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Daily News - Wednesday, 16 December 2009

New ambassadors
President Leonel Fernandez formally received credentials from the new ambassadors of Canada, Panama and the United Kingdom at the Presidential Palace yesterday. The President was accompanied by Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso.
This is Todd Kuiack of Canada's first ambassadorial post. He is a graduate in Physical Geography from York University (1992). He joined the Department of External Affairs and International Trade of Canada that same year. He has also served in Mexico, Chile and Cuba. He has held a number of positions in Ottawa, including director of management services at the Office of Protocol, director of the Area Management Office for the Asia-Pacific Branch, and director of the Visits and Operations Division in the Bilateral Relations Branch. Prior to his appointment in June 2009, he served as senior advisor to the assistant deputy minister of human resources, with responsibility for communications and addressing the issue of spousal employment.
Ambassador Alberto Magno Castillero Pinilla of Panama is a graduate in business administration from Florida State University. He has served as ambassador to the DR on one previous occasion, from 1999-2001. He was also consul general in Hamburg, Germany (1994-1999). According to reports, he will work towards a free trade agreement with the DR, negotiation of a repatriation treaty for Panamanians who have been sentenced to jail in the DR, for the promotion of investments in tourism and strengthening of cooperation in education and sports, especially baseball.
This is Steven Fisher's first ambassadorial appointment. He will represent Great Britain and North Ireland. He was stationed in the Hungarian capital Budapest from 2006 to present, serving as first secretary and later deputy head of mission. Previously he was deputy head of mission in Caracas, Venezuela. He has held diplomatic posts in the Ukraine, Belarus and Singapore. He will also serve as the UK's non-resident ambassador to Haiti.

Imminent relocation for Metro
Progress comes with a price, but the residents of Gualey don't think the price they are getting is fair. The government has asked 200 families in the Gualey slum sector of Santo Domingo near the Sanchez Bridge to relocate, because the lands will be used for the construction of the second line of the Santo Domingo Metro. The families have been offered RD$150,000 for their homes, but they say this won't even buy a small plot of land on the outskirts of the city. Although some families have taken the cash, others have vowed to stay where they are. Community action groups like the Committee for Neighborhood Rights (Copadeba) who are campaigning for the residents, estimate that 500 families will be relocated from the Gualey neighborhood alone.
The government has allotted priority to the construction of the second line of the Santo Domingo metro in the 2010 budget.

Santiago needs its highway
The president of the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago is urging the government to complete the Avenida Circunvalacion Norte, the bypass that will enable travelers to the north to avoid driving through the city center. Oliverio Espaillat called for the government to be fairer in its investments in Santiago. He says that the 24km bypass is estimated to cost RD$4 billion. He said that Santiago generates 16% of the Gross Domestic Product but receives less than 2% of the public infrastructure works carried out nationwide.
He said that several major works in the recent past have been carried out by the private sector. He mentioned the Santiago international airport, its hospital and its cultural center (Centro Leon).

Prizes for Martha Heredia
In an interview with Chevere Nights producer Milagros German, the Dominican Republic's first Latin American Idol, Martha Heredia admitted that she had fallen in love with Colombian participant Osvaldo Conde during the reality show in Argentina. Previously an unknown amateur singer from Santiago, Heredia was given a heroine's welcome for her perseverance and success in the contest. She received a laptop, a Blackberry, international health insurance with 2 years US$1 million coverage, an offer of scholarship at the DR university of her choice from the Ministry of Youth, along with other gifts. She will perform on Friday 18 at the Santiago Monument and on Sunday 20 December at the Palacio de los Deportes in Santo Domingo. She is scheduled to return to Argentina in January to record her first production.

Informal sector strong
Of the 608,000 jobs created over the last 8 years, close to 80% have been generated by the country's informal business sector. These figures from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reveal a worrisome trend for the Dominican economy.
While the nation's GDP was multiplied by 2.55 in this period, the number of jobs only multiplied by 1.58.
Business sector representative Marisol Vicens has repeatedly expressed concern that the high cost of benefits attached to formal sector jobs is a deterrent to job creation. She estimates that for every RD$1 in wages, formal sector employers need to come up with RD$0.65 in benefits. Vicens has argued that the high cost of benefits makes the DR lag in competitiveness compared to regional competitors in Central America.
According to the UNDP statistics, at the end of 2007 the number of economically active Dominicans was 4.2 million, but by 2008 the total had gone up to 7.6 million. The number of women in the workforce increased 2.9% from 2000 to 2007, and there are more women bosses. This is attributed to a higher female-male ratio among university graduates.
Unemployment has remained at the same level. It was recorded at 13.9% in 2000 and then still at 14% at the close of 2008. But the number of unemployed increased by an average of 23,000 per year, compared to the 72,000 who find employment each year.
Unemployment in the DR tends to affect women more than men, with 64% of those unemployed being women. Education is also a factor in unemployment. 36% of the unemployed have a basic education and 38% of those unemployed have a grade school education. Workers with secondary education have an unemployment rate of 15% while only 24% of college graduates are unemployed. Geographically speaking, 77% of the unemployed live in urban areas, while 23% live in rural areas, as reported in Hoy.

