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Daily News - Friday, 06 November 2009

DR1 breaks for holiday
Monday, November 9 is a public holiday in celebration of the DR's Constitution Day. Constitution Day actually fell on Friday, 6 November, but will be celebrated on Monday. For this reason, the DR1 news digest will not be published on Monday. News will be compiled for the Tuesday, 10 November issue. Readers can keep up to date with developing stories 24/7 in the DR1 Forums over the long weekend.
See: www.dr1.com/forums

Constitution Day
A series of commemorative events will be held today to mark the 165th anniversary of the first Dominican Constitution of the Republic, which was proclaimed in San Cristobal on 6 November 1844.
The events will be held in San Cristobal, the birthplace of the Constitution, headed by the president of the Permanent Commission for Patriotic Anniversaries, Juan Daniel Balcacer and dignitaries from San Cristobal. The program of activities will begin at 6am with a dawn serenade of music by the San Cristobal Municipal Band that will travel through the streets of the city and lead up to the flag-raising and the National Anthem in front of the Governor's office at 8am.
At 8:30 a Te Deum Mass will be held in memory of the Founding Fathers in the vestibule of the municipal palace in the presence of provincial, municipal and governmental authorities from San Cristobal.
Continuing on, the program will include a fanfare from a member of the Armed Forces, marking the start of the military and civilian parade that sets off from the fire station. The activities will culminate at 3 in the afternoon with a parachute display at the football (soccer) stadium by special corps of the Dominican Air Force. The 165th anniversary is being celebrated while the country is in the process of proclaiming a new Constitution.
The expanded and greatly modified Constitution is set to go into effect as of 11 December 2009.

New modern jail in Moca
President Leonel Fernandez was in Espaillat province yesterday to attend the inauguration of the new Correctional and Rehabilitation Center La Isleta, built at a cost of RD$261,869,363.
The facility was blessed by the auxiliary bishop of Santiago, Valentin Reynoso, and the central speech was delivered by Attorney General Radhames Jimenez. Jimenez emphasized the social impact of the new penal facility. "We hope that this penal center will contribute to peace and security in the province of Espaillat and the neighboring provinces by producing proper and useful citizens".
The Rehabilitation Center has a capacity for 1,200 inmates. It has 14 classrooms equipped by the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel), as well as areas for sports, cultural, recreational and spiritual activities.
The prison also has four workshops for metalworking, textile processes, woodworking, and electricity, where beds, furniture, school desks, uniforms, bed covers and power inverters can be made.
Personalities attending the inauguration included businessman Jose Luis Corripio Estrada, Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito, Armed Forces Minister Lieutenant General Pedro Antonio Pena Antonio, Culture Minister Jose Rafael Lantigua, National Penitentiary Schools director Roberto Santana and Indotel president Jose Rafael Vargas.
During his trip to the northeastern province, Fernandez also visited several other projects under construction in Espaillat.

Better days for renewables
Enrique Ramirez, the new president of the National Commission of Energy (CNE) said that his department wants to work closely with investors to facilitate the development of projects for renewable energy. Ramirez has been on the job since February 2009. He is known for his successful efforts at the helm of the Intellectual Property Office (ONAPI). He said his department will assist investors to cut red tape to get projects started. He called for the Ministry of Environment to step up their own pace of approval of projects' needed documentation.
He said three renewable energy projects are being implemented - one in Bani, and two in Puerto Plata. These should generate 150 megawatts by 2012. He said he would cancel several permits that had been issued in the past and that do not meet established requirements.
Ramirez spoke during a forum on business and renewable energy organized by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Melia yesterday.
During the event, Manuel Labrado of the InterAmerican Development Bank announced financial support for renewable energy projects. He said there are funds available for large but also for small projects. Suzanne Etcheverry, of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, of the World Bank, also spoke of available support for renewable energy initiatives in the Caribbean.

Free zones could sell produce here
Customs director Rafael Camilo said he expects that before the end of the year duty free zones will be able to sell their all produce locally without any limitations. At present, they can only sell 20% of their production, and bureaucratic complications discourage many from doing so. The plan is to simplify this operation, so these can have easier access to local markets. Camilo is waiting for Congress to approve a modification to Law 8-90. The country has until 30 December to either create a new free zone manufacturing law or to change the latter so that it complies with the DR-CAFTA. Free zone industries that want to sell their produce on the local market will have to pay an equivalent to the income tax obligation of companies located outside the special tax regime parks.

Loans increase foreign debt
With the amount of loans that the government is signing, the DR's foreign debt will increase by 2.7%, going from 15.8% of GDP in 2009 to 18.5% in 2010. The foreign debt is currently at US$7.195 billion as of September.
In 2007, it was US$6.555 billion and increased to US$7.237 billion last year.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, referring to the country's foreign indebtedness, said that only 5 Latin American countries have a smaller foreign debt than the Dominican Republic, while 17 have larger debts.
An Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) list of 23 regional countries shows that only 4 countries have less foreign debt than the Dominican Republic. These are Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago, while the other 18 nations have a higher debt than the DR.
Bengoa downplayed concerns by business leaders that the country was taking on too much debt. The minister pointed to the track record in Latin America. He said that in 4 countries the debt is 3 times that of the DR's, 8 have twice our debt and 6 have more debt. He mentioned Chile, whose debt is at 38.2% of its GDP and in the DR it is at 15.8%.
Business sector representatives have also expressed concerns about the government taking on debt to cover current expenditure levels, and about the quality and productive nature of the investments being made with foreign debt.

