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Daily News - Friday, 20 March 2009

Fernandez announces measures
President Leonel Fernandez was in Bahoruco yesterday to announce measures aimed at helping communities recover from the losses caused by the flooding of Enriquillo Lake. The floods have affected populations in both Independencia and Bahoruco provinces. The government promised RD$180 million for the restoration of the Trujillo dike and the Cristobal canal by the National Institute for Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI). An initial allocation of RD$60 million will be disbursed immediately, said the President.
Forestation initiatives are planned, and farmers will receive RD$23 million in debt relief. The government also promised assistance to relocate 500 families and farmers. Fernandez asked the Ministry of Agriculture to rehabilitate 70 hectares of land for banana cultivation.
Speaking at a press conference held at a community center in Los Rios, Fernandez said that he expects all work on the renovations to be advanced within a three-month period. The Ministry of Public Works will begin the reconstruction of roads affected by the flooding. Fernandez said: "Basically, I want to make the most of this opportunity to deliver a message of encouragement and hope."

Summit measures passed to Congress
Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado has announced that President Leonel Fernandez has submitted the measures that emerged from February's National Political Summit to Congress. "All the queries that were discussed in the seven workshops about the constitutional reform have been submitted to Congress by President Fernandez."

Reporting on advisory services
The Department of Taxes has just issued Ruling No. 04-2009 that establishes that individuals or companies offering professional services to companies abroad are now required to bill using the official invoices (NCF) that are required for local transactions. The DGII says that these professional services are representation, technical assistance in all areas and knowledge sharing. This does not apply to the transfer of assets.
The ruling indicates that revenues for services to individuals and companies abroad need to be included in the ITBIS form and declared as untaxed export operations. The violation of the requirement to file will be penalized with fines.

Branding Santo Domingo
The National District, Santo Domingo West and Haina city municipal authorities have signed a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Tourism to create a brand for the city of Santo Domingo, as a tourist and business destination. National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo says the goal is to promote Greater Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo East, West, North and the National District) as a single destination. Together, the area has around 3 million inhabitants. Salcedo believes Santo Domingo meets the criteria for becoming the Caribbean's commercial hub. The Ministry of Tourism and the National District city government will cover the costs of branding the city. Branding works will be under Rafael Holguin, the expert who developed the coat of arms the city is presently using.

EU gives cash for development
This year alone the European Union will donate EUR50 million to several development projects in the DR. According to Hoy, the only condition for receiving the funds is that reports on the government's public finances have to be presented to the EU. During a meeting at the Presidential Palace's Green Room, Domingo Jimenez, director general of Multilateral Cooperation and Aid for the European Development Fund, said that the money would go towards education. The EU has also agreed to provide additional assistance to the Dominican government so that it can fulfill the goals identified during February's cross-sectorial summit. Jimenez said that an initial EUR18 million would be handed out by June and by the third trimester of 2009 a total of EUR40 million will have been handed out.

CMD strike ends
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) ended its two-day national strike today, without much fanfare or national media coverage. Though the strikes have yielded no tangible results for the association that is made up of public hospital doctors, CMD president Waldo Ariel Suero believes there should be more strikes. Hoy quotes reports from the Health Ministry as saying that services at public hospitals across the country went on as normal, with military physicians filling in for the regular staff. The ministry said that the number of patients and operations reported on Thursday was even double those carried out on Wednesday, the first day of the strike. The CMD has been fighting for a wage increase of more than RD$30,000 and other benefits.

Need to reinforce ID security
Central Electoral Board judge Eddy Olivares has told Listin Diario that there is a need to unify the registration systems for issuing ID cards (cedulas), civil registration and voting registration. He said that the biometric system that the JCE had contracted to SOMO but was subsequently suspended, would only partly solve the matter. He said the problem of people with multiple ID cards would prevail during the upcoming municipal and legislative elections. He said that identity fraud is on the rise because of the lack of security mechanisms for the ID card. "Given that the voting in the congressional and municipal elections is for individual candidacies, where a senator, deputy or mayor can win by a difference of as little as 2, 5 or 10 votes, as has happened in the past, the results could be fraudulent and as a result, the entire process would be contaminated," he told Listin Diario.

Drug trafficker talks
Drug dealer Luis Jose Rodriguez Lugo (a.k.a. El Barbaro) says that French national Assen Akrabou was a key figure in transporting drugs to France through Puerto Plata airport and that his brother was on the receiving end of the shipments. According to Rodriguez, a man identified as Eduard, who worked for the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA), was the drug ring's inside contact at the airport and that 10 kilos of cocaine, costing US$2,000 per kilo, was passed through the airport on a weekly basis. Rodriguez revealed that Akrabou once tried to have him killed using the services of Franklin Hidalgo, over a RD$2 million drug shipment. Puerto Plata has come under heavy scrutiny as of late due to the detection of collusion between drug traffickers and police officials. However, Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa says he is still considering whether or not to allow an investigation into the ruling by judge Rosa Francia Liriano who allowed the release of 31 officers implicated in the Puerto Plata drug scandal.

