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Daily News - Monday, 16 November 2009

Council gets budget today
President Leonel Fernandez is chairing a meeting of the National Development Council (CND) in the Presidential Palace today to analyze line items of the 2010 National Budget. Minister of Hacienda Vicente Bengoa says that the budget will exceed this year's RD$329 billion total.
Bengoa told reporters that Budget Director Luis Hernandez would present the project to Congress for study and approval on Wednesday or Thursday.
The Minister said that he would not be at the presentation to Congress because he is visiting Washington D.C. in connection with the US$300 million disbursement being made following the signing of the Stand-by Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Final reading of the Constitution
This afternoon the National Revisory Assembly for the Constitution will take on the final text of the Constitution of the Republic during the second reading, using reports from the Verification and Auditing Commission and the Style Commission as guidelines. The meeting is scheduled for 3pm and during the session the complete text of what will be the new Constitution will be read, along with the acts of the Assembly sessions that are pending approval and some corrections in writing style, the elimination of repeated articles and other technical aspects.
Generally speaking, there will be no new changes to the project of 277 articles, 19 general and transitional orders and a preamble. The present Constitution has 122 articles. The president of the assembly, Reinaldo Pared Perez told reporters that the legislators will not be able to add anything new to the text that was corrected by the commissions, and therefore, the Assembly should limit itself to approving the reports.
The date for the proclamation of the new Constitution is 10 December, the date on which the new text will once again be read in full.
President Leonel Fernandez will be present at the proclamation of the Constitution, and will give a speech in light of the fact that he was the Chief Executive who submitted the legislative proposal for a Constitutional Reform to the National Congress in the first place.

Traffic accident toll at 1,500
Despite Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) citations, nearly weekly reports of victims and the publicized suffering caused by traffic accidents, the news is still bleak: 1,569 people have died in traffic accidents so far this year. This compares to 1,854 fatalities from traffic accidents in 2008.
AMET chief Rafael Oscar Bencosme Candelier and Dario Contreras Hospital director Hector Quezada joined in the commemorations of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Transport Victims. Bencosme Candelier called for drivers to respect Law 241 on Traffic Rules and Regulations. He encouraged people to heed the guidelines and campaigns that both the AMET and the National Police are implementing to prevent accidents.
The director of the country's leading trauma center, the Dario Contreras Hospital, said that most accident victims are motorcycle drivers or passengers between 22 and 46 years of age. Dr. Quezada reminded reporters of the Equation of Death: Drinking + No Helmet + Violation of Law 241 = Death.
According to reports in El Caribe, traffic accidents cost the nation more than a billion pesos a year. World Transport Victims Day, commemorated every third Sunday in November, was instituted by the United Nations in 2005.

Only 47% have renewed marbete
The Department of Taxes (DGII) reported over the weekend that just 47% of car and truck owners have renewed their "marbete" stickers for 2009-2010. Half a million have yet to get the annual permit for their vehicle to use the nation's streets and highways. Today is the deadline for getting the sticker without having to pay a RD$600 penalty.
So far, 494,277 people have complied with the requirement.
Of the total, 32,000 purchased the sticker over the Internet. The rest queued up at savings and loan institutions, Banco de Reservas, ADEMI bank and other places. The process was fast and requires a photocopy of the vehicle registration and a photocopy of the owner's ID (passport or cedula), and, of course, the money. Long queues are expected today, for those who have left this task for the last minute.
The fees are RD$1,200 for vehicles from 2004 or earlier and RD$2,200 for vehicles from 2005 on.

Repairs at Km12 Sanchez overpass
Drivers are advised to avoid the area of the overpass that leads to Avenida Luperon at the Km12 intersection with Haina. The Km12 Sanchez overpass is undergoing repairs and the Ministry of Public Works announced that it was closing off one of the sections of this highway every week. This means there will be traffic bottlenecks in this area and it should be avoided as much as possible.

Quality of debt questioned
Former Central Bank governor Carlos Despradel has expressed his concern about the government's continual increase of the foreign debt, as reported in Hoy. Speaking on the TV program Aeromundo, he said that as of June 2009 the DR's foreign debt totaled US$17 billion. He said that the goal in the long term is for the foreign debt to be 25% of the Gross Domestic Product, but with the recent loans the government has been taking, estimated at more than US$1.5 billion since the start of the second consecutive administration in August 2008, the ratio of debt and GDP could be 40%. He said that the greatest concern is that the loans that the government is undertaking will not generate wealth, meaning that no capacity to repay them will be created.

