Fernandez at African summit|
President Leonel Fernandez is concerned that Honduran deposed President Manuel Zelaya has not yet been reinstated. Fernandez made his comments during the 13th African Union Chiefs of State and Heads of Government Summit he attended in Tripoli, Libya. Fernandez complained that while the international community has denounced the coup d'etat against Zelaya, the opposition party continues to rule.
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.
The move to change the Constitution is similar to actions previously taken by Chavez (Venezuela), Correa (Ecuador), Mejia and Fernandez (DR), Uribe (Colombia), among other Latin American leaders, regarding changes in the country's constitution to enable them to 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.
Earlier, President Leonel Fernandez had used the forum of the Central American Parliament to call for the US to suspend Honduras from the DR-CAFTA agreement. This was rejected by both the US and Costa Rica.
During the African summit, Fernandez and representatives from Libya announced the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries. It is expected that diplomats will be appointed within the next month.
The move to solidify relations with Libya is a sign of the increased participation of Dominican diplomacy in the African continent and in the Middle East.
Savings for legalizing documents|
The Ministry of Foreign Relations announced the start of the implementation of the "Apostille" requirement for many public documents. The procedure simplifies and reduces the cost of certifying public (including notarized) documents to be used in countries that have joined the Apostille convention.
The good news is that documents issued by states that are signatory of the apostille convention will not have to be legalized before the Dominican consulates abroad nor the Legalization Section of the Dominican Republic for use in the DR. This includes civil registry documents (birth, death or marriage certificate) and education degrees, among others.
In the DR, the apostille is simply a 9 centimeter slip that will be adhered to the document by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. With the apostille, along with a translation, a document from the DR will be recognized in the United States, for instance. The same works for a US document to which a US apostille has been adhered, will now be recognized in the DR.
The apostille will contain the following information:
1. Country where the document came from
2. Name of the authority signing the public document
3. Acting as
4. Details of the stamp used by the institution issuing the document
5. Name of the city where the document was certified
6. Name of the authority that certified the document
7. Name of the order and date of the apostille
8. Signature of the officer who authorized the apostille
The apostille process was created by an international agreement called the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents. The agreement dates back to 1961, and is being implemented in the DR as of 30 August 2009.
Despite the complicated title, the agreement is relatively easy to understand: it says that if two countries have signed the agreement, as have the DR and the United States (for example), each country will recognize the other's public documents if an apostille - and a translation, where appropriate - have been attached.
The fee for the document in the DR is RD$620. The Ministry of Foreign Relations indicates that to obtain the apostille, the procedure is the following:
1. Documents issued by government institutions and education documents need to be legalized by their respective institutions.
2. Documents authenticated by notary public need the legalization by the Prosecutor General Office (Procuraduria General de la Republica).
For US documents, for instance, to be used in the DR, there is an apostille-issuing office for each US state and territory and the fee is around US$10 per document, much less than in the DR.
The Ministry of Foreign Relations explains that documents issued by diplomatic or consular agents, administrative documents relative to a business or customs transaction, and those that will be used in countries that are not signatories of the Apostille convention will be legalized as the previous procedures.
The CDEEE cleans house|
The State-Owned Electric Companies (CDEEE) now under businessman Celso Marranzini is focusing on getting all to pay for energy consumption and reducing the alarming payroll at the CDEEE. Beginning yesterday, 300 employees at the CDEEE were given their pink slips.
In one of his first actions on the job, the new new management ordered the reorganization of the CDEEE web page so that it is compliant with the freedom of information act. In the name of transparency, Marranzini said the payroll of the CDE would be featured on the Internet, in addition to the budget execution and all relative to the electricity system.
Marranzini was one of his predecessor's most harsh critics, criticizing the excessive employment at the CDEEE. Marranzini had said several times that the CDEEE would be more efficient if it had 10% of its present payroll.
One new legal aide to Marranzini commented that in the legal department there were 47 lawyers. He said this was more than at the largest law firm in the DR. Reducing the payroll will come at a high cost to the state, as severance payments have to be made to the employees, most of which received way over average wages.
Hoy reports that Marranzini will be announcing measures to relieve the weight of the nation's electricity bill that is now carried by the country's middle class. Sectors and persons of influence and the poor pay little or nothing for the service.
