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Daily News - Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Fernandez in Spain
President Leonel Fernandez met with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid. After the meeting, Zapatero announced the renewing of the Spanish cooperation agreement that in 2008 meant US$23 million for varied programs. The agreement was extended for three years.
The meeting was held at the Palacio de la Moncloa in Madrid.
At the meeting, President Fernandez commented: "We are in the 'Golden Age' with regards to the relationship between Spain and the DR".
Fernandez and Rodriguez also signed an agreement aimed at preventing double taxation on companies from both countries.
Tourism and renewable energy projects were discussed. President Fernandez was accompanied by a delegation of Dominican business leaders, including Luis Manuel Corripio, Jose Manuel Gonzalez, Felix Garcia, Jose Miguel Bonetti, Jose Ramon Brea and Manuel Estrella.

Elections will be unified
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly voted unanimously yesterday on Article 237 that rules that presidential, congressional and municipal elections will be held all at the same time. "The polls will open on the third Sunday of May every fourth year to elect the President, Vice President, legislators and municipal officials." Advocates of the single election year model argued against political campaigning being drawn out over the four years. The legislators ruled that in order to unify the campaigns, the legislators and municipal authorities voted in in 2010 would stay on in their jobs through 2016, instead of 2014. Legislative and municipal elections will still be held separately and independently.
The legislators also ruled that 50%+1 of the vote is needed to elect a President, and if a candidate does not receive this, then a second round election between the two leading candidates needs to be held on the third Sunday of the month of June of the same year.

Government collections drop
Government collections dropped by RD$14.8 billion (10.2%) during the first four months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. According to Hoy, collections dropped from RD$90.8 billion between January and April 2008 to RD$76.03 billion between January and April 2009. Part of the decrease is due to a drop in Customs (DGA) collections, which dropped by RD$4.45 billion (23.6%) when imports declined. During January to April 2008 collections were at RD$18.8 billion, but registered at RD$13.4 billion for the same period in 2009.
US imports have experienced the largest decline, with a 21.7% decrease, equivalent to US$351.3 million. According to US Department of Commerce figures, US exports to the DR fell from US$1.61 billion between January and March 2008 to US$1.3 billion for the same period in 2009.
Taxation on new car registration also fell by 48.6%, going from RD$2.08 billion during the first four months of 2008 to RD1.12 billion for the same period in 2009. According to vehicle dealers association ACOFAVE, car sales during the first three months of the year fell by 60%.
Taxes on fuels have also reflected in the lower DGA fiscal collections. These were down from RD$5.3 billion in 2008 to RD$3.01 billion in 2009, for a 42% drop.

Miguel Cocco dies
Customs director Miguel Cocco has passed away. Cocco was hospitalized at the CEDIMAT medical center in Santo Domingo, after being admitted for emergency surgery on a hematoma in one of his kidneys a couple of weeks ago. His condition was upgraded to stable in recent days, after having been in intensive care. Cocco suffered from kidney problems for several years and had been on dialysis.
Cocco was highly respected for his professional approach in reorganizing the Customs Department and for being a vocal opponent of corruption in government. In one of his last initiatives, he campaigned for a ban on used clothes imports from Haiti.

Canadian Embassy office in PUJ
Canadian Ambassador Patricia Fortier was in Punta Cana on Thursday, 14 May for the official opening of the new Canadian Embassy office that will be offering consular services to Canadian residents on the east coast. Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia was present at the inaugural. At the event, Javier Garcia congratulated the embassy on the initiative and spoke in appreciation of the hundreds of thousands of Canadian tourists who have visited and continue to visit the DR. Canada is currently the leading single-country source of tourists to the DR.
Canadian Ambassador Fortier highlighted the fact that Canadian-Dominican diplomatic relations date back to 1954. She said that in 2008, 700,000 Canadian tourists visited the DR, about 450,000 of whom entered through Punta Cana.
The office will be offering non-immigration consular services. Tourist and resident visas will continue to be served by the Santo Domingo consular office.
The new office is located at the Amstar Business Center, office No. 404, on the Veron - Bavaro Highway, Km. 2, La Altagracia. Tels. 809 455-1730 and 809 455-1734. The office will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 to 12m and from 1 to 4pm and on Friday from 9 to noon.
The Canadian Embassy website is www.dominicanrepublic.gc.ca