PLD removes 22 pre-candidates
The ruling PLD party has removed 22 pre-candidates for legislative and municipal posts after it emerged that several had been linked to crime in the DR or had criminal records abroad. Their identities were not disclosed. As reported by Listin Diario, several were found to have ties to asset laundering and drug trafficking, and others had been deported from the US after serving jail sentences. The newspaper says that most of the 22 who are now banned from being PLD candidates in the May 2010 legislative or municipal election had served sentences in the US and became involved in politics after their return to the DR.

Macadamia has future
Some 30 years ago, farmers in the Central Mountains chose not to plant macadamia trees, mostly because they did not understand or appreciate the crop's potential.
Manuel Arsenio Urena, a prominent businessman from the hills south of Santiago de los Caballeros, asked the board of Plan Sierra if he could plant the seedlings from California so that they would not go to waste.
This was the beginning of the DR's macadamia crop that now consists of over 9,000 trees and rising. Public and private institutions are involved in the process. Companies such as Helados Bon (the second producer to come on board) together with Agro-Business Board (JAD), the Dominican Environmental Consortium (CAD) and their Macadamia Cluster, are teaching the small-scale hill farmers just how to make the most of these nuts.
The Dominican Republic has excellent areas for growing macadamia. Places like Polo, Barahona, and Jarabacoa and Constanza are ideal for growing the trees. In fact, so are most of the nation's hills.
At US$15 dollars per kilo, the crop has attractive market potential, and production is increasing by 12% a year. One of the advantages of the crop is that it can be grown alongside other tree crops such as lemons, oranges, pine, avocado or even bananas. Coffee is a popular companion crop and with 90,000 seedlings being processed for dozens of small-scale farmers waiting for them to plant the next cycle.

Traders propose end to blackouts
The National Traders and Business Federation (Fenacerd) is suggesting that the authorities should establish and prioritize public policies aimed at strengthening the national energy system. They maintain that the current situation is stunting the DR's commercial and industrial development. The proposal was made in a speech delivered by Fenacerd president Ricardo Rosario during the opening ceremony of the First Seminar on "The Impact of the Energy Sector Problems on Traders and Businesspeople: the Key to Efficient Consumption".
The seminar was co-sponsored by the Dominican Corporation of State-owned Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE) and the new executive vice-president of the CDEEE, Celso Marranzini, was widely praised for his open-door policy and for listening to all the proposals.
While the Federation has kept up a string of criticisms about the "prolonged, continual and tedious blackouts", Rosario said that the new strategic alliance with the CDEEE confirms the Federation's commitment to the nation's progress and to the search for solutions to the issues involved.
As part of the proposed solution, Hector Santana and Manrique Donastorg presented a guide to energy savings and efficient consumption in coordination with the CDEEE.

Canadian Embassy is moving
The Embassy of Canada has announced that as of 23 November it will be operating from the Acropolis Center. The new address is Av. Winston Churchill 1099, Citigroup Tower, Acropolis Center, Floor 18, Piantini, Santo Domingo. The Embassy says that it decided to relocate as a result of an increase in demands for its services. The Embassy stresses that the DR and Canada have held diplomatic relations for over 50 years, with multi million-dollar investments in the banking sector and in the apparel and mining industries and more than 700,000 Canadian visitors every year. This is in addition to major development projects in the areas of reforestation and health.

Sergeant explains his investment
Bishop Francisco Arnaiz has apologized to a businessman, Army Sergeant Major Rafael Leocadio Urena Garcia (Chico) for publicly casting doubts on the origins of the military officer's finances to build an 8-floor building on Avenida Sarasota corner Calle Catalina Fernandez de Pou. TV producer Freddy Beras Goico arranged a meeting between the bishop and the entrepreneur who justified his ownership of the property. The Army confirmed that Urena Garcia has been in the army since 2001 and serves as "inter-institutional liaison," that is, he is not come under any department.
Beras Goico defended Urena, saying he has been in business for the past 24 years and has proof he is a hard-working man. While he did not mention him by name, Arnaiz had questioned the origins of Urena's fortune as reflected in what he estimated as a RD$70 million building. Arnaiz focused on the building as an example of unexplained fortunates among the military, because he lives practically next door.

