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Daily News - Monday, 22 June 2009

New Panamanian President visits
The President-elect of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli visited Santo Domingo and met with President Leonel Fernandez at the National Palace on Friday, 19 June.
Martinelli and Fernandez spoke of ways to enhance the trade agreement in place with both countries. The Dominican Republic has a Partial Scope Agreement with Panama, signed on 2 November 2003. It allows for a specific list of products to enter both countries duty free, encompassing about 25% of all possible products. There are talks to increase the list to 100%, as Panama is negotiating with other Central American countries.
As reported in the Listin Diario, Martinelli praised the Santo Domingo Metro and expressed his interest in building one in Panama. "I am very happy to be in the DR because there is a lot to learn from this beautiful country, especially the Santo Domingo Metro that President Fernandez has built and is the pride and joy not only for the country, but for all Latin America, and we would like to copy what has been done here and make a Metro in Panama City," he said, as reported in Listin Diario.

Chambers to work for exports
The Dominican Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedocamaras) has signed an agreement with the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) to work to increase commerce, investment and trade and to benefit the provinces.
Oliverio Espaillat Torres signed for Fedocamaras and Eddy Martinez for CEI-RD.
Espaillat, the president of Fedocamaras, stated that the agreement seeks to implement policies aimed at increasing investments in each region. He said that the CEI-RD would support the chambers so they can participate organizing fairs, trade shows, business roundtables, workshops and other measures aimed at increasing investments and trade.

Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has dismissed claims that the sale of 49% of the Dominican government shares in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery could put the country's fuel supply at risk. On Friday, 19 June, he described the elements in the private sector that are warning about the risks of the sale as "vultures." Bengoa says: "There are vultures circling that are not interested in the 49% shares of Refidomsa, but they want the previous set-up we had with Shell, to control and administer the refinery, and then let it go bankrupt to blame the state," he said, as reported in Diario Libre. Bengoa defends the sale by saying that on the contrary, given that Venezuela is the country's main oil supplier, supplies would be guaranteed.
National Business Council (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarulla says he does not object to the government's sale of a 49% share in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery, Refidomsa. He said that his concerns are about the buyer, Venezuela and warned that the Hugo Chavez government has been very hostile to his country's private sector. Supporters of the deal say there are many foreign investors in the DR, and they have never threatened the country's sovereignty.
Macarulla said that President Leonel Fernandez should take advantage of the current financial crisis to change the economic model, so that the government can meet social needs and resolve the electricity problems more effectively. As reported in Hoy, Macarulla spoke out in favor of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund so strengthen investor and business confidence in the country, bringing discipline in government spending and controlling politicians' hearty appetites that are so common during an electoral period. Macarulla described the current economic model as obsolete, saying that it allows for fiscal deficits, as happened last year when it limited investments that would have spurred development. He called for investments aimed at stimulating job creation.
Juan Bautista Vicini, president of the Vicini Group, warned against the creation of a fuel monopoly. He says that there are usually clauses that protect the minority investor in 51-49% deals, to ensure it has participation in important decisions. He also observed that the DR maintains a large debt with Venezuela for purchase of fuel, implying this could work against the country, depending on the deal that is signed. The contract has not been made public.
"My only observation is that the Dominican state needs to take measures to protect itself because its partner will be its lead supplier and care must be taken so that any clause that determines who the suppliers are," said Vicini during an interview on the Z-101 Gobierno de la Manana talk show.

