Four presidents arrive on Saturday|
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will travel to the Dominican Republic on 24 January and then on to Venezuela on the 26 January as part of a five-day trip aimed at strengthening ties with both nations, according to official sources in Tegucigalpa yesterday.
Zelaya will take part in an economic seminar together with his counterparts from Costa Rica (Oscar Arias), Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega) and Haiti (Rene Preval) and Dominican President Leonel Ferandez.
The event, led by Fernandez, will also include the presence of Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza and other Latin American figures.
According to Listin Diario, Zelaya joined Hugo Chavez's Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) eight months ago.
Cardinal calls for morality in reform|
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez has called on the authorities to act with prudence and humility, saying they should possess "patriotic sense" and warning that any decision that is adopted by the constitutional reform should take the interests of the people into account.
The prelate made these statements during a sermon delivered during Mass celebrated in commemoration of the Virgin of High Grace, in the presence of President Leonel Fernandez, and where he prayed for the spiritual mother of the Dominican people to illuminate the current authorities to help them tackle the country's current problems resulting from the global crisis.
According to Diario Libre, the religious leader said that a lot of sensitivity and humility is needed in order to tackle the problems that exist in the country, adding that the government should be forceful in tackling the issue of violence.
He said, nevertheless, that with the help of the Virgin, the government would have the wisdom to come out ahead of the problems that are closing in, giving protection to the Dominicans. He also mentioned the Haitians, highlighting their participation in the ceremonies in honor of the Lady of High Grace.
He called on the government and the people to work and disseminate the re-launch of moral and Christian values, and urged Dominicans to adopt a unified front against the problems generated by the world economic crisis.
"These are times when incongruence and violence must be met bravely," said the prelate in his address to hundreds of the faithful who had traveled hundreds of kilometers to pay homage to the Virgin of High Grace.
The President and First Lady Margarita Cedeno arrived at the Basilica of Our Lady of High Grace at 10am, and were welcomed by cathedral rector Evaristo Areche.
At the end of the religious service, the President had lunch with representatives of several sectors of the eastern region, including businessman Frank Rainieri, politician Amable Aristy Castro, union leader Manolo Ramirez, Ernesto Veloz, banker Alejandro Grullon and others.
Meanwhile, in the esplanade in front of the basilica and the surrounding gardens, thousands of worshippers, including hundreds of Haitians, took part in a series of ceremonies honoring the Virgin.
Ideas from FINJUS and evangelical leaders|
The Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) and the Dominican Evangelical Unity Council (Codue) released their proposals for the national summit yesterday as they submitted them to the organizing commission. Codue's recommendations centered on electricity, public spending, prices, health and education.
Finjus set out three central issues for the summit called by President Leonel Fernandez for next Wednesday. These are to strengthen the Justice System in order to fight crime, changes in citizen safety and improving controls on state actions.
This proposal was delivered to the Minister of Economy, Planning and Development, Juan Temistocles Montas, the coordinator of the commission responsible for organizing the summit conference.
On the issue of citizen safety, Finjus says that in order to strengthen a climate of citizen safety in the process of constitutional reform, the National Police needs to be recognized as a civil, professional, institution providing a service to the community and subordinate to the Executive Branch; it needs to be cleaned up and professionalized and given the technical, human and financial resources it needs. They also propose to extend nationwide the Barrio Seguro projects that are currently active in 125 communities, giving them more resources and increased community participation. Finjus also proposes reducing the number of weapons in the hands of private citizens and the prevention and persecution of organized crime, especially drug trafficking.
On the question of the Justice Department, Finjus says that functional independence has to be a priority, and the process of professionalization and selection of assistant prosecutors should continue all over the country. The Justice Department must also be provided with the resources that it needs in order to fight organized crime and corruption.
With reference to the control of the state, Finjus says that Congress should establish a Budget Control office with the idea of eliminating the Executive Branch's involvement in the election of Chamber of Accounts members. Moreover, they propose to regulate the Executive Branch initiative on the budget, especially the date for submitting the budget. They also want to limit the number of members of the Chamber to five.
Groups reject summit participation|
The Independence, Unity and Change Movement (MIUCA) led by former presidential candidate Guillermo Moreno was among those invited to the national summit, but have now announced that they would not attend, according to Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, one of the members of the summit organizing commission.
