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Daily News - Monday, 07 December 2009

President returns with pledges
President Leonel Fernandez returns to the DR today after his 10-day visit to Spain, Portugal, France and the US. He described the outcome of the trip as positive for the Dominican Republic. Fernandez is flying into San Isidro Air Base on a private flight from New York City. On Saturday he arrived in NYC from France on a private visit and to take part in a tribute to Juan Marichal, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fernandez traveled to Portugal to attend the XIX Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Governments on Friday, 27 November. In Portugal he gave Dominican government endorsement to commercial bank financing of the controversial residential, commercial and sports complex around the Quisqueya Baseball Stadium promoted by private developers.
On 30 November, the President attended a breakfast hosted by Spain's King Juan Carlos I and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for the Heads of State and Heads of Government who were taking part in the summit.
In France, the Dominican president held a brief meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, discussing issues such as climate change and French cooperation in areas such as security, justice and the fight against drug trafficking. The French leader told Fernandez that his government was willing to support the financing of the second Metro line in Santo Domingo and the train that will link Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo. Fernandez also met with French business leaders who showed interest in the Dominican Republic becoming the gateway for a second wave of French investors in the Caribbean, in such areas as tourism, energy, rail transport, technology, banking, perfume and telecommunications.
The President was accompanied by his wife, Margarita, and a delegation that included the ministers of Economy, Planning and Development, the Presidency, Higher Education Science and Technology, the Legal Advisor and the Press Director.

Process of signing Constitution starts
The Constitutional Revisory Assembly members begin the process of signing the new Constitution today. The presentation of the Constitution for signatures will go on from 10 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon. The new constitutional text will be proclaimed on 26 January 2010 in a solemn act that will be chaired by President Fernandez.
The event will be attended by officials and representatives of the diplomatic and consular corps as well as some of the country's leading figures. A press release from the Senate press office says that the president and vice-president of the Constitutional Revisory Assembly, Reinaldo Pared Perez and Julio Cesar Valentin and the other members of the head table would be first to sign the Constitution. They will be followed by the vice-presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the spokespersons for the political parties represented in the Congress, and the members of the verification and auditing and style commissions. The new Constitution will be on public display in the Congress building all week, until Friday, 11 December.

Billions for mass transit
The government plans to spend RD$3.57 billion on the Mass Passenger Transport system, of which RD$728.1 million will go towards ground studies, evictions and other expenses linked to the second phase of the Santo Domingo Metro system. This Metro II system will connect Los Alcarrizos in the northeast of the city with San Luis in the municipality of Santo Domingo East.
According to the 2010 Budget legislative proposal sent to Congress by President Leonel Fernandez, under the chapter heading of "Projects", RD$2.85 billion is scheduled for the 14km Metro I line from Villa Mella to La Feria, but details of the allocation are not provided.
The first phase of the Metro II line will cost US$790 million. It will span 15 kilometers from Maximo Gomez Avenue to Los Alcarrizos. The second phase, which will be about the same length, will run from Maximo Gomez to San Isidro, at a similar cost.
The sum total of the cost of the two phases of Metro II is US$1.58 billion, or RD$55.88 billion, or 15% of this budget proposal.
As well as the Santo Domingo Metro, the government is giving priority to the cargo and passenger train that is planned to connect Haina and the city of Santiago de los Caballeros.

The electricity plan
During an interview in El Mercantil business section of El Caribe newspaper, State-owned Electricity Companies VP Celso Marranzini sets out the new sources of generation in the short and medium term.
He says that 400 megawatts will be added to the system in 2010. As of 8 December, Los Mina 6 will be permanently connected. Another Los Mina unit will go online with 100 megawatts. In March, 60 megawatts of the AES plant in Pimentel will be added.
Within two years, 130 megawatts from wind parks will be ready. He said that the conversion of the Cogentrix plant from diesel to natural gas with capacity for 300 megawatts would be completed. The relatively new Cogentrix plant was installed during a previous Fernandez administration but has spent more time offline than online because of its high production costs.
In the medium term, Marrazini says tenders will be held for the Man-Forrestar (600 megawatts of gas to be installed in Manzanillo) and CSNN Las Salinas plants. He also mentioned the SNC Lavalin generation plant.
In the short term, he expects to be able to convert 40,000 to 50,000 consumers a month to paying clients. A US$150 million loan is pending to improve transmission lines in barrios and install pre-paid meters.

