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Daily News - Thursday, 03 December 2009

Fernandez in France
President Leonel Fernandez has told journalists covering his trip to France that President Nicolas Sarkozy is interested in helping finance the second line of the Santo Domingo Metro project. Fernandez is also hoping that France will help with the financing of the Santo Domingo-Santiago train line. Fernandez says that Alstom Transport, Alstom Compagnie Internationale de Maintenance, Sofratesa, Thales Internationale and TSO have expressed interest in investing in the new transport systems.
Fernandez made his announcement after a quick audience of 35-minutes with the French president at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. Afterwards he spoke with the press on what had been discussed.
Hoy reports that Sarkozy pledged a continued alliance with the DR in the fight against drug trafficking. Fernandez and Sarkozy also discussed the importance of a Dominico/French alliance and the need for increased French aid to Haiti. The two leaders also spoke on the Dominican position on climate change in the lead-up to the Copenhagen Summit this month.
President Fernandez was accompanied by First Lady Margarita Cedeno, Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Economy Secretary Temistocles Montas, Labor Secretary Max Puig and Dominican ambassador in France, Laura Faxas. For the French government, French international development minister Alain Joyandet also was present.

Business meeting in France
President Leonel Fernandez attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the French Business Movement (MEDEF) that is predicting a second wave of French investments in the DR and the Caribbean in areas of tourism, energy, railroads, technology, banking, perfumery and telecommunications. The first wave brought tourism investments in Samana, Accor, Carrefour, Orange and Alstom. President Fernandez spoke of investment facilities, opportunities in travel, renewable energy, telecommunications, medical industry and commerce, and the guarantees of judicial security, as reported by DR government press agency Antena en Linea.
"We trust that this meeting will contribute to strengthen links between both countries and facilitate new business projects to continue to strengthen the progress we have achieved in recent years," said Fernandez.
The president of Orange Dominicana and the Dominican-French Chamber of Commerce, Jean Marc Harion thanked Fernandez for his trip to France and attending the business meeting.
Approximately 35 business representatives from France attended the breakfast meeting. Companies taking part included: ADP Ingenierie, BNP Paribas, Canal Overseas, CCDF-Val S.A, Club Mediterranee, Comite National des Conseillers Du Commerce, Compagnie Internationale de Maintenance, Establissements Dupouy, Gemalto, Groupe Banque Mondiale, La Monanaje de Paris, Natixis, Nouvelles Frontieres, Obertur Technologies, Orange, Robertet, Sechilienne SIDEC, Societe Francaise D?Equipement Hospitalier, Societe Generale, Sofratesa, Systra, Thales International, TSO, Vergnet, S.A., Vinci Construction Grands Projets and XL Airways France.

Words for border patrol
Speaking in an interview on Radio France Internationale (RFI) President Leonel Fernandez spoke about the "rumors" that some in the international community would like to solve Haiti's problems by unifying the two countries. In his radio interview Fernandez said the proposal has never been made to him, but if it were made, "of course I would reject it."
Fernandez spoke on the continued need to strengthen controls along the Dominican/Haitian border, partly due to drug trafficking.
He added that the growing environmental problems in Haiti were affecting the DR.President Leonel Fernandez spoke of the need to strengthen the border with Haiti during his visit to France. The border is the scene of smuggling of people, drugs, weapons and other contraband, plus migration of Haitians who engage in deforestation practices to produce charcoal for cooking.
In the interview, Fernandez reportedly stressed the need to boost security along the Haitian-Dominican border for security reasons. When it comes to budget allocations, however, the Fernandez government does not back the President's intentions as stated in France.
In the Armed Forces Ministry chapter of the 2010 National Budget, more funds were allocated to patrolling the 14.2km stretch of the Santo Domingo Metro than to the 380kms of the border with Haiti. The government allocated RD$77 million to the Cesfront division of the Army in charge of border surveillance, compared to RD$105.8 million allocated to the Metro.

