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Daily News - Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Golf as a tool to attract investments
Golf is played by millions of enthusiasts around the world and players come from all over the world. What unites them is high purchasing power, says Eddy Martinez, director of the Center for Exports and Investments, as quoted in Listin Diario. The CEI-RD is sponsoring the Cap Cana Championship, part of the PGA Senior Tour, under way from 23-29 March at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Punta Espada Golf Club in the residential development of Cap Cana. A big plus is the extensive coverage the event receives on The Golf Channel.
Martinez says while it is a leading tourist attraction, golf also has the potential to foster ties that boost exports and investments. "Many people play golf. That is the sport that defines big-time investors and executives, the people whose attention we would like to attract," he says. He mentioned that in Japan 20 million people play golf and it would be a good way to try and establish relations with the country. One of the big name players this year is Greg Norman, who is designing the Costa Blanca golf course in Juan Dolio.

Constitutional reform on hold
Members of the National Assembly have agreed to postpone hearings on the new Constitution Act presented by President Leonel Fernandez until 14 April 2009, once the Holy Week holiday is over. Members of the Assembly also agreed to meet every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after the Holy Week break to discuss the proposed reform. According to Hoy, legislators also agreed that any issue that requires voting should only pass with a majority vote and that all information about the reform process should be made public, ensuring transparency in the process.

JCE rejects PRSC proposal
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has rejected a proposal by the PRSC political party to categorize it as a majority party. Recognition of this claim by the JCE would have allowed the PRSC to receive a third of the 80% of public funds allotted to political parties for their campaigning activities. The PRSC argued that the allocation of funds by the JCE should be made based on the results of the 2006 congressional and municipal elections when the PRSC received 15% of the vote, and not the 2008 presidential election. In the 2008 presidential election, the PRSC's candidate Amable Aristy Castro fell below the 5% minimum threshold for classifying as a majority party. In 2009 the parties will receive RD$752.2 million, or 0.25% of national spending. Of this total amount the PRD and PLD will receive 80% of the funds and the remaining 20% will be divided between the remaining political parties.

Ubri gets another trial
The Second Penal Chamber of the National District Appeals Court has ordered another trial for the wife of former military captain Quirino Paulino, Belkis Elizabeth Ubri Medrano and former associate Ernesto Guevara Diaz a.k.a. "Maconi. The court also dropped all charges against Pedro Julio (Pepe) Goico, who had been accused of involvement in Paulino's drug ring. The Court disregarded a request by the Public Ministry not to go ahead with a second trial on the basis that it was "illogical and anti-judicial." The Court's decision also disregarded an agreement made by the State Prosecutors, on behalf of Ubri, and the New York District Attorney's office, which would have allowed Ubri to leave the DR without serving jail time and enter a protection program in the US.
Hoy says that the court's rejection was partly due to the fact that the request document was "a simple piece of paper with no judicial value," and that the Court didn't even receive the original, notarized copies. However, the Court of Appeals did order that Ubri's next trial should be held in a different court from the one that emitted the original sentence.
Lawyer Vinicio Castillo Seman said that the decision threatens the agreement the Dominican judiciary signed with the New York City Southern District Court where the case against former military captain Quirino Paulino is being heard. "The extradition of Quirino's powerful connections in the country, which depended on the fulfillment of the agreements with the US prosecutors, have now evidently been blocked with this court decision, which calls for profound reflection," says Castillo Seman.
As part of the agreement, the government agreed to allow several of Quirino's relatives to leave the country in return for his sharing information on key players in the drug trafficking ring. The agreement sought to dismantle one of the most powerful drug dealing rings in the DR, and once the relatives had traveled to the US what was pending was the extradition of key players, prompting widespread speculation that these included members of the Dominican military and government hierarchies.
The Appeals Court judges in the Belkis Ubri case are Ramon Horacio Gonzalez, Pedro Antonio Sanchez and Luis Rosa, who ordered a re-trial for Ubri and Ernesto Guevara Diaz (Maconi), who is requested in extradition by the US.

Judge refuses jail time
Judge Reinaldo Antonio Cisneros has opted not to send 20 Bonao officers to three months in preventive custody for their alleged cooperation with drug traffickers. District prosecutor Arismendy Ramirez Nova had requested the three-month detention. The judge also annulled all charges against six of the officers who were accused of taking money from drug traffickers and ordered the other 14 officers to appear before the court every 30 days. The Judge based his decision on the fact that the names written in a notebook didn't match the handwriting of alleged drug dealer Nelson Sanchez. The notebook had revealed complicity between several cops and the drug dealers.

