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Daily News - Friday, 30 October 2009

Refinery sale all set to go
The Venezuelan government will buy 40% of the shares in the Dominican Refinery (Refidomsa) for US$131.5 million, in an agreement that will be signed during the first two weeks of November. The method of payment has not yet been established because several options are being considered.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa announced the plan after a 4-hour meeting with a commission of executives from the state-owned Venezuelan Petroleum Company (PDVSA) who were in the country to complete the negotiations with DR government officials. Bengoa said that the only thing left to do is the final draft of the document, a task that was assigned to a team of lawyers, which would delay the signing a little more. President Hugo Chavez will not be present at the formal signing of the sale of the Refidomsa shares, as had been announced. Bengoa will sign on behalf of the Dominican state and Asdrubal Chavez, the executive vice-president of PDVSA will represent Venezuela.
PDVSA manager Amilcar Mata, who headed the Venezuelan commission, said that they are happy with the relationship between the two governments and he said that he was sure that the REFIDOMSA would become a much stronger business in the future and one that would give the Dominican people everything that they expected of it. He said that one of the payment options involved using oil invoices.
Besides Mata, the Venezuelan commission was made up of Rosa Rodriguez, Marianela Ortega, Sergio Inciarte, Alirio Riera, Johimar Duran and Oscar Vasquez. The Dominican counterpart commission that accompanied Bengoa included lawyers Marino Vinicio Castillo and Mariano German, as well as Presidential Legal Adviser Abel Rodriguez del Orbe, Presidency Minister Cesar Pina Toribio and Refidomsa general manager Viriato Sanchez. Bengoa told reporters that one year and 11 months after the Dominican state took on the administration of Refidomsa, the company has made profits of US$132 million, which demonstrates that the state is not a bad administrator, if it is handled with the criteria that was taken on at the refinery. This was achieved with the same 130 employees, said Bengoa.

Deputies approve budget changes
The Chamber of Deputies declared the measure urgent and approved the proposal that modifies the Law of Expenditures increasing the 2010 national budget from RD$328.9 billion to RD$337.1 billion. Of the amount, RD$6.32 billion will go to cover financial applications referred from the 2008 debt, above all, to the electricity sector. The full body of the Chamber of Deputies accepted the report that favored approval as presented by the head of the Budget Commission, Jose Cabrera, who asked for the legislation to be treated with urgency. The report said that US$137 million would be used for the electricity sector for the rest of the year.
The budget modification implies an increase of RD$8.088 billion of which RD$5.0 billion will go to the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) and RD$640 million to the Dominican Social Security Institute, since the institution had not fulfilled its plan to become a Health Management Organization.
Furthermore, RD$247 million are destined for SENASA, the state health insurance plan, and RD$234 million will go to the "Comer es Primero" (Food comes first) program. There is RD$200 million for the Essential Drugs Program (Promese) and for the Preventive Police there is RD$47.8 million along with other allocations. Cabrera said that the government's objective in its negotiations towards a Stand-by Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was to unblock the disbursements and obtain fresh resources from multilateral financial organizations that will allow the government to compensate for the reduction in fiscal income.

Latest dengue deaths
Three children are reported to have died within 24 hours as a result of the latest outbreak of dengue fever in the DR. Of the three, only one was identified as Michael Martinez, 2, who lived in the Los 40 section of Cristo Rey. Of the minors, one had been hospitalized in the ward and the others were in intensive care at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital where they were admitted in critical condition.
These latest deaths bring the number of fatalities at the hospital to 12. The hospital has diagnosed more than 800 cases and of these, there were more than 400 of the hemorrhagic variety of dengue.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry staff met with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative, Miguel Machuca and the director of the Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital, Luisa Lafontaine yesterday. In the last two months there has been an increase in the number of patients hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue. During the meeting, representatives of the National Department of Epidemiology said that many cases are confused with respiratory problems and that some patients who are taken to hospitals are given antibiotics, which complicates the problem.
Six persons died in the last week from dengue fever, raising the total number of fatalities to 36, including the children. The number of cases in the whole country climbed to 4,066, including 247 that were diagnosed with the hemorrhagic version of the illness, according to a report in Diario Libre.

Reform makes laws unconstitutional
The Constitutional Reform will have to give way to another colossal task involving the modification of many current laws on the books that are now at odds with the brand new Constitution. Legislation that will require adjustments include the Electoral Law, the law that creates the post of Ombudsman, the law on the Environment, the law on Migration and the Budget Law. For the Election Law, the new Constitution requires a reduction in membership and the creation of a Higher Electoral Tribunal.
Also involved in the many changes is the modification of the number of deputies, which will increase from 178 to 190 with the election of national deputies, a reform aimed at allowing minority parties to have representation in the Congress. There will also be special elections to choose the overseas deputies.
The law that creates the post of Ombudsman has to be adapted to the dispositions of the new Constitution that change the way the Ombudsman is selected and his/her functions. The reform also reduced the number of assistant Ombudsmen that would be allowed as well as the majority needed in the Chamber of Deputies in order to propose the nomination to the Senate. The reform also changes some of the dispositions of the Environmental Law, providing more protection for some areas. The Migration Law will need to be adjusted in terms of the dispositions on citizenship based on the principles of jus solis and jus sanguinis. Even the Budget Law will need to be adapted to the new deadlines for the budget's submission to Congress.

