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Daily News - Friday, 27 November 2009

President's trip to Europe
President Leonel Fernandez leaves for Portugal today to attend the 9th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in Estoril. Government news agency Antena En Linea reports on his schedule in Europe.
On Sunday, 29 November he will meet with Portuguese business leaders interested in doing business in the DR. In the evening, the President and his delegation will travel to Estoril for the Ibero-American Summit meetings at the Monasteiro dos Jeronimos. On Monday, 30 November, President Leonel Fernandez will attend a breakfast hosted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
During his visit to Portugal, the President's agenda includes the signing of a commercial bank loan for financing National Housing Bank (BNV) projects with the Banco Caixa Geral de Depositos and an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro in anticipation of his visit to France.
On Tuesday 1 December, the President will take part in the general assembly of the Summit. In the afternoon, the President and his delegation will travel to Lisbon for academic visits. He will then continue on to Paris.
His agenda in France includes an interview with Le Monde newspaper and meetings at the Institute of the Americas. On Wednesday 2 December, he will meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and will attend a breakfast meeting at the Paris Circle of Economists, followed by a visit to the National Assembly and lunch with economist Jacques Attali. Also on his agenda is a meeting with the media, a book launch for the collected works of Juan Bosch and a reception at the Latin America House.
On Thursday, the President will meet with French business representatives, the new director of the UNESCO and members of the Development Center. This will be followed by visits to academic institutions, the press, lunch meetings with intellectuals and inaugurating the Juan Bosch School at the Academie de Creteil. He will also meet with the Dominican community.
He departs France on Saturday 5, with a stopover in New York. He is scheduled to arrive back in the DR on Monday, 7 December in the afternoon.
Traveling with the President are the ministers of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas, Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti, Higher Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo, Presidential legal advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe, press secretary Rafael Nunez, and Center of Exports and Investment director Eddy Martinez. Also Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua, Labor Minister Max Puig, and architect Joaquin Geronimo, director of the National Housing Institute (BNV).
Also traveling with the President to France are businessmen Jose Miguel Bonetti, Felix Garcia, Manuel Alejandro Grullon and his wife Rosa de Grullon, Jose Clase, Manuel Corripio and Micalo Bermudez.

Freddy gets a medal
President Leonel Fernandez added to humorist and television producer Freddy Beras Goico's medal collection yesterday, awarding him one of the nation's highest honors, the Duarte, Sanchez and Mella Medal, as a Great Official. The award comes in recognition of the years of work in television and as a promoter of family values. The President was accompanied by his wife Margarita as he pinned the medal on the famous humorist. A large number of friends and relatives attended the ceremony, which was held at the Presidential Palace.
President Fernandez had lots of good things to say about Freddy, as he is universally known: "Freddy Beras Goico has continually guided the steps of the Dominican Republic along the best paths, he has been a guiding light, an emblematic figure, an icon... worthy of the national identity of the Dominican Republic".

Public Works gets budget boost
The government proposes to spend more than RD$50 billion on infrastructure projects all across the country next year. The Ministry of Public Works alone will spend around RD$23.729 billion on infrastructure works, of which RD$8 billion will come from internal sources and US$420 million will come from external sources.
Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua said that the ministry's 2010 budget is nearly double that of 2009, "It will be the biggest budget in the history of the Public Works Ministry," he said during a meeting with the members of the Dominican Chamber of
Constructors (Cadocon), headed by Diego de Moya Canaan. Diaz Rua said that in the two years and three months that he has been minister, they have completed 113 projects, representing a total investment of RD$3.061 billion.
Diaz Rua said that the country now has an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in which for the first time the money is delivered directly to the government and not to the Central Bank.
He announced that the San Cristobal-Bani Highway would be finished in March, with a budget of RD$3.048 billion, and the new bridge over the Soco River in San Pedro de Macoris would be inaugurated in February.
The minister also announced a nationwide road-paving program costing RD$500 million beginning next week. This comes in time for the political campaigning for the municipal and congressional election in May 2010.
In addition, the 51km stretch of highway from the Duarte Expressway crossroad to Casabito-Constanza is being improved at a total cost of US$85.3 million. Another major project that the ministry plans to inaugurate next year is the Duarte Corridor, at a cost of US$163.8 million, a length of just 3.23 kilometers, which includes a tunnel for easing traffic flow around Santo Domingo's Tiradentes Avenue.
The minister also announced that in 2011 the government would begin the construction of a corridor along 27 de Febrero Avenue between Winston Churchill and Luperon avenues, including 3 overpasses at 27 de Febrero and Dr. Defillo avenues, 27 de Febrero and Carmen Mendoza avenues and 27 de Febrero and Nunez de Caceres avenues. They will also begin construction of the Atlantic Tourist Boulevard and the second stage of the Santo Domingo-Samana concession.