Too many arrests for drugs
Air Force Major Ramon de los Santos, in charge of National Drug Control Department (DNCD) operations in the central city of Bonao, says that 33-year old Felix Garcia Frias has been arrested on drug dealing charges once more. His first arrest was on 3 April 1991, when he lived in Santo Domingo. He has also been arrested on drug charges on 29 September 2006, 10 March 2007, 13 May 2007, and on 22 March 2009. The DNCD says that he was arrested for selling cocaine from his home. The DNCD confiscated cocaine, crack, two SUVs (Mitsubishi Montero and Nissan Murano), a gun, a scale, and several cell phones. He was arrested during a search of his home at Calle Hortensia in Bonao's Los Suarez neighborhood. Members of the DNCD Northeastern Division, based in San Francisco de Macoris made the arrest. According to the DNCD, three other people, Juan Morel Abreu, Victor Diaz Dilone and Blanca Calendario, were also detained. DNCD spokesman Robert Lebron Jimenez said that this was the "Seventh time that Garcia Frias had been arrested by the DNCD".

DR labor cost high
The DR has the highest social benefit cost in all Latin America, making up 64% of wages paid by businesses, according to Isabel Estevez Estrella, director of ADECCO Dominicana. ADECCO is the leading global provider of job opportunities, career advice and expert recruiting solutions. Estevez says that their studies have found that regional social labor costs are: Colombia (53.71%), Ecuador (53%) Peru (45.97%), Argentina (45%), Panama (43.82%), Venezuela (43.61%), Guatemala (43.22%), Mexico (37%), Brazil (35.80%), Paraguay (32%), Chile (28.35%), Costa Rica (28%) and El Salvador (26%). Estevez says that these figures should raise concerns among those who make decisions on labor.
Local business representatives are warning that costs of hiring in the formal sector, due to elements such as high severance pay and social security obligations, are a deterrent to job creation in the DR, at a time when creating and keeping jobs should be a national priority.

"NY greed" to kill Cabarete?
The small town of Cabarete on the north coast of the Dominican Republic has enjoyed sustainable tourism since the early 1980s.
Thousands of tourists who travel the world in search of wind have turned the town into a kiteboarding, windsurfing and sailing Mecca.
Now the beauty of hundreds of sails and kites on the water every afternoon has caught the eye of New York-based developer Sackman Enterprises, that is lobbying to change the height rulings for Cabarete.
The Federation for Sustainable Cabarete (FCS) says that the company plans to build three nine-story towers in Cabarete, but current density law limits buildings to a height of three floors, and this keeps the small-town ambience and ensures constant wind flow over the low-density constructions.
In a press release, the FCS that unites associations that support Cabarete's sustainable growth says: "Like in movies showing how business is done in third world countries, Sackman Enterprises, Inc, has been wining and dining low-ranking government officials with direct contact to the ministers, promising them great incentives if the density laws are changed. Some of these government officials are now threatening the low budget environmental activists as part of their efforts to please Sackman Enterprises."
The Federation for Sustainable Cabarete, the Association for the Development of Cabarete, the windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing schools in Cabarete, and the Sosua and Cabarete Association for the Protection of Tourism and the Environment have all sent letters to the Minister of Tourism, "in the hope that New York greed will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg", says Ari Barshi, spokesman for the Cabarete windsurfing, kiteboarding and sailing schools.
Barshi says that maybe Sackman Enterprises does not realize that by asking for a permit to build over three floors they are creating a precedent for all other landowners to obtain the same permission.
Sackman vice president Jamie Hefelfinger disputes the towers will affect the wind. A wind study contracted by Sackman Enterprises to Cermak, Peterka, Petersen Wind Engineering & Air Quality Consultants (CPP Inc) says the impact of The Fountains on the offshore conditions "would be negligible". "It is likely that the stepped and staggered massing of the design also assists in the lack of impact on sailing conditions," reads the executive summary.
Barshi, one of the pioneers of windsurfing in Cabarete, says that the wind study done for The Fountains is incomplete. He says that they built a model of Cabarete as it is today and the study does not take into consideration at all the effect of their buildings conserving heat at night and influencing the thermal effect between land and ocean.
"This is a lab study that tries to guess how buildings will affect the wind flow when the wind comes from the ocean," says Barshi. "But over the last week I have been sailing with top sailors including Anna Tunnicliffe, Gold Medal winner in the last Olympic games, and the wind was offshore many of the days. How can they even try to claim that if the wind blows from the land to the ocean, nine-story structures will not have a negative effect?" he asks.
Peter Orr, president of the Association for the Development of Cabarete, says that the existing study does indeed not address the concern of what effect numerous buildings over the height of four floors between the road and lagoon would have on the wind, once developers secure a change in the three-floor law. This needs to be studied prior to changing the height ruling, he says.
In a press release sent to DR1, Hefelfinger says that the development aims to preserve Cabarete's core attraction - wind sports - while expanding its appeal to a larger spectrum of visitors. Hefelfinger says that The Fountains has not yet received approval for the change in height and density and thus could not provide details on the proposed development. Nevertheless, he says that density and height changes are necessary for the south side of the road to be developed.
"The need for additional height is not motivated by greed, but rather, by the need to provide visitors and homeowners with the view and experience befitting a four-star location. The Fountains location has one drawback - it does not feature a beachfront - and under the current law a three-story project would not have a view of the ocean. In fact a three-story building constructed on our site would feature a view of the four-story structures across the street. The resulting views from the proposed height increase will provide The Fountains its greatest asset and usher in the next evolution in Cabarete's growth," he argues.
Omar Bros, president of the Federation for a Sustainable Cabarete has asked people who wish to help keep Cabarete as a world center for outdoor activities and sailing to send their opinions to Deputy Minister of Tourism Radhames Martinez Aponte at [email protected]
For more on the future of Cabarete debate, see:
The Fountains
CPP Wind Study

