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Daily News - Friday, 02 March 2007

Fernandez: DR-CAFTA historic opportunity
President Leonel Fernandez considers the start of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement as a historic opportunity for the DR to transform its economic structure and face the increasing social challenges that have built up over the years.
Fernandez in the Presidency web site saying that "Today the foundations of a prosperous Dominican Republic are being sowed." Fernandez said that the country's entry into DR-CAFTA should be considered as a triumph for the Dominican state. He also credited the previous government for their efforts and said that the start of the free trade agreement demonstrates the benefits of continuing with policies that benefit national interests.
President Fernandez formally made the announcement accompanied by US Ambassador Hans Hertell, Dominican Ambassador in Washington Flavio Dario Espinal and Industry and Commerce Minister Francisco Javier Garcia. Also present were members of the FTA technical team, Enrique Ramirez, Vilma Arbaje, Guarocuya Feliz, Jose Alfredo Rizek, Frank Castillo, Andres Vanderhorst Alvarez, and Roland Bullen from the US Embassy.
DR-CAFTA was signed on 5 August 2004, between the United States and El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the DR. Implementation is still pending in Costa Rica.

Buy from the USA
The Dominican Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the United States Department of State have exchanged diplomatic notes, officially confirming the Dominican Republic's entry into DR-CAFTA on 1 March at 9:30am. The agreement reduces tariffs on 77% of goods imported from the United States. As reported in Listin Diario, the cost of food and other consumer goods is expected to decline gradually once the new imports reach the market. US imports will now have an advantage over goods imported from China, Taiwan, Latin America and Canada. The effects of DR-CAFTA are already in evidence, with major supermarkets already importing new lower cost brands from the US.

DR-CAFTA to help end cargo monopoly
The president of the National Council of Free Zones, Luisa Fernandez is optimistic that the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States will end the Fenatrado transport union's monopoly on the transport of cargo, which is currently enforced by coercive measures. Fernandez is optimistic that the treaty will oblige the country to respect companies' right to hire whoever they choose to transport their cargo. As reported in Hoy newspaper, Fernandez believes that the agreement specifies that there needs to be freedom of choice in the transportation of cargo, contrary to the current situation where companies are practically forced to use certain transporters.
Businessman Aquiles Bermudez, who is president of the Association of Free Zones in Santiago, said that this would lead to better prices, service and efficiency.
Free zone companies are currently forced to contract 50% of their freight with Fenatrado transporters. Companies who don't do this run the risk of having their cargo vandalized.
Fernandez explained that the transport of goods is handled by a kind of cartel, where a group of cargo operators fix the prices and force the users to contract them. "The Dominican Constitution establishes the right to hire whoever you wish," Fernandez told Hoy, specifying that this applied to cargo transportation.

DR to get European sugar quota
The Dominican Republic will have a sugar quota in the European market, thanks to ongoing Dominican diplomatic efforts. The DR had to give up exporting to Europe after becoming a signatory of the Lome Agreement in 1989. The Dominican ambassador in Brussels, Federico Cuello Camilo said that the concession is the result of Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso's efforts to harmonize relations with Caribbean countries, and the DR's contributions to the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
Cuello explained that in principle while all the Caribbean countries would keep at least the bilateral quotas that they presently have under the sugar protocol, the DR would receive a quota in order to participate in the market. Cuello said that Morales proposed this to the Caribbean ministers gathered in Belize on 23 February and it was accepted.
"In this scenario proposed by the minister and now confirmed by the European Commission, no country would lose its existing guaranteed access, and the DR would gain a new market and all would be part of the agreement that will replace the Cotonou Agreement's preferential trade regime," he explained.

