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Daily News - Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Portability begins today
Tired of your cell phone company, but want to keep your number? Well as of today Dominicans will have the option of number portability. The program is expected to bolster quality and competition between the 17 telecommunications providers in the DR. Customers will be able to pay RD$80 to move companies and the changeover should take no more than one week. Companies are advertising aggressively in their quest to attract a new wave of customers. Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) president Rafael Vargas says he is satisfied with the progress of the number portability program in the DR.

Citizens lose civil right
The new Constitution agreed on by the PRD and PLD majority in Congress and the party leaderships includes a clause eliminating Dominican citizens' right to protest against violations of the Constitution or the violation of rules or judicial acts. The change was made on the grounds that citizens "do not have a true judicial or legally protected interest." This means that Dominicans will not be able to protest when they believe that laws, resolutions or decrees issued by the government are in violation of the Constitution, as reported in El Caribe.

President to appoint prosecutors?
Diario Libre editor Adriano Miguel Tejada believes that institutional progress should be kept out of political deals, but writes about a recently approved change that he says represents a setback for justice in the DR.
He claims that the new Constitution has taken a retrograde step when it comes to state prosecution. The political party leadership agreed that the President has the prerogative to appoint and replace any prosecutor. The Fernandez judicial reform had permitted advances for prosecutors to receive training and become career officials, but now the President can replace them at any moment. "The message could not be more perverse," writes Tejada. "What they are telling the prosecutors, in these times of war on drug trafficking is, 'Go grab all you can because you don't know how long you will be kept in the job!'"
He makes the point: "And all, apparently, because future Presidential Palace incumbents want to have a free hand to allocate jobs. "
He goes on to ask, "How can the PLD agree to destroy one of their best contributions? Is it because everything in this country is negotiable?"
For years, civil society groups have called for independence of the prosecuting arm of justice. This was only partially achieved, with some progress made in training career prosecutors. However, this political decision means a major setback for the judiciary.

Blackouts don't cease
New VP, same old problems. Celso Marranzini's appointment as the new head of the State-Owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) was hailed as a new chapter in the electricity sector's history. However, little has changed for the consumer. Yesterday was one of the worst days ever, with energy deficiencies hitting 41%. Listin Diario reports that at one point close to half the country was under cover of darkness, as only 1,242 MW of energy was online, despite a demand of 2,115 MW. The problem is financial, as generation companies demand that the government meet arrears.

Stopping the "Haitian invasion"
Hoy reports that the Armed Forces Ministry is launching a new military mission to the Macasias area in Elias Pina province, and to Mencia and Aguas Negras in Pedernales, to "contain the Haitian invasion". News reports have been carrying stories about Haitian migrants who are rapidly destroying the forests along the border.
Armed Forces Minister Lt. General Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio says that 40 "military families" will be housed in these communities and given greenhouses and the opportunity to catch fish and rear livestock.
In an interview in Listin Diario, Pena said that by the end of this year, 99 recently graduated soldiers would be sent to patrol the border areas.
The increased military presence on the border could become a contentious issue for human rights and international observers as the Haitian immigrants push their way in.
Franklin Almeyda Rancier, president of the Immigration Council and Sigfrido Pared Perez, Director General of Immigration, said they would hold a series of meetings to discuss the constitutional-judicial legalities of the DR's migration policies. They said they would also work on a plan to "solve" the Haitian immigration problem.
Listin Diario has recently focused on the Dominican governments and their traditional laissez-faire attitude, saying that the consequences of deforestation and land occupations are now becoming evident, and that this could escalate in the near future.

