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Daily News - Thursday, 15 January 2009

Groups want to forestall summit
Several social organizations say they will not be taking part in the summit convened by President Leonel Fernandez unless the President delays the legislative proposals leading up to a constitutional reform, sets up a reformulation of this year's budget and begins to obey the laws relating to sectors, such as those on education and the municipalities.
"A special session of the legislature so that the Congress can debate the proposal for a Constitutional Reform is untimely and would disqualify the call for a social pact" the president of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE), Ricardo Bonetti said yesterday, echoing statements from the Dominican council of Evangelical Unity (Codue), the Juan Montalvo Center, the Barrio Defense Committee (Copadeba).
These groups, which belong to the Economic, Social and Institutional Council (CESI), say that the Executive Branch must show willingness to honor any agreements that result from the summit and one way is to comply with pending laws and pacts.
Father Mario Serrano, director of the Juan Montalvo Center, warned that so many agreements have been scoffed at by governments, especially this one, that the social organizations are not willing to attend the dialogue that is supposed to start on the 28th of this month. "We will not allow ourselves to go to another dialogue. We will have to concentrate on strengthening our movement, in order to create the pressures that need to be applied to the parties that implement public policy," he told Diario Libre.
Leading PRD member Enmanuel Esquea also told Diario Libre reporters that he understood the CESI declarations that the government has led people to distrust the dialogue process. He said that the PRD should abstain from attending in order to avoid becoming complicit in the alleged motive of covering up the authorities' responsibility in the deepening economic and social problems.
On the other hand, PRSC vice-president Rafaela Alburquerque said that she understood the council's concerns, but confirmed that her organization would be attending the summit, trusting President Fernandez's word and "inspired by President Joaquin Balaguer's teachings, that the right thing to do was never to avoid participating in anything."

The value of talking
"Wasted, manipulated, unfulfilled, dialoguing is not exactly a value on the rise. Moreso, it is lacking, but few believe in it. To hold talks? Why? Because the problems are starting to scare us all, including those who thought they were in control. What for? That is the million dollar question," writes Ines Aizpun in Diario Libre today.
"So that it looks as if we are talking to each other, to give a feeling of normalcy, to pretend a consensus that is so unreachable at this time such as the solution to the electricity problem. So that they do not say that we do not listen. To erase the image of "eat-alones". To discuss the constitutional reform with the staff occupied in other matters. To listen to the live forces, that elastic and mysterious combination of social agents, which have been talking for months and months without apparently anyone listening. To challenge the opposition, to see if it is true that they have any idea. To neutralize impertinent internal movements, taking them out of the picture. To place the leader above good and bad. Because he is well regarded, and will always come out of it looking good. Because they forget that we should "not take the name of the dialogue in vain."
"Is there a need for the talks? Yes. But without being naive. Without insulting each other's intelligence, since the world is full of people who believe that if they say please this has to be granted. And that is not it", writes Aizpun.
She adds a footnote: "Attention to the attendance, that with the live forces summoned, he who is not present can consider himself dead. Politically speaking, of course".

New tolls to Samana
It now costs more to travel to Samana. The new tolls are RD$347 for each way of the Santo Domingo-Rincon de Molinillos trip. Last year, the tolls were RD$325. Armin Garcia Acuna says that the increase is part of the concession construction contract that stimulates annual increases in the toll. The highway cuts the driving distance to Samana by almost half.

