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Daily News - Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Government creates Pymes fund
The Fernandez administration has announced a RD$1.5 billion fund for the small and medium-sized business sector (Propymes), in response to a request from the small-scale businessmen made earlier this week. Luis Manuel Bonetti, Administrative Secretary of the Presidency, said that the Central Bank still has to complete the studies before making the funds available, but this would happen "as soon as possible."
Bonetti commented on Fernandez's concern about the small business sector, given that 600,000 small businesses employ an estimated 1.5 million Dominicans.
According to Bonetti, RD$1 billion in funds would be administered with the support of the Banco de Reservas and the Propymes. The remaining RD$500 million would be administered by institutions that specialize in administering loans to small businesses.
Bonetti says that despite the international financial crisis the DR is in an enviable position and that this small push by the government could create an additional 100,000 jobs.

Raise the bar to RD$6 million
Economist Eduardo Tejera says that the government should raise the threshold of tax-exempt real estate financing to RD$6 million, up from RD$1.4 million originally proposed by the government. He said this would help the middle class. Yesterday, the Fernandez administration announced that materials used for construction of housing units with construction costs of under RD$1.4 million would be exempt from income tax, ITBIS (VAT) tax and other taxes, as part of a plan to get the economy moving via the construction sector.
The president of the Cibao Housing Builders and Developers Association (Aprocovici) Maximo Dominguez recommended that the fixed interest also proposed by the government should not be more than 12% as it was at the start of 2008. He favored raising the bar to at least RD$3 million.

Five transplants from one man
For the first time in Dominican history one single donor has donated organs to five different recipients. Beneficiaries were a 20-year man who needed a liver transplant, a 49-year old who received kidney transplants and two other patients who received cornea transplants. President of the board at the Plaza de la Salud, Dr. Julio Amado Castanos Guzman said the operations were a milestone in organ transplants in the DR. He added that the transplants had all taken place during a 12-hour period at the hospital.

Haitian services for foreign debt?
Last year the Ministry of Public Health spent US$16 million on treating Haitians seeking services at public hospitals in 2008. Most of the Haitians are illegal immigrants. The Ministry of Public Health said that 595,233 free consultations were provided to foreigners, of which 98% corresponds to Haitians, both legal and illegal. As reported in El Dia, Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that state hospital doctors treat all patients, and would continue to do so. He went on to say, "we have proposed that since we are a poor nation, that these totals be recognized as a payment that could be accrued to our foreign debt," said the Minister. The services include patient consultations, emergencies, lab tests, hospitalization, surgeries, C-sections, natural births and vaccinations.

Trucking conflict continues
Meanwhile in Haiti, violence continues to be employed against Dominican truckers who enter transporting goods from the DR. "The Haitians continue demanding payment of RD$4,000 for the right to transport cargo into Haiti, and that is illegal", said Blas Peralta, president of Fenatrado, the largest Dominican trucking union.
Peralta said that if the Haitians continue to prevent the flow of Dominican trucks, they would prevent Haitians from entering the DR with their cargo.

Preval calls for support
President Rene Preval of Haiti says that under no circumstances should a police matter be mixed with the improved relations between Haiti and the DR. He was referring to the case of a Haitian suspected of decapitating a Dominican, who was subsequently murdered and decapitated, allegedly by relatives of the murdered Dominican in a slum area in Santo Domingo. Preval announced that over the coming weeks the Mixed Bi-National Dominican-Haitian Commission would be reconvening for discussions on bilateral issues. "The murder was a civil matter and has nothing to do with diplomatic relations," Preval told Metropole radio, as reported in Listin Diario.

Rejected freights decrease
During the first four months of the year only 22 shipments of Dominican products were rejected at US Customs entry points, representing an 18.5% drop compared to the same period in 2008, when 27 shipments were rejected. According to the Department of Exterior Commerce (DICOEX) agricultural products (45%), industrial products (41%) and agro-industrial products (14%) are among the items most commonly rejected by US officials. An economic report by DICOEX revealed that 32.1% of detentions were due to increased levels of pesticides. During the first four months of the year only nine shipments have been rejected because of increased pesticide levels.

Cocco's condition worsens
Doctors at Plaza de la Salud's Cedimat center have put Customs director Miguel Cocco back on a respirator after the veteran government official began to experience complications. The medical team treating Cocco found small secretions in his lungs that were causing breathing problems. Last week Cocco underwent surgery after doctors found a hematoma on one of his kidneys. His condition was progressing, but yesterday his health started deteriorating again. Doctors say this latest setback will keep Cocco in the hospital for a longer period of time.

Henry Gill resignation, a major loss
Henry Gill, director general of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) has resigned, effective 30 June 2009. The resignation followed the March 2009 decision taken by the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to incorporate the CRNM into the Caricom Secretariat as a specialized department. The office played a leading role in the crafting of the regional negotiating strategy pursued in the expanded Caricom + Dominican Republic (Cariforum) negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
Ivan Ogando, current general manager of the International Development Bank (IDB) funded International Trade and Development Industry program at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, commented that this was a major setback for the region and the DR "because he is one of the best experts at the service of cooperation and regional integration." Ogando said that with Gill's resignation the DR loses one of the best liaisons it had with the English-speaking Caribbean. "Henry is one of the few people who fully understands Caribbean idiosyncrasies as well as the Latin idiosyncrasy. He is a person who knows how to find a fair consensus in regional negotiations," declared Ogando, who from 2005 to 2007 worked as EPA coordinator at the CRNM that administered the EUR1.3 million-fund in support of the EPA negotiations.
The Dominican government had supported the position that the CRNM team was the most capable of being entrusted with the role of Cariforum coordinator with the joint Cariforum-EC Council for the implementation of the EPA.

