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Daily News - Monday, 14 December 2009

Haiti signs EPA
Haiti has signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and joins the 14 Caribbean States that signed the EPA in October 2008. This will strengthen Haiti's ties both with the EU, and with other Caribbean countries. The Cariforum-EU EPA is North-South trade and development agreement of new generation. It aims to promote sustainable development, boost trade, investment and innovation, help build a regional market among Caribbean countries, and tackle poverty in the region.
European Trade Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "The Cariforum - EU Agreement marks a new era in the economic relations between the two regions. I am very happy that Haiti's specific needs could be accommodated, enabling it to join the other 14 Caribbean countries and the EU in their endeavor of creating a prosperous future for the region through increased trade and investment."
Commissioner for Development De Gucht added: "Haiti's decision to join all its Cariforum partners in this agreement is truly significant as it offers a real opportunity to boost the nation's trade at this critical time of global economic downturn."
The only Least Developed Country (LDC) in the Western hemisphere, Haiti has recently been grappling with a range of pressing problems. These include hurricane damage, security issues and a food crisis. So it did not join signing the EPA last year.
However, the EU pledged to work with the Haitian government and other Caribbean partners to enable Haiti to sign up at a later date. Haiti proposed adjusting some of its commitments on tariffs and the EU accepted such request, in the light of its specific needs as a LDC.

Zelaya and Lobo to visit?
Saturday's newspapers were full of praise for Dominican President Leonel Fernandez's diplomatic prowess and the effect that his efforts could have on breaking the political impasse in Honduras. However, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya told reporters late Saturday night that he did not have any plans to open any dialogue with the recently elected Porfirio Lobo (Pepe) even if mediated by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.
Zelaya, who is holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, has not accepted the safe conduct terms offered by the Micheletti regime. Micheletti said that he would allow safe conduct to be given to Zelaya on the condition that Zelaya leave the country as a political exile.
Zelaya said that while he appreciated the Dominican President's efforts to find a solution to the Honduran crisis, he refused to leave his country as an exile.
A spokesperson for Lobo told reporters in Honduras that he did not have any plans to travel to the Dominican Republic over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Fernandez said that Zelaya and Lobo would be visiting the Dominican Republic this weekend and that he would hold separate meetings with both men before a meeting between all three, in an effort to establish a dialogue that could lead to a solution.
The Dominican government said that the political dialogue between Zelaya and Lobo has been backed by several countries in the region. Fernandez has spoken to a number of regional leaders with the aim of finding a viable way out for everyone, so that Honduras can reconcile its differences and go on working for the progress of all its citizens.

Proconsumidor fines traders
The National Consumer Rights Protection Institute (Proconsumidor) reported yesterday that PriceSmart Dominicana, Inversiones Manuel Cabrera, the Technohelp Company and three other businesses have been convicted of selling defective articles and services, as well as overvalued phone cards. Proconsumidor executive director Altagracia Paulino said that the businesses would pay RD$395,000, the equivalent of 67 minimum salaries and compensation to the clients.
PriceSmart Dominicana was sentenced to pay 20 minimum salaries, as was Manuel Cabrera, and Technohelp had to pay RD$15,000, or three minimum salaries. Justice Department representative Yvelia Batista reported that her department has not lost a single case, and this should bolster consumer confidence to come forward with their complaints and file them at the local prosecutor's office or at Proconsumidor.

Insisting on quality of debt
Economists Pavel Isa and Francisco Checo have criticized the government's insistence on using the percentage of foreign debt as an indicator of public debt for the Gross Domestic Product, saying it does not allow for determining the quality of the borrowing. The economists speculate that the government insists on doing this because it allows the government to reduce the real magnitude of the payment obligations. Isa told Listin Diario that the servicing of the internal debt should be measured in regard to tax collections, and the foreign debt needs to be analyzed in regard to the foreign exchange generated by the country during the year.
Economist Checo said that taking on debt can be advantageous if the resources are rationally invested. He said the problem is when governments use the funds for projects that do not contribute to real development.
Listin Diario reports that from 2004 to date the government has allocated RD$323,854 million to debt payment, of which RD$119,659 million has gone toward interest payments. This compares to the servicing of the debt from 1998 to 2003, when the government destined RD$57,921 billion, of which RD$19,013 million went to interest payments. The newspaper makes the point that the servicing of the debt from 2004-2009 grew 459%, equivalent to RD$265,932 million.
In a recent speech in Santiago, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu said that as of September 2009 the debt was at US$11.4 billion.

