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Daily News - Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Constitution reform in 15 days
The Revisory Assembly of the legislature is convened to meet within the next 15 days to start debates aimed at reforming the constitution. Yesterday President Leonel Fernandez published the law that convenes the joint session of senators and deputies for the review of the Constitution. President Fernandez has submitted a bill that seeks to expand the Constitution to almost double its current size, incorporating major changes.

Fernandez Mirabal: They are liars
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal has accused PRSC deputies Mario Jose Fernandez Savinon, president of the Environmental Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and his colleague Sergio Cedeno of lying and of trying to cover up for individual interests in the controversial case of the National Park of the East, as reported in Listin Diario. He said that on two occasions the Ministry of Environment had established its position on the proposal to change limits of the park in writing, but that the deputies had ignored this. He reaffirmed his statement that the community of Boca de Yuma is not within the park limits and said that the two deputies misled other deputies to vote for the bill by telling them that the Ministry of Environment had not responded to their inquiries on 11 Dec 2008 and 26 Feb 2009, establishing that the bill was not necessary on the grounds that Boca de Yuma was not part of the park area.
"They said that they had not received them, which means that when lies are told it is because there are dark interests, they want to deceive someone and we want to directly express our serious concern because deputies were deceived by the promoters of this project and directly by the president of the environmental commission of the Chamber of Deputies," he said.
He called Dominicans to be alert, saying it was a serious crime to lie to the people in order to appropriate protected areas that are part of the heritage of humanity and of the Dominican people. He said that the National Park of the East is taking the final steps to be declared a UNESCO world natural heritage site, and despite this individual interests insist on appropriating its land for private resale.

Reviewing protected areas bill
Deputy Sergio Cedeno, the man behind the highly controversial modifications to the protected areas bill, wants an independent commission to review the original bill and for its conclusions to be accepted by all parties involved. Details of the bill were originally announced last Friday when leading environmental organizations called for rejection of the bill, which is aimed at changing the limits of the National Park of the East. According to those groups, changing the Park's limits would legitimize the sale of plots Nos. 92-H, 92-N, 92-P and 92-Z in Boca de Yuma to Italian investors. "By legalizing the illegal appropriation of national assets, the honorable Chamber of Deputies contributes to the ethical setback, loss of values and promotion of criminal activity in Dominican society. What a paradox, to treat as urgent the sale of national assets that then leads to the conclusion that other urgent social priorities such as health, education, citizen safety and housing are insignificant and can be postponed by the illustrious deputies," stated the press release.
Cedeno says the commission should be made up of the Catholic Church's Environmental Commission, the Environment Ministry, the Academy of Sciences, the UASD and the Chamber of Deputies Environmental Commission. According to Cedeno, the original law that determined the limits of the park has "numerous coordinate errors, which include the previously mentioned plots of land".
Felix Nova, president of the Senate Environmental Commission is quoted in Listin Diario as saying, "don't even try it. It won't happen." Listin Diario also reports that the PLD has told its legislators to vote against any proposed changes to the Parque Nacional del Este.

Appropriation of national wealth
The more taxes the state collects in taxes and tariffs, the worse public services become, and the richer those who are in power become, states Adriano Miguel Tejada, editor of Diario Libre in his page two editorial today. He speaks of how control of political power is part of a growing caste of governors that has become the elite that has appropriated the national wealth, turning this into a kind of political trust in which each of them, their friends and associates make use of the resources.
Tejada comments that in this proprietary package there is no room for social investment or for improving the people's standard of living. He explains that the government makes symbolic deliveries of goods that only serve to consolidate the poverty of the great masses, while the powers that be in politics shamelessly display their trophies in luxury hotels here and abroad.
He writes: "To achieve this, they have used the model of "state capitalism" leaving intact and even strengthening the paternalistic and caudillo-style structures that in the long run will impede advances in the process of leaving under-development behind. This is model that has taken us to where we are today, where no one cares if schools don't teach, if the health system isn't working, or if the state administrative structures, including those in charge of law and order and safety, contribute in any way to society.
The appropriation of the state by all the political groups allows the independence of politicians from the rest of society and their total indifference to its problems."