Borrowing big in 2010
The Ministry of Hacienda will be contracting loans with international commercial banks for US$1.272 million in 2010. According to the 2010 National Budget sent by the Presidency to Congress, 14 loans need to be approved, 13 of which will finance infrastructure works and one would be used to equip the Border Control Force (Cesfront).
The new loans are:
Guaigui dam: US$70 million (INDRHI). Hermanas Mirabal aqueduct: US$50 million (INAPA). Nagua aqueduct: US$20 million (INAPA). Moca aqueduct: US$40 million (INAPA). Peravia aqueduct: U$110 million (INAPA). Puerto Plata aqueduct: US$100 million (INAPA). Santiago aqueduct: US$29 million (INAPA). Pinalito hydroelectric Dam: US$155 million (CDEEE). Las Placetas hydroelectric dam: US$98 million (CDEEE). Duarte Corridor: US$67 million (SEOPC). Viadom Samana highway: US$400 million (SEOPC). Low-income housing: US$90 million + US$80 million (INVI). Border security equipment: US$12.8 million.
Clave newspaper reporter Edwin Ruiz, nevertheless, points out that the international banking loans are a horn of plenty for the government, supplying an endless source of funds tied to contracting works and goods and services, often contracted without tenders.
The cost of these loans that would be negotiated for 7-year terms, with a 2-year grace period, is Libor plus "a margin compatible with the interest rate in effect for the DR." This plus the payment of commissions according to market.
Clave reports that in 2008, the Ministry of Hacienda reports having taken on US$686.9 million in new debts.
Clave reports that taking on international loans during the Hipolito Mejia government (2000-2004) was widely criticized by members of the ruling PLD when in opposition. Mejia's government borrowed with the Deutsch Bank, Sociedad Anonima Espanola and the Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria for similar terms, and without tenders. The newspaper says that that practice led the foreign debt with private senders to increase from a share of 19% of foreign loan borrowing to 35%, or 226% more foreign debt, to US$2,256.5 million.
Interestingly, the newspaper quotes a leonelfernandez.com campaign page where Fernandez, who is into his second term, apparently criticizes this debt taking and the burden on the national budget. But instead of correcting the practice, his administration takes it a step further and announces new plans to issue sovereign bonds for US$600 million in 2010, and then for US$500 million in 2011 and 2012.

Fiscal spending still a problem
The government finished the first three quarters of the year with a budget deficit of RD$17. 4 billion. This was in large part due to an 8% increase in government current spending in relation to revenues. During the period between January and September 2009 the government had revenues of RD$187.7 billion, but spent RD$205.1 billion.
Quoting Ministry of Hacienda data, El Caribe reports that the average monthly deficit was roughly RD$1.93 billion. By September there was a slight closing of the deficit gap, but it still registered high, at RD$853 million.
From its revenue sources the government collected RD$114 billion from the Tax Department, which was 68.35% of all revenues. The Customs Department generated RD$34.6 billion or 20.72% of all revenues and the National Treasury added RD$18.25 billion, or 10.93% of total revenues.

Millions just on paper for education
Building more classrooms lags behind what was planned because the government has failed to disburse money that had been budgeted for construction in 2009, according to Listin Diario. Francisco Gonzalez, director of school infrastructure said that his department had estimated classroom construction and repair needs at RD$15.5 billion. Acknowledging budgetary problems, the Ministry of Education submitted a RD$7 billion budget in 2009 for that chapter. But the reality has been very different. The Fernandez government has only disbursed RD$2.5 billion in funds. Gonzalez is optimistic that the government will come through with the budgeted RD$7 billion this year. He said that President Fernandez ordered the Ministry of Education accounts to be protected.

RD$20 billion circulating
As a result of the holiday "13th salary" an extra RD$16.5 billion will be circulating in the DR as of 8 December - RD$10.5 billion from the private sector and RD$6 billion from government. The influx of Christmas wage money is expected to boost sales and the government gets a good share of it back in sales taxes. Each year government entities and private companies give their employees a "doble sueldo" (double salary) during the holiday season. Government departments will begin paying out their bonuses on the 8 December and private companies will follow over the next few days.
Listin Diario reports that according to Social Security statistics (TSS) as of September, there were 1,184,147 workers in the formal sector, of which 60% make less than RD$10,000 a month. 15% make RD$10,000 to RD$15,000, 7% make RD$15,000 to RD$20,000, 6% make RD$20,000 to RD$25,000 while 12% make more than RD$25,000.

