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Daily News - Thursday, 16 July 2009

Fernandez at Non-Alligned Summit
President Leonel Fernandez spoke at the inaugural plenary for the two-day Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. The movement gathers officials from 118 nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Fernandez criticized the reduced amount of financial assistance G-8 nations have made available for developing nations to tackle the current financial crisis. He recalled that the developed nations had promised to create a fund of 20 billion.
He said this was the same amount that President John Kennedy dedicated to the Alliance for Progress plan to help Latin America in the 1960s, and dilute the political impact of the Cuban Revolution.
He called the amount "insignificant compared to the funds that have been allocated to bale out financial institutions as a result of the global crisis.
As part of his meetings with key Middle East government officials on his 10-day tour to the region, Fernandez met yesterday with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi invited the DR to participate as an observer in the African Union Summit coming in January 2010.
Gaddafi received President Fernandez and Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso at the villa in the Gran Rotana tourist resort in Sharm-el-Sheikh where he is staying during the summit. Also present was Libyan foreign minister Abdelrahman Mohamed Shagan.

More legislators!
The Revisory Assembly for the Constitution has increased the number of deputies from 178 to 190, rejecting a proposal from the President that sought to establish a minimum of 175 and a maximum of 250 deputies.
According to what was approved, 178 deputies "will be elected by the territorial districts in representation of the National District and the provinces"; "five (deputies) at the national level for accumulation of votes, preferably from parties or alliances or coalitions that would not have won seats and that have obtained at least one percent (1%) of the popular vote", and "seven (deputies) in representation of overseas Dominicans."
The assembly members also gave their blessing to article 68 that allows the Senate of the Republic to elect the members of the Chamber of Accounts from candidates submitted by the Chamber of Deputies, taking this task away from the President.
Diario Libre reports that among the attributions of the Senate, the Assembly also approved the ability "to authorize, after a request from the President of the Republic and in the absence of conventions that permit it, the presence of foreign troops in the Republic's territory for military exercises, determining the length of their stay; as well as approving or disapproving the dispatch of troops overseas on peace missions authorized by international organizations."
Also new was the approval of Numeral 16, which would put an end to the limbo into which much of the legislation approved by the Congress falls. The numeral reads: "Once the Constitution deadline for the promulgation and publication of the laws passed by the Congress has expired, the legislation will be considered to be promulgated and the president of the Chamber that has sent the bill to the President will publish the law."
The legislators rejected a motion that would oblige them to reveal their accounts publicly, on the grounds that they do not handle public funds. The legislators in effect have refused to be accountable for resources assigned to them.

Economy shows signs of picking up
Superintendent of Banks Haivanjoe Ng Cortinas and banker Alejandro Grullon say that the economy is picking up, and this can be seen by the increase in bank loans. Ng Cortinas made these comments yesterday while presenting the results of the first half of the year in the financial sector, as compared to the same period last year.
According to the data, the financial system's solvency index went from 14.5% in 2008 to 15% in the first half of 2009. The financial system's assets increased by 3.2% as they went from RD$596.462 billion in 2008 to RD$615.680 billion in 2009, an increase of more than RD$19 billion.
At the same time, the system's loan portfolio increased by 3.5%, going from RD$315.48 billion to RD$363.61 billion, an increase of around RD$12 billion.
At the end of the first half of the year commercial banks showed a 2.2% growth rate, savings and loan associations showed 5.4% growth and the other financial entities that make up the system showed a growth of 14%. Commercial banks recorded an increase in loans issued of RD$8.288 billion, which was 2.9% over the year before.
Moreover, the savings and loan associations (S&L) increased their loans by RD$1.67 billion for a 3.7% growth rate; the savings banks loaned out RD$1.12; the credit corporations loaned RD$404.7 million and the National Housing Bank (BNV) loaned RD$643 million.
Since February of this year, borrowing reached its lowest level, and finance companies have placed credits for RD$15.73 billion. Loans destined to productive sectors totaled RD$219 billion, reflecting a 5.1% growth, or in absolute terms RD$10.922 billion more in loans, equal to 90% of the total registered in the credit system.
Meanwhile, consumer loans and credit card borrowing reached RD$82.2 billion, a decrease of -0.6%, which is to say, a contraction of RD$488 million. But from April to June there was a RD$431-million increase in these loans.
Grullon, the president of the board of directors of the Banco Popular Dominicano, said that the economy is picking up due to the increase in the demand for loans. Loans for housing purchases reached RD$62.23 billion, reflecting a 2.3% growth, an increase of RD$1.7 billion in the first semester of 2009 over 2008.
The total reception of money from the public in the whole system was RD$499 billion, with an increase of RD$30.9 billion compared to December. The system has more than RD$125 billion in cash, which has increased liquidity levels to 24.5%.