Eight still have to sign Constitution
This Monday the process of signing the new Constitution is expected to come to a close. Eight signatures still missing: two senators and six deputies. These include Senator Jesus Vasquez Martinez (Chu) who was out of the country until Sunday, and who said he would sign on Monday morning. The process of signing the Constitution approved by the National Revisory Assembly began last Monday in a ceremony that was headed by the president and vice-president of the Assembly, Reinaldo Pared Perez and Julio Cesar Valentin, and the other members of the directorate.
The National Revisory Assembly carried out the revision and expansion of the Constitution of the Republic. It took the assembly 58 sessions and numerous commissions to study the new document over a seven-month period. The new Constitution will be proclaimed on 26 January, in a solemn ceremony led by President Fernandez and to which civil and military officials, members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the country and leading figures have been invited.

Police chief elected by his peers
The members of the Commission of Chiefs and directors of the Police in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean have elected Dominican Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin as their president. This is the first time a Dominican has been elected in the 19 years of the organization. According to a press release, Major General Guzman will lead the regional body for the next 12 months. The entity seeks to strengthen the force and create a super-police regional force able to combat drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime.
Major General Guzman Fermin's election took place during the closure of the 17th Ordinary Meeting of the Commission of Chiefs and directors of the Police of Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean that took place at the Hotel Hamaca in Boca Chica. Also sworn in were Erick Lacayo Rojas, director of the public force in Costa Rica, and General Rudy Almanzar Medina, director of human resources of the Dominican police as vice president and regional secretary respectively.

Cedula deadline expires Wednesday
If you plan to vote in next May's elections, you must ensure you are registered. This Wednesday at 12 midnight is the deadline for 'cedula' renewal in order to be able to vote in the May elections.
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber says that the Civil Registry offices, the Cedula Centers and the Service Centers will work extra hours today, Monday, tomorrow Tuesday and Wednesday 16 December. Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said that this measure fulfils Resolution 13-2009 made by the JCE on 16 September of 2009 that set the deadline for the registration of citizens on the voting rolls for the upcoming elections.
He said that the services include new registrations, changes of information that does not involve a change of residence and renewal of identity documents and former voter registration cards (Blue Cedulas).

Evictions for Metro 2A
According to press releases and statements made last week, the Metro 2A line between Los Alcarrizos and Maximo Gomez Avenue would not affect many people or businesses located between Los Alcarrizos and Luperon Avenue.
However, Victor Geronimo, one of the leaders of the Alternative Social Forum, is reporting today that 1,000 families are likely to be displaced by the new transport system. In a statement today he said that families in the Los Guandules barrio had each been offered the paltry sum of just RD$150,000 to move out.
He said, "We have a semi-dictatorial setting that little by little is heading for a state of destruction, and the imposition that takes in the reorganization of all of the powerful sectors, of the oligarchy, to distribute the nation's assets like a giant cake." Geronimo said that the best example of this was the attempt by one business group to appropriate land near the Los Haitises (National Park) and the renewal of the contract with Barrick Gold, both of which were damaging to the nation's best interests.

A call for a budget for "Mipymes"
The National Traders and Business Federation (Fenacerd) is asking the government to fulfill Law 488-08 on micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, known as "Mipymes", assigning the budget as required by law. The Mipymes Law establishes that no less than 0.4% of the total government budget needs to be allocated to this sector. The federation believes that the government is sending a negative message to the public when it should be promoting solutions. He reminded the authorities that small businesses generate a large percentage of the nation's GDP.
Fenacerd president Ricardo Rosario, who gave an interview to Hoy newspaper together with other members of the federation's board of directors, said that this year some RD$1.5 billion was distributed in the sector, but this was not enough.
Rosario stressed that Promipyme, the government agency that supports the sector, needs more funding to provide more financing to small businesses. The federation vice-president, Manuel Ortiz, said that when it comes to funding for the public institutions that deal with the micro-, small and medium business sector, there should be a chapter set aside for training, guidance and preparation in order to compete in the global marketplace.

Surgeons on unregistered doctors
The Dominican College of Surgeons (CDC) has notified the Ministry of Public Health as well as the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) and clinics about verified irregularities committed by local and foreign doctors in a range of medical fields. The CDC said that some doctors present themselves as specialists in a particular field without having fulfilled the required residences.
The directors pointed out that foreign medical specialists also come to the country and begin working as specialists, without fulfilling the requisites or validating their medical degrees at a Dominican university, which they would not dare to do in other countries.
The surgeons believe that foreign doctors who come to the country should be under a particular obligation to perform medical internships, because they need to learn about national idiosyncrasies, local commercial names of medicines and the quirks of the Dominican health system.