Duclona extradition approved
The Dominican government has agreed to extradite Haitian national Amaral Duclona to France. Duclona is accused of a series of crimes, including the murder of a French honorary consul in Haiti Paul Henri Mourral in 2004.
The Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the extradition of Haitian Amaral Duclona to France yesterday. The French government had requested the extradition, which was approved by the judges on the grounds that all legal requirements had been met. President Leonel Fernandez now needs to issue a presidential decree calling for his extradition.

Moscoso: Felix and Figueroa not in DR
District Prosecutor for the National District Alejandro Moscoso Segarra says that officials have found no proof that Sobeida Felix (Feliz) or Jose A. Figueroa are still in the country. The couple sought on drug-related charges disappeared into thin air over a month ago, on two separate occasions. It had been rumored that Felix might still be in the country after the heads of the National Drug Control Department and the National Police personally took part in a raid on a plastic surgery clinic. There have also been claims that the Migration Department's computers were hacked and records amended to suggest that Felix left the country on a flight to Spain, but Spanish officials say that no-one named Felix or Feliz has arrived in Spain.
Presidential Advisor to the Presidency on Drug Matters, lawyer Marino "Vincho" Castillo, believes Felix is still in the DR. Prosecutor Moscoso has asked Castillo to support his statement.
In an opinion piece in El Caribe today, on the same subject, lawyer Leila Mejia speculates that Sobeida is likely still here. She concludes this on grounds of the lax surveillance the government exercised after she was released on bail. Mejia comments that while even her phone is intervened, the government doesn't acknowledge having done the same with Sobeida's phone. She also makes the point that there is no truth in the statements of the Prosecutor General and the District Prosecutor when they excuse the lax surveillance on Sobeida on grounds that it was not legal to do so. Mejia says that any first level judge would have authorized telephone surveillance in this case. She concludes: "Perhaps Sobeida afterall is still in the country because, in what other place would she find such impunity?"

Someone's lying about Sobeida
An editorial in today's Clave newspaper says it seems unlikely that the authorities are letting on all they know in the case of Sobeida Felix Morel, a fugitive from justice. The newspaper says that the country deserves a better explanation about her disappearance. It comments that her protector, known drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto is a very lucky fugitive. Despite a long list of crimes committed in Puerto Rico, he was able to establish himself in the DR and operate his crime and drug trafficking network freely, without too many limitations, writes the editorialist. "Nobody identified him, he used several names, received IDs from the National Investigations Department (DNI) and permits to carry weapons from the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Interior and Police," writes Clave. The newspaper asks: "Who recommended him?"
The editorialist reveals that General Rafael Ramirez Ferreira, the director of the National Drug Control Department in 2007, had requested his arrest and extradition to the United States. "That request could not be fulfilled. The reasons are unknown," says Clave.
The newspaper speculates then on what it calls the "thriller" of his escape from the authorities. "He was detected, pursued, his vehicle was shot at, and he abandoned the vehicle and disappeared. He made a "miraculous" escape. He left a laptop inside the car, and at least two dozen active telephones and other documents," the editorial writer tells. But then asks: "What was inside the computer. What information about his connections was extracted from there? Why didn't the authorities do what the Colombian authorities did with Raul Reyes' laptop? What do the telephones say about his connections and support in the DR?"
The editorial also asks about the US$4.6 million found inside a vehicle belonging to Figueroa Agosto. "To whom does it lead?" The DNCD and the Police have said nothing, and instead say they are still on the trail of Sobeida Felix.
The editorialist says the plot does not make sense and calls for more explanations. "The Prosecutor General office should do its work more efficiently, more power over the proof that is now in the hands of the authorities," it writes.
"Figueroa Agosto's computers, the telephones and the confiscated documents should be in the hands of investigators from the Prosecutor General Office, the main entity responsible for telling what really is happening with this boring performance".

