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Daily News - Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Santiago commemorates Battle of 30 March
President Leonel Fernandez was in Santiago for the military parade celebrating the 165th anniversary of the Battle of 30 of March 1844, which helped consolidate Dominican independence. At a mass, Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio reminded the attendees that the Dominican Republic still has a major battle ahead: the fight against drug trafficking. He called on the nation to follow the spirit of Founding Father Juan Pablo Duarte and the quiet men who fought the battle of Santiago on 30 March 1844 in defeating the drug traffickers. The official activities got under way at 8:00 in the morning with Vice President Rafael Alburquerque raising the flag in the Jose Maria Imbert Park where the patriots, under the command of General Fernando Valerio and Jose Maria Imbert defeated the invading Haitian army. During the flag-raising ceremony, there was a 21-gun salute and the National Anthem was played. After the ceremony, authorities and students from public and private schools walked to the cathedral for the Mass. Historian Juan Daniel Balcacer, the president of the Permanent Commission for Patriotic Anniversaries, gave a speech honoring the heroes of the battle.

DGII gives tax break
The Director of the Department of Taxes (DGII) announced General Rule 05-09 yesterday, establishing that businesses will have a four-month grace period to effect increases in their authorized capital to comply with the new Corporation Law 479-08. The same tax exemption treatment will be given to individuals or companies that adapt the new business structures and require an increase in their capital. Likewise, the new DGII regulation provides deductions on taxes that would have applied for the transfer of shares and patrimony by contributions in goods in the process of transformation from a current "Anonymous Society" (S.A.), the most commonly used corporate status. The rule exempts companies from paying taxes on the increases in capital gains during this period. Neither will there be a 10% deductible on the transfer of goods subject to the registration in Decree 139-98 that addresses Regulations for the application of Title II of the Tax Code.
See www.dgii.gov.do/noticias/Paginas/...

Government concern at social unrest
The Dominican government's lack of financial capacity to protect the most vulnerable social sectors is provoking a dangerous social crisis at an accelerated rate that could end up creating serious governance problems. Dominican Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa made this warning during a speech to the annual Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) governor's conference in the Colombian city of Medellin. Bengoa said that what is happening in the Dominican Republic is similar to what is occurring in the rest of Latin America, so that if the region also falls into a recession there is a good chance that the United States would also experience worse conditions. Bengoa told the IDB assembly that the achievements by the country in the last few years now face a serious threat, with the additional problem that the Dominican economy is experiencing a process of deceleration that could end up as a recession if the state, through public spending, does not expand internal demand. He referred to the external shock of 2008 that went from a fiscal surplus of 0.3% in 2007 to a fiscal deficit of 3.4% in 2008. The official cited the fact that so far this year - as of 26 March - there has been an unprecedented fall off of nearly 7% in revenues from what was projected. This situation, he said, limits the government's capacity to compensate for the fall in private activity and stimulate the economy through an increase in public spending.

JCE software resold to other countries
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber, Roberto Rosario, has warned the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, about the sale of pirated software to countries in the region that includes the proprietary applications used in the JCE's electoral computing system that, according to information on hand, has already been used in the recent elections in El Salvador. According to Diario Libre, in a letter dated 25 March, Rosario indicated that this action "coincides with the fact that an employee of the institution, abusing his position, stole proprietary information about our computer system security." In this letter, Rosario recommended that the Secretariat of the OAS "alert the election boards of Latin America so that they are not surprised in their good faith by the promoter" by the pirated system that is being sold as "used in the Dominican Republic and Haiti." According to the JCE, a serious investigation involving the state security entities has been launched. The JCE's computer processes are based on a program designed by election board technicians for the exclusive use of the institution.

Senate to probe Williams' charges
Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez has announced the appointment of an investigative commission, describing the charges filed by three female journalists against Senator Alejandro Williams (PLD-San Pedro de Macoris) as "very serious". He announced the creation of the commission that will be investigating the case at the request of the Dominican College of Journalists, whose president Mercedes Castillo visited the Senate head yesterday to relay the journalist's complaint. Diario Libre says the commission will hear the version of journalists Maria Isabel Soldevila, from Listin Diario, Margarita Cordero from 7dias.com.do, and Norma Sheppard, the San Pedro de Macoris correspondent for Radio Mil Informando, who were visited by two men posing as detectives working for Medicaid, from the United States to investigate the alleged fraud by the senator. "We are waiting for the senator to get back, because he is out of the country, so that he can give us an explanation and face this complaint that has forced us to launch an investigation, so that questions are asked, because this complaint that has been made is very serious and if it is proven, we cannot tolerate it," said Pared Perez.

