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Daily News - Tuesday, 20 January 2009

DR1 breaks for Altagracia Day
DR1 news will not be updated on Wednesday, 21 January. The day is celebrated in honor of the Day of our Lady of High Grace (Virgen de la Altagracia), a national religious holiday. Wednesday's news will be compiled for the Thursday, 22 January issue. La Altagracia Day celebrations primarily focus on the Basilica Altagracia in Higuey, half an hour's drive from the Punta Cana beach resorts.

Queen says schools assure DR's future
Visibly impressed, perhaps by the levels of poverty in the areas surrounding the educational centers that she visited or by the testimonies that she heard from project beneficiaries, Queen Sofia of Spain spent the first day of her busy agenda visiting a number of projects that receive support from the Spanish government.
"For Fundebmuni, with all my admiration for the work that is being done for the benefit of these children, assuring a positive future for the Dominican people. With all my love and affection, Sofia".
The Queen wrote these words in the Visitors' Book in the homework room of the Foundation for the Development and Welfare of the Woman and Children (Fundebmuni), located in the city of San Cristobal, where she ended the first day of her program of visits.
Earlier, on board a bus with her entourage headed by Spanish International Cooperation Minister Soraya Rodriguez and Spanish ambassador to the Dominican Republic Diego Bermejo, the Queen arrived at the Angelica Masse primary school in Villas Agricolas, opposite the New Market, where the mud, the lack of hygiene with which the food is sold in the plaza and the poverty provided a great contrast to the refined visit. The center, which was built with funds from the Spanish agency, cost more than RD$12 million and serves more than 300 first to fourth grade children.
The Queen was welcomed by Education Minister Melanio Paredes, Father Antonio Lluberes who represents the Faith and Happiness organization in the country, Roman Ramos of the Ramos Group (Pola, La Sirena), and Lissette Cruz, representing the school's parents association.
Showing humility that at times bordered on a sort of shyness, the Queen listened attentively to the principals' explanations about the workings of the schools she visited. She later dined at a restaurant in San Cristobal.
The visits continue today in several poor barrios of the capital, including Vietnam in Los Mina. Meetings with President Fernandez and the First Lady are also scheduled.

Deadline for summit proposals
The organizing commission for the summit meeting between the main players in industry, trade, banking and other leading sectors of Dominican society, says that today is the deadline for handing in proposals on the five main points to be discussed, a task that has the economic, political and social groups of the country working overtime.
Diario Libre reports that the PRD Political Commission is meeting at 4:00 this afternoon to take a decision. Some internal party factions have come out against participation in the summit. The PRSC's Political Committee is also meeting at 3:00 in the afternoon to ratify its proposals.
Meanwhile, the Economic, Social and Institutional Council (CESI) made up of businesspeople, union leaders, academics and religious and social organizations, is meeting at the PUCMM Santo Domingo campus this morning.
The CESI, headed by Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, has defined its priority themes as health, education, energy, competitiveness, production and jobs, and transparency and institutionalism, according to their representative Iraima Capriles who talked to Diario Libre.
Nonetheless, she pointed out that two amendments would be discussed today. The Dominican Management Confederation (Copardom) has submitted some comments on how the proposal to generate job quotas should be presented in the face of all the jobs lost to the international crisis. The Dominican Republic Industrial Association (AIRD) is suggesting a different approach on the point where the CESI demands compliance with laws that are approved, such as the General Law on Education.
This multi-sector round table brings together 44 entities and many of them have submitted their proposals unilaterally, without having renounced the proposals submitted by the consensus, according to Capriles.
The PRD responds to the call by several leading members to reject the invitation from President Fernandez. "I am not going because I am not willing to be part of a farce", said former President Hipolito Mejia, who announced that he would vote against the PRD participation in the summit. Nonetheless, some voices warn that this means that public will see the PRD as a party that is not willing to engage in the search for solutions. In contrast, leading PRSC member Ramon Rogelio Genao reported that his party's commission would go to the summit with its five points already settled as required by the organizing commission.

An agenda for the summit
Business sector representatives have presented their suggestions for the priority issues on the government's agenda for reaching a consensus during the proposed "Summit for the Consolidation and Expansion of Governance, Macroeconomic Sustainability, Economic and Social Development." Representatives of the Association of Industries (AIRD), Association of Exporters (Adoexpo), Association of Dominican Free Zones (Adozona) and the Agribusiness Board (JAD) say actions need to be taken to secure an efficient electricity supply, access to financing, equitable conditions with partners in DR-CAFTA, updating labor legislation, a competitive macroeconomic environment, competition in cargo transportation, promotion of exportable offer, trade facilitation, and training of human resources.
They called for measures to reduce interest rates on loans, reduce restrictions on borrowing, accelerate the process for securing farm land titles, eliminate surcharges on exports, reorganize and restructure the governmental export service, and unify international promotional strategies to promote exports.

