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Daily News - Tuesday, 07 April 2009

DR1 breaks for Easter
DR1 Daily News will not be updated on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the occasion of the Easter Week long holiday weekend in the Dominican Republic. Breaking news can be followed 24/7 on the DR1 forums and a roundup of the news will be compiled for the Monday, 13 April issue.
See www.dr1.com/forums

Peak domestic travel week
Easter is traditionally the peak week for domestic travel. The National Hotel & Restaurant Association estimates that 62,700 of the 66,000 rooms nationwide will be occupied. About 20% of these will be taken by domestic travelers, or an estimated 12,540 rooms. This is 3,135 more rooms than last year, for a 5% increase over last year, as reported in El Caribe. Asonahores reports that hotel occupancy should average 95% this Easter Week.

Easter exodus
The exodus has begun. These are some of the most pleasant days to stay in Santo Domingo and Santiago, the two largest Dominican cities. With school out and fewer activities planned for city nightlife, Easter Week is a time to enjoy being able to drive around without traffic jams, do some easy shopping and see a movie or two. Friends pass the word around about who is staying in town. With many people deciding to economize, this year more than usual have decided to stay at home and spend less on leisure. Others opt for attending the religious activities that are centered round churches in the Colonial City. But many still remain faithful to the new tradition, which means taking to the beaches and rivers, having a drink or two, and enjoying the company of family and friends.
For listings of events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Government news service
President Leonel Fernandez has announced the launch of a new governmental press service that will be managed by veteran journalist Ruddy Gonzalez. The agency will be known as Agencia Nacional de Noticias y Temas Nacionales (Antena). The new service is part of a multimedia promotional initiative that includes television channels and the Internet funded by the government. The service will be known as Canal Republica Dominicana TV and will be headed by Ruth Rodriguez. Ruddy Gonzalez said that their aim is to become the country's leading press service. "We are a new demonstration of the exercise of democracy, development and freedom of expression and press that the Dominican Republic is experiencing today," said Gonzalez upon introducing the new service. Presidential press secretary Rafael Nunez said that the new press agency would guarantee the right that all citizens have to know the full details of what those who govern the nation are doing, in a timely manner.

LF and press proposals
President Leonel Fernandez is proposing to include the judicial issue of professional confidentiality and an integrity clause in the debates on constitutional reform, in order to protect journalism in the country.
The Chief Executive announced his idea during a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace yesterday for the Day of the Journalist, after he was asked about the case of a newspaper reporter who received a call from a prosecutor asking to reveal her sources. "Taking all this into account, I think that we are still in time, why not, to pass a strictly ethical concession in the Code of Ethics of the Dominican College (of Journalists), as well as to include in the Constitution the professional confidentiality and the integrity clause in the new Constitution of the Dominican Republic," suggested Fernandez. Nevertheless, according to Diario Libre, both the ideas that he suggested are already in the legislative proposal for constitutional reform that he, himself, submitted to Congress on 18 September 2008. These ideas are contained in Article 40, Point 3 that deals with the rights of freedom of expression. "Professional confidentiality and the integrity clause of a journalist will be protected by the law", is what it says on the Presidential webpage that contains the proposed amendments to the Constitution. Fernandez said that the Spanish Constitution is the only one that protects these judicial rights, and that if approved the Dominican version would be the second in the world.
The audience at the event, mainly reporters and journalists who filled the Caryatides Room at the Presidential Palace, applauded the proposal. The idea was also welcomed by the president of the Dominican College of Journalists (CDP), Mercedes Castillo, who described it as "excellent".

JCE says there is time for next elections
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman, has announced that elections will be held in 2010, whether or not the ideal scenario is in place. At the same time, he predicted that these would be the best elections ever held in the history of the Dominican Republic, due to the JCE's accumulated know-how. When he was asked about statements made by JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario, indicating that the next elections are in danger, Castanos Guzman said that these are "important statements" and the nation should pay attention, but, nevertheless, he believed that the ideal scenario would be to have the Party Law that addresses primaries and the JCE has more power to supervise the money and establish order in election campaigns, together with the definition of the preferential vote as soon as possible. In contrast with Rosario's repeated statement, Castanos Guzman assured reporters that there are absolutely no delays in any aspect of the calendar of preparations for the next congressional and municipal elections.

Emergencies to be paid
The Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks (SISALRIL), Fernando Caamano has announced that health providers (ARS) need to reimburse patients who seek emergency services. He said that the General Health Law 87-01 establishes that everyone has the right to emergency services under the national health system. The resolution is based on Art 162 of Law 87-01 that creates the Dominican System of Social Security and establishes that providers should guarantee emergency services 24 hours a day.

Election software sold
He is suspected of profiting from selling proprietary software designed for the Dominican elections, but it looks like no action is being taken against him. The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) said that they are not taking legal action against Jose Suarez Compres, who according to El Caribe used to work in the Computer Department and is the son of the person described as "in charge of the JCE Auditing Department", Carmen Compres, because the program known as Scrutiny and Transmissions had not been registered at the Intellectual Property Office (Onapi).
The program was adapted by JCE technicians and is suspected of having been sold to a private company by Suarez Compres and used in the recent Salvadorean presidential election.
Castanos Guzman said that they had only started the process of registering the intellectual property of the software last week, and as a result the case could not proceed against the employee.
JCE judge Roberto Rosario said he found out about the sale of the software when he traveled to El Salvador as an election observer. He informed the Organization of American States to warn other member countries to not purchase the pirated system that he says is being marketed as having been "used in the Dominican Republic and Haiti," as reported in El Caribe. Diario Libre quotes Roberto Rosario as saying that during his stay in El Salvador he saw Suarez Compres providing technical support to the Salvadorean election board. Suarez Compres resigned his post at the JCE upon his return to the DR, reports the newspaper.

