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Daily News - Tuesday, 10 March 2009

First Lady honored by Italy
The Italian ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Enrico Guicciardi, presented First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez with the Star of Italian Solidarity, with the rank of Grand Official, awarded by the Italian government in a ceremony at which President Leonel Fernandez was also present. The presentation took place at the diplomatic residence of the Italian Legation in Piantini. The Italian diplomat said that this is the first time that such a decoration has been awarded to a Dominican woman or any woman in the whole region. In a brief speech, Guicciardi emphasized the charitable social work done by the First Lady's office, benefiting more than 100,000 poor families through the "Progresando" program, and the fact that thousands of citizens have been helped by other projects run by the office. Upon receiving the award Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez said that it is of great significance because it came during the International Woman's Day celebrations. The First Lady shared the award with all Dominican women, as she expressed her appreciation for the fact that the medal comes from one of the countries that has supported and cooperated with the work done by the First Lady's Office ever since her husband was elected.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister visits
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, Francisco H. L. Ou visited President Leonel Fernandez at the Presidential Palace yesterday. They met for about an hour. Ou was accompanied by Taiwanese ambassador Isaac Tsai and by Rolando Chuang, Dardo Chen and Benito Liao, as reported in Hoy. The government of Taiwan has expressed an interest in resuming talks aimed at signing a free trade agreement with Taiwan. During Ou's visit, he signed a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Relations. As part of the agreement, Taiwanese technical volunteers specialized in economics, culture and environment will provide their services to the DR. In addition, Taiwan is donating US$150,000 to help repair the damage caused by heavy rainfall.

New SCJ rules for boundaries
In an effort to facilitate the paperwork needed to obtain a deed on a piece of land, the Supreme Court has approved the Regulations for Boundary and Lot Adjustments. This new procedure will allow holders of "annotated proofs" of ownership to obtain Certified Titles of ownership (deeds) through an administrative procedure when there is agreement about the ownership and boundaries of the property. The move is part of the Program to Consolidate Real Estate Jurisdiction. The control and reduction of the use of Annotated Proofs has been one of the initiatives pushed through in the area of real estate law, and this will guarantee judicial security and investments in real estate in the country. By means of an act of Parcel (or Lot) Adjustment, a survey of the lots is carried out, through which all owners of 'annotated proofs' agree to set out their parcels through an administrative procedure. The technical work should be approved by the Regional Department of Surveying and then sent to the Registry of Land Titles (Deeds). Another aspect of the measure is that the process of surveying will be public, allowing third parties to have knowledge of the process and thereby facilitating access to justice and reducing the timeframe for obtaining a deed.

Temporary Entry of Assets
The Director General of Customs (DGA) has announced the end of financial guarantees or deposits on goods entering the country under the Regimen of Temporary Admission for Asset Improvement. The new policy will improve competitiveness of local industry by removing one of the more important financial burdens for exporters and free zone manufacturers. DGA deputy director Eduardo Rodriguez told El Nuevo Diario reporters that the decision establishes a procedure for the automatic cancellation of the guarantees so that companies that act on good faith just have to go to the DGA and bring their accounts up to date. Rodriguez said that exporters had complained that these guarantees imposed a heavy burden on their production and competitiveness in the world markets. A paid public announcement by the DGA in most of today's papers asks exporters to hand in their requests for the cancellation of their bonds or guarantees. The Customs decision was the product of an agreement with the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD), and provides for a two-year period for the cancellation of the bond, starting from the time the request is received by the DGA. A prerequisite for the concession is for the proper procedures to have been followed by the company under the Regimen of Temporary Admission.

Deputies doubt park project passes
It now seems unlikely that the Chamber of Deputies will approve the legislation that seeks to modify the boundaries of the National Park of the East. This development comes in the wake of considerable uproar that was caused by the legislative proposal after it was approved on first reading on 4 March with the positive vote of 37 PRSC deputies, 29 of the PLD and 19 of the PRSC, of 101 deputies present. Only PLD deputies Pedro Caro, Radhames Fortuna, Plutarco Perez, Juan Perez and Juan Rosario voted "No", reports Listin Diario.
Yesterday the ruling party deputies and the opposition said that the initiative should be examined in greater depth with the idea of only removing the center city area from the park itself. But Luis Carvajal, president of the Academy of Science and spokesmen for the Ministry of Environment (Semarena) insist that the urban area has never been part of the park. Carvajal told Hoy that the property was sold to an Italian named Llerosa and to Dionisio Cedeno Martinez and several supposed employees of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). Hoy reports that the project's main promoter, Sergio Cedeno (PRSC-Higuey) was the presidential campaign manager for Amable Aristy Castro, who is the director of the Dominican Municipal League.
PLD deputy Angel Gomera said that he feels that the modification to the law should be subject to a consensus with the principal defenders of the environment.
PRD spokesman Ruddy Gonzalez said that his party would not vote in favor of the project, and will always oppose the use of the protected areas for the benefit of private individuals. "We are not in favor of the project, and moreover these situations here in Congress have always been decided by the bloc of legislators of the dominant party together with another smaller party, which have united for this purpose," said Gonzalez.
Meanwhile reformist deputy Luis Jose Gonzalez Sanchez said that the representatives of the province of La Altagracia and deputy Sergio Cedeno should not be condemned or accused because he was carrying out his role as legislator, or spokesperson for his constituents. "It seems to me that the people asked him to submit the proposal since all this is affecting a protected area," he pointed out. Gonzalez Sanchez said that there was a contradiction between some of the Semarena specialists and the people who went to evaluate the area around Boca de Yuma.
Assistant environment prosecutor Andres Chalas described the bill as an "assault on the National System of Protected Areas."

