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Daily News - Monday, 05 October 2009

Clinton: Haiti should follow DR example
Former United States President Bill Clinton pointed to Dominican businesses as models to be emulated while addressing a group of business leaders during his visit to Haiti last week. According to Hoy newspaper, Clinton said that projects like the Punta Cana Airport run by the Punta Cana Group were models that Haiti could follow. He suggested that such a venture in Cap-Haitien could be interesting for investors. He also pointed out that textile manufacturing along the lines developed by Grupo M and Fernando Capellan would be beneficial. According to reports, Clinton invited the Haitian government to consider the Punta Cana experience for use in Haiti's Cap-Haitien area. He also said that the Dominican business community could help their Haitian counterparts in the areas of tourism, free zones and in textiles. Also mentioned during the meeting were the possibility of help with beer, poultry production and agro-industrial production.
For more on Clinton's visit to Haiti, see: www.nytimes.com/2009/10/05/world/americas/...

Constitutional changes "an embarrassment"
Representatives from civic and business groups have joined together in their condemnation of the decisions taken by the National Revisory Assembly during the second reading of the new Constitution, because the legislators have "cut off" several individual and collective rights, implying a step backwards from the rule of law. Citizen watchdog group Citizen Participation, along with the Herrera Industrial Association, the Federation of Industrial Associations, the Commission for the Reform and Modernization of Justice, the Citizens Forum and the Justice and Transparency Foundation all shared this opinion. Citizen Participation describes the new Constitution as "illegitimate" because it eliminated ten existing citizen rights set out in the current Constitution.
The civic group said the illegitimacy is clearly demonstrated with the elimination of rights such as the right to have an honest and transparent public administration, "which reveals the perverse intent behind this decision. Behind the elimination of collective rights such as the adequate working of the market forces, and fair competition, the interest and rights of the consumer and of those who use public goods and services, the enjoyment of the assets in the public domain such as beaches and rivers among others, are hiding shameful, unspeakable intentions."

Assembly tackles Congress today
Today, Monday the Revisory Assembly will continue with its task of approving the second reading of the new Constitution as it deals with the attributes of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and the Congress in general, such as its composition and the effect of the laws and all aspects of the National Assembly and the joint sessions of the chambers. It is taken for granted that the PLD-PRD pact will be respected and the part that says that the Chamber of Deputies is responsible for submitting a list of Chamber of Accounts candidates to the Senate for selection, passed in the first reading, will be revoked. After these articles, the assembly members will discuss the popular legislative initiative and Title IV that relates to the Executive Power, which covers the issue of consecutive presidential election, also a part of the pact between President Leonel Fernandez and PRD leader Miguel Vargas Maldonado.
In addition, the titles of the State Secretariats and vice-secretariats will be changed to the more useful "Ministries", and they will also deal with the issue of presidential succession and the attributes of the Executive Branch. During the week the Assembly will deal with the reform of the Judicial Power and the creation of the Constitutional Tribunal, a proposal that was reconsidered by the verification and auditing commission, and the issues affecting local governments.

Frontier schools shut down
The Ministry of Education recently closed schools in Jaramillo and La Juliana in the province of Monte Cristi. Similar measures have been taken in other places such as Isabel de Torres and Gomez. The influx of Haitian citizens in the area of the frontier between Montecristi and Dajabon has led to the closure of at least four schools and the temporary suspension of one pre-school due to the lack of Dominican students. On Saturday Listin Diario reported that other authorities were demolishing houses belonging to Haitians along the frontier in the area of Cabo Rojo and Pedernales.
The action of troops from the Ministry of the Environment was widely criticized by local authorities who said that Minister Jaime David Fernandez should not have ordered this "barbarous action against poor farmers and fishermen who are only struggling to make a living", according to the mayor of Pedernales, Maria Adalgisa Matos. Further north, the action taken by the educational authorities was excused by the local director of School District 13-01 Ramona Argentina de la Cruz. She told Listin Diario reporters that no children were attending these schools because the area was affected by the constant flooding of the Yaque River and most local residents had moved to Montecristi. She said that almost all the Haitian children could not be registered in the schools because they do not have birth certificates - apparently unaware of a 2001 ministry resolution authorizing the inscription of students without birth certificates.

