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Daily News - Monday, 19 October 2009

President says no more UASD branches
President Leonel Fernandez announced that no more Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) branches would be built in the provinces. He made this declaration in Cotui, in Sanchez Ramirez province during a "town hall" meeting with local people. He said that with the advent of 21st century technology, the need for classrooms was diminishing and that soon the students would be carrying their studies around in their pockets. He added that in addition to the decreasing need for classrooms because of distance learning and on-line classes, there was a serious lack of qualified professors to staff UASD extensions across the provinces.
Fernandez was speaking during a Popular Consultation in Cotui and he praised the work done by the Eastern Cibao Technological Institute (Iteco) in training students for work in the present century. He said that the government would continue to support the institute and he said that scholarships would be offered to needy and deserving students. He also addressed the issues surrounding the to soon-to-be re-opened gold mine in Pueblo Viejo, and he said that he appreciated the requests from various quarters pressing for 5% of the mine's profits to be sent to the towns of Sanchez Ramirez province.

Assembly tries to break stalemate
This afternoon the Revisory Assembly for the Constitution will continue its work in what is expected to be a heated session discussing the composition of the National Council of Magistrates (CNM). The Verification and Auditing Commission is due to present its report. The hearing of this report is an attempt to overcome the stalemate in the Revisory Assembly that has paralyzed its work since last Tuesday after the pact signed by President Leonel Fernandez and PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado that shifted the make-up of the body that appoints judges was rejected.
Diario Libre says that the commission's report proposes rewriting Articles 151 and 157, which set out that the senator and the deputy who are members of the CNM belong to the party or bloc of parties different from that of the president of the two chambers and that have the second majority in both chambers. The report also integrates the Attorney General into the CNM, which would make 8 members. Because of this, the report also presents a modification to Article 157 in order to establish that for the session to be valid, a minimum of 6 members must be present and the decision needs the vote of two-thirds of those present, and in no case can there be fewer than 5 members present. The full body of the Assembly should hear, moreover, the dissenting opinion that was submitted by the president of the Verification Commission, Frank Martinez, who says that the whole process is illegal, since according to what is being said, it is the same proposal that was rejected but with different wording.
The PRSC warned that if the PRD and the PLD insist on hastily applying the pact in relation to the CNM, it could completely annul the entire constitutional reform process. Deputy Rogelio Genao said that the pact announced by the PLD and the PRD contravenes the Constitution, the Convocation Law and the Regulations of the Revisory Assembly and "nobody is obliged to do the impossible, there is no common reason for the PLD to succumb to the pressures of the PRD to comply with a pact that has been rejected and repudiated by the people, who have called it 'the Counter Reformation'".

JCE chamber ratifies sentence against PRD
Friday was not a good day for the PRD. The party received two resolutions from the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Disputes Chamber. The first required them to suspend Sunday's swearing-in ceremony for the leaders elected in the voting of last 27 September. The second ratified Resolution 068/2009 that suspended the swearing-in ceremony based on the fact that the JCE had yet to rule on the objections filed by Guido Gomez Mazara and Tony Pena Guaba to the results of the party elections. As soon as the first resolution was received, lawyers for the PRD filed a plea for its reversal on the grounds that the resolution violated the Constitution because the PRD had not been notified about a hearing on the challenges from Pena Guaba and Gomez Mazara.
On Friday night at 7:30, the Chamber ratified the suspension of the swearing-in ceremony despite the lawyers' request, saying that it was "inadmissible".

JCE will oversee party elections
The Administrative Chamber of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has begun the process of overseeing political parties internal elections for candidates for congressional and municipal posts in the May 2010 elections. Diario Libre reported that the president of the Administrative Chamber, Roberto Rosario, sent letters to each of the coordinators for the organization of the PRD and PLD party conventions, Alejandrina German and Hugo Tolentino Dipp, asking them about their internal processes.
In a letter addressed to Alejandrina German, Rosario asked the PLD to supply a list of the pre-candidates and the posts to which they hope to become candidates. He also requested a list of the pre-candidates who were not accepted and the reasons for their rejection. Moreover, he wanted a list of the posts that were reserved by the party for their discretionary use, as well as the name of the members of the municipal electoral commissions whose work will be coordinated with the local Election Boards. Meanwhile, in the letter to the PRD, represented by Tolentino Dipp, he requested the dates that the party had set aside for their convention, by region and by province. In addition, he asked for a list of the members of the Electoral Commissions. The Administrative Chamber will contract a company to monitor the campaigns of the political parties and avoid "dirty politics".

