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Daily News - Monday, 16 April 2012

President Leonel Fernandez returns
President Leonel Fernandez returned to Santo Domingo on Sunday, 15 April after attending the 66th United Nations General Assembly in New York and the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Fernandez had been abroad since Tuesday, 10 April on his 60th foreign trip in almost eight years in government.

According to the Presidency, at the UN Leonel Fernandez proposed the creation of a permanent study group to analyze factors behind the volatility of food and petroleum prices on world markets. In Colombia he proposed the creation of a special fund to finance micro, small and medium-sized companies to fight poverty and social inequality in Latin America.

Fernandez visits hi-tech firms in Florida
On his way to the 6th Summit of the Americas in Colombia, President Leonel Fernandez made a stop in Port St. Lucie in Florida where he took time to visit biotech industries and a hi-tech film corporation.

As reported in the Florida press, the President visited the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies and the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of the Oregon Health and Science University, in Port St. Lucie. During the visit, Fernandez and representatives of Torrey Pines, VGTI and Martin Memorial Health Systems signed a memorandum of understanding for collaborative efforts in the Dominican Republic on behalf of Funglode, the President's think tank and university.

As reported, the President was reciprocating the visit last year of 14 South Florida business and government leaders, including Larry Pelton, president of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County (Research Coast). The President listened to descriptions from nine Research Coast representatives of government, business and academia, who explained how public-private partnerships had led to the development of Port St. Lucie's technology and life sciences hub.

In Port St. Lucie, he also visited Digital Domain Media, a visual effects and animation company. At the foundation of DDMG is Digital Domain Productions, the many times Academy Award-winning digital production company that is behind innovative visuals in more than 80 major motion pictures (including The Titanic) and hundreds of commercials. The DR is implementing a new cinema law.


Ride the metro to the book fair
Leonel Carrasco, the deputy director of OPRET, the office in charge of the Metro, estimates that about half a million people will take the second line of the metro to the 15th Santo Domingo Book Fair that opens Wednesday, 18 April. He announced that four stations of the second line would be open for free travel on the rapid transit system for the duration of the fair (18 April to 6 May).

Passengers using the Duarte-JF Kennedy line will be able to transfer to the Maximo Gomez line at the Olympic Center for entering the book fair grounds. The second line of the Santo Domingo Metro runs from east to west. The first was primarily a north-south connection.

Carrasco says that four stations of the planned 14 stations of the 24km line will be used. The first six of 45 metro cars for the line arrived just last week. Carrasco said the Alstom-brand three car trainsets cost EUR78 million.

The boarding stations are at Km. 9 of Duarte Highway (Maria Montez), Ave Winston Churchill (Pedro Mir), for transfer at the Olympic Center (Juan Pablo Duarte) to the first line that travels below Maximo Gomez Ave to exit at the National Theater and enter the fair grounds. Also from the east at Josefa Brea (at the extreme of Francisco del Rosario Sanchez n Puente de la 17 - Bridge) at the Padre Castellanos intersection, and La Normal for transfer to the same first line at the Olympic Center station.

The schedule will be Wednesday 18 April from 6pm to 9pm, and then on the remaining days from 9 to 11am and from 3pm to 9pm. The test will be from 18 April to 6 May, the days of the fair.

The first line was inaugurated on 30 January 2009. The second line is expected to be in operation by the end of the year.

Carrasco also announced that the first 50 minibuses for feeder routes with capacity for 35 passengers have been imported and will soon be in operation in Sabana Perdida, La Victoria, Los Guaricanos and Punta in Villa Mella.

Duarte highway overpass opens today
The Ministry of Public Works informs commuters of a detour along Duarte Highway this afternoon, Monday, 16 April, from 5 to 7pm for the inauguration of the overpass at the highway with Av. Monumental. Drivers using the Duarte Highway are advised to take the Prolongacion Av. 27 de Febrero route, or the old Carretera Duarte Vieja route, entering near Carrefour. Travelers heading north on Av. Monumental will need to detour to take the Carretera Duarte Vieja.

Money in circulation
El Caribe reports that 69.77% of all bills in the Dominican Republic are in 2,000 and 1,000 denominations. Of these, 41% are 2,000 peso bills, up from 38% in 2010 and 35% in 2006. Nevertheless, El Caribe reports that the high denominations are not welcome in many businesses that often do not have change. RD$100 bills barely make up 5.3% of money in circulation, which explains the lack of small bills.