DR Navy rescues ship off Caicos
A Dominican Navy coastal patrol boat, the GC-104 Aldebaran, has rescued a ship, the Mandy Lynn some 80 nautical miles from the port of Luperon. The ship, with seven crew members and the captain, Charles Emmanuel Ford, had run out of fuel and was adrift after leaving Caicos Island in the Turks and Caicos. According to Vice Admiral Homero Luis Lajara Sola, the Aldebaran handed over the vessel to the tugboat "Guaroa" from the Dominican Tugboat Company (Remoldom), captained by First Lieutenant Argenis Manzueta Leonidas in order to be towed into port.

US hospital ship to dock in DR
The US Navy's hospital ship USNS Comfort will visit the Dominican Republic as part of a four-month humanitarian mission in Latin America and the Caribbean. Departing from Miami, the Comfort will visit Antigua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama. The 800-person crew includes military doctors from the United States, and invitees from Canada, Chile, Spain, El Salvador, France, the Netherlands and Nicaragua. During the mission medical, dental and veterinary care will be provided free of charge, and engineering support will be provided to communities without access to these services. The services to be provided include general surgery, ophthalmic evaluation and basic medical treatment, preventive medicine consultations, dental treatment and training in public health. The medical team is made up of professionals from the United States Public Health Service, dentistry students from the universities of South Carolina and Miami and NGOs such as Project Hope, Operation Smile, FACE and Food for the Poor. In 2007 the Comfort visited 12 countries in the region and its crew treated 98,000 people.

Ambassador Espinal back to DR
Flavio Dario Espinal, who represented the Dominican Republic as its ambassador in Washington, D.C. for five years, is back in Santo Domingo. He has joined the Global, Square Sanders & Dempsey LLP law firm. Alejandro Pena-Prieto, managing partner of the firm in Santo Domingo made the announcement. Espinal is also a former ambassador to the OAS in Washington. Pena-Prieto says that Espinal was a key figure in the implementation of DR-CAFTA, which he said continues to create interesting business opportunities for their clients. "His work at the OAS gives him a regional perspective in an international environment with growing challenges, but also great opportunities," says Pena Prieto. He said that Espinal also has an excellent understanding of the government and its institutions in the country, as well as close connections with key players in the private sector.
Espinal can be reached at [email protected]

Harassment of journalists?
El Caribe reports that Puerto Plata Court of Appeals prosecutor Felix Alvarez Rivera recently contacted one of its journalists, Felivia Mejia to ask her how she had obtained a prosecutor report about police complicity with drug trafficking in the city. The newspaper's editor Manuel Quiroz said that the call sought to intimidate the journalist and induce self-censorship. "The prosecutor told the journalist that she would be visited by a prosecutor for questioning," said Quiroz, adding that the newspaper would resist any threat to press freedom, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. El Caribe reported on the case of 32 cops in Puerto Plata and a report prepared by the Police investigative commission that presented transcripts of incriminating cell phone conversations between the cops and National Drug Control Department agents and drug dealers.

