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Daily News - Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Two new free zones created
The Minister of Commerce and Industry and the president of the National Council of Industrial Free Zones for Exports have inked an agreement to build two new free zones with an investment of RD$300 million. Francisco Javier Garcia and Luisa Fernandez signed the agreement during the regular session of the free zone council. The two new industrial parks will be built in Haina and Azua, and could generate 4,200 new jobs. Celso Marranzini, the president of Multiparques, signed the contract for the new venture in Haina, and Mario Perez Garcia signed for the Azua project.

Singular honor for Castanos
Pope Benedict XVI has invited chief Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman to attend the V General Episcopal Conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops. The conference will be held in Apreciada, Brazil in May. The invitation comes from the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and points out that the Apreciada Conference will be an important event for the Church in Latin America. The letter also indicated that Castanos's participation in the conference would be coordinated by bishop Andres Stavnonik, general secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America (CELAM). Judge Castanos is the only Dominican layperson to be invited to the conference and is just one of 16 laypersons from all over Latin America to receive an invitation.

Congress has to pass guarantee
The government has sent a legislative proposal to Congress for the issue of a US$40 million letter of credit for the companies that are to construct two coal-fired generation stations in the Dominican Republic. One station is planned for Azua and the other for Manzanillo. The CDEEE requested the letter of credit from the Minister of the Treasury and the Banco de Reservas. According to Diario Libre, the money is a guarantee for the purchase of energy that the Sichuan Heavy Machinery Company will use as part of its efforts to garner the financing for its 600-megawatt plant in Manzanillo. According to Radhames Segura, the head of the CDEEE, once the letter of credit goes through, construction work on the US$800 million project could start.

TCW explains its lawsuit
TCW, a US$132 billion capital management company and a subsidiary of the Societe Generale of France, issued a press release yesterday in Los Angeles, California, explaining why it was suing the Dominican Republic in the International Court of Arbitration in New York. According to Diario Libre, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the EdeEste electricity distribution company and the majority stockholder in EdeEste, DR Energy Holdings, Ltd. According to the statement, TCW says that the investment made by DR Energy Holdings in EdeEste was "destroyed" as a rest of actions by the Dominican government that failed to honor the terms of the legal structure that were promised when the energy sector was privatized in 1999. In a statement by Blair Thomas, the president of DR Energy Holdings, "this case constitutes a considerable violation of the most basic rules that govern foreign investments." The lawsuit mentions the denial that prevented EdeEste from changing its electricity rates, the issue of the non-regulated electricity consumers and the role of fuel costs on electricity tariffs. DR Energy Holdings also said that the government failed to respect the exclusive nature of its distribution contract and did not make the required capital investments. An additional failure, that of not enforcing the criminal prosecution laws for consumers who steal electricity, was also noted.

Iglesias says growth is not enough
Enrique Iglesias, the former head of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and currently the head of the Secretariat General for Ibero-America (SEGIB), told reporters from Diario Libre that the Dominican Republic should pay more attention to the small and medium businesses as a way of successfully fighting poverty. The successful fight against poverty, according to Iglesias requires more than the financial recovery and economic growth now seen in the DR. Regarding small and medium businesses, Iglesias said that they need special legislation that includes tax exemptions, access to credit, access to technology and staff training. He pointed out that growth in itself is not sufficient to achieve development, and defined development as "reaching the people who have been excluded from the benefits of the progress experienced by others." He indicated that the energy issues facing the Dominican Republic have not been resolved.

Wage talks to continue
Negotiations between labor representatives and business leaders are to continue after a four-hour meeting was adjourned last night with no conclusive outcome. A spokesperson for the labor sector, Rafael Abreu, said that while the business sector representatives did up their offer to increase the minimum wage, no decisions had been reached. Abreu said that the offer would provide for pay increases of between 10% and 15% for minimum wage earners, with the greater increase going to the lowest earners on the minimum wage scale - workers earning RD$3,900 per month, and the 10% increase going to workers at the higher end of the minimum wage scale, who earn up to RD$6,400 per month. The talks were mediated by Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, who said that they would continue until they reach an agreement. No date was set for the next set of wage talks, but the unions seem to have hardened their position. Monsignor Nunez told reporters that there were some new items on the table, but as the private sector representatives still hadn't discussed them, he refrained from providing specific details. The tenth meeting in this series of wage talks was generally considered to have reached a stalemate, according to El Caribe. CONEP spokesperson Lisandro Macarrulla said that the negotiating process is quite delicate since the results will affect a great many people. Business sectors have alerted that a large increase could have a boomerang effect of less hiring and would affect businesses that are already hurting from increased costs in electricity, cargo costs and taxes.

