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Daily News - Friday, 09 March 2007

Leonel to make candidacy official
President Leonel Fernandez will make his bid for the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) presidential candidacy for the 2008 elections official on 25 March 2006. The event will be held at the Centro Olimpico. Diario Libre explains that Fernandez has remained completely silent about his reasons for seeking re-election and at one point remarked that this was because he didn't want to fall into a journalist's "trap."

Customs to speed up process
As part of the requirements of DR-CAFTA and Law 226-06, the Customs Department will try to clear freight within 48 hours of the merchandise arriving at Dominican ports. Customs Technical director Eduardo Rodriguez made the announcement and said that Customs has an information exchange system with the US and the other DR-CAFTA countries that will allow importers to clear the merchandise and subsequently verify its origins and all other information. Rodriguez says that DR-CAFTA has changed the role of Customs, making it an administrator of trade agreements.
Rodriguez also explained that vehicles must comply with the rules of origin, meaning that although a vehicle might be a US brand it has to be US-manufactured in order to qualify for entering the DR with reduced tariffs. Rodriguez pointed to the example of Toyota vehicles made in the US that enter the DR with just 15% duty. In an interview with almomento.net, Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa explained that 10 types of US-made vehicles that comply with the rules of origin are already entering the DR without tariffs and that this would include a wider variety of vehicles and car replacement parts in the future.

Industrialists' proposal sparks debate
The bill presented by the Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD) at the closing ceremony of their First Congress has sparked opposing reactions. Consultant Roberto Despradel argues that a tax breaks similar to ones in the countries that the Dominican Republic is competing with is what is needed. Despradel said that the challenges brought on by DR-CAFTA oblige the government to embark on an action plan that will guarantee the industrial sector's competitiveness. Despradel continued by saying that industries need to act, not react, and they are doing so by providing a bill that changes an internal structure and develops strategic alliances. Industries say that their survival in a hypercompetitive world is at risk due to the high cost of energy, high taxes, transport monopolies, inefficiencies at seaports and lack of financing. The industrial sector called on the government to fulfill the Electricity Law. "The critical power situation threatens to shut down many of our industries. The relief that the Electricity Law provided to non-regulated users is now under the threat of being blown away by the state regulating agency that resists implementing the Electricity Law, Manuel Diez Cabral stated at the conference. "It is unfortunate that we have expensive cargo transport systems, due to monopolistic practices, as in the case of ground transport," he commented. He was also critical of the tax burden. "It is not true that the tax burden in this country is low; for taxpayers, it is simply very high, the historic result of inefficient government spending and tax collection that concentrates on a small number of taxpayers," he stated. He criticized the fact that there had been six tax reforms in five years, and the fivefold increase of the government budget, at the expense of the country's capacity to compete.
He stressed that the time has come to meet the challenges of DR-CAFTA and expressed hope that the country would not suffer the negative effects of preceding trade agreements this time around.
See (in Spanish) the Association of Industries proposal: www.dr1.com/news/2007/030907_industries.pdf

Breathalyzers hit the streets
Transit Authority officials (AMET) began using the new breathalyzers for the first time yesterday. Major General Jose Sigfredo Fernandez took the time to explain that police are not executing raids in order to catch drunk drivers, but said that officers are looking at vehicles that run red lights, swerve along the streets or travel at high speeds. For regular drivers "drunk" will register at between 0.075mg/L and 0.75 and for passengers "drunk" will be registered between 0,15 mg/L and 0,30gr/L

DEA head in the DR
Karen P. Tandy, head of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has held a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez. She traveled to the DR after visiting Haiti, explaining that the United States is working with both countries on their fight against the drug trade. The DEA head is in the country to coordinate policies and strategies with the Dominican government. Tandy said that "we are going to destroy these drug trafficking organizations" through an alliance between the DR, the US and Haiti. Tandy also commended Fernandez's efforts in tackling the drug problem. National Drug Control Department head Major General Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira called Tandy's vision encouraging and useful in the fight against drug trafficking. Ferreira made his comments at the end of a two-hour meeting with Tandy.

Creating efficiency at the JCE
In an interview with Listin Diario, Central Electoral Board Judge John Giuliani announced plans for a more efficient way of correcting cedula and birth certificates that have been forged or have mistakes. Giuliani, who heads the Commission for Cancellations and Revalidation, said that the correction of altered documents would take less than 90 days from now on. He explained that in the past the process could take up to one year with no guarantee of a solution. Giuliani also explained that special inspectors would be working to speed up the process of verification in the forgery department. Giuliani said that anyone who has forged or altered documents should go the third floor at the JCE building with two 2x2 photos, an original and recent copy of their birth certificate, a copy of the parents' cedulas (or death certificates, if applicable), and also have some witnesses. According to Giuliani, in the past the process of correcting documents was extremely tedious and people would abandon the process half way.