Bishops call for fair treatment of foreigners
The National Pastoral Meeting of the Catholic bishops of the Dominican Republic has ended in a request for foreign nationals, meaning Haitians, to be treated fairly. The Bishop of La Vega, Antonio Camilo Gonzalez, called for "an end to the contradictions between Dominican and Haitians... as brothers of the same land."
The bishops ended the XXVII National Meeting by calling for an end to the division with the Haitians. The bishops of Barahona, San Juan de la Maguana, La Vega, Santiago and Higuey along with 300 other religious leaders took part in the Meeting. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez made the opening remarks.

Schools and Minister to talk today
The tricky issue of pre-paid school terms is on the agenda for a meeting between several associations and the Minister of Education, Melanio Paredes this afternoon. Not all of the private schools in the country are in support of the pre-payment of the school year as established by several associations representing private schools, an issue that will be dealt with at the meeting taking place at ministry headquarters.
There are 3200 private schools in the country and more than 20 associations that represent these establishments, and of these, only 8 signed the resolution that set out the pre-payment requirement. One of the reasons for demanding advance payment, which was changed to quarterly after an outcry from parents, was that many students have debts accumulated from previous years.
Even though the measure has generated harsh criticism, Fauntly Garrido of the National Federation of Private Schools, representing 270 schools, made it clear that not everyone proposes the pre-payment plan. "The problem is that here there is a school sector that feels threatened by their clients' behavior, the parents of their students", he told Diario Libre. He pointed out that private schools don't have legal departments for dealing with debts and that the only way to guarantee payment is to demand it in advance.

PLD selects candidates for May elections
Yesterday, in a near party-like atmosphere, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) ended the registration of its pre-candidates for municipal and congressional posts in the 2010 elections. Some 4,076 members of the PLD registered for races for senator, deputy, mayor, and council member, ending a process that began last Saturday.
The National Electoral Commission reported that there were 13 candidates for senator, 422 for deputies, 257 for mayors and 2,384 for membership on city councils. The province of Santo Domingo has the greatest number of registered candidates with 688. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) supervised the process.
Party commission coordinator Alejandrina German reminded reporters that no candidacies were registered in the places where the PLD had reserved candidacies for allies. She warned that any party leaders who do not observe internal party discipline would be dishonorably expelled. German reminded people that the PLD's official campaign would begin on 12 October and that the candidates who administer public funds would have to take a leave of absence until the internal process is over.
Meanwhile, in Santiago, over 41 people were seeking the candidacies for deputy and more than 150 wanted to become council members in the 9 cities of the province. The aspiring candidates for deputy included Adalberto Rosa, Abel Martinez, Demostenes Martinez, Victor Suarez, Dilepsio Nunez, Clemen de la Cruz and Raul Martinez.
The mayors of the National District and Santo Domingo East, Roberto Salcedo and Juan de los Santos, as well as the candidate for the post, Elias Serulle, went ahead and registered their pre-candidacy, while being cheered on by their followers. Last Saturday, Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero also registered his candidacy, as did Carlos Pena. According to reports from some areas of the south, northwest, Central Cibao, northeast, east and the National District and the province of Santo Domingo there were marches and caravans with the candidates and their followers.

Authorities locate more Figueroa assets
One month after finding US$4.6 million in an armored SUV in the parking lot of a luxury high-rise in Santo Domingo, the authorities have still not located Jose Figueroa Agosto, the Puerto Rican fugitive and alleged owner of the millions among other expensive properties. The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) and local prosecutors continue to search for properties and other assets linked to the fugitive. The DNCD told reporters from Hoy that Figueroa heads a gang that laundered money from drug trafficking using front men to buy properties. The DNCD said that they had appraised properties "worth an estimated hundreds of millions of pesos."
These properties include a small farm with a menagerie of animals on kilometer 25 of the Duarte Highway, two houses in Arroyo Hondo, a luxury apartment in Juan Dolio and the two luxury apartments in Santo Domingo where the initial discoveries were made. According to sources in the DNCD, other assets have been located in Santo Domingo and in the provinces, and these will be seized when all the paperwork is finished. Anti-narcotic agents specialized in financial investigations are in charge of locating these assets.

Officer discharged for deals with narcs
An anti-drug officer, a captain responsible for the safekeeping of highly confidential files on cases involving drug traffickers, has been dishonorably discharged as a "traitor to the country" after it was uncovered that he supplied a much sought-after drug trafficking financial chief with his complete case file.
Captain Damian Lopez Devers belonged to the intelligence division, the section that together with DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents handles the "sensitive" files that contain the movements, contacts and other details of national and international drug traffickers who are being sought or followed. This leak came to light after a search by drug agents of a farm in Monte Plata where a huge stockpile of weapons, drug equipment and documents was found, including the original file from the DNCD filing cabinet. According to some newspapers, agents said that after investigating the leak the captain admitted receiving US$10,000 for the files. According to Listin Diario, Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo said that an inventory was being made on all pending cases. The drug financier reportedly deals in bananas, coordinates flights from Colombia and manages the logistics of picking up drugs dropped in Samana Bay.