Super Tucanos to arrive 8 December
The Armed Forces Minister has announced that the first Super Tucano aircraft would be arriving from Brazil on 8 December. The airplanes will be used for surveillance and interception of illegal flights that bring drugs to the Dominican Republic, mainly for transshipment to other countries. During an interview at the Presidential Palace, Lt. General Rafael Pena Antonio said that the rest of the aircraft (6) would be here in April 2010. He said that the use of the planes could reduce illicit drug traffic in the country by 75%, and told reporters that other measures would be taken to fight organized crime both on the land and on the seas. He added that some Dominican pilots would be leaving for Brazil next week to receive training in using the airplanes and carrying out the inspections needed to take delivery. Pena Antonio said that the planes would go into service in the south of the DR, especially in the Southern Command in Barahona. The general also announced that the country was purchasing two new radars that will be able to detect low-flying aircraft.

Mayor Roberto Salcedo's plans
Roberto Salcedo is confident he will be re-elected if he runs for mayor of the National District again. He says polls show he has a favorable rating from 88% of voters, as reported in Listin Diario.
For the 2010-2016 city council, he proposes to continue with the organization of urban growth, construction of underground parking lots at Plaza de Espana and the Parque Eugenio Maria de Hostos, and conversion of the Malecon into a leading city attraction, with bicycle lanes. He spoke of work with low-income communities such as La Cienaga where he said they are building a fire station, childcare center, children's playground, municipal arts center, municipal funeral home, contracting of community companies to remove garbage from the Ozama River, Villas Agricolas garbage station with the capacity to handle 1,000 tons of garbage a day, sports facilities, technology center, medical dispensary, among other initiatives. The council is also working together with the community, drawing up development strategies for the area.
Salcedo proposes to build several vocational schools in low-income neighborhoods during his 2010-2016 administration.

Spotlight moves to Barrick contract
Environmentalists Osiris de Leon and Luis Carvajal say the contract the government has signed with Barrick Gold should be reviewed and revoked. Together with economist Luis Vargas, they called for lawyers who are motivated and committed to form a front "to defend the country from that contract," as reported in Hoy. The environmentalists say the contract violates Environmental Law 64-00.
"The contract says that Barrick Gold will approve the environmental plan of what they will carry out, which contravenes what is established in Environmental Law 64-00. The contract violates the Constitution in its present text and in the new text," said Luis Carvajal.
He made the point that the relocation of the residents who will be dislodged from areas near the former Rosario Dominicana mine will be made with a loan the company will grant the Dominican government, and this will be paid back from the benefits of the exploitation, when the government begins to receive them.
The three experts say that a campaign needs to be launched urgently to create a national awareness. This follows on the heels of the successful efforts by civil society, youth groups and academics that led to nationwide rejection of the construction of a cement plant in a buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park. A Gallup Poll showed an 85% rejection level that led the Fernandez administration to contract a UN multi-sectorial mission to make recommendations. The UN team confirmed the environmental and civil society organizations' concerns and concluded that the cement plant was only viable and pertinent for the company, but that the risks and benefits for other sectors did not justify its construction at that site.

Consumer protest at high cell rates
Using e-mail and social media campaigns, consumer groups are seeking to mobilize nationwide support for a protest aimed at cell phone providers Claro (Codetel), Orange, Tricom and Viva for the high rates they charge consumers in the DR.
The case presented is that in the US you can get 2,000 free minutes for only US$52.20. This is beyond what the normal user can talk in a month. The note says that in the DR, the usage of those minutes would cost RD$7,000 (around US$194). The message is that the US has low cell phone costs because consumers protested by not using the service. The e-mail message suggests that on the 28, 29 and 30 of November 2009, people should turn off their cell phones for 72 hours.
"This is the only way we can show Claro, Tricom, Viva and Orange that we are not ignorant and that we won't let them continue putting their hands in our pockets," says the message. It continues by stating: "By acting together we can oblige them to lower the rates and improve the service that is very bad."
The message concludes: "If we do not defend ourselves, no one else is going to do it!"
The promoters of the campaign are urging everyone to get friends and relatives to join the blackout in protest at high cell phone high rates and poor service.

Sobeida has left the country
In today's Listin Diario, editor Miguel Franjul writes that it is widely believed that Sobeida Felix Morel has left the country. Whether it was a trick or the plain truth, the story of the disappearance and flight overseas by Sobeida Felix Morel took another twist yesterday when it was revealed that someone (a hacker possibly) entered the computer system of the Migration Department and added her name, using Feliz instead of Felix, on a passenger list for a flight bound for Madrid. The Migration authorities claim that a passenger of that name was on 12 November Air Europa flight to Madrid, but after checking with officials in Spain, it was established that nobody with that name had arrived in the Spanish capital, neither on that flight nor on the six later flights to the same destination.
A source told Listin Diario that "this was a virtual disappearance", a devious way of throwing off the authorities, as the source said that the National Police sent a note dated 11 November to the Migration Department, but it was not received until 16 November, whereby they requested information on Sobeida Felix (or Feliz) Morel, the same name that appears on the apparently hacked list in the computers at the Migration Department.
"Someone is trying to give the impression that she left the country," said the source, who suspects that this could be a smokescreen to distract the authorities since it is thought that nobody with that well-publicized name would use an airport to escape from the Dominican Republic. However, there are other indications that the authorities seem to feel that she has, indeed, left the country. There seems to be a lowering of the intensity of the search and no massive dragnets are taking place across the country.