Only 11,000 legal Haitian residents
Nobody really knows how many Haitians are living in the Dominican Republic. Recently, former United States President Jimmy Carter stated that it was "impossible" to stop the flow of Haitian nationals across the border. These comments gave the Ministry of the Interior and of the Police the idea of implementing a Plan for the Regulation of Immigrants, but nobody really knows the extent of the problem. Estimates on the number of Haitians in the Dominican Republic vary from half a million to as many as two million. However, Migration director Admiral Sigfrido Pared Perez says that only 11,000 legal Haitian residents are registered, and he does not believe that there are more than a million Haitians living in the DR. His own estimate is that some 500,000 Haitians are living here.
In 1991 the National Statistics Office (ONE) said that there were 245,000 Haitians in the country, and in 2003 the Foreign Ministry said that there was a million. In the nation's first census, in 1920, 89 years ago, 28,258 Haitians were registered as living here, and there were 894,665 Dominicans. Pared Perez said that he thought that the Haitian presence in the Dominican Republic could be regulated, although it would be necessary to apply the Migration Law 245-04 and to proceed with proposals to enforce it, such as a census to register all foreign nationals, proposed in 2005.

Police and the "mysterious" disappearance
A mystery surrounds the disappearance of Juan Antonio Almonte, implicated in the kidnapping of young Eduardo Baldera Gomez. Sources have told Diario Libre that the mystery might be uncovered this week when DNA tests ordered by the television producer Nuria Piera on two burned bodies that were found last month are complete. The police are behind the uncertainty surrounding the disappearance of 50-year old Almonte, a leading member of the Mundo Political Movement. Last month the police reported that Almonte had been detained for questioning in connection with the highly publicized kidnapping case. They later said that they had not arrested him and that he had been declared a fugitive.
Relatives told Nuria Piera that after Almonte's disappearance and upon hearing that he had been implicated in the Baldera kidnapping, they went to the Police but were told that he was not detained or under arrest. In the middle of all this confusion, the Police searched Almonte's house where several relatives were arrested under the allegation that one of the ransom calls had been made from that residence. Statements from Almonte's family say that he was detained by a group of men and his car was left by the roadside on 28 September. Since then, nothing has been heard of him. Unfortunately for the family, on 29 September the bodies of two men were discovered in the trunk of a burned out Mitsubishi in Sierra Prieta, Yamasa, and it was said that one of the bodies was Almonte Herrera. However, the controversy arose because police agents stationed in Monte Plata said that one of the bodies was Almonte but neither of the two was identifiable because of the condition of the bodies. Statements made by family members to Piera indicated that they only had a vague idea that their relative was one of the victims, so the television personality ordered a DNA test to be carried out.

US files extradition requests
The United States Embassy has sent the Attorney General three extradition requests for former Navy captain Rafael Heriberto Almonte Reyes, a.k.a. "El Gordo", who is linked to an money laundering operation and drug trafficking in the US. The network of drug traffickers of which Almonte Reyes has supposedly been a member since 2005, extends to Central America, Europe, North and South America. Almonte Reyes was arrested after the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) accepted a request from the Attorney General that requested the fusion of all three extradition requests. One of the files places Almonte Reyes together with the former Navy lieutenant Carlos Rosso Pena, former Navy major Miguel Antonio Suarez Silfa and other military personnel whose last names are Rodriguez and Gonzalez. The diplomatic note, Number 313, details the spectacular role the former officer is said to have played in the underworld. It says that Almonte Reyes is sought for trial in the Northern District of Georgia for money laundering and other crimes.
The document cites the fact that on 21 January 2009 he was accused together with 16 other associates by a Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of Georgia, where three charges were drawn up: money laundering, willful association for the purpose of distributing cocaine and other controlled substances and private financial transactions in order to launder earning from the distribution of cocaine. The file establishes that Almonte was a member of the Black Market Press Exchange (BMPE) that is an illegal and unregulated money laundering system based on the business that allows Colombian money exchange dealers to change United States dollars and Colombian pesos for the dealers and drug exporters who want to by United States currency. "The drug traffickers that have a lot of US currency obtained through the sale of drugs in the United States are able to exchange dollars for local currency".
Based on the information, secret agents were able to identify the individuals who were working with Almonte Reyes as he carried out money laundering operations. The diplomatic note said that from February 2005 until 21 January of this year, the former military officer was involved in laundering money through the BMPE. He coordinated with a confidential source to pick up large amounts of dollars in Puerto Rico and the United States, cash from drug sales. The members involved handed over the cash to secret agents that transported and deposited the money in bank accounts in the United States, including Atlanta, Georgia. Almonte Reyes gave instructions on how to launder the funds, which were picked up on telephone conversations, faxes, in on-line chat rooms and e-mails. He established pick-ups and bank deposits of laundered money with co-conspirators in Panama.