Judge rejects transfers of Paya suspects
Judge Felipe Molina Abreu of the Second Chamber of the Penal Chamber of the Court of First Instance in the National District has annulled the transfer to other jails of three of the suspects in the Paya case, involving the murder of 6 foreign nationals in Paya, Bani, Peravia province in August 2008. The transfers had been ordered by the Department of Prisons. The tribunal adopted the decision after hearing a habeas corpus appeal for Luis de Jesus Lara Martinez, former naval Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Rafael Guzman Perez and the former captain Eduardo Mayobanex Rodriguez Montero.
The court declared that the accused should remain in the jails to which they had been remanded by the judge who heard the prosecutor's case for preventive custody. The tribunal said that these prisons were sufficient.

Tourism sees upturn
During the January-August period, the DR saw 67,000 fewer tourists than the year before, a 2.2% decrease. The main reason for the low numbers was a 1.1% decline in visitors during August. Yet, despite these shortcomings, predictions six months ago were far worse. According to Diario Libre, tourist arrivals from the United States, Canada, Russia, Portugal and Argentina have increased: in fact there were 22,000 more tourists from Canada and the United States in August than the previous year.
Tourism from the United States has been up for the past four months and in August it grew by 14%, with nearly 900,000 visitors so far this year, a 1.58% increase over 2008. This is due, in part, to the fact that travel to Europe is expensive and the weak dollar makes European travel less attractive than a tropical paradise. The outbreak of the AH1N1 influenza in the Mexican resort of Cancun also sent tourists to the DR. Tourism from Canada is up this year with over 500,000 visitors. As a matter of fact, data for the past three years, 2006, 2007 and 2008, shows that 2009 has been slightly better than 2007 or 2006. Russian visitors are up15% and tourists from France, after 10 straight months of decline, went up slightly in August.

Fuel prices down this week
The cost of fuel has gone down by between RD$5.20 and RD$1.15 according to the latest price bulletin from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Both types of gasoline and diesel fuel went down in price as well as LPG for household and vehicular use.
LPG went down by RD$1.15 and is now RD$66.86 a gallon. Premium gasoline will be RD$145.90 a gallon and regular will be RD$135.50. Diesel fuel will be RD$116.70 for the regular grade and RD$121.70 for premium diesel. Even Avtur, the aviation fuel, was down RD$2.12 a gallon to RD$90.25.
According to the ministry, the international publications dedicated to petroleum prices, Platts and Opis LPG, are reporting lower prices for gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil because "they were pressured by a substantial fall in prices due to a weak demand and the news of an increase in United States inventories." Last week oil prices fell by US$8.00 a barrel.

Hurricane season winds down
It what will be remembered in the Dominican Republic as the season that was not, the official Hurricane Season will end in less than 60 days. With much less activity than last year, the peak month of the season entered its final days with only two storms reaching hurricane strength (Bill and Fred), and none of the storms causing any significant damage in the area. The peak months for hurricanes in our area, August and September, are now behind us, and the risk of a major storm has decreased exponentially. Nonetheless, meteorologist Wagner Lorenzo warns that hurricanes can appear at any time, "...and a depression, tropical storm or hurricane can form."
Just a few years ago, the National Hurricane Center in Miami ran out of names and had to use the Greek alphabet to name the late-year storms. Just two years ago, Tropical Storms Noel and Olga did a lot of damage in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The lull in activity is attributed to the shift of the "El Nino" phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. With the return of "La Nina", yet another change in sea currents in the Pacific, hurricanes are expected to increase.

Singer Mercedes Sosa dies at 74
Argentina's Mercedes Sosa, a multi-winner of Latin Grammys, passed away on Sunday after being hospitalized for two weeks with pulmonary and heart problems. She was known as the "Voice of Latin America", challenging dictatorships and their attempts to silence her protests, and she sang until her last days. Sosa sang for nearly fifty years and produced 40 albums of popular Latin American songs. Although most newspapers and magazines called her "The Voice of Latin America", she, herself, preferred to be known as "La Negra", the nickname her faithful fans called her.
She was born in Tucuman, Argentina, on 9 July 1935, and was involved in traditional song and dance from an early age. She began her career in 1950, going on to travel the world and acting in films.
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