Legislators and scandals
Scandals involving legislators are a cyclical and recurring event whereby senators and deputies incur in illegal or questionable acts, but generally these acts take place inside the country, except the case of the senator from San Pedro de Macoris, Alejandro Leonel Williams
The senator was once at the center of a disturbance at Las Americas International Airport when he refused to board a flight from the same place as the rest of the passengers.
The motives for the complaints presented against legislators are many: fraud, breach of trust, aggressions, human trafficking, and expropriation of state lands among other things.
In the 1998-2002 legislature, deputies Euripedes Terrero (PRD) and Dionis Sanchez (PLD) were sent before the Supreme Court (SCJ) accused of occupying thousands of tareas of land belonging to the town of Oviedo. (A common tarea is 629 square meters. 15.9 tareas = 1 hectare)
Also in 1998, deputy Maximo Aristy Caraballo was tried by the Supreme Court accused of the irregular sale of lands to some Italian citizens for more than US$70,000.
In 2002, the SCJ ordered the continuance of the trial against then deputy Jose Izquierdo, accused of violating Law 3143 relating to work done and not paid for, following complaints made by some engineers.
In 2002, Rafael Luna (Cheche) was processed for failure to provide child support for his daughter, and Rafael Reynoso of the PRD was tried for attacking deputy mayor Candida Sanchez Mora.
During the same legislative period PRSC deputy Marcos Fermin was sent to trial for a breach of trust following a complaint filed by two Germans, Joachim Kuhr and Xaver Horber.
However, the case that had the greatest impact was that of PRD deputy Radhames Ramos Garcia who was accused of human trafficking for trying to smuggle Chinese citizens into the Dominican Republic while he was consul in the Haitian city of Cap-Haitien. He was stripped of his legislative protection and went to jail, but stood for office again and was elected by his province, La Vega.
In 2004, Senator Bernardo Aleman (PRD) was found to have three voter registrations and identity cards (cedulas) and in 2005, Dagoberto Rodriguez Adames (PRD) was accused of occupying lands in protected areas.
More recently, we had the scandal that featured a PLD deputy, Lethi Vasquez who beat up the manager of the restaurant that serves the Chamber of Deputies, Lucy Rodriguez, and who, after being hauled into court, managed to resolve her differences with her accuser.

PLD summons Senator Williams
The political committee of the PLD decided last night to summon San Pedro de Macoris Senator Alejandro Williams to appear next Monday in order to provide details about an alleged investigation into his activities being directed by the United States Justice Department for alleged Medicaid fraud.
The secretary general of the PLD, Reinaldo Pared Perez told Diario Libre reporters that if the legislator were found guilty of the accusations, he would have to resign his post or undergo a political trial. He said that the senator was currently in the United States and was due back on either Friday or Saturday.
The political committee also appointed a commission to represent the party at the Summit called for the 28th of this month by President Leonel Fernandez. The commission will be composed of Danilo Medina, Felix Jimenez, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, Jose Tomas Perez and Lidio Cadet. The committee also designated a commission to organize the activities to commemorate the 100th birthday of PLD founder Juan Bosch.

Looking beyond traditional partners
Fernando Gonzalez Nicolas, president of the Commonwealth Round Table in the Dominican Republic is encouraging Dominicans to seek new business, investment and trade partners in the 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth. "The current global crisis means that public and private sectors should redouble efforts in place to diversify Dominican trade," and that they should reach out to non-traditional partners. He says the Commonwealth has a total population of 1.9 billion and controls 25% of world trade. He said they share their British heritage and the English language. Countries that Gonzalez feels the DR could develop more business, investment and trade with are India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and Great Britain, among others. He sees new markets for Dominican rum, cigars, bananas and a selection of industrial free zone products.
According to Gonzalez, the Commonwealth countries are an important potential source of foreign investment in mining, gas and oil exploration, power generation, and infrastructure. He says the DR could also attract tourists from these countries.
Gonzalez says that the Caribbean will host the Summit of Heads of State in Port Spain, Trinidad this year, with the participation of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. The summit has not been held in the Caribbean for 40 years. He says that this will be an opportunity to promote the DR to the audience of Commonwealth governments and businesspeople meeting in Trinidad, with a focus on the Caribbean.
The Commonwealth Round Table in the DR is presided by Fernando Gonzalez Nicolas. Roberto Herrera is secretary and Fernando Rainieri is treasurer. It was founded in 2002 in the DR to promote bilateral relations between the countries of the Commonwealth and the DR. In the DR, participating members are the ambassadors of Commonwealth countries that have embassies here -- Great Britain, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and India, as well as Commonwealth corporations with offices in the country.

