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Daily News - Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Constitutional reform bill
The president of the Chamber of Deputies Julio Cesar Valentin has sent President Leonel Fernandez the legislative proposal that calls the reform of the Constitution a national imperative. Valentin said the move comes after months of debates on the Constitution. A legislative Revision Assembly is now called into session. This means that Congress will dedicate itself exclusively to studying the changes the President has proposed.
Valentin also reminded those who have yet to present their suggestions that they can still bring them to the legislature over the next few days, adding that there will also be time for new ideas to be submitted once the Revision Assembly begins its sessions.
Finally, Valentin said that Congress would be meeting with a delegation of business representatives tomorrow to discuss their portfolio of suggestions, and he guaranteed that the reform will be carried out without frightening anyone and without tensions and that it would attempt to avoid making the historical mistakes of all the previous constitutional modifications. He called on legislators to make the most of the opportunity and to rise above their political party interests.

Carlos Diaz residents to be moved
The government has ordered the permanent transfer of the inhabitants of Carlos Diaz, Tamboril, to prevent new homes from being built in the area and to ensure that people do not move back into the ones that were not affected by the recent landslides. The move, which was announced yesterday, is due to the instability and danger in the area due to landslides and sinking earth caused by the recent rains. Minister of Public Works Victor Diaz Rua told reporters from Diario Libre that a geological study will be conducted to determine the magnitude of the fault lines in the area and that the government will cover the cost of renting homes for more than 70 families that were the most affected by the landslides. He confirmed that recovering the ground that was affected by the landslides would cost the government a fortune and that the vulnerable area would continue to cause problems whenever it rained. Thus the solution is to move these families to a safer place. Victor Diaz Rua was speaking at a press conference in the Orlando Martinez room of the Presidential Palace, accompanied by Presidential press director Rafael Nunez. He said that the government would be building new housing near Tamboril in another area for the families that lost their houses and were made homeless by the landslides in Carlos Diaz. Diaz Rua said that President Leonel Fernandez has been monitoring the events and the aid that has been given to the victims, including medical and food aid, on a daily basis.

List on gun permits is out of date
The list of gun owners who have yet to renew their weapons permits published by the Ministry of the Interior and Police contains a series of errors, since many of the names on the list are of bearers of official licenses ad-vitam, valid for the holder's lifetime and are not subject to taxes. This is the case of Chamber of Deputies president Julio Cesar Valentin, Senator Amilcar Romero, deputies Rafael Calderon, Santiago Rodriguez and Lethi Vasquez, and former deputy Domingo Porfirio Rojas Nina. Also, public officials are backed by this official permit, established by Law 36 on owning and carrying a weapon, and its modifications, which highlights the fact that the list on the website has not been updated.
Others, such as former Central Electoral Board president Manuel Ramon Morel Cerda, complained that despite having paid his taxes before the deadline, his name was placed on the list of expired licenses. Others who say that they have paid their fees are Juan Hubieres and Jottin Cury Jr. Also on the list are owners of gun stores who have declared their possession of weapons but have yet to sell them, which is why the Ministry has not issued any licenses for these weapons. Deceased owners, or people who reside outside the country and hundreds of foreigners, most of whom are Chinese, Italian and American were included on the list, available on the website www.seip.gov.do.

EUR500 million Cofides Fund
Representatives of the Spanish Development Funding Company (Cofides) were in Santo Domingo to invite Dominican companies to access its EUR500 million fund. The money will be available for Dominican businesses with ties to Spain through the Spanish Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the DR. Loans range from EUR250,000 to EUR25 million. Remedios Romero Garcia, president of Cofides was in Santo Domingo to make the announcement, at an event led by Manuel Garcia Arevalo, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Santo Domingo.
Remedios Garcia said that the funds could finance a wide range of projects from tourism and apparel to infrastructure. She said that projects worth EUR3 million are currently being implemented with Cofides funding in the leisure, manufacturing and energy sectors, adding that they are looking into the possibility of financing the expansion of the Caucedo Port. "Our main objective is not the loan's yield but that the project to be funded should be sustainable, and that we can recover the loan," she said.
See http://www.cofides.es/english/Default.aspx

