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Daily News - Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Barrick to get started
In an announcement at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's biggest gold producer, said that they are going to invest US$3 billion dollars in mining projects in the north-central Sanchez Ramirez province. Company CEO Aaron W. Regent met with President Leonel Fernandez and spoke of his confidence in the Dominican Republic's stability. Barrick, the world's leading gold mining company, says it will reopen the formerly state-owned mine in Cotui. Operations could begin by 2011. Barrick will also be involved in an urgent environmental cleanup in the area, estimated to cost at least US$100 million. The Pueblo Viejo mine is estimated to yield 20.4 million ounces of gold, along with more than 400 million pounds of copper and more than 100 million ounces of silver.

12,000 evacuated
More than 12,000 people have been evacuated, 2,480 houses affected, ten communities cut off, and five bridges and five highways have been damaged after heavy downpours affected the central Cibao region, causing five deaths.
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) reported that the provinces of Santiago, Puerto Plata and Sanchez Ramirez have been worst affected. Evacuations had to be carried out due to the high levels of waters in rivers and creeks.
Colonel Juan Mendez Garcia explained that the rains will continue and the red alert is maintained in Montecristi, Valverde, Santiago, Duarte, Puerto Plata, Monsignor Nouel, and Espaillat. Meanwhile there is a yellow alert in place for Hermanas Mirabal, Samana, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Sanchez Ramirez, La Vega, Hato Mayor and Santiago Rodriguez. Dajabon, El Seibo and La Altagracia are still on a green alert.

Civil registry & migration conference
President Leonel Fernandez will inaugurate the International Meeting of Civil Registry, Identity and Migration Administrators with a keynote speech today. The event will last until Thursday at Casa de Campo, La Romana. Representatives from 21 nations are here for the meeting, including Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) chief magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman and Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda are hosting the event. Tomorrow, the head of the JCE administrative chamber will speak about the current situation of civil registry and sub-registry in the DR, its problems, challenges and issues. Almeyda's speech is on "The right to identity of the migrant population: the Dominican problem. " Other scheduled talks will look into universal civilian registration and perspectives in the United States, the impact of civil and citizen registry and an exhibition on the technology used in civilian identification registry; global trends in identity and nationality; and bilateral and multilateral cooperation of the programs that strengthen citizens' civil registration and identity systems.

Law on vehicule transfers
New owners of vehicles now by law need to transfer the registration into their name or they will not be issued a renewal of the license plate sticker. The Executive Branch has put a law into force that obliges anyone who acquires a motor vehicle to pay the transfer fees and put the vehicle in their name within a six-month period. Government fee collections will increase, but vehicle owners will benefit from the simpler procedure.
Article 1 of the law says that when an individual or company, via an authentic act or under a private signing, transfers the ownership of a vehicle whose registration has been issued by the Department of Taxes (DGII), they can advise the office of the transfer. A copy of both buyer and seller's ID card (cedula), payment of RD$300, a copy of the vehicle's registration and a copy of the sales contract duly notarized and registered at the local civil registry office are needed.
Article 2 indicates that the DGII will register the transfer, the name, last name and legal identification of the new owner, data that should be clear in any ownership certificate issued on the vehicle.
Article 3 of the law says that the transfer of the ownership of the vehicle, as well as payment of taxes, will be made as established by the Law on Collection Efficiency Number 173-07.

UKTI's Andrew Cahn to visit
The United Kingdom's Trade & Investment CEO, Sir Andrew Cahn will be in Santo Domingo on Thursday, 15 February to explore ways of expanding business relationships between the UK and the Dominican Republic, as reported in Hoy. UK Ambassador Ian Worthington has been making the rounds of the local press to prepare for the important visitor. Cahn will only be here for 20 hours, but a busy agenda is being prepared for his visit. He will meet with Dominican business representatives and DR-based representatives of UK businesses as well as DR government officials. Ambassador Worthington said that the DR is ranked fifth in exports to the UK from the Caribbean. In 2007, the DR exported US$88 million, and imported US$54 million, for a positive trade balance. Most of the exports are farm products, including tobacco, cacao, avocado, bananas, lime, plantains and coconuts and there are also prospects for developing beer exports.
The DR imports beverages, primarily whisky, road vehicles, power generating machinery, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery from the UK.
As far as investment is concerned, the UK is the fourth largest investor country in the DR, behind the US, Canada and Spain.
Roberto Herrera, president of the British Chamber of Commerce in the DR, said that UK companies based here are in sectors including pharmaceuticals, power, telecommunications, construction, tobacco, tourism, beverages, consumer goods, aqueduct construction, hydrocarbons, call centers and sales of minted coins to the government.