Beltre & Pimentel at the Palace
The director of the Land Transport Office (OTTT), Franklin Beltre and the director of the Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI), Hector Rodriguez Pimentel were at the Presidential Palace yesterday, where they met separately with Presidential legal advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe. The meeting took place after TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera denounced irregularities in the use of funds at the OTTT, and the MPD (Movimiento Popular Democratico) denounced corruption at the INDRHI. After his meeting with Rodriguez, Beltre met with Presidential press director Rafael Nunez and with administrative secretary of the Presidency Luis Manuel Bonetti.

Senate rejects CMD bill
A bill aimed at awarding a 30% pay raise to public hospital doctors was rejected during a Senate session yesterday. In all, 19 Senators voted against the bill while 8 voted in favor. The money for the 30% hike was to have been derived from taxes on medical plan administrators (ARS), checks and sports betting houses. The campaign for a doctors' pay raise has been a hot issue since 2008 with various proposals being rejected. PRD spokesman Roberto Rodriguez said that Senators are in favor of a pay raise, but the source of the funds has yet to be found.

Doctors announce strike
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) is going back to its old tricks. After it was announced that the Senate had rejected a pay raise, the CMD announced a 24-hour work stoppage beginning on Thursday. This has been the main strategy used by the public hospital doctors in their campaign for the raise. Nonetheless, despite a series of strikes last year, the CMD has not accomplished its purpose. Doctors' leader Waldo Ariel Suero said that the CMD has been shown a lack of respect by legislators who have not been able to pass a bill with the funds for their raise. "There was never the will on the part of the government to get things done, they tricked us, but the confrontation starts now," said Suero.

Metro could get money
Ubaldo Elizondo, representing the Latin American Carbon Program (PLAC), said the Santo Domingo Metro could receive upwards of EUR800,000 as part of the Clean Development Mechanism Program (MDL). Elizondo says that the Metro has taken the first steps towards entering the MDL, but that before the project can receive any money its builders will need to prove that the Metro was developed with reduced pollution levels. Although the funds are minimal compared to the cost of the mega-project, the money could be used to help maintain the system or to launch a "green" campaign that promotes reduced use of pollutants.

Dominican contradictions
While the global financial crisis makes headlines all around the world, in the Dominican Republic the strong sales of expensive concerts by international performers raises many questions. Listin Diario reports that in the first quarter of the year there have been, or will be, shows by Mexico's Jose Jose, Puerto Rican Jose Feliciano, Dominican Juan Luis Guerra and Mexican Carlos Santana, Ace of Base, and the upcoming Wisin & Yandel. Also coming up are Ricardo Arjona and Andrea Bocelli, Aventura and Enrique Iglesias. This is in addition to Hi-5 and Patito Feo.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Reverse remittances?
The New York Daily News carries a story on how Dominicans are sending money to their relatives in the US to help them out while they go through hard economic times.
"They're receiving back what they have sent all those years," said Reny Pena, a supervisor at Manhattan-based money transfer company Envios De Valores La Nacional Corp. The company has branches all over the city. The company, which used to handle 80 to 120 money transfers from the Dominican Republic to the US a month, is now doing up to 150 a day, Pena said.
Pena nevertheless says that the reverse remittances still only account for a fraction of the company's business.

Dominican gang dealt blow
New York-based Dominican gang the Trinitarios was dealt a heavy blow this week after New York police and FBI agents arrested 34 of its members on a host of federal charges. The Trinitarios, one of the most dangerous gangs in New York had been growing slowly after being founded in the New York State prison system. The gang is chiefly made up of Dominicans, and there have also been traces of the gang in the DR itself and even in Europe. The two-year investigation into the gang's dealings concluded with the arrest of its three top leaders, seizure of 20 pounds of marijuana and US$2,000 in cash, as well as weapons reportedly used by gang members. Police say the gang had become increasingly violent in recent years.

CESA removing 30
The Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA) has announced that it is removing 30 members from its ranks. CESA director Brigadier General Carlos A. Robles says that the clean-up process of CESA's ranks began when he took up his post six months ago, and a total of 300 officers have been investigated so far. The news comes only days after a member of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) was caught trying to bring 27 kilos of cocaine into the luggage area of the AILA airport.
Since 2005 CESA has fired 85 agents for ties to drug trafficking, money smuggling, human trafficking, extortion or other crimes detected at Dominican airports. The latest case involved two agents who were arrested at AILA on Monday for possession of 27 cocaine packages. The agents were assigned to CESA's K9 unit.
Hoy reports that corruption is too frequent among the security forces at the airport, going by the numerous cases that are detected. For instance, in May 2008, 11 military personnel were arrested for drug trafficking at Las Americas International Airport. In June 2008, seven Air Force agents were dismissed. That same month, a network led by a CESA force sergeant involved in people, money and drug smuggling was dismantled. During General Juan Bautista Rojas Tabar's term, in May 2007, 60 members of CESA were fired, also for drug, money and people smuggling.

