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Daily News - Tuesday, 13 March 2007

DR prepares for drug summit
The DR is preparing for a Summit on Drugs, Security, and Cooperation, which will be held on 16 March 2007 at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Haiti President Rene Preval, Prime Ministers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent and Grenada will be attending, together with representatives from the United States, Spain, France, Holland, the European Union, Caricom, and the UN. A preparatory meeting was held yesterday and the situation of drug trafficking in the region was discussed. Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda, drug trafficking expert Mario Vinicio Castillo, Major General Rafael Ramirez Ferreira, head of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), Mabel Feliz, head of the National Drug Council (CND), Chief of Police Bernardo Santana Paez, National Investigation Department (DNI) head Sigfrido Pared Perez, and Haitian ambassador Fritz Cineas were present.

Montas in Mexico
Economic Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas is in Mexico with a technical team to hold discussions with experts from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) about the implementation of a long-term development strategy for the DR. The delegation will be discussing the book "Economic and Social Development Dominican Republic 2030," which was prepared by ECLAC as part as a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development to strengthen the ministry and with the intent to define the goals for the development for the DR. The DR seeks a long-term development plan.

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce visit
President Leonel Fernandez met with visiting members of the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce at a dinner held at the Presidential Palace yesterday. United States Ambassador Hans H. Hertell was also present. The Chamber is promoting business opportunities in the Dominican Republic to their members. Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti, Dominican consul in New York Eduardo Selman, Eddy Martinez for the Center for Exports & Investments (CEI-RD) and other high-ranking government officials were also at the dinner. Attending on behalf of the Chamber were David Lizarraga, Alfredo Rodriguez, Alfred Placeres, Luis J. Torres, Elizabeth Gallagher, Michael Barrera and Peter Granillo. President Leonel Fernandez met with the chamber members in Philadelphia last year, while touring through the United States.

DR-CAFTA workshop
The American Chamber of Commerce, with the backing of USAID, the Department of Customs and Funglode is holding a workshop on 28-29 March, on the subject of "Goods Trade under DR-CAFTA. Ambassador Eduardo Ayala, chief negotiator for El Salvador for DR-CAFTA and the DR-Central America FTA will be the main speaker. Eduardo Rodriguez, technical deputy director of the Customs Department will give an overview of DR-CAFTA in its first month of application. Also taking part are Agriculture Deputy Minister Luis Ramon Rodriguez and National Competitiveness Council agricultural advisor Jesus de los Santos, Deputy Director of the National Free Zone Council (CNZFE) Daniel Liranzo, DR-CAFTA deputy coordinator Lynette Batista on industry, National Free Zone Association (Adozona) director Jose Manuel Torres, and president of the Dominican Business Council Manuel Diez, among others. The workshop is RD$4,000 for general admission and RD$3,500 for members of the American Chamber of Commerce. Sessions are scheduled for Wednesday, 28 March in the afternoon, and all day, from 8am on Thursday, 29 March. For more information, contact Martha Linares at [email protected]

EU gives more funds
The European Union will donate EUR7 million to the DR in the next four years. This will make RD$176.9 million available in funds to be distributed through the Civil Society Institutional Development Fund (FODESIN) and will go to finance 34 projects. The Dominican government is contributing the equivalent of EUR1 million to the fund. This is the first set of funds given by FODESIN to the DR and Onofre Rojas, from the European National Authorizing Office (ONFED) said that it is a privilege for the DR, as it is the only country from the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) block of nations to receive these funds. The deadline for proposals from civil society organizations interested in applying for the funds is 16 April.

Transport deficiencies affect exports
US-based Dominican businessman Elidio Torres explains that the government and the business sector must create strong aerial and maritime transport systems in order to provide incentives and facilitate trade with the Dominican Republic. Torres says that the current transport situation limits trade with the DR despite the many opportunities that exist for trade. Torres is an investor in Air Dominicana, and he expects this will contribute to increased trade, in addition to transporting passengers.

Italian hotelier murdered
An Italian businessman has been murdered in Boca Chica. Diario Libre reports that 63-year old Albino Brighenti (Yorgi), who owned the Costa Lunga Hotel, was riding his motorbike when the assailants, who were fleeing from an attempted robbery, tried to take his motorbike from him. The assailants, armed with two 9-millimeter pistols, shot Brighenti three times, inflicting fatal wounds to the lungs and kidneys. Moments later the assailants were intercepted and gunned down by police. Police identified Carlos Feliz Santana as one of the assailants. Both bodies were transferred to the Forensic Pathology Institute in Santo Domingo.

