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Daily News - Thursday, 19 February 2009

Summit moves to Santiago
The actions that should take place and the changes that are supposed to happen as a result of the "Summit" promoted by President Leonel Fernandez will start to see the light of day beginning tomorrow when the nation's leader goes to Santiago where he will receive the outlines of the proposals that were agreed upon by each of the work groups.
President Fernandez, Minister of State Temistocles Montas, and traditional mediator Agripino Nunez Collado each gave speeches on the agenda of the final session of the first phase of the "Summit of National Unity" at the central campus of the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) starting at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. However, the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), the largest political force that has entered into a dialogue with the government's PLD party, has requested a turn at the podium from the organizers. The reformists intend "to explain in detail the proposals of the Reformist Party that were agreed upon at the work groups and whose immediate application will give greater credibility and seriousness to the Summit", according to Guillermo Caram, a member of the reformist commission that participated in the debates. Caram cited his party's program that supported a reduction of the interest rates as well as the relaxation of some credit norms, a real austerity program, support of the farming sector, and the creation of the "institute of educational welfare", which is a proviso of the General Education Law among other proposals. The PRSC director added that in the majority of the suggestions for immediate execution, the installation of a new oil refinery is also included. Caram did not explain why the party needs to present its initiatives if it managed to get the work groups to discuss them and reach a consensus on them. The Jesuit Refugee and Migrants Service (SJRM) and together with other organizations of the civil society assured reporters yesterday that at the work group concerned with migration, the plan to regulate immigrants proposed in the first round of talks was rejected as being contrary to human rights. Vice-Minister of Planning Guarocuya Felix defended yesterday the value of these full sessions that, for the opposition PRD party, only constitute a distraction promoted by the government. The official argued, "Having a dialogue with the economic, political and social actors is always positive for a society. It is not true that the dialogues or the opportunities for coming together have not served to look at decisions on public policies or even explore far reaching policies."

New alcohol distillery in Consuelo
Construction was begun yesterday at the Dominican Fine Alcohol Distillery (AFD), a joint effort of the Hazim Frappier and Santoni Vivone families together with Barcelo Export Import, C.x A. in Consuelo, San Pedro de Macoris province. President Leonel was at the ceremonies. The factory will produce alcohol from sugar cane and provide 2,500 jobs within a year or two. The Dominican Fine Alcohol distillery (AFD) will reactivate sugar cane production in one of the most traditional sugar cane areas of the Dominican Republic, Consuelo, and, in the words of President Fernandez, provide "an agricultural activity that becomes an industrial process that in the end means a significant advance in the chain of aggregate value added to the product." The President also urged the company to think about producing ethanol for industrial and vehicular fuel consumption because, long term, the price of the fuel will increase. According to Jose Hazim Frappier, the company president, the facility will produce 50,000 liters of alcohol per day and 16 million of liters per year. Much of the company's energy will be produced through the use of the bagasse, a sugar cane by product.

Pope Benedict XVI coming in 2011
Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed that he will visit the Dominican Republic in 2011. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso said that the Pope confirmed the visit during a private audience at the Holy See. This will be the first visit to the country for the head of the Catholic Church who was elected Pontiff in 2005. His predecessor, John Paul II visited the DR three times, in 1979, 1984 and 1992. The Minister of Foreign Relations commented that the Pope is constantly praying for the world to come out of the economic crisis that has affected numerous peoples due to mass firings, more expensive foods and the forfeiture of homes due to mortgage issues.
During the private audience with the Holy Father, Morales Troncoso was accompanied by his wife, Luisa Alba de Morales, and the Dominican ambassador to the Vatican, Rafael Marion-Landais. Morales arrived to the Vatican City, in Rome, after a heavy work-week in Brussels, Belgium where he lobbied to get ratification of the European Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in the European Parliament.
For Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, the visit by his Holiness will be a privilege and a blessing for the country. "If the Pope is planning on visiting our country, this will be like God's blessing, that's what it is," he commented. Nunez Collado defined Pope Benedict as an extraordinary man, a great theologian and one of the closest collaborators of his predecessor Pope John Paul II. The Monsignor added, "It will be a great privilege for the country and for the Dominican Catholic community to have the visit by Benedict XVI."