Fast medical checkups at HOMS
The Santiago Metropolitan Hospital (HOMS) has launched a medical check-up program for executives, providing a health service aimed at preventing illnesses or providing early detection for optimum health. The service, which will be provided in a modern unit at HOMS was presented to the press with a meeting of business executives, representatives of insurance companies and doctors from the city of Santiago. Cedimat at Plaza de la Salud in Santo Domingo has been successfully offering the service for years now, and thousands of Dominicans who in the past used to travel abroad for this purpose now do their annual routine preventive medical check-ups here. The hospital promises to complete the check-up in a morning, and to deliver the test results in 72 hours.
Blessing the new installation, Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado said that the challenge of medicine today is to get people to end their existence as youthful as possible but as late as possible, and that this is possible in part through what this unit offers: Preventive Medicine.
Felix M. Garcia, the president of the hospital's board of directors said: "HOMS is acting locally but thinking globally in order to give us the precision and trustworthy diagnostic facilities here in our own country."
HOMS medical director Dr. Santiago Garcia told reporters that the service is aimed at people who are healthy and is based on the concept that medicine serves healthy patients and keeps them healthy instead of trying to reestablish a healthy condition in a sick person.
The HOMS is a private medical facility that also received government funding for its construction. It was built with a more than US$75 million investment and is regarded as one of the most modern hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Geologist on rising Enriquillo Lake
Geologist Osiris de Leon says that the areas currently being flooded by Lake Enriquillo form part of its historical territory, but as the waters evaporated, local residents used the lands for crops, cattle and housing. "All these lands that people think that the lake has invaded do not belong to humans. They belong to the lake", he added. He said that the situation in Enriquillo as well as in the neighboring Saumatre Lake in Haiti is normal during periods of heavy rains, since in the not-so-distant geological past there was just the one lake. The geologist explained that the springs from Las Barias, Boca de Cachon, Las Marias and Duverge that surround the lake are due to a series of tectonic fault lines and provide 20,000 cubic meters of water per hour. The springs increased their flow as a result of heavy rains during Tropical Storm Noel in October 2007, when 700 mm of water fell in a week, equivalent to18 month's normal rainfall in that region. In addition, as rains continue to fall the Panzo, Barreras, Los Bolos, Penitente, Las Damas and Bermesi rivers provide additional water to the lake as do the subterranean sources, and these are more than the evaporation rate of the lake and therefore the lake is rising. De Leon reminded reporters that in 1979, before Hurricane David and Tropical Storm Frederick, one could walk across the lake to the Isla de Cabritos. He called on the authorities to stop farming and cattle ranching in the area, because the lake will always be going up or down according to the precipitation in the region.

Customs will limit older vehicles
The Director General of Customs (DGA) says that in a "non-extendible period of 60 working days", beginning today, it will restrict the entry of motor vehicles that are more than five years old in accordance with current laws. In a paid announcement published in the national media today, the DGA said that the disposition does not include vehicles imported by diplomats, diplomatic missions and accredited international organizations or the belongings of overseas Dominicans and foreigners who are moving to the country under the protection of laws number 314 of 6 July 1064; 168 of 27 May, 1967 and 146-00 of 27 December, 2000. The DGA points out that the decision to apply a strict adherence is in keeping with Article 2 of Law 04-07 of 8 January 2007 that modified Law 495 of 28 December 2006 on Fiscal Corrections that prohibits importing vehicles more than five years old. The DGA statement says, in part, "Within the non-extendible period of 60 working days from this date, the import of motor vehicles covered by custom tariff sections 87.02; 87.03 and by sub-sections 8704.21 and 8704.31, will be restricted."

Tighter screening for cops
The District Prosecutor for the National District says that the Armed Forces and National Police need to be stricter in their screening of candidates for new recruits. Alejandro Moscoso Segarra told reporters from El Caribe, "I think that they have to be more rigorous at the moment of recruiting new members of the Armed Forces and the National Police."
Moscoso spoke to the press after inaugurating the pressroom at the Prosecutor's office in the National District, named for journalist Miguel Angel Reynoso Solis.
He also called for continued cleansing of the rank and file of the armed forces and the National Police. He said, "there has to be a clean up of these institutions and there has to be a more rigorous screening process of the members of both organizations." Moscoso Segarra's statements come at a time when, according to the police, an Air Force major, Jose Luis Vargas Cuello is accused of being the ringleader of the raid on the Parmalat milk processing facility last Thursday night.
According to El Caribe, several people, including an Air Force officer, a Police officer and a civilian, are involved in the crime.
Moreover, the District Prosecutor said that in the Justice Department it is easy to find out when one of its members participates in a crime, unlike the case with Police or Armed Forces personnel. Moscoso said "These institutions have to be screened and cleaned up, obviously in the Justice Department with 800 workers, and then it is very easy to determine when someone in the department commits an irregularity."

