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Daily News - Wednesday, 11 November 2009

President Fernandez to Paris
President Leonel Fernandez is traveling to France on 2 December on an official two-day visit. French Minister for Cooperation and Francophonie Alain Joyandet will be in the DR on Thursday, 12 and Friday, 13 November to coordinate the agenda for the visit. While in Santo Domingo, Joyandet will sign a treaty agreeing to the transfer of French citizens who have been sentenced in the DR so that they can serve their jail terms in France, as reported in Listin Diario.

Bengoa clarifies IMF funds
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says that with the signing of the Stand-by Arrangement with the IMF, the DR will be receiving US$450 million as part of the agreement and not the US$1.7 billion, as has been widely reported. Bengoa said the DR would get US$300 million this year and US$150 million next year. He added that the DR could eventually ask for as much as US$1.7 billion in funds, if necessary, but that money would be used to strengthen the Central Bank's reserves, and not for support to the balance of payments. Bengoa said the US$300 million would support the National Budget, because government revenues are projected at RD$21 billion below 2009 estimates.

Delays in funding public hospitals
The government is behind on its budgetary disbursements to 156 public hospitals across the country. The arrears date back 3 to 6 months, as reported in Hoy. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez confirmed this information to the newspaper. The Minister blamed the public hospitals for delays in reporting their expenditures. However, other sources say the problem is not at the public hospital level, but a consequence of the government's current financial troubles.

DR among least transparent
The DR is among the worst countries in Latin America when it comes to national budget transparency, according to the 2009 Latin American Budgetary Transparency Index. The DR is joined at the bottom of the list by Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The DR tied with Guatemala with 44 points out of 100. The study, which was conducted by Mexican NGO Fundar Analysis and Research Center, took into account to what extent governments followed the rules of budget management and access to information on budget spending.

Expensive borrowing
In today's Hoy newspaper, Economist Bernardo Vega writes about the widespread practice in the Fernandez administration of contracting commercial loans rather than loans with institutions that would demand transparency and the holding of tenders. He makes the point that President Leonel Fernandez had announced taking on US$200 million in FAD Spanish funds, but chose instead to take on US$400 million in loans from the Deutsche Bank in Spain for a variety of uses, such as equipping hospitals and military procurement. He said the Fernandez government learned this procedure from the common practice during Hipolito Mejia's 2000-2004 government.
He observes that DR-CAFTA obliges the Dominican government to hold tenders for its public works projects and government procurement. "Nevertheless, the US government has not complained about all the non-tendered purchases from Spain, which works against possible US suppliers. Neither has it complained when the Brazilians get the contracts for building dams or highways, without tenders," he writes. He adds: "The PRD [the opposition party] the first to issue sovereign bonds and take on loans with the Spanish banks, does not dare to criticize what is happening now, as it was the intellectual father of such trickery and it knows, also, that it could boomerang with an ugly case against those responsible in the past," he writes.
He concludes" "Meanwhile the country takes on debt in operations lacking transparency that could be financed through soft loans and loans subject to transparency."

Restoring the Malecon
The president of the National Hotels & Restaurants Association is calling for close cooperation between the municipal authorities, the Police and the Ministry of Tourism to restore the splendor of Santo Domingo's seafront boulevard, the Malecon. Haydee Kuret de Rainieri is in London, attending the World Travel Market trade show. As reported in Diario Libre, Kuret de Rainieri told reporters that the Malecon now suffers from a general state of insecurity and neglect. "We are lobbying for a meeting between the Minister of Tourism, the Mayor of Santo Domingo and the Chief of the Police because the Malecon needs to be made safer," she is quoted as saying. She also said it is affected by robberies, prostitution and damaged sidewalks, making it less attractive for tourists to stroll along the boulevard. She also criticized the lack of streetlights. She said that all this needed to be done now that Santo Domingo has been named American Capital of Culture for 2010. The Malecon is the setting for the city's largest concentration of hotel rooms.