Congress will impose a solution on MD salaries
Where to find the funds for the salary increase for the nation's public hospital doctors and other medical personnel was a dead issue but yesterday the presidents of the two legislative chambers at Congress announced separately that plans were ongoing and that due to the opposition in vogue it was possible that the legislators would have to impose a solution. Julio Cesar Valentin and Reinaldo Pared Perez declared that Congress has an obligation with the doctors and needs to find the source of the funds. The two men affirmed that Congress will have to impose a salary increase, since so many sectors reject any increase in taxes that affect each sector. Valentin added that he is not a proponent of salary increases through added taxes, but that there are no other alternatives. Pared Perez said that the Senate is obliged to find a solution and locate the sourcing of the pay increase for the health sector. He suggested that the salary increase project that is being overseen by the joint commission may well be modified but he did not say in which aspects. The Senate president guaranteed that the proposal will be put before the whole Senate next week to determine which taxes might provide for the pay increase.

Best airport in Caribbean award
Las Americas International Airport yesterday was awarded the acclaimed Routes-OAG Airport Marketing Award for best airport in the Caribbean. The trophy was received by Aerodom commercial director Ken Hassard at the prestigious gala dinner of the 2nd Routes Americas in Cancun, Mexico.
Winners were chosen from three categories: North America, South America and the Caribbean. While Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport picked up an award for best airport in North America, Quito International Airport scooped in the South America category and Las Americas International Airport, Santo Domingo (Aerodom) was crowned best of its kind in the Caribbean.
Voting for the Routes-OAG Americas Awards started in mid January and was open until February. During this period airlines nominated their preferred airports on Routes' official website at www.routesonline.com using criteria such as the airport's market research activities and marketing communications activities. The shortlisted airports then had to submit a case study to support their nominations to a panel of industry experts who chose the winners.
Las Americas was commended for its opening new routes and frequencies by JetBlue, Avianca, Insel Air and Copa that connect Santo Domingo to the United States, Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

Pharmacies reopen in Moca
After a combined operation by police and military units closed several pharmacies accused of selling illegal, adulterated or counterfeit medicines in Moca, the store owners defied the Public Health and Customs authorities and re-opened their doors yesterday. According to the Listin Diario, some of the stores opened with nearly empty shelves, while people arrived early to purchase medicines that were sold without any apparent fear of reprisals. Also yesterday, the Broad Front of Popular Struggle (FALPO in Spanish) met near the pharmacies together with representatives of the Alternative Social Forum and the National Confederation of Dominican Workers (CNTD), and, according to Radhames Rodriguez the group's spokesman, they will begin their fight to keep the stores open. Rodriguez called the closures an sassault on the poor and needy who are not able to buy expensive medicines. Rodriguez said that nearly 5,000 persons depend on these establishments for jobs, and he asserted that the pharmacies are certified by the Ministry of Public Health to operate under a "B List" license and pay taxes accordingly.