Change of contractor delays highway
The Tourist Boulevard of the East, the essential highway linking tourism developments along the east coast was declared a high priority for the Leonel Fernandez government in 2005. Hoteliers provided RD$600 million in advances on taxes. But three years later, the avenue has at most advanced on its first phase. Investigative reporter Alicia Ortega, on her Antena Latina Channel 7 report, indicates that when Victor Diaz Rua was appointed minister of Public Works he rescinded the construction contract with Perco S.A. that had fast-tracked the work, and chose Constructora JM, S.A. to continue the highway that is expected to cost around RD$1.6 billion. Ortega reports this same company has received eight contracts from the Ministry of Public Works, worth a total RD$3.17 billion. She says the Ministry only acknowledges three of these contracts. Diaz Rua justified the awarding of the contract on the base of Decree 697-07 that was issued after Tropical Storm Noel and that declared an emergency situation enabling the contracting of goods and services without tenders. The east coast area did not suffer damage as a result of Tropical Storm Noel. Ortega says that she has documentation that shows that the General Controller's Office disputes the contracting of the construction of the highway under the emergency situation disposition, as reported in Diario Libre.

Pay raises for city employees
Hoy newspaper reports that the bonanza of raises in the decentralized government organizations continues with the city councilors in the National District. They have voted in favor of increasing their wages to RD$130,000 or RD$150,000 depending on the month. They gave themselves a wage adjustment of RD$45,000. The basic wage of a city councilor, whose responsibility is to attend some work sessions, is RD$92,000 a month, but they also get RD$40,000 for "professional services" and RD$25,000 for other expenses. This is the second increase they have received since 2006.

Food prices up
Consumers keep waiting for prices to go down, but all they seem to get are price increases. Producers, millers, traders and importers have left the Dominican people waiting and have not kept their promise to lower prices. A month and a half ago these sectors promised President Fernandez that they would not increase their prices on basic foodstuffs, yet that is just what they have done. Mass-market products like eggs and vegetables have gone up, sometimes by as much as 25% and even 30%. A carton of 30 eggs is sold at RD$180 and consumers are paying as much as RD$6 and RD$6.50 per unit, when they used to cost RD$5. Reporters from El Caribe took to the streets yesterday and visited public markets and supermarkets run by the National Price Stabilization Institute (Inespre) and found the same product being sold at different prices. In the case of eggs, in Inespre they sold a carton of 30 for between RD$120 and RD$130. In some of the larger supermarkets they sold at RD$160 and RD$180. Another item that has gone up rather than down is poultry, which four weeks ago was being sold for between 35 and 43 pesos per pound but is now selling at 45-46 pesos a pound. While chicken consumption is between 12.5 and 15 million birds a month, in December the demand climbs to 16.5 million. What people do not understand is why the price should go up since one of the main elements, corn, has maintained a steady price on the international markets. Vegetables, on the other hand, are having trouble getting to market due to the rains that make harvesting more difficult. Some products, such as potatoes, eggplant, cassava, canned milk and some bottled milks have gone down a little in price. Eggplant in particular has gone down nearly 33%, from RD$18 to RD$13. Economist Francisco Rojas Castillo said that food prices should go down since fertilizers have gone down 13%.

Colonel arrested in Parmalat case
Santo Domingo province prosecutor Perfecto Acosta confirmed on Monday that a Lieutenant Colonel from the National Police was arrested for alleged ties to the Parmalat case. Tomas Garcia Lebron was detained last Saturday while trying to escape to Haiti, according to official reports. Perfecto Acosta says that the officer, who was already subject to an exit ban, was detained by border authorities as he tried to cross. Recently, a 12-member commando unit headed by an Air Force major carried out a raid on the Parmalat Company, located in Villa Duarte and Los Mameyes in the province of Santo Domingo. Major Jorge Luis Vargas Cuello was wounded during the raid and is currently under three months' detention pending the investigation. Garcia Lebron is being held at Police headquarters, according to the official report.