According to the Central Bank's third quarter statistical bulletin, as of 30 September there was RD$63,579 million in circulation, of which RD$26,140.2 million were two thousand peso bills. The report does not give the breakdown for RD$500 and RD$1,000 bills.

The breakdown of money in circulation as of 30 September 2011, as reported in El Caribe is:

RD$5: RD$606.8 million
RD$10 coin: RD$684.5 million
RD$20 bill: RD$351.2 million
RD$25 coin: RD$958 million
RD$50 bill: RD$937.4 million
RD$100 bill: RD$3,379.3 million
RD$200 bill: RD$1,418 million
RD$2,000 bill: RD$26,140.2 million



Focus on Haiti and the DR election
What the two presidential candidates have to offer voters in the Dominican Republic has been eclipsed by the focus on present and past corruption, now being linked to Haiti. News media report how the focus has now shifted to two notorious characters: Pedro Julio (Pepe) Goico, close aide to former President Hipolito Mejia, and senator Felix Bautista, a close aide to President Leonel Fernandez.

PRD presidential candidate Hipolito Mejia described the recent revelation of an alleged plot to overthrow the Haitian government based on "evidence" of a taped phone call between Goico and Haitian businessman, Pierre Kanzki as "a smokescreen". Mejia says the announcement of the plot was made to counteract earlier evidence of widespread corruption in the Fernandez administration. The First Lady, Margarita Cedeno is running as vice president on the PLD ticket, creating stronger links of Medina's bid to the Presidency to the present administration.

"Do you think that a single person without being in power and without the intention can overthrow a government? That is a smokescreen to topple the media interest in Felix Bautista and the decline of the candidacy of Danilo and Margarita," he said, speaking at the PUCMM University in the presence of Rector Agripino Nunez Collado. Mejia said that his candidacy leads Danilo Medina by 12 points, as reported in Listin Diario.

Recently, TV journalist Nuria Piera broadcast evidence of alleged irregular operations and trafficking of influence by PLD senator Felix Bautista with contracts in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Panama. Bautista is the PLD party organizational secretary, and a leading director of the PLD presidential campaign. The evidence has coincided with attempts by the PRD presidential campaign to portray PLD candidate Danilo Medina as a continuation of the present corruption in government. To watch the TV show, see nuria.com.do

Francisco Alvarez of civic watchdog group Participacion Ciudadana said that the announcement was premature, and should have been preceded by judicial investigations that have not yet taken place.

Nevertheless, in Haiti, over the weekend, Justice Minister Michel Brunache reported that the country justice system had launched an investigation into an alleged plot organized by a Dominican ex-colonel in collaboration with a Haitian citizen to destabilize President Michel Martelly's government. In March, Martelly had traveled to Santo Domingo where he was decorated by President Fernandez with the highest government rank.

The plan was denounced last week by Dominican Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Haitian Minister of Justice Michel Brunache and Dominican Attorney General Radhames Jimenez, who attributed the plot to former colonel Pedro Julio (Pepe) Goico, the controversial security chief when Mejia was President and Kanzki.

Kanzki has been described as an export and import businessman who befriended Goico in sports car and motorcycle circles. Goico heads "Los 300", a bike club that is reported to organize frequent bike rides to Haiti.

Goico has not issued a statement in response to the allegations, but Kanzki denies them, saying he campaigned for Martelly and explains his relationship with Goico. In a statement published in Haiti Libre, Kanzski replies: "It happens that in parallel, having resided in the Dominican Republic for over 10 years, I developed a special relationship with various sectors of the Dominican Republic including Retired General Pedro Julio Goico (aka Pepe Goico).

"Pepe like me is an avid fan of motorcycles and since then, we have friendly relations on a regular basis and informal phone conversations.

"It is obvious that these fanciful accusations are much more related to internal issues related to the upcoming Presidential election in Dominican Republic dominated today by an overheated campaign between candidates of the PRD (Hippolito Mejia) and of PLD (Danilo Medina) scheduled to take place next May 20. I reject all the unjust accusations brought against me especially that of plotting against the security of the Haitian state.

"I'll put myself at the disposal of the justice of my country to shed light on this nebulous affair."



Presidente to partner with AmBev
E Leon Jimenes (ELJ) announced a strategic alliance with AmBev, the Brazilian subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world's largest brewer. AmBev produces Brahma and Pepsi-cola and Seven Up in the Dominican Republic. CND will continue to operate under its name, with Franklin Leon as President and Alexandre Medicis as CEO.