Electric subsidies: bottomless pit
The annual subsidies given to the electricity sector and consumers of LPG (propane gas) are draining the public coffers and making it impossible for the economic model to be sustained, according to Hoy newspaper. The figures from the Ministry of Hacienda indicate, in effect, that the five years from 2004-2008 saw the government spend RD$109 billion pesos (RD$109,000,000,000) on these subsidies and transfers.
The payments to the electricity sector account for RD$75.75 billion. Money given to "institutions not subject to subsidy suspensions" (such as hospitals, schools and street lighting) totaled RD$10.63 billion between the years 2005 and 2008. The statistics from the ministry also assign, according to the documents on their website, the sum of RD$22.63 billion to the propane gas subsidy during the same five-year period. The government covered these costs with funds from the Caracas Accords and the PetroCaribe Agreement and short-term credits, namely internal and external debts.
For 2009, the government has announced the government would eliminate the fixed cost PRA subsidy on entire neighborhoods, replacing it with direct subsidies to those who hold the Solidaridad welfare card.

Economic crisis and politics
Economist, diplomat and economic historian Bernardo Vega focuses on the correlation between economic crises and politics in the Americas in his latest column in Clave newspaper. He makes the point, nevertheless, that during the big international seminar on development and the financial crisis held in Casa de Campo in December, only one person, OAS Secretary General Jose Manuel Insulza, even talked about politics.
Vega said that he began to think about the 1929 Depression and the "lost decade" of the 1980s. He pointed out that by 1931, barely 15 months after the Wall Street crash, seven coups d'etat had taken place in Latin America, the first being the one that brought Rafael Trujillo to power in the Dominican Republic. In 1930 exports fell by 25% in relation to 1929, imports fell by 30%, the government's tax income by 30% and budget spending fell by 50%.
In Latin America, coups in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Panama followed shortly thereafter. According to Vega, coups are no longer in style (knock on wood) in modern day Latin America but economic declines are reflected in elections. During the 1980-1986 period (the so-called "lost decade"), in fifteen elections in Latin America, the opposition won all fifteen, including Joaquin Balaguer's victory in 1986. What this says is, according to the economist, that governments are not capable of convincing their people that their economic problems are the result of external factors and not the fault of the party in power.
Between 1982 and 1985, 18 countries in Latin America devalued their currencies, in the Dominican case by 117%, and only Panama, a dollar economy and Haiti did not devalue their currencies. The recent US election victory by Barack Obama is owed, in large part, to the recession that began in September. There are already disturbances in Greece and Thailand because of the crisis.
Several Latin American countries are due to hold elections this year, and it will be interesting to see what role the current economic crisis will play. A total of seven presidential elections and three congressional elections will take place in El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti, Panama, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

Holidays at the NYC Consulate
The Consul General of the Dominican Republic in New York City has announced that the consulate will be closed for Martin Luther King Day and Juan Pablo Duarte Day.
The Consulate press department said that Thursday 15 January (MLK Day) and Wednesday 21 (Day of the Virgin of High Grace) are being combined for a day off on 19 January, and the consulate will be closed that day. Meanwhile, Monday 26 January will not be altered and there will be no work on Juan Pablo Duarte's birthday.
The office said "We ask our clients to excuse us for the inconvenience that these measures might cause them..." The consul, Eduardo Selman, invited fellow citizens living in the Tri-State area to take part in the Mass that will be held on Our Lady of High Grace Day at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Sunday 18 January at 2:00 in the afternoon.
The consulate has been in the limelight recently for new appointments. Several reports have consistently pointed out the excessive staff appointed to the NYC Consulate by President Leonel Fernandez, most regarded as political appointees.

Cops nab lieutenant's killer
The alleged hit man who is said to have killed Army First Lieutenant Guillermo Antonio Tejeda Kranwinkel has been arrested. Tejeda Kranwinkel, who was assigned to service in the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), was killed on 3 March 2008. The arrest is believed to have taken place on Wednesday and the person was being interrogated at police headquarters, according to information obtained by El Nuevo Diario.
The officer attached to the DNCD, and son of journalist Guillermo Tejeda, was killed by several gunshots in March 2008, on Padre Borbon Street in San Cristobal, a crime attributed to drug trafficking organizations.
Last Monday, the assistant director of the Central Department of Criminal Investigations, Jacinto Minaya, reported that investigative units had identified the person believed to have carried out the killing of the young officer.
Tejeda Kranwinkel was shot several times in broad daylight when he was getting into his vehicle that was parked on the street where he was surprised by the man, who immediately fled the scene. The family's lawyer, Pedro Duarte Canaan, says that the murder was committed by high-ranking military officers tied to drug trafficking.
The investigation into the crime now enters the second phase under the coordination of Colonel Alejandro Dipre Sierra and assistant prosecutor Bolivar Sanchez.