Nunez Collado, who is also chairman of the Economic, Social and Institutional Council (CESI), said that he had no idea what will happen with the demand that the President postpone the constitutional reform process. He said that all conditions, such as this one put forth by CESI, have reached the President by way of minister Temistocles Montas.
Nevertheless, he reminded Diario Libre that the issue of the reform falls under the control of Congress, where the Senate approved a law that declares the constitutional reform as a national need.
Discussions at the summit will begin on 28 January, and the opening will take place in the Hilton Hotel in Santo Domingo.
The Citizens' Forum, composed of non-governmental organizations, announced that it would not take part in the dialogue with the government unless President Fernandez changes his policies. At a press conference, the group said that during this week signals have emerged that indicate that the summit of the industrial, commercial, banking, social and political sectors is just a ploy to distract the people, because preparations for the constitutional reform went forward in Congress, and Fernandez appointed a commission to look at the electricity crisis, one of the principal issues suggested so far.
According to Hoy newspaper, the group also demanded that the constitutional reform should follow the recommendations made by the group of lawyers that was appointed to discuss the proposals from the open hearings held around the country.
The Popular Movement also called for increased spending in the areas of health, education and jobs as a way of creating a more dynamic economy. They said that such a move, combined with reduced spending in non-priority areas and curtailment of luxury goods imports would serve as an incentive for their participation.
Year starts with less money|
As a result of the economic contraction caused by the global economic crisis, the year has begun with less money entering the national coffers.
According to official figures, as of 19 January 2009, collections have fallen by RD$9.43 billion after reaching RD$12.4 billion during the same period in 2008.
The greatest reduction came in customs collections, which went down from RD$2.952 billion to just RD$1.70 billion for the period. This was influenced by two elements: the crisis and the lowering of tariffs according to international agreements.
In the case of the Tax Department, collections fell from RD$7.97 billion to RD$6.215 billion. At the same time, Treasury receipts also went down from RD$1.4 billion to RD$1.35 billion. These figures do not include foreign or local loans.
According to Hoy, one element that stands out is the fact that the selective tax on fuels fell from RD$862 million to RD$331 million. Collections for this tax represented 38.4% of what was collected in the former period and 52.9% of what was budgeted.
This could provide an explanation for the very controversial increase in the price of fuels last week, despite the fact that world oil prices reached new lows.
Prices remain high despite lower oil prices|
Despite the fact that the price of oil has dropped by 75.2% over the last six months, the cost of many basic consumer goods in the Dominican Republic remains very high.
According to El Caribe, on the New York Stock Exchange, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate cost US$147 on 11 July 2008, and as of last 17 January 2009 the price was US$36.51, a US$110 dollar decrease. This decrease has not been accompanied by a proportionate fall in many of the goods and services whose increases were attributed to the increase in the price of oil.
Among the products that have gone up considerably, and are still the same or even higher, is cement which is being sold at RD$225 and RD$265 a bag, higher than it was when the price of crude oil was at its highest.
The same is true for some services such as urban transport, where fares are at RD$13 and RD$25. The price of the same fare was RD$10 when oil prices were much higher than today.
Yet another consumer product that has maintained it high price is bread. Sandwich bread underwent RD$22 and RD$35 increases. A larger loaf of sliced bread that was RD$110, is now priced at RD$145.
Poultry, egg and pork prices are all higher now than when the price of oil was at its highest, in spite of government subsidies on many products.
The National Food Retailers Federation (Fenacodep) says that this is because many industrialists and importers need to reduce their inventories before they can reduce prices. Fenacodep president Juan Ignacio Caraballo added that transporters increased the cost of carrying a bag of rice from RD$15 to RD$30 in the National District, and from RD$55 to RD$70 from La Romana to Santo Domingo when the price of diesel fuel was at RD$190 a gallon. Today, the same fuel costs RD$102 a gallon but transporters have not lowered their fees.
Government to pay debt with bonds|
The government will undertake payment of some of the debt it has with electricity generators through a bond issue for US$250 million. The total debt comes to more than US$700 million, according to today's El Caribe.
The generators, nonetheless, have conditioned their acceptance of the payment because they have not been told when the bonds come due or the condition of the rest of the debt.
The guarantee, according to Pedro Pena Rubio, coordinator of the CDEEE Distribution Committee is only waiting for the Ministry of the Hacienda to authorize the emission, the conditions and the interest rate that will be paid.