Drug driver arrives today
Tirso Cuevas Nin, the man who drove the truck carrying 1,387 kilos of cocaine in 2004, will be returning to the DR today. Cuevas Nin, an associate of former military captain Quirino Paulino, said he was driving the drugs to Santiago where they were then to have been shipped off to the US. El Caribe reports that there are currently five charges of drug trafficking against Cuevas Nin in the DR.

Sentence confirmed
The Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court (SCJ) has ratified the sentence of Plutarco Ernesto Cedeno, who was charged with the murder of entertainer Milton Pelaez. Cedeno will have to serve a 14-year sentence for his crime. Cedeno must also pay damages.

He knew too much?
Last week, 24-year old Ramon Argenis Guerra Florian, an employee at the Department of Control of Closed-Circuit Cameras at the Caucedo Multimodal Port was kidnapped from his home at gunpoint by four men who boarded a SUV, and he was later found murdered in a garbage dump in Andres, Boca Chica, as reported in Hoy. Regional Police Commander Brigade General Hector Garcia Cuevas said one person has been arrested in connection with the case. The victim lived with his family in the Barrio Invi-CEA. His mother, Nelida Florian de Guerra said that the family was together when the four assailants, who were dressed in National Drug Control Department uniforms, arrived asking for "the man of the house." She told Hoy that her son did not have problems with anyone, but does not dismiss the possibility that he could have unwittingly interfered with criminal activities while on the job. Customs Department director Miguel Cocco suspects that Guerra's kidnapping and murder is drug trafficking-related, as reported in Listin Diario. He said that Guerra had uncovered a cocaine shipment at the terminal.

Former prosecutor gets bail
Former Bani prosecutor Victor Cordero, accused by Bani Senator Wilton Guerrero of complicity with drug traffickers in the province of Peravia is out on one million peso bail after being accused of prevarication and of appropriating half a million pesos that Major League baseball player Julio Cesar Mateo had supposedly given him as an economic guarantee when he was on the job, as reported in Hoy. He is now banned from leaving the country and has to present himself periodically before the prosecutors of his case. The San Cristobal assistant prosecutor had requested a preventive jail sentence in the case. Cordero is accused of prevarication and illegal retention of funds, in violation of articles 166, 167, 169, 170, 171 and 172 of the Penal Code and for failing to deposit RD$500,000 that the baseball player had given him as deposit on 24 November 2006 for aggression against his wife Santa Aurea Martinez in the Banco Agricola. The commission that investigated the case was made up of assistant prosecutors Rodolfo Espineira and Giselle Cueto and general prosecutor of the Court of Appeals of San Cristobal, Jesus Fernandez Velez. Cordero was investigated after Senator Wilton Guerrero accused him of having ties with drug trafficking in the area, after the murder of six drug dealers in Paya, Bani.

Dominicana shocked by Dutch
In what is being labeled as one of the greatest upsets in sports history, last night the Netherlands baseball team beat the Dominican Republic for the second time in the World Baseball Classic tournament. The loss to the unknown Dutch team eliminated the DR from the WBC tournament and dashed any hopes of claiming world baseball supremacy. As the dust settles on the DR's performance in the WBC, the blame game has begun with many critics pointing to the absence of Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Vladimir Guerrero as key reasons why the team was beaten. Others say the team was still very strong with the presence of David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Alfonso Soriano. Sloppy play, lack of concentration, and poor teamwork are also being mentioned as key factors in the loss. In last night's game the teams went into extra innings tied at zero. The DR came up to bat in the 10th with speedy shortstop Jose Reyes forcing a walk. After an error by Dutch outfielder Eugene Kingsale, Reyes scored from first, giving the DR the one-run edge. It was the DR's only run of the night, after the team stranded 16 men on base. But in the bottom of the 10th Kingsale made amends for his mistakes. Pinch-hitter Sidney de Jong doubled to start of the bottom half of the tenth with a Kingsale single bringing de Jong home. Later, after a Willy Aybar error at first, Kingsale scored the winning run.
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