Charcoal trade daunts authorities
While Listin Diario features an Army patrol destroying charcoal ovens in the hills near the border and other teams confiscating more than 1,200 bags of charcoal ready for shipment to Haiti, Hoy newspaper writes that there is little hope of bringing charcoal smuggling under any control as long as there is such strong demand for the product in Haiti.
On the one hand, the president of the Frontier Council spoke frankly about the authorities' complicity in charcoal production in the region, and on the other, Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal expressed pessimism, saying it was difficult to end this contraband in the face of what he called "an intense demand from Haiti". Nonetheless, the Minister tried to provide some consolation saying that forest rangers and reforestation initiatives were under way in the area.
Radhames Batista, the head of the National Frontier Council said that there was complicity between Dominican authorities and the Haitians who produce the charcoal in Dominican forests. He said that there was a military element in the complicity and this was matched with the reduced number of forest rangers in the area. He said that if there was not direct complicity through action, there was complicity by omission, since "a bag of charcoal cannot be placed in a wallet".
He complained that gangs of Haitians, with complicity of Dominicans, have stripped bare entire areas around Jimani and the Sierra of Bahoruco. He said that 86% of all charcoal used in Haiti comes from the Dominican Republic.

AmCham promotes renewables
The American Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic (AmCham DR) is sponsoring an international forum to promote investment and the sale of products and services in the renewable energy sector. Rodolfo Cabello, who heads the Chamber's energy committee, told El Caribe that the event, "The Business Forum for Renewable Energy 2009" would be held at the Hotel Melia in Santo Domingo on 5 and 6 November. The forum will include presentations by both foreign and national experts, tackling issues such as the judicial framework, financing, sustainability, and the incentives in place to promote investment in renewable energy projects.

Swim for Millennium Goals
Dominican long-distance swimmer Marcos Diaz today announced plans to connect the five continents of the world, through four long-distance swims including Djibouti, Indonesia, Morocco, Spain and the US. This is an initiative to unite the world and bring awareness to the Millennium Development Goals, sponsored by the United States. Diaz says that the world's poor have played no role in the recent global crises, but have suffered the most.
At a press conference at the headquarters of the UN in New York, Diaz launched the project and called the world to join in. The swim marks the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals.
Beginning in May, the first swim would connect Oceania to Asia from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia. The second swim, in June, would unite Asia to Africa with a swim from Yemen to Djibouti. In July, the third crossing would connect Africa to Europe with a swim from Morocco to Spain, and the last swim in August would be from Russia to Alaska across the Bering Straits, connecting Europe to the Americas.
During the week of the September 2010 Millennium Development Summit being held at the United Nations, he would swim from the Hudson River to the East River, right to the front of the United Nations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals.

Taiwan's US$100,000 for hospital
The government of Taiwan donated US$100,000 to the Dominican Cardiology Institute to contribute to the purchase of a cardiac catheterization machine. Ambassador Isaac Tsai of Taiwan delivered the donation to the director of the Dominican Institute of Cardiology, Angel Gonzalez Medina, during a visit to the center. The center primarily serves low-income patients. Upon receiving the donation, Dr. Gonzalez Medina explained that heart troubles are the leading cause of deaths in the country, as reported in the Listin Diario.

Model UN conference in Bavaro
1,500 high school students are gathered at the Barcelo Bavaro Convention Center since Wednesday through Sunday for the International Conference of the Americas (CILA 2009). The youths from the DR, joined by students from abroad, are studying solutions to world problems. The Dominican Association of the United Nations (ANU-RD) is the organizer of the event. During the youth conference, 13 discussion committees simulate the different UN bodies, as well as other multilateral, regional and international institutions. CILA is one of the largest conferences in the region, during which students, academics and experts meet with the intention of reaching consensus.

Mob tried to lynch crooked cops
In San Cristobal an angry mob was calling for the heads of three policemen involved in a gang that routinely robbed motor-taxi drivers and truck drivers along the 6 November Highway. The four have been arraigned and will face charges. They have been dishonorably dismissed from the National Police. The three being held at the police station (the fourth is in hospital, after being wounded in the attack that led to the arrests) were taken before judge Ambiorix Marichal who sent them to three months preventive custody. The policemen were identified by at least 10 of their victims. Corporals Wilfredo German and Ramon Ferbillet were sent to Najayo and Private Rafael Luna had to post bail. Corporal Elvin Maldonado, who was wounded by shotgun pellets, will be processed when he is released from the hospital. The policemen were arrested after they showed up at the premises of an avocado export business on the 6 November Highway, faking a problem with their motorcycle. When watchman Francisco Matos, 54, went to their assistance, they shot him, but Matos, who was lying on the ground wounded, managed to shoot one of his attackers.

