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Daily News - Wednesday, 01 July 2009

Fernandez in Panama
President Leonel Fernandez traveled to Panama yesterday to attend new Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli's inauguration, which takes place today. Fernandez, who had been in Nicaragua for the 34th Ordinary Meeting of Heads and State and Government of the Central America Integration System (SICA), was met at the airport by Panamanian deputy Foreign Minister Meliton Arroca and DR Ambassador in Panama Fior Pichardo. The ceremony begins at 10:30am.

Education tax break
The Department of Taxes is setting rules and procedures for the application of the new tax deductions being applied to education fees. The new rules published today enable companies to deduct education payments made to employees without having to pay tax, as has been the case up till now. The payments will not be subject to severance payments, making them an attractive way for companies to increase employee remuneration. A wide range of tuition is valid for the scheme, from pre-school, to technical school, short courses, and university courses. Individuals may also deduct the exemption from their advance payments on taxes.
See www.dgii.gov.do

Central Bank cuts CD rates
The Central Bank (CB) has announced a 1% decline in interest rates to the general public on its certificates of deposit. Listin Diario reports that the move is aimed at stimulating growth. The new Fixed Rate Certificate of Deposits are 180 days, 6%; 365 days, 7.0%; 18 months 8.0%; 24 months, 7%; 30 months, 8% and 36 months, 10.0%; and a 12% annual rate.

The Constitutional Court debate
Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, vice president of the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice, and former prosecutor Virgilio Bello Rosa of the PRD have rejected statements by president of the Supreme Court of Justice drawing parallels between the government and political conflict in Honduras and what could occur in the DR. Subero Isa is disputing the creation of a Constitutional Court as part of the changes in the Constitution, as reported in El Caribe. Subero Isa is against the court, which would deal with violations of the Constitution.

DR slips in governance
According to a study by the World Bank, Governance Matters 2009, the DR has slipped in most World Wide Governance Indicators (WGI). The worldwide governance indicators (WGI) report aggregate and individual governance indicators for 212 countries and territories over the period 1996-2008, for six dimensions of governance: Voice and Accountability, Political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. The DR's highest ranking came in the area of voice and accountably where the DR had a score of 52.2%. The DR scored 48.8% in political stability, 42.2 in government effectiveness, 33% in rule of law and 31.9% in control of corruption. As part of the research data was taken from 35 sources from 33 organizations.

Government gets Ede Este
The Dominican government has officially purchased the EdeEste energy distribution company from its previous owner Trust Company West (TCW). The distributor was purchased for a price of US$26.5 million and Gerardo Sosa, formerly of EdeNorte, was immediately appointed as EdeEste's new general manager.
Sosa said that over 1,000 employees who currently work at EdeEste would remain in their jobs, regardless of political affiliation, especially if they are actually doing their job.
State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura says that details of EdeEste's debt and details of the purchase would not be made public for the time being.
Segura did say that he hoped the new changes would lead to more efficiency in payment by customers.
Listin Diario reports that as part of the deal, TCW agreed to withdraw four pending lawsuits totaling US$680 million, against the government.

Segura downplays controversy
State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura says that recent accusations of corruption and nepotism are just part of a defamation campaign by interested parties and downplayed the gravity of the situation.
He says the "interested parties" are seeking to exert pressure so that the state sells its energy companies at cheap prices.
He downplayed the revelations that 43 members of his family are employed by the CDEEE, which employs a total of 8,000, saying it was not a big deal.
Responding to the critics, Segura remarked, "So people who need a job and do their job, because they are relatives, can't work in that institution?" He added that there was no law against hiring family members.
In an investigative report on the bloated payroll at the CDEEE broadcast over the weekend, TV journalist Nuria Piera revealed that the payroll had gone from RD$84 million in 2004 to RD$480 million now.
Que Se Dice column on page 2 of Hoy also asks today why the CDEEE needs 34 waiters on its payroll. It also questions why the government electricity body needs to donate large sums of money to churches, and foundations, included that of President Leonel Fernandez. The column goes on to question the payments made by the CDEEE to opposition politicians and the fact that journalists who claim to be independent are on the CDEEE payroll. Claudio Acosta, writer of the column, announces that a second report on the CDEEE is forthcoming for this coming Saturday.
Acosta also writes about the contradictions between all the events commemorating the centenary of the birth of the late founder of the ruling PLD party Juan Bosch, which highlight his honesty and integrity, and the findings of the Nuria Piera investigations.

INDRHI payroll scandal
In her El Informe investigative report on Channel 7, Alicia Ortega presented irregularities in hiring at the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI). In a follow-up to her first report on irregularities in dam construction contracts, Ortega questioned the work carried out by advisors who make RD$50,000 to RD$110,000 a month at the INDRHI, and the fact that these include well known members of the PRSC opposition party and Fernandez government officials who are already on other government payrolls.

