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Daily News - Friday, 16 January 2009

Metro is coming
The Santo Domingo Metro could be up and running by the end of January, according to Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) director Diandino Pena. After a successful trial run during the holiday season when an estimated two million people rode the subway for free, it seems the Metro could finally be ready for its inaugural. Pena said that all information about the Metro would be released next week, including media spots explaining how to purchase the Metro cards. According to reports, the standard Metro fare will be RD$25.

Segura to UAE
Radhames Segura, executive vice president of the Dominican Corporation of State Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE) will head a commission that travels today to the United Arabian Emirates to follow up on the possibility of securing funds that would contribute to alleviate the ongoing electricity problems, as reported in Hoy. Segura, in his third term as head of electricity matters for a Fernandez administration, had betted on installing two coal-fired power plants, but had to abort this plan when financing was not secured.

Senate moves on Constitution review
During a first reading, Senators have approved a bill to reform articles 1 through 122 of the Constitution and called a special assembly to revise the Constitution. The bill received 22 out of 27 votes with four abstentions. Voting on the second reading of the bill will take place during Monday's Senate session. PRD Senator Roberto Rodriguez said that the bill should be discussed during the summit convened by President Leonel Fernandez for next week.

GW looks for connections
Though no concrete connections have been established George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., is looking to establish cooperation and exchanges with some Dominican educational institutions in the area of health, economics and business. Listin Diario reports that during a recent visit to the country Steven Knapp took the time to explore different possibilities of establishing relations with some of the nation's private institutions. During his visit Knapp met with representatives from the PUCMM University Knapp also participated in a luncheon at the Embajador Hotel, as well as having a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez. Knapp explained this was his first visit to the DR.

Cedula fraud high
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) estimates that 30,000 foreigners have obtained cedulas without proving they have entered, or are residing, in the DR legally. The JCE is constantly investigating cedula emissions. Yesterday, the board requested the cancellations of cedulas belonging to 65 foreigners after determining that they had been obtained fraudulently. The JCE has also fired the supervisor and head of the Center for Military Cedulas, for illegally giving military documentation to civilians. Foreigners who have embarked on the cedula process should make sure that their status is legal. Hoy reports the story of a Spanish national resident in Bavaro, Antonio Granja Guerra who paid lawyer Johnny Manuel Guerrero Gomez US$1,000 to take care of the legalization process for him. In the end it turned out that Guerrero had done nothing for Granja, who was none the wiser. The JCE investigated the case after he complained at the JCE headquarters when visiting to regularize his status.

Williams denies charges
Senator Alejandro Williams (PLD-San Pedro de Macoris) is denying media reports that the US authorities are investigating him for Medicaid fraud and tax evasion. Williams, who also works as a dentist in the Bronx, New York, says that his office has paid all of its taxes. Hoy writes that the Senator made a "surprise" visit to the Senate yesterday, and gave local newspapers a day to retract the story, claiming he has been defamed and that the accusations are politically motivated. Williams declared that opponents want to "hijack" his Senate seat.
The Williams case has hit a nerve in recent days, especially in San Pedro de Macoris, his native community, where residents have complained to the press that Williams spends most of his time practicing dentistry in NY instead of fulfilling his political duties at home. Williams is among senators with the most absences.

Police Chief defends
Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin is once again expressing support for his officers in the wake of Sergio Sarita Valdez coroner's report that says that five men shot and killed last week in the Mirador Sur Park area could have been executed by police officers. The coroner based his conclusions on the gunshot wounds. Guzman also denied being aware of statistics released by the Human Rights Defense Commission that says that 70% of homicides in the DR are committed by police officers. "I respect those opinions, we are completely open to, in a transparent manner, to any type of exam. We are respectful of citizens' rights, respectful of human rights and we work within the institutional and constitutional rules." However, Guzman explained that the police have a job to do which is "to protect citizens from threats and risks posed by those who don't believe in society."
In related news, a commission set up to investigate the circumstances of the shootings in the Mirador Park has recommended that nine officers should be sent to trial for their role in the shootings. Santo Domingo District Attorney Alejandro Moscoso Segarra said that the police officers would receive word on the legal restraints within 48 hours. The charges against the officers came after an investigation showed that their accounts of the shootings did not fit the findings of the coroner's report. Manuel Mercedes, head of the National Human Rights Commission, welcomed the decision to investigate the officers as an indication that the Chief of Police will not endorse impunity in his ranks.

