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Daily News - Thursday, 10 September 2009

Signing agreements with Russia
The foreign ministers of Russia and the DR, Sergei Lavrov and Carlos Morales Troncoso have signed agreements on air traffic, elimination of visas for government officials and diplomats, and for strengthening ties in the areas of tourism, culture, transportation and energy in Moscow yesterday.
As reported in El Caribe, preparations are under way for the start of a regular flight from Russia. An estimated 50,000 Russian tourists fly to the DR every year on board charter flights. A Russian mission is expected in Santo Domingo for talks leading to the signing of an aviation agreement with Russia.
The talks also mentioned the possibility of using Russian technology for the planned Santiago-Santo Domingo railway.
In Moscow, Morales Troncoso advocated for Russian government attention to obstacles to the export of Dominican cigars to Russia. He said that preferences favor importing Cuban cigars. The DR has a EUR38 million trade deficit with Russia. Morales feels cigar exports could reduce the trade imbalance.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accepted an invitation to visit the DR in the near future.
Furthermore, the ministers agreed on the advantages of establishing a Russian Chamber of Commerce in the DR to encourage new business deals.

City cleans up political posters
The municipal authorities have started removing political propaganda and posters scattered illegally around Santo Domingo North. The swoop began on Hermanas Mirabal Avenue where they took down a poster of PRSC candidate Eddy Alcantara. Villa Mella, one of Santo Domingo's most populated sectors, has been plagued with this visual pollution, even months before political campaigning officially starts. Most of the billboards that were removed had been tacked onto trees.

IDB will give budget help
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has agreed to lend the DR US$500 million to supplement the DR's national budget. IDB representative in the DR Manuel Labrado said the loan would be issued with the signing of the forthcoming Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Although government revenues are RD$10 billion less than budgeted for the first semester of 2009, an increase in government spending and a lack of control on fiduciary matters is said to have increased the nation's budget deficit.
Labrado also announced that the World Bank would be lending the DR an additional US$150 million to be used for the energy sector. Manuel Labrado said that the US$150 million could be used to purchase and install meters to control consumption. It is estimated that 1.1 million households in the DR do not pay for electricity service.
Labrado made these comments after signing a cooperation agreement with Administrative Minister Ramon Ventura Camejo, aimed at drawing up salary policies for the DR's public sector. As part of that agreement the IDB will donate up to EUR100,000 for technical support and the program will last for 9 months. These funds will come from the Spanish General Cooperation Fund.

Deputy says his father stays on payroll
Puerto Plata Deputy Alfonso Crisostomo is standing by what he insists is his right to hire whoever he pleases at the taxpayers expense. "So that everyone knows: My father is on the payroll and no one is taking that old man off it. Not Valentin [the president of the Chamber of Deputis], not anyone," he is quoted as saying, in response to the nepotism scandal aired by TV journalist Alicia Ortega of "El Informe" on Channel 7, which exposed the large number of legislators' close relatives on their supplementary payrolls ("barrilito").
The deputy, known as "The Loved One," expressed no sympathy, regret or acknowledgment of wrongdoing when making his statement. Crisostomo admitted to having a brother on the payroll in addition to his father.
He added that next week he would submit a bill to limit the amount of information available to the public under the Public Information Freedom of Access Law, because he believes that the media is sensationalizing this information. The act obliges government offices to release internal documentation to any citizen.

Changes to the freedom of information act?
Diario Libre editor Ines Aizpun comments today on Puerto Plata deputy Alfonso Crisostomo's opinion that the freedom of information act should be modified. Crisostomo made the comment after it became known that close relatives were on his payroll.
Aizpun explains to the deputy that the act is being used to bring decency to public administration. "It is serving to make public information that is of general interest. Because even if it is not in his interest to understand this, the use that government officials and legislators make of our money should be public," she writes.
"The legislators, government officials, still do not understand the magnitude of the irritation of citizens. Maybe they do not see, the way we see it, that the clientelistic system that leads to their election has paralyzed economic growth, stimulated corruption and therefore inequities that reduce the country's competitiveness, and condemn the poor to depend on "charity" that impedes progress," she writes.
"The moral responsibility of this generation of politicians is enormous. If they do not understand that they have to change the way they get elected, they are going to condemn us all (even deputy Crisostomo's father) to eternal underdevelopment."