Exams were sold
Diario Libre is reporting that copies of the recently held National Standardized Exams were sold to students throughout the country in advance of the exams and in San Cristobal each was sold for RD$1,200.
Two Ministry of Education employees, Juan de Dios Abad and Michael Alexander Baez Montilla, were sent to jail for their role in the scheme.
Lenin Esteba Montilla, also implicated, is not allowed to leave the country and must show up in front of a judge every 30 days.
In all seven people are implicated in the scheme. Minister of Education Melanio Paredes says that so far 400 anomalies have been found in exams.

Troubles at Robert Reid hospital
Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez has acknowledged public concerns following an outbreak of infection in the pre-natal intensive care unit at the Robert Reid children's hospital. The recent outbreak caused the sudden deaths of six babies last week and has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch an investigation into the causes.

Evictions for farmers in Los Haitises
A military contingent has distributed eviction notices to a large numbers of residents of Gonzalo, in the province of Monte Plata, who have opposed the installation of a cement plant by the Dominican Mining Consortium on the edge of Los Haitises National Park. The reason is that the lands belong to the State Sugar Council (CEA) and the residents have been given 10 days to leave the lands.
The cement company had obtained a Ministry of Environment permit for the cement plant and the Ministry insists that President Leonel Fernandez himself authorized the location. During a presentation at the UNPHU as part of a debate about the controversial plant, cement company spokesman Marcos Perez insisted that the construction meets legal requirements and it is not located in the Los Haitises National Park.
Nevertheless, during the same event, geologist Osiris de Leon explained that the vulnerable karst zone, regarded as the country's leading source of underground potable water and an important water reserve for the future, would be affected. It covers an area of 1,612 square meters. He said the Los Haitises National Park was reduced to 600kms in 2004, and so while the cement plant would be in the karst area, it is technically outside the park.
During the event, Fatima Portorreal, professor of natural resources at the UNPHU, stressed that there is a property issue affecting the local residents. She says that because of their poverty, before the protected status of the area, government officials had issued them property titles in the now protected areas in order to displace them from flatlands intended for sugar cane cultivation. She says that in order to tackle the poverty in the area, the lands that have been assigned to the cement plant would be better assigned to the area farmers and used for food production.
Speaking on behalf of the community at the end of the UNPHU debate, farmer Alejandro Garcia questioned how many of the local residents from Gonzalo and environs would find jobs at the cement plant, stressing that they were only farmers.
In June, a judge suspended construction of the cement plant on the grounds of potential damage to the area. President Leonel Fernandez then announced that his government would listen to the United Nations Environmental Program's opinion about the site.

Dominican appointed prosecutor in US
Camelia Valdes was sworn into office yesterday as Passaic County Prosecutor in New Jersey. This makes her the first Dominican-American County Prosecutor in US history to be appointed or elected.
Valdes, a Bronx native who grew up in Newark, NJ was nominated to the post by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine on 16 March 2009.
She was confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate on Friday, 26 June.
Prior to her appointment, she served as Assistant US Attorney in the US Justice Department. She was also the former President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.
Her position makes her the second highest-ranking Dominican American in law enforcement with only Thomas Perez, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next Assistant US Attorney General for Civil Rights with a higher ranking - pending his confirmation.
Passaic County has the largest population of Dominicans in New Jersey.
In some US states, the title "county prosecutor" may be known as "district attorney" or DA, such as New York State.

First Dominican Mayor in Passaic
Dr. Alex D. Blanco will be sworn-in today for a full four-year term as Mayor of the city of Passaic, New Jersey. Governor Jon Corzine will do the honors and US Senator Robert Menendez will also attend to mark the historic moment. Blanco made US history last November when he was elected mayor in a special election making him the first Dominican-American ever elected as mayor in US history. Last May, he won his election to a full four-year term thus securing his place in Dominican American history. The ceremony will take place at 7:00pm ET.

Drug plane falls
A small plane carrying bricks of cocaine has crashed off the Matanzas coast near the southwestern city of Bani, once again pushing the province's drug problems back to the front page.
Details are still being recovered, but the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) says the pilot was killed in the crash, which occurred at 2am on Tuesday morning.
The body of a second person has yet to be recovered and only four large bricks of cocaine, totaling 120 kilos, have been found.
The Navy has joined in the search efforts as well as a DNCD helicopter. Bani and the surrounding areas have become preferred areas of transit for drug traffickers and their merchandise.

Ballet Gala
The National Theater is presenting the World Gala of Dance on 3 and 4 July. This is a benefit for the Fundacion Nido para Angeles that works with children with brain paralysis. First ballerinas Michelle Jimenez and Jan Zerer of the Dutch Ballet will perform. Also, performing are dancers from the Munich Ballet and Brazilian dancer Vitor Luiz, who will be the principal dancer of the San Francisco Ballet in 2010. Also performing is Lorena Feijoo, a former prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba, now performing with the San Francisco Ballet.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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