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Daily News - Thursday, 27 August 2009

President Fernandez to Libya
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to Tripoli, capital of Libya to attend the 13th African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government from 30 to 31 August. Fernandez would speak on the Latin America and Caribbean region. In recent years, the DR has strengthened its ties with Africa. On his agenda are also meetings with the heads of state of South Africa, Argelia, Angola, Nigeria and Senegal.
The Ministry of Foreign Relations explains those countries are interested in strenghtening ties with the DR.
In July 2009, Fernandez was in Egypt where he met with the president of Libya, Muammar Gadaffi. Fernandez will travel with Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, and his press secretary Rafael Nunez, secretary of state Miguel Mejia and the director of the Center for Exports and Investments, Eddy Martinez.

Fernandez's Honduras proposal
President Leonel Fernandez favors the US stepping up the pressure and imposing trade sanctions on the Honduras coup regime. He proposes Honduras be suspended from the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement to pressure for the reinstatement of the government of Manuel Zelaya.
Fernandez made the recommendation at the XVIII Central American and Caribbean Political Parties Conference organized by the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) in Santo Domingo.
"I would dare to propose an infallible formula so that President Zelaya returns to power: the suspension of Honduras from the DR-CAFTA agreement," said Fernandez. He believes that the trade sanction would get Zelaya back in Honduras "in two or three weeks."
Robert Micheletti has been the de facto leader in Honduras after Zelaya was forced out, six months into ending his term. Zelaya had called for a referendum that would have installed a Constituent Assembly to reform the Constitution so he could remain in power.
In the DR, President Leonel Fernandez himself is almost successful at using his majority in Congress to reform the Dominican Constitution so he can again run for President.
Fernandez commented that it is unfortunate that here has yet been a resolution to the political conflict in Honduras. Fernandez warned that the issue in Honduras affects all countries in Latin American, adding that allowing coup d'etats would bring severe consequences in politics and to the economies.
The Honduras free zone association (AHM) called the formula an "opportunist action" to attract the apparel companies that are installed in Honduras. Guillermo Matamoros said that Fernandez seeks to turn a political situation into a way to recover contracts that were lost to Honduras that offers cheaper labor, electricity and transport costs.
In Honduras, Lidabel Almendares of the Honduras Business Council said that the CAFTA agreement does not contemplate a suspension for political reasons. She says that if the US chose to rescind the agreement any measure would not have an effect until next year. She said Honduras could submit a recourse against this to the World Trade Organization, given that this would be a trade action provoked by a political problem.
The US Embassy in Tegucigalpa already had announced suspending US$16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras and is contemplating suspending an additional US$180 million in US aid.

Higher deficit coming
Minister of Economics, Planning and Development, Temistocles Montas, says that according to the International Monetary Fund, public spending should be increased to stimulate the Dominican economy.
He explained that according to the IMF the DR's deficit could increase by 0.5%. Currently the DR's budget deficit in the 2009 budget is of 3%.
"The IMF has suggested, after evaluating the economy, that in order to face the global financial crisis, the government's deficit has to be higher than the one proposed by Congress."
He explained that this increase in the deficit would be financed by internal debt, arguing this is the trend in larger nations. He justified the increase in foreign debt this administration has accumulated. Montas says that foreign debt is only 24% of the GDP, indicating it is between US$7.1 billion and US$7.2 billion.

Government debt at US$15 billion?
The growth of the Dominican debt is in direct proportion to increasing corruption in government in the DR, said economists participating in the forum, "Public Debt, Corruption and Poverty" held yesterday at the Hotel Lina. The event was organized by the Transparency Table and the Economy and Trade Table of the Citizens Forum group. Economists reported that the foreign debt as of April 2009 was at US$7.08 billion, up from US$2.78 billion in 2000.
The economists stressed that the whole picture of the debt had to be presented.
When adding in domestic debt, the overall debt is closer to US$15 billion.
Francisco Checo, of the Center for Economic Investigations of the Caribbean (Cieca) says that by 2015 every Dominican will owe US$1,500, which would place the DR among the three or four most per-capita indebted countries in the region.
Checo, a former coordinator of the civic group, Participacion Ciudadana, explained that more that 50% of the debt of the country is bilateral with countries. The debt with PetroCaribe of Venezuela for oil purchases being the highest. 25% of the debt is with private debtors, and another 50% with multilateral organizations , such as the Interamerican Development Bank, World Bank.
Checo explained the Central Bank, to counter effects of the financial crisis on the stability of the local economy has taken on debt for US$3.98 billion and another US$4.19 billion locally. As a result, the total debt of the Dominican government is at US$15.26 billion, as reported in the Listin Diario.
The domestic debt increased from US$466 million in 2000 to US$4.2 billion in 2009.
Thus, while the foreign debt increased 2.6 times, the domesticdebt is up 9 times. President Leonel Fernandez had campaigned for his return to the Presidency in 2004, criticizing the debt taken on by his predecessor, Hipolito Mejia.
The economists say that the foreign debt of the DR could reach a record high of US$13 billion by the end of the Fernandez administration in 2012 if the government maintains its pace of borrowing, according to a report in El Caribe.
As reported in El Caribe, economist Isidoro Santana said that a large part of the debt has been contracted to resolve the energy situation, which continues at its worst despite bilions spent by the government.
Santana says that corruption is one of the leading obstacles to the implementing of socially efficient government policies.