Attorney General lowers salaries
The Prosecutor General of the Dominican Republic, Radhames Jimenez Pena has ordered his office to become the first public department in the country to lower salaries in response to the current crisis. Jimenez ordered salaries over RD$100,000 to be lowered by 10% and those over RD$70,000 to be lowered by 5%. In a document sent to Hoy newspaper, Jimenez Pena attributed the measure to the impact that the world crisis is having on the Dominican Republic. He assured reporters that the measure would remain in effect for the rest of the year, because during hard times such as these, the men and women who are working for a better nation need to put their own interests to one side. He said: "In the face of the great challenge that the serious economic crisis currently shaking the world means, and this country in particular, we are forced to take a decision to order a reduction in the salaries of the officials and employees of the Prosecutor General's office starting today."

Wimpiness in justice
The latest catchword is "blandengueria" or "wimpiness", as Cardinal Nicolas Lopez de Rodriguez described the way the justice system deals with white and blue-collar crime, and more controversially with corruption and drug trafficking. Hoy newspaper's editorial today says the problem is that when there is a law but it is not applied, it is worse than not having the law. "The lack of authority to fight crime, especially corruption, is a defect, "wimpiness" according to Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, that is becoming too costly for our country. The editorial writer says that the fortunes that are impossible to justify are multipliers of poverty and that impunity is a repugnant ingredient. "To have laws and to lack authority and the will to apply them is the worse thing that can happen to a country," concludes the opinion piece.

Guerrero on Williams' case
The president of the Senate Ethics Commission, Wilton Guerrero said yesterday that drastic penalties would be applied against Senator Alejandro Williams (PLD-San Pedro de Macoris) if the commission confirms his involvement in intimidation and harassment of journalists. Guerrero (PLD-Peravia) expects Williams to be in the Dominican Republic this coming 14 April for questioning. He was recently accused of harassing journalists Margarita Cordero (7dias.com.do), Maria Isabel Soldevila (Listin Diario) and Norma Sheppard (Radio Mil) to obtain information on the source of "the rumor" that he was the subject of an investigation by Medicaid officers in New York. Williams owns and supervises eight dental clinics in New York. Interviewed in New York by TV journalist Alicia Ortega of El Informe on Channel 7, who traveled to the city for the interview, he said that he had hired private investigator Marcos Martinez, who was accompanied by his cousin when visiting the journalists. Guerrero says that with his absence, Williams is disrespectful to his constituency, the Congress, the PLD and the people. Williams told Ortega that he was being discriminated against in the Senate because he is not the only one who is absent from his congressional duties.

Chile and DR aviation agreement
Chile and the Dominican Republic have signed an aviation agreement for reciprocal rights to the sixth-freedom rights to fly passengers between Chile and the DR and seventh-freedom rights for cargo flights. Jose Tomas Perez, director general of the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IAC) traveled to the Chilean capital Santiago to sign the agreement. As established in the agreement, both countries will be able to carry passengers from a second country to a third country by stopping in one's own country (sixth-freedom right). As part of seventh-freedom right, carriers from both countries are authorized to carry cargo between two foreign countries without continuing service to one's own country.

CONEP complains of obstacles
The president of the National Business Council (CONEP), Lisandro Macarrulla, is warning that government initiatives aimed at attracting investments are being undermined by some ministries that place obstacles in the way of new projects. He gave the example of when a company decides to create a residential development, it takes two or three years to get the permits it needs to begin the project. "CONEP receives a huge number of complaints from our members who are worried because some ministries are real obstacles to development," according to Macarrulla. The business leader said that this has to be stopped, and he deplored the fact that while the government makes efforts to attract international investment capital, local as well as foreign investors are affected by the number of obstacles that are created to stall the start-up of a new project. He said: "Therefore we have to revise the way we are structured, and what do we have to do to make ourselves more efficient." Macarrulla says that what is now needed are clear signals that the conditions that make private capital flow will be created.

Bengoa's aide forged checks
Army Captain Jose Antonio Angulo Batista, personal assistant to the Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa Albizu, is in jail accused of forging ministry checks. National District Prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra told Hoy newspaper that Angulo Batista would be sent to court to face formal charges in the next few hours. Prosecutors are expected to ask for restraining measures to be enforced. The officer is being held at police headquarters in the Palace of Justice in Ciudad Nueva. So far, the value of the fraud has not been determined. The prosecutor said that the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Moscoso Segarra told reporters that the investigation was still ongoing, with the aim of establishing whether anyone else was involved or if this is somehow related to the fraud linked to the Department of Pensions and for which several people are on trial.

DR has most players in MLB
Despite its poor showing in the World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic is the foreign country with the largest number of players in the Major League Baseball championship. Of 818 rosters in MLB at the start of the 2009 season, 229 were born abroad. The DR has 81, which is seven less than in 2008. Venezuela follows with 52, Puerto Rico has 28, Mexico has 14, and Canada and Japan have 13. Cuba has 7, Curacao and Panama 4, Australia and South Korea 3, Colombia, Nicaragua and Taiwan 2, and Holland 1. The Seattle Mariners have 15 foreign-born players on their roster. Listin Diario reports that of the 6,973 baseball players in the Minor Leagues, 3,335 are foreign-born.
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