Salvador Paniagua to jail
The District Attorney for the Judicial District of Duarte province will request a court to place baseball player Salvador Paniagua in preventive custody. The catcher for the Tigres del Licey is accused of causing injury to a baseball fan at the Julian Javier Stadium on 29 November when a fight broke out between the Tigres del Licey and the Gigantes del Cibao in which several fans were injured.
Paniagua was in court yesterday for a hearing on the accusation against him.
The announcement was made by San Francisco de Macoris prosecutor Juan de Dios Rosario Santos who reported that an interview between the accused and judge Carlos Moreno took place yesterday. The judge is in the process of investigating the incident where young Jonathan Rafael Ferreira Marte suffered serious facial injuries.
The prosecutor said that during the hearing between Salvador Paniagua and his lawyer, no agreement was reached since the ballplayer did not speak at all, at his lawyer's recommendation.
According to Listin Diario, no agreements were proposed and his lawyer said that he had evidence that exculpated his client.
The prosecutor told reporters that "We are going to ask for remand to custody."
For his part, lawyer Washington Espino, who represents Jonathan Rafael Ferreira Marte, said that Paniagua had refused to speak at any time, indicating with yesterday's hearing the period of conciliation had ended.
Espino said that now Paniagua will have to appear before a magistrate with his lawyer for a hearing to determine whether he will be sent to prison as a preventive measure.
As well as Paniagua, six other baseball players are involved in the case.

Miss Pina Colada
Teatro Las Mascaras is presenting the comedy "Miss Pina Colada RD" after major successes last year. The comedy, by Carlos Ferrari of Argentina, is on stage Fridays and Saturdays in January and February starting this weekend. Germana Quinta is the producer. Lidia Ariza, Karla Hatto, Edward Diaz, Ana Mercedes Soto, Jenny Polanco and Melian are the stars of the comedy that tells the story of a family whose members try to get their daughter elected in a beauty pageant. In 2008, the comedy ran 100 nights to full house. Teatro Las Mascaras is located on Calle Arzobispo Portes corner Arzobispo Merino, in the Colonial Zone.

Oscar de Leon at Jet Set
Venezuelan salsa legend Oscar D'Leon and his band are booked for a performance this Monday at the Jet Set discotheque. De Leon is credited for spreading salsa throughout the world. He is popular in the DR, so those interested in getting in should get there early. The performance is due to start at 9:30pm. Jet Set is located on Av. Independencia, opposite the Presidente Beer brewery. Tickets near to be purchased at the Jet Set in advanced, as this should be a sell out event.
For more upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Baseball update
Danny Richar drove in the winning run and pushed the Tigres del Licey closer to qualifying for the final playoffs. The Tigres defeated the Toros del Este by a score of 3-2 at a packed Francisco Micheli Stadium in La Romana.
The victory gives the Tigres a one-game advantage over the Toros.
Meanwhile, in the Julian Javier Stadium, history once again repeated itself as the Aguilas Cibaenas lost a 4-0 lead to the Gigantes del Cibao, finally losing the game 8-4. The Gigantes remain in first place, a half a game over the Tigres del Licey and a game and a half over the Toros del Este.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 10 - 5 .667 --
LICEY 10 - 6 .625 0.5
TOROS 9 - 7 .563 1.5
AGUILAS 2 - 13 .143 8.0
Tonight's games:
Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya 7:30pm - Aguilas (no pitcher announced) vs Licey (R. Ortiz)
La Romana, Estadio Francisco Micheli, 7:30pm - Gigantes (A. Simon) vs Toros (E. Volquez)
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