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Daily News - Friday, 18 December 2009

Leonel starts handouts in Montecristi
President Leonel Fernandez launches his Christmas gift boxes handout program in Montecristi this Sunday. The government says that it will spend more than a billion pesos and will distribute the boxes of food to about one million people, according to El Nuevo Diario. From Montecristi, the President will go to Dajabon and Mao, in Valverde province. On Monday 21 December he will go to the south, starting in Bahoruco and going on to Azua and San Cristobal. On Tuesday 22 December, he will go to Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua) and then on to Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris) and La Vega. Finally, on 23 December he will go into the east of the country where he will visit El Seibo and San Pedro de Macoris. That evening, the President will eat dinner with a poor family in the region.

Tell us how corrupt we are
President Leonel Fernandez has appealed to international agencies to help curtail corruption in his government. A recent Gallup poll showed that Dominicans perceive corruption as on the increase.
As reported by the Presidency, on Thursday President Fernandez met with Valerie Julliand and Mauricio Ramirez of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Roby Senderowitsch of the World Bank, Manuel Labrado of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Spanish Ambassador Diego Bermejo representing the Spanish Cooperation Agency and representatives of the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to discuss their support for increasing levels of administrative transparency in government.
The Presidency wants to make the roles that can guarantee rational and honest use of government resources more efficient, said Marino Vinicio Castillo, president of the National Council of Ethics and Anti-Corruption Initiatives. Castillo is also chief advisor to the government on drug trafficking.
Castillo said that the agencies would work together with the government on drafting a diagnostic study of the situation starting in January and completing the task in 4 to 5 months. He said the goal is to continue working to implement a legal framework by sectors within government.
At the meeting with the President, also representing the Dominican government together with Castillo were Presidency Minister Cesar Pina Toribio, Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas and Presidential Legal Advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe.
Julliand said the effort seeks to identify the levels of corruption and where and why it is present through a diagnostic study that will be carried out with the participation of international financial and cooperation agencies and Dominican government bodies.
As reported in Diario Libre, Castillo said that if irregularities are proven, those responsible would be sent to the National Department for the Prosecution of Corruption. This department has been incapable of combating corruption to date. It has been described as little more than a "filing cabinet" for government corruption cases. Castillo, nevertheless, said that as a result of the joint effort with the international agencies, an observatory would be created to follow up with claims and cases of corruption in government.

Senate fast tracks 2010 budget
The Senate declared the legislation to be of urgent nature and after two consecutive readings approved the proposal for the Budget of Income and Law on Public Spending 2010, for an amount that reached RD$378,997,500,000. The Budget proposal was submitted by the Executive Branch and approved without modifications.
The full Senate accepted the report submitted by the Joint Commission that was headed by Senator Dionis Sanchez, and recommended the approval of the legislation after an agreement was reached between the Minister of Hacienda, Vicente Bengoa, and the governor of the Central Bank, Hector Valdez Albizu, on the resources for the recapitalization of the banking entity. According to the report, after an agreement between the Central Bank governor and the Hacienda Minister, which will assign RD$6 billion to the bank for recapitalization, it was decided to submit a favorable report, without modifications to the proposal by the Executive Branch.
Sanchez also mentioned that the amount for the recapitalization of the Central Bank is not specified in the general dispositions of the Budget as in former years, because a legislative proposal will be submitted to Congress in the next few days that will modify the Central Bank Recapitalization Law as agreed in the Stand-by Arrangement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The bill was approved with the votes of the ruling PLD party, since the opposition PRD abstained. PRD spokesman Roberto Rodriguez read a message with his party's position on the budget at a PRD economic committee press conference. In a separate statement, Senator Jesus Vasquez also questioned the budget legislation.
PLD spokesman Senator Francis Vargas and fellow party members Euclides Sanchez and Prim Pujols answered the PRD attacks, describing them as lacking respect. Vargas defended the policy implemented by the government, pointing out that they have maintained economic stability.
The report on the legislative proposal stresses that the budgetary estimates for 2010 have been worked out taking into consideration the obligations undertaken in last November's Stand-by accord with the IMF. The accord was signed in order to obtain fresh resources and to ease external financing from the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and other international financial organizations.