Doctors get victory, sort of
The Ministry of Public Health has agreed to reinstate three of the resident public hospital doctors and two of the nurses who had been fired after an attack on the director of the Francisco Moscoso Puello hospital. The Ministry, however, has not reinstated Dr. Senen Caba or Dr. Juan Suero. It is a minor victory for the striking doctors, considering the Ministry did not want to reinstate any of them. The CMD and the Ministry of Public Health dispute the schemes for raising wages to public hospital staff.
However, the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) is not happy with the decision and says that it is matter of politics since Caba seeks to run for the presidency of the CMD. The news was announced by mediator Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado. The commission that had recommended the reinstatement of the residents also recommended the removal of Roberto Lafontaine, who had punched one of his assailants in the stomach.
Nunez Collado, and the CMD, are asking the Ministry to reconsider its decision and sanction the doctors instead of firing them. The issue of the fired medics has delayed the start of wage increase talks.

Santiago's strategic plan
The Strategic Development Council of Santiago shared its vision for the Santiago Strategic Plan 2010-2020 with Hoy newspaper. Carlos Alfredo Fondeur, president of the organization, said the objective is to enhance the quality of life in the province. The focus is on land use, economy, governance, population and culture.
He says they still need to complete parts of the 2002-2010 plan, such as the construction of the Avenida Mirador Norte and the 33-km highway between Canabacoa and Quinigua that would solve the traffic bottleneck in the city.
Fondeur says that also pending is the construction of the central park, and the city brand project. "Our idea is to sell this city as a health center, given its present already competitive offer. We also want to sell Santiago as a place for entertainment, he said, mentioning its many party and concert halls, the Cibao Stadium and its many quality restaurants.
He acknowledged that in recent years the city has experienced problems brought by demographic growth, growing unemployment, decline in private investment and the closing of free zone manufacturing plants. He said the city needs to deal with two other sserious problems: rising violence and the illegal migration of Haitians. He says Haitians tend to create slums in the areas where they install themselves. They also see as a major problem requiring urgent attention the managing of the waters of the highly polluted Yaque del Norte river.

Higher cost of politics?
Hoy newspaper editorial focuses today on the bill in Congress that would oblige Dominicans to fit the RD$1 billion to underwrite the primaries of political parties. The PRD favors the bill that would organize a primary paid by taxpayers to resolve their internal problems.
The new Party Bill proposes that the state pick up the tab for the party conventions. "It is hard to understand why the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has to pick up the tab for those primaries that are basic for any party that wants to participate in an election.
What is proper is just that the JCE supervise these and validate their results," says the editorial.
The editorial says that the financing of electoral campaigns of the parties by tax payers is a expense that is difficult to justify. "Primaries are an internal exercise that each party should fill and they should assume the costs of these," reads the editorial. Tax payers already contribute a significant percentage of the national budget to finance the parties.
Central Electoral Board president, Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman has spoken against the passing of the primary funding recourse.

Denouncing the police in San Cristobal
Senator Wilton Guerrero, who has been outspoken about drug trafficking in his Peravia province, again lashed out against corrupt authorities in the southwest. Yesterday, speaking at a press conference from his office in the Senate, Guerrero accused the police staff of San Cristobal of being accomplices to drug trafficking in that province, and requested the transfer of all agents. Recently President Leonel Fernandez removed the entire police staff in nearby Azua province for the same reason.
He said that what is going on in San Cristobal "is something more terrible" than what was happening in Azua with the police commander there. He rejected the police versions regarding recent incidents in Jeringa and Samangola of San Cristobal, where five persons died, including a police sargeant.
"In the cases of the two dead persons in Jeringa, what happened was that the police were compulsively charging a toll for selling drugs, on behalf of sargeant Pablo Acevedo Dipre and corporal Jose Antonio Moa Pena to drug trafficker Wagner Domingo Nunez (El Menor).
In regards to the three civilians who died in Samangola, the senator said that it is not true that it was an attempt to assault a betting parlor, nor that the individuals assaulted a patrol. "This was about a killing by the policemen, because those who died had their arms raised when they were shot in presence of onlookers," he denounced.
Guerrero, as reported in Hoy, says that the San Cristobal force under Colonel Nelson Valenzuela is rotten from top to bottom. He said that the judiciary issues arrest orders for suspect criminals, but these are not arrested by the Police. "The population sees the crimes being done again and again, they see these men sitting down to drinks with the police agents in bars and colmados, and they see the visits the police agents make to charge tolls," said the Senator.

