Leonel off to NYC and UN|
President Leonel Fernandez traveled to New York City with a full agenda. Fernandez is to participate in the 64th Ordinary Session of the United Nations Organization. He left from the San Isidro Air Base and will return on 27 September.
His NY schedule includes:
Monday, 20 Sept: Speech at Hostos Community College on "The Future of Higher Education in the Dominican Republic." Fernandez will also speak at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice on the subject of the Democratic Security Plan as applied in the Dominican Republic.
Tuesday, 21 Sept: The President will attend the high-level session on climate change at the Global Compact and take part in the inauguration of the UN General Assembly. He will also attend the inauguration of the Plenary Session of the V Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
On Wednesday, 22 Sept: President Fernandez will attend the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly where Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will deliver the keynote address. Later in the morning the President will be meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the UN, and then with representatives from Senegal.
Fernandez will address the 64th General Assembly in the afternoon. The Presidency gave some advance details of his speech, which will tackle the drug trafficking situation, security on the border with Haiti, natural resources and environment, and the political crisis in Honduras.
In the evening, Fernandez will attend a reception for the delegates who are meeting in New York, hosted by US President Barack Obama.
Thursday, 24 Sept: Breakfast meeting at the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
Friday, 25 Sept: Meetings with Dominicans in elected positions in US government.
On his agenda is a meting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, as well as with business representatives and US government officials on DR-CAFTA issues.
He is traveling with his press director Rafael Nunez, Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, and military assistant Major General Hector Medina Medina.
Clean-up of 50 beaches|
Thousands of volunteers took part in a massive beach clean-up day on Saturday organized by the Vida Azul Foundation and sponsored by Coca-Cola and Propagas on International Coastal Clean-up Day. The official launch was held on Boca Chica Beach, attended by the Minister of the Environment Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal and other officials.
At beaches all around the country, from Monte Cristi to Barahona and Punta Cana to Puerto Plata thousands of people, mainly children and youngsters, got to work and collected refuse from the beaches.
According to Fernandez Mirabal, over the last year more than 17,000 tons of refuse, mostly plastic, has been cleared from the nation's beach areas. During this year's event, sponsor companies representatives distributed large plastic bags to volunteers who eagerly set out to fill them up. The president of the Propagas Foundation told reporters that while it is important to clean the beaches, it is even "more important to teach beachgoers not to throw away their waste and to provide them with places where they can put it."
CDEEE's RD$706 million payroll|
The Dominican Corporation of State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) paid RD$706 million to its employees during the first 8 months of the year, a monthly average of RD$88 million. In the corporate office alone had a payroll of RD$45 million for 1,432 people. Former CDEEE head Radhames Segura was removed from the post after several journalism reports revealed the scandalous spending.
Now newly appointed vice president Celso Marranzini reveals that the only thing he found when he came to the job was debts, and he asked for patience from creditors in order to pay them. He said that the payments were being rescheduled so that everyone could be paid.
He said the situation was such that the Unit for Rural and Suburban Electrification (UERS) contained an independent Department of Public Relations and Communication, quite apart from the main office entity of the same name, and this one had 671 employees on a RD$22 million payroll.
The PRA, the Blackout Reduction Program that is currently being dismantled, had 742 employees and a payroll of nearly RD$19 million each month. Since his appointment, Marranzini has fired or released 157 advisors and public relations officers.
In keeping with DR employment law, the CDEEE needs to make high severance payments when firing these people, many of whom are being paid high wages, which could be one of the reasons for the delay in reducing the payroll.
Montas says subsidies stay|
Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas says that the government would not be eliminating the electricity subsidy just yet. The subsidy compensates for power distribution companies ineffectiveness at collecting for power delivered.
Speaking in Santiago, the official said that the government has designed a plan for improving collections and the functioning of the distributors with the objective of preventing the collapse of the electricity system.
"The government still cannot remove the subsidy to the electric sector, because if we remove the subsidy the system will fail", said Montas, when he was asked about it with reference to the concern expressed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission that the subsidy was unsustainable.
According to Diario Libre, figures from the Superintendence of Electricity indicate the monthly subsidy on the electricity bill that the government provides is currently around RD$223.25 million.
Likewise, Montas reported that the government would receive the rough draft of the letter of intention for the agreement with the IMF for further revision early this week (today or tomorrow).
