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Daily News - Friday, 23 January 2009

DR1 breaks for Duarte Day
DR1 Daily News will not be updated on Monday, 26 January, a holiday in the Dominican Republic. The 26th celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Juan Pablo Duarte, founding father of the Dominican nation. He was born in Santo Domingo in 1813 and masterminded the movement that led to independence from the dictatorship of the government of General Jean-Pierre Boyer. Duarte was the son of a Spaniard and a Dominican woman from El Seibo. His maternal grandfather was also Spanish. He lived in Puerto Rico and Spain as a young man. He is on record having returned to Santo Domingo in 1831 or 1832 to work in his father's business.
Duarte envisioned Dominican nationality as encompassing a multiplicity of races. The underground movement he founded, La Trinitaria, embarked on a covert independence struggle that gathered strength in 1843 and culminated with the proclamation of independence on 27 February 1844.
While an update of news will not be posted on Monday, readers may check in with the DR1 forums at http://www.dr1.com/forums where news and comments, questions and answers, are posted 24/7. Headline weekend news will be compiled for the Tuesday, 27 January issue.

Martinez promises progress
Eddy Martinez, director of the Dominican Republic Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) says that Dominican exports will recover in 2009 and promised that Dominican businesses will improve their participation within the DR-CAFTA trade agreement. This statement from Martinez comes only days after it was announced that 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%. Since the implementation of DR-CAFTA, which was expected to expand trade, the DR trade deficit with the US has totaled US$4.05 billion in a 21-month period. In his speech Martinez stated that the cost of energy, fuel and transport have all been obstacles for exports. According to Listin Diario, Dominican exports fell by 10% in 2008.

Reform will go ahead
The Presidential Press Secretary and the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate all agreed yesterday that there is no reason for postponing the proposed constitutional reform. This announcement comes after members of the public and private sectors complained that it is not in the best interest of dialogue for the political summit to be held as well as the constitutional reform. The Social, Economic and Institutional Council (CESI) which includes the participation of 44 entities has sent a letter to the Executive Branch asking for the debate on the constitutional reform to be postponed.

Youth unemployment rate high
Although the overall unemployment rate hovers between 16% and 18% and is considered among the highest in the region, unemployment amongst people between the ages of 15 to 24 is the highest of all the DR-CAFTA countries. According to a report released by the Ministry of Labor, youth unemployment is at 30.9% According to Hoy, the regional rate of unemployment averages about 7%. Labor Minister Max Puig said he would propose a plan of action to deal with unemployment during the 28 January political summit. Puig told Hoy that these labor opportunities would focus on community service and reforestation projects. The minister said there is also a plan of action involving government subsidies, which according to him have shown positive results in Argentina.

Educational concerns
Educational standards among students entering high school and university in the DR has been a topic of concern of late, with new statistics from the Education Ministry adding a new dimension to those concerns. According to the Ministry last year a total of 178,814 students quit school. There was a 7% desertion rate for primary school and an 11% desertion rate for middle school. Francisco Yuli, director of Academic Programs for the Junior Achievement Program, says that while many children leave school to fill economic needs at home those who do stay are "mentally distracted." He added that students often don't study because they don't appreciate the need for an education. Yuli added that schools have now become factories and that teachers no longer teach.

Car sales drop
The Association of Vehicle Producer Concessionaires has announced that new car sales dipped by 29% in 2008 and forecasts a similar trend for 2009. Acofave indicates that if lucky, vendors will sell 12,000 new vehicles, at most. Acofave director Enrique Fernandez said this could be similar to 2003, which was the worst year for car sales in recent history. Fernandez said that macroeconomic measures and an increase in bank interest rates have adversely affected car sales. Fernandez is asking the Central Bank to lower the 18% rate on their bonds, while calling for a review of vehicle importation laws and a review of transport taxes paid for the right to drive a vehicle.

DR banks strong
Dominican banks finished 2008 with assets totaling RD$596.5 billion, for an increase of RD$60 billion over 2007. Listin Diario reports that the advantage of this is that an increase in liquidity could be beneficial in the event of a financial crunch on the world markets. Bank Superintendent Rafael Camilo made the announcement on the state of banks during a press conference to discuss the Dominican banking system, various economic indicators and monetary policy. According to Camilo, banks made RD$12 billion in earnings, RD$2.6 billion more than in 2007. He said banks paid RD$3 billion in taxes in 2008. He also explained that credit increased by 17.2%. Bank solvency rate also registered an increase of 1.4%, reaching 14.5 in 2008.

UASD fires suspects of robbery
The UASD University has announced the dismissal of eleven employees suspected of involvement in a series of thefts totaling millions of pesos over the last three months. The thefts included video projection systems and solar panels from one of University's labs. Among those dismissed were Salastier Cruz and Ariel Nova. Demetrio Corporan, who was in charge of the UASD Professors' Security Club was also fired because he was on duty at the time when all the chairs and desks were stolen from the Club. Julio Belliard, Gabriel Mejia (Cibao), Rafael Odalis Castillo, Hector Aquino, Arsenio Perez, Juan Julian de la Cruz Garcia and Hector Aquino were fired for stealing the solar panels and Domitilio Araujo and Antonio Jimenez were fired for stealing batteries from the University Laboratory. No word if legal charges would be filed against the suspects.