Theft at Ortega's house
Police officials are examining clues following a robbery at the home of TV journalist Alicia Ortega and her husband Fernando Hasbun.
Hoy reports that thieves called the journalist's maid when Ortega was out, with a bogus story that Ortega had been involved in a car accident and that her 11-year old daughter was injured. The maid was convinced by the caller and took a small safe and some jewels to a man who was waiting for her near the Bella Vista Mall.
Ortega told police that once she arrived home the thieves called asking for RD$50,000 for the return of the safe and the jewelry.
Ortega has been in the limelight recently for exposing the latest government corruption scandal involving widespread nepotism in Congress.

Colombians + drug cases
Although his request for a census of Colombians living in the DR was viewed as an insulting generalization about the Colombian people, presidential drug advisor Marino "Vincho" Castillo continues to favor such a survey. Migration director Sigfrido Pared Perez responded by saying that there is a need for a census to determine how many foreigners in general live in the DR.
Castillo estimates that some 4,000 Colombian nationals are currently living in the DR. Quoted in Hoy, Castillo explains his concern about Colombians on the grounds that the overwhelming majority of drug cases investigated in the DR involve Colombians. "It's not two or three, I'd say that 70% of the cases include Colombians or a Colombian structure."
He also urged the Colombian authorities to provide more information on Colombian nationals with drug trafficking histories so that the Dominican authorities could further investigate their whereabouts in the DR. Castillo made his latest comments after a meeting with Colombian ambassador to the DR Mario Montoya.

Drug money freight vehicles?
Writing in his page-2 column in Hoy, journalist Federico Henriquez Gratereaux states that the SUV found with the US$4.6 million inside is not something too extraordinary. He says that a journalist friend in the know told him that in the country there are importers of stolen vehicles, which use these as freight containers to hide drugs or money that needs to be laundered. In other words, they are used as a form of "low-cost storage." He explains that since each vehicle has an owner registered in the place where they were stolen, the investigations are rerouted to "other persons."
The journalist goes on to explain that when drug consumption scandals reach a high point, drug dealers usually decide that the new drug authorities need a big success and they allow the discovery of a shipment and the capture of minor drug dealers. Then the public outcry calms down, after what is perceived as a win over organized crime. Then a new deal is reached with the new authorities and the show goes on.

Guerrero sees the light
Peravia senator Wilton Guerrero says he sees the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the fight against drugs in the DR this time around. Guerrero was commenting on the latest high-profile drug case to hit the headlines, in which US$4.6 million were found in bags in an SUV.
Guerrero says that part of the progress has been due to a change in attitude within all police and drug enforcement agencies in the DR.
He also mentioned the new command of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), adding that last year he didn't see a clear initiative to combat drugs in the DR. This, he says, has changed. Over the last year, Guerrero has become one of the more outspoken voices against drug trafficking in the DR.

Late declarations must be reviewed
The case of fugitive drug trafficker Jose D. Figueroa, a.k.a Cristian Almonte, might force the Central Electoral Board to review the process for late birth registrations. Figueroa is wanted by the authorities in Puerto Rico. Facing a 209-year sentence in a Puerto Rican jail, the accused drug trafficker was able to escape from the Rio Piedras jail with a forged release order. It is thought that he entered the DR by boat, with the protection of a DR drug cartel that helped him secure new identities.
JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman described the situation as "very serious," because Figueroa was able to obtain three different cedula identity cards through the late birth registration process.
Castanos said that once he found out about the situation he called for an investigation to establish how Figueroa got those cedulas, which turned him into a chameleon in the DR. He said the situation would be reviewed and should become less flexible. Castanos added that the process was created in order to help Dominican families, but has been used for other things.

More on capo Figueroa
As reported in Diario Libre, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau for Investigations (FBI) had alerted the DNCD to the presence of Figueroa several months ago. Reportedly, he is a key figure working for a Colombian drug cartel that moved tons of drugs and millions in cash.
Diario Libre reports that when he was being pursued by the agents, Figueroa suffered an accident in the Cherokee Jeep he was driving and escaped by abandoning the vehicle that was caught in traffic on Av. Roberto Pastoriza. Files found in a laptop left behind in the jeep provided leads for the confiscation of an armored Mercedes Benz with US$4.6 million in reported cash inside.
Diario Libre says that it is thought the cash was to have been used to pay for a drug shipment.
A source told Diario Libre: "It is the unexplained case of a man with a criminal record like this, who flaunted his wealth so everyone could see."
Diario Libre reports that Figueroa underwent plastic surgery here to evade the Puerto Rican authorities. The newspaper says the gang he led moved over US$200 million a month. It is said the gang also imported luxury cars from the US using forged documents and sold these through an unnamed Santiago dealer.
The newspaper reports that the International Police (Interpol) has been on the case for the past 6 months, and that several days earlier Figueroa tried to bribe a high-ranking officer with US$1 million.