Discovery to promote Santo Domingo
Discovery Channel Latin America has announced its broad-based support to promote the celebration of American Capital of Culture in Santo Domingo in 2010. The TV channel announced it would be airing several specials to its 130 million viewers in Latin America. Discovery Networks Latin America/US Hispanic has been cooperating with the American Capital of Culture program since 2002. Enrique R. Martinez, director general for Discovery Networks Latin America/US Hispanic and Xavier Tudela, president of the American Capital of Culture organization made the announcement on Tuesday, 20 May. "Discovery Channel has a long tradition of sharing the most captivating stories, and thus it is the ideal media to highlight the capitals of culture, their historic significance, cultural wealth and their contribution to the world of the arts," said Martinez. Tudela stressed that the collaboration will be a channel for Latin American audiences to connect with the cultural integration tool that is the American Capital of Culture program. The Discovery Channel will air promotions that are expected to reach 130 viewers in 33 countries.
In Latin America and the United States, the portfolio of Discovery Networks Latin America/US Hispanic (DNLA/USH) spans 12 channels. In Latin America 10 brands are distributed with programs adapted in three languages.

Florian investigations continue
Ramon Aristides Madera, the prosecutor assigned to the case of the death of drug kingpin Rolando Florian Feliz at Najayo jail on the weekend, says that the seven people he has questioned so far in the case have provided conflicting accounts, while adding that, "there will always be explanations that resemble the truth".
The lack of concrete eyewitness testimony could bring a cloud of suspicion over the case. Among those interviewed were Captain Lino de Oca Jimenez, who admitted to shooting Florian, and Daneirys Mejia, a woman who was in the cell with Florian when he was shot. Prisoners Domingo Diaz, Rafael Antonio Medina Jimenez and Charles Lee were also interrogated.
The commission in charge of investigating Florian's last moments includes National District Attorney General Alejandro Moscoso, Aristides Madera, Supervisor General of Prisons Henry Garrido and Police Internal Affairs director General Manuel Castro Castillo.
Investigations will resume at 10am today with the interrogation of two colonels and a major, whose names have been withheld.
Meanwhile, more media attention is being drawn to the case as Florian's family announces plans to press charges against Officer Oca Jimenez and Lt. Colonel Antonio Pulinario. The family accuses the men of "assassinating" Florian. Speaking on behalf of the family, lawyer Carlos Balcacer claims that Florian was shot and then locked in his cell so that he would bleed to death.

PRSC collapses
PRSC secretary Victor Gomez Casanova says he is jumping ship before the party self-destructs and is expected to announce his support to the PRD's Miguel Vargas Maldonado's campaign. Others resigning are Agnes Berenice Contreras, who immediately joined the ranks of the PRD. Also joining the ranks of the PRD are Deputies Remberto Cruz, Sergio Cedeno and Radhames Fermin. Senator German Castro will also be sworn in as a PRD member. Commenting on his resignation, Gomez said that it was not convenient to remain with a party that is fragmented and that lacks defined strategies. According to rumors, Deputy Victor Bisono will also pass over to the PRD.
Once a formidable force on the Dominican political scene, the PRSC has become a party of alliances, with leading members associating with either the PLD or PRD on several occasions, in order to secure jobs in government and stay in the business of politics. In the 2008 election, the PRSC received 4.59% of the vote and lost its legal status.

Eye Surgical Outreach in POP
The Island Impact Foundation is holding its 4th Annual Eye Surgical Outreach at the Ricardo Limardo Hospital this week, says Robert Nelson, founder of the initiative. A team of eye surgeons and full support staff from the Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C. will be performing free eye operations on citizens of the north coast suffering from conditions such as strabismus and cataracts. Prescription eyeglasses will be made and given to those who need them. Island Impact runs two primary health care clinics for poor people in Sosua and Cabarete.
For more information call 809-571-1058 or email [email protected]

Rains will continue
Keep your rain gear out, as the rains will continue for the next 72 hours across the DR, according to the Meteorological Office. Flooding alerts are in place for the provinces of La Vega, Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua), Monsenor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), San Cristobal (especially the Villa Altagracia area), Monte Cristi and Monte Plata, and for those who live near rivers.
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