Legislators take a break
The Constitution Revisory Assembly that is debating the changes and expansion of the Constitution from 120 articles to 254 articles proposed by President Leonel Fernandez failed to meet yesterday because of a lack of quorum. The session was to begin at 3pm, but by 4:20pm not enough members had arrived so Assembly president Reinaldo Pared Perez canceled the session, rescheduling it for today.
Listin Diario reports that only 15 Senate members were present. To make quorum, 50%+1 of the members of both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies need to be present. The minimum quorum would have been met with 17. The ruling PLD party is majority in the Senate, which is leading political analysts to speculate that there is a split within the PLD regarding Art. 104, which focuses on changing the Constitutional provision banning a presidential candidate from running again after participating in two elections. Political commentators say that the absences could be attributed to politicians loyal to former Presidency secretary Danilo Medina taking a step back to force negotiations.
President Leonel Fernandez earlier led talks with members of the minority PRSC party.
On the other hand, on the Huchi Lora afternoon radio talk show, it was pointed out that either the votes of the Danilo Medina loyalists or those of the PRD politicians are needed. The PRD is divided on the question of whether to vote for a constitutional change that would enable former President Hipolito Mejia to bid for the presidency again.

Maconi's charges dropped
The National District Attorney General, Jose Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, has asked the three judges of the First Collegiate Court of the National District to drop charges against Bienvenido Guevara Diaz (Maconi). Maconi has been linked to the drug ring once run by former military captain Quirino Paulino Castillo and is expected to face charges for his role in transporting drugs into US territory. Moscoso said the decision to drop charges is part of an ongoing agreement with the New York City DA's office. Moscoso made a similar application in relation to the charges against Quirino's wife Belkis Ubri Medrano, who is now expected to travel to the US as part of the agreement.

Be careful where you buy
Exercise your due diligence next time you buy a vehicle from a dealer. Listin Diario is reporting that the National Police has confiscated 15 stolen vehicles from 10 car dealerships around the country. Police Chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin has met with the sub-director of Customs, the president of the National Association of Vehicle Distributor Agencies (ANADIVE), the Dominican Chamber of Insurers and insurance companies with the aim of devising a strategy for preventing stolen cars from being sold to third parties. Guzman explained that the recovered vehicles had their chassis numbers and registration documents altered in order to trick buyers into thinking the vehicles were legitimate. Stolen vehicles were discovered at a number of dealers, including Perez Vargas Auto Import, Ambar Elias Auto Import, Made Auto Import, PV Autos, Arias Motors, Leo Motor, Giovamani Auto, Rotonda Motor and Hilaria Motor. Car parts sales points are also being investigated as many parts from stolen vehicles end up at these stores.

Details on hit men
Diario Libre reports that the contract killers hired to kill five drug rivals in the Dominican cities of Santiago and San Pedro de Macoris were paid US$10,000 for each person they killed. Diario Libre's source say the hired guns traveled to the DR for the specific purpose of committing the murders. Authorities say that group leader Rafael Alvarez contracted out the killings with the aim of consolidating their criminal ties with drug traffickers and eliminating their rivals.

Dominican elected major in NJ
Last night, Dr. Alex D. Blanco won an election as Mayor of Passaic, New Jersey to a full four-year term. With this victory he becomes the first Dominican-American in US history ever to win a full-term mayoral election. Last November, the doctor won a special election for mayor to fill an unexpired term after former Passaic mayor Samuel "Sammy" Rivera resigned due to corruption. Dr. Blanco, who immigrated to Passaic from the Dominican Republic at the age of 12, was still required to run for a full four-year term in May after winning this special election.
According to preliminary results from the city clerk's office last night, he received 53% of the vote over challenger Vincent Capuana with 46% of the vote. Dr. Blanco ran with the endorsements of very high-ranking officials including US Senator Robert Menendez. Passaic, NJ is located approximately 14 miles west of New York City.
According to the 2000 US Census, it has a population of nearly 68,000 people, of whom 68.5% are Latinos. A significant portion of the Latino population in Passaic is Dominican.
New Jersey holds "non-partisan" elections in May instead of November for cities like Passaic, Paterson, Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and Perth Amboy that do not traditionally hold party-line (Democratic vs. Republican) elections at the local level.
For more information, see:

Horford's Hawks go home
On Monday night the Atlanta Hawks' season came to a screeching halt after the team lost a fourth straight game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a tough series for the team, but their first appearance in the second round of the NBA playoffs since 1999 was a tremendous accomplishment. Horford's play during the season and the playoffs was key in Atlanta's success and his play this year has once again consolidated him as one of the top power forwards/centers in the NBA. Horford averaged 11.5 points per game, with 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He also notched up 1.4 blocks per game and 1 steal per game. Next year looks to be an even better year for Horford. Now the only Dominican player left in the 2009 NBA playoffs is Los Angeles Lakers guard Trevor Ariza. Ariza claims Dominican heritage through his grandfather and is in the process of changing his international affiliation so that he can play with the Dominican national team during international competitions.

0.00 ERA for Frank Francisco
Dominican Texas Rangers star pitcher Frank Francisco has been instructed to take it easy after a MRI scan showed he had right biceps tendonitis, following an outstanding first month into the season. Francisco, who has nine saves in 14 appearances with a 0.00 ERA, is likely to miss the entire Seattle series and could end up on the disabled list, general manager Jon Daniels told the Star-Telegram newspaper. Daniels said Francisco thought he might have hurt himself by overdoing his workout routine. So far the Texas Rangers' closer is tied for the major league lead with nine saves.
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