Take drug investigations nationwide
Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, executive director of the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (Finjus), believes that the Police should extend the investigation it carried out in Puerto Plata on drug trafficking in the province nationwide. In an interview with El Caribe, he said that the justice system should be merciless with those found responsible for trafficking in drugs. An investigation into drug trafficking in Puerto Plata resulted in the dismissal of 31 low and high- ranking cops. The investigation, the result of surveillance carried out by General Manuel Castro, detected a series of incriminating conversations. While the cops were able to secure a court order from Judge Rosa Francia Liriano, releasing them from detention, the evidence is being circulating among the press and has been the talk of the town.
Castanos says that the evidence in the Puerto Plata case shows there is a serious problem with the Police nationwide that needs to be resolved. The report concludes that drug dealers in Puerto Plata were practically employing Police and National Drug Control Department officers. Castanos says that if this situation cannot be resolved, then another police force would have to be set up.
Manuel Maria Mercedes, president of the National Human Rights Commission, believes that state prosecutors need to take the investigations further and penalize those responsible. "This shows that the country's intelligence bodies have been deficient because situations of this kind have come up on other occasions and it is only when they hit the press that the institutions act," he said.
Virgilio Almanzar, president of the Dominican Human Rights Committee, said that Penal Court judge Rosa Francia Liriano had acted irresponsibly, given that there is too much evidence that incriminates the officers.
Today a court in Puerto Plata, Primer Tribunal de Atencion Permanente de Puerto Plata, will hear requests for coercion measures requested by prosecutors against 31 former cops who are accused of protecting drug traffickers and committing crimes on instructions from drug dealers. The president of the Puerto Plata Lawyers Association said that prosecutors had acted irregularly by failing to issue an arrest order for the cops, despite the fact that the cops had been under arrest for about a month.

Drug surveillance plane lands at sea
A small plane on a drug surveillance flight landed in the sea yesterday after its motor failed. Hoy newspaper reports that the pilot had warned that he was running short on fuel. Miraculously, the four people on board survived. They were rescued by fisherman and taken to a Santo Domingo hospital where they are recovering satisfactorily. Air Force Chief Major General Carlos Rafael Altuna Tezanos made the announcement. The pilot is Colonel Mateo Fuentes Soto who was accompanied by Major Wascar Gonzalez Payano and two women officers, First Lieutenants Lee Mateo and Massiel Estrella . The plane left the San Isidro Air Base at 6:15am on Thursday, crashing into the sea not far from shore.

Quirinito to jail
The Primer Juzgado de Atencion Permanente del Distrito Nacional has sent Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua, "Quirinito" to three months detention at Najayo jail. He is now being accused in connection with the death of businessman Victor Mella Terrero in 2007. Judge Deysi Miguelina Abreu ordered the arrest. Castillo's lawyer said he would appeal. Castillo is known as "Quirinito" because he is related to Quirino Paulino Castillo, currently on trial in NYC for his role in one of the largest drug export operations in Dominican history.
Quirinito had secured an order that released him from Najayo, where he was being held in custody for his alleged involvement in the murder of a Spaniard.

Higuey protest turns ugly
At least 30 people were arrested and four people injured following protests in Higuey yesterday. The unrest was linked to the 24-hour bus strike in the DR's eastern region, which ended at 6pm after a meeting between transport unions and the Higuey Chief of Police. Burning tires, barricades and rock throwers were all part of the scene as the strike held strong in the five provinces of the east. Manolo Ramirez, speaking on behalf of more than 300 unions, said that if the government fails to build roads to the smaller towns in the east the protests would continue.

No jail for Tejada
Miguel Tejada is not expected to serve jail time for making false statements to Congress about his knowledge of performance enhancing drugs. Jeffrey Taylor, US attorney for the District of Columbia explained that Tejada should receive probation. His sentencing hearing will be on 26 March. Taylor is quoted as saying, "He understands the seriousness of it. Mr. Tejada poses a minimal risk of recidivism and, based on his public statements, appears to have learned a difficult and important life lesson from his experience in this case." Tejada pleaded guilty on Feb.11 to one count of making misrepresentations to Congress. Tejada was questioned in 2005 by congressional investigators who were trying to determine whether his former teammate with the Baltimore Orioles, Rafael Palmeiro, should have been charged for lying to Congress.

Sports fans cheers Telecable
Telecable has announced an extension of its sports channel services with the addition of NBA and MLB games. During a press conference at the Hotel Jaragua's Champions Bar, Telecable's Alba Flores announced that Channel 42, for Telecable subscribers, would now transmit NBA TV, a 24-hour channel dedicated to NBA, WNBA, NBA D/League and playoff basketball. Subscribers will be able to watch 177 total pro basketball games, including the post season. Telecable will also be offering a premium package which will include the live transmission of MLB baseball games. Channels 131 and 135 will transmit the games beginning on 6 April.

Paper Airplanes competition
Thousands of pilots, dozens of qualifiers and 85 compete to reach the world finals of the Worldwide Paper Plane Contest, the Red Bull Paper Wings. The competition will take place this Sunday, 22 March at the Olympic Center Judo Pavilion.
This is the second year that Dominicans also compete to be the first in the categories of longest airtime, longest distance and aerobatics. The world record for "longest airtime" since 1998 is 27.6 seconds. The longest distance ever covered is 58.82 meters.
The trick is in the new types of paper airplanes, wing tips and control surfaces.
Participants need to use a piece of standard A4 format paper, which can only be folded.
Contestants just need a sheet of paper, plenty of ideas, strong or skillful upper arms and a health portion of idealism to participate.
The winner of the event in the DR wins the right to compete in the finals that will take place at Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria.
To enter, write to [email protected] or go to the official event website, www.redbullpaperwings.com

Drama, Jazz, rock, boleros & orchids
There is always a lot happening in Santo Domingo. For instance, the national drama festival is under way, with performances at several venues. There is excellent jazz in the Colonial City. And for lovers of boleros, Jose Antonio Rodriguez is performing at Casa de Teatro in the Colonial City. For Latin rock fans, Calor Urbano is at Quintana Bar. And there is an orchid exhibition at the National Botanical Gardens this weekend.
For details on these and other upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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