Good may come from protest
The protest by the Coalition for the Defense of Protected Areas against developers at El Puerto in Cabrera last week may bring some good for the area, clarifying what may be a confusing situation. Adolfo Lopez, spokesman for the Coalition for the Defense of Protected Areas, says they were protesting against beachfront constructions in the area. But Lynn Kramer, a long-term resident and investor in Cabarete and Cabrera says that developers Renato Vicetti and Chester Marr have proposed to clean up El Puerto and enable the fishermen to sell their daily catch directly from stalls supplied with ice boxes donated by the developers. "It would be an opportunity for the fishermen to set up businesses and not have to roam the streets trying to sell their catch", she says.
She backs Vicetti and Marr's plan. "El Puerto was a dump, always changing its venue. When I arrived in town it was a very loud disco whose sounds resonated throughout the entire area causing awful noise pollution. I had a number of friends who wanted to leave the area for lack of sleep on weekends. It was also a terrible restaurant and a place for illicit activities," she says. There is now hope that things will change for the better.
Educating the public about the nature of the project may now be the key. Kelvin Guerrero, of the Coalition of Defense of Protected Areas, says that what has been lacking is the environmental permission. "An important aspect of environmental permits is that they involve public hearings to inform the public about the project," he explains. "When that does not happen, there can be misinterpretations." Guerrero says that the promoters need to request a license through the Deputy Ministry for Environmental Management (Subsecretaria de Gestion Ambiental). To issue this license, the Ministry needs to send representatives to give their opinion, and to meet the investors and hear about their plans. After that, a public hearing is held," he explains. He offered to act as a connector between the parties so that both can express their arguments in an objective and reasonable manner.
He can be reached at [email protected]
Developer Chester Marr says that he only hopes to do good things for the community. "There is a written agreement authorizing the fishermen's use of the property for eternity. 90% of the people who fish and work out of this property are not only in agreement about its future but excited at what it will do to enhance their lives. Nothing at this property will make me or anyone else rich and it can only improve Cabrera's small economy," he states.
He says the problem could be traced to "a small very vocal group of fishermen (about 5%) who refuse to meet and come up with options to maintain good relations.
Marr explains: "The property was purchased with the good intention of fixing up the existing building and increasing the existing fishing area as a lure for the locals as well as the small tourist community that exists in Cabrera. It is a very small project, nothing that will ever make anyone rich, four apartments, that's all. Permits were obtained for the work that was done by a government department, which gave its complete approval, only to find out later that their approval was insufficient and additional approval was needed. We have since had meetings with government agencies as we halted all work to obtain the proper permits," he says.

Two more Puerto Ricans arrested
The National Department for Drug Control (DNCD) has arrested two more Puerto Rican drug traffickers who were hiding in the Dominican Republic. The two men, Aureliano Giraud Piniero and/or Maximo Aurelio Hernandez Piniero and/or Eusebio Piniero Prats, aka "Jun", and Carlos Caceres Cubero and/or Carlos A. Perez Pacheco, were both caught in Juan Dolio, a tourist area east of Santo Domingo yesterday. Agents from the Migration department, the Police Intelligence Unit and the DNCD collaborated in the arrests. The two men are accused of involvement in the transfer of 10,000 kilos of cocaine to the United States from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands, an operation that is said to have earned them US$70 million. According to the anti-drug chief, General Gilberto Delgado Valdez, "The US authorities are looking to seize this amount which is suspected of having been invested in properties and a large part put in banks." The two were fleeing from prosecution that began on 16 December 2003. They will be handed over to the Puerto Rico authorities and are due to face a Federal Grand Jury on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine. Both men are on the US Ten Most Wanted list.

172 calls by Quirino are mapped
A mapping of 172 phone calls exchanged between former Captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo and his partners reveals aspects of the intricate business world in which the drug trafficking cartel operated when it received one of its strongest blows on 18th December 2004. According to Diario Libre, between 13th and 18th December, even after Paulino Castillo was caught along with several members of his network, the calls still went on flowing from one side to another. According to a diagram of these calls, on the 12th and 15th of December 2004 several cell phone calls were made to former Army officer Ernesto Bienvenido Guevara Diaz (Maconi) who has since been extradited. The jail at Kilometer 15 in Azua, which was commanded at the time by then Lt. Colonel Lidio Nin Terrero, was the center of call reception and call making, according to a map published by www.7dias.com.do. According to the description, the fugitive Francisco Alburquerque Fortuna is shown to have made multiple connections on the 17th and 18th of December. The fugitive also appears as receiving calls from National Police Headquarters and the Department of Recovered Vehicles in Santiago. The criss-cross of phone calls became intense on the 17th and 18th of December 2004, just before the 1,387 kilos of cocaine were seized on Duarte Highway when the load was supposedly on its way to Santiago.

Brazilian Cultural Center
The Embassy of Brazil is behind the opening of a Brazilian Cultural Center at Calle Hermanos Deligne 52, in Gazcue. Brazilian Ambassador Ronaldo Edgar Dunlop cut the opening ribbon last week with Culture Minister Jose Rafael Lantigua. The cultural center is sponsored by the Brazilian construction firms Norberto Odebrecht and Adrede Gutierrez, which have been granted several mega contracts in the Dominican Republic. As reported in El Caribe, the center will offer Portuguese language courses, sponsor cultural activities, promote Brazilian cuisine, show Brazilian movies, and in general will focus on sharing Brazilian creativity. It will also run courses in samba and capoeira. Ambassador Ronaldo Edgar Dunlop invited the public to attend the Santo Domingo Book Fair, scheduled for 20 April to 3 May, which this year features Brazil as the guest country.
 
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