SD water wasters
According to the Santo Domingo Aqueduct and Sewage Corporation (CAASD) residents of Santo Domingo waste between 300 and 500 liters per day, which is almost double the world average. According to Ramon Rivas the study includes the area of "Greater Santo Domingo" where water consumption is above the world average. He added that if it continues, this habit could lead to a water crisis for the city in the future. Rivas said that excessive use by citizens can be blamed, but an outdated water network also creates water issues. He said that 15% to 20% of the water administered by the CAASD is wasted because of the problems in the water networks.

Spain lends a hand
The Dominican Agricultural Research Institute (IDIAF) and the Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency (AECID), together with several other organizations, are working on three new development projects in rural areas of the DR. The projects are expected to increase living standards in these areas as well as providing residents with economic opportunities. The projects are being implemented with an RD$24.5 million fund from AECID. The projects are focused on the Enriquillo region of the DR, which includes the southwestern provinces of Barahona, Baoruco, Pedernales and Independencia. According to Hoy these four provinces are among the poorest in the DR where 66% of the residents live in poverty and 18% live in extreme poverty. Codocafe is among the organizations taking part in the development project, aiming to help farmers in the Enriquillo region to create their own brand of coffee. World Vision and Propesur are also participating along with AECID.

He was scared
Que Se Dice page 2 column in Hoy says that fired San Cristobal prosecutor William Lara has said he ruled in favor of a pardon for convicted drug dealer Florian Felix because he feared Feliz, who he described as a very dangerous man, would take revenge against him or his family is he did not do so. Lara was suspended without pay after a judicial commissioned rejected his favorable opinion in the case.

The President doesn't have the list
Minister of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio denied that President Leonel Fernandez has received a list of those whom the US judiciary would request in extradition as part of inter-judiciary agreements in the Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo drug trafficking case being heard in a New York City court. There have been many rumors and comments by Paulino Castillo-related family member lawyers that the President had the list already. But Pina Toribio says that in an extradition process, the President is the last person to handle the request. He said that a bid for extradition begins when a request is made to the DR embassy in Washington. The embassy forwards the request to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. From there it moves to the Prosecutor's Office, then to the Supreme Court of Justice, and only after the SCJ gives its opinion, it moves on to the President. He told Hoy newspaper that neither has the list been sent to any other government authority. He also denied the President had been informally informed of who would be requested in extradition.
Paulino Castillo was arrested on 18 December 2004, accused of trafficking in 1,387 kilos of cocaine. On 19 December, he was extradited to the US where he stands trial.

Quirino family spared
The National District Attorney General's office announced yesterday that it promises not to bring any charges, open cases, re-open old cases or interfere with any member of former military captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo's family. Diario Libre reports this is part of the "formal agreement on the immediate voluntary renouncement on assets subject to decommission: definitive penal action archive" signed by National District Prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra and lawyers Felix Damian Olivares and Freddy Castillo. This is the latest development in an unprecedented deal negotiated by Quirino. Although Quirino is in the US facing a hefty sentence for drug trafficking, his willingness to cooperate with prosecutors has allowed his family, regardless of their involvement in his illegal activities, to walk away with a clean slate, US government protection and a percentage of the family's wealth and assets. It is believed that in exchange for the deal Quirino has named some of the most important figures in the domestic and international drug- trading network. It is rumored that he has provided information about network participants working out Colombia and Mexico.

Buyer for Lope Vega glass tower
The Central Bank reports that it has sold the glass tower building on Av. Lope de Vega 29 (between Max Henriquez Urena and Rafael A Sanchez streets) to a Venezuelan group for US$37 million. The building would have become the headquarter for the top echelon of Baninter, prior to the bank's collapse in 2003. The Central Bank announced the building was sold to Alvaro Gorrin and/or Corporacion Turistica del Caribe C.A. The building will now be known as Novocentro and would be converted into a mixed-use site with offices on the upper floors.

Procigar Festival
Leading manufacturers of cigars in the Dominican Republic are again coming together to talk, see and taste some of the best cigars in the world. The Second Annual Procigar Festival will take place 16-20 February with the participation of Leon Jimenes, Partagas, Fonseca, Davidoff, Montecristi, Juan Clemente, Macanudo, Avo, La Aurora among other brands. Organizers have put together events that will take cigar lovers to visit cigar manufacturers and plantations in La Romana (Tabacalera de Garcia), Santiago (Aurora, Davidoff, General Cigar and Tabaquisa). Prepared are tours of the cigar factories and tobacco fields, admission to dinner parties with open bar, entertainment and auction of limited-edition cigars, golf tournaments, informative workshops. For more information, see http://www.procigar.org

Baseball update
Dominican baseball officials have made it official, announcing that last night's game was forfeited by the Gigantes. This has been an odd post-season finale with controversy and bad play, and bad play calls by the umpires, marring what was expected to be a match up of two great teams. Last night the Gigantes refused to take the field at Quisqueya Stadium, and by 10pm Lidom officials called it a forfeit, giving Licey a three-games to none lead in the best of nine series. The whole ordeal started in Game 2 when Gigantes player Felix Martinez confronted umpire Jeff Macias. Martinez was suspended for the rest of the season. During Game 3 Martinez tried to take the field but officials wouldn't let him and the Gigantes refused to take the field in solidarity. Gigantes fans were enraged by the results and officials and the teams agreed to play Game 4 in Santo Domingo for security reasons. Though fans understand standing up for teammates, the forfeit now leaves the Gigantes with a 3-0 deficit. Fans who had tickets for last night's game will be relieved to hear that their tickets are valid for Sunday's match up. The Gigantes have also filed an appeal of behalf of player Felix Martinez who was suspended from the championship for "improprieties" during Game 2 of the series.
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