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Daily News - Friday, 09 October 2009

Fernandez inaugurates Coral Highway
President Leonel Fernandez will inaugurate the start-up of construction on the Coral Highway in Punta Cana today. The ceremony will take place at the first traffic circle near the Punta Cana International Airport. Constructora Autopista Coral SA will build the highway, which will link Santo Domingo with the main cities and tourist destinations in the east.
The four-lane highway will have three new bridges over the Chavon, Duey and Santa Clara rivers and overpasses at all main intersections. It will link Higuey and La Romana with Punta Cana and the Tourist Boulevard of the East. The cost of the new road is estimated at US$272 million and it is expected that its construction will take three years.

Reform official hits back at critics
Reinaldo Pared Perez, the president of the National Revisory Assembly for the Constitution, could not contain himself yesterday in the wake of criticisms from eminent civil society groups against some of the reforms being approved by the Assembly. The senator said that sectors without any type of representation or legitimacy have orchestrated a campaign of disinformation and discredit against the constitutional reform process that, in his words was "close to being perverse, disgraceful, and manipulative". His salvo was aimed at Citizen Participation (PC) and the Justice and Institutionalism Foundation (Finjus). Javier Cabreja of Citizen Participation had described the constitutional reform as "a serious and major institutional step backwards".
Pared said that when a serious look is taken at what has been approved, "the people will see it is not what they are claiming. The rivers, lakes, beaches and coastlines belong to the public domain and are freely accessible", and they (the Assembly) only included the phrase on private property "because it is the correct thing to do".

SCJ Judges to retire at 75
The Revisory Assembly of the Constitution has set the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges at 75 years and eliminated the section on property jurisdiction that was passed during the first reading, in accordance with the recent PLD-PRD pact.
The current Constitution does not establish an age limit for high court judges. The retirement age for all other judges "would be established in accordance with the law on the issue". The free administration of justice was passed, in the name of the Republic, by the Judicial Branch. This power is exercised by the Supreme Court and the other tribunals created by this Constitution and the law.
The Assembly also approved that "the Supreme Court of Justice is the superior jurisdictional body of all the judicial bodies. It will be composed of no less than 16 judges and can meet, deliberate and decide with the quorum established by the law that establishes its organization. It will be divided into chambers according to the law."
The Assembly then approved that the law will regulate the judicial statutes of the Judicial Career, entry, training, promotion, advancement, separation and retirement of a judge in accordance to the principles of merit, skill and professionalism as well as the regulations for retirements and pensions of judges, officials and employees of the judicial system. The law will also regulate the National Judicial School and in order to be designated a Judge of the Judicial Power, "all candidates should be subject to a public competition based on merits for entrance into the National Judicial School as established by the law."
In order to be a Judge of the Supreme Court, the candidate should "have practiced for at least 12 years the profession of lawyer, university teaching of law or have carried out for the same time, the functions of a judge within the Judicial Power or as a representative of the Justice Ministry. These periods can be cumulative."
One of the attributions of the Supreme Court approved by the Assembly orders the court "to designate, according to the law on the Judicial Career, the judges of the Appeals Court or their equivalent, the courts of First Instance or their equivalent, the judges of Instruction, the justices of the Peace and their substitutes, the judges of any other tribunals of the Judicial Power created by the Constitution and the laws, previous a list of candidates presented by the Judicial Power Council."
Meanwhile, the attribution to hear the penal cases regarding the President and Vice-President and other officials in a single instance remained on the table.

Fraud on film
Thursday's session of the Constitutional Revisory Assembly was suspended after two assembly members, Fidelia Perez and Anibal Rosario, both from the PRD, were spotted using three voting devices. They were voting on the issues of justice and the elimination of property jurisdiction from the Constitutional text at the time. The media caught the assembly members in the act of using three devices and captured the images on television. The assembly failed to meet quorum despite the members' best attempts and the session was adjourned until Monday.

Carter says migration 'unstoppable'
Former United States President Jimmy Carter announced yesterday that President Leonel Fernandez would meet with his Haitian counterpart Rene Preval in November. Carter also said that there was no way that the Dominican Republic could succeed in putting a stop to Haitian immigration.
During a press conference at the Presidential Palace, Carter did not specify where the meeting would take place, but he assured the reporters that among other things, both leaders would talk about eradicating malaria.
The former president said that the factors involved in Haitian immigration were present in every country in the world, poor as well as rich, and gave the example of what happens between Mexico and the United States.
Carter, who held a half-hour long meeting with Leonel Fernandez in his office, said that the best thing for both nations is to deal with the migration issue jointly.
"They should cooperate with each other", Carter told reporters. He added that as the DR is better off than Haiti, cooperation from the DR side should be greater.

