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Daily News - Thursday, 08 March 2007

Leonel Fernandez in PR
President Leonel Fernandez will be traveling to Puerto Rico tomorrow where he will be the main speaker at a luncheon organized by the Industry Association of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila will be present at the dinner. The luncheon will be at the Caribe Hilton at 12:30pm. Fernandez will be back in the DR on Saturday.

Voters increase for 2008 election
A report by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) estimates that for the 2008 presidential elections 5.8 million Dominicans will be eligible to vote. This is a 600,000-person increase from the last elections held in 2004. The report indicates that after the 2006 congressional and municipal elections the voting census grew from 5.2 million to 5.5 million. In 2006, 121,002 new voters were registered.

Valentin and others fire back
Chamber of Deputies president Julio Cesar Valentin responded yesterday to the US State Department's 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the State Department. Valentin rejected claims that the Dominican Republic systematically abuses the rights of Haitians in the DR. Valentin said that it is possible that some international groups want to use the report to damage the country and affect the sugar quotas. Valentin said that before the United States comments on someone else's problems they must first look at their own. He pointed to the treatment of POW's and immigrants. Radhames Batista, president of the National Border Council, said that this was just another effort to laden the DR with the Haitian poverty problem. Batista continued by saying that only those that have not experienced the Dominican reality can speak of racism in a country that invests 40% of its public health budget to serve illegal Haitians and where most public hospital beds are filled by illegal Haitians. Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa considered the report to be unjust and incomplete. Presidential candidate Danilo Medina also refused the idea that Haitians in the DR are discriminated against and said that illegal Haitians in the DR receive better treatment than Dominicans living in Haiti. He pointed out that Haitians, regardless of their legal status, walk around freely on the streets of Santo Domingo. 6,000 Haitian students study at Dominican universities where they are privileged to pay the same rates as Dominicans, and not the premium normally charged foreign students.
See http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78889.htm

Haiti and DR announce agreement
The Dominican Attorney General's Office and the Haitian Ministry of Justice announced a judicial agreement that includes consulting on the application of the new penal code. Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena and Haitian Justice Minister Rene Amaglairi met yesterday to discuss the agreement. Jimenez said that the Dominicans will share their experiences in order to help Haiti successfully apply the new penal code process. Jimenez said that professors from the National Public Ministry School will be available for help.

Communication continues increase
A report by the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) indicates that 83.7% of all telephone numbers in the DR are cell phones. There are 5.5 million telephone numbers in the Dominican Republic and of these 4,605,659 are cell phones. In the DR, for every house phone there were 5.1 cell phones. The report also indicates that there was a 27.1% increase in cellular phone lines in during the past year, and a slight reduction in LAN lines. According to the Central Bank Report the communications sector grew by 26.1% in the last year. There has also been a 33% increase in the amount of Internet users. There are currently 183,876 subscribers to Internet service.

Will there be a sugar quota?
Dominican Ambassador to the European Union Federico Cuello Camilo is trying to clarify confusions over reports of the DR not receiving a sugar quota from the European Union. Yesterday Hugo Ramirez, a member of the Dominican negotiating team, told the Diario Libre that chief EU negotiator Karl Falkemberg said that "the reformation of the European system will force internal prices to fall substantially, and this will cause the subsidies to fall. Without subsidy protection and high tariffs, the market is free for all." But Cuello, speaking in today's Diario Libre, said that Falkemberg did offer a quota to the DR and other countries that don't receive the benefits from least advanced countries (LCA's) program. Cuello did point out that the process will take years and did say that Falkemberg did not give any details on the subject because discussions are still ongoing. The ambassador said in Hoy that there will be a quota for the DR of 200 metric tons of sugar. Cuello said that Ramirez unofficially participated in a meeting last week in Brussels where Falkemberg made his statements. Falkemberg made his statements in English, and Cuello believes that the language barrier could have caused the contradiction in what Ramirez understood and what the Foreign Relations office reported.

Diandino asks for patience
Transit Reorganization Office (OPRET) head Diandino Pena says that 30 days is not enough to implement changes in the transit system and asked bus owners to remain calm. He says that negotiations are under way and that details of an agreement would be forthcoming. He said that fare subsidies for students and the elderly and the creation of a Transit Authority could not happen in 30 days. Earlier this week transport union leader Juan Hubieres broke off talks with OPRET and accused the government of trying to bribe his drivers. Pena says that this is the first time that a government is willing to deal with the problem, but that the bus drivers want to turn this into a 30-day affair, which is not realistic.