Senate approves Ombudsman post
A new law will allow Congress to appoint a Public Defender or Ombudsman, according to Hoy newspaper. The new law modifies the law that created the post of Public Defender. The new legislation will make it easier to vote on the designation of the official.
The key point in the modification of Law 19-01 is that in order to approve the designation of a Public Defender or his/her two substitutes or the two assistants, Congress no longer needs a two-thirds vote of the membership but just two-thirds of those present in either the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies. The modifications also include a reduction in the number of assistant Public Defenders, from 5 to 2. The procedure is for the Chamber of Deputies to approve a candidate and then send the case to the Senate for final approval. The initial list of candidates for Public Defender was made up of Zoila Martinez de Medina, Luis Scheker Ortiz and Iraima Capriles.

Consumer Confidence Index improves
In the first government release of this information, quite common in other countries, Dominican consumers showed more confidence in October, halting a yearlong period of negativity. The CCI (Consumer Confidence Index) fell to 68.3 in October, but the outlook for the next 12 months was put at 96.9.
This means that there is hope that the situation will change in their favor, according to the latest report by the Survey on Consumer Confidence that is carried out each semester.
This is the first time that the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development has released these numbers. The survey was conducted by the Research Group AQR - part of the Institute for Research in Applied Economics (IREA) at the University of Barcelona, and Gallup Dominicana did the fieldwork.
Generally speaking, the results of such surveys tend to help government planners draw up strategies aimed at improving the economy. A ministry press release says that, "After re reduction in the levels of consumer confidence from April 2008 to April 2009, due to the influence of the international financial crisis, a notable increase was registered between April and October 2009." In April 2008, the CCI stood at 84.1, and in April 2009 it was at 59.2. However, in October the index improved slightly to 68.3.

More support for the "none" candidate
Support is gathering pace for the proposal by singer Victor Victor, political scientist Rafael Toribio and artistic promoter Cholo Brenes and others who propose including a box where voters could indicate they choose none of the candidates running in the election in the electoral ballot for the congressional and municipal elections. The promoters say this would be a way for the electoral court (JCE) to perfect the voting system and that they would lobby for a bill to be presented to Congress with this modality.
But Julio Castanos Guzman, president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) rejected the proposal. He said the option is not contemplated in the electoral law.
Toyjarto, one of the groups making the proposal, says that the only option for those who oppose candidates that are running for office today have is to abstain from the process. Promoters of the "none" option feel that if the citizen vote for "none" is majority, then new candidates would need to be presented. They argue this would make for more representative and participative democracy, and would encourage better candidates to run for office, as this would eliminate the common decision to vote for "the least bad" candidate.
Homero Figueroa of Diario Libre writes today that "to elect not to elect" is an election. He agrees that those who propose the "none" option seek to improve Dominican democracy. "There is no way of sending a loud enough message to the politicians that they are on the wrong trail. That is why we have a system where the least bad candidate prevails. The competition becomes a struggle between incompetents. If none represent us, then we should be able to vote for 'none'," he writes.
Thursday's Clave newspaper also editorialized in favor of the "none" candidate. Gustavo Olivo Pena writing in the editorial page supports the inclusion of this method and says that the percentage should count. He says that the situation where voters are extorted into supporting "the least bad" candidate would end and legislation could be drafted to invalidate elections when those voting "none" surpass the vote for individual candidates. "None" is the best candidate for 2010 and 2012, he writes.
http://toyjarto.com/2009/12/16/el-voto-por-ninguno-y-sus-implicaciones/

Great price but no crop to sell
International cacao prices have reached a 32-year high, but the Dominican Republic does not have a bean to sell.
The price reached US$3,582 a ton for May delivery. This is the second highest level since October 1977, and is a 20% increase just this year. The president of the National Federation of Cacao Growers (Conacado) Isidoro de la Rosa attributed the lack of any reserve crop for sale to a "lack of economic liquidity".
Cacao is a two-cycle crop with winter and spring harvests. On average, the Dominican harvest totals 50,000 tons. The winter harvest brings in about 10,000 tons and the spring harvest nearly 40,000 tons. However, this year the winter harvest is down, which de la Rosa says might be due to the very large harvest the year before. He added that if "there is no long dry spell in January, the crop will come back."
El Caribe reports that the Ministry of Agriculture's figures are at odds with the federation. According to sources at the ministry, this year's winter harvest is a record crop, especially the part that will be exported. In October, the minister said that the country would close out 2009 with a production of 60,000 tons of cacao.

