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Daily News - Monday, 13 April 2009

Vacationers return home
Cities and towns gradually returned to normal starting early on Sunday, as thousands of people who booked vacations at resorts around the country and many more who traveled to other parts of the country to visit family and friends made their way back home. To control the flow of traffic, Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) officers escorted traffic southbound to Santiago and Santo Domingo, keeping speeds down to around 50kms per hour.

Easter deaths at 60
At the end of the long Easter holiday weekend (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) the death toll reported in Emergency Operations Center (COE) Bulletin No. 3 totaled 60, with 34 killed in traffic accidents, 20 drowned and 8 due to alcohol poisoning, according to El Caribe. General Juan Manuel Mendez of the COE says that a total of 328 people required assistance during the holiday. Of these, 253 were involved in 84 traffic accidents, 50 were treated for alcohol poisoning and 9 for food poisoning. In the traffic accidents 96 motorcycles and 56 vehicles were involved. General Mendez said that a total of 87 vehicles and 1,512 motorcycles were retained for a series of infractions.
General Mendez said that the greatest number of cases was reported in Greater Santo Domingo, Peravia (Bani), Monte Plata, Monsenor Nouel (Bonao), Barahona, Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), La Vega and El Seibo.
Meanwhile, Interior & Police Minister Franklin Almeyda defended the government decision to lift the ban on alcohol sales for the Easter holiday from Thursday through Sunday evening.

Church blasts abortion
In its traditional Good Friday Sermon, the Catholic Church lashed out against attempts to liberalize the law on abortion and allow same-sex marriages in the DR. Father Lorenzo Vargas said the church would actively campaign on both these issues among churchgoers. The priests spoke out against injustice, unemployment, violence, organized crime, street crime, drug trafficking, social insecurity, family disintegration and sin. The priests also criticized politicians and government officials for using their jobs to satisfy their private interests and stated that the Constitution, which is currently undergoing reform, should be changed for the benefit of the majority and not particular interest groups, as reported in El Nacional. Finally, the priests spoke out against those who destroy forests and rivers and misuse government funds, leading the nation to an uncertain future. They criticized the fact that the government says it has no money for hospitals or for increasing doctors' wages, while having plenty of resources to campaign for a candidate that once elected does not fulfill any of his promises.
Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito told Hoy that in his opinion abortion would not be a topic to be revised in the Constitution, as it comes under the Penal Code.

Politicians back Church
Members of the PRD, PLD and PRSC have announced they would support the Catholic Church and vote against any bills that seek to liberalize the law on abortion, which is currently illegal under any circumstances. The topic of abortion and same-sex marriages have provoked much debate in the DR in recent years and have stepped into the forefront of social/legal debate in the context of the current reforms of the Dominican constitution. Hoy writes that representatives from the DR's three major parties have given the Church assurances that they would not support abortion or same-sex marriage bills. This announcement comes as Cardinal Jesus Lopez Rodriguez reiterated the Church's position against abortion.

March inflation increased 0.16%
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic has announced that the inflation rate increased by 0.16% in March, pegging the annual inflation rate between March 2008 and March 2009 at 2.44%. The Central Bank claims that this is the lowest rate in the region, among 16 countries that have published their rates. The accumulated interest rate during the first four months of the year was of 0.74%, much lower than the 2.79% registered during the same period in 2008. The Consumer Price Index for March revealed a 0.65% increase in Transport, due to the rise in world fuel prices. The CPI for foods, beverages and tobacco decreased by -0.13%, as did housing, by -0.13%.

Water service gradually restored
Water service is gradually being restored in several neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, San Cristobal and Haina that were affected by the Easter efforts to interconnect the pipes of the Valdesia-Isa-Mana and Valdesia-Duey aqueducts. The Santo Domingo Water Corporation (CAASD) had promised the service would be back in time for most vacationers' return from their Easter holidays. But now, the CAASD says there are delays and that although water service restoration began on Saturday, several neighborhoods will have to wait until Wednesday. The connection is expected to increase the flow of water to households. CAASD director Ramon Rivas said the works cost RD$15 million and warned that as of Monday there were still some areas without full water services. Rivas said that citizens should wait 72 full hours before water levels and service are back to normal.

Entrepreneurship at UNIBE
Columbia University Business School professor Murray Low will be in Santo Domingo for a one-day workshop, "High Potential Entrepreneurship: Strategies for competitiveness and innovation in times of crisis" on Friday, 17 April. The eight-hour workshop is organized by UNIBE University and will take place at the Santo Domingo Hilton. It will provide participants with tools to develop their entrepreneurship skills. Low is director of the Eugene Land Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia University. He is described as an experienced entrepreneur himself with experience in several industries. He is the founder of the Columbia Entrepreneurship Program, and a consultant to small and large companies, family business and not-for-profits.
For more information, call 809 689-4111 extensions 1189 and 2006 or write to [email protected]
The course, which has the support of the Ministry of Higher Education, follows similar initiatives aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and helping students at the PUCMM, INTEC and UNAPEC, UCATECI, UASD and UNPHU universities to create their own jobs.