Only rumors
The chief of the Air Force Major General Carlos Altuna Tezanos says that comments by Eric Christopher, the son of murdered officer at the Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC), Angel Christopher Martinez, that two Air Force officers could have been involved in the murder of his father are just rumors. Eric Christopher had stated that two Air Force officers had threatened his father at the IDAC offices after his father had cancelled the flight permission to a plane flown by missing pilot Adrian Jimenez. Two weeks later, his father was murdered. Jimenez is missing with 11 other persons after on a suspect people smuggling flight. And his disappearance has brought to the forefront facts linking him to the Christopher murder.
Jimenez was last known to have landed in Turks & Caicos. His Dominican piloting license had been cancelled, and he flew using a US student license. Christopher said that one of the two Air Force officers would later work at the IDAC. He has openly asked for an investigation.
When interviewed by El Caribe, Altuna Tezano said this would have to be investigated. "The Air Force is open, but it is not in control of the airports. There is a Civil Aviation department that is in charge of watching over, checking the license of the pilots. The Air Force does not issue piloting licenses, nor dispatches flights at the airports," he said. He did admit that there are Air Force officers that work at the IDAC.
He recommended that Christopher meet with him and present proof so he can open an investigation.
Furthermore, Altuna Tezanos said that the Air Force is implementing "visual auditing" in order to uncover military that are known to have gone from rags to riches. He said those that make easy money usually show off. He said the Air Force has created a Department of Internal Affairs to look into these matters. "It is not possible that from morning to night a military who did not own a vehicle show up driving a Mercedes Benz," he said. He recalled his own days growing up with his parents that had a paper and printer's shop in Barahona. He said he has been in the Air Force for 29 years.

College students pose concern
Major deficiencies in students' grammar skills, spelling mistakes, low reading comprehension and other problems are raising concerns among university professors around the country. Teachers are also concerned that lack of concrete ability to develop ideas as well as an inability to reference historical events greatly affects the nation's high school students. "Serbesa" (cerveza), "ospital" (hospital), "esecuarto" (ese cuarto), "habierto", (abierto), "deceo" (deseo), "herror" (error) are just some of the most common spelling mistakes made by college students. Listin Diario quotes a first year Literature professor at a local university who said she was shocked when a student handed her an assignment with the word cerveza misspelled as "serbesa." This is comparable to an English speaker misspelling of "would" as "wood." The teacher was even more shocked after she spoke to the student who asked, "Teacher, I study accounting, why would I need any grammar skills?" UASD Professor Rafael Peralta Romero says the lack of grammar skills is nothing compared to many students' inability to form even a basic thought. "They don't know how to construct sentences, and have limited awareness of things happening in the country."

Deficit balloons
Between November and December 2008 the trade deficit between the DR and US increased to US$2.5 billion, up from a US$1.6 billion deficit for the same period in 2007. This reflects an absolute change of US$910 million, or 57.49%. According to Hoy economist Luis H. Vargas, the drastic change in the trade deficit is due in part to the simultaneous increase in the value of imports, 12.32% (US$675.3 million) and the decrease in exports by 6.02% (US$234.9 million). Live animals and foods (US$564 million), metals and papers (US$34 million), minerals and lubricants (US$616 million), vegetable oils and animals (US$92.3 million), chemical products (US$495 million) and manufactured goods (US$549.7 million) all experienced deficits during 2008. Since the implementation of the DR-CAFTA, which was expected to lessen the deficit between signatory countries and the US, has totaled US$4.05 billion in a 21-month period.

Potato pow wow
A total of 56 containers carrying potatoes from Holland have been rejected by the Dominican authorities, on the grounds that they did not meet international sanitation laws. The decision was announced by Customs (DGA) and Agricultural authorities. A committee has been created to find out who had allowed the potatoes to unloaded in the DR, even though its arrival had be prohibited. The Customs Department and Ministry of Agriculture believe that documents had been forged by private customs agents.

