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Daily News - Thursday, 12 March 2009

Cultural Capital of the Americas
Santo Domingo has been chosen as the Cultural Capital of the Americas 2010. This is a prestigious nomination, comparable with being selected to host the world expo or the Olympic Games. Xavier Tudela, president of the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals made the announcement at the organization's headquarters in Barcelona today. Tudela highlights that the appointment will provide a boost for the wealth of Dominican culture and serve to promote the city.
The initiative, which was launched by the Center of European Studies at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, has received support from the Presidency, the ministries of Culture and Tourism, the City of Santo Domingo and tourism organizations under the Tourism Cluster of Santo Domingo.
The city will benefit from extensive promotion by the Cultural Capitals of the Americas organization on leading media around the world, including Antena 3 Internacional, the official TV channel of the movement, and Discovery Channel.
The Cultural Capitals of the Americas program evolved from an original initiative that started in 1985, designating European Culture Capitals and going on to become one of the European Union's most popular and unifying initiatives. As of 2000, it moved on to the Americas.
The American Capital of Culture (CAC) promotes cultural integration in the Americas, improving awareness of cultural heritage among its peoples, while respecting national and regional diversity, and focusing on shared cultural heritage.
To date, the cultural capitals of the Americas in Latin America and the Caribbean have been:
Merida (Mexico) 2000, Iquique (Chile) 2001, Maceio (Brazil) 2002, Panama City (Panama), Curitiba (Brazil) 2003, Santiago (Chile) 2004, Guadalajara (Mexico) 2005, Cordoba (Argentina) 2006, Cuzco (Peru) 2007, Brasilia (Brazil) 2008, Asuncion (Paraguay) 2009 and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) 2010.
See www.ibocc.org/news.php?ref=72

Montas sees a 3% growth in GDP
Minister for Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas says that the forecasts of a 6% increase in the GDP for this year have been downgraded to a 3% growth rate due to the impact of the global economic crisis. Montas said that he felt that the country and the whole region would have reduced access to foreign credits since the lending institutions have increased their interest rates and have fewer resources at their disposal. He pointed out the decision by China and oil-producing nations to deposit their money in countries that have generated the crisis would permit a demand for large amounts of resources and causing the country and the region greater indebtedness and problems with economic growth and balance of payments. According to the official there will be fewer subsidies for LPG and the electricity sector as part of the country's measures to tackle the crisis. These subsidies consume some US$2 billion with electricity using US$1.3 billion of this. Montas spoke during a conference sponsored by the Santo Domingo Archdiocese, called "The financial crisis and its impact on the Dominican Republic, an opportunity for solidarity." The head of the Customs Department, Miguel Cocco and Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) chief Jose Rafael Vargas also took part in the discussions.

August deadline for transfer of vehicles
The Tax Department (DGII) is informing taxpayers who have sold motor vehicles, but whose purchasers have yet to make the title transfer to make the most of the facilities provided by Law 492-08 that relieves former owners of responsibilities and consequences that the Civil Code establishes by remaining as the vehicles' legal owners. The law, which was published last 9 February, stipulates that sellers have six months, until 9 August, to get their papers in order. This means that anyone who sold a vehicle before the law was published can get the vehicle registration changed to reflect the new owners without penalties. The process can be carried out with or without a copy of the sales agreement by filling out a sworn affidavit and paying a small RD$300 fee. The vehicles will have an administrative impediment until the new owner pays the vehicle transfer fees. The person who registers the sale will receive a certificate . The form can be obtained at the DGII offices as well as from the webpage under the section titled "Formularios".
The DGII will certify in the files that correspond to the vehicle that the sale took place according to the document.
The Tax Department website is www.dgii.gov.do