Public works to build bridges in POP
The Ministry of Public Works has pledged to build or complete three major bridges in the province of Puerto Plata. The projects will cost over RD$500 million and El Nuevo Diario says that two more bridges are in the planning stages.
The current crop includes the bridge at El Mango in Yasica, one on the highway that connects Imbert with Luperon and one between La Isabela and Maimon. The bridge over the Bajabonico River will be a Bailey-type bridge. Bailey bridges are built on site from a pre-engineered system of ready-to-assemble components. Using standardized prefabricated components, Bailey bridges can be built to match a wide range of vehicular bridging applications. Because of their excellent versatility and overall value, thousands of Bailey bridges have been installed throughout the world. The bridge will solve the problem of getting from Imbert and Luperon to La Isabela on the road that goes from El Estrecho to Los Vargas. The bridge will be 166 meters long and 8.33 meters wide, with four sections varying from 33 meters to 53 meters in length. The government is expected to spend RD$231 million.
The bridge in Yasica is nearly completed and fulfills a long-standing petition from the community. The bridge at La Isabela is being built using the technique of sunken pillars and will be the second longest in the province of Puerto Plata. The use of this type of construction will protect the bridge during flooding by the Unijica River. Meanwhile, on the highway between Imbert and Luperon, the 20-meter bridge on the Vuelta Larga section is almost finished. The original bridge failed when one of its bases was undercut by floodwaters from the Vuelta Larga stream last February.

We're going nuts
Former Central Bank governor Carlos Despradel believes we have gone nuts in the DR. "One only has to look at the unprecedented Quisqueya Ball Park residential, tourism and sports project that the National Housing Bank (BNV) plans to finance with an international loan of US$105 million that is directly or indirectly guaranteed by the Dominican government. It will have to be paid eventually with taxpayer money because it will be very difficult for the project to be profitable, given its nature".
He recalls how the government backed several productive projects with international funding from multilateral institutions between the 1960s and 1980s, lent out through bodies known as FIDE and INFRATUR. He says it is regrettable that funds from these two have now been moved to the BNV, which he says is dedicated to directly finance projects whose contribution to the economic development of the country is "questionable." On the issue of the US$105 million for the Quisqueya Ball Park residential, tourism and sports project, he comments: "While it is a private initiative, what is unheard of is that it is being financed with Dominican government resources, in a country where there are so many urgent and unfulfilled needs (including low-cost housing) to which BNV loans should be going to and not to "finance pharaonic whims of some promoters."

Gallup-HOY says same old same old
Although an increasing number of people seem to disapprove of what is happening in the economic sphere, their political preferences have remained the same. The latest Gallup-Hoy survey shows no significant change either in the economic aspects or in political aspects with reference to the government's economic performance and administrative corruption. The electoral preferences going into next year's congressional and municipal elections as well as the possible candidates for the 2012 presidential elections are basically the same as they were 5 months ago. Even though the ruling PLD party's popularity is sliding, they still held a 3% advantage over their closest rivals, the PRD.
Overall, the government has low ratings when it comes to the fundamental aspects of its administrative tenure, and stiff disapproval of the administrative corruption perceived by the public, even of the fight against drug trafficking.
According to Hoy newspaper, the most notable aspect of the latest survey was the increase in those who believed that corruption is increasing, which went from 66% in July to 70% in late November. Only 11% felt that it had improved and 18% felt that it had stayed the same. There was an increase from 58% to 63% in those who felt that corruption is greater than before and even a 5% increase, from 48% to 53%, in those who felt that this administration's level of corruption was greater than that of the Mejia administration of 2000-2004. An incredible 85% blame "impunity" as the factor behind this corruption.
Finally, the survey showed that the national problems of 5 months ago are still perceived as the same: Crime, energy, cost of living, unemployment and illegal immigration.
What the pollsters found significant was the fact that more than half the sample said that complicity with authorities is responsible for the increase in drug trafficking.