"This strategic alliance with ELJ is a key step towards our dream of becoming the leading player in the Caribbean and Central America," Alexandre Medicis, AmBev's vice-president for Hispanic Latin America, said in the statement.

Diario Libre in its morning issue had reported that AmBev would be the winner of a bidder's war between Heineken and AmBev and cited negotiations for US$3.5 billion for the stock. This is the largest buyout in the Dominican Republic ever.

In his official statement, Jose A. Leon, Chairman of ELJ's board of directors: "After thorough consideration and analysis, we have found Ambev to be the ideal partner to enhance CND's international growth in a fast-changing beverages industry".

Upon closing of the transaction, Ambev Brasil Bebidas S.A. ("Ambev Brasil") and ELJ will be the shareholders of Tenedora CND S.A., a holding company which will own 83.5% of the shares of CND, previously held by ELJ, and 100% of Ambev Dominicana S.A. ("Ambev Dominicana"), with Ambev Brasil owning an initial indirect 41.76% interest in CND.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2012.

Ambev announced it would make a cash payment of US$1 billion and the contribution of Ambev Dominicana for the initial indirect interest in CND.

The company reported that the combined entities would have had net revenues of approximately US$570 million in 2011 and are expected to have an estimated combined EBITDA for the first 12 months of operations of approximately US$190 million, which implies an EV/EBITDA multiple of approximately 13x. The transaction is also expected to be EPS accretive in the first year of operations and will not be subject to article 256 of Law No. 6,404/76 because ELJ's stake in the holding company will be acquired by Ambev Brasil.

Separately, Ambev Brasil will acquire an additional stake in CND of 9.3%, which is currently owned by Heineken N.V. ("Heineken"), for U.S.$237 million at the closing date, at which point Ambev will own a total indirect interest of approximately 51% in CND.

As disclosed in the official announcement, Deutsche Bank and Lazard acted as financial advisors to Ambev, and ELJ was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Pellerano & Herrera were legal counsel to Ambev, and Sidley Austin LLP, Pereyra & Asociados and Federico C. Alvarez advised ELJ.

CND produces and distributes several brands of beer and malt. Since 1929, the company has distinguished itself for its top quality products. Its beer portfolio includes Presidente, Presidente Light, Bohemia, Bohemia Light, The One, Hairoun, Kubuli, Wadadli, Brisa, Corona, Miller and Miller 64. The malt unit includes the brands Lowenbrau, Malta Morena and Vita Malt plus. The company also distributes locally Barcelo Rum. CND has plants in Santo Domingo, Dominica and Saint Vincent.

Trinidadian company sells its assets in KFC
Trinidad & Tobago company Prestige Holdings Ltd plans to dispose of its loss-making assets in the Dominican Republic. The company announced that on 10 April 2012 it entered into a stock purchase agreement with its joint venture partner, Montlac Corporation, C. por A., a Dominican company, for the sale of the 50% of the shareholding and ownership interest in the Kentucky Food Group Ltd from Prestige. The company will leave the Dominican Republic market, where it had operated since 2000. Joseph Esau, chairman of the company made the announcement that it is relinquishing participation in 12 Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) stores and two TGI Friday shops as of 30 April 2012. Prestige operates 65 KFC, Pizza Hut and TGI Friday's restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago as well as 40 Subway restaurants.



A parent's worst nightmare happens in Santiago
A three-year old girl died last week after her time-pressed architect-father forgot her in the car when he went to work. The girl was sleeping in the car when her father took her to day school. News reports carried the tragic story of Juan Carlos Rodriguez who forgot his daughter Montserrat Rodriguez Arvelo in the car and she suffocated. As reported in Listin Diario, prosecutors consider this to be a case of serious negligence and will call for serious charges so the tragedy is turned into an example.

Cases of cholera reported in Santiago
Santiago public hospitals are reporting cases of severe diarrhea, with 40 confirmed cases of cholera. Over the weekend, 28 people were hospitalized in the province. The outbreak caught doctors at the Tamboril hospital by surprise, and some patients were being hydrated while seated, as all beds were occupied. The epidemiologist at the center, Felix Martinez says that the areas where the cases have been reported are El Arenazo, Canca La Piedra, Los Polanco, Nigua, Centro de Tamboril and Villa Progreso, where brigades have been sent to give advice and guidance to residents in order to prevent further cases. At a private hospital, Union Medica, Dr. Daniel Rivera said that cases had come from Tamboril. He called on the authorities to launch a thorough prevention program to prevent the disease from spreading. The outbreak has coincided with the recent heavy rains in Santiago.