Optimal connectivity for the East
The Network Access Point (NAP) for the Caribbean connecting Punta Cana and the Santo Domingo Cyberpark by Overhead Power Ground Wire (OPGW) is in operation, announced Alvaro Nadal, executive president of NAP del Caribe. This is a private joint effort by the Consorcio Electrico Punta Cana-Macao and NAP del Caribe. Nadal said that the alliance guarantees optimal Internet connectivity for leading tourism areas east of Las Americas International Airport. The underground optical fiber system provides enhanced security in case of hurricanes. Optical fiber connections are being installed for Punta Cana, Macao, Bayahibe, La Romana and San Pedro de Macoris hotels. He explained that the total capacity activated is of OC192, equivalent to a broadband width of 10Gbps.
Nadal said that the Caribbean NAP connectivity center serves as a linking point for numerous telecommunications circuits, concentrates large amounts of data and distributes it securely and effectively. This type of service facilitates a better management of digital information as well as optimal connectivity. Terremark Worldwide Inc. designed and operates the facility.

Used clothing ban
Apparel companies and textile manufacturers are welcoming a decision by the Customs Department (DGA) to ban imports of used clothing. Law 458 dating back to 1973 bans imports for health reasons, but so far the authorities in charge of enforcing the law have not done so. The president of the Association of Small and Medium-sized Textile Companies (Apymetex), Eduardo Martinez told Listin Diario of his support for the decision. The ban also has the support of the Dominican Association of Textile Industries (Aditex). The organizations say that unfair competition from informal used clothing traders has affected the survival of 1,600 small companies, mainly tailor shops and seamstresses, as well as large import companies. Used clothing is sold in flea markets with high yields, by vendors who don't have to pay electricity costs or taxes. Martinez says that thousands of jobs have been lost in the textile industries. The used clothing comes mainly from Haiti and is sold in Dajabon, Elias Pina, Santiago and Santo Domingo.
"The import of 'pacas' of used clothing is banned and has always been banned by Dominican law and this was reinforced by DR-CAFTA," says DGA Technical Director Eduardo Rodriguez. He said that DM Grupo International, a free zone located in Pedernales, imports used sheets and tablecloths to resell on the local market. The DGA and the National Council of Free Zone Exporters (CNZFE) notified the company of the decision to implement the ban on Monday, 30 March.

Small business law held back
Economist Franklin Vasquez is asking why there have been delays in the passing of the ruling to implement the Small Business Law 488-08 approved last December 2008. Vasquez says that the ruling should have been presented by President Leonel Fernandez's office in March 2009, as reported in Listin Diario. He called on Promipyme to lobby for the immediate application of the law.

World Bank: Caribbean lags behind
The World Bank has just released a report, "Caribbean: Accelerating Trade Integration. Policy Options for Sustained Growth, Job Creation, and Poverty Reduction." The report says that the Caribbean compares poorly with some Asian countries with similar levels of trade integration 30 years ago.
"A new global and regional trade environment presents the Caribbean countries with critical challenges, but also many opportunities to reposition itself as a growing and competitive region, translating into significant economic and social gains," said Yvonne Tsikata, World Bank Director for the Caribbean.
The World Bank says that while many Caribbean countries (most notably Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica) have taken on policy measures to improve their trade policy, significant weaknesses remain in five major areas: Customs procedures and administration; Legal framework for businesses, including taxation; Comprehensive competition policy; National institutions in charge of trade policy formulation and implementation; and Trade policies have thus had limited outcomes. Trade costs are relatively high in the Caribbean, potentially impeding trade.
Economic growth in the Caribbean countries is expected to slow down compared to 2007 as these economies have been hit hard by recent shocks, including a recession in the US economy, the global financial crisis and a period of high food and fuel prices. Lower economic growth and consumption in North America and Europe could reduce exports, remittances, tourism, foreign direct investment and foreign aid.
The report suggests taking prompt steps to strategically reposition the Caribbean and make the most of new market opportunities, particularly in services, where the region has consistently demonstrated comparative advantage. On average, the Caribbean derives 45 percent of its GDP from services.
The report sets out five specific policy recommendations: Reducing macro-economic and fiscal imbalances, while investing massively in trade infrastructure and social programs, to facilitate the region's integration in the global economy and protect recent gains in human development. Accelerating the implementation of national trade policy reforms and improving investment incentives. Adjusting to the erosion of preferences, accelerating the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), and using the EPA (European Partnership Agreement) enhanced competitiveness and global trade integration. Developing a long-term trade strategy with a focus on increased competitiveness and new areas of opportunities. Strengthening the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (CARIFORUM's) regional institutions with a focus on implementation. This could be done through the creation of a Regional Implementation Mechanism (RIM) in charge of coordinating regional objectives and activities with national bodies.
This report is a joint effort between the World Bank, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Governments of the Caribbean.
See: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/...

