Preparing for Fernandez trip to France|
French International Development and Francophonie Minister Alain Joyandet is in Santo Domingo to coordinate President Leonel Fernandez' state visit to France, where he will meet his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy. Joyandet says that a Dominican President has not had a face-to-face meeting with a French President in 10 years. On the agenda are discussing business deals, such as the Santo Domingo metro, and Haitian-Dominican issues.
He told Clave newspaper, "Of course it is in the DR's interest that Haiti should develop. It is very difficult to resolve the migration problem when two neighboring countries have such different development levels. It is possible to help the least developed to develop - that's what happened in Europe. He said that, "50 years ago the Italians, Spanish and Portuguese used to migrate to France looking for work. Now they are developed countries and migration is very low".
He said that the French International Development Agency initiatives in the DR have been strengthened. "This country is in a period of expansion making it normal to consolidate our diplomatic relationship from state to state. The timing is right for the two Presidents to meet," he said.
He spoke of efforts to combat drug trafficking, and mentioned the presence of French companies working on major projects in the DR such as the Santo Domingo Metro. President Leonel Fernandez is pushing for the second line of the metro as a national priority for public funds and international loans. This could mean another large purchase of French technology and equipment.
600 megawatts from Abu Dhabi|
In an interview with this week's Clave newspaper, Celso Marranzini, vice president of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) gave details of measures being taken to improve power service before the end of the present Fernandez term.
He announced that investors from Abu Dhabi would be installing three 200-megawatt natural gas power plants in Manzanillo in the northwest, chiefly to supply power to the north coast. This is in addition to the natural gas terminal investment they will also be making here. He said there is an agreement, but it still lacks a legal agreement that is satisfactory to both governments.
Furthermore, he said that the transmission lines needed to be included in the project. The general idea is for the government to own 30% of the investment, and the Abu Dhabi investors the remaining 70%. He said this is similar to the state participation in Itabo and Haina power plants.
Marranzini is optimistic that in there will be 400 megawatts on line eight months time. This would come from 100 megawatts of AES Andres, Los Mina that will be online, 60 megawatts of the Pimentel power plant, 30 megawatts of wind energy and 130 that are going up for tender. He said that the San Felipe plant would make available 185 megawatts (former Smith Enron in Puerto Plata).
He said that 2,963 megawatts are installed, but maximum availability is closer to 1,000 megawatts with demand at 2,000 megawatts at peak hours.
He spoke positively about the agreement with Kepco of South Korea. "We signed a memorandum of understanding with them to receive support in all areas," he said. He added that KEPCO has 76,000 megawatts installed and 18 million clients, with losses of only 3.97%. In the DR, losses are 40% and the installed capacity is less than 3,000 megawatts.
"Efficient and low priced power generation takes 2 or 3 years to be installed, after the contracts are signed. I am explaining this so that people don't start asking for what I can't deliver. We are not magicians."
Marranzini gets even tougher|
Celso Marranzini, Vice president of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE) says that hospitals affiliated to the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) should have more prolonged blackouts because they don't pay for the energy they consume. He added that the IDSS is among the energy sector's largest debtors, yet they still get power. According to Marranzini, the IDSS owes the energy sector RD$800 million. He said that IDSS hospitals are different from public hospitals because the government is responsible for public hospitals' energy bills. Marranzini was responding to reports published in Hoy yesterday, which said that IDSS hospitals are not immune to prolonged blackouts. The VPs answer was, "the Minister of Public Health, Bautista Rojas Gomez, should give us RD$800 million."
Montas defends debt|
Increasing debt instead of cutting public spending has been a common practice by DR governments at times of financial difficulty. Hoy reports on Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas' defense of the recent loans taken out by the government, which have increased the foreign debt. Montas said that its not that the PLD party has a knack for taking on more debt, but that the financial crisis the DR is facing forced the government to take on more loans to stimulate the economy.
