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Daily News - Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Government spends on production
Economy & Planning Minister Temistocles Montas says the government is giving priority to investments in the productive sectors. The minister says that proof of coherence in government economy policy is that the country has averaged 8.3% growth over the 2005-2008 period with an average sinflation rate of 6.5%. The bureaucrat maintains that the economic policy achievements have been possible due to fiscal policies and the responsible taking on of debt. He says that the measures recently announced by the Central Bank, including interest rate reductions, go hand in hand with prudence in public spending and granting of incentives to the productive sectors as part of the coordination that exists between the fiscal and monetary policies. He added that in spite of having to govern "with hurricane force winds against it", the Leonel Fernandez administration has been capable of not only overcoming the difficulties but also managing to lead the country tos good economic and social performance." Although he did not mention him by name, Montas seemed to be denying the statements by economist Carlos Despradel made last Sunday when he said that in the country there are two governments. One is at the Central Bank and another acts from the Executive Branch, and marches to a different tune. Despradel, according to the Nuevo Diario newspaper, said that the fiscal policy moves contrary to the correct measures that the Central Bank has been applying. Among these he had mentioned the freeing-up of RD$10 billion in legal reserves in the commercial banks in order to bolster the economy and favor job creation.

Cement prices must come down
Minister of Industry and Commerce (SEIC) Jose Ramon Fadul has called for a meeting within the next two weeks with reps of cement companies operating in the DR and the directors of the Tax Department and Customs Department. The meeting would be to verify the production costs and profit margins of the sector. The official said that according to calculations by the SEIC, the price of a 100-lb bag of cement should have dropped by 38%. Fadul complained that prices have kept steady at all of the factories, which indicates that there is no competition. Fadul said that the cement producers have agreed to fix the price and this goes against the market. He said that the raw materials for construction such as re-bar have come down by as much as 60% as a consequence of dropping fuel prices.
The Minister of Industry and Commerce (SEIC) pointed out that basic food prices have also gone down. He said that here there are companies that control the market and there are persons that have to understand that there should not be such a wide profit margin in the context of the current situation.

Trade deficit with US increases
Exports were down 5.7% and imports were up 8.5%, Hoy newspaper reports yesterday, looking into US-DR bilateral trade. The DR trade deficit with the US was US$2.62 billion, which compares to a US$169 million surplus in 2004, explains economist Luis Vargas, using US Department of Commerce data. Since 2005, the trade deficit has been growing. DR would first post a deficit of US$115 million in 2005, then US$818 million in 2006, and this would leap to US$1.87 billion in 2007, the year of the signing of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. For 2008, the deficit is now at US$2.62 billion.
Exports in 2004 were at US$4.52 billion, but have fallen to US$3.97 billion, four years later. Tobacco and beverages have been the two top export performers at US$203.1 million and diverse manufactured items has reaped US$960.4 million.

Anadegas rejects Shell purchase
The National Association of Gasoline Retailers (ANADEGAS) reiterated its negative stance regarding the government's intentions to purchase the Shell gasoline stations as a way to guarantee that the state does not lose the investment in the purchase it made of the shares owned by Shell in the Dominican Refinery. Juan Ignacio Espaillat, the president of the association, told Diario Libre that the associates "are not in agreement with the state becoming a competitor to the other gasoline stations, because that is not the role of the state."
The members of Anadegas, that supported the government initiative to purchase the rights to purchase fuels on the international market with the understanding that this would generate benefits for the whole group, feel that it is "hopeless" that the distribution procedure of fuel throughout the country remain as it is now, which is to say, managed by a chain of private distributors. For this, they are proposing to agree to a contract with the government in which the retailers that purchase fuel from Shell are obliged to continue doing business with the Dominican National Refinery for 20 years while the government creates a sovereign guarantee that will permit Anadegas associates and non-members to acquire the stations that are on land owned by the company. According to Espaillat, in this way the fears that exist in the state will vanish that if another sector buys the Shell stations this will affect the public investment that has already been made.