Eradicating child labor
The government and the First Lady's Office launched the National Plan for the Elimination of the Worse Forms of Child Labor yesterday. The plan calls for annual programs that will help reduce the number of children who are obliged to work by 2015. First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez, US ambassador to the DR Hans H. Hertell, Labor Ministry sub-minister Daniel Rondon Monegro and vice-president Rafael Alburquerque were among the attendees at yesterday's event. Alburquerque commented that during the 1990s child labor was common in the DR but that the fight against this type of labor is a reality in the DR today.
Cedeno, quoted in Hoy, said that 436,000 kids in the country, between the ages of 5 and 17, are at high risk of contracting disease. Cedeno said that of these children, 80% work in degrading situations that endanger their lives. The First Lady also commented on how these children are also the victims of prostitution and are hired to carry drugs. Ambassador Hertell said that since 1995 the U.S. Department of Labor has donated more than US$535 million in funds to fight forced child labor and said that the funds have taken 27,000 kids in the DR out of forced hard labor.

DR and Haitian ministers to meet
The Dominican and Haitian education ministers are meeting today to exchange impressions about the situation of the education systems in each country. Dominican Education Minister Alejandrina German and her Haitian counterpart Gabriel Bien Aime are scheduled to meet at German's office at 4pm. Hoy writes that this meeting is exactly two weeks before an official visit to the DR by Haitian President Rene Garcia Preval. This is not the first time that Haitian officials visit the country to discuss education. Last December a delegation from the Haitian Education Ministry visited the DR to observe the development of the Escuela Multigrado Innovada program.

Agreement against terrorism
The Executive Branch has sent three international agreements to the Senate. The agreements deal with the penalization of illegal acts against maritime navigation security, the taking of hostages, and terrorist attacks using bombs. The agreements also include a modification to the protocol for the repression of illegal acts against fixed platforms. Listin Diario explains that the section on hostages explains that the country in which a hostage is taken can do everything within its power to free the hostage and facilitate the hostage's exist from the country.

Selman appointed New York consul
President Leonel Fernandez has appointed architect Eduardo Selman Hasbun as Dominican consul in New York. In his previous post, he worked as the government's liaison with the Dominican community abroad. Selman will be replacing Marcos Montilla who served as consul in New York since 13 September 2006. Also, Fernandez replaced alternate ambassador to the United Nations Emiliano Perez Espinosa.
Montilla is married to a sister of presidential candidate Danilo Medina. Montilla, a green card holder, though his diplomatic post was never recognized in full capacity by the Department of State because of his US residence status. Perez, although a friend of Fernandez, is one of the leaders of Danilo Medina's campaign in the United States. Listin Diario suggests that the ties with Medina could be behind their dismissals.
Presidential candidate Danilo Medina says he regrets that public employees who are supporting his election campaign have been removed from their government posts and says that that those dismissals are a form of retaliation and an example of intolerance towards his supporters. Medina made this statement during a campaign rally at Los Alcarrizos and said that he didn't understand how in a democratic government people are fired just because they support someone else's election bid.
Senate leader and PLD Secretary General Reinaldo Pared Perez has admitted that that the recent dismissals of public employees are based on the fact that those employees don't support current president Leonel Fernandez's re-election ambitions. Pared Perez says that there have only been a few such cases and that the Electoral Commission has created a sub commission in order to find a solution for people who have lost their jobs. Pared says that the dismissals do deserve attention considering that some of the changes were made without the President's support, and added that an employee shouldn't be fired unless he/she has done something wrong.

Methane gas to generate power
The mayor of Santo Domingo Norte, Jesus Feliz has announced plans to convert the city's solid waste to methane gas at the Duquesa landfill. Plans are to burn methane to generate 20 megawatts of power. Corporacion La Jun was awarded the contract for the management of the landfill site and its commercial use for a 10-year period, beginning operations this week, replacing Consorcio Duquesa.
The new company has proposed to generate organic fertilizer and to recycle glass, cardboard, metals and plastics. It will also install a treatment plant to treat liquid toxic waste that pollutes the ground waters. Max Dasilva, company operations manager, has 10 years experience working in landfills in Rio de Janeiro. Previously, he managed the previous contractor, Consorcio Duquesa for two years.
As reported in Listin Diario, Mayor Feliz, whose term began in August 2006, said that once methane gas is used to generate power, the project would qualify the DR for greenhouse-gas emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol. He says this will be a way to turn a problem into a source of good.
The mayor said that other foreign companies were interested in Santo Domingo's main garbage site. Feliz said that plans are to continue using the site for another six to ten years, but if appropriately managed, it could continue to operate for up to 20 years.