Paya saga continues
The dust never seems to settle on the Paya drug massacre and connections with other cases continue to emerge. Hoy is reporting that police have arrested the suspected murderer of Spanish national Adolfo Justo Cervantes Arellano, a.k.a. Waiikiki. The paper writes that one of the men involved is Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua (Rafy). Police spokesman Nelson Rosario says he is a nephew of former drug captain Quirino Paulino Castillo, who is standing trial for drug trafficking in New York. Cervantes was initially investigated for the 2008 murder of Army First Lieutenant assigned to the Department of Drug Control (DNCD) Guillermo Antonio Tejada Kranwinkel who was shot in the head as he came out a barbershop in San Cristobal. Police were also loosely tying Cervantes to the Paya drug massacre, in which seven men were shot dead in Bani. However, no report of any connection between Cervantes and the case was released at the time.
Hoy writes that Jovanny Antonio Padilla Santiago (a.k.a. Margaro Morel Otano) and Rumaldo Fernandez, a US deportee, are also suspects in the case. According to Rosario of the Police, the men admitted they had been paid US$30,000 to knock off Cervantes following differences over 259 kilos of cocaine with drug traffickers.

Quirino's wife not yet cleared
Assistant state prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra of the National District reports that the case against Belkis Elizabeth Ubri Medrano, wife of Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo who is standing trial in New York for drug trafficking has been postponed. Earlier news reports had indicated that following an agreement between the US and DR judicial authorities, 18 of Quirino's relatives would be allowed to leave the country under the US judiciary Federal Witness Protection Program. The case against Ubri in a Dominican court would also be dropped. Now it appears this is not going to happen as a new date of 19 February has been set for the case that is being heard at the Court of Appeals of the National District Penal Court. Belkis Ubri is accused of asset laundering. As reported in Listin Diario, on 19 February the court is due to issue its opinion on the request by the state prosecutor office and Ubri Medrano's lawyer for the filing of the case, as was agreed with the Prosecutors Office of the Southern District of New York and the National District Prosecutors Office. A favorable opinion is a pre-condition for Ubri Medrano to travel to the US.
Ubri Medrano's lawyer, Felix Damian Olivares said the postponement was an excess formality and stressed the need for Quirino's relatives to travel to the US as soon as possible.
Dorka Medina, lawyer for the mother of four of Quirino's children, who have already traveled to the US, has said that the Fernandez government already has the list of the persons who the US judiciary will request in extradition in connection with the case. She told the press that the list included high-ranking members of the Dominican military forces.

Drug plane?
National Drug Control Department agents have confiscated a small airplane that was abandoned around noon yesterday in a cane field near Batey San German in the municipality of Higuey, in the east of the country. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron says the single-engine two-seater airplane had no markings or registration number. As reported in El Caribe, residents in the area reported having seen six or seven men with high caliber weapons driving off in an SUV. Investigators from the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (Inacif) have searched the plane.

Baseball update
Instead of boredom at the hands of the disastrous post-season play by the Aguilas, Winter League fans should be excited about the race thats heating up for the final spots in the post-season championships. Yesterday, Licey beat up on the Aguilas and with the victory guaranteed that at the very least they would be in a tie with the Gigantes or Toros for the top spot. After the game Licey players took to the locker rooms and celebrated with champagne and beer. But the Toros, looking to keep pace, have stepped up to the challenge and yesterday beat the Gigantes 5-3. The Toros were led by the bat of transplant Larry Broadway. With the win the Toros find themselves are only half a game out of second, behind the Gigantes. This should be an exciting home stretch of games as tonight's games include a matchup between the Gigantes vs Tigres and the Aguilas and Toros. This promises to be a great night of baseball.
The Standings
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
LICEY 11 - 6 .647 --
GIGANTES 10 - 6 .625 0.5
TOROS 10 - 7 .588 1.0
AGUILAS 2 - 14 .125 8.5
Tonight's games:
Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo - Gigantes vs Toros
Estadio Cibao, Santiago - Toros vs Aguilas
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