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Daily News - Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Fernandez welcomes new ambassadors
Yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez received credentials from six newly arrived ambassadors to the DR. Fernandez was joined by Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso and vice president Rafael Alburquerque. Among the newest foreign dignitaries to the DR are Rita D Rahman from the Netherlands, Joao Solano Caneiro da Cunha from Brazil and Irene Maria Horejs who is the European Commission's new head of delegation. Also presenting their credentials were Phatse Justice Pitso from South Africa, Vladimir Zemsky from Russia and Riyad H Mansour from the Palestinian Authority.

President Carter visits DR
Former United States President Jimmy Carter arrived in the DR yesterday. He arrived at Puerto Plata's Gregorio Luperon Airport where he was met by US Embassy staff. The purpose of Carter's trip to the island is to raise awareness about malaria, and to push for the eradication of the disease in Haiti and the DR. This is Carter's first visit to the DR and he is expected to be in Dajabon today. Listin Diario reports that the purpose of Carter's visit to Dajabon is to learn about the situation on the DR/Haitian border. Carter is then scheduled to fly down to Santo Domingo where he will present a bi-national strategy for fighting the disease.

IMF agreement a step closer
The DR has signed a letter of intent that will pave the way for the signing of a new Stand-by Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will guarantee the DR access to an additional US$900 million in funds, this year alone. The agreement, which is the first for a Caribbean nation in more than two years, could include up to US$1.7 billion in funds for the DR during the 28 months of the agreement. The agreement was announced at the Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group being held in Turkey. As part of this new agreement with the IMF, the DR has agreed to reduce its budgetary deficit of 0.8% of the GDP to zero in 2010. The agreement calls for a 2% budget surplus by 2012. The agreement also requires reforms to the DR's crumbling electricity sector and a more efficient tax system. Yesterday, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn congratulated Dominican authorities for the strength of the policies and reforms included within the agreement, "which demonstrates the commitment to strengthen the DR institutionally and economically." The Letter of Intent will now be sent to the Executive Director of the IMF for final approval. Although there have been calls from some quarters in the DR for the stability an IMF agreement would provide, there is also concern that a new "fiscal reform", Dominican political code for a tax increase, would come on the heels of this new agreement. Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa, Governor of the Central Bank Hector Valdez Albizu and Economy, Development and Planning Minister Temistocles Montas were all attending the meeting in Istanbul when they signed the Letter of Intent.
See: www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2009/pr09357.htm

Rejecting the Constitution
The Social Alternative Forum and 60 other civic organizations are calling on Dominican citizens to express their opposition to the latest revisions of the new Dominican Constitution. The second reading of the new Constitution and the articles and amendments that have been passed have provoked increasing anger and criticism from the public. Many are saying that citizens' basic rights have been eroded by this latest version. Some have even gone as far as to label the process and its results as "an embarrassment". The last straw may have been the passing of an article last week that puts private ownership of all beaches, rivers and lakes in the DR above universal public access. From this act a small, but energetic campaign, "Esa no es mi Constitucion" (that is not my Constitution) and "Toy Jarto" (I'm fed up...) have emerged as grassroots movements for expressing public concerns. Rallies and marches are planned, most notably a demonstration scheduled for 4:30pm this Friday at the entrance to Congress. Participants are asked to wear swimsuits for this peaceful protest against the modification that threatens public access to the DR's beaches. There is also a meeting planned for 11 October at the UASD University for opponents to the reforms to discuss campaign strategies.

No more re-election
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly has agreed to ban consecutive re-elections as part of the new Dominican constitution. The Constitution now reverts to its previous wording, before it was modified by former President Hipolito Mejia. This means that current President Leonel Fernandez, who has served three presidential terms, the last two being consecutive thanks to Mejia's Constitutional modification, will not be re-elected for a fourth term in office. This amendment to the Constitution was part of an original pact between Fernandez and current PRD presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. With Fernandez constitutionally out of the picture, this increases Vargas' chance of winning the presidency in 2012. The article amending the constitution also lowers the minimum age for the presidency from 35 to 30. The article states that the any candidate for the presidency cannot have served in the military or police for the last three years.