Progress in yam + cocaine case
National Drug Control Department agent Carlos Jose Aquino Castillo has been dismissed for his role in the trafficking ring involving cocaine hidden in yam shipments. Police and DNCD officials say six others have been detained for their links to the ring, which was shipping drugs between the DR and Puerto Rico. Drug leader Euclides Suazo Rivas is on the run and wanted for questioning for his role in the drug ring. Clave Digital reports that Aquino was paid RD$3,000 for every shipment of drugs he confirmed in the city of Bonao. Officials are still investigating a connection between Aquino and the Customs Department. Officials say that Suazo Rivas and his wife Rosanna Maria Gomez, and a group of five brothers used to pack the drugs in Bonao and ship them on the Ferry to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Extortion in Bani
Bani senator Wilton Guerrero is calling on the authorities to investigate the chief of the National Drug Control Department in Bani. Guerrero says that agents under his command are extorting the people they arrest, as reported in El Caribe. Guerrero says that the DNCD in Bani operates a clandestine court. He said the agents charge to release people who have been arrested. He said that many young people who have been arrested have been extorted, even though they are clean.
"I have received several complaints about the operation of a clandestine court at the DNCD office in Bani and that court is directed by Captain Zenon. It is not a coincidence that there are many claims from people who are very credible," said the ruling PLD party senator for Peravia.
Guerrero says he does not exclude the possibility that fugitive Jose Figueroa Agosto's drug smuggling ring is still operating in the DR.
Guerrero was one of the first to denounce high-level government and military complicity with drug trafficking in the DR.

Punta Cana Village bazaar
Christmas kicks off in Punta Cana on Saturday, 5 December with the annual Christmas Bazaar. The event has the support of the village community and businesses in Galerias Puntacana. This year it begins at 4pm and will stay open through 10pm. Visitors to the bazaar are asked to bring toys and school supplies, which will be donated to the Escuela Cristinita in Veron that has 180 students from first to 6th grade. Santa Claus will be at the bazaar that is in its 3rd year.
For more on upcoming activities, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Dominican wins 5 gold in Masters
Dominican masters swimming champion, Danilo Vicioso won 4 gold medals and one silver during the South American Masters Swimming Championship that took place 26-29 November in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Vicioso is ranked in the top 10 of the world in his 45-49 years category. He won gold in 200 and 400 IM with times of 2:27.33 and 5:30.05 respectively, and in 100 and 200 meters back with times of 1:06.81 and 2:30.14 respectively. He won silver in the 100 meters fly with 1:02.92.
A total of 1,300 swimmers from South America participated. Vicioso and Mercedes Aybar were special guest swimmers from the Caribbean.

They love Licey
As it wasn't already clear, the team with the most wins usually has the most fans, and in the Dominican Winter League the Tigres del Licey are the most loved of all the Dominican teams. According to a recent Gallup-Hoy poll 38.8% of fans surveyed said they were fans of the Tigres. The Aguilas had the second largest number of fans with 31.7% of those surveyed choosing that team. This would make sense to even the most non-interested fan, as the Aguilas and Tigres have split the last 14 championships. Eleven percent of fans chose the Escogido as their favorite teams, while 2.3% were fans of the Toros, 1.9% were fans of the Gigantes and 1.7% were fans of the Estrellas. About 43% of those surveyed are hoping that this year's final will be between the Aguilas and Licey, while15.3% believe that Licey vs. Escogido will be the championship match-up.

The baseball scores
The presence of Tony Pena might be just what the Aguilas needed. Pena, reunited with his two sons who play for the Aguilas has led the Aguilas to its second straight victory since taking over the reins of the team. Could this a key turning point in the baseball season? The Aguilas took care of the Estrellas 3-2, while the Tigres took care of the Gigantes 4-3. In the night's final game the Toros took care of the Escogido, 9-3. It was a surprising loss for the Escogido, who have been playing amazing baseball thus far.
Standings
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 22 - 15 .595 --
LICEY 22 - 15 .595 0.0
AZUCAREROS 20 - 17 .541 2.0
GIGANTES 18 - 19 .586 4.0
AGUILAS 18 - 19 .586 4.0
ESTRELLAS 12 - 25 .324 10.0
 
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