He did admit that taking on more debt is a cause for concern, but continued his justification by saying that all countries have followed this pattern of more debt to deal with harsh economic situations. Montas went on to compare the DR's debt to that of the US and European countries.
Don't drive without the sticker|
The Metropolitan Transport Authority was not bluffing when it said it would impound vehicles circulating without the marbete sticker. Since the vehicular permit purchase period ended two days ago, AMET cops have impounded 2,438 vehicles. The cars have been taken to El Coco, in San Luis, Santo Domingo East. Of the total, 1,161 were seized in Santo Domingo, 399 in the east, 204 in the south, 505 in the north and 169 in the northeast.
The Tax Department (DGII) says that 673,686 drivers renewed their marbetes on time. Vehicle owners still needing to get their stickers can go directly to the DGII office, pay for the sticker and a RD$600 fine.
Public offices aren't transparent|
According to a report by civic group Participacion Ciudadana, 64% of government offices don't publish their payrolls, as is required by Law 200-04 on Free Access to Public Information, as reported in Hoy. The law is a major tool aimed at implementing serious steps toward transparency in the government's financial transactions. As reported, the Central Bank, the Banco de Reservas, National Police, Drug Control Department, National Potable Waters & Aqueducts Institute, the Ministry of Culture and the Superintendence of Insurance are among some of the public institutions that are in violation of Law 200-04.
Samir Chami Isa of Participacion Ciudadana said that 40% of government departments consulted did not have a public information access office, which violates citizens' right to request information on how public funds are being used. Of 85 government departments consulted, only 52 had set up the offices to assist members of the public seeking information on the use of funds.
The 4th survey indicated that 48% of government institutions have failed to publish complete details on their budgetary execution.
Among the worst public institutions in terms of complying with transparency are the Supervisor Office of State Works Projects at the Presidency and the Highway Management Department at the Ministry of Public Works. Neither of these had anyone to respond to inquiries.
Among the most transparent offices are the General Prosecutor Office, the Civil Aviation Department and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
As reported, the availability of information is even worse in the case of municipal councils.
The US Agency for International Development sponsors the monitoring of the implementation of Law 200-04.
Calderon splits from the PRD|
Azua Deputy Rafael Calderon, now a former PRD member, said he had expected to be kicked out of the PRD, adding that he had already drafted his letter of resignation, but hadn't submitted it because he was in Azua. He says the PRD wanted to add drama to the situation, which is why they announced his expulsion at their Tuesday meeting. Calderon told the press he doesn't have a patron or suffer from a slave complex, and says he doesn't have to take anything from anybody.
Today's El Caribe reports that Calderon is now being offered the senator seat for the ruling PLD party. Calderon was a close aide of former President Hipolito Mejia, now a dissident within the PRD under presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado.
No to domestic violence|
The threat of domestic violence is a serious concern for women in the DR, but the legal system continues to fail in providing legal protection for victims. This stark reality was the motivating force for a march that took place yesterday. Supporters, including representatives from the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of Women and the National District's Attorney General's Office, took part in the "Zero Tolerance for Violence Against Women" march.
The march, which seeks to highlight the growing problem, is now in its second year.
During the march, Prosecutor General Radhames Jimenez, speaking to participants, said that the aim was to build 22 more Domestic Violence Care Units. There are already 14 across the country. Highlighting the scale of the problem, Jimenez says that 70 women were killed by their domestic partners in 2009, as reported in Hoy. Nevertheless, he added that although domestic violence has decreased by 32%, complaints have increased by 200% in the last year because more people are coming out into the open.
Women marching this year were also protesting the January 2009 murder of 28-year old Barbara Amparo Perdomo, shot to death by her husband. Roberto Antonio Jimenez Rodriguez received only two years in jail after the court accepted his version that the shot was "accidental." Perdomo was 8 months pregnant, and the couple had a history of domestic violence, as witnessed by relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Her body at death showed visible signals of violence. As reported, the victim had locked herself in her room to hide from her attacking husband, but he broke the lock and shot her with a 9mm Smith & Wesson, whose permit had expired. News reports indicate that the killer's erratic behavior did not allow time to save the unborn baby, either. The husband took the body of his wife and drove around with it in his car, probably looking for a place to dump it. He eventually delivered it to a hospital, where he was forcibly arrested.