Prosecutor gets identity stolen
National District prosecutor Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero Hernandez announced yesterday that a man wanted for extradition to the United States was found to have a fake cedula identity card in his name, with the same date of birth and cedula identity number. Hernandez commented that this particular document is very vulnerable and said that the very identity of the Dominican public is in danger. Hernandez says this is a case like any other and explained that at one point his cedula had been stolen. He believes that this is where the problem could have come from. Responding to government investigations that revealed many identity forgeries such as that presented by the prosecutor himself, the Central Electoral Board yesterday announced the centralizing of the 32 civil registries in Santo Domingo.

JCE centralizes civil registry
President of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber Roberto Rosario announced yesterday that the JCE has centralized the 32 civil registries in Santo Domingo. In the past, the JCE allowed the registries to be run by a corresponding civil official who had private control of the revenues. Rosario said that during the course of next week auditors will be posted at all the registries in order to complete the reorganization, and explained that all JCE personnel is being evaluated. Rosario also explained that from now on there would be a cashier and an administrative assistant at each civil registry. These officials will receive a fixed salary and according to Rosario, officials will no longer be receiving the estimated RD$300,000 or RD$400,000 in revenues from the registries. According to Rosario, from now on state prosecutors will lead the investigations into birth certificate, cedula and document fraud.

Corporate America, Census box priorities
The new president of the Dominican American Round Table, Victor Capellan has plans to get corporate America more involved in the organization in order to fund the organization's reach programs. Likewise, he will be concentrating on consolidating relationships with other Latino organizations, so as to push for common Latino issues on the political front in the US. DANR will be addressing little-known but important details, such as getting a Dominican check box in the 2010 Census, in order to show the numbers that will bring in the resources to improve the welfare of the Dominican community in the US. Under Capellan, DANR will also be strengthening relations with Dominicans in the DR. "It is being able to lever the resources out there that we share in both places, with the eight million in the DR and the 1.5 million in the US," says Capellan. Read an interview with Capellan during a recent visit to DR1 offices at http://www.dr1.com/news/2007/capellan020307.shtml

Family business succession conference
Brazilian family succession expert Renato Bernhoeft will be speaking at a conference-breakfast this coming Tuesday, 20 March at the Hotel Jaragua. Bernhoeft is a world famous expert and frequent international conference speaker on family business third generation succession. "The Challenges for the Continuing of the Family Business" conference seeks to prepare Dominican businessmen who are concerned with how to maintain, grow or consolidate their patrimony, in view of the challenges of a globalized society. Bernhoeft is an expert on the Latin American nuances of family business succession. There are individual and group rate discounts for participants. For more information, contact Billie Dominguez de Benson at edominguez@siscontec.com or call 809 440-8728.

Santiago gets Serie del Caribe 2008
Santiago has been awarded the 2008 Caribbean Series. This is the first time that Santiago will host the post-season tournament. In 1986, Santiago hosted the Central American & Caribbean Sports Games. The announcement was due to be made yesterday, but was postponed because of the death of Freddy Jana, president of the Dominican Summer League. Representatives from the Dominican Baseball League (Lidom) considered that Santiago will have the hotel capacity to accommodate visitors from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela and that the imminent opening of the Gran Hotel Cibao was what clinched the games for the country's second city. Cibao stadium home team the Aguilas Cibaenas have won the Caribbean Series on several occasions.

Carnival at the Malecon
This weekend 150 colorful troupes, representing carnival celebrations from all over the nation, will gather at the Malecon, from its western point at Abraham Lincoln Avenue, to celebrate carnival. The carnival in Santo Domingo marks the end of the 2007 carnival season. Colorvision Channel 9 will televise the parade with Jochy Santos, Pamela Sued, Karina Larrauri and Milton Cordero providing the commentary. For more upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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