Appeal for straight talk
Researchers from Jesuit think-tank Centro Juan Montalvo say they would like the government to make gestures that demonstrate that it is sincere and truthful about its intentions for the proposed summit. The researchers say that these signs would be an explicit commitment by the government to revise the budget and postpone discussions on constitutional reform. The think-tank is concerned that it will be all talk and no action on the part of the government, as has happened in the past. For the Centro Montalvo, "the current crisis and its causes are not only the result of international factors, but they are also tied to the way the authorities are handling themselves: the corruption, failure to fulfill the laws and low social investment."
They attributed this to public skepticism after having suffered the frustration of seeing how the authorities systematically break all agreements they reach - including many proposals for constitutional reform, the National Dialogue, Ten-Year Education Plan, commitment to increase 1% of the GDP for social reform made in the fiscal reform of 2005, the social security law, and the 2007 austerity law.
Centro Montalvo also said that contrary to the spirit of the summit are the government pardons that contradict the nation's desire to put a stop to corruption, the 123 vice consuls appointed at the NY City Consulate, that contradict the need for austerity in a time of crisis and the national desire to fight clientelism, the call for a Congressional assembly to pass constitutional reform at a time when there are pressing national problems and the lack of regulation of the summit with the national budget.
"We believe that the summit should have been called in December, so that the proposals could be funded in the budget," he said.

Colonial Zone to get makeover
Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia has announced a restoration program for decaying buildings and the construction of new ones in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone and the Malecon (George Washington Ave.) for these areas to recover their former levels of activity.
Garcia said that it is one of his priorities to return the historic center to "all its splendor and beauty and show the world that we are the owners of the most beautiful Colonial Zone in Latin America."
Talking to reporters from Hoy, Garcia said that this part of the capital city is one of the favorite points of interest for tourists who are attracted by its architectural treasures, its monuments, its cafes and restaurants as well as the good service.
Garcia said that the Malecon would undergo a renewal program to restore some of the sites and attractions along the avenue that borders the capital's Caribbean coast. The minister said that tourism is the most attractive part of the economy because of its earning power and the legal guarantees given to investors at the signing of the DR-CAFTA agreement.
Minister Garcia said that the government has defined 2009 as the "year of great achievements for tourism" with investments worth over RD$10 billion for new projects and promotion efforts.

RD$17 million a day on school breakfasts
Minister of Education Melanio Paredes has told reporters that his ministry is spending RD$17,000,000 a day on the school breakfast program, and, at the same time, he guaranteed the quality and timely delivery of the meals according to the wishes of President Fernandez.
Melanio Paredes said that the school breakfasts are distributed to 1500 schools throughout the country, and that they comply with the quality standards required by the ministry.
Paredes made these statements while being interviewed by reporters from El Nuevo Diario as he left a meeting with Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti at the Presidential Palace yesterday.

Marranzini slams excess CDEEE spending
Industrialist Celso Marranzini, the former president of the National Business Council (CONEP), has denounced the fact that the CDEEE receives "immense subsidies" from taxpayers, but pays salaries of RD$150,000 to consultants who sit on several boards of directors. Marranzini feels that the electricity corporation should handle itself as a company in bankruptcy, one that does not sell the electricity it serves to clients.
Speaking to reporters from Hoy, Celso Marranzini said he thought that this country should redefine the role of the state so that the administration of businesses is no longer within its functions.
With this in mind, he decried the fact that the Dominican Corporation of State-owned Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE), which is given "Immense subsidies" yet nevertheless we see it holding social functions and one has to ask, "How is this possible?"
Marranzini also said he was saddened by the fact that the CDEEE pays an advisor a salary of RD$150,000 each month. He said, "There are five councils of administration where each councilor earns more than a Minister of State, more than the President of the Republic, then it is not possible for a business to function under these conditions." Marranzini is currently the president of Action for Basic Education (Educa), a not-for-profit organization.
He said that the CDEEE should behave under the criteria of a bankrupt entity that does not collect on what it sells, which is to say, the electricity is offers.
Going on to other ideas, Marranzini told the Hoy reporters that in order to solve the electricity problem "you do not have to reinvent a lot," since everything is clear on this issue. He said that now is the best time to solve the electricity issues, because the price of oil had gone down, and certain measures could be taken in terms of the transparency of the cost of the electricity that is supplied.
Talking to a television audience on Channel 11's Telematutino program, Marranzini said that the contracts covered by the Madrid Accords were a large part of the problem and that these contracts should have been revised some time ago.