Bankruptcy law
The American Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Industry & Commerce are holding a workshop on the "Law of Business Restructuring and Judicial Liquidation." The event, which is open to the public, will be held this Thursday, 12 November at the Salon Anacaona of the Hotel Jaragua from 2 to 6:30pm. Speakers will be Elka Scheker, regulations advisor to the National Competitiveness Council, Jaime Mercado, partner of Simpson Thacher & Barlett, LLP, Josefina Fernandez McEvoy, partner of Fox Rothchild, LLP, Raymundo Hache, partner of RJ Hache & Asociados, Marcos Troncoso, president of Enlaces Angeles Investors Network, Francisco Dominguez Brito, senator for Santiago and Victor Bisono Haza, deputy for the National District. For more information, call 809 332-7233.

Ruling or new law
Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa has called for the publication of a ruling with guidelines for judges to consult when considering releasing a person on bail. The announcement comes after judge Roxanna Vasquez used a clause in the Penal Code to reverse a jail order for Sobeida Feliz, suspected accomplice of fugitive drug trafficker Jose D. Figueroa Agosto. Sobeida Feliz is now also missing.
Subero Isa had initially defended judge Vasquez's decision to release Feliz on bail. "We judges cannot be accused of weaknesses in the struggle against drug trafficking," reports El Caribe journalist Namphi Rodriguez, recalling the statement by Jorge Isa. Subero Isa justified the reasons judge Vasquez presented in her opinion for releasing Feliz on bail. "They sent me a copy of the judgment and the judgment explains itself. She [the judge] had her reasons," Subero Isa said at the time.
Speaking on the 106.5 morning talk show this morning, lawyer Vinicio Castillo that the Supreme Court instead of the ruling should send a bill to Congress modifying the Penal Code facility that grants this judicial discretion. He said this has led to a large number of crimes in the DR being committed by criminals who have been freed on bail or using loopholes in the Penal Code. Castillo says that the wording of the Code favors impunity of criminals time after time.
Castillo says that the DNCD and Police can do excellent work in catching the criminals, but this will have little effect if the judiciary releases them with their lawyers taking advantage of technicalities in the Penal Code.

Judge defends bail
The judge who granted Sobeida Feliz conditional release from jail is defending her actions, saying that she based her decision on the documents that were presented to the court. Judge Roxanna Vasquez Febrillet said she is open to an investigation, including her bank accounts and her track record as a judge. The judge says she believed that as Feliz was a mother of two children and her own mother was sick, these factors were enough to deter her from escaping from the country. According to a report by Tony Pina for CDN published in El Caribe, prior to her arrest, Feliz has not visited her mother who lives in the north of the country in the last six or seven years.
Shortly after posting bail, Feliz fled, with officials now admitting they have no leads as to her whereabouts.
Feliz was initially sent to jail for being an accomplice of an alleged large-scale drug trafficker, Puerto Rican Jose D. Figueroa Agosto. At the time of Sobeida Feliz's arrest and bail trial, Figueroa had already been declared a fugitive from justice. He moved to the DR eight years ago, after escaping from prison in Puerto Rico.

Bellerive on jobs and identity issues
New Haitian Premier Jean-Max Bellerive is giving the green light to the resumption of meetings of the Dominican-Haitian Bi-National Committee, EFE news agency reports. In one of his first work sessions, he spoke out about the need to find institutional solutions to Haitian-Dominican issues. He says that creating jobs in Haiti is the starting point for resolving the Dominican-Haitian problem, and that this deserves as much attention as re-establishing security in Haiti. He also says that one of his government's priorities would be to provide Haitians with identification documents.

El Gringo denies tape
Manuel Emilio Mesa Beltre, a.k.a. El Gringo, is back in the news, this time denying that he is in possession of filmed footage that incriminates high-ranking police officials. The tape allegedly shows police officers taking bribes. El Gringo met with National District Prosecutor General Alejandro Moscoso Segarra. Hoy reveals that the existence of this tape was initially mentioned in a 2007 case against El Gringo, which was never proven, and now it has resurfaced in his 2009 case. Officials have not ruled out the possibility of combining elements of his 2007 case to make a stronger case for his 2009 arrest, especially in the light of the fact that the files on the 2007 case have gone missing. Moscoso Segarra said he is considering merging the two cases, as reported in Diario Libre.