Countries affected by costlier visas
Tourists coming from Cuba, Colombia, China and Haiti have been affected by the increase in the cost of visas since 16 June. Arturo Villanueva, executive vice president of the National Hotels & Restaurant Association, criticized the Ministry of Foreign Relations' decision to increase visa costs from US$40 to US$70. Axel Wittkop, speaking for the Ministry, said that Colombians make on average 600 requests for travel to the DR. He explained Cubans request visas for family reunification, and Chinese can already travel here with a tourist card. He did not specify the number of Haitians requesting visas for the DR.
As reported in Listin Diario, Wittkop said that the DR allows visa-free travel to citizens and residents of 148 countries. Most travelers to the DR from the US, Canada and European countries do not need visas.

EUR9.2 million to Plan Sierra
The Ministry of Hacienda and the French Cooperation Agency have signed an agreement for 9.2 million euros, equivalent to approximately US$13 million, which will be used to preserve the environment in the area covered by the Sierra forestry plan.
Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa and French ambassador to the Dominican Republic Roland Dubertrand and the agency representative in the country Jean-Marc Liger signed the loan agreement on Wednesday. Bengoa said that the money would be used for the second phase of Plan Sierra.
The signing ceremony was attended by the president of the board of directors of Plan Sierra, Alejandro Grullon. The banker said that the cooperation from the French agency was deeply appreciated and would be well used by the Plan Sierra as part of the program to preserve the environment in the communities that are part of the not-for-profit organization's area of influence.
Plan Sierra has been in operation for more than 30 years.
The French ambassador and the agency representative said that France was always interested in cooperating in projects that helped the environment, or water resources and natural resources.

Nationwide blackout hits all
A nationwide blackout lasting 17 minutes affected the Dominican Republic at 11:34 yesterday morning. The blackout ended at 11:51am. However, Diario Libre says that according to official data, the blackout started earlier.
At 4:30 in the afternoon the system had 900 megawatts on line. The blackout occurred after the Dominican Corporation of State-owned Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE) announced that the energy supply would begin to improve as of Tuesday, while the executive vice-president, Radhames Segura was out of the country. The Superintendent of Electricity attributed the total blackout to the failure of the generators in Haina to stay on-line. Among these plants that were turned off, he listed Haina TG (turbo gas), 100 mw, due to a problem of vibration; Itabo I, with boiler problems; Los Minas V and VI, 118 mw, for lack of fuel, and Haina IV, 65 mw.
The total unavailable energy before the blackout was 411 megawatts, which, together with the demand caused by the hot weather, caused the current state of interruptions.
"The blackout came with 1,340 megawatts on-line and 702 mw out of service with voltage problems, and when AES Andres went off-line as it produced 272.27 megawatts, it was followed by San Felipe (in Puerto Plata-formerly Smith Enron) with its 164 and CESPM (formerly Cogentrix) with 84 mw," said the report from the Superintendent.
Meanwhile AES Dominicana reported that at the moment of the blackout it was providing 474 megawatts to the National Interconnected System of Electricity (SENI), and its units tried to regulate the frequency in order to avoid the complete collapse of the system.
They said that at 2:00 in the afternoon Los Mina VI was back on-line with 100 mw in an attempt to stabilize the SENI.
At the same time, the AES Andres gas turbine unit was coming back on-line and by the end of the afternoon it was expected that the other units of this group would be on-line with an average production of 500 mw.
In recent days the public has been complaining of the long interruptions of service, many lasting for 10 and 15 hours. The reasons given for the lack of service were "technical problems" at several of the generators.
The generators, nevertheless, complain that the Government's debt is more than US$500 million, and they have not received a penny over the past few months, while the authorities at the CDEEE say the debt is smaller, but they have problems with payment because the government's income has fallen.