US$500 million loan
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) representative in the DR, Manuel Labrado, has signed a loan agreement with the Minister of Hacienda for US$500 million, of which US$300 million will be received this year and US$200 million in 2010.
The resources are to support the budget and were included in this year's budget, and will allow for compliance with planned-for expenses.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa said he would be going to Washington in two weeks to sign another loan package for US$300 million, which will go towards budget support.
Labrado said that the aim of the loan is to protect social programs and public policies as well as maintaining economic stability and focusing the electricity subsidy.

Bill to increase city payroll
Legislators from the PRD, PLD and PRSC are saying that modifications to Law 176-07 to increase the number of city council members needs to be sent to the Senate for greater scrutiny. Despite the fact that the bill was pushed through urgently after two quick readings, legislators from the three main parties are saying that the changes made to the law will not be applied immediately.
On Wednesday the Central Electoral Board (JCE) described the law as illegal, coming as it does less than a year before the 2010 congressional and municipal elections and would contribute to more gigantism in government. JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said that the law could cause financial problems for the municipalities as well as for the political parties, the JCE and the municipal councils themselves.
Hoy newspaper consulted legislators including Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Rafael Calderon and Frank Martinez on the matter. Tavarez Mirabal (PLD) said that although she voted against the law, the JCE would have to look at it in detail since it changes what the board had organized for the elections.
PRD legislator Calderon said that the project should be studied further in the Senate, since he believed there were already too many council members and he did not think that the number should be based on the number of voters.
PRD delegate to the JCE, Virgilio Bello Rosa, told the newspaper that he was "totally in agreement with the JCE in the sense that you can't go around changing the law to favor private interests. If the law already established the number of council members assigned to each district, the only thing left to do is obey the law".

Natural gas to increase output
Power generation company AES Dominicana will increase its electricity output by 45% when it starts using natural gas. AES expects to go from 2,235 to 3,230 gigawatts per year. The additional supplies to meet local demand will be generated at a lower cost than fuel oil or coal-fired generation, that go for an average price of US$0.13 per kWh. AES sells the kWh produced from natural gas at the Andres plant for 7 cents and that produced in Los Mina V and VI plants for 8 cents (US$). The company hopes that the increase in production will help lower the basic cost of electricity generation. Marco de la Rosa, the head of AES Dominicana, made the announcement during a Forum on Renewable Energy organized by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). He said that by next year the sourcing of natural gas would increase by 58%, as reported in El Caribe.
This year, 20.94 million TTbtu was purchased and for 2010, the number will be 33 million TTbtu.
According to de la Rosa, this scenario was due to the "positive signals... providing incentives that there are going to be clear rules and a total alignment between the authorities of the sector".

Insulza admits Haitian impact on DR
Deputy Victor Bisono (PRSC-Santo Domingo) has spoken out in support of a recent statement by Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), who acknowledged the heavy burden the DR carries as a result of Haiti's internal problems. Speaking in Santo Domingo, Insulza said that the DR does not have the resources to meet the demands that illegal Haitian migrants make on the country's public services, as reported in Hoy.
Insulza says that international organizations do not understand that Haiti's problems lead to increased migration to the DR, increasing the burden on Dominican public services. He said that when discussing support strategies for Haiti, their impact on the DR also has to be taken into account. He added that support programs are also needed to deal with the problems caused by this increased migration.
Insulza was speaking following the opening session of a recent conference on regional security held in the DR.
Bisono said: "It is the first time that an international representative and its representative admit the burden that the Haitian problem represents for the DR in terms of health, education and border controls. Haiti is a regional problem and as part of the region we have our own part to carry, but not all".

Thumbs down on new Constitution
Lawyers Nassef Perdomo, Cristobal Rodriguez, Eduardo Jorge Prats and Josue Fiallo explained to students the pros and cons of the new Constitution that is due to go into effect on 11 December, as reported in Hoy. At the gathering, "Constitutional Reform: Progress or Setback," Perdomo and Rodriguez spoke up on the cons of the new Constitution, including clauses that impede citizens from protesting its violations and the approval of the Art 38 (formerly 30) that bans any form of abortion. Jorge and Fiallo sought to convince the students that the 2009 Constitution took into consideration 90% of the opinions coming from national consultations prior to the convening of Congress for the final decision on what should go in and what should be left out.
Law students of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, the largest Dominican private university, organized the debates.
A vote was called before the debates and of 200 students, 59% described the 2009 Constitution as a setback, 19% as a step forward and 22% were undecided. After the debates, 66% of the students said it was a setback for the country, 26% called it progressive and 8% were undecided.