US$50 million in assets confiscated
Dominican authorities at the Prosecutor General Office's Asset Laundering Department are working in close cooperation with Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon in the case of a Spanish fugitive who is accused of laundering more than RD$1.7 billion (approximately US$50 million) in three tourism projects in the east of the DR.
Listin Diario learned that Spaniard Ricardo Diez Conde, who used two false identities in the DR (including Ruben Ramos) fled once he heard the authorities were on his trail. Diez is being sought in Spain for cocaine trafficking. His main business partner is in jail in Spain. The Spanish authorities have requested the confiscation of assets purchased by Diez in the DR. The source told Listin Diario that one of the problems is that Diez Conde sold more than 60% of the tourist projects to third parties who purchased in good faith. The projects and assets, located in La Altagracia and La Romana provinces, include an exchange house, real estate business and a small airplane at La Isabela Airport in Santo Domingo. The assets are estimated at more than US$50 million. Reportedly, Diez had a forged Dominican ID card and another Nicaraguan ID card.
German Miranda Villalona, who handled the case for the Dominican authorities, said that they have not quantified Diez Conde's assets. He said that Diez left the country using a Venezuelan identity. Quoted in Hoy, Miranda said: "We need to establish greater controls on foreigners, regardless of the amount of money they bring in. Our institutions must be respected".

Drug shipment confiscated in Azua
A total of 103 packages of cocaine have been confiscated in southwestern Azua and sent to the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) headquarters in Santo Domingo. The cocaine was intended for transport to Santo Domingo. No one was arrested, according to DNCD press officer Roberto Lebron. Azua Mayor Fiordaliza Acevedo Portalatin headed the operation, following up leads, as reported in Listin Diario.

Martha Heredia show on 18 December
The Dominican winner of the Latin American Idol reality show will be performing for Dominican audiences on Friday, 18 December in Santiago at the Monumento de Santiago and on Sunday, 20 December at Santo Domingo's Palacio de los Deportes.
Both free concerts will be transmitted live on Channel 11. Heredia returns to the country on a Copa flight arriving at Las Americas International Airport at 1:30pm today, where she will receive a heroine's welcome. Shortly after her arrival she will be welcomed by President Leonel Fernandez and Santo Domingo Mayor Roberto Salcedo. On Tuesday, Santiago Mayor Jose Enrique Sued will do the honors. On Wednesday, she is scheduled to sing three songs at the traditional Christmas dinner at the National Palace.
Her new manager is Cesarito, son of promoter Cesar Suarez. For the next 5 years she will be a Sony Music artist. In the DR her performances will be coordinated by Producciones CSJ and Cesar Suarez Producciones.

Tribute to Elton John
The Hard Rock Cafe in Santo Domingo presents a benefit concert, "Tribute to Elton John" on Tuesday, 15 December. Guest musicians are Maine Band Yellow Brick Road. The event is being held to raise funds for the Nido para Angeles Foundation that is dedicated to children with cerebral palsy. Tickets: RD$1,000 at the door. Calle El Conde, in front of the Columbus Park, Colonial City.
For more on upcoming events nationwide, see www.dr1.com/calendar

Baseball roundup
On Friday night, the Leones del Escogido came within one game of assuring their pass into the round-robin stage of this year's tournament. They defeated the Estrellas Orientales 7-1.
In Santo Domingo, the Aguilas Cibaenas, struggling to even make the playoffs, defeated the Tigres del Licey, 4-2 in the venerable Estadio Quisqueya. Going into the eighth inning the game was tied at 1-1, but a 3-run rally gave the visitors the victory. However, they are still 2 games out of the playoffs.
In the new "Death Valley" the Gigantes del Cibao got 6 good innings of pitching from Jose Capellan and took a 5-1 victory from the visiting Toros del Este. The victory kept the Gigantes 2 games ahead of the Aguilas for the last playoff spot
No games were played on Saturday or Sunday and none are scheduled for tonight.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 27 - 17 .614 --
LICEY 25 - 19 .568 2.0
AZUCAREROS 25 - 189/td> .568 2.0
GIGANTES 22 - 21 .512 4.0
AGUILAS 21 - 23 .477 6.0
ESTRELLAS 14 - 30 .318 13.0
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