of a secretary that tried to capture his abuse. Judge Deyanira Cruceta and Vanessa Mora said they have requested protection for the office, that is only staffed by woman and a male messenger that was not present at the time of the aggression.

Was it an execution?
A report by the coroner's office has revealed that four of the five men killed last week by police in Santo Domingo's Parque Mirador Sur were shot in the back, leading some to speculate they were executed by police. The findings were reported by coroner Sergio Sarita Valdez. Police have maintained the deaths were a result of a shootout. The coroner reported that one of the men had a wound in the back of the neck meaning that he was shot from very close range. A fifth man had a wound near his forehead, which Sarita says means he was either sitting or lying down when shot. The results of the coroner's report are sure to provoke a public reaction, which has been critical of the police department's "shoot first, ask later" policy. More than 20 people died as a result of "shootouts" with cops in December 2009. The police department has continually defended the actions of its officers.

Just weird
Dominican officials have detained several people who according to news reports tried to extort Spanish singer David Bisbal. El Caribe reports that the group managed to gain access to confidential information of a personal and professional nature from Bisbal's personal e-mail account.
Judge Keila Perez ordered travel restrictions and a bond of RD$100,000 on Massiel Maria Perez, 21 and Patricia Miguelina Molina 31 after assistant prosecutor Luis Augusto Arias, representing the Department of High Tech Investigations of the Prosecutors Office, recommended the penalty. The women had emailed the pop star demanding that he make a deposit of EUR73,000 in the Spanish bank Sabadell in return for them not posting information they had about him on the Internet. The funds were then to have been transferred to the accused accounts in the BHD. Two other people were also arrested but have since been released.
Bisbal said that his main concern was that the group could have obtained access to details of his new album and thanked Dominican officials for their efficiency in resolving the case.

Baseball update
Things just keep getting worse for the Aguilas. Maybe someone should explain to them it's the post-season. Once again the Aguilas blew a chance at respectability and lost to the Tigres del Licey. Though the 5-0 score was a reminder of the awful post-season it was a reminder that the once high-flying Aguilas are no longer a team to be feared, not this season anyway. With the win Licey took one step closer to classifying for the championship round but nothing is secure in this post-season. The Toros, continuing a surprising off- season might have something to say about who plays in the final round. The Toros, needing a win to keep their hopes alive, beat up on the Gigantes 4-3. Though the Toros control their own future, considering they have won all their games, the Toros will need help from the Aguilas and Gigantes beating the Tigres, who are currently 1.5 games ahead of them in the standings.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 10 - 5 .667 --
LICEY 9 - 5 .643 0.5
TOROS 8 - 7 .533 2.0
*AGUILAS 2 - 12 .125 7.5
(*) eliminated
 
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