"We will go over the rough draft with President Leonel Fernandez and if there is no objection, we will proceed to notify the IMF so that the board of directors can deal with it in October", said Montas.
The official made it clear that the IMF has not expressed much concern about excessive government spending, but was worried about falling revenue levels.
He added that the IMF understands that in order to get the economy going the government needs to spend more, but it cannot do so because its income has fallen off.
Last weekend, an IMF mission ended its talks leading up to the letter of intent for the Stand-by arrangement that is set to last for several years, warning that there are problems in the country that need addressing, especially in the energy sector.
Hiccups at the start of school year|
With at least 5 schools still not open due to on-going repairs, the school year, now one month old, has gotten off to a somewhat shaky start, according to a report by Listin Diario. The newspaper says that innate weakness in the system, lack of supplies or preparations and negligence on the part of some mid-level Ministry of Education officials are behind the problems affecting the normal course of events in the schools. Minister Melanio Paredes told reporters that he accepted that there were still weak spots such as the non-completion of regular school hours that he attributed to a lack of coordination, commitment and competence among ministry officials.
Paredes said that the 5 schools that were undergoing repairs, located in Bahoruco, Puerto Plata and Monte Plata, would reopen for classes this week. He said that the much-ballyhooed lack of school texts is an issue of non-fulfillment of delivery dates by the publishers. He also said that some "unscrupulous" individuals had stored away texts in some school districts. The minister said that the lack of textbooks was a "problem of inefficiency, lack of controls and supervision".
He called his 203 district supervisors to a meeting on Saturday where he warned that such lax performances might require the resignation of the offending regional director.
World Bank US$40.5 million funds|
On September 17 the World Bank Board of Directors approved US$30.5 million for the Second Phase of the Health Sector Reform Project (PARSS2) and US$10 million additional financing for the existing Social Protection Project.
The Health Sector Reform Project seeks to improve basic services, with an emphasis on the lower-income population. Furthermore, it seeks to enhance the quality of public expenditure and healthcare workers' capacity to respond to medical emergencies.
The PARSS2 is the second in a series of three projects that the World Bank will finance for the health sector, the first phase of which ends in December. "Through these new operations the World Bank will continue to support the government's efforts to improve coverage, selection, and concentration of public social protection programs, which aim to provide a more inclusive, efficient and transparent system for all Dominicans, especially the poorest," said Roby Senderowitsch, World Bank Country Manager for the Dominican Republic.
This US$10 million in additional funds for the Social Protection Project is part of the government's efforts to reduce poverty and attain a higher degree of social equality.
The original project approved by the Board of Directors in August 2007 was for US$19.4 million, and was approved by the Dominican Congress in November 2008. It will continue its objective of improving coverage, concentration, selection and effectiveness of the Dominican government's social protection programs. This objective is being met by the provision of identity documents for poor Dominicans, institutional strengthening of concentration mechanisms, and improving the monitoring and evaluation of social programs.
Will bars be off limit to minors?|
The Prosecutor General of the Dominican Republic, Radhames Jimenez Pena has issued a resolution that orders the members of the Justice Department to enforce the law and proceed to close down all establishments that serve alcoholic beverages and allow access to minors. The order includes pool halls, colmados and colmadones, discotheques and bars.
The application of the measure will be the responsibility of most of the Justice Department, especially prosecutors attached to the children's courts. These are charged with organizing periodic crackdowns to ensure that the ordinance is obeyed.
Jimenez Pena mentioned a measure of this nature during a recent UNICEF event in the country. The closures vary from two weeks to two months depending on whether the business is a repeat offender or not.
Parties agree to limit citizen rights|
Dominican citizens will not be able to sue the government for violation of the Constitution. The PLD and PRD political parties agreed to remove this prerogative from the Constitution. The political parties justified the decision on the grounds that "not every citizen enjoys this right. In order to try the action on unconstitutional issues, one must necessarily have a legitimate and judicially protected interest," as reported in Diario Libre.
The party leaders also eliminated the right of citizens to avail themselves of quality assets and services that those who suffer injuries or are prejudiced by poor quality assets or services have the right to be compensated according to the law. The legislators say that this is not constitutional material.
The agreement includes the unification of the elections in the same year but on separate dates.