Sanchez Baret leaves PRD
Former PRD president Vicente Sanchez Baret has left the PRD party together with other members of his family, after a crushing loss during the PRD convention last Sunday. Sanchez was campaigning for the PRD senatorial ticket for the province of Sanchez Ramirez. Sanchez Baret accused current PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado of monopolizing the party, adding that he planned to move on to an undisclosed party in the future.
Early estimates have Sanchez with only 33.45% of the vote, and losing to Bienvenido Lazala who obtained 66.55% of the vote. Angered at the outcome, Sanchez is quoted as saying, "the word transparency no longer exists in the PRD."

Pelaez denies drug links
Mary Pelaez Frappier is denying that she has ties to drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto. In a press conference, the lawyer for the daughter of murdered Dominican comedian Milton Pelaez complained that National District prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso acted in response to a recent court decision that returned a property in Arroyo Hondo, which is being linked to fugitive drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto. The lawyer said that the prosecutor should have taken the case to the Court of Appeals and not to the press. Pelaez says that an apartment in Cabarete belongs to the Pelaez family and not to her personally, as reported in the Listin Diario.
Figueroa is a fugitive from justice for drug trafficking and money laundering charges. The National District prosecutor has accused Mary Pelaez of being a front for Figueroa Agosto.
In an interview in El Caribe, Mary Pelaez said that the house in Arroyo Hondo was never occupied. She did admit however that she knew Figueroa Agosto. She said that Figueroa frequented nightclubs and restaurants, but that she never engaged in a commercial transaction with him "and no one can prove that I received a peso from him." She also confirmed knowing Sobeida Felix's ex-husband Eddy Brito. She said they both worked together at the Vimenca remittance company until he moved on to manage an exchange house in Gaspar Hernandez. She said that based on that work relationship, in April this year she purchased the Arroyo Hondo home from Eddy Brito for more than RD$10 million. The home is located at Calle Transversal No. 16. The District prosecutor confiscated the house on 16 September.
She said the house did not have any legal issues when she made the purchase, as reported in El Caribe. She said that the apartment in Cabarete is a family property.

DNCD cleans up
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) cleaned house yesterday at the Punta Cana Airport, arresting 32 people, suspected of being involved in the trafficking of 58 packets of cocaine. The crew of a small plane that transported the drugs, as well as two passengers were among those arrested. Police say they confiscated two suitcases carrying drugs, but that 5 other suitcases known to have been on the flight had gone missing.
The flight came in from Venezuela. Diario Libre reports that military officials are among those arrested, as well as other employees from several institutions. DNCD spokesman Robert Lebron said that there must have been well-placed accomplices because of the ease with which the passengers and crew had brought the drugs into the DR.

First anniversary for missing plane
One year ago a flight that departed from the Cibao International Airport disappeared, possibly taking the lives of 11 passengers on board, as reported in Listin Diario. The passengers reportedly sought to travel to the United States via Mayaguana in the Bahamas. The pilot, Adrian Jimenez had filed a flight plan for a landing in the Turks & Caicos but the authorities there say they have no record of his arrival.
The DR authorities have not released their conclusions about what really happened. Family members of the disappeared passengers have expressed concern about the lack of information. The plane was headed for the Bahamas when it disappeared from radar.
Pedro Dominguez, president of the Dominican Pilots Association, called on the authorities to locate the airplane or explain what happened. Dominguez said that it was important to release the conclusions of the investigations carried out by the commission appointed by the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation (IDAC) because everything is now in limbo. He said that it is counterproductive for the same IDAC commission in charge of clearing up the uncertainties to be the same one in charge of investigating the case. Dominguez said that the pilot was allowed to pilot a commercial flight using a license cancelled by IDAC on 20 October 2006.

Martinez sentenced in NY
Former New York City councilman Miguel Martinez has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for the misuse of public funds while in office.
The 39-year old Martinez was charged on 16 July for his crimes, which included using funds that were meant for a non-profit organization. Martinez was the representative for the 10th district in New York, which included the Dominican neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood. For more information, see:

Fernando Urena Rib at Bellas Artes
Fernando Urena Rib, one of the leading Dominican contemporary artists, is holding an exhibition of his works at the art gallery of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The exhibition will be open through 7 January. Urena Rib's oil paintings and bronze sculptures are impressive in their use of color and vibrant forms.
For more on ongoing and upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

The baseball scores
Although the season is not over, we are assured of at least one thing: Once again the Estrellas will dominate the cellar of the Dominican baseball standings. However, the Escogido, who have been in a championship drought are playing steady ball and do have a legitimate shot at a post-season berth, or more. The Escogido and Toros are holding on to the first two spots in the standings with the Tigres and Gigantes rounding out the top four. In yesterday's match-ups the Aguilas took it out on the Leones, with a 5-2 score. The Gigantes squeezed out a 5-4 win from the Estrellas while the Toros beat up on Licey 6-3.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 27 - 18 .600 --
AZUCAREROS 26 - 19 .578 1.0
LICEY 25 - 20 .556 2.0
GIGANTES 24 - 21 .533 3.0
AGUILAS 22 - 23 .489 5.0
ESTRELLAS 14 - 31 .311 13.0
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