Codetel confirms blackout
Codetel, formerly Verizon Dominicana and now under the administration of America Movil owned by Mexican Carlos Slim, confirmed the blackout in Internet service yesterday, 15 July from 9:50 to 11:53am. In a notification to the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel), the company reported they had suffered a "partial degrading" of their Internet service.
Technician Pedro Ramirez Pequeno made the report in an e-mail message to the executive director of Indotel. Ramirez said that Codetel's technical staff were reviewing the situation to determine the causes.

PRD groups face off over MVM
Former President Hipolito Mejia's faction within the main opposition PRD party has described the decision to call a convention to proclaim Miguel Vargas Maldonado as president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) this Sunday as "regrettable". Yesterday they contested the whole thing before the Central Electoral Board (JCE), challenging the party's call for a convention.
The JCE Disputes Chamber immediately convened both parties to a public hearing at 10am this morning.
The protest was filed by a commission headed by leading PRD members Pedro Franco Badia, Hector Guzman and Eligio Jaquez.
The document identifies aspiring party vice presidential candidate Julio Cesar Cedeno, Victor Tomas Mendez, Ramon Cruz and Juan Taveras Hernandez, as well as Miguelina Alba who is hoping to become the party secretary general, as plaintiffs in the case. The dispute is based on the fact that the call to the proclamation is in violation of the PRD statutes and the Regulations for the XXVII Ordinary National Convention.
Franco Badia denied that the refusal to accept Vargas's proclamation is an attempt to sabotage his presidential aspirations.
Despite the challenge, everything is ready for Vargas Maldonado's proclamation as the new PRD president. "The party is willing to defend the legality and the legitimacy of the conventions that are going to be held on Sunday, 19 July, and everyone is continuing to work towards the celebration of these events," said party secretary general Orlando Jorge Mera.

Former DGA official robbed
A former deputy director of Customs (DGA) during several administrations, Luis Manuel Sanchez escaped injury yesterday, in a raid that took place around midnight outside his house in Santo Domingo's Evaristo Morales neighborhood. His driver, Longino Luna, nevertheless, was killed in the attack. Sanchez fired back at the assailants. His vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser, has seven bullet holes.
Sanchez attributed the shooting to interests that he confronted while at the DGA. He said once he left the DGA his security guard was removed.
The former DGA official said he was dismissed together with others that worked with DGA director Miguel Cocco, who died earlier this year and was replaced by Rafael Camilo, previously Superintendent of Banks.
"Unfortunately, if there is something to criticize about the state it is that after taking on the responsibilities that I did, I have been left unprotected and dismissed for convenience of service after 24 years of hard work," he said. He regretted the death of his driver, who had worked for him for 25 years.

Watchman off with RD$2 million
A watchman at the Popular Savings and Loan Association on Bartolome Colon Avenue in Santiago walked away with over RD$2 million in cash on Tuesday evening. Raul Mercado, 34, worked for the Dominican Watchman National security company.
According to Diario Libre, Mercado waited until just about closing before using his 9mm pistol to threaten the manager and one of the cashiers, demanding that they put all the cash into black plastic bags.
According to Police spokesperson Colonel Jesus Cordero Paredes, the guard left by the back door of the S&L office located in Plaza Jorge II, across the street from La Sirena supermarket, and fled on his motorcycle.
Over the past week there has been a spate of muggings and raids on at least 8 commercial establishments in Santiago. Super Colmado Reyes, located in block A of the Villa Olimpica, Mini Market Las Colinas, Farmacia Soriano and Almacen La Defensa in Cienfuegos, are among the shops affected.

The general's "retirement"
Decree 501-09 from the Executive Branch has put General Juan Tomas Taveras Rodriguez in retirement. The general had been punished with 10 days 'arrest' by the chief of the National Police, Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, but this was subsequently lifted by an order from Interior & Police Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier.
In the case of general officers, 'arrest' means that they are confined to police headquarters. Diario Libre says that yesterday morning Guzman Fermin rescinded the arrest order against General Taveras Rodriguez for expressing his opinions on police reform in his column for the Clave Digital online news service.
Less than an hour and a half before a request for a habeas corpus hearing in favor of the officer was made, Guzman Fermin issued a memorandum revoking the arrest.
Hoy newspaper reports that a deal was reached between the "retired for length of service" general and the National Police chief.
General Juan Tomas Taveras Rodriguez was promoted to the rank of general on 16 August 2004 after President Leonel Fernandez was sworn in.