Marranzini made the announcement during a meeting at the CDEEE's headquarters. The VP of the CDEEE was joined by the president's of the three energy distributors (Ede Este, Ede Sur and Ede Norte). Marranzini was also joined by Superintendent of Energy Francisco Mendez and the new president of the National Energy Commission, Enrique Ramirez.
Nepotism also in Congress|
A news report by TV investigative reporter Alicia Ortega on "El Informe" of Channel 7, revealed that the legislators' special fund, "el barrilito," is used by senators to employ many of their family members, including their children, spouses, parents and even in-laws. Hoy reports that the funds used by the senators total RD$17 million per month. This special fund also pays monthly wages to people who are deceased. The fund has increased by RD$3.6 million since 2006.
Many of these persons are labeled in the payroll as assistants, security, chauffeurs, secretaries, despite not carrying outs these duties.
According to Hoy, the investigation came when following a lead of a domestic employee at the house of a senator, who unknowingly was being issued RD$20,000 in monthly salaries since 2008.
One of the concerns with the "barrilito" is that in 2007 the Senate ordered that only an average of RD$431,500 be used per month by the senators, but as of 2009, 53% of the "barrilitos" had payrolls between RD$506,000 and RD$537,000 and 25% of the "barrilitos" have payrolls between RD$550,000 and RD$587,000.
The provinces of Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Elias Pina and Azua have the largest payrolls in relation to the "barrilito," with payrolls of RD$684,000, RD$700,000 and RD$717,000, respectively.
Only three senators, Wilton Guerrero (Peravia), Reinaldo Pared Perez (National District) and Andres Bautista (Espaillat) kept the expenditures below the set amount.
The senator with the highest rate of nepotism is Azua senator Cesar Agusto Diaz who has six family members working with him. San Pedro de Macoris senator Alejandro Williams' has his wife and four brothers on the payroll, while Felix Nova from Monsenor Nouel has his father and various cousins on the payroll.
Investigative reports into corruption in government presented by Nuria Piera and Alicia Ortega have revealed the increasing practice of nepotism in government payrolls.
El Dia editorial writer expresses concern for the lack of interest of the administration of President Leonel Fernandez in migratory policy. The editorialist comments that migratory policy should focus on the development needs of a nation. "When the latter is not planned and controlled following policies established by the authorities, it has ended in conflicts" states the writer.
The newspaper comments that European nations open and close their borders in line with their interests. "The great problem of the DR is that it has lacked any migration policy, despite being next door to the poorest people in the continent that following their instinct cross to Dominican territory because anything for them is better," explains the newspaper.
He explains that today the border is on its own, the migration department lacks resources, and streets are filling with Haitian beggars, while large slums are arising where the growing numbers of illegal Haitians reside. The writer says that this laissez faire attitude has generated and will continue to generate violence and social conflicts, with catastrophic consequences for this country.
"Haiti is living a profound tragedy while the international community looks the other way," says the newspaper. It is most critical of Dominican authorities.
"And Dominican authorities seem to ignore that they have a fundamental responsibility to look over Dominican interests," states the writer. The editorial concludes alerting that the official lack of interest can result in the DR being dragged into the same calamity suffered by our neighbor and that we may succumb with them.
0.3% of moto drivers have licenses|
Laissez-faire of Dominican transport authorities is best reflected in the lack of control of motorcycle drivers. As reported in Diario Libre, the number of registered motorcycles in the DR is 1.6 million, but only 0.3%, or 5,847 of the drivers, have licenses to ride those motorcycles.
To get a license in the DR, drivers must pay RD$710 to the Tax Department and present a "good conduct" paper.
The total number of motorcycles in the DR increased by 11% in 2008, with 115,957 new riders on the roads.
Of those an estimated 600,000 are used as motoconchos, or public motorcycle taxis.
Motorcyclists are blamed for about 70% of traffic accidents in the country.
Ethnic products lead|
The strong influence of Dominicans abroad is shaping exports. Ricardo Koenig, president of the Dominican Association of Exporters (Adoexpo) said that there is primarily a growth of what he described as "nostalgia" exports. He said that in the Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) list of 3,089 different items exported, there are over 2,000 of these nostalgia products that have a connotation of home for Dominicans abroad.
Some of these products generate under US$100,000 in exports a year. Koenig says that Adoexpo has a project with the support of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) to back the development of small agroindustrial producers. He sees a future in the export of avocados, mangos, fresh flowers, green plants, tomato, cucumbers, peppers, yuca, plantains, bananas, yautia, papaya, coconuts, mangos and eggplant.