Too much ecstasy
The Public Policies Analysis Center (CAPP) led by PRSC deputy Victor Bisono has presented the findings of a study under the title "Reality of Drugs in the DR" which described the official mechanisms in place to combat drug trafficking and consumption as "weak". The findings were presented at the Universidad Catolica de Santo Domingo on Tuesday, 7 April. The Center studied drug trafficking and consumption from 2006-2008 and found that during that period 32.28% of violent deaths were tied to drug trafficking. Arrests for drug trafficking have increased from 4,797 arrested in 2006 to 7,946 in 2007 and 10,583 in 2008. Cocaine confiscated in 2007-2008 was up 86%.
One of the researchers, Gilberto Objio Subero, says that it is evident that the lack of border security makes the DR vulnerable to drug smuggling.
The survey showed that the DR is only behind the US and Canada in drug dealers arrested for trafficking in ecstasy (MDMA). The study also found that the DR is first in heroin confiscations in the Caribbean, and second when Central America is included, only surpassed by Panama. In cocaine confiscations, the country ranks second behind the Netherlands Antilles, and sixth in Central America.
Unfortunately this growing trafficking in drugs is proportional to a marked increase in domestic consumption, says the report.
Bisono called for the government to reinforce security at the border with Haiti. He also recommended the review of the Penal Procedures Code to harmonize police, investigators and judicial actions.

UASD reacts to injured student
University authorities at the UASD have expelled a student, Octavio Alfredo Aguasvivas Santana, who injured student Eloisa Lugo Burgos, and have announced the dismissal of 12 employees at the university, including professors. Rector Franklin Garcia said that the university would not cover up for any student or employee who violates university rules. Lugo Burgos, who is pregnant, was injured when Aguasvivas fired a gun at the central campus. Diario Libre reports that she is out of danger.

Case against Army captain dropped
Lawyer Sergio Uribe Castro had begun legal proceedings against Army Captain Jose Antonio Angulo Batista, who worked at the Ministry of Hacienda, as special assistant to Minister Vicente Bengoa. But now, Diario Libre reports that the case will be dropped, reportedly because Angulo Batista has returned the money for two checks that were reportedly taken from the Ministry. Nevertheless, Diario Libre reports that Prosecutor General Radhames Jimenez Pena says that there is evidence that incriminates Angulo Batista in a case of suspected fraud at the Ministry.

'Greed' behind Miches deaths
On Tuesday, 7 April, five people died and seven were injured in a clash over 4,124 tareas of land in La Lisa, Miches, an area believed to have tourism development potential (1 tarea = approximately 629 square meters). Diario Libre reports that behind the deaths are lawyers who search for property with potential, and then get local farmers to move in to then force the owners to negotiate with the farmers. The lands that are disputed have been registered in the name of Blaudillo Nunez C por A since 5 June 1985, as reported by Diario Libre. Property in most cattle-ranching areas is now going for US$35 per meter. Homero Figueroa of Diario Libre writes that this is a case of "gold fever attacking the inhabitants of Miches." The two landowners and three farmers who died in the clash were named as Ozozrio Nunez Paez (Cabo), Gabriel Nunez Pineiro (Caquito), Severino Peralta (Puro), Richard Martinez and Carlos Morel (Carlito) a land surveyor.
Hoy newspaper reports that local residents say that the complicity and negligence of police authorities and the Dominican Agrarian Institute (IAD), as well as the slowness of the courts in ruling on property in the land courts are what led to the extreme situation of the shootout and deaths in the area. Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez told Hoy that if the authorities had intervened in time, the tragedy could have been avoided. The Cardinal said: "Why, if everyone saw it coming for a long time, did the police and the judicial the authorities not act?" The farmers had been threatening to invade the property.

Youth drinking a concern
The drinking rate among young people, especially over the Easter holiday, is causing concern among some health and emergency officials. Jose Capellan, speaking on behalf of the Civil Defense explained that at Boca Chica beach alone, 25 children were treated for alcohol poisoning. He added that it was a worrying situation that officials have to deal with during the holiday season. The youngest case involved a nine-year old boy who had to be treated after drinking large quantities of rum hidden in an orange juice bottle.

First Lady is Bocelli fan
First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez could be making the most of Andrea Bocelli's popularity to fundraise for causes supported by her office. The Italian singer will be performing at the Altos de Chavon amphitheater, and online newspaper 7dias.com.do reports that the First Lady has bought out the 400 seats in the first row of the concert. Each ticket costs RD$10,000. The paper says that several wealthy people who own villas in Casa de Campo and had planned to attend the concert were not so happy to discover that the front row seats had all sold out. According to 7dias.com.do, requests from the First Lady for a donation of RD$200,000 in return for front row seats at the concert have been sent out to several companies. The First Lady's Office runs a series of social programs that have an excellent reputation.
For more information on this and other upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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