AMET is not testing for drinking
What about the breathalyzers? This is the question that citizens are asking three years after the traffic police (AMET), under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police, made a major international purchase of breathalyzers and introduced their use as proof of driving under the influence of alcohol, a violation of Law 241. Some drivers say that the measure is not being implemented, but the Ministry and AMET assured reporters from El Caribe that the tests are carried out in strategic locations and that more than 60 are done every day. People questioned by reporters said that the tests have been reduced after the expectations created by the initial announcement generated heated debates on their use. One taxi driver, Arialdo Garcia, said, "This is not working right now, people are driving drunk, doing anything, and nobody says anything. They should get tougher on this." Deputy Minister of the Interior and Police and coordinator of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Program (COBA), Henry Castellanos, together with AMET assistant chief Lt. Colonel Ramon Abreu Feliz, assured reporters that random testing is being done all over the country. Castellanos said that people probably thought that this was going to be done all the time, and pointed out that this is not a coercive measure, "but rather, it is done randomly and according to the behavior of the driver in question. If there is suspicion then the test is carried out." Abreu Feliz said that the use of the breathalyzers was not a witch-hunt. After acquiring 1,200 devices that are not, in the United States at least, certified as evidentiary proof in courts, and hundreds of thousands of mouthpieces, the breath testing program for suspected drunk drivers was launched in March 2007. Abreu Feliz told reporters that as the AMET units learn more about the equipment and get more training, they would use it more effectively.

Authorities eye lands for Carlos Diaz victims
The government is on the verge of relocating the victims of the Carlos Diaz landslides. Yesterday the director general of the National Housing Institute (INVI), Alma Fernandez and provincial governor Jose Izquierdo worked out the final details for acquiring 221 'tareas' (about 14 hectares) where 400 houses will be built for the families that were displaced in Tamboril. Fernandez and Izquierdo visited the area of Canca la Piedra to talk with the landowner and are hoping that he will make them an offer today. Izquierdo told El Caribe that even though there are several offers, the lands that they visited are the ones he likes best because they are close to Carlos Diaz. "We have decided to send the surveyors and personnel to do the soil studies so that once things are verified and the proposal that we make reaches the owner, we can proceed with the purchase." Civil Defense workers conducted a census of the people who were displaced and affected by the landslides, and found that 387 families had been displaced by the events of last 12 February. On the issue of some 200 families from La Cumbre de Veras and Palo Quemado (along the Luperon Toruist Highway), Izquierdo said that his team was studying the situation in order to determine whether a full-blown relocation was needed. He said that while many homes had shifted and many of the foundations had cracks, there were no major landslides as in Carlos Diaz.

Doctors go on 24-hour strike
With the warning that the fight is on and the struggle will continue, the doctors are breaking the truce, and this time they are accompanied by other sectors in resuming their campaign for a salary increase with a national, 24-hour strike at public hospitals and Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) hospitals as of 6am today. Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero reported that the executive committee has been called into permanent session and that the strike is their response to the Senate's decision to reject the legislative proposal that sought to fund a health sector salary increase by taxing betting parlors, checks and Health Risk Administrators (HMOs) with a 1% charge on earnings. In response, Public Health Minister Dr. Bautista Rojas Gomez instructed hospital management personnel to ensure that patients who go there for help receive services. He said that it was his duty to guarantee services for the poor patients who use these hospitals and that he respects the doctors and other health service sectors, even if he is not in agreement with their form of protest. On this occasion the doctors will be backed by nurses, bio-analysts, dentists, pharmacists and other health technicians who work for the Public Health Ministry as well as for IDSS, and who are also asking for pay raises. Last year, the doctors staged over 10 work stoppages at public hospitals and IDSS units. Suero confirmed that legislators had rejected the proposal after six months of discussions, saying that they were just teasing the doctors.