Police catch German
Dominican police have captured a German fugitive who had been sentenced to 15 years in jail in his country. Police captured 37-year old Oezkara Onur in Santiago, in possession of a .40 caliber Glock pistol, no documents and a BMW X5 SUV. The vehicle was circulating with forged number plates and the corresponding plates were found inside Onur's home. Onur was also detained with a 5-year old child, who he said was his son and of whom he claimed to have legal custody. Onur was then taken to the Punta Cana airport and handed over to German Interpol officials for his return to Germany.

DR Global Film Festival
Actor Omar Sharif, the legendary star of Dr. Zhivago (1965), will be in Santo Domingo for the opening of the III Dominican Republic Global Film Festival at the National Theater on Wednesday, 18 November. He will receive an award from President Leonel Fernandez at the Presidential Palace the following day. Sharif will travel from Cairo with several family members, including son Tarek Omar el Sharif, wife Mariana Zherdeva and grandchild Omar Sharif, said festival spokesperson Jenny Almonte. He will also be accompanied by Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, who is known for her success in the search for the tombs of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Also coming is Zahi Hawass, director of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The Dominican Republic Global Film Festival (DRGFF) will be screening world-class films and premieres for local audiences, with 32 feature-length and documentary films from Wednesday, 18 November to Sunday, 22 November at 7pm. Admission is RD$50 for adults and RD$25 for students. DRGFF is being held in five locations this year - Santo Domingo, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Cap Cana and Nagua - and in eight theaters.
"Touched," a Shalim Ortiz production about domestic violence, opens the festival on 17 November. It will be shown at the main auditorium of the National Theater in Santo Domingo after the red-carpet ceremony. DRGFF will open in Santiago with "La Soga," by Dominican filmmaker Manny Perez. The event will close with the film "Sol Caribe", which is about the history of merengue and Dominican culture, in Santo Domingo.
See www.drgff.org

Sammy speaks on skin tone
Sammy Sosa has responded to the controversy caused by the pictures taken of him at the 2009 Latin Grammy Awards last week. In the photos, Sosa appeared noticeably whiter than his usual self. The erstwhile dark-skinned Sosa caused a stir on the Internet after photos circulating showing his new complexion shade. In comments to ESPN Deportes, Sosa said: "I'm not a racist. What happened was that I had been using the cream for a long time and that, combined with the bright TV lights, made my face look whiter than it really is. I don't think I look like Michael Jackson." He says he applies the bleaching cream, which he acquired in Europe, before going to bed.

Baseball scores
The Escogido have been fighting for that first place spot since day one and the bat of Conor Jackson has been the driving force behind this early season success. But Jackson will leave at the end of the week, leaving a hole in the Leones' lineup. Moises Alou has confirmed the move, but failed to give any word as to why Jackson is leaving. However, it was not Jackson's fault the Escogido lost last night at the hands of the Aguilas, 7-2. The Toros beat the Tigres del Licey in a close match, 5-4, while the Gigantes clawed their way to a 5-2 victory over the Estrellas.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
AZUCAREROS 13 - 7 .650 --
LICEY 11 - 9 .550 2.0
ESCOGIDO 11 - 9 .550 2.0
GIGANTES 9 - 11 .450 4.0
AGUILAS 9 - 11 .450 4.0
ESTRELLAS 7 - 13 .350 6.0

XXIV Codetel Marathon
Marathon runners may wish to enroll in the 10 km Mirador del Sur marathon organized by the telecom company Codetel. The event is a benefit for environmental causes. To register for the marathon, just visit Codetel's customer service departments at its Av. 30 de Marzo and Av. 27 de Febrero locations. The event is co-sponsored by the City Government of Santo Domingo.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar or www.dr1guide.com
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