The President, Vice-President and the legislature will be elected on the third Sunday of May and the municipal authorities will be elected on the third Sunday of February. Moreover, it was agreed to set a minimum number of member and judges for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and the Higher Electoral Court, in contrast to what was approved during the first reading.
The JCE will be made up of no fewer than 5 members and the Court will be made up of no fewer than three judges and two substitutes, and this is justified because "it is not convenient to set in the Constitution the number of members of the Central Electoral Board. Exceptional political circumstances could force changes it its composition." This means there is no limit on the number of the judges.
The two parties modified numeral 2 of Article 87 that condemns all forms of corruption in State bodies, establishing "that in the same way that people who give advantages to their associates, relatives, relations, friends or partners will be punished" was changed to eliminate the words, 'relations, friends or partners'.
The political parties also agreed to eliminate Article 89, number 4. This says that "the senators and deputies elected are not bound by an imperative mandate, they are free and independent to take decisions in the affairs submitted to their consideration, they will act at all times with obedience to the sacred duty of representing the people that elected them before whom they must present accounts." This was done with the observation that "it-the article-weakens the political organization that postulates the senator or deputy. Legislators should be guided by the their party directives."
Killing the Cabarete goose|
Community leaders in Cabarete are marveling at the pristine, empty beaches the Ministry of Tourism is featuring in its new advertising campaign. But they warn that the advertising is misleading, as the reality is quite different in many Dominican beaches, besieged by conflicting developer interests.
Long-timers from Cabarete are concerned that President Leonel Fernandez may be ready to sign a decree that would formally sentence Cabarete to becoming just another tourist trap. They fear the signing of the decree would kill Cabarete's medium and long-term interests.
The President has said he plans to sign a decree authorizing the increase of the height of condominiums on the beach to 4 floors, up from 3. Local experts say that the 4-story buildings will not stop the wind from blowing in from the ocean. But it could create turbulence along the beach that prevents the launch of kite boards and windsurfing. Without kites in the air and windsurfers ripping the water, Cabarete will lose its attractiveness and will become just another boring destination of cement buildings clustered along a highway, say local entrepreneurs.
There is also concern that the decree may authorize much more, including higher heights for condos on the other side of the beach strip.
Cabarete business representatives say that complicity with the authorities and profiteering by business groups has gradually undermined Cabarete's attractiveness as a wind sports destination over recent years. The Federation for Sustainable Cabarete and the Association for Protection of Environment and Tourism of Cabarete and Sosua (Asoprocaso) have just published a newsletter listing a series of zoning law violations over the years, to inform the general public of what is happening, and to support the campaign against the degradation of the destination.
"In its recent advertising campaign, the Ministry of Tourism presents the DR as a country with deserted beaches, lots of vegetation and low-level constructions. The beaches are real, but the reality is different in most of the tourism areas, as is the case of Cabarete. "In recent years, corruption in the tourism, environment and public works authorities, and in municipalities, has led to total anarchy in the constructions," says Omar Bros for FCS.
"Little by little, unscrupulous builders (investors) have eliminated the natural beauty of Cabarete beach, destroying the dunes and replacing them with concrete walls several hundred meters long, violating Law 305 that establishes a coastal-marine spread of 60 meters. They also violate the decree that establishes the 11.5-meter maximum construction height for this tourism area, ignoring the regulations approved by the authorities, or looking the other way," he reports.
The bulletin presents several examples of construction right within 30 meters from the ocean. They also warn about the illegal but growing practice of extracting sand from the dunes in La Lometa, in Gaspar Hernandez.
"In all of the zone, from Cabarete to Gaspar Hernandez, from the coast to Jamao, there has been a true stampede of truckers to extract sand on all fronts. It is almost as if the Ministry of Environment had used a gun to mark the start of the greatest depredation of years," he writes.
To receive the bulletin and read the story on unsustainable tourism issues, go to www.cabarete-info.com/cabarete_info.php?opt=view&id=56
No more plastic bags|
Supermarket chain La Cadena is introducing biodegradable shopping bags to the Dominican market. Recently, Price Mart also announced their decision to stop providing customers with plastic bags. At Price Mart, shoppers now have to buy a reusable bag or just pack their goods into their vehicles.
La Cadena says their bags can hold up to 20 pounds of goods, and thus there is no need to use double bags. They are being distributed to consumers free of charge.
They also recommend reusing the bags for garbage disposal at home.