Nearly 800 charter flights approved
The Civil Aviation Board (JAC) has announced the approval of nearly 800 charter flights, as well as a large number of regular flights from Europe, Canada and South America. Luis Paulino Rodriguez Ariza, the head of the JAC and the Dominican Representative at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said that the approved flights included both freight and passenger services.
Airlines like Iberworld from Spain, Ceske Aerolinie, S.A. from the Czech Republic and Thomas Cook will bring passengers from different points in Europe. Sata International will bring passengers from Portugal and Canjet Airlines will provide service from Canada. Aero Republica will fly from Colombia, Aerogal from Ecuador and Estelar Latinoamericana will bring passengers from Venezuela. Brazil's TAM Linhas and TAME, Lineas Aereas de Ecuador will move passengers from Curacao. From Haiti, TortugAir will carry passengers from Port-au-Prince to the Joaquin Balaguer Airport at La Isabela in Santo Domingo.
Several other cargo services were approved as well as a proposal from the head of the Peruvian Civil Aeronautical Department who suggested a meeting to discuss a bilateral agreement between the two nations.

Most traffic deaths motorcycle related
According to hospital authorities in Santiago de los Caballeros, 72% of traffic accidents and 80% of traffic fatalities that happen in the Dominican Republic involved motorcycles. These figures emerged during a meeting between representatives of local and international institutions who were looking for preventive measures. The initiative to prevent traffic accidents involves the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez Regional University Hospital, Columbia University and the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, the University of Puerto Rico, the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra, the Metropolitan Transport Authority, the National Police, the business community, the Ministry of Public Health and other sectors interested in reducing the negative impact of these accidents.
The event was held at the Cabral y Baez Hospital. Carmen Dominguez, the head of Family Medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian, Colonel Van-troy Tejada, the director of AMET in Santiago, and Mr. Rodriguez Almanzar, an expert on motorcycle affairs spoke the sessions. They were joined by Dr. Juan Ramirez, president of the Vanessa Foundation and Dr. Jose Minier, who delivered 200 helmets donated by the Yamaha company.

Baseball season opens
Friday night saw the opening games of the 2009-2010 Dominican Winter League Baseball Tournament that is dedicated to the three Alou brothers: Felipe, Mateo and Jesus. The first games were regional, with the Gigantes from San Francisco de Macoris traveling over to Santiago to fact the Aguilas Cibaenas in the managing debut of Felix Fermin as the head of the Gigantes. Unfortunately for Fermin, the Aguilas defeated the Gigantes, 5-3. In Santo Domingo, The Tigres del Licey and the Leones del Escogido renewed their traditional battle, with the Tigres winning the first game, 6-3. Finally, over in La Romana, the Azucareros del Este (also called the Toros) defeated the Estrellas Orientales 4-2.
In Saturday's action, the Estrellas defeated the Leones del Escogido, 7-3, the Tigres feasted on the Aguilas, 2-0 and the Toros defeated the Gigantes 8-0. On Sunday, the Gigantes del Cibao defeated the Aguilas, 15-9, in a game in which the Aguilas took a 3-1 advantage, lost it and tied the game at 4 runs apiece in the third inning. Then the dam opened and the Gigantes scored 7 runs in the fifth inning and the game was never in doubt. In Santo Domingo, the Leones del Escogido gave the Tigres del Licey their first defeat, 5-3, in the venerable Estadio Quisqueya. The win tied the City Champ competition at one win each.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
AZUCAREROS 2 - 0 1.000 --
LICEY 2 - 1 .667 0.5
ESTRELLAS 1 - 1 .500 1.0
ESCOGIDO 1 - 2 .333 1.5
GIGANTES 1 - 2 .333 1.5
AGUILAS 1 - 2 .333 1.5
Today's Game
Tetelo Vargas Stadium, San Pedro de Macoris at 7:30pm: Azucareros vs. Estrellas (R. Valdez (L) F. Rosario (R))
Tomorrow's Games:
Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo at 7:30pm: Aguilas Vs Licey
Julian Javier Stadium, in San Francisco de Macoris, 7:30pm: Azucareros vs. Gigantes
Tetelo Vargas Stadium in San Pedro de Macoris, 7:30pm: Escogido vs. Estrellas
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