The payment proposal, worked out last 14 January, says that the current debt will be distributed among 14 generators.
Pena Rubio explained that the decision to pay with bonds was approved by the congress at the end of 2008, with a total of RD$10.7 billion (about US$350 million).
Quoted in El Caribe, he said that the emission could be acquired by the national banks or international entities or by the same generators that have capital available. He did not say when all this would take place.
Rosario wants to limit cedulas|
Central Electoral Board Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario is in favor of limiting the validity of the personal identification card, called the "cedula", issued to foreigners, to the same timeframe covered by the holder's Residence Permit.
Judge Rosario acknowledged that the JCE has had a series of difficulties with the process of providing these identification cards to foreigners and this is shown by the emission of 65 false identity cards that were discovered and sent to the Commission of Cancelled and Invalidated Cards.
Rosario expressed this opinion in reply to a question by Listin Diario reporter Wanda Mendez about the recommendation made by the departments of Inspection and Security of the JCE for the expiration dates of the personal identity card and the Residence visa to fall two months apart.
Rosario reported that the Administrative Chamber would send the proposal to the Ministry of the Interior and Police and the Immigration Department. "This month we will finish a series of internal discussions with our officials and with Interior and Police and Immigration officials in order to get a general position on this issue, both for people with provisional residence and those who have permanent residence..."
Rosario also estimated that before the month is over the collection of biometric information would have reached 10% of the citizens, "which means we can say that the project is going well."
30 Quirino friends and relations to leave DR|
The United States federal authorities in charge of the case against former Army captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo are said to have informed the National District Prosecutor that part of the plea deal they struck with the accused drug trafficker involves the transfer of around 30 of his friends and relations.
The objective, according to Diario Libre, is to offer them effective protection against future retaliation from the criminal groups whose Mafia-like structure allows them to operate in the DR with relative immunity to intimidate and kill.
The position was voiced by lawyers Felix Damian Olivares and Freddy Castillo, who are representing Quirino's wife, Belkis Elizabeth Ubri Medrano, in an opposition appeal, outside of chamber, against a decision by the Second Chamber of the Penal Section of the Appeals Court of the National District, that ordered the notification, translated into Spanish, of the documents that contain the agreement between prosecutors in New York and those of the National District to retired Colonel Pedro Julio "Pepe" Goico Guerrero and Bienvenido Guevara Diaz (Maconi).
Both men were found not guilty of money laundering, but Ubri Medrano was sentenced to five years in jail and is trying to obtain an annulment of the sentence and the definitive withdrawal of the charges, as they relate to her, in order to facilitate compliance with the international judicial cooperation. In one appeal, her lawyers ask the court to shorten the timeframe for deciding such a case.
They say that it is well known that in the Dominican Republic the international drug trafficking organizations operate with a large capacity for violence, "to the extent that high-ranking officials in our Armed Forces have been found to be involved in executions ordered by these organizations, and therefore it is reasonable to think that all of the persons tied either by friendship or family to Mr. Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo would be running great risks as long as they remain in the country."
The lawyers say that any further action, such as arrest warrants, capture and passive extradition of other people could not take place while Quirino's relatives and friends are still in the country. "Then, there is the double risk of delay, which is to say: the possibility of attempts against these people's lives and the escape of those who would have been requested for extradition."
Banks clarify position on Aerodom|
The participation of a pool of banks in the purchase of the Dominican Airports Consortium Siglo XXI (Aerodom) consisted only of securing financing for the Advent International company through a joint loan.
This explanation was given by Scotia Bank, Banco Popular Dominicano, BHD Bank and Leon Bank in a statement issued with the idea of clearing up claims in several media outlets that said that these banks had purchased shares of the Aerodom Consortium at a cost of US$400 million.
Diario Libre says the information was attributed to a statement made by the director general of Aerodom, Rodolfo Salgado Leyva, during conversations with reporters who cover Las Americas International Airport. According to this information, a pool of Dominican banks was involved in the acquisition of shares in this company through Advent International.
"We must clarify that Scotia Bank, Popular Dominicano, Banco BHD and Leon did not acquire any Aerodom shares. These banks' role in this operation consisted only of financing the acquisition of Aerodom by Advent International through a syndicated loan, headed by Scotia Bank," assured the statement.
They said that the Dominican banks that were involved in the operation did so as borrowers in the execution of the operation, in keeping with the country's banking regulations.