Judge orders halt to cement plant
On Friday, 19 June Judge Sara Henriquez Marin, president of the Dispute and Administrative Court ordered a temporary halt on work on the cement plant being constructed by the Dominican Mining Consortium on the outskirts of the Los Haitises National Park. The Ministry of Environment issued environmental license DEA 0157-09 dated 14 April authorizing the construction.
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez has explained that President Leonel Fernandez himself had authorized the construction at the site.
In March, deputy minister of Environment Jose Manuel Mateo had recommended against the construction of the plant at the location, due to its possible effect on subterranean water sources in the area. Los Haitises is known as a source of 40% of the water used by the province and city of Santo Domingo.
Environmental and youth groups have been waging protests against the construction. The Monte Plata province community group Incorporated United Communities Rural Workers Movement and caving group Espeleogrupo took the case to the court on 20 May 2009. The construction is also being opposed by the Conference of the Episcopate of the Catholic Church, the state university UASD Environmental Commission, the Chamber of Deputies Environmental Commission and the Academy of Sciences, among others.
On Friday the Dominican Mining Consortium ordered a halt to construction in compliance with the court decision. The Consortium, associated with a major Santiago-based industrial and commercial group, is represented by lawyers Robert Martinez Vargas, Milton Ray Guevara, Juan Manuel Pellerano and Pedro Dominguez Brito.
Judge Henriquez stated that the preventive measure had been taken in order to reduce the risk of environmental damage. The case now needs to go to court.

Buy local
The president of the National Association of Furniture and Mattress Manufacturers (Asonaimco), Denny Reynoso criticized the fact that government offices are being furnished with imported furniture. He said that he would like the Fernandez government to follow the example of Joaquin Balaguer and Juan Bosch who he says favored local manufacturers in their procurement orders.
Reynoso singled out for criticism a government official whose specific mission is to promote local industry, but has chosen imported furniture for his own office.
Reynoso says the country has installed capacity to equip government offices. He recalled that in the past all furniture in government had been manufactured here. Reynoso would like to see the government fulfill law that obliges it to procure 15-20% of all its purchases from local manufacturers.

Parties get their money
The DR's major and minor political parties have received RD$200 million in funds since the beginning of the year and they are due to receive a total of RD$307 million, for a total of RD$526.5 million in 2009.
The funds, which are expected to be much higher in 2010, will be used in preparation for the 2010 municipal and congressional elections.
Of the total funds, the major political parties the PLD and PRD will receive 80% and the remaining 20 political parties will divide up the remaining funds equally.
To obtain designation as a major political party, a party must obtain at least 5% of the vote in the previous presidential elections.

Jobs disputed in 2010 elections
In the congressional and municipal elections scheduled for 16 May 2010, 3,391 positions are up for grabs.
This includes 178 deputies, 32 senators, 155 mayors and their replacements, 963 councilors and their replacements, 229 municipal district directors and three members. In addition, it also includes, 22 Latin American Parliament (Parlacen) deputies, and possibly seven overseas legislators.
Officials elected in the 2010 elections will remain in their posts for six years, in accordance with a modification under way to the Constitution aimed at unifying the presidential and congressional/municipal elections.
Central Electoral Board (JCE) member Eddy Olivares, called for a commitment by politicians to prevent drug trafficking and corruption money from deciding who the elected officers will be in 2010, as reported in Hoy. Olivares was speaking on Aeromundo, a Channel 9 Colorvision program.

Red light crossing
According to the Metropolitan Transport Authority, 70% of all the fines levied by agents are to drivers who have crossed a red light. General Rafael Bencosme Candelier says that about 1,400-1,500 fines are issued daily.

AH1N1 flu update
According to Mercedes Castro, Epidemiology director at the Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital, the number of people infected with the AH1N1 flu virus in the country now totals 99. Castro also says that over 1,000 people in the DR have been affected by the A-type influenza generally. For a period of two weeks the number of confirmed AH1N1 cases hovered at 93, but last week 6 new cases were confirmed.

Recognition for Dr. Hector Jimenez
Dominican cardiologist Hector Jimenez has been elected as the president of the medical hospital at the University of Miami, previously known as the Cedars Medical Center. Jimenez will take up his position in June 2010. Jimenez received his degree from the UASD University and a postgraduate degree from the Miller School of Medicine. Jimenez is a member of the South Florida Health Foundation, American Heart Association, Dade County Medical Association, Florida Medical Association and American Medical Association.