CONEP against constitution articles
According to the National Council of Business (CONEP), several articles in President Leonel Fernandez's proposed Constitution affect property rights and free enterprise. In a sweeping and detailed document, jointly produced with the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE), and the Association of Industries in the Dominican Republic (AIRD), the CONEP criticizes that the Constitution takes on matters that should be left to specific laws, such as in the case of the dispositions related to the ownership of natural resources. Another aspect that worries the CONEP is the set of dispositions relating to the right to work established in Article 51 of the proposal. As reported in the Diario Libre, CONEP indicated that these go into specific details and stiffen the dispositions by not causing them to go through labor legislation. CONEP assured that this will give "an unequivocal sign to investors by prohibiting the reduction of the economic activity", which will "imply a limitation on free enterprise."
CONEP criticizes that article 41 would create state monopolies, above the law, and not accountable.
The business community also criticizes the special tax structure contemplated for the frontier. The point raised is that it could cause confusions and "an abuse in the discretional use" as well as the difficulties that it will create in the expropriation without compensation in the case of a serious situation (Article 42, paragraph c of the proposal).
The businessmen question the proposed article 196 that reinstates the possibility of government forcing price stability, when in today's free market, price controls have been eliminated.
The CONEP report calls for the implementation of a regimen of market social economy; a model that it said should observe the responsibility of fiscal policies and economic transparency, elements that, according to CONEP, are not in the proposed constitutional reform. CONEP considered that other elements, such as the possibility of state monopolies and the constitutional blessing of price stability, would distort the proposed regimen and the freedom to do business.
CONEP also expressed its worry in the face of a possible shrinking of the Judicial Power if the projected proposal is approved. They said that the creation of a Constitutional Chamber and the establishing of a Superior Administrative Tribunal could give way to "fights and struggles inside the Supreme Court and the Judiciary." In CONEP's opinion these and other dispositions will mark a setback in the achievements attained by this branch of government in the past years.
The businessmen also criticize that the number of deputies would be increased to 250, and the number of diaspora senators to nine.
The government has convened the legislative Revisory Assembly that is in charge of reviewing the constitutional reform bill sent by the Executive Branch.

More houses fall in Carlos Diaz
Civil Defense reports the preliminary toll of collapsed houses in the Carlos Diaz section of Tamboril, in the central Cibao Valley is 67 houses that were completely destroyed by landslides after the intense rains of last week and the week before. Meanwhile in the Juan Veras and Palo Quemado sections of the Luperon Touristic Highway between Santiago and Puerto Plata, 200 families have been evacuated due to the continuing landslides and the difficult conditions in the area for rescue crews. The regional director of the Civil Defense network, Francisco Arias, reported to the El Caribe that the number of families could be more than the present 563. The monetary and property losses have yet to be established, but local residents are saying that the losses must be near RD$500 million, including the high school and the community's church.

PLD against terms extension
The Political Committee of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) approved last night the dishonorable expulsion of those legislators that support the proposed extension of the current legislative period. Reinaldo Pared Perez, the secretary general of the government party, who chaired the meeting in the absence of President Leonel Fernandez, told reporters from all of the newspapers that the PLD has always been opposed to this type of initiative and because of this it has the authority to speak out on the subject. Pared Perez also said that a commission headed by Alejandrina German was named to review the election regulations and study the Law on Political Parties that is currently going through Congress. During the meeting, 21 of the 25 members of the committee were present. Besides President Fernandez, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, Jose Ramon Fadul and Eduardo Selman were also excused from attending. The President said that he had obligations related to his duties as chief of state. The meeting, which was held in the Presidential House in the University Zone, began at 8 at night and ended at 10:10 p.m.

Jail stats
A total of 1,059 inmates were released from the penal system during January of this year, but 1,498 were interned during the same month, bringing the total inmate population in the Dominican Republic to 17,150. (16,593 men, 557 women) According to the Director General of Prisons, Major General Manuel de Jesus Perez Sanchez, the data reflects the entry and release of persons from 2 January to 31 January 2009, and is contained in the monthly report issued by the Statistics Division of the Department of Systems and Information. Of the 1,059 release orders, 194 were for inmates at the Najayo Model Prison, 146 for La Victoria Prison, 53 for La Vega and 59 for El Seibo.
According to the report, the center with the most new inmates is La Victoria with 284, followed by El Seibo with 168, Najayo with 170, Barahona with 91 and La Vega with 94. The facility at Haras Nacionales did not report any new inmates. Regarding the legal status of the inmates, 6,276 have been convicted and sentenced, a total of 36.6% of the inmates. There are 10,874 inmates in jail on remand, or preventive custody (63.4%).