Blacksmith back in the DR
The Blacksmith Institute and the UASD University Chemistry Institute were working in the community of Paraiso de Dios - "God's Paradise" - near Haina Industrial Park, just outside Santo Domingo, for the second consecutive day yesterday. Community members provided the technicians with blood samples in order to determine the trace level of lead in children. Officials hope to collect 150 samples. This is the second time that officials from Blacksmith have visited the area since the Institute announced that Paraiso de Dios was one of the 10 most polluted places in the world. They are also here to study the amount of lead in the environment. Diario Libre writes that the first set of results should be released today. The lead in Paraiso de Dios comes from the Metaloxa battery manufacturing plant. The Metaloxa plant was closed by the Environmental Protection Institute (INPRA), the predecessor of the Ministry of Environment in 1999, after the company failed to comply with legal regulations for working with lead processing. The company, which had been operating since 1979, used to recycle lead from batteries. According to the Ministry of Environment, the company polluted the land and ground waters, but no action was taken until 1996 when environmental controls were introduced. Richard Fuller, president of Blacksmith, is angered at the pace at which the Dominican government has worked on a solution to the pollution in the area. He says the answer is simple and that all that needs to be done is take the old soil and replace it with new soil.

Bus and taxi unions to meet OPRET
Juan Hubieres, who heads Fenatrano, and Ramon Perez Figuereo, leader of the National United Transporters union (CNTU), were due to meet with Transit Reorganization Office head Diandino Pena at 9:30am today. Hubieres said that he was going to the meeting to "hear the proposals and find solutions," while Perez said he was going out of courtesy to Pena.

Brugal exports big
Last year the Brugal Rum company exported more than one million boxes of its famous rum, and expects to export US$50 million's worth this year. This target was announced during a meeting held in Puerto Plata between representatives of the 16 countries where Brugal is sold. The representatives from Europe, the Caribbean, South and North America were meeting to discuss strategies and exchange experiences for the first time. According to Impact Magazine, Brugal ranks 16th in the world for premium spirit beverages and its rum is ranked third in the world among premium rums.

German wind power
Hoy reports that at least 12 German companies are negotiating to install solar and wind power plants at various points in the DR, with multi-million dollar investments. This is according to Pedro Verges Ciman, Dominican ambassador to Germany. Verges said that Germany could contribute to the solution of the country's energy problem. Asked about the amount of the investments, Verges said it depended on the negotiations and the companies. He said that one company was willing to invest EUR350 million.

Youths receive tourism scholarships
The Ministry of Youth, in conjunction with Johnson & Wales University, is sponsoring 60 tourism students. The students are receiving specialized training at the Casa de Campo training institute, which is located at the tourist complex in La Romana. The three-week course trains students in the areas of bartending, kitchen, restaurants and housekeeping, combined with intensive English language training. The institute is equipped with model hotel and cruise ship bedrooms and has a large kitchen and classrooms where the students practice their English and learn about the tourist industry. Institute Director Helen Fox said that once the students have completed the course they would be fully qualified to enter the job market. Youth Minister Manuel Crespo said that the course would run twice a year and that it fills the country's need for personnel trained in the hotel business. The Instituto Preparatorio de Casa de Campo and Johnson & Wales was founded in 2003 and since then 5,000 students have graduated from the institute.

Hiding the truth?
The government's continued efforts to keep anything connected to the Santo Domingo Metro under wraps is now bordering on ridiculous, even if all the secrecy is aimed at avoiding criticism about a project that is being constructed with a huge amount of public funds that should be spent on the health or education sectors. The "Que se dice" - What's being said - column in Hoy newspaper continues by saying that the Budget department has not published its monthly list of government department budgets for the past month. "Does this mean that the ministries of Education, Environment, Public Works or Health did not receive public funds for construction that month?" asked the author sarcastically. "Of course not," he replied and explained that the government is refusing to publish the budget figures so that a comparison between the budgets for government department and the Metro could not be made. This of course is just another example of how far the government is willing to travel on those very non- transparent roads, according to the columnist.

Government will eliminate "fichas"
President Leonel Fernandez has ordered the removal of 427,072 people from police files, leaving 198,309 names on file. The legal authorities and the national security agencies will keep the police files on particular individuals. The move was part of Presidential decree 122-07 which establishes police records as permanent or temporary, according to Interior and Police Minister Franklyn Almeyda Rancier. A permanent record will be assigned to anyone who has been convicted of a crime, while temporary records will be for people who are still under investigation. The records will be kept under the "Registro de Control y Inteligencia Policial," and will not be considered records. They will not be made public, either.

Celebrating a patriot
Today is the 190th anniversary of the birth of Francisco del Rosario Sanchez. Sanchez was born on 9 March, 1817 and is one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic for the role he played in the declaration of national independence. Listin Diario explains that Sanchez wasn't one of the founders of La Trinitaria, the group that helped lead the country towards independence, but Sanchez took on control of the organization while Juan Pablo Duarte was in exile.

Forbes Top 10 pitchers list
Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez made Forbes Magazine's list of the top 10 pitchers of all times. The magazine measured Major League pitchers' greatness by comparing them to their contemporaries. Forbes chose Martinez as its 8th on the list because of what it describes as "a spectacular run from 1997 through 2002." In the hitter-friendly year 2000, he was in a class of his own when he pitched for a 1.74 ERA, compared with a 4.75 American League average. "Not only did he average a 17-5 record for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox over that span, but his 2.20 earned run average during that hitter-friendly era was less than half the league average," reports Forbes.
Others on the list are Walter Johnson, Roger Clemens, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, Christy Mathewson and Steve Carlton.
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