Watch the prosecutors
Diario Libre's editorial today urges all eyes to be on the actions of the General Prosecutor Office given its determining character of operation. "Apparently, after an incriminating file is received from the Police and the National Drug Control Department, there is a short circuit that paralyzes the investigations," writes Adriano Miguel Tejada, executive editor of the newspaper. "The Police and the DNCD are not authorized to continue these cases and once the coercion phase is completed, not much happens either. One can say that cases reach the courts the way they were when the coercion order was issued.
"This is not what the much-criticized Penal Procedures Code had established. Rather the time of the coercion measure was to be used to expand the investigations, with the assistance of those who know how to investigate, i.e. the members of the Police and the DNCD. To fail to do so is to give carte blanche to the criminals so they can play with justice.
"There are also some very serious indicators that commit the integrity of some members of the Prosecutor General Office and to date not one of these has had to face an accusation in court.
"The existence of a tape in which a prosecutor takes money from a home search into his jacket is available and if cases that are still in the public eye are investigated in depth, sufficient motives to initiate court cases against several prosecutors will come forth.
"We need to save the Prosecutor General Office. This misbehavior and laziness cannot be ignored, let alone rewarded," writes Tejada.

Million-peso bounties
The authorities are offering a one-million peso reward for the location and capture of Sobeida Feliz and Jose D. Figueroa Agosto, both fugitives who are wanted in connection with suspected money laundering activities that ended with a haul of US$4.6 million in cash inside one of their vehicles.
El Nuevo Diario says that the authorities will hold a joint press conference today providing details on the efforts under way to find and arrest the two fugitives as well as the details of this very unusual reward. The press conference is being held at the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) headquarters this morning, and Generals Guzman Fermin of the National Police and Rosado Mateo of the DNCD will take part along with the District Attorney for the National District. Sobeida Feliz's escape and Figueroa Agosto's mysterious disappearance led to speculation that they received help from "powerful elements in the country."
Political cartoonists are having a field day with the case, and in today's El Caribe one of the characters is depicted picking up a stack of bills on the beach and saying: "I guess Sobeida was here!"

Clinic raid: "just a visit"
National Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin says that the spectacle that took place on Friday night at a private clinic in Santo Domingo was just "a visit to a patient" who happens to be a friend of his and of the head of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) Rolando Rosado Mateo, and that their visits with their heavily-armed escorts was pure coincidence.
Diario Libre learned that the patient in question is the daughter of the former chief of the Police secret service. Guzman Fermin denied that the incident, during which several police agents were seen covering the hallways of the private medical center and even entering some rooms was part of the search for the fugitive Sobeida Feliz Morel.
Nonetheless, senior executives at the clinic told the press off the record that they believed the agents were looking for Feliz.
On the night of the operation, the watchman, who refused to give his name, told reporters that the DNCD and National Police officers who accompanied Guzman Fermin and Rosado Mateo had arrived without notice, and entered by jumping the gate and throwing him to the ground. A police source said they did so after repeatedly calling out at the door and not getting any answer. The source said that one officer jumped the gate and found the watchman behind the building. But the watchman kept to his version that "they arrived at nearly 10 o'clock unannounced. I was put face down on the ground and they put a foot on my back and they did not ask me for anyone," he told the press.
Several employees of a restaurant opposite the clinic confirmed that the DNCD and police agents jumped over the front wall in order to get into the medical center.
Reporters from several media outlets waited outside the clinic and saw Guzman Fermin and Rosado Mateo leaving at high speed without responding to journalists' questions. The agents, carrying automatic rifles and ski masks arrived in 10 SUVs and several motorcycle escorts, together with members of the elite Lynx assault unit. Also, two civilians who got out of one of the vehicles in the convoy that escorted the police and DNCD chiefs were seen and presumed to be assistant prosecutors. On Sunday, Diario Libre tried to locate the clinic owners for their version of Friday night's events but the center was closed and no medical personnel or watchmen were in sight.
Sobeida Feliz has been sought since 3 November when she missed her assigned registration date at the prosecutor's office as required by her bail agreement.
Colonel Cordero Paredes, public relations officer for the Cibao Central District of the National Police, confirmed that intelligence activities have taken place in Santiago as part of attempts to locate Feliz, as reported in Diario Libre. He said the searches have been extended to clinics and beauty salons in Santiago, on the assumption that the fugitive may want to change her physical appearance.