La Vega commanders arrested
National Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin has fired and then arrested the officers in command of the police force in La Vega, "for negligent behavior in the pursuit of crime," according to a press release from the Police. Meantime, in Cotui he ordered the 30-day arrest of the commander of that jurisdiction for not taking the police actions necessary to prevent the stopping of traffic on the road that gives access to the Falconbridge Dominicana mining company. Traffic was shut down during a protest by freight carriers in the area. The high ranking officers fired from their posts in La Vega are Colonel Elido Garcia Rodriguez, the commander of the jurisdiction, Nelson Vidal Baez Ubiera, the head of the Investigations Department, and Major Jose Anastasio Brea Roman, the executive officer. The police said that Guzman Fermin would go to La Vega to personally swear in the new officers. Over in Cotui, Colonel Cesar Rafael Pineda Nunez was placed under 30 days arrest for not halting the traffic stoppage on the road that leads to the Falconbridge Dominicana mine, despite the fact that he had prior knowledge of the protest. Guzman Fermin said that he was taking a close look at regional departmental heads, commanders and station chiefs.

Four killed in Cambita
Four people were killed and three wounded during a shoot-out between the National Police and two assailants in the community of Cambita Garabito in the province of San Cristobal. According to reports by local eyewitnesses, the shooting started after the assailants held up a man, Sergio Vega at about 2:30 in the afternoon on Francisco Bono Street and stole his handgun. After the robbery, the motorcycle they were using did not start, forcing them to run towards the Banco de Reservas on La Trinitaria, where they were stopped by the bank's security guards. Hoy newspaper reports that the first two people who were killed had been used as human shields by the assailants who then killed them when they tried to run away. In the midst of all of the confusion, the thieves pointed their weapons at motorcycle driver Guillermo Lorenzo, 22, getting on his motorcycle and began to flee. During the escape attempt, during which they were pursued by the police and local residents, they continued shooting, killing 50-year old Candida Contreras and a young man, Jovanny Garcia, 22. The pursuit ended at the entrance to the Garabito Pueblo Municipal Hospital where the police killed the two criminals. According to Hoy five people were wounded in the incident. The chief of Police, Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, went to the hospital and congratulated the police officers for their actions in the case.

AILA security caught with drugs
Two members of the armed forces attached to the Specialized Corps of Airport Security (CESA) K-9 Unit have been arrested at Las Americas International Airport (AILA) with 27 packages of cocaine that they were trying to put on a flight to Europe. According to investigators, Corporal Victor Alvarez Almonte and Private Santiago Torres Calzado were taken to the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) headquarters. The dispatch of the drugs for Madrid, Spain was stopped by intelligence agents from the Armed Forces working in coordination with members of the Customs Department that track members of the CESA and the DNCD on the tarmac at the airport. The involvement of members of the DNCD and the CESA in similar incidents has led to the use of plainclothes intelligence agents from the Armed Services at AILA. After they were discovered, the CESA troops tried to use their assault rifles to flee, but they were stopped by members of the Armed Forces intelligence unit who were on duty at the airport where the struggle occurred. According to the details that are still emerging, more military personnel could be involved in a network of drug traffickers that uses airport workers to send drugs to the United States and Europe.

Lawrence Harrison on culture
The American Chamber of Commerce is promoting an upcoming talk by community development expert Lawrence Harrison. Harrison is the author of the bestseller "The Central Liberal Truth." In Santo Domingo, Harrison will speak on "Culture, Competitiveness and Development" at the Salon La Mancha of the Gran Hotel Lina on Sunday, 22 March.
For more information, contact AmCham at www.amcham.org.do

DR vs Netherlands
The Dominican Republic is the favorite to win against the Netherlands today in the World Baseball Classic first round being played in Puerto Rico. But after the Dutch team's strong performance in the first match against the DR, and yesterday against Puerto Rico, nothing can be taken for granted. The Netherlands was winning the game by one run against Puerto Rico until the eighth inning, when Puerto Rico advanced three runs. The DR was supposed to easily defeat the Netherlands in its first match, the opening game, only to lose 3-2 to the European team that is being regarded as the revelation of the tournament. The Netherlands vs. DR match is today at 6:30pm. The winner will qualify for the second round in Miami. Puerto Rico has already won its right to play in Miami. The winner of tonight's game will play Puerto Rico for the US$300,000 prize money.

DR bids to host WBC in 2013
The Dominican Republic has officially bid to become a host city for the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Sports Minister Felipe Payano, Dominican Baseball League president Leonardo Matos Berrido and Hector Pereyra delivered the request to Paul Archey, senior vice president for international business operations of the World Baseball Classic in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Orchids exhibition
The National Botanical Gardens is inviting orchid lovers to the 28th Orchid Exhibition & Competition. This year the exhibition is called "Oriental Fantasy." The event will be open to the general public from Friday, 20 March through Sunday, 22 March from 8am to 6pm.
For more on other upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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