Model UN in the Dominican Republic|
Over 400 Dominican students will take part in the Conference "Dominican Model of the United Nations in New York (NYDRMUN 2009)." On this occasion the young conference participants will hold working sessions in the conference rooms of the Hotel Millennium Plaza for the first two days and on the last day they will meet in the United Nations General Assembly hall.
The is the seventh time that the Dominican United Nations Association (ANU-RD) has organized this get-together, with the main objective of spreading information about how the United Nations works through educational and humanitarian projects with young Dominicans and people from other world regions.
NYDRMUN 2009, which will be celebrated from 2 to 4 April in New York City aims to enable students to discuss the principal challenges and issues currently facing the international community, giving them the chance to suggest possible solutions.
The announcement of the activity was made by ANU-RD executive director Pilar Sandoval during a press conference held at the Global Foundation (Funglode) headquarters. Katherine Acosta, Yamilee Eusebio and Carlos Alonso also took part in the conference.
Young people interested in participating in this activity can obtain information at www.una-dr.org/nydrmun2009 or by telephone at 809 685 9966, ext.2504.
Ecological park on banks of Yaque|
The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Santiago Water and Sewer Corporation (CORAASAN) have begun the construction of a park and an ecological corridor along the Beltway Avenue that borders the north bank of the Yaque River that runs through the city of Santiago. The idea is to rescue the area and remove the shanty dwellings that currently line the riverbank.
The ecological and tourist project began with the planting of thousands of acacia, flamboyant, pines, eucalyptus, Juan Primero, rain trees (saman), mahogany and other native tree species.
In the first stage, the corridor will include the middle watershed area of the lakes at Lopez-Angostura-Los Almacigos, and the areas of high urban impact of the city of Santiago. At the project launch, Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal said that this initiative would help recover the spaces needed for the Yaque's ecological balance and Santiago's urban environment.
"This project will help convert the whole area into an ecological riverbank, where the families of Santiago can relax and enjoy themselves", stated Fernandez Mirabal during the event.
The official told Diario Libre reporters that the Environment Ministry would put two brigades on permanent detail to plant trees and reforest the river banks and maintain the area in condition so that it can be studied.
Coraasan director Hamlet Otanez said that the next reforestation day would be held next month in an attempt to recover and save the areas affected by erosion and deforestation.
The Environment Ministry has a wide-ranging program of rescuing the country's watersheds and rivers, including tree planting to prevent ecological damage to the tributaries.
Fernandez Mirabal told reporters that the ministry would spend RD$16 million a month on tree planting through the Quisqueya Verde Plan. Projects will also be started in the areas surrounding the major dams.
COE issues green alert for north west|
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has issued a green alert for the residents of the provinces of Montecristi, Dajabon, Santiago Rodriguez and Valverde, following forecasts of increased rainfall.
The rescue organization says that people who live near rivers, streams and hillsides in the areas under a green alert should take precautions against flooding and landslides.
The decision was taken, according to the COE because conditions exist for weak to moderate rains in the area of the frontier, the Central Mountains and the north west. The frontal area persists over Haiti, and continues to affect the weather in the north west.
The final series of the Dominican Winter League is under way, and the Tigres del Licey have taken a two games to nothing lead over the Gigantes del Cibao. The first game, played in Santo Domingo was won 3-2 by Licey.
In yesterday's game, played in San Francisco de Macoris, the Tigres won 9-7 in a game with many alternatives.
The Gigantes led off in the first inning with two runs and the Tigres scored one. The Tigres tied the game in the third inning, but the Gigantes came back to score four runs in the bottom of the third to take a 6-2 lead.
However the Licey team scored three runs in the top half of the fourth inning to pull within one run, 6-5.
The Tigres went ahead with a hit by Ronny Paulino and a homerun by Jose Bautista, 7-6.
In the eighth inning, the Gigantes tied the game 7-7 on a walk to Kendry Morales and a RBI hit by Juan Francisco.
In the tenth inning, Licey scored two runs on a hit by Ronny Paulino, a walk to Jose Bautista, an RBI hit by Timoniel Perez, a SAC fly by Ron Belliard and an RBI hit by Emilio Bonifacio. Licey 9, Gigantes 7.
With Licey now leading the series 2-0, the scene now shifts to Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo where the Gigantes will send left-hander B. Cramer to the mound to face Licey's right-hander J. Sosa. Game time is 7:30pm.
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