Then Friday, 13 November, a judge at the Charles de Gaulle court sentenced Jimenez Rodriguez to only two years in jail, causing widespread outrage and protests. The sentence coincides with November, a month dedicated to women.
Another case that points to negligence in government handling of violence against women is that of legislator Julio Romero. In today's Diario Libre, editorialist Ines Aizpun urges legislators to discuss the case. Romero is in the spotlight for his relationship with a minor who has had his baby. Nonetheless, the Congressional Ethics Committee has not been able to reach quorum to discuss the case. Aizpun says this turns the legislators into semi-accomplices to the crime. Romero has defended himself by saying he was just a man in love. Aizpun says this is an insult to the intelligence of Dominican citizens. Dominican law says that having sex with a minor is rape. This is not a first accusation of sexual abuse of a minor for the legislator.
Aizpun writes: "To have relations with a minor is a crime. Even if the adult is a legislator. Do we have to spell out something that is obvious? It looks as if the answer is no, because some legislators confuse parliamentary immunity with congressional indulgence. "
Three honest military men|
Army sergeants Jhovanny Rosso Sanchez and Narciso Herrera Sepulveda, and navy private Jose Bienvenido Arias Arias have returned RD$30,000 and 247 calling cards in different denominations after finding them in a briefcase on the Sanchez Highway between Yaguate and Nizao in San Cristobal province. The briefcase was found with a motorcycle, a blue baseball cap and a pair of paints. There is speculation that the owner may have been injured in an accident. The men made the discovery while waiting for public transportation at the La Jagua crossing, near the Lucas Diaz bridge.
Drug plane caught in Higuey|
The National Drug Control Department confiscated a light airplane suspect to have transported an unspecified amount of drugs in a Higuey sugarcane field yesterday. In the operation, they arrested one Dominican Wilkin Canden (29) and two Colombians, Pedro Alonso (30) and Alexander Vasquez (22). The men were caught when fueling the plane for takeoff. The airplane, a Cessna 206 Venezuelan Registration YV1133 had a single seat for the pilot, as the passenger seats were probably removed to make space for the cargo. The drug consignment, believed to be cocaine, was not found, leading to speculation that it had already been delivered.
The authorities also confiscated a rifle with illegible registration numbers, three SUVs, (Nissan Murano and Toyota, a Toyota Runner), two power plants used to light the improvised landing field and 14 plastic fuel containers. The operation was headed by DNCD chief General Rolando Rosado Mateo, who was assisted by Higuey prosecutor Lucas Evangelista Perez and members of army and police intelligence.
Crime policy and institutional fragility|
This week's edition of Clave newspaper comments on the absence of a criminal policy that coordinates between the country's criminal prosecution bodies - judiciary (Supreme Court), Police, National Drug Control Department and the Prosecutor General office.
The editorial makes the point that in the case of Sobeida Feliz, the fugitive alleged lover of a leading drug dealer who is also on the run, the government is a suspect. "Someone with power and logistical capacity helped her become invisible, within or outside the country," it writes. "The search is exaggerated, and the media interest that it has provoked. A judge is investigated because she applied the Penal Procedure Code with benevolence, and now the judicial system is being questioned.
The Prosecutor General took 3 weeks to request a travel ban aimed at preventing her from leaving the country.
"All the security systems suffered the escape of the main culprit, Jose Figueroa Agosto, who had already escaped from a Puerto Rican prison. Nonetheless, in the DR he operated with total freedom and plenty of good connections, and could even have made investments in the political arena. That is rarely known or talked about."