Pacheco gets recognition
Salsa star Johnny Pacheco was honored with top Dominican show business award "El Soberano," while Merengue performer Omega stirred the audience at last night's Casandra awards. In his acceptance speech, Pacheco thanked Dominicans for their support and said that he would have given anything for his father to have been there to witness his success. Despite strong criticism from women's groups, fans voted to award Omega the Casandra for best "Street Merengue Artist." Though the category itself has provoked controversy in artistic circles, it was Omega's 2007 trial for domestic abuse that raised the greatest concern. During the ceremony, Rhina Ramirez received a special award and Jose Manuel Calderon was honored for being the first "bachatero." Other highlights included Jose Pena Suazo who was awarded three statuettes. Performers at the silver anniversary of the Casandra awards included Karina Pasian, Alih Jey, Hector Acosta, Frank Reyes, Fernando Villalona, Rafa Rosario and Bonny Cepeda among others. Another high point of the evening was a salsa medley by stars Tito Nieves, Jose Alberto El Canario, Michel and Sexappeal. Special guests at the ceremony were Mexico's Cristian Castro, David Bisbal and Paloma San Basilio from Spain, and Daddy Yankee from Puerto Rico. The winners at the 25th Casandra Awards are:

El Soberano: Johnny Pacheco

Classics & Theater:
Best Actor of the Year: Ivan Garcia (Requiem para una noche de viernes)
Best Actress of the Year: Maria Castillo (Tres mujeres altas)
Best Theater Director: Maria Castillo
Best Drama Production: Tres mujeres altas

Dance, Music and Shows:
Best Classical Performer Abroad: Aisha Syed Castro
Best Classical/Modern Dancer: Victor Ramirez
Best Choreographer: Waddys Jaquez
Best Classical/Modern Show: Estrellas de la danza dominicana
Best Musical: Les Miserables (Carolina Riva)
Best Classical Vocal: Marianela Sanchez
Most Outstanding Dominican Artist Abroad: Juan Luis Guerra
Best Popular Group Abroad: Aventura
Best Merengue Orchestra: Hector Acosta (El Torito)
Street Merengue: Omega
Best Salsa Musician: Sexappeal
Best Pop Rock: Calor Urbano
Best Religious Music Performer: Jose Luis Reyes
Best Orchestration and Musical Arranger: Jose Pena Suazo
Best Songwriter: Jose Pena Suazo
Best Music CD: Mitad, mitad (Hector Acosta)
Merengue of the Year: Una cosa que amarra
Bachata of the Year: Donde estan esos amigos (El Chaval)
Concert of the Year: KOB (Aventura)
Best Show: Hermanos Rosario Anniversary, 30 Years of Swing (Waddys Jaquez, producer)
Best Female Vocal: Cristal Marie
Best Male Vocal: Wason Brazoban
Best Bachata Performer Group: Anthony Santos
Best Grassroots Music Group: El Prodigio
Revelation of the Year: Issa Gadala

Television & Radio:
Best Investigative Journalism: Nuria en el 9
Best Daily Variety TV program: Show de Nelson (Channel 25, Santiago)
Best Weekly Variety TV Program: Divertido con Jochy
Best Variety Show: Noche de Luz (Channel 7)
Best Children's TV program: El Campamento de Robert Luis (Channel 11)
Best Youth TV Program: Iamdra Full (Channel 2)
Best Comedy Program: Con Miguel y Raymond (Channel 5)
Best Comedian: Raymond Pozo (Channel 5)
Best Radio Broadcaster: Reynaldo Infante
Best MC: Jochy Santos
Best Presenter: Jatnna Tavarez
Best Music Video: Amor Samurai (Chichi Peralta)
Best Dominican Cinema Production: Ladrones a domicilio (Angel Muniz)
Best Cinema Actor: Manolo Ozuna
Best Cinema Actress: Sonia Silvestre
Best Cinema Director: Angel Muniz
Best Specialized Program: Las Sufragistas (Martha Checo, Jatnna Tavarez)
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