Colombia halts large drug cargo to DR
Drug-sniffing dogs picked up the trail in the Colombian port of Barranquilla and the authorities discovered 131 kilos of heroin, the largest seizure in the country's recent history, and a bit further on they found 136 kilos of cocaine hidden in large pieces of lumber that were about to be shipped to the Dominican Republic.
The commander of Colombia's Anti-narcotics Police, Francisco Patino, told reporters that the seizure was the result of good intelligence work.
Of course, the hero was Mateo, the drug-sniffing dog, who discovered the heroin in spite of its waterproofed coating.
According to El Nuevo Diario and other Dominican newspapers, the drugs were hidden in three containers that were due to be sent to the Dominican Republic. According to Colombian sources, the ultimate destination was the United States market.
The authorities estimate the street value of the two drugs at more than US$11 million.

The strange case of Figueroa Agosto
Vincho Castillo seldom minces words and yesterday he told reporters that fugitive drug trafficker Jose. D. Figueroa Agosto had been arrested, detained, and released just days before a deportation request arrived from the US, and then the case was "dropped". According to Castillo, not much interest was shown either by the Dominican or the US authorities, despite Figueroa being a fugitive from Puerto Rican justice with a 209-year jail sentence dating from 1995. As reported in Hoy, Castillo speculates that Figueroa could have been set free so that the company he kept could be monitored.
Marino Vinicio Castillo (Vincho) said that in 2001, while using the name of Felipe Rodriguez de la Rosa, the fugitive had been arrested but was released just days before the extradition request was made. This was during the Hipolito Mejia administration.
According to the lawyer and outspoken veteran anti-drug trafficking campaigner, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was aware of Figueroa Agosto's presence in the Dominican Republic.
Vincho said that it was strange that they waited until 2009 to act again against Figueroa Agosto, even when in 2007 the DEA had information that Figueroa Agosto had sent 1000 kilos of cocaine to his former boss in Puerto Rico, Angel Ayala Vasquez (El Buster) who was arrested in Puerto Rico on 18 September. Ayala is identified as head of the largest drug trafficking organization in Puerto Rico.
Castillo asked: "What happened there if everything was arranged? Why did the Dominican and American interest in the case disappear?"
What Castillo wanted to know was why the case was dropped in 2001 and then brought up in 2009. He said that Dominican Wilfredo Andujar Guzman (El Amarillo) was picked up in 2001 along with several members of his gang, including Felipe Rodriguez de la Rosa. Just 17 days later the prisoner was released to his wife Leavy Nin Batista.
Castillo also pointed to the videos that were found in Figueroa Agosto's confiscated apartment, and speculated that some could show a political candidate receiving large sums of money. He said that many campaign fundraisers do not have scruples about the sources of donations.

PLD victory in Lawyers Association
The Judicial Dignity Professional Movement claimed victory yesterday as the winner of the contest for the presidency of the Dominican Lawyers Association (CARD) despite the fact that the National Electoral Commission has barely counted 55% of the votes.
Professional Movement leader Lino Vasquez declared that he was in agreement with the preliminary results, the candidates from List #10, headed by lawyer Diego Jose Garcia, proposed by the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), had garnered a total of 7,665 votes or 51% of the total. His closest competitor was PRD candidate Jose Fernando Perez Volquez with 6,534 votes or 44% of the votes.
Jose Garcia expressed thanks for the "great support" that the PLD had provided and he promised to work to institutionalize CARD, strengthen the credibility of its cooperative and to develop judicial education programs for its members.
Meanwhile, Perez Volquez, the candidate running under the Professional Solidarity banner said that he was not going to argue, but they should wait until the final count was in. He complained about the use of state money and resources such and accused some PRD members of "treason". He mentioned the husband of the president of the PRD Lawyer's Front, who supposedly received a blank check in exchange for his support of the PLD. "We have fought against the resources of the state", he said.

PRD process "turbulent"
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has described the PRD primary process for selecting their congressional and municipal candidates as "eventful". At a press conference, JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said that because of issues, the primary was suspended in 15% of the municipalities in the Cibao and the South. Nonetheless, the magistrate said that sympathizers and party members had participated in significant numbers and voted for their favorite candidates.
Problems detected included late installation of ballot boxes, lack of rubber stamps, and differences between candidates caused by electoral agreements. Rosario said that most of these incidents had occurred in the provinces of Puerto Plata, San Juan, Elias Pina, Independencia and Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua). Accompanied by several JCE officials and international observers, Rosario said that there were 2,268 voting centers all over the country. "We were informed of the complaints about people who were carrying weapons, who took over a truck that was taking supplies to Sanchez Ramirez", he said.