First Industrial Congress
Exports, implementation of good environmental practices, and fulfillment of social and taxation responsibilities are the key commitments that should guide the industrial sector in the DR in these days of free trade agreements. The Dominican Association of Industries (AIRD) held its first congress at the Hotel Jaragua this week and discussed the challenges the country faces with the country's entry into DR-CAFTA and the opening up of trade in general. The congress was also an opportunity to discuss the need for the increased competitiveness of Dominican industries and to ask the government to work together with the sector to face future challenges.
During the closing ceremonies President Leonel Fernandez received a bill proposal from the AIRD, which suggests the establishment of a free zone-type tax regime for companies operating in industrial parks. The proposal also calls for the creation of the "Center for Development and Industrial Competitiveness." The Center would take on some of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce's roles and would be responsible for the creation of industrial parks.
AIRD president Manuel Diez Cabral said that DR-CAFTA should be more than a list of signed agreements. Diez said that the DR is seeking to create an export-based economy that is competitive and DR-CAFTA can help this to happen. Cabral also took the opportunity to warn President Fernandez about the way in which the energy crisis will affect business in the country and also spoke of the monopoly that the freight transport companies have in the DR.
Former AIRD president Yandra Portela said that studies show that the fundamental element of a competitive strategy is to make industries more "agile" and pushed the idea of turning the country's geographical location into an advantage for trade.
The manufacturing sector represents 23% of the nation's total GDP, pays the largest amounts of tax and is one of the nation's largest employers. Out of every 100 jobs 15 are in the manufacturing sector, which translates into 2.5 million jobs.

DR opens fair in Panama
The DR has opened a multi-sector trade fair in Panama City, Panama. 15 Dominican companies are taking part in "Expocomer 2007", which is being promoted by the Dominican Republic Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD). A delegation from CEI-RD met with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and presented him with an exclusive collection of 30th anniversary FONSECA-MATA Dominican cigars to commemorate the occasion.

Voters increase for 2008 election
A report by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) estimates that 5.8 million Dominicans will be eligible to vote in the 2008 presidential elections. This is a 600,000-person increase from the last elections held in 2004. The report indicates that after the 2006 congressional and municipal elections the number of voters on the electoral roll increased from 5.2 million to 5.5 million. In 2006, 121,002 new voters were registered.

Breathalyzers will be used today
The new breathalyzers bought by the government will be used for the first time today, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) will be demonstrating their use in Santo Domingo and Santiago.
About 1,200 AMET officers will be carrying the devices. The government has provided them with 20,000 plastic tips for the first day of use.
AMET officials have been instructed to open the plastic tips in the driver's presence and once used, the driver will be given the tip as proof that it will never be used again, and as a reminder of the act. Officers with the breathalyzers will be stationed at six checkpoints along Santo Domingo's Abraham Lincoln Avenue, eight checkpoints along George Washington Avenue (the Malecon) and other places where people are known to consume alcoholic beverages.

La Vega will remain La Vega
PLD Deputy Santiago Rodriguez has decided to end his bid to change La Vega's name. Earlier in the week Rodriguez proposed a bill to change the name of La Vega province to "Professor Juan Bosch", in honor of the late Dominican politician, who was born there. Rodriguez, who represents Santiago province, said that he did not intend to create conflict by suggesting a name change, but instead just wanted to honor former President Bosch. Rodriguez's proposal was met with harsh criticism from groups in La Vega, which were opposed to the idea of changing the city's 400-year old name. Senate leader Reinaldo Pared Perez said that Bosch's image is transcendent and doesn't need a province to be named after him to prove that. La Vega was founded in 1495.

International Women's Day
Today is International Women's Day. Diario Libre focuses on the progress made by women in the DR. In the Dominican Republic women run 48% of all businesses, hold 77% of jobs in the health sector, 80% of jobs in the technical sector and 74% of the positions in education. Women also represent 63% of office workers, 72% of jobs that deal with the public, and women operate 50% of machines in factories.
Ten years ago, 86,339 women were enrolled at the DR's leading universities. By 2002, 81,601 women were studying at the UASD state university alone and a total of 143,880 women were enrolled in all the country's universities. This represents a 67% increase. Diario Libre also observes that if women in the US and Europe were to stop sending remittances to the DR, the economy would lose out on US$1.6 billion. Dominican women account for 58% of remittances from the US and 78% of remittances from Spain.
The data comes from the National Statistics Office (ONE), the Central Bank, the Higher Education Council (CONES), the Higher Education Ministry (SEESCyT), the Ministry of Education and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Juan Luis #1
In its first week of radio play in the United States, Dominican singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra's single, Llave de mi corazon, reached #1 on Billboard's Latin Tropical Airplay charts.

Israel Baseball League contracts Dominicans
The new Israel baseball League (IBL), which will be inaugurated on 24 June 2006, will rely on talent from the Dominican Republic to fill its roster. Listin Diario writes that two tryouts have already been held in San Pedro de Macoris and Santo Domingo and that between 30 and 40 players will be chosen to play in the league. Dan Duqette, general Manager of the new league, explained that the best talent in the world comes from the DR and that the special ties between Israel and the DR, dating back to WWII, led the league to look for most of its talent here.
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