Cement imports to fight high price
The government authorized cement imports on Monday in an attempt to break the near monopoly that is keeping prices artificially high. Commerce and Industry Minister Jose Ramon Fadul wants to see price reductions for a 100-lb bag of cement.
He told reporters, "Cement, as we see it, has got to come down 20% to 30%. These prices can't remain at these levels because there is an evident excessive margin." Fadul was speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Fernandez and other top officials at the Presidential Palace.
On Monday, the president of the National Association of Hardware Dealers, Idelfonso Vasquez, appealed to cement producers to lower their prices to stimulate the construction industry that has fallen off an estimated 20% in recent months.

Public Health closes just six
Despite yesterday's announcement that the Ministry of Public Health would close 23 pharmacies and distributors tied to the sale and distribution of counterfeit medicines, only six establishments have the seals that indicate their closure. According to a list the Ministry showed the press, formal closure orders were requested for 19 businesses, but three were denied for lack of evidence, five were pending and of the eleven remaining, only six were actually closed.
The magistrates denied the request to close the Sanchez, Matilde and Rosa Maria pharmacies, saying they needed more evidence of their involvement in the counterfeiting business. Among those that have been closed are: Distribuidora Garcia, Distribuidora Ninoska, Distribuidora C & N, Distribuidora Vendifarma, Distribuidora DLS y Suplimari.
Meanwhile, the issue of the illegal sale of adulterated pharmaceuticals continues to be debated. It was first brought into the spotlight by TV journalist who traced two recent deaths to patients having been administered fake anti-tetanus injections at public hospitals.
The head of the Department of Drugs and Pharmacies, Maria Villa, reported that from January 2007 until February 2009 close to 92% of all the registered establishments in the country had been inspected as part of their efforts to control the sale of illegal or adulterated pharmaceuticals. Regardless, she said that over a two-year period, more than 100 complaints were filed with the Justice Department concerning irregularities in the sale of medicines, cosmetics, personal hygiene products and home care products. These were 30 pharmacies, 27 popular distribution points, 36 warehouses and distribution centers.
El Caribe reports that the government-sponsored Essential Medicines Program (Promese) stated that before medicines can be sold in pharmacies, there is a process of verification where professional pharmacologists and doctors need to verify the composition of each medicine. A spokesperson said that Promese only supplies 40% of the public hospitals' pharmaceutical needs since it does not have the capacity to supply them 100%.
The Executive Commission for the Reform of the Health Sector (CERSS) has offered to mediate by opening a dialogue between health officials and the sectors that intervene in the pharmaceutical industry in order to work towards improved regulation of the pharmaceutical market.

Banco Progreso follows suit
The Banco de Progreso has followed the lead of other major banking and financial institutions by lowering its interest rates on new loans. As a result, new loans on mortgages from the bank are now available at 22%. Loans for small and medium-sized companies are at 24%. The car loan rate is now at 24% and personal loans have been reset to 34%. The Bank says the new rates seek to offer clients "the most competitive conditions in the marketplace." Local banks have been cutting their lending rates since the Central Bank set the trend.

George Arzeno Brugal
The remains of businessman George Arzeno Brugal, president of the Brugal Rum Company, who passed away at the age of 84 at a hospital in Tampa, Florida last Friday after suffering a heart attack, will be returned to the country by private plane arriving at Las Americas International Airport. The wake will be held at the Blandino Funeral Home as of 9:30am. Arzeno Brugal will be buried in the Maximo Gomez cemetery at 4pm.

A-Rod admits to steroids
As soon as Alex Rodriguez got a call from Sports Illustrated last Saturday asking him to comment on the revelations that linked him to the use of steroids in 2003, he took a charter flight from Miami to the Bahamas so that he could respond to the report from a luxurious hotel, far from the reach of the media.
From his former agent, Scott Boras, and up to Guy Oseary, the manager of the singer Madonna (with whom he is reported to be romantically involved), A-Rod substituted the gymnasium for an office and weights, bats and gloves for his Blackberry.
Yesterday afternoon, the man spoke. His voice sometimes shaking, Rodriguez tackled the allegations that he had tested positive in a random test for steroids six years ago. In an interview with ESPN he admitted that he had used drugs to enhance his performance while he played with the Texas Rangers during a three-year period beginning in 2001.
During an interview in Miami Beach, he told Peter Gammons of ESPN, "When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt enormous pressure; I needed to look good and in great form every day... Back then, (baseball) was a different culture. It was something very loose, I was young, I was stupid, I was naive, I was trying to prove to everyone that I deserved to be one of the greatest players of all time...Yes, I used a banned substance. For this I apologize and I am deeply regretful."
The admission by Rodriguez came 48 hours after a report on the Sports Illustrated website, which said that Rodriguez was on the list of 104 players who had tested positive for banned substances in 2003, the year in which the Major League Baseball carried out random testing to find out whether they needed to do random and mandatory testing.
Sources that knew about the tests told SI that Rodriguez had tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan, an anabolic steroid.
In his interview with ESPN, Rodriguez said that he did not know exactly what substance or substances he had used. In 2003, there was no penalty for testing positive.
"I regret my years in Texas," said the third-baseman of the New York Yankees. "I apologize to the Texas fans."
Rodriguez, who joined the Yankees in the 2004 season through a deal with Texas, said that "in all of his years in New York he has been clean." He said that it felt good to be honest about what had happened in the past.
"The more honest I am, the faster we can get back to baseball where I should be," he added.
Rodriguez also referred to his 2007 interview with CBS reporter Katie Couric on the "60 Minutes" program when he denied using steroids, by saying that "at that time, I was not being honest with myself. How could I be honest with Katie Couric or CBS?"