Guido: fraud in PRD convention
With the results from 87% of all voting centers counted and reported, the PRD's Convention Committee has confirmed the previous results, giving Orlando Jorge Mera (60%) and Geanilda Vasquez (48%) the PRD party secretariat posts. Mera and Vasquez beat challengers Guido Gomez Mazara and Tony Pena Guaba.
Gomez, however, is claiming he was the victim of fraud and conspiracy orchestrated by PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado.
Yesterday, Gomez was not allowed into the PRD's headquarters, where he had planned to hold a press conference and present his proof of fraud. Gomez says he has dozens of forged elections documents that were used in the convention.
He claims he won the election with 54% of the vote, adding that Vargas had also pressured election delegates such as Jose Fortuna to sign off on the election results, knowing they were falsified.
As reported in Diario Libre, Gomez claims that at least 30,000 electoral documents were forged. Gomez showed the media two electoral documents, one original, and one scanned. He claims that before the original documents were scanned in a "1" was added, giving Orlando Jorge Mera more votes.

Dominicans tired of parties
No, Dominicans are not tired of fun late night parties, but rather of the nepotism and party politics that have come to define the nation's political system.
Outspoken Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge Aura Celeste Fernandez says that the levels of clientelism in DR politics were of great concern. She said that it takes time and efforts away from really strengthening the party system, adding that this was the reason many of the parties were going through difficult times. She warned that clientelism could cause parties to eventually collapse.

Cisneros on the DR
South America's richest man is commending the strength of the DR's economy and the way the government has handled it. Venezuelan magnate Gustavo Cisneros also commented that the DR's current troubles with the tourism sector are linked to the current global financial difficulties and that tourism should pick up once the world economy starts to recover. Cisneros made these comments after leaving the Presidential Palace where he met with President Leonel Fernandez. According to Cisneros, the DR has a great investment climate, as do many nations in Latin America, because there is no war and no threat of terrorism. The Dominican economy has always worked well, has always grown, and has always been well-managed and well-planned, where the private sector has a strong role and government is a good guide, so the balance is excellent, which is reflected in the growth figures. Cisneros is a major investor in Casa de Campo and in the Miches area.

Drug dealer's animals go to zoo
The animals from the small zoo located on the farm of wanted Puerto Rican drug kingpin Jose Figueroa have been sent to the National Zoo. The animals were seized and taken into the care of the local authorities. The farm and zoo property is at 25th kilometer of the Duarte highway. It was raided by drug officials, who are continuing their investigations after US$4.6 million in cash was found in a SUV suspected of belonging to Figueroa. Figueroa is still on the run.
Two ostriches, three small ponies, six horses, two African grey parrots and two cockatoos were sent to the zoo.
Officials report that the property, which measures about 47,000 square meters in total, includes a small but luxuriously furnished mansion. Authorities are also investigating 15 to 25 other properties thought to belong to Figueroa.

Father pleads for kidnapped son
The kidnapping ordeal affecting the Baldera family has entered into its 14th day, with no end in sight. University student Eduardo Antonio Baldera was kidnapped in Nagua 14 days ago and his father is pleading with his captors for his safe return. Baldera senior, speaking at a press conference said that he was willing to negotiate with the captors for the safe return of his son. The captors have reportedly requested US$5 million in ransom. The family operates a money exchange business in Nagua.

Dominican goes for court
The first Dominican ever elected as a judge outside the DR is now taking a bigger step in her career. Diccia Pineda-Kirwan has been chosen to run for a position on the New York State Supreme Court. Pineda-Kirwan currently serves as a judge in the Queens Borough civil courts. The vote for the position will take place on 3 November 2009. If elected, Pineda-Kirwan will be the first Hispanic woman elected to the New York State Supreme Court.

Sano signs
Major League prospect Miguel Angel Sano has 3.1 million reasons to smile today as the young baseball star has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins. The US$3.1 million contract signing ends a difficult process for Sano and his family due to delays while his age was verified. Reports indicate that the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates were both originally interested in signing Sano, but doubts about his real age and the validity of his documents forced both teams to take a step back. The Twins continued their investigations and seemed confident that Sano was indeed 16, as he claimed. The next step for Sano is to go to the US Consulate in Santo Domingo and apply for his visa. Sano's bonus is the second highest ever given to a Dominican player, behind the US$4.2 million given to Michel Inoa and the recently annulled RD$3.1 million given to Wagner Mateo.
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