Sobeida gets Migration in hot water
Migration director Vice-admiral Sigfrido Pared Perez says that no one named Sobeida Felix Morel or Sobeida Feliz Morel has left the country through Las Americas International Airport (AILA), as reported in the Listin Diario. Pared Perez told Diario Libre that Migration had conducted a thorough investigation at the request of the National Police, and that after reviewing the passenger lists and reservations lists of all flights departing from AILA on 12 November, the name did not appear on any list. He added that he even contacted the immigration authorities in Spain, the country to which it was thought that the fugitive could have fled, and they reported that no passenger with the name of Sobeida Felix Morel had been registered as arriving.
It was suspected that Sobeida Felix Morel had left the country on Air Europa flight 88 to Madrid on 12 November, from AILA. Pared Perez said that this name was not registered on that flight or on any other flight on that day. He said that the last departure by Felix Morel was registered on 8 August, before her arrest, when she traveled to Puerto Rico.
The woman who is now a fugitive was detained on 3 September in connection with the seizure of US$4.6 million in cash found in an SUV at her apartment building.
Nevertheless, according to information received by the newspaper yesterday, at the airport terminal 6 employees from that night's second Migration shift are being investigated in connection with Sobeida Feliz Morel's alleged departure. Moreover, National Investigations Department (DNI) and Army Intelligence Service (J-2) agents are reviewing the airport's closed-circuit security tapes.
According to a rumor, Sobeida Felix Morel did leave the country, dressed as a nun. National Police Criminal Intelligence Service agents started to scan all Immigration departure forms from the beginning of November that are sent to the Central Bank after passing through the DNI at the airport. These papers are counted for use in the CB's statistics on passenger movements.

Three more file against surgeon
Three more women have filed formal complaints against the doctor who performed plastic surgery on them, bringing the total number of plaintiffs so far to nine. The latest complaints were filed separately by Hermes Meccarielo, Manuel Meccarielo and Lourdes Meccarielo. Arelys Familia and Dahiana Aquino Aibue also filed suit. Assistant prosecutor Eddy Ferreras received the cases. Although he was granted bail, Dr. Johan Tapia Bueno was still being held in the Palace of Justice, according to a report in Listin Diario and other newspapers. However, the office of the General Secretary of the District Attorney for the National District coordinated by Argentina Contreras, told reporters that the bail bond order is ready and they are only waiting for some paperwork to be completed. Meccarielo said that the complaints are not motivated by money, but they do want justice to be served since they have spent more than a million pesos on clinical fees alone.

Museums day
If there is a museum you've always wanted to visit and have been postponing it, on Thursday, 10 December, Dominican government-sponsored museums and some private museums will be open from 9 am to 12 midnight and admission will be free. The event is known as "The Long Night of the Museums" and is in its second year. Special activities are planned for the participating museums. The event is held to mark the Day of National Heritage and is organized by the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture.

It's Christmas!
Several companies have begun their Christmas celebrations. Jumbo commercial mall on Santo Domingo's Luperon Avenue has announced Christmas Choir Symphony recitals in its food court area every Saturday, starting 28 November through Saturday, 26 December at 5pm. Banco Popular has begun its Sunday Christmas Story performances in the parking lot of its John F Kennedy headquarters.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Arts and crafts fair
A showcase of a wide variety of arts and crafts opens this weekend at the Plaza Fray Bartolome de las Casas, at Padre Billini street between Hostos and Arzobispo Merino streets. The Friday, 27 November to Sunday, 29 November 2nd Alternative Arts & Crafts Fair will be open from 10am to 9pm. Proceeds from sales will go towards a girls' orphanage.
For more events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Baseball Standings
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 20 - 11 .645 --
LICEY 18 - 14 .563 2.5
AZUCAREROS 18 - 14 .563 2.5
GIGANTES 15 - 17 .469 5.5
AGUILAS 14 - 18 .438 6.5
ESTRELLAS 12 - 20 .376 8.5
Tonight's games
* San Francisco de Macoris, Julian Javier Stadium:
Estrellas (F. Rosario)
Gigantes (S. Narron)
* Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya:
Aguilas (J. Tavares)
Escogido (E. Valdez)
* La Romana, Francisco Micheli Stadium:
Licey (E. Rogers)
Toros/Azucareros (R. Wright)
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