Immigration neutralizes development
French political scientist Aymeric Chauprade said that the Dominican Republic would not be able to implement a development strategy to improve the lot of millions of its poor citizens as long as it continues to tolerate uncontrolled Haitian migration. He added that issues surrounding this problem are also generating negative publicity in the European Union. He said that, "all policies that try to get the poorest class into the middle class are going to be affected by this migration, and President Fernandez understands this perfectly."
Accompanied by Rosanna Pons, the Coordinator of Geopolitical Studies at the Global Democracy and Development Foundation (Funglode), Chauprade, a critic of United States foreign policy and a defender of the move towards the left currently under way in Latin America, said that the solution to the Haitian problem is not in the hands of the Dominican Republic or the United States, or even France.
He said that "the problem in Haiti is one of identity... and they won't find their political stability until they find their identity."

Marranzini says no hike in sight
The Letter of Intent that the government sent the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sets out "tariff adjustments" and the application of a more flexible rate system to cover the costs of generation and distribution, but business sector leaders are warning that they would not accept any more rates increases without improvements in the service.
State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice-president Celso Marranzini said that the IMF agreement does not refer to increasing rates, but rather the flexibility of rates, while making it clear that he does not have to talk about this issue since it is not part of his job.
The president of the National Organization of Commercial Enterprises (ONEC), Pedro Perez, and the president of the Dominican Traders Federation (FDC), Ivan de Jesus Garcia, both came out against any further electricity rate increases or readjustments.
Perez said that a readjustment would be counterproductive at the present time if they do no give any indication of an improvement in the electricity supply, but he hopes that the service improves with the work being done by Marranzini.
Garcia said that business is below the break-even point now due to the expenses produced by the electricity rates, which he said made up 15% to 20% of commercial operating expenses.
He pointed out that the private sector felt cheated by the electricity distributors because a business that paid RD$30,000 just 60 days ago is now paying RD$60,000 per month, and as a result the business sector is deeply worried by the situation.

Costs trap hotels
The high cost of energy is one of the main problems affecting the hotel industry in the Dominican Republic, and it is preventing hotels from taking a more competitive stance, according to Haydee Kuret de Rainieri, president of the National Hotel and Restaurant Association (ASONAHORES).
The leading hotelier said that as much as 20% of the cost of a room was going towards electricity, despite the fact that many, if not most, hotels have generators for their own electricity. At US$0.24 kw/h, hotels are spending too much on electricity. In the Bavaro-Punta Cana area, these costs are as much as 15% of the cost of a room and in Samana the cost is as much as 20-22%, and in Puerto Plata, energy costs make up two or three dollars per day per person (in Samana it is $7.00).

Ex-husband arrested in US$4.6m case
The District Attorney of the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, has reported the arrest of the former husband of Sobeida Feliz who is in custody in connection with the seizure of US$4.6 million in cash that was found in an armored Mercedes Benz SUV in the parking lot of a luxury high-rise in Santo Domingo. Moscoso Segarra told reporters from El Nuevo Diario that he would be asking a judge to remand Brito in custody so that his investigators could get to the bottom of this case.
The arrest comes after investigators apparently linked Brito to Jose Figueroa Agosto, the drug trafficker who is believed to be the true owner of the SUV, the apartments, the houses and the other properties. Brito is thought to have served as a front for purchases by the Puerto Rican. Brito is also under investigation for the discovery of an official license plate in a safe in one of the houses in Arroyo Hondo where the property title that was found was also in his name.

Rains expected to continue
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) reported that rains are expected to continue today, with thunderstorms and some high winds as the result of a low-pressure area over the country and winds from the east-northeast that keep supplying humidity.
The Onamet forecast says that the skies will be partly cloudy, and rains are expected in Samana, Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Espaillat (Moca), Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), Santiago, La Vega, Monte Plata, El Seibo, Hato Mayor and San Cristobal as well as the capital.
Onamet is also monitoring an area of low pressure, now 'tropical depression Henri' located about 250 kilometers to the north east of the Leeward Islands and going in a west-northwest direction. However it is expected that Henri will become just a low-pressure area over the next 24 hours.

Martha through to LA idol final
Dominican Martha Heredia's powerful performance last night earned her a place in the final of the TV talent show Latin American Idol. The jury, which includes Cuban-American singer/songwriter Jon Secada, were full of praise for the 18-year old singer, who now goes on to compete in the final that takes place in Buenos Aires next Wednesday.
"I'm speechless because at just 18 you are already a star" said one of the jurors, Mexican singer Mimi Hernandez. The Latin American Idol contestants are selected by a public vote. Martha Heredia, who is originally from Santiago de los Cabarellos, thanked all her Dominican fans for their continued support.
 
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