Supreme Court orders arrests of 3
The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of several persons tied to the Captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo drug case, while the investigative organizations of the nation are on the track of another three persons wanted for extradition. Paulino Castillo (Quirino) reportedly reached a deal with the US justice, and the arrests are the consequence.
The Supreme Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Ernesto Bienvenido Guevara Diaz (Maconi). Guevara Diaz had been identified as the person who acquired the truck, loaded it with 1,387 kilograms of cocaine and acted as a sort of guide for the trip to the Cibao on 18 December 2004. US officials say that Guevara's job was to receive the cocaine, package it for shipping and, together with another partner, deliver the shipment to yet another individual who was in charge of exporting it to the USA. A cooperating witness identified the voice of the accused on the tapes, leading to the arrest.
Meanwhile the other three persons wanted for the Quirino case are part of the first extradition requests that resulted from the plea-bargaining of the accused in the famous case in New York. The arrest of Guevara Diaz was carried out on Sunday by the DNCD. Guevara's lawyer, Virgilio de Leon, called the arrest illegal, because the arrest warrant was not presented and he said he might file a writ of Habeas Corpus.
According to the file, more than 80 phone calls between the extraditable and Paulino Castillo were taped during the operation that led to the seizure of the drugs. Many of these were calls where they supposedly talked about the transaction.
The diplomatic note sent by the United States Embassy, on 9 January 2009, states that Guevara is wanted for trial on conspiracy to distribute and charges of possession of narcotic drugs.
The head of the DNCD, Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez, said that this is the first extradition requested by the authorities of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and related to the Quirino case. He said that Guevara Diaz was arrested at the Las Americas International Airport, together with the deportee Frank Reyes Jimenez who had served 11 years in jail for drug trafficking in New York.
The data offered by the DNCD to the reporters showed that "Maconi" has a long rap sheet with five different citations by the DNCD for his participation in previous drug shipments together with Rolando Florian Feliz, who is serving a 20-year sentence in Najayo Prison, and he was considered to be the head of the logistical and operations section of the Paulino Castillo gang.
The arrest warrant was issued on 11 February 2008 by Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein, while the formal accusation is contained in file 08-CRIM-111.
The diplomatic note from the US Embassy was what motivated the extradition request of 9 January 2009. Guevara Diaz is a native of Enriquillo, Barahona, but he lived in the exclusive sector of La Alameda in Santo Domingo, and had been previously arrested on 4 March 1995 with a stash of 953 kilograms of cocaine and again with another 552 kilograms on 23 March of the same year.
On 19 June 2006 he was captured for having ties with the 1,387 kilos that were seized from Paulino Castillo, but he was later released.
The Prosecutor said that this was a decision that came after the plea-bargaining. The prosecutor for the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra said that after the plea bargain worked out with the federal prosecutors in New York with the former Army captain Paulino Castillo, this is the first decision against one of the persons implicated in the case that was being requested in extradition. Moscoso Segarra said that at no time was it agreed to withdraw the accusation of laundering money from drug trafficking against Guevara Diaz. He said that it is now the job of the Prosecutor's office to handle any request forwarded by the American authorities with relation to the Quirino case. The appeal filed in the Second Chamber of the Appeals Court will be heard next Thursday in the money laundering case.

22 cops fired in Puerto Plata
President Leonel Fernandez ordered the Chief of Police Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin to discharge and arraign in court 22 members of the National Police, among them several officers, accused of acting in complicity with gangs of drug traffickers that disputed the control of drug sales in several localities of Puerto Plata as well as being involved in the commission of several crimes. In an unprecedented move, the decisions were announced in a press conference at the Presidential Palace. The Chief Executive took the decision after the members of the Council for Citizen Safety met for 45 minutes with him in his office at the Presidential Palace. The information was offered by Chief of Police Guzman Fermin, during a press conference in the Orlando Martinez Room, accompanied by the Attorney General, Radhames Jimenez, the Minister of the Interior and of the Police Franklin Almeyda, the Minister of the Armed Forces Pedro Pena Antonio, and Minister of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio, all members of the council. According to the Diario Libre, the officers that were dismissed and sent before the courts are Colonel Frank Feliz Almonte Castillo, formerly in charge of criminal affairs in Puerto Plata, Lt. Colonel Jose Maria Diaz, Major Freddy Guillen Mendez and the first lieutenants Jose Cepeda Rubio and Jose Manuel Tobal Polanco. Also involved in the case are second lieutenants Ramon Antonio Vasquez, Cristian Ferrera Hernandez, Pedro Toribio Alvarez, Rafael Antonio Garcia, Rafael de Jesus Maria Vargas Pena, Sergeant Pedro Portorreal Reyes and Corporal Danny Dominguez Tavarez. The names of the other agents were not offered by Guzman Fermin, nor were the ten civilians, three DNCD agents and a member of the Justice Department identified that are still under investigation for their ties to the criminal gang. The civilians arrested were found with crack, marijuana, cocaine in their possession, as well as communication radios, different bullets and ammunition for .45 cal pistols, scales and other instruments. Up until now there are 36 persons that allegedly made up a band of drug traffickers, police agents and men from the DNCD in custody, accused of acting in conspiracy with organized crime.