Police capture of Mafia don
The National Police, through its agents assigned to Interpol, reports that Ciro Mazzarella has been arrested in the Dominican Republic. Mazzarella is said to be the head and organizer of the "Clan of Camorra" (the Naples Mafia), better known as the Clan Mazzarella in Italy. This clan, according to police reports, is dedicated to illegal activities such as extortion and drug trafficking and has been linked to more than 90 murders in Italy. Ciro Mazzarella was wanted by the Anti-Mafia District of the Prosecutors Office in Naples. He was located and arrested at an aparta-hotel on Jose Contreras Avenue, between Wenceslao Alvarez and Elvira de Mendoza streets in Santo Domingo, and was using a false passport in the name of Perusino Mauricio. During the course of police investigations, it was found that the person arrested was the current chief of the gang together with his father Gennaro and his brother Francesco, who are both under arrest in Italy.

They didn't make it to Puerto Rico
The news traveled quickly: Another plane was down, this time en route to Puerto Rico with six people on board. Search and rescue units were mobilized, and the US Coast Guard began their search. The aircraft, a Cessna 206, had departed from La Romana's Casa de Campo and apparently went into the ocean barely two kilometers from the shores of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. A statement for the Emergency Management Office in Puerto Rico said that there was very little chance of survivors." The passengers have been identified as Ralph Cristiansen, Luis Lavergne, Luis Ramos, Alberto Besthan and Karen Pizarro. According to the plane owners, Tropical Aviation, the pilot was Jorge Beringeri.
Cristiansen was president of the board of directors of the Marsh Saldana insurance firm, while Lavergne was a founding partner of QB Construction, one of the largest construction companies in Puerto Rico.
The Coast Guard reported that it received a 911 call at 6:51pm on Sunday saying that a plane had gone down in the waters north of Quebradillas. According to the Coast Guard, the plane was en route from La Romana to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan.

Carolina Herrera fashion show
Venezuela's leading designer Carolina Herrera will be in Santo Domingo to host a fashion show at the closing of the DominicanaModa event that showcases fashion in the DR and serves as a platform for launching emerging designers. The event is scheduled for 19-24 October and will again be held at the Hotel Embajador. Pierre Pourcelot, Carolina Herrera manager for Latin America said that the designer felt it was an honor to be chosen to close this year's event.
Fashion show director Socrates McKinney said that designer Nicole Jimenez, who won first prize in the 2009 Supima cotton Competition for Emerging Designers, has also said that she would take part in the Santo Domingo October event. The Supima title is seen as a solid launching pad for any young designer.

Santo Domingo Music Festival
The Santo Domingo Classical Music Festival will take place 4-14 March, providing a taster for excellence in classical music to the National Theater. This is the sixth time the Santo Domingo Music Festival is being held, already a tradition in the country. On this occasion, the artistic director of the event, Maestro Philippe Entremont and Fundacion Sinfonia are again booking excellent international artists. Musicians from the United States and Europe and the National Symphony Orchestra form the Festival Orchestra.
For the inaugural night on 4 March, Tenor Ben Heppner, considered the greatest dramatic tenor of his generation, will sing arias by Wagner, Puccini, Massenet, Giordano, Verdi and von Weber.
For the second night, on 7 March, the violins of Barna Kobori and Robert Davidovici, under conductor Philippe Entremont will delight audiences with music by Bach (Concerto for two violins and orchestra in D minor), Hindemith (Symphonic metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber) and Sibelius (Symphony No. 2).
A third concert is set for 9 March, with Sebastian Knauer at the piano, conducted by Philippe Entremont performing the works of Carl Maria von Weber (Overture to Oberon), Robert Schumann (Concerto in A minor for piano and orchestra), and Peter Tchaikovsky (Symphony No. 4). A fourth concert is set for 11 March with Conductor and soloist Philippe Entremont playing Beethoven's Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus and Concerto No. 5 for piano and orchestra (Emperor), Symphony No. 7. A fifth concert, on 12 March presents Doug Varone and Dancers, the most outstanding contemporary dance company due to its velocity, skills, musicality and drama. The closing concert is set for 14 March with performance by mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch, Conductor Philippe Entremont, featuring Brahms (Variations on a theme of Joseph Haydn, op.56a), music by Richard Wagner (Wesendock, Leider, Der Engel, Stehe still, Im Treibhaus, Schmerzen, Traume), and Brahms (Symphony No. 1 Op. 68, C minor).
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