Police ask for new guns
The private and corporal who acted swiftly in the sensational Parmalat robbery case, and who were promoted to the ranks of corporal and sergeant for their efforts, have asked the National Police chief to issue them with new firearms, because their current weapons are in very poor condition. According to Hoy newspaper, policemen Wilman Cueva Cespedes and Kelvin Mateo Vargas made their request with the idea of being more effective in their efforts to stop crime in eastern Santo Domingo where they are stationed. Both members of the National Police visited police spokesman Colonel Nelson Rosario and asked him to help them in their efforts to be assigned new side arms "because there is not much they can do to carry out their responsibilities."

Police search for Parmalat evidence
The police has carried out ten searches in different places, including three yesterday, looking for evidence needed to solve the Parmalat robbery attempt. Felix Ortega, who was arrested on Sunday and has been linked with the gang led by Air Force Major (now dishonorably discharged) Jose Luis Vargas Cuello, and considered to be a key piece in the "puzzle" could give more information on the whereabouts of the rest of the gang. With him, the total is now four captured and accused of taking part in the Thursday night raid on the Parmalat processing plant. Just yesterday, National Police chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said that the names of the rest of the people involved would shortly be made public. The police chief said that they were looking for seven people who are only known by their nicknames, and who might be involved in the crime.
Diario Libre learned that at police headquarters it was said that Special Forces were "combing" the whole country, especially the east, looking for the rest of the gang led by Vargas Cuello, now serving one year's preventative custody in La Victoria. The searches conducted yesterday took place in the eastern part of the province of Santo Domingo, searching for new evidence to help clear up the case where several members of the Air Force and some civilians are involved. Guzman Fermin warned that any military or police official who is involved in the crime would be prosecuted as a civilian and that he would not permit "the Police uniform to be stained under any circumstances."
The house located in La Cayena Street in Los Prados Oriental, on the San Isidro highway, was purchased by a family member of one of the men implicated in the raid and the group used it as a storage deposit where they took part of the merchandise stolen from their victims. What is strange is that their neighbors were apparently unaware of what was going on since the "operations took place at night and with great care." In this house, everything was stored, cars, SUVs, motorcycles, that were later sold to individuals and "on several occasions, cash was divided up at the house."

Drug consumption up in schools
A study by the National Drugs Council (CND) shows that there has been a slight increase in the consumption of narcotics among grade school and middle school students over the last four years. The role of the CND is prevention.
Most vulnerable are young people aged between 12 and 14 and those who do not live with their parents, as reported in Listin Diario. Nevertheless, the National Survey on Drugs Consumption by Grade School and Middle School Students by the Dominican Family Welfare Association (Profamilia) with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS) indicates that the consumption of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes is down. Profamilia polled 5,983 students in public and private schools, of whom 2,762 were in the capital city and province of Santo Domingo, 1,900 in the Cibao, 839 in the south and 482 in the southwest.
OAS drug matters representative Paul Durang said that the results were "alarming" but still not as serious as in other Latin American countries. Profamilia director Frank Caceres said that half of the students who use drugs live with only one parent, grandparents or other relatives.
Quoting the same study, Hoy reports that 2.6% of the teenagers were offered drugs at a party, disco or youth gathering, 1.6% near their home, 0.7% in the corner shop, 0.6% in their home and 0.5% near their school.

Praise for DNCD cooperation
During a visit to the National Drug Control Department, the head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration for the Caribbean, Javier Pena said that drug trafficking in the Caribbean is a leading concern for the US government department. He added that they have special interest in dismantling the shipments of cocaine that are entering Puerto Rico via the DR to then be transported to Europe.
As reported in Listin Diario, Pena highlighted the efforts being made in the DR to fight drug trafficking. "The bosses in Washington are happy with the cooperation there has been here to fight trafficking and that there have been good results," he said after visiting General Gilberto Delgado Valdez at the DNCD.