More Haitians found in capsizing of boat
The bodies of three people, presumed to be Haitians who purchased illegal passage on a small boat to Puerto Rico leaving from La Vacama on the eastern coast of the DR were recovered over the weekend. They were identified as the women Julliet Jean, 31, Yina Polviser, 28, and a third unidentified man. The Navy and the Civil Defense forces took part in the operation. The bodies were taken to the morgue at the public hospital in Higuey. Survivors of the boat that had at least 40 passengers on board, say that six are still missing. The boat capsized off Playa Punta de Coco.

The Navy is denying that it had capsized, saying it was part of a Navy effort to stop a boat trip to Puerto Rico.

Spanish soldier caught drug trafficking
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has announced the arrest of a member of the Ejercito de Tierra, the land forces of the Spanish army, who had taped what is presumed to be cocaine to her calves. Angela Maria Baio Caldera was arrested at Las Americas International Airport for attempting to travel with suspected 1.63 kilos of cocaine. The suspected drugs were identified by the DNCD and the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA). Baio Caldera was planning to board an Air Europa flight to Madrid.

DR moves up in the FIFA football ranking
The Dominican Republic has moved up to 135th place in the world, one above Cuba (136) and 3 above Puerto Rico (138). As of 11 April 2012, The DR is ranked 17th of 35 in the North, Central American and Caribbean (Concacaf) group in which it competes.

The Concacaf ranking as of 11 April 2012 is:

20 Mexico
29 USA
49 El Salvador
52 Panama
56 Jamaica
59 Costa Rica
61 Honduras
72 Haiti
75 Canada
82 Guatemala
83 Trinidad & Tobago
99 Guyana
100 Antigua and Barbuda
108 Bermuda
111 St Kitts and Nevis
135 Dominican Republic
136 Cuba
138 Puerto Rico
140 Belize
144 Grenada
146 Nicaragua
147 St. Vincent & Grenadines
159 Curacao
161 Bahamas
167 Aruba
171 Barbados
176 Dominica
183 US Virgin Islands
185 Cayman Islands
188 St Lucia
199 British Virgin Islands
200 Anguilla
205 Montserrat
205 Turks & Caicos Islands

Celebrating International Jazz Day
Jazz in Dominicana, the Dominican National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Culture, the US Embassy, Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino have planned two major concerts to commemorate International Jazz Day on 30 April. The first concert will take place on Friday, 27 April, with Sandy Gabriel and the Puerto Plata Jazz Ensemble at 6:30pm at the Sunset Jazz Lounge (La Azotea) of the Dominican Fiesta Hotel in Santo Domingo. The second is by the O M Trio (Oscar Micheli, Vlade Guigny and Esar Simo) at the same venue, on Friday, 4 May, at the same time. Reservations needed. Tel. 809 562-8222.

See sunsetjazz.com.do

April is Dance Month
The Ministry of Culture is sponsoring the Month of Dance in the Dominican Republic in April. The program includes the First Festival of Dance (from 16 April to 20 April), with the Clara Elena Ramirez Dance School at the Teatro Monina Sola of the Centro Cultural Narciso Gonzalez, at 7pm. This is followed by the 8pm performance by contemporary dance groups at the Centro Cultural de Espana in Santo Domingo's Colonial City at 8pm. On Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 April, from 5 to 9:30pm at the Santo Domingo Book Fair, there will be a performance by the Festival de Danza Joven 2012, directed by Edmundo Poy. On Sunday, 29 April there will be more dance performances at the Book Fair, from 10am to 10pm along the Boulevard of the Fine Arts on the fair grounds.

On Saturday, 28 April all over the city, dance groups will perform at malls and streets in Santo Domingo from 10am.

On Friday, 27 April and Saturday 28 April at 8:30pm and Sunday, 29 April at 7pm, the National Ballet will perform Gala Pop at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

On Sun, 29 April, to commemorate the International Day of Dance, dance groups will perform on the grounds of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Latin Music Tour in Punta Cana
This year's Latin music extravaganza for Punta Cana will be held at the Punta Cana Hard Rock Hotel from 22-24 September. Puerto Rican salsa star Victor Manuelle and Dominican merengue star Hector Acosta (El Torito) will be performing in the show, which will be presented by Dominican comedians Raymond Pozo and Miguel Cespedes. Vakero, and DJs Cris and Scuff will also make appearances. The annual event is organized by Quepe Tours.

For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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