Bus stoppage causes chaos
Yesterday's bus stoppage lasted four hours (6am to 10am). Bus owners halted passenger transportation in Santo Domingo and other parts of the country. The striking bus owners seek to pressurize the government into providing increased fare subsidies. Diario Libre writes that many drivers weren't aware of the reasons for the strike and simply didn't work because they were afraid of retributions. Union leaders defended their actions yesterday. Eight people were injured occurred after a home-made bomb was thrown inside a non-striking employee transport bus of the Caribe Tours company heading to a free zone factory on Las Americas highway and the passengers scrambled out amidst smoke. One person was shot in the UASD area. Union leaders have agreed to meet with Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado today to discuss the issues at hand, but Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) head, Diandino Pena, said he will not bow down to the unions' pressure and that negotiations couldn't take place in the middle of a permanent bus stoppage. Pena, according to Diario Libre, has cut off negotiations with the unions and warned that some politicians could take advantage of the situation to create chaos. Hoy writes that in total, 250 urban lines were closed down, and 475 routes in the south and 400 in the east were without service.

Beer companies dispute Almeyda
Representatives from the beer companies are disputing Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda's claim that they oppose the use of breathalyzers by transit authorities. In a press release, representatives explained that they have always been in favor of policies that promote the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. The release continued by explaining that no beer company has expressed opposition to Resolution 3-06, which prohibits drinking and driving, and that they are not opposed to the use of breathalyzers. Listin Diario writes that Almeyda says that the beer companies are behind what he calls a campaign against the recent use of breathalyzers.

Paraiso de Dios to be cleaned
The Ministry of Environment and the Blacksmith Institute have signed an agreement to clean up the community of Paraiso de Dios, in Haina. The Blacksmith Institute has labeled Paraiso de Dios the third most polluted place in the world and the agreement involves setting up a committee that will provide a plan to help clean the worst affected areas. Work will begin immediately and will be a joint effort between governmental and non-governmental representatives, community groups, businesses from Haina, and the UASD University. The plan is to clean the areas of Paraiso de Dios that were polluted by lead refuse left over from the Metalox battery company. Richard Fuller from Blacksmith and Environment Minister Max Puig signed the agreement. Recent research has shown that pollution levels in the area have already dropped considerably.

Plan Renove back in court
The accused in the Plan Renove transport fraud case are heading back to court for the third time. Diario Libre writes that the case is set to begin in an Appeals Court on 11 April 2007. The 12 defendants in the Plan Renove case, all former officials in the previous government, are accused of fraud, prevarication, forgery and criminal association, to the tune of RD$1.8 billion.

Five reasons to watch March Madness
Five Dominicans will be taking part in this year's March Madness (NCAA post-season tournament) and NIT tournament (National Invitational Tournament). Dominican participation at a higher level of play is a sign of the increasing popularity of the sport among Dominicans and is a positive sign for the future of Dominican basketball. In the NIT Drexel's Dominick Mejia will be leading the 23-8 Dragons against North Carolina State. Mejia averaged 12.5 points per game this season. Standout guard Sammy Mejia will also be playing in the NIT and will be leading DePaul University against Hofstra. Mejia finished the season with 14.2 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. In the NCAA tournament Al Horford (U. Florida), Edgar Sosa (Louisville) and Ronald Ramon (Pittsburgh) will be playing in the Big Dance for the NCAA National Championship. Orlando Antigua will be an assistant coach on the Pittsburgh bench.

Luis Castillo hosts clinic
San Diego Chargers star lineman, Dominican Luis Castillo will be hosting a football clinic at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center on 14 March. The event is open to the public. Castillo is here on vacation and is taking the opportunity to share some of his football knowledge with young Dominican players. His visit comes at a time when there has been an increased interest in the popular American sport, due in part to Castillo's success. The clinic will be held at the Felix Sanchez track stadium at 3pm and Castillo will be giving away shirts and hats to the first people who arrive. An exhibition game by the Dominican Raiders representing the Liga Dominican de Football Americano (Dominican Football League) will also be held.
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