LF has 56% acceptance among poorest
A total of 56.3% of Dominicans in the D and E groups express their approval for President Leonel Fernandez's administration. The data is found in the survey of homes of socio-economic levels D and E by consulting firm Promoting Survey International for Diario Libre.
40.2% of the sample described Fernandez' work as good, while 10% said it was excellent and 6.1% said it was very good. 25.4% said his efforts were bad and 18.3% said that they were very bad. As can be seen, President Fernandez is maintaining the popularity levels that permitted his re-election in the last elections.
On social issues, unemployment occupies the first place among the social problems that the Dominican population is facing right now, especially the D and E segments, and this is closely followed by a lack of safety and inflation.
The five principal problems that affect segments D/E are: unemployment, mentioned by 30.2%; insecurity, 29.6%; inflation, 29.3%; high food prices with 28.9% and housing issues with 26.7%.
When the sample was asked what type of actions would contribute to a better quality of life for Dominicans, 32.8% said that there should be more sources of employment. 9% said that a lower cost of living and 7.4% said that more investment in education and health would make things better.
A full 70% of the D and E segments believes that the situation is bad, and of these, 43.7% think that it is very bad and 27% call it bad. 25.4% believed that things are good, 2.6% think that things are excellent and 1.3% believe that the situation is very good.
When the current economic situation is compared with last year, 28.3% answered that we are worse off now than a year ago; 18.6% thinks that it is just as bad and 10.9% feel that it is much worse. On the other hand, 18.6% believe that it is better, 8.4% that it is the same, and 8% think it is much better and 7.1% felt that it is good.
About the future, 32.5% of those interviewed said that they felt that their economic situation would be better in the future, followed by 21.2% that said that they thought it would be much better, a total of 53.7%. A total of 12.9% said that it will get worse, 10% said that it will be the same and 7.4% felt it would get much worse. 10% thought it was good and 6.1% that it would be just as good.
On the issue of personal security, 46.3% said that there has been a large increase in the lack of security over the last year, and 17.7% said that insecurity has increased somewhat, which gives a total of 64% that perceives that crime has increased, which constitutes a concern for the people. 20.9% estimated that crime is about the same, while 12.5% said it has gone down somewhat and 2.6% said that it has gone down a lot.
When questioned about political systems there was a great deal of ignorance about this among people in segments D and E. Asked what political system they would prefer for the Dominican Republic, 60.8% said that they did not know, while 31.2% said that they preferred democracy; 5.5% preferred socialism; 1.6% mentioned capitalism and 1% mentioned communism.

Almeyda: PRD "looking for trouble"
Minister of the Interior and Police Franklin Almeyda said yesterday that the PRD is "looking for a death" in the Santiago barrio of La Yaguita del Pastor, after repeating his accusation that the party is behind the disturbances that so far have led to several injuries. He said that the party has exposed its internal struggles between "ruffians" who are fighting for control, a struggle between former President Hipolito Mejia and former candidate Miguel Vargas. He warned, "It seems that in La Yaguita del Pastor the PRD wants someone to die, but it won't be the National Police who cause this death".
The minister stressed that the situation was not tense and that there are no disturbances in the barrios covered by the Safe Barrio Program, only out in La Yaguita del Pastor where it is being pushed by elements of the PRD. When he spoke to reporters from Listin Diario, Almeyda was leaving a meeting of the Migration Council, and he said that 31 barrios were covered by the Safe Barrio program and only one of them was the scene of violence. "I have said on other occasions that the PRD is behind these things and I am repeating it here."

Airports reject elimination of charge
The nation's airports are rejecting decree 179-09 that eliminates the small surcharge for handling airfreight that is applied to the airlines, on the grounds that this change breaches the air terminals commercial contract rights. The airports' position is set out in a document signed by executives of Aeropuerto Dominicanos Siglo XXI (Aerodom), Cibao International Airport, Punta Cana Airport and La Romana Airport, who all make up the Association of Airports.
The document says that they were not consulted about the decree. The new regulation, 179-09, is dated yesterday and was made public during a meeting of the Summit follow-up commission at the PUCMM campus in Santo Domingo by Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas. The Airport Association said that the charge makes up less than 4% of the cost of shipping for the freighters and that the measure would only benefit the airlines that charge high prices for freight, but not the export sector. According to El Caribe, the airports asked the Airport Commission to reject the request from the perishable goods export sector to reduce the surcharge on each pound of freight exported that is applied to airfreight. "The airports charge the airlines for the use of the facilities and the airport infrastructure, facilities that, in turn, serve to support the very air freighters and the cargo handlers for the development of their airport businesses, making money from the export sector," they stated. In a letter sent to the Minister of Public Works, Victor Diaz Rua, the president, ex-oficio of the Airport Commission, the airport operators point out that the airlines do not necessarily have to transfer the price they pay for the use of the airport facilities to the exporters, nor should the airports be penalized for this transfer of costs of the contracts with the Dominican government. Felix M. Garcia, president of the Cibao Airport board of directors, said that the exporters astutely took their problem to the national summit, "and they have issued a decree that makes it impossible to collect these four cents." As a result, plain and simple, no freight will leave the airports because the airports will not handle it. Garcia said, "This has already been rejected." Temistocles Montas reported that talks were under way with the Director of Customs in the hope of implementing a measure aimed at solving the problem "in order to ease the situation for the airports." In a letter from representatives of the Dominican airports, copied to Montas, Presidential legal advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe, Presidential Chief of Staff Cesar Pina Toribio and Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti, and Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose Ramon Fadul, the airport operators said that the reduction of the surcharge did not make any sense.

