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Daily News - Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Fernandez meets Castro
During his official visit to Cuba that began on Monday, President Leonel Fernandez met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Fernandez said they discussed the world financial crisis, problems in the DR and Latin America, Dominican history and politics and the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
As reported in the Miami Herald, the Dominican President said that they also talked about the possibility of developing exchange programs with the Cuban Art and Film Industry and Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Institutes. Fernandez said he told Castro about his government's interest in signing agreements with Cuba in the agricultural and educational sectors, and expressed a particular interest in the highly successful Cuban literacy program "Yo Si Puedo".
Fernandez commented that the 50-year US trade embargo with Cuba is a failed policy, which is likely to be reconsidered by US President Barack Obama.
During his visit, Fernandez is expected to attend the signing of several bilateral agreements in agriculture, culture, science and technology and education. One of these would allow Dominican teachers to be trained in pedagogical practices that have already been implemented in Cuba. Fernandez says his goal is to move the Dominican education system away from the rote learning system.
Fernandez commented that continued cooperation between the DR and Cuba could help the development of the DR educational system. Today Fernandez will address the summit on the topic of globalization and the problems with development.
This is Fernandez's third official visit to Cuba as head of state. He was the only visiting head of state to attend the 11th International Economists Meeting on Globalization and Development Problems, in session in Havana. Fernandez also told the press that regional integration would contribute to mitigating the world economic crisis and its impact all around the planet.

Montas foresees decrease
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas says that there will be a 3% decrease (currently 19% of GDP) in public spending in the DR in 2009 due to a reduction in access to credit and a decrease in tax collections. Montas was speaking during a conference organized by the General Secretariat of the Ibero-American Summit, held in Oporto, Portugal. He added the decrease in spending goes against the general trend in Latin America, where most countries are preparing to up their public spending. During his speech Montas urged representatives from multilateral organizations to review the conditions under which they lend money, while also encouraging countries in need of loans to be more careful in how they distribute the money lent.

More IDB money
According to Hoy, there is a chance that the DR could access an extra US$360 million in loans from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Currently the DR has access to as much as US$640 million in loans. Negotiations between both sides have commenced with discussions centering round liquidity, emergency relief funds and the effects of the international financial crisis. Hoy quoted IDB representative Carlos Galvis who was in the DR yesterday speaking at a workshop organized by the Ministry of Economy Planning and Development.

DR biometric passport deadline
The Dominican Passport Department (DGP) says that by March 2010 all Dominicans who plan to travel abroad will need a new biometric passport. DGP director Flavia Garcia said the DR is abiding by regulations set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Listin Diario writes that the passport will cost RD$2,238 for three-hour VIP express service and RD$1,238 for a six-day delivery of the document.

UASD students struggle
According to Hoy, an estimated 30% of students entering the UASD state university this semester have failed their admission tests. A total of 5,135 out of 17,433 students who took the tests will be required to take courses in the university "catch up" program. According UASD admissions director Gloria Madera, 70% of students in the remedial course come from night schools.

Agricultural Fair
The most important farm and agribusiness event of the year, Agroalimentaria 09 opens today, Wednesday 4 March at Santo Domingo's Dominican Fiesta Convention Center. The event continues through Saturday, 7 March and provides a marketplace for local producers to connect with buyers from around the world. A total of 70 buyers have confirmed their attendance, and the US$112 million in sales generated at the previous Agroalimentaria 2007 are expected to be surpassed. Mario Velazquez, coordinator for Agroalimentaria 2009, said that foreign buyers, hotel chains and supermarket chains are among the leading buyers. Osmar Benitez, executive vice president of the Dominican Agribusiness Council (JAD) said that 15 Japanese businesspeople are among the 103 foreign buyers.
Acelis Angeles Vargas, deputy technical director of CEI-RD, said that the fair connects producers of farm produce and processed foods, beverages and tobacco products with buyers. Buyers are also coming from the USA, Puerto Rico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The event is organized by the JAD with support from the CEI-RD and the Federation of European Chambers of Commerce.
See www.agroalimentaria.com.do

Viva brings EVDO technology
The Viva telecommunications company has announced plans to invest US$250 million in service development during the 2009 calendar year. During a press conference at the Hotel Embajador, Viva CEO Jean Carlos Sandy said that Viva would continue to develop its GSM and CDMA networks while introducing EVDO high-speed technology to better serve the company's more than 500,000 users. EVDO stands for Evolution, Data Optimized and is a new telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals, typically for broadband Internet access. With the introduction of EvDO Viva seeks to become the nation's leader in mobile phone Internet service.