DR volleyball defeats Korea
The DR Women's Volleyball team turned in a stellar performance at the FIVB Women's World Grand Champions Cup, winning the bronze after surprising victories over South Korea 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-22) and hosts Japan (24-26, 25-22, 25-16, 25-18).
Italy won the championship defeating Japan that finished fourth. Brazil, the defending team, came in second.
The DR team put themselves into bronze medal contention with a strong win over South Korea. The Dominicans' 3-2 record put them ahead of Japan. Japan needed to beat Italy in the final match of the tournament, to claim third place on points ratio. When this didn't happen, the DR moved into third place.
"We had some tough games in this tournament, but it was a really good experience for us to play against the top teams in the world," a jubilant Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kwiek said. "We learned a lot and discovered many things we need to work on," he told FIVB.
The final day's results saw Italy beat Japan 3-1 (32-30, 25-22, 24-26, 25-18). The Dominican Republic beat South Korea 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-22) while Brazil beat Thailand 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-18).
For more details, see: www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/GrandChampionCup/...

Baseball roundup
On Friday night the Leones del Escogido defeated the Gigantes del Cibao at the Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris. In what was earlier this season the Gigantes' "Valley of Death" for opposing teams, the Leones came back from a 4-run deficit with a 4-run rally of their own in the top of the 8th inning to take a 6-5 victory and climb into a first place tie in the standings.
In Santo Domingo's venerable Estadio Quisqueya, the Tigres de Licey defeated the Estrellas Orientales by a score of 6 to 3, with timely hitting by Juan Miranda and fine pitching from Jorge Sosa. Licey had to come back from a run down in the 5th inning to get the win.
In La Romana, the Toros del Este were not able to feast on the Aguilas, falling to the team from Santiago 8-2, with Kevin Baker hitting two homeruns for the Aguilas.
In Saturday's rematches, the Aguilas were rained out, and the game was rescheduled for Monday, possibly. However, Escogido once again defeated the Gigantes del Cibao behind the sterling pitching of Tobi Stoner and the good hitting from Willie Otanez and Jamie Hoffman. Stoner pitched 7 innings of near-perfect baseball, allowing just 4 hits and no runs. Meanwhile, over in San Pedro de Macoris, the Tigres de Licey once again took on the Estrellas, but there was not a lot of opposition with Juan Miranda hitting 4-4 and the team getting off to a 6-0 start in the first inning the game was practically over for the Estrellas, who ended up on the very short end of the 15-5 shellacking.
On Sunday the Leones del Escogido climbed into first place by narrowly defeating the Estrellas Orientales 2-1, coming from a 0-1 deficit in the seventh inning with timely hitting by Freddy Guzman. In La Romana, the first hit by Gaby Sanchez in Dominican baseball won the game for the Toros del Este, 6-4 over the Gigantes del Cibao. The game went back and forth with the Gigantes taking a 1-0 lead in the first, the Toros coming back with two runs in the fourth, and then the Gigantes taking a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning. The Toros came from behind once again in the bottom half of the inning to take a 5-4 lead and never looked back. The Aguilas Cibaenas won a tough game from the Tigres de Licey, coming from a run down and rallying to bring home an 8-2 victory behind some good pitching by John Halama.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 15 - 9 .626 --
AZUCAREROS 14 - 9 .609 0.5
LICEY 14 - 10 .583 1.0
AGUILAS 11 - 12 .478 3.5
GIGANTES 9 - 14 .391 5.5
ESTRELLAS 7 - 16 .304 7.5
Tonight's games:
* Santiago, Cibao Stadium - 8:00pm.
Azucareros vs Aguilas. Julian Tavarez will be pitching for the Aguilas
* San Pedro de Macoris, Tetelo Vargas Stadium - 8:00 p.m.
Gigantes vs. Estrellas
Neither of the starting pitchers has won a game. Narron for the Gigantes and Rosario for the Estrellas.
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