Arrest warrant for Pelaez confirmed
According to the District Attorney for the National District Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, "We have proof that places Pelaez as a possible front woman for the fugitive Figueroa Agosto".
Moscoso Segarra, told reporters from Hoy newspaper that there was, indeed, an arrest warrant for Mary Pelaez Frappier, and said that he would proceed to obtain coercive measures against the woman in the next few hours. The city's chief prosecutor said that he had all the proof he needed to incriminate Pelaez in money laundering activity that linked her to Puerto Rican fugitive Jose D. Figueroa Agosto.
He added, "We requested the arrest warrant, but this does not mean that we are going to carry it out at this time."

Major crime bust on counterfeiters
The District Attorney says that a major crime ring that forged land and property titles has been broken up and its members placed under arrest.
The ring, which consists of judicial system employees, including an auditor of the Supreme Court of Justice and a colonel in the National Police, is accused of cheating baseball player Julio Lugo out of RD$50 million and other people out of sums totaling tens of millions of pesos with forged property titles, mostly for public lands, located in the country's tourist areas.
The National Police chief himself, Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, took part in the arrests, personally arresting Supreme Court auditor Giovanni Santana. A press conference, held by National District chief prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, was also attended by National Titles Registry director Wilson Gomez Ramirez. The prosecutor reported that they are dealing with a powerful gang that included professional counterfeiters, military personnel and employees of the Property Courts and the Supreme Court.
Edwin Baquero, who was also arrested, has a case pending together with another person for falsifying a title to a plot in the Las Praderas neighborhood and swindling ballplayer Julio Lugo. Also arrested were Walter Lendor and Edwin Sanchez, employees of the Property Jurisdiction department. The Judicial Branch employees involved in the case, who were fired, are accused of providing logistical support to the whole operation. Lawyer Carlos Vasquez Parra was also arrested and the authorities are on the trail of Oliver Fiallo and Henry Melenciano.
The Judicial Branch employees were arrested at their workplaces, while Baquero was apprehended in his residence. The prosecutor says that they have confiscated documents proving Baquero's direct connections with the criminal organization that he led. Vasquez was arrested in his law office. Moscoso Segarra asked the National Police chief to suspend Lieutenant Colonel Luis Emilio Gutierrez, who he is accusing of forming part of the gang.
Property registrar Wilson Gomez said that the network of alleged forgers had altered notaries' signatures, stolen documents and used public information obtained through the Judicial Branch computers for many years. "The crimes that these people committed depended on the active participation of people within the institution," said Gomez. The falsified documents belonged to state entities such as the General Administration of National Assets (Bienes Nacionales), the National Housing Bank (BNV), the Department of Taxes (DGII) and even Presidential decrees.

Roncierto to Columbus Lighthouse
The Brugal-sponsored New Year's bash in Santo Domingo, the Rumconcert, has been relocated from Avenida del Puerto to the gardens fronting the Columbus Lighthouse in eastern Santo Domingo. The organizers are confident that 50,000 to 60,000 people can be accommodated in this larger area. Brugal announced they have plans to take the concert to different cities nationwide.
For the evening, stating at 9pm, the Johnny Ventura, El Jeffrey, Luis Vargas, Los Hermanos Rosario, Tono Rosario and Raulin Rosendo bands will put on a free show for the Dominican public. The production will be televised on Supercanal 33 and Supercanal Caribe for the United States.
For more about Christmas season events nationwide, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Escogido vs Aguilas tonight
There were no ball games last night, as the tournament become a fight between just 3 teams, the Aguilas, the Tigres and the Gigantes, for 2 play-off spots. The Aguilas have reached .500 for the first time this season and are 2 games behind the Tigres and Gigantes who are tied.

Standings
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 28 - 18* .609 --
AZUCAREROS 26 - 20 .561 2.0
GIGANTES 25 - 21 .543 3.0
LICEY 25 - 21 .543 3.0
AGUILAS 23 - 23 .500 5.0
ESTRELLAS** 14 - 32 .304 14.0

*Already classified
** Already Eliminated

Tonight's games and possible starting pitchers:
- Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo, 7:30pm
Aguilas (B. Jukich) vs Escogido (E. Ramirez)
- Estadio Julian Javier, San Francisco de Macoris 7:30pm
Estrellas (J. Matos) vs Gigantes (S. Narron)
- Estadio Francisco Micheli, La Romana, 7:30pm
Licey (J. Sosa) vs Toros (F. Abad)

 
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