Mufflers for the motorcycles
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal and the director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET), General Rafael Oscar Bencosme Candelier announced they are giving motorcycle owners and drivers five days to install mufflers on their bikes. He said that after the deadline, they will be confiscating all that are driving without these. He said the motorcycles are responsible for a great part of the high noise levels of the city.
Fernandez explained that Environment Law 64-00 establishes fines and confiscation of equipment for those contributing to noise contamiantion.
Hoy explains that many times cars and motorcycle owners saw off the ends of their mufflers, to attract attention with their loud, disturbing noises.

Condolences for Ted Kennedy
President Leonel Fernandez has sent a message with his condolences to the family of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, who passed away this week. Kennedy died of brain cancer.
"I extend my condolences to the North American public, the influential Kennedy family and the US Congress for the loss of a man, whose public life reached high praise, becoming an icon for the most progressive ideas of change in his country." Kennedy, known as the "Lion of the Senate," is the third longest serving Senator in the history of Congress, having served since 1962, for the state of Massachusetts. He was brother to Robert and John Kennedy, assassinated, and had become the patriarch of the Kennedy family, one of the US's long standing political families.

Kangoroos at the Zoo
Four pairs of kangoroos have arrived from Holland to the Santo Domingo Zoo. Director Patricia Toribio says that soon, the girlfriend to Marcelo, the giant turtle, is scheduled to arrive. The kangoroos are presently in quarentine but soon will be moved to the Children's Zoo section.

DR loses to Brazil
DR fought all the way against Brazil in the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship taking place in Puerto Rico, with the game in the last set standing at 66-66. The more veteran Brazilians moved ahead in the final six minutes to win the game 81-68. The first half had ended 38-36 in favor of Brazil. Playing on the DR team are NBAers Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia.
The Brazilians got 48 points in the paint while the Dominicans only managed 24 points on the blocks. Second chance points were also lopsided with the Brazilians getting 22 points, with the DR only getting 2 second chance baskets. The Brazilians dominated on the inside.
The DR plays Panama today at 1:30pm. To follow the game, see http://www.fibatv.com/page/FIBAamericashome/0,,12805,00.html
In the DR, the game can by seen by Digital 15.

Papi is almost back
David Ortiz might never get back to the highlight reels that had come to define his career. He is an aging left hander designated hitter, who has had serious injuries. His image was also one that took a hit lately after he admitted to failing a drug test in 2003.
But the guy they call Papi keeps on pushing and has had a late season resurgence of sorts for the Boston Red Sox. Last night Papi proved he still had some in the tank after massacring two pitches and going long both times. Ortiz, who has also garnered a reputation as a man of late inning heroics, did not shy away in this game. The game was tied 2-2 in the ninth as the Sox faced the other Sox from Chicago. Ortiz came up to bat and sent one deep into the right field stands, almost going foul. The ball stayed fair and it was Ortiz's 10th walk off game winning home run, and his ninth as a Sox man, tying him with Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx. Ortiz's resurgence could help the Red Sox as they are in a desperate race to clinch the AL Wild Card. They are currently 2.5 games ahead of the surprising Texas Rangers.

Center named after Pujols
A new center for adults with Down Syndrome wil be named ater Dominican baseball player Albert Pujols. St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri will open the new center for adult. It will be the first of its kind in Missouri. Pujols has a daughter with Down Syndrome and according to the Miami Herald allocated a US$70,000 grant from the Major League Baseball Trust to the non-profit center. Pujols is known for his service to the community and has founded the Pujols Family Foundation that provides assistance to those with Down syndrome and to children and orphans in the Dominican Republic.

For popular piano music lovers
Night of Hits with Clayderman and Di Blasio
Piano concert with Richard Clayderman and Raul Di Blasio. August 28 and 29. Main Hall Teatro Nacional. A Cesar Suarez production. Tickets: RD$3,000, RD$2,500, RD$1,800 and RD$1,500.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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