Mob lynches gang leader
Life ended quickly and brutally for 19-year old Julio Cesar Planco, known as "Gotica" in the crime world of San Cristobal. He was lynched by a furious mob after he and two accomplices stole a motorcycle from Victoriano de la Cruz.
These events took place in the community of Mojo Casabe in the town of Yaguate, San Cristobal province, according to regional Police spokesperson Colonel Luis Francisco Ferreira Herrera.
When the gang stole the motorcycle, Victoriano de la Cruz raised the alarm and other motorcycle drivers gave chase and the mob fell upon Julio Cesar with sticks, knives, machetes and cement blocks to the head, killing him instantly.
Julio Cesar Polanco, a.k.a. Gotico, left Najayo Prison in January after being jailed on homicide charges for an incident in Pueblo Nuevo, when he fought with members of a rival gang of criminals. Police sources told El Nuevo Diario reporter Carlos Corporan that Gotica had more than 5 items on his rap sheet for assaults and robberies in the National Police's Criminal Investigation Department.
The young man had kept the people of Pueblo Nuevo in anguish, committing assaults and robberies against young people where many were injured by knives and gunfire. As a result of the incident, the people of Pueblo Nuevo took to the streets in celebration.

Adriano Espaillat backs Ydanis Rodriguez
New York State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat has endorsed Ydanis Rodriguez for the New York City Council seat vacated by Miguel Martinez in Washington Heights, Manhattan.
Espaillat's decision, announced yesterday, followed Martinez's abrupt resignation from his NYC Council seat on Tuesday due to an anticipated indictment by the US Attorney's office relating to a slush fund scandal involving Martinez.
Rodriguez, an educator and grass roots organizer who has run for city council numerous times since 2001, is considered one of the front-runners in the crowded field of candidates as he has raised more money than any other candidate in the race.
Rodriguez is best known for organizing the "Dominicans 2000" Conferences in 2000 and 2001, a national youth conference at City College of NY.
As for Espaillat (who is the first Dominican ever elected to a state legislature in US history), his endorsement of Rodriguez may potentially re-open some political wounds with Linares. During the 1990s Linares and Espaillat were political adversaries, but they patched things up in 2003 after Espaillat endorsed Linares when Linares ran for NY State Senate (he lost that race to current State Senator Eric Schneiderman).
An endorsement by Espaillat carries political weight for Rodriguez given that Espaillat has represented the district since 1997.
Linares was the first Dominican elected to public office in US history when he was elected to the NYC Council in 1991 and served until he was term-limited in 2001.
Yesterday, Linares resigned as NYC Commissioner for Immigrant Affairs to run for his old council seat. He is also likely to be endorsed by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg in the city council race.
If Bloomberg endorses Linares, it would also carry political weight in the race since the billionaire mayor commands a wide 22-point lead for his own re-election race against his opponent, NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, according to a New York Times poll.
www.politickerny.com/4503/jockeying-martinezs-seat
http://newyorkblips.dailyradar.com/story/...
www.politickerny.com/4474/...
www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2009/07/...

Amaprosan Fair 2009 in Santiago
The Santiago Wholesalers Association (Amaprosan) inaugurated their 2009 trade fair yesterday afternoon, calling for a new model of behavior for government employees. The fair, dedicated to prominent businessman Jose Luis Corripio Estrada (Pepin), who was presented with a plaque of recognition for his contributions to the wholesale business in the DR.

Summer Jazz at Casa de Teatro
Summer is special as Casa de Teatro welcomes leading jazz performers for its Annual Summer Jazz Festival, with Thursday performances. This Thursday, 16 July Natalia Calderon Quartet from Spain performs at the Colonial City bohemian culture house. Tickets are RD$350 for auditorium and RD$200 in the Cafe Teatro.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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