Lake reclaims its bed
In Mal Paso, Jimani, in the "Deep South" along the Haitian border, the Azuei Lake has reclaimed some of its former lakebed, flooding homes, farms and nearly trapping the bi-national marketplace. According to reports, the body of water, once part of the Enriquillo Lake and now mostly in Haiti, holds the waters from heavy rains that have fallen in the recent months. According to the Listin Diario, the lake has reclaimed some three square kilometers of Dominican territory, and flooded the Center for Exports and Investment offices in Jimani, as well as the office of the Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Vegetable and Animal Health and the offices of the Specialized Corps of Frontier Security (Cesfront). The roof of the Customs office is barely above water.
The bi-national marketplace is surrounded by waters that apparently are rising on a daily basis. To save the marketplace, the locals have brought in truckloads of stones and dirt to shore up the roadway and dam the lake's attack on the only road in the area.
Readers should remember that Jimani was the town that was hard hit by flood waters and mud from the Soliel River in May 2004 after heavy rains fell in the region. Today a new river has apparently opened its path across town, going through yards and near buildings, leaving some of them in the middle of the salty waters.
According to Omar Ramirez, the Minister of State for the National Council on Climate Change and Clean Development, the new water flows are the result of the higher levels of the Azuei Lake which have brought back old streams. He said that "...the lake is reclaiming its land."
Local residents fear that there is not much time left before the Enriquillo and Asuei lakes cover entire communities. They point to the fact that at one end of the road to Boca de Cachon the Enriquillo Lake covers part of the roadway and at the other end there are clean and salty waters going through the gutters. Farmers have lost crops already and others are in danger of being flooded.
Well-known environmentalist Eleuterio Martinez, who is deputy minister of Environment, pointed out that all of the rivers that flow into these lakes are insufficient in their volume to increase the levels by so much, adding to the peculiarity of the situation. Martinez said that in the case of the Enriquillo, scientific research indicates that four times more water evaporates than that enters the lake from underground sources.

US has deported 412 convicts so far
The United States authorities repatriated on Wednesday a group of 93 former Dominican convicts after they had served their sentences in the U.S. Most of those repatriated had served sentences for drug related offenses and homicide. With the arrival of these 93, the former convicts returned just this year reached 412. The latest group arrived on a US Government DC-9 accompanied by FBI and DEA agents. The flight originated in New York City although the deportees came from jails in Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, New Jersey and New York. As the former inmates de-planed, they were met by DNCD and units of the Specialized Corps for Airport Security (CESA) as well as immigration officials. From the terminal at the Las Americas International Airport (AILA) the group was taken to National Police headquarters and from there to the Migration Department and from there to the DNCD offices where they were handed over to their relatives if there was nothing pending with the Dominican authorities. According to the files on these persons, besides drug related offenses and homicides, some were convicted for falsifying federal documents, assaults, rapes or sexual assaults and other offenses. Last year the AILA processed a total of 4,167 deportees, with more than 70% of them convicted of drug trafficking and homicide. Reporters from the Nuevo Diario talked to FBI and DEA agents at the airport and found out that there are currently more than 4,000 Dominican serving time in jails in the United States, most of whom are there for drug trafficking or other drug offenses. Many of these will be released in 2009 and returned to the DR.

Spanish passports for descendants of exiled
The Spanish authorities in the Dominican Republic handed over the first passport to the first person of Dominican nationality to receive the benefit of the Law of Historic Memory that could well benefit 40,000 or 60,000 persons in the DR. The first person to receive a Spanish Passport was Liliam del Carmen Rosello, the daughter of a Spaniard who was born in Algers and a Dominican mother. Rosello told reporters her family history as she received the passport from the Spanish ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Diego Bermejo and the Consul General, Manuel Hernandez during a ceremony at the embassy. Rosello, an accountant by profession, said that the so-called "Law of the grandchildren" is recognition of the descendants of those Spaniards that were persecuted or victims of violence during the Civil War or the Franco dictatorship in Spain. Rosello began to process her request for the passport just days after the Law of Historic Memory went into effect in January. The Spanish Consulate receives as many as 90 requests a day according to the consul Hernandez. Ambassador Bermejo said that for persons that fulfill the requirements, the processing time is "quite fast."