Counter-reform impossible, says Valentin
Constitutional Revisory Assembly vice president Julio Cesar Valentin says that it is a dream to believe the latest version of the DR's latest constitution could be amended once it is ratified. Valentin was responding to suggestions made by legislators, both in public and privately, that this latest version of the DR's constitution would be passed and that certain articles would then be modified after the congressional and municipal elections of 2010. Yesterday deputy Pelegrin Castillo suggested that this latest version would be subject to a "counter-reform" in 2010.

Marranzini slams "vandals"
Some called it civil disobedience, but State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Celso Marranzini is not mincing his words, describing it as vandalism. The CDEEE VP was referring to an act that occurred in the San Jose de La Mina sector in Santiago, where residents tore out their electricity meters in protest against prolonged blackouts and bad service. In all, 400 meters were torn down, but Marranzini has no plans to put the meters back, saying that any damage to state property must be paid for. He added that if the sector of San Jose stays without power that will fine, stating that he would not reward their actions by giving them power. This is a hard-line stance from Marranzini, who has been given the unenviable task of turning the tide in the DR's beleaguered energy sector.

Haitises victims want money
Families evicted from Los Haitises National Park 17 years ago are asking the government for the RD$22 million in compensation that was promised to them in the 2009 budget. Spokesman Juan Castro says that 1,600 of the 2,320 families have not received any of the money they were promised. Castro said that a total of RD$26 million was allocated, but only RD$9 million was handed out and in 2009 an additional RD$26 million was allocated but only RD$4 million has been handed over. The clearing out process began in 1992 and representatives of the families also say that they have yet to be given the housing that government promised them. Since 1992 government has paid out an estimated RD$43 million to families, which is roughly 28% of the promised amount.

Lack of jobs a hurdle for youth
The lack of jobs and a quality education are some of the biggest hurdles facing this generation of Dominican youth, according to participants in the first Tri-party Youth Forum held as part of the Decent Jobs Campaign, which was held yesterday at Santo Domingo's Clarion Hotel. Representatives from the Labor Unions, the Ministry of Youth and the Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) took part in the conference. Participants called for better job opportunities and increased investment in education, including technical training. They added that companies are often forced to hire foreign workers because locals don't have adequate technical skills. CNUS union youth secretary Ingrid Jose Espinal said that in many cases young people are also paid minimal wages, when compared to adults, and are discriminated against when they go looking for a job.

Tracking Henri
This year's hurricane season has been mild by Caribbean standards, but as the season winds down meteorologists are tracking Tropical Storm Henri, which is now located 710 kilometers east/northeast of the Lesser Antilles, moving at about 22kph. The storm currently has sustained winds of 85km/h.

Chichi gets his day
Artist Chichi Peralta now has a day to call his own. The Dominican music star was honored with a day by the Boston city hall, in Massachusetts, by Boston city mayor, Thomas Menino. Peralta was honored for his music career and his ability to transcend music and the genre of Latin music. Commenting on the honor, Peralta said he was not expecting it, and that this year has brought him some wonderful things. During his time in the Hub, Peralta also made a stop at the Berklee School of Music to talk to students. He said that this was an important moment for him, seeing the students interested in learning and learn about different instruments.

Dominicans do the job
We knew Dominicans would play big roles in the post-season play of many teams, we never figured it would be this soon and this dramatic. The Minnesota Twins were playing a one-game playoff against the Detroit Tigers. The playoff was needed since both teams tied with their regular season records, with the winning team earning the Al Central title. The losing team would have a long winter ahead. The game started out with a tit for tat offense as the Twins matched every run. The game was tied 5-5 going into the 12th and the bases loaded for the Tigers. But the Tigers couldn't capitalize, leaving the door open for Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez to take care of business. Gomez got on base during the bottom half of the 12th, advanced to second base and scored on a single by Casilla. The win pushed the Twins into the playoffs and for a showdown with the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.

Cinderella at the National Theater
A Dominican version of Cinderella will be staged at the National Theater starting 16 October. This is an Amaury Sanchez production, telling the story of a modern day Cinderella. The script, lyrics and music are by Amaury Sanchez and Waddys Jaquez. Hochi Asiatico is responsible for the costumes and Isadora Bruno for the choreography. The cast will include Javier Grullon, Maria Castillo, Laura Leclerc, Yelitza Pena Sanlley, Kenny Grullon, Veronica Lopez and Miguel Lendor.
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