Clave wonders why there is no talk about finding Figueroa Agosto, the person accused of owning the US$4.6 million cash found in an SUV, and the owner of two luxury apartments on Av. Mexico. The newspaper says that is what could Sobeida be accused of if found. "Of money laundering, tax evasion, organized crime, associating with criminals? "Isn't that something we see every day in this country, politicians included?"
The newspaper comments that President Leonel Fernandez complained about the failure of the government crime prosecution bodies. But then it asks... "What is the difference between the case of Sobeida and other fraud and crime cases, even the case of Quirino Paulino Castillo?
"In the Quirino case we sent it to the US and desisted from judging it in the country. The relatives were sent abroad, protected by a special US government program, and in return the DR has not received any benefit to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking, with the exception of US$14 million confiscated from Quirino. And perhaps the same will happen in the case of Sobeida and Figueroa Agosto. All because of our institutional weakness."
Brito goes to jail|
When the going gets tough, you get what you can. At least this is the strategy being employed by the DR's legal system. Considering that big fish Jose D. Figueroa Agosto has slipped from their grasp and his alleged lover Sobeida Feliz Morel then went missing, officials have now chosen to send Feliz's husband Eddy Brito Martinez to three months preventive custody at the Najayo Jail. Brito was out on bail after initially being questioned on the suspicion that he was connected to Figueroa's drug ring since he was able to purchase a mansion in Santo Domingo with over US$800,000 in cash. But after Figueroa and Feliz's disappearances, Brito is the sole remaining link in the case. Brito was labeled a flight risk by the judges who sent him to Najayo.
Martha Heredia wows|
Everyone knew she had talent, but who knew she could sing like this? Dominican singer Martha Heredia is showing the rest of Latin America and the world just how much talent she really has. In her latest appearance on Latin American idol, the young vocalist put on another strong performance, and with the show dedicated to Dominican singer Juan Luis Guerra, the DR was on full display. Judge Mimi told Heredia, who comes from Santiago de los Caballeros, "you're big baby, you're big!" Judge Oscar Mediavilla, who had some not-so-nice exchanges with Heredia, told the singer, "you are one of the participants who brings magic." Heredia is still one of the strongest favorites on this season's show.
Viewers can tune in to watch her tomorrow on Telesistema Channel 11 and can also vote for her using their cell phones. Tomorrow's show will be especially tense as the singer who receives the least amount of votes will be voted off in this final round. The season finale is scheduled for 10 December 2009.
Horford and his Hawks|
For fans of the Atlanta Hawks this early season success has been three years in the making. After being perennial bottom feeders, the drafting of Al Horford was the signaling of a new generation of basketball in the Dirty South, but no one knew it would come this fast. The team had been trying to build a playoff quality team through the draft, and while Horford was a touted player, Atlanta's youth was seen as its biggest enemy. But Horford, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and the rest of the Hawks have given the NBA and the city of Atlanta an early season holiday gift. The Hawks have now won 6 games in a row. They have jumped to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, pushing out the mighty Boston Celtics, and have the best record in the NBA, at 10-2. During this improbable run, Horford has been a key cog in the middle, capturing seven double-doubles on the season. He is averaging 13.8 points per game, with a monstrous 10 boards per game and 2 assists. He's shooting 57% from the field in 34 minutes of play and 2 blocks per game. Could Horford be the best player to come out of the Dominican Republic? It sure looks that way.
The baseball scores|
Didn't think the Escogido were for real? Think again. This team has some fire behind it and the rest of the league is taking notice. Yesterday the Escogido were down 3-2, going into the 6th, when the real fireworks came on. The Escogido scored 6 runs in the last 3 innings to take the game from the Tigres, 8-3. But the Toros were not going to give up their grip on first place. Needing a win to stay atop the standings, the Toros easily took care of the Estrellas 10-3. Meanwhile the Aguilas and Gigantes battle for respectability at the bottom of the standings, with the Aguilas coming out in top, with a score of 8-1.
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