Iris Perez Open Workshop
An exhibition with a difference is opening in the Colonial Zone this Thursday, December 10. Dominican artist Iris Perez is exhibiting a series of her recent works, in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, objet trouve and ceramics. The central theme of this exhibition, "Hija del sol" (Daughter of the Sun) is peace. What is different about this event is that her studio and exhibition space are one and the same. "It is not an art gallery but an evolutionary laboratory of contemporary art", says Perez.
So when the exhibition opens next Tuesday, as well as the works on show, visitors can watch Iris creating an installation, "Flor de paz" (Flower of Peace), to be completed by 17 December, when it will be presented at a special event. The exhibition will remain open throughout the month of December.
The exhibition is dedicated to a fellow Dominican artist, Sasha de Lemos, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. Iris says: "I wanted to be able to transmit some energy to Sasha so that she could have enough strength to confront her illness. This is why this exhibition reflects the positive attitude that she and anyone in the same situation needs. I visualize myself at her age with all the hope of creating... and having to face a monster like cancer. I don't think I would have the same courage that she has displayed throughout the process".
Proceeds from the sales will go towards supporting the high costs of Sasha's treatment.
The evolutionary laboratory of contemporary art will be open throughout December and people can either go there directly or interact with it online.
A blog has been set up featuring all the works on show and with contact details for the de Lemos family in case anyone wishes to make a direct donation.
Iris Perez says: "The presentation of these works and the development of this experimental process in the laboratory, through this Daughter of the Sun project, is important in that it will be charged with energy, positive thinking and total hope. This is what our world needs so that we can overcome need, disease and all the ills affecting our society".
For more information, see: www.hijadelsoll.blogspot.com

Victor Estrella wins Future F2
Top Dominican tennis player Victor Estrella has won the F2 Futures tournament, the world-class tennis tournament that was staged at the Parque del Este courts. Estrella is ranked 286th in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). F2 Futures 2009 awarded US$10,000 in prize money.
Named the Los Tres Ojos-RD 2009 tournament, the event was part of the International Tennis Federation Men's Circuit. Players from 33 nations in Europe, Africa and the Americas competed for cash prizes.
To win, Estrella defeated Dino Marcan of Croatia (0-6, 6-2, 7-5), then David Canudas-Fernandez of Spain (6-2, 6-2), Alexandre Folie of Belgium (6-2, 6-2), Amir Weintraub of Israel (7-6(5), 6-3) and Adam El Mihdawy of the USA 7-6(4), 6-3.

Baseball roundup
On Friday night the Leones del Escogido defeated the Gigantes del Cibao in a "squeaker", 6-5. Opportune hits by Willy Otanez and good relief pitching were the keys. The cellar-dwelling Estrellas Orientales surprised the co-leader Tigres del Licey, winning by a lopsided 8-1 score for only their 13th victory of the season. The Aguilas and the Toros were traveling and did not play.
On Saturday, the inter-league action between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic continued with Escogido winning another dramatic game with a winning hit by Victor Mendez in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap the come-from-behind win. The Estrellas Orientales did something strange and won their second game in a row, defeating the Aguilas Cibaenas by a score of 12-6. The Estrellas pretty much sealed the game with a 9-run rally in the fourth inning. Over in San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao won another home game, making their park the real "Death Valley" of this year's tournament. They defeated the Tigres del Licey 4-1. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, the Toros del Este (formerly known as the Azucareros) really beat up on the Lobos of Arecibo by the awesome score of 20-1.
In Sunday's action, Licey was able to recover and defeat the Caguas Criollos by a score of 5-2 with help from a rejuvenated (or wiser?) Willy Mo Pena and Willy Aybar. The Leones del Escogido beat up on the Aguilas once again, 12-5 in the Estadio Cibao. Once again the Aguilas lost a lead due to the lack of any really effective pitchers. In San Pedro de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao brought the Estrellas Orientales back to earth, defeating them by a score of 5-1. And over in Puerto Rico, the Toros del Este went to Ponce and defeated the Leones de Ponce by a 3-0 score.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 25 - 15 .625 --
LICEY 23 - 17 .575 2.0
AZUCAREROS 23 - 17 .575 2.0
GIGANTES 20 - 20 .500 5.0
AGUILAS 18 - 22 .450 7.0
ESTRELLAS 14 - 26 .350 11.0
No games scheduled for tonight.
For oncoming game schedules, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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