Koenig complained, nevertheless, that conditions are adverse here to export. He said that while in economies similar to ours, governments take measures to stimulate production and exports, the contrary occurs here. He said that he hopes to meet with the President to again propose actions that need to be taken, because nothing that had been promised during the summit meetings of the beginning of the year has been met.
Yesterday, Diario Libre had reported that the DR export list included 3,089 different items, a far cry from the cash crop exports of coffee, sugar and cacao of the 70s.
According to the Dominican Export and Investment Center (CEI-RD), 54 products produced more than US$20 million. Among these are cigars, rum, organic bananas, avocados, mangos, beer, steel re-bar, scrap iron, telephone parts, dialysis equipment, circuit breakers, electricity meters, fire and theft alarms, bras, men's shoes with leather uppers, for a widespread variety of exportable goods. Exports were US$5.6 billion last year to a wide diversity of markets. Exports, despite their potential, are declining. Koenig blames adverse conditions at home. He called for better financial conditions from local banks. He said exports were down 36% in 2009, or about US$600 million.
Stop the vigilantism|
The National Police is asking the Dominican public not to take justice into its own hands. The call by police officials comes days after a mob lynched two men who were accused of murdering an 18-year old boy after an attempted theft. After the two men were lynched, they were burned, with one of the bodies remaining unidentified by police.
The lynching of the two men continues a quiet but rising trend in some parts of the DR by where the citizenry, tired of continued aggression by thieves and other criminals, have decided to take legal matters into their own hands.
Foro plans strike|
The Social Alternative Forum (FSA) has announced a general strike beginning on Friday at 6th and ending twelve hours later. The FSA plans to include a variety of activities during their work stoppage, including protests, picketing, vigils and other "pacifist" activities. Fidel Santana, president of the FSA, explains that the brief strike is to send government a message about the public's displeasure with the current administration and to protest the Los Haitises cement factory concession and the privatization of the CDEEE.
Fake birth certificate|
The case of disappeared Cuban American pilot Antonio Armando Fernandez has taken another odd turn, this time with regards to the death certificate. It is being reported that the death certificate issued for Fernandez was in fact fake in a corruption case involving his wife and the death certificate officer of the civil registry officer Luis Fernandez Perez Cuevas. Perez has been suspended from his position pending an investigation. According to published reports, an investigation by journalist Rafael G Santana for the insurance company revealed that Fernandez's widow was attempting to cash in on a US$16 million life insurance policy from Proseguros. A report filed by the Administrative Chamber of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) asked for the first death certificate to be annulled because it didn't follow through with the procedures to declare a disappeared person as dead. Fernandez's body has yet to be found and his whereabouts are unknown.
Felix Sanchez wins in Croatia|
Though his performance at the World Championships in Berlin, Germany last month was labeled a disappointment, track star Felix Sanchez showed he still has something left in his tank by placing second in the Zagreb Grand Prix in Croatia. Sanchez came in second in the 400 hurdles clocking 48.82. The silver lining was that he beat Bershawn Jackson, who had won in Germany. Felix Sanchez is the DR's first Olympic gold medallist. He won the gold in the 400 meter hurdle in the Athens Olympics in 2004.
FIBA Americas Championship|
Uruguay and Dominican Republic will kick off the second round of the FIBA Americas Championship today, Tuesday 1 September at 6:30 pm in Puerto Rico. The DR just made it to the second round after defeating Venezuela and Panama, but losing to Brazil and Argentina. Dominican Francisco Garcia (82 points, 20.5 per game) was the second highest scorer, behind Brazil's Luis Scola (94 points (23.5 per game). The DR needs to finish in the top 4 to qualify to participate in the FIBA world cup in Turkey next year. This means the DR team needs to win three games to make it to the world cup. The DR will match Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada after Uruguay. The DR team has depended on Francisco Garcia, Villanueva, Horford and Luis Flores, who were responsible for 77% of all points in the first round.
"Sugar" in the movies|
Reviews have been excellent, and now "Sugar" is at Dominican movie theaters. The story of a young pitcher from the DR puts a new twist on the rags-to-riches fame of Dominicans that have emerged from poverty-striken upbringings making it big in Major League Baseball. The film explores the recruitment and training of outstanding prospects and takes viewers even deeper into their lives.
Co-written and co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Ryan Gosling and received a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
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