DNCD seize nearly 1,000 kilos
Dominican authorities have seized nearly one thousand kilograms of cocaine over the last six months, according to the National Drug Control Department (DNCD). In total, drug agents have seized 1,573 kilograms of drugs, especially cocaine and marijuana, and arrested 11,383 people. As well as cocaine, agents have seized 500 kilograms of marijuana and 2,503 marijuana plants nearly ready for harvesting, 80 kilograms of heroin and seven kilograms of crack cocaine, according to the press release. A total of 10,200 amphetamine tablets and 2,124 ecstasy pills were also taken. The Dominican Republic, like other Caribbean nations, is used as a trans-shipment point for drug traffickers sending drugs to Europe and the United States. Lately it has become widely known that drug dealers are carrying out small-scale local sales for local consumption. Last week Santo Domingo hosted an international conference against organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking, and ministers of justice and security from 16 regional nations attended. One result of the meeting was to demonstrate the regional need for protection, technical assistance and funding to combat the scourge of drug trafficking.
Yesterday, DNCD agents located another 64 kilos of cocaine hidden in five backpacks among bags of food products for sailors on board a ship that docked at the Caucedo Port, as reported in Hoy. The ship had come from Peru and made a stop in Colombia.
The drug was discovered in a joint operation by the DEA and the DNCD, as reported in Hoy.

Civilians lynch two
A 15-year old minor and one unidentified man were killed by groups of civilians after they tried to carry out muggings in separate incidents in the Cristo Rey and La Fe barrios in Santo Domingo. The police reported that the minor died as a result of gunshot wounds when together with nine other young men between the ages of 18 and 20, he attempted to rob a man on Rafael J. Castillo Street at the corner of Paraguay Street in the La Fe barrio. The police said that the minor and his companions had committed several robberies in the past. The teenager died on the way to the Doctor Francisco Moscoso Hospital after being shot in the shoulder by an unidentified man as he attempted to steal his gold chain. The National Police said that Aneudis Benjamin Polanco Diaz, 20, Jefry Alejandro Soto Heredia, 18, Victor Alfonso de Paula (Vitico), 19, Jean Carlos Garcia, 20, Francisco Antonio Suarez Javier, 19, Luis Enrique Placencio de Jesus, 18; Eduardo Luis Perez Matos, 18, and Ericsson Antonio Vargas, 19 were arrested in connection with the case, and the police are still searching for a person identified only as El Dingue. The police seized several cell phones, a motorcycle and four mopeds, one of which had been stolen the same day from Ramon Antonio Vargas, 21, on Camino Chiquito in Arroyo Hondo. Investigators found two shell casings from a 9mm automatic weapon at the scene of the incident. Meanwhile in Cristo Rey another alleged assailant died and a three-year old child was wounded in a robbery attempt at the corner of 42 Street and 48 Street in the barrio. The police say that the dead assailant has still not been identified, while the child was named as Elvis Ernesto Paredes Garcia, who was in the area where the incident took place. The police added that the man who was shot was with a group of alleged criminals on several motorcycles and had taken a gold chain from Bienvenido Rosario Lopez, 50, at the intersection, and that an unnamed passer-by who witnessed the mugging opened fire on the attackers. The assailants returned fire and one of the shots hit the small child.

A criminal state?
Servio Tulio Castanos of the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice has criticized the current purges of the army and police. "They are useless," he told Hoy. He said that the measure is only a reaction to unstoppable situations. "One cannot talk of a purge when members of those corps commit crimes that they themselves plan," he said. He said that in the DR we have got to the point where the state is perceived as a criminal state, which rather than responding to problems has become the principal problem. "A state is delinquent when its institutions are infected, when 5 out of 10 crimes are committed from within the state and there are no consequences," he said.

Independence Cycling Tour
Chilean Pan-American champion Luis Sepulveda finally beat Dominican Wendy Cruz on the second stretch of the Dominican Republic cycling tour. He now leads the race, followed by Wendy Cruz. Sepulveda clocked in with 3"39.16 with Cruz a minute and 12 seconds behind. They covered the Santo Domingo-San Pedro-Santo Domingo route, or 144 kms. The competition now continues with the Santo Domingo-San Francisco de Macoris route (135 kms), and then Moca-Santiago-Navarrete-Santiago-Santo Cerro-Jarabacoa on Wednesday (153 kms). The others are La Vega-Bonao-Villa Altagracia-Santo Domingo (115 kms), with a final stretch against the clock along Parque Mirador del Sur (10 kms) on Thursday. On Friday, the cyclists will race along the Av. Prolongacion 27 de Febrero in Santo Domingo (136 kms). On Saturday, 28 February they will go southwest, through San Cristobal-Bani-Azua-Bani (140 kms). The competition ends with a closed circuit along the Av. V Centenario (120kms) on Sunday, 1 March.
For more current and coming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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