The new bags are designed for an accelerated molecular decomposition that reduces the lifespan of plastic by 97.2%, as it reacts to sun and heat. The bags incorporate the oxo-biodegradable additives and are marketed under the 'Reverte' trademark that increases its intrinsic microbial accessibility and enables subsequent bio-digestion.
Milk producer cries foul|
Prominent cattle rancher and former president of the Dominican Association of Ranchers and Farmers, Cesareo Contreras, has complained that traders are selling "milk that is not milk and cheese that is not cheese." He called on the authorities and the Consumer Protection Institute to act on the case, and demanded labels that describe the contents.
Complaining of what he called "chaos and disorder", Contreras said that the local market for milk and cheese is filled with products that are not really milk and cheese. He said they are being manufactured from chemical products that imitate milk and cheese.
According to Hoy newspaper, Contreras said that the low price of these raw materials has pushed cheese producers to use these non-dairy products.
He said that the result is that the "milk that is not milk" is selling at RD$25 a liter in the stores, while real milk costs RD$45 a liter.
He said that in addition to harming the consumer, the situation is driving milk producers towards bankruptcy. He said that the school breakfast program was serving 70% of "milk" made from imported products.
Large anti- drug operation|
More than 2,600 police agents and 48 assistant prosecutors took to the streets over the weekend in a large swoop against crime and drug distribution in the National District and Santo Domingo province. They carried out over 200 searches looking for people accused of murder, armed robberies, swindles and drug trafficking. In one day, over 500 portions of drugs, 6 pistols, 2 SUVs, 9 motorcycles and an electric generator were confiscated. A hundred people were arrested or held for questioning. By Monday, the newspapers were reporting that more than 7,000 drug doses had been confiscated and 630 people arrested for drug possession.
Generals Jose Polanco Gomez and Valentin Rosado Vicioso led the raids, under the command of National Police chief Major General Guillermo Rafael Guzman Fermin. The large contingent of agents belonged to the departments of Criminal Investigations, Criminal Intelligence, Anti-Narcotics, AMET and DNCD, and 150 vehicles and 9 canine units were also put to use. According to the DNCD's Roberto Lebron, the swoop was part of an operation called "Santo Domingo without Drugs: Part II".
Among the people rounded up was Eliezer Bienvenido Ferreira (Papo Trenzas), who was arrested in Los Alcarrizos with 17 portions of what was presumed to be crack cocaine, a 9 mm Taurus automatic, number TRE07373 and an Infinity SUV, all without the correct documents. Ferreira was already a fugitive on two counts of drug-related cases.
Two tied to BPD fraud nabbed|
Two people have been arrested and charged with stealing thousands of pesos from the Banco Popular Dominicano (BPD) through fraudulent electronic manipulations. Alex Perez Castro and Jose Joaquin Rodriguez Ramirez were apprehended by agents from the National Police High Technology Crime Unit as they tried to withdraw RD$35,000 from the BPD branch located at the corner of Luperon and Independencia avenues.
According to El Nuevo Diario, Perez Castro said that Rodriguez Ramirez recruited him to withdraw the money. The Police reported that Rodriguez Ramirez was being sought in connection with fraudulent operations involving withdrawals of US$1,771, RD$35,000 and RD$2,700 from the Banco Popular.
Historic triumph in tennis|
The Dominican Republic overcame a 1-2 deficit and defeated Venezuela 3-2 in the Zonal Finals of the Group II Davis Cup eliminations. The victory allows the country to move to Group I competition. The matches took place at the Santo Domingo Tennis Club. This is the first time the DR team moves to Group I competition.
One of the heroes was Victor Estrella who outlasted Jose De Armas in a 4-hour duel that was interrupted by a torrential downpour that forced the players off the court for an hour and a half. Estrella came back to the court with renewed energy and was able to defeat De Armas three games to two: 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, and 6-1. This tied the match at two points for each nation.
The scene was set for Johnson Garcia to take on Daniel Vallverdu in the final, winner take all, match. He defeated Vallverdu 6-3, 6-3 and 7-5 to give the Dominican team the victory.
In three previous finals in 2003, 2004 and 2006, the DR tried but failed to make the grade. This year the team defeated Guatemala and Paraguay to make it to the finals, and the step up to the Group I category for the first time in their history.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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