Athletes of the Year
Dominican Sportswriters have announced their pick of the best athletes in 2008. Feliz Diaz, who won gold in the Beijing Olympics in the 64 kilos category in boxing, and Gabriel Mercedes, silver in Beijing in taekwondo, both received the Best Athlete of the Year trophy. The event is sponsored by the Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana brewery (Presidente beer), and took place at the Santo Domingo Hilton.
The best in each sport are:
Amateur Baseball: Edison Ortiz
Amateur Boxing: Feliz Diaz
Archery: Paris Goico, Ludis Tejada
Badminton: Nelson Javier,Yomaira Sanchez
Bowling: Hilton Omar Nunez, Aumi Guerra
Car Racing: Ramon Juan Lopez
Chess: Ramon Mateo, Kenia Polanco
Cycling: Wendy Cruz
Fencing: Gonzalo Frechilla, Dahiana Joseph
Golf: Juan Carlos Perello, Gabriella Canals
Greco Roman Wrestling: Hansel Ramirez, Elsa Sanchez (free style)
Gymnastics: Jesus de Leon, Yamilet Pega
Handball: Pablo Jacobo, Suleydi Suarez
Hockey: Rafael Suero, Melissa Correa
Horse Racing: Joel Rosario
Judo: Teofilo Diez, Maria Garcia
Karate: Alberto Mancebo, Maria Dimitrova
Karting: Jimmy Cabrera
MLB baseball: Albert Pujols
Modern Penthatlon: Yacil Valera, Yina Carolina Zapata
Motocross: Raynear Mejia
Motocycling: Darwin Hernandez
Precision Shooting: Wady Chamoun, Rosario Pina
Pro Basketball: Alfred Horford Reynoso
Pro Boxing: Victor Mermelada Cayo
Racquetball: Luis Perez
Rowing: Johan Rodriguez, Karen Severino
Sailing: Raul Aguayo
Skeet: Juan Manuel Dujarric
Softball: Victor Encarnacion, Rosaury Perez
Superior Basketball: Juan Bautista Araujo, Andreina Paniagua
Swimming: Jacinto Ayala, Yina Carolina Zapata
Table Tennis: Juan Vila Jr., Nieve Xue
Taekwondo: Gabriel Mercedes, Deysi Montes de Oca
Tennis: Victor Estrella, Franchesca Segarelli
Track & Field: Arismendy Peguero, Yoel Tapia, Pedro Mejia, Carlos Yohelin Santa, Mariely Sanchez
Triathlon: Javier Cuevas, Laura Gaytan
Weightlifting: Juan Jimenez, Yudelkis Contreras
Volleyball: Jose Caceres, Bethania de la Cruz
Coach of the Year: Pedro Luis Diaz (boxing)

Bush Sr. vacations here
Former US President George Bush senior flew into Casa de Campo, La Romana yesterday for rounds of golf and relaxing in the warm climate of the Caribbean. He arrived on a private plane that landed at the La Romana-Casa de Campo International Airport. Bush came with his wife, Barbara, and news reports indicates he is the guest of Venezuelan businessman Gustavo Cisneros and his wife Patricia Phelps at the Casa de Campo luxury residential community. President Bush has been to Casa de Campo several times. Casa de Campo is famous for his golf courses, with the two most highly rated of the four in the complex being, Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore.

Eumir Deodato at La Fiesta
Brazilian composer and musician Eumir Deodato is booked for the Teatro La Fiesta of the Hotel Jaragua this coming Thursday, 26 March 2009. On stage with him will be the Santo Domingo Jazz Big Band, under Pengbian Sang and Crispin Fernandez. Deodato has sold over 25 million CDs. He is well known for having composed the music theme for 2001: A Space Odyssey (Sprach Zarathurstra) that won him his first Grammy Award.
Earlier in February and March, other performers that are booked for Dominican theaters are: Jose Feliciano (18 Feb), Jose Jose (20 Feb), Carlos Santana (7 March). This is in addition to Fiddler on the Roof that opens 19 February at the National Theater.
For more info on the shows, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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