Call him Mr. Pujols
Writing about Albert Pujols has been an exercise in finding appropriate adjectives, which, at this point in the season, most sports writers are running out of. The man they call "El Hombre" is now making a case for best extraterrestrial to ever play in the Majors. On Wednesday Pujols had 45 homeruns on the season, and by all margins was inching closer to assuring another MVP season.
But it seems Mr. Pujols still has a few tricks left up his proverbial sleeve, as the Cardinals make a push for playoffs. Last night Pujols swatted 2 more homeruns and batted in 3 more RBI, giving him 47 homeruns on he season and 124 RBI. The numbers are just insane and Pujols' current streak has given the Cardinals enough breathing room in the NL Central.
The Cards have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and have won their last three games, all the while stretching their lead on the Central to 11.5 games. Behind Pujols the Cards have a .596 winning percentage this season and have the third best record in baseball behind the Yankees and Angels. If he does it this would be Pujols' best career year. Even better than his 2006 campaign when he hit .331 had 49 dingers and batted in 137 RBI.
In his nine seasons in the Majors, Pujols has 366 career bombs and has never had a season with less than 32 homeruns. He has also had 5 seasons in which he's had 40 or more homeruns and has a career batting average of .334. At the age of 29 and in seemingly good health Pujols could be on his way to Cooperstown with the title of best player in his generation.

dr1 and the Yankees
Ok, so maybe CC Sabathia isn't overpaid and maybe the Yankees aren't necessarily hated, but with less than 30 games left in the season, the best record in baseball, a 9-game lead in the standings and the highest payroll in baseball, you can't blame members of Red Sox Nation for exacting some type of revenge, even if it is through journalism. Yesterday's comments about the Yankees and their players were meant as a teasing remark referring to the arch-rivalry between these two teams. And much like the Washington Nationals pitching staff this year, the remark was pretty ineffective. dr1 and its staff enjoys reporting on all sports teams, especially when Dominican athletes contribute to a team's success.

Women's volleyball wins in Peru
The Dominican women's team has defeated Peru in the opening game of the Women's Final Four Copa Chinalco in Lima. The DR will play Brazil, the US and Peruvian teams.
In the second match of the opening day, 14th-ranked Dominican Republic defeated host Peru 25-14, 25-22, 25-13. Despite playing at home and with the support of their fans, the Peruvians failed to live up to expectations as they committed too many errors in the first and third sets.
The Dominican squad is coached by Brazilian Marcos Kwiek and is led by top guns Bethania de la Cruz, MVP of the last Pan American Cup held in Miami, and the international veteran Milagros Cabral. It also consists of promising young players like libero Brenda Castillo, MVP of the FIVB Junior Women's World Championship, and attackers Lisvel Eve Mejia and Jeoselyna Rodriguez.
Brazil's team has high-caliber players like Captain Welissa "Sassa" Gonzaga and emerging star Natalia Pereira.
On the American team are talented players such as Jordan Larson and Alexis Crimes, who were part of the team that represented USA in this year's FIVB World Grand Prix.
Playing at home and with the support of their fans, Peru relies on veteran captain Leyla Chihuan and core players like Jessenia Uceda, Patricia Soto and Carla Ortiz.
Based on the round robin results, the fourth day (Sept. 12) pits ranked teams one versus four and two versus three in the semifinal round. The final and fifth day (Sept. 13) of competition includes the gold- and bronze-medal match.

Clean up the Beach warm up
Hard Rock Cafe is hosting all those that will be participating at the International Beach Clean Up Day with an event on Thursday, 10 September at 9pm. Come with your beach attire to party. Free admission.
To participate, see http://www.vidaazul.org
Also see http://www.dr1.com/calendar for more upcoming events nationwide.
 
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