Stateless Haitians in DR
According to a 2008 human rights report released by the United States State Department, an estimated 1 million unregistered and stateless Haitian nationals are living in the DR. The report says that although these people technically "exist" they are not registered in any books. The report indicates that these people of Haitian descent who live in the DR don't have proper documentation, making even travel within the country difficult. Without documentation, getting married, obtaining employment or entering school becomes a chore. The Dominican Constitution recognizes that anyone born in the DR is granted citizenship, except for the children of diplomats or people in transit. However, there has been a push by campaigners to pressure the government to grant some form of identification for children born in the DR to illegal immigrants. In 2007 the Central Electoral (JCE) ruled that no civil registrar or public official could sign the birth certificate of a child to immigrant parents unless the parent could prove their migratory status.
In a recent interview, the new Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis stated that a priority for her government would be to increase the number of Haitian citizens with civil registration living in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

10 years of relations with India
The Dominican Embassy celebrated its 10 years of formal diplomatic relations with India last week. "The government of President Leonel Fernandez opened the embassy in New Delhi three years ago to strengthen links with that country, and expand the horizons of our ties with Asia," said Ambassador Hans Dannenberg Castellanos at the event. Dannenberg is concurrent Dominican ambassador in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Mauricio.
He explained that after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Dominican government decided to diversify its international relations beyond the United States and seek ties with countries at development levels similar to the DR to promote the necessary South-South cooperation.
For the 10th anniversary, the Sandy Gabriel merengue and Latin jazz music band visited and performed before going on to tour several Indian cities to promote Dominican culture. Prior to the anniversary event, a mission of Dominican business representatives attended the India-Latin America and Caribbean Conclave: Project Partnerships 2009 organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

24-hour stop in the East
Transport unions have embarked on a 24-hour bus strike affecting eastern provinces, beginning today. Drivers are striking as a way of exerting pressure on the government to fix the roads and highways in the eastern provinces, which they say are in a constant state of deterioration. An estimated 15 transport unions from La Romana, El Seibo, Higuey, Hato Mayor and San Pedro de Macoris will join the picket lines. The strike by the unions could prove successful as it was the same tactic used by unions in Montecristi who threatened a strike earlier this week. As a result the Ministry of Public Works promised to give priority to fixing the roads in that area.

Arrests in Parmalat case
Listin Diario reports that six more arrests have been made in the 16 February Parmalat robbery case. Police spokesman Nelson Rosario says that one person is still on the run and that police apprehended the six latest suspects based on their nicknames alone. No names have so far been released. Santo Domingo Attorney General Perfecto Acosta says the money stolen that night has yet to be recovered and the police still haven't revealed exactly how much was taken. Estimates range from RD$300,000-RD$4 million. A former Air Force Major is accused of leading the raid.

Update on Manny
The soap opera that has come to define the career of slugger Manny Ramirez entered Act IV yesterday as it was announced that he has decided to rejoin the LA Dodgers and sign a two-year US$45 million contract. Manny will continue to be Manny, but for how long? There has been an outraged reaction to Ramirez's antics because this is the same deal Ramirez has turned down on three previous occasions. Critics point out that this was the same attitude that forced the Boston Red Sox to trade Ramirez during the second half of last year. However, with all antics in mind Ramirez remains among the best sluggers of his generation.

A-rod hurting
Slugger Alex Rodriguez might have to bow out of the World Baseball Class (WBC) after all. Doctors found what might be a cyst on Rodriguez's hip. Rodriguez will now fly to Colorado to have the hip checked out. Rodriguez, nevertheless, played in the DR's opening exhibition game against the Florida Marlins.

Dominicana looking strong
There is great news coming out of Jupiter, Florida, the site of the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic training site. Yesterday, during an exhibition game against MLB's Florida Marlins, the Dominican squad put up 19 hits and pounced on the Marlins for a 10-1 victory. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes both shone in the Red, White and Blue of the DR's uniform while pitcher Edinson Volquez looked to be in mid-season form. David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez both contributed offensively while Willy Aybar and Miguel Olivo provided the squad with much needed back-up.
See http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090303...
This is the first of three games the DR will play before heading off the play against the Netherlands in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Saturday. The Dominican squad travels to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to take on the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at 1:05 ET.

Davis Cup in Santo Domingo
The Davis Cup Americas Zone II matches are under way at the Santo Domingo Tennis Club (La Bocha Courts) in Santo Domingo. The Dominican national tennis team matches Guatemala in the First Round of the Davis Cup, 6-8 March. Victor Estrella, Johnson Garcia, Henry Estrella and Luis Delgado make up the 2009 team under captain Rafael Moreno.
At the same time, the other Davis Cup matches are Mexico-Jamaica (Mexico City), Venezuela-Netherlands Antilles (Venezuela) and Bahamas-Paraguay (Paraguay).
To follow up on the games, see www.daviscup.com/results/am2.asp

Ben Heppner opens Festival
The Santo Domingo Music Festival opens at the National Theater today with a performance by Canadian Ben Heppner, internationally recognized as the world's finest dramatic tenor. He is acclaimed in music capitals around the world for his beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship and sparkling dramatic sense. The Santo Domingo Classical Music Festival is being held from 4-14 March 2009. The sixth edition of the Santo Domingo Music Festival, already a tradition in the country, brings musicians from the United States and Europe and the National Symphony Orchestra will form the Festival Orchestra.
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