The JCE creates its own security force
With the aim of getting police and military personnel out of their buildings and service centers, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has decided to create its own security corps to guard its offices.
Roberto Rosario, the chief magistrate of the JCE Administrative Chamber, announced that they were working on the design of the program in coordination with the departments of Security, Finances and Human Resources, and he expects to put the plan into action by April.
"They will be something like the bank police, or like those at the Supreme Court, specialized personnel that will be trained, formed and educated to give the best service to the public', he told Diario Libre reporters as he pointed out that the corps would initially begin working at the JCE headquarters, the Electoral Board in the National District, in Santo Domingo West, and at the Civil Registries of the First and Second Circumscriptions.
He maintained that the JCE should have absolute control over the handling of their security personnel and "their relationship with the public."
He said that in some places "uncomfortable situations" have developed between the military and civilian personnel about the speed of services.
"In principle, this will be personnel belonging to the JCE itself. It will be the necessary personnel, not an army," emphasized Rosario.

Metro inauguration date announced
The authorities have announced that the Santo Domingo Metro will be officially inaugurated on Sunday, 29th January.
The sale of electronic tickets for use on the Santo Domingo Metro began yesterday morning at all of the stations along the route from Villa Mella to La Feria.
The sub-director of the Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET), Leonel Carrasco gave more details about the ticketing system. He said that once the card is coded, it does not have an expiry date and can be recharged for any amount of money.
"The procedure consists of the purchase of a card with a magnetic strip at a cost of RD$30 pesos, just for the plastic, and the rider will then pay RD$20 pesos per ride," said the official, as quoted in El Nuevo Diario.
He also reported that Opret is exploring options for special prices for students in the future, as well as the possibility that these students might be able to pay with their student I.D. cards.
The process of selling cards will continue each day from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, seven days a week.

Scholarship payments delayed
Dozens of students given scholarships by the Ministry of Youth to study abroad have received warnings that they may not be able to continue next semester because of delays in the payments by the state for their scholarship programs.
The young people, who are studying at academic institutions in Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Chile and France, and who only decided to complain of their situation anonymously, said they were alarmed when receiving the news from the university academic administrators.
Meanwhile, the sub-minister in charge of these programs for the Ministry of Youth, Luis Diaz, promised that these problems would be resolved before the next semester begins so that these students, almost 60 in number, who have benefited from these scholarships will be able to complete their study programs.
He attributed the delays in payment to bureaucratic public administration procedures and to the tiny budget given to the Ministry of Youth.
He added that as a way of honoring the millions in debts that the ministry has contracted with local universities, all new scholarships have been halted. This has also happened in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

Push for Higuey
Frank Rainieri, founder of the Punta Cana area, is calling for work to start towards a Strategic Development Plan for 2010-2020, to bring the city of Higuey into the 21st Century. The idea is to convert Higuey, at present a dormitory town for workers in the Punta Cana resorts into an attractive site in its own right. He is supporting the suggestion that the Bishop of Higuey, Nicanor Pena should take the leadership with the support of the La Altagracia Tourism Cluster. He wants the area to emulate the successes of Puerto Plata and Santiago in the development of their strategic plans. Rainieri says that the priority for the region should be to get organized and come up with a harmonized plan that commits all sectors that represent the collective aspirations of the region. He stressed that this could not be a government funded plan. "This will not be easy and will require lots of work and a great deal of commitment. He said that, "many may think that it is a dream, but they thought the same when 20 years ago it was predicted that the economy of Higuey province would grow to become the country's third largest." He called for the consolidation and participation of all stakeholders, big and small from the public and private sectors. "Tourism is a integrated concept that involves hotels, service and complementary companies, and the community," he said. He stressed the importance of the community. "The tourists need a community so that they can get to know our culture, folklore, music, gastronomy and the warmth of our people".

COE issues green alert
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has decided to keep its green alert in place for five provinces, even as the system starts to leave Dominican territory.
The green alert is in place for Duarte province, especially the Lower Yuna Basin, as well as Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Samana, La Altagracia and Hato Mayor, because light rains are expected to continue in the area, mostly in the northeast. Rainfall is also forecast along the frontier and in the central mountains. The low-pressure system is currently over Haiti.
Local conditions will improve over the next 24 hours, according to the COE and Meteorological Office bulletins. Nevertheless, the COE does recommend that residents of low-lying areas in the provinces mentioned in the alert should take precautionary measures against flooding and landslides.
The COE also issued a small craft warning for Samana Bay and the Atlantic Coast.
According to the organization that deals with the preparation and aftermath of natural events such as tropical storms and hurricanes, people located in the alert area should follow the guidelines that have been issued in the past.
Bulletins from the Onamet, Civil Defense, Armed Forces, Red Cross, the National Police and the COE can be accessed by dialing *462 or 809 472 0909.