Bail outcry moves courts
District Attorney for the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra has criticized the fact that Sobeida Felix Morel, who is implicated in the case of fugitive drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto, did not appear in court last Tuesday to sign in as required by her bail bond. Today the Third Court of the Penal Chamber at the Court of Appeals will decide on the appeal to revoke the bail bond. Felix was found in possession of keys to a Mercedes Benz in which US$4.6 million was found in September. She was initially sent to Najayo jail, but was subsequently released on bail. This release has been questioned.
Moscoso Segarra warned that if she does not show up in court by next Tuesday, she would go to prison.
On October 15, the judge of the Seventh Court of Instruction, Rosanna Vasquez, allowed Felix to go free on a RD$5,000,000 bail bond, imposing travel restrictions and ordering periodic court appearances.
Recently, Sobeida Feliz's ex-husband Eddy Morel, who is also involved in the case, was granted freedom on a RD$3,000,000 bail bond.

Reopening the Deputy Romero case
While PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado has promised to act with true justice in the Romero case, other deputies want the deputy to resign his parliamentary immunity now. Meanwhile, National District prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra has told Hoy newspaper that he will go ahead with the case that links the unsavory deputy to two alleged micro-drug traffic capos in Santo Domingo East, Manuel Emilio Mesa Beltre, a.k.a. El Gringo, and Rafael Cordero Martinez, a.k.a. El Chino.
Romero, of course, denies any connection with the two.
A file on Romero involving accusations of money laundering had been shelved on the recommendations of the justice department to the Fourth Court of Instruction for the National District due to insufficient evidence.
The PRD Political Commission will meet next week to discuss the case and the report filed by the legal commission on the cases involving Deputy Romero.
In reponse to a newspaper account of a meeting between El Gringo and the deputy in 2007, PRD leader Vargas Maldonado said, "all these things can also be interpreted as part of the process in which we are living at this time, but we are going to act with justice and in accordance with ethics and morality".

Major drug seizure at Caucedo
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) seized a stash of 935 kilograms of cocaine at the Caucedo Multimodal Port in Boca Chica last night. This is the third seizure made by the drug agency at the container terminal in the last three years. The raid took place in coordination with the Venezuelan Anti-Narcotics Department. DNCD president Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo reported that the drug haul was hidden in a container that had made a Santo Domingo stop en route from Venezuela to Spain.
Rosado Mateo was directing operations at the container terminal last night, in a process initiated by the director of the Joint Information and Coordination Centers (CICC), General Jose Eugenio Matos de la Cruz, accompanied by a team of officials from the DNCD headquarters.
The DNCD president announced that in the next few hours there would be arrests in the country as well as in Venezuela and at the final destination.
"This is the result of a combined operation that had been going on for a little more than two months, which is to say the DNCD received information from other international agencies and because of this, this load has been seized before the container it was in was reshipped", stated Rosado Mateo.
The cocaine shipment was transferred to DNCD headquarters last night. Today it will be verified at the National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) and later stored in the safe room.

Baseball Round Up
Last night no games were played in the Dominican Winter League Championship, dedicated to the three Alou Brothers.
Tonight there are games in Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris and in San Francisco de Macoris. In the venerable old Estadio Quisqueya, the Aguilas' Jose Lima will bring "mambo" to face the Tigres del Licey. The Tigres will have Jose Sosa on the mound.
In The Julian Javier Stadium over in San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao will play host to the Toros from La Romana. The Gigantes are very difficult to beat in their home field, however, the league-leading Toros will send right-hander R. Lugo to pitch and the Gigantes will counter with right-hander Sam Narron.
In San Pedro de Macoris, the Estrella Orientales will be out in style to receive the visiting Leones del Escogido. The Estrellas are on the bottom rung of the standings, three games behind the Leones and this game is a good chance to creep up a little. Escogido will have Enrique Valdez on the mound to face another right-hander, Francisco Rosario, for the Estrellas.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
AZUCAREROS 10 - 5 .667 --
ESCOGIDO 9 - 6 .600 1.0
LICEY 8 - 7 .533 2.0
AGUILAS 6 - 9 .400 4.0
GIGANTES 6 - 9 .400 4.0
ESTRELLAS 6 - 9 .400 4.0
Saturday's games:
* Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo 7:30pm.
Tigres del Licey vs Leones del Escogido
Another renewal of the City Championship
* Julian Javier Stadium, San Francisco de Macoris 7:30pm.
Aguilas Cibaenas at Gigantes del Cibao
* Tetelo Vargas Park, San Pedro de Macoris 7:30pm.
Toros del Este (Azucareros) vs Estrellas Orientales

Lots of weekend activities
Il Divo in Altos de Chavon (La Romana), Julio Iglesias in Santiago, DR Jazz Festival in Cabarete, Puerto Plata, Merengue vs. Bachata at the Moon Palace in Punta Cana, and much more are scheduled for this weekend.
For details on ongoing and upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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