The drug trail described
The number of illegal flights by South American drug cartels to the Dominican Republic has risen to 354 over the last three years, while drug package drops over land and water total 59, according to National Drug Control Department (DNCD), chief Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo. He was addressing a Round Table meeting on "Organized Crime: a Threat to Governance" organized by the Justice and Institutionalism Foundation (FINJUS).
Along these lines, the United States embassy's consultant to the Office of Narcotics Affairs, Beatriz Arenas, warned that the criminal organizations have become a threat to security and democracy because they have crossed the very limits of internal public order.
She said that international organized crime was interested in molding political institutions. She warned that there could be no democracy without security. "And there will be no security ever, if we do not have control", she added.
Her advice was not to forget the cartel that makes false medicines, because they are going to try and import products to process drugs in countries such as the Dominican Republic through the business of false medicines as a way of diversifying their activities in response to the stronger controls being exercised.
Meanwhile, Rosado Mateo said that there were 98 illegal flights in 2008, but during the period from January to August of this year, there were 59. In September alone they detected 6, and in October 4.
The general said that he believed that the reduction in the number of flights is due to the concerted effort of the authorities and the national and international organizations that are fighting drug trafficking.
The DNCD head also stated that Colombia has regained control of its airspace, leading the illegal drug traffic to depart from Venezuela.

Judge's decision questioned
Both the District Attorney of the National District and the National Drug Control Department are asking the Supreme Court to look into a decision by judge Franny Manuel Gonzalez Castillo who changed an order to remand Jimmy Oliver Rodriguez Ortiz, and allowed the accused to post a bail bond instead. Rodriguez Ortiz is accused of drug trafficking. They criticized the judge's decision, saying it was detrimental to the fight against drug trafficking.
Speaking at a press conference at the District Attorney's office in the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra and DNCD head Major General Rolando Antonio Rosado Mateo were joined by assistant prosecutor Frank Soto. They said that this was not the first time that judge Gonzalez Castillo had taken a decision of this type. They recall that on 8 August he allowed two men who had been caught with 8 kilos of cocaine to post a bail bond.
They said, "This (request) does not mean to say that this type of action is committed by most judges, because the majority of the Dominican judges are responsible and honest, but there are judges like this one who are not supporting the fight against drug trafficking". They said that Rodriguez Castillo was caught with 50 kilos of cocaine in a secret compartment of his vehicle on 15 September.

Two die when roof collapses
Two men, one who had been deported from the US after eight years in jail on a drug trafficking sentence, died on Wednesday evening when falling from a 6th floor building in La Trinitaria neighborhood, Santiago. They had climbed to the roof of the apartment building, seeking to hide and escape from National Department of Drug Control agents that were on their trail. Speaking for the DNCD Command in Santiago, Abel Rojas and Jesus Cordero Paredes reported that Radhames de Jesus Peralta Fernandez, 39, and Vianel Antonio Abreu, 36, fell from the 6th floor after they had been caught allegedly trafficking in narcotics. One of the witnesses explained the men most likely thought the roof was of concrete, only to find they had climbed to a fragile glass area that caved in. The DNCD reported that they arrested Jorge Luis Bopudier, also in the group, and a fourth man escaped. Reportedly, they also confiscated two packages of cocaine and a gun.

Baseball Roundup
No games were scheduled in the Dominican Winter League Championship last night, but the league did announce the start of inter-league play. According to Puerto Rican Baseball League and Dominican Winter League officials Sadi Antonmattai Goitia and Leonardo Matos Berrido, the inter-league play will start on 21 November with Dominican teams Escogido, Gigantes and Toros traveling to Puerto Rico, and then the teams from Puerto Rico will return the visits over the following weeks.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 7 - 3 .700 --
LICEY 6 - 4 .600 1.0
AZUCAREROS 6 - 4 .600 1.0
AGUILAS 4 - 6 .400 3.0
ESTRELLAS 4 - 6 .400 3.0
GIGANTES 3 - 7 .300 4.0
Today's games:
* Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya, 7:30pm.
Estrellas (F. Rosario (R)) vs. Escogido (T. Stoner (R))
* Santiago de los Caballeros, Estadio Cibao, 8:00pm.
Licey (J. Sosa (R)) vs Aguilas (J. Halama (L))
* La Romana, Estadio Francisco Micheli, 7:00pm.
Gigantes (J. Capellan (R)) vs Azucareros (R. Lugo (R)

Jose Luis Perales at the Theater
Jose Luis Perales, one of the most famous Spanish songwriters of all times, will perform at the National Theater. With sales of more than 100 million, he will be on stage 30 and 31 October. He is best known for "Celos de mi guitarra," "Ella y el", "Amada mia" and "Por amor". He will present a best hits concert with the best of his 30 year career. He has more than 450 songs to his name.
For more on what's on in the DR, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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