DR in Second Life recognized
Over the last two weeks Republica Dominicana Virtual's presence in the online world called Second Life has been recognized twice as a place "that we can all learn from and enjoy". First, it was recognized by the SLED (SL Educators) on its blog www.sl-educationblog.org and later on, consequently, by LindenLabs' Second Life blog http://blog.secondlife.com/2009/01/09/education-in-second-life-highlights-from-2008
The SLED Blog is dedicated to the ins and outs of K-20 education using the Second Life® world. SLED has a membership of over 5,200 educators in the US and worldwide. Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by over 16 million Residents from around the globe.
Republica Dominicana Virtual is a "Social Cybernetic Collaboration" of Funglode's Virtual Campus and its goal is "to enable most Dominican students to have free access to educate themselves in any part of the world, on any subject, at any time, from any part of the national territory in less than a decade."
A first video of the campus can be seen in YouTube:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KB-E7L951U
A second video will be launched on February 10th, right before a conference by Jimbo Wales, the creator of Wikipedia at FUNGLODE, in the Dominican Republic
Anyone considering joining this initiative can do so via the Campus Social network at:
www.funglode.ning.com where instructions are available on how to enter Second Life and travel as an avatar to Republica Dominicana Virtual at: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Ontos/57/109/23

Obama inaugural in the DR
The DR is no exception when it comes to the international enthusiasm that the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president has raised worldwide. The inaugural day ceremonies start at 11am (10am in Washington, D.C), local time. The ceremony traditionally lasts for about two hours. Obama will be sworn in by 1pm, Dominican time. Obama is scheduled to give his much-awaited inaugural speech towards the end of the ceremony. In Santo Domingo, Cane Restaurant at Av. Abraham Lincoln is hosting an inaugural lunch, happy hours and dinner with prizes.

Gigantes win duel over Toros
The Gigantes del Cibao got important hits from Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago that drove in two runs each in the third and sixth innings and the Gigantes scored a six-run rally in the seventh to defeat the Toros del Este in the lay off game held in the Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris. The final score was 12-7.
With the victory, the Gigantes earned the right to face the Tigres del Licey in the final round of the Dominican Winter League tournament. The final series starts tonight, according to Diario Libre and it is a best of nine series.
The 55th Final series will get under way at 7:30 tonight. The 54 previous versions of the championship have been fought between the Aguilas Cibaenas (20 victories), the Tigres del Licey (19 victories), the Leones del Escogido (12 victories), the Estrellas Orientales (2 wins) and the Toros del Este (1 win).
Licey is in its sixth consecutive final series and number 32 all-time, dating from 1951. Licey now joins the Aguilas and Escogido. The former were in the finals every year from 1956 to 1961 and the latter were in the finals every year from 1993 to 1998.
Licey, the team with the most Caribbean Championships in history, will be looking to repeat last year's victory in Santiago.
Diario Libre Sports Editor Bienvenido Rojas has compiled this list of the last 14 finalists and the winners.

Last 14 Final Series
Year Champion Manager Results:
2007-08 Aguilas F. Fermin Licey 5-2
2006-07 Aguilas F. Fermin Licey 5-2
2005-06 Licey R. Landestoy Aguilas 5-2
2004-05 Aguilas F. Fermin Licey 4-3
2003-04 Licey M. Acta Gigantes 4-1
2002-03 Aguilas F. Fermin Escogido 4-0
2001-02 Licey B. Geren Aguilas 4-3
2000-01 Aguilas F. Fermin Escogido 4-2
1999-00 Aguilas T. Pena Estrellas 4-3
1998-99 Licey D. Jauss Escogido 4-3
1997-98 Aguilas T. Pena Licey 4-2
1996-97 Aguilas M. Quade Escogido 4-0
1995-96 Aguilas T. Francona Estrellas 4-2
1994-95 Azucareros Art Howe Aguilas 4-2
Final standings of Round Robin Tourney:
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
LICEY 12 - 6 .667 --
GIGANTES 12 - 7 .632 0.5
TOROS 11 - 8 .579 1.5
AGUILAS 2 - 16 .111 10.0
 
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