US Consulate asks baseball to investigate
The United States Consulate has asked Major League Baseball to investigate more than 40 recent contracts with Dominican players for possible discrepancies in their birthdates. The vice-president of operations for MLB, Lou Menendez, confirmed this on ESPN.com. MLB's new investigative unit, which is based in New York, will study the cases of 42 of 44 players, including several promising prospects who signed with very good bonuses, according to Menendez. The visas of players who provided false information in their applications can be revoked or suspended. According to the report, the former consular administration only required the players to prove their identity in order to obtain visas, although investigators from MLB in the Dominican Republic did have questions about their ages. "The former administration was not interested if the players were 17 or 18," Menendez said. "It is disconcerting because some of these cases are two and three years old. Some of the players have traveled to the United States." The United States Embassy spokesperson was not available for comment.

DNCD nabs man sentenced to 20 years
A man who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment less than a month ago, but was then found walking the streets, was arrested yesterday during an operation by the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) and the San Cristobal prosecutor's office. The man was found in possession of a kilogram of cocaine, 74 portions of marijuana and 44 portions of crack cocaine. Robert Asencio was arrested in Haina at 5am, and according to San Cristobal prosecutor Faustino Pulinario, they are investigating to see why he was free. According to Diario Libre, the Second Collegiate Tribunal of San Cristobal had found Asencio guilty and sentenced him to serve 20 years. The assistant prosecutor for that jurisdiction, Feliz Santana, made the arrest. Hoy newspaper says that Pulinario had been convicted of murder, adding that the Prisons Department reported that Pulinario was free under an order that was part of Resolution 158-2007, dated 7 July 2007 by the assistant prosecutor for the Judicial District of San Cristobal, Robert Lugo. However, the Penal Process Code says that such orders have to be drawn up by a magistrate.

Bon Environmental Fair
Grupo Bon, producers of Bon ice cream, juices and marmalades, and its sister company La Loma, producer of macadamia nuts, is holding its First Ecological Fair, EcoBon 2009 at the Mirador del Sur Park on Saturday, 14 March. The focus of activities will be the Park's Environmental Information Center. The day's activities include environmental education workshops, talks, contests to stimulate creativity in recycling, games, and demonstrations on how everyone can contribute to preserving the environment.
The fair starts at 10am and will go on until 6pm, with the support of the Herrera Industries Association, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Dominican Environmental Consortium, the Mirador walkers and runners group and other associations. Sponsorship has been secured from the Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana (Presidente Beer, Malta Morena malt), Coca Cola, Mister Hot Dog, Provocon, Nosotros Empanadas, Parmalat, Loma Quita Espuela, La Loma, Palic, Grupo Bon, Sema and others.
More than 500 Bon employees will be taking part to help create awareness of the importance of caring for and preserving the environment. The event seeks to introduce the 4R concept to Dominicans: reducing, reusing, replacing and recycling waste.
Jesus Moreno, president of Bon highlights that it is an initiative aimed at making citizens and residents of Santo Domingo aware that the environment needs to be an integral part of everyone's life. They hope to make a positive impact through environmental education and to share information on the Loma Quita Espuela scientific reserve, located in San Francisco de Macoris, a leading source of the most rivers in the Dominican Republic.
For more info on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

WBC loss costs millions
Dominicana's unexpected loss to the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and failure to move on to Round 2 has led to millions of dollars in financial losses for several companies, reports Listin Diario. Tour operators, advertising campaigns and TV promotion are all suffering as a result of the diminished interest from Dominicans in being part of the WBC. Eddy Tours told the newspaper that of 23 packages they had sold, only six travelers who had pre-paid would be making the trip. Spokesman for the agency, Edison Urena, said the day after the loss was a "black Wednesday" for them. The BHD bank and Presidente beer had spent millions on their campaigns to support the Dominican participation in the Classic.

Pedro criticizes MLB
Pedro Martinez, who shone during the game against the Netherlands, blamed the World Baseball Classic organizers for the Dominican defeat. "They banned us from training together. They kept us away from our manager, and we could not practice strategies, and that made no sense," he said. Felipe Alou had planned a mini-training camp in Santo Domingo to get the Dominican players synchronized, but this was blocked by the MLB on the grounds that it was outside the training dates the teams were assigned.
 
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