A judicial first
The Second Tribunal of First Instance in the National District has sentenced Robinson Batista (La Cura) to three years in prison for "sexually and psychologically seducing" a 13-year old minor. According to Listin Diario, the sentence was handed down through the National Service for Legal Representation for the rights of the victim and this is the first sentence of its kind in the DR.

10-year old drug supplier
A 10-year old boy allegedly carrying 8.1 grams of cocaine and 2.7 grams of crack in his underwear was arrested by drug enforcement agents on Friday, 19 June. The DNCD reported the arrest in Hoyo de Gurabito, in Santiago. Also arrested for investigation were Jose Raul Felix Gomez and Rafael Rivas Urena. Hoy newspaper quoted local residents as saying that these two men had supplied the drugs to the child for future sales. The gang leader was identified as Welbis Arturo Cordoba, who fled from the drug agents, according to the DNCD. Abel Rojas, spokesman for the DNCD in Santiago, said that this was the first time that a 10-year old has been arrested for involvement in drug sales. The boy was sent to the juvenile court where he faces a sentence of up to two years. Rojas said that the child used a scale to weigh the drugs and had a cell phone for contacting Welbis and his associates. He said that DNCD agents were in pursuit of vendors in Hoyo de Gurabito after receiving warning that a child was being used to distribute drugs in the so-called "Cordoba's place". The child is said to have identified Cordoba as his immediate boss, as reported in Hoy.

Violent deaths up
Despite continued efforts to reduce the number of violent deaths in the DR, the Attorney General's Office has revealed that there have been 781 violent deaths so far this year, of which 295 were directly linked to violent crimes.
This compares to 774 violent deaths for the same period in 2008. Nightclub disputes, family conflicts, drug trafficking and armed robberies are the main reasons for violent deaths in 2009.
The same report also indicates that police have been responsible for 128 deaths in the last four months, for an average of eight deaths at the hands of police per week.
However, the total is 31 fewer deaths than the number of police-related deaths during the same period in 2008.
Of the total deaths, 709 were men while 69 were women, while 514 of the deaths were gun-related.
The number of violent deaths is somewhat surprising considering that according to Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, the police force has increased its patrols by 537%.
Sociologist Ramon Tejada Holguin says that part of the reason crime hasn't gone down is that the measures implemented by the Interior and Police Ministry are repressive, not preventive. He added that the Ministry doesn't have the proper measures in place to reduce the amount of violent crimes in the country.

DR wins Masters Judo Pan Am
The DR has won the Pan Am Masters Judo Championship. Dominican judo athletes won 11 first places, 5 silvers and 2 bronzes.
Haiti was second with three golds, three silvers and five bronzes, followed by Brazil with two golds, three silvers and five bronzes.
Also competing were athletes from Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Nicaragua and Panama.
Gold winners for the DR were Isandrina Sanchez, Fanny Asencio, Juana Villanueva and Mabel Henriquez in the women's division. Jose Rodriguez, Wander Mateo, Luis Medrano, Tomas Belen, Amaury Jimenez and Jose Vasquez led the men's division.

Pujols continues to lead
Dominican slugger Albert Pujols is continuing his incredible 2009 campaign. His performance for the year is hyping up talk of an MVP season and he could be in line for much more. "El Hombre" as he known in St. Louis, swatted two balls out of the park yesterday, during a 12-5 pounding of inter-city rivals Kansas City.
Pujols now has an unreal 26-homerun total for the season, putting him on course for a 50-homerun season. He is currently the league leader in homeruns.
In other baseball news, it looks as if "Big Papi" David Ortiz is back to his old form. After struggling for the best part of the season, Ortiz's bat has come alive as of late and yesterday was another chapter in his resurgence. Ortiz hit a homerun to help the Boston Red Sox defeat the Atlanta Braves 6-5. It's his sixth dinger of the season. For the game Ortiz went 2-4, with two RBI and two runs scored.
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