Crisis in Spain affects foreign workers
The Spanish ambassador to the Dominican Republic reported that the economic situation that his country is going through since last year is causing a loss in jobs. This, in turn, has led the government to take measures such as urging the voluntary return of foreign workers that have been laid off or fired. Diego Bermejo said that during the last quarter of 2008, and as happened in all of the European countries, Spain suffered a 1% negative growth but expectations for 2009 are slightly better. He said that Dominicans that reside in Spain and have lost their jobs as a consequence of the crisis have the opportunity to relocate themselves or opt for the voluntary return program that consists in returning to the country of origin with 10,000 or 15,000 Euros in their pockets and without losing their rights that were acquired during their stay in Spain. Bermejo gave his statements during the Weekly Lunch at Multimedios del Caribe. The ambassador says that there are 125.000 Dominican living in Spain legally and, of these, some 1,500 to 2,000 have lost their jobs. According to the ambassador, the Dominicans are considered to be "hard working, pleasant and well liked", and they are perfectly willing to change one job for another because of their flexibility and because of this he said that all is not lost. The diplomat explained that the person who voluntarily returns to his country of origin still receives the worker's compensation payments to which he is entitled for being let go. He emphasized that nobody is forced to leave Spain but those that accept the volunteer program will have capital to explore new possibilities and if they choose to return to Spain, after three years, they are received with the same permanent resident status that they held before.

People smuggling big in DR
The Dominican Republic is found at the same level as Thailand, Brazil and Colombia, countries long considered the nations with the highest percentage of human trafficking. This was the result of three studies that were released yesterday by the Ministry of Women which referred to trafficking of women and gender killings. With respect to the latter, investigator Susie Pola reported that so far this year 34 women have been killed in this country, which represents an increase of gender killings in relation to other years in which the statistics show an average of 200 victims per year, or an average of 17 per month. According to one of the studies regarding the white slave trade in Central America and the Dominican nation, some 200,000 local citizens have emigrated over the past few years, and at least a third of them have been the victims of procuring and prostitution. The investigations found that tourism publicity that promotes the country as a "sex paradise" is used to the advantage of human traffickers to carry out their business.

Shell stations to both public and private
The Shell Company reported yesterday that it has still not closed any negotiations with the Dominican government for the distribution of fuels, and that it is keeping its options open regarding the sale of its gasoline stations to the public and private sectors. Rafael Maradiaga, the Shell representative in the Dominican Republic, said that, meanwhile, it would continue to operate the stations until the sale of its interests in the distribution business is concluded. "Shell has not closed any negotiation and is keeping its options open for interested persons either in the public or private sector," said a press communique from Shell. The Dominican state paid Shell US$110 million for its shares of the National Refinery thus taking complete control. According to the authorities, the purchase of the Shell shares will help in the signing of government to government energy agreements and facilitate the handling of state operations. The president of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs, Ricardo Bonetti, said that his group was in disagreement with the pretentions of the government to buy, through the Refinery, the gasoline stations that belong to the Shell Company, which they felt should be left for the private sector to acquire. He said that the government should limit itself to being the promoter and regulator of economic activities and not go into competition with the private sector.

World Archery Cup
29 countries have confirmed their participation in the Archery World Cup 2009. For the second successive year, Santo Domingo will host the event from 31 March to 5 April 2009. The event is organized following the International Archery Federation (FITA) rules for the World Cup for 2009, in both divisions: recurve and compound.
For more information, see http://www.archeryworldcup.org or write to Arturo Urena at [email protected]

Grand Carnival Gala in Santiago
Santiago's best carnival event will be staged at the main hall of the Gran Teatro del Cibao, on Sunday 8 March at 6pm. Those who want to see some of the best of carnival costumes and merry-making in the central Cibao region of the country should purchase their tickets to the event. Victor Erarte is in charge of the production of the Gran Gala de Carnaval 2009, which promises to be an extravaganza of creativity and magic. This is an event for all the family, as special choreography has been prepared for young participants. The gran gala marks the end to carnival activities in Santiago. The event is organized by Medios Unidos del Cibao (MUCI) and the Federacion de Lechones de Santiago (the leading carnival group) in collaboration with the city government and the provincial governor's office.
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