Union leaders get bail, vow to fight on
The leaders of several of the transport unions were released on bail yesterday after spending long hours in jail. Complaining of "inhumane treatment" and visibly unhappy about their situation, the transport leaders vowed to continue their fight. Juan Hubieres, Antonio Marte Alfredo Pulinario and Ramon Perez Figuereo were held for questioning in connection with the fire bombing of a private bus carrying workers to their jobs. According to most of the newspapers, as soon as the union leaders left the jail where they had been held in preventive custody, they vowed to continue their fight, saying, "the government thinks it has won. They were looking for a sacrificial lamb to solve the problem (of the bombing), but it didn't work." The District Attorney for Santo Domingo, Perfecto Acosta, told reporters that the million-peso bail set for the union leaders was justified based on the severity of the criminal acts committed against the seven defenseless workers who were burned in the fire-bombing incident. He described the act as "terrorism," and pointed out that those responsible could be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.

Debates open on migration policies
Official and private entities will begin discussing the policies that govern migration within the Dominican Republic. The idea is to create a clear-cut policy that can be included in the constitutional reform process that is now under way. The groups will also look at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that condemned the Dominican Republic to payment of US$22,000 for failing to provide birth certificates for two Haitian children born in the country. The discussion panel is sponsored by the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences (FLACSO), and will look at issues concerning jus solis and jus sanguinis, the traditional methods for determining citizenship in international law. The first concerns where a person was born and the second deals with the nationality of the birth parents. Javier Cabrera, a member of civic group Participacion Ciudadana, called for a clear-cut policy on migration. He reminded the audience of the case of the two girls that was taken by the human rights court and caused embarrassment for the Dominican Republic. He said that "we have immigration laws that still have serious limitations; there is no effective control on immigrants." Pelegrin Castillo, an eminent lawyer, told El Caribe reporters that due to the high population density of the Dominican Republic, the country could not absorb Haitian immigration. He said that he has always fought for the elimination of the jus solis applications of nationality. He invited the countries that claim to be supportive of Haiti - France and Venezuela, for example - to open their borders to Haitian immigration.
On 14 December 2005, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) ruled that the children of illegal residents in the DR are not eligible for Dominican nationality. The court made the ruling in the case of an unconstitutionality recourse presented by groups that seek that Dominican nationality be granted to Haitians born in the Dominican Republic. The SCJ quoted the Migration Law that determines that foreigners admitted as non-residents are considered to be in transit for the application of Article 11 of the Constitution. It also bases its decision on The Hague Convention that establishes that each state is entitled to determine who is a national. In the sentence, the SCJ noted that the Haitian Constitution categorically expresses that "every individual born in Haiti or in a foreign country, to a Haitian man or woman, is Haitian".

Police have two killers
The police have the two accused killers of a student, in yet another case of murder for a cellphone. Catholic Church officials handed over Victor Manuel Tavarez (El Pollo) to the authorities in Esperanza, Valverde. Tavarez and brother-in-law Fernando Devora Batista were formally accused of the murder of student Juan Manuel Mercado Castillo in order to steal his cellphone. When news of Tavarez's arrest reached the town of Esperanza, a mob formed outside the police headquarters, calling for the prisoner to be handed over to them for lynching. Young Mercado Castillo was due to graduate from the UASD campus in Santiago with a degree in Communication. Ironically, the Vanessa Foundation, which was set up to work to stop violence and crime, was inaugurated the same day that the latest murder-for-a-cellphone was committed. Vanessa Ramirez was shot and killed for her cellphone a year ago. In this latest case, public indignation is at a high pitch because of young Mercado Castillo's efforts to obtain his professional degree.

Minister favors change in curfew
Minister of the Interior and of the Police, Franklin Almeyda, told reporters in Puerto Plata that he favored a "loosening" of the curfew laws that set limits on the hours that alcoholic beverages can be served in the Dominican Republic. He was referring specifically to the tourist area of Sosua and Cabarete. Almeyda reminded reporters that he had met with bar and restaurant owners in order for them to outline their ideas on how to guarantee public safety if drinking hours were extended. The minister said that the Ministry of Tourism's approval was also needed in order to change the curfew hours. According to Almeyda, once the proprietors and the Tourism and Interior ministries were in agreement, "with pleasure, we will modify the curfew."

Women in photography
From 1-31 March onlookers can enjoy a collection of photographs recognizing Dominican women at the Parque Independencia. The photographs by Nicole Sanchez, in a Giovanna Bonnelly production, surround the park's fence and include images of Dede Mirabal, Julia Alvarez, Elsa Nunez, and Xiomara Fortuna among many others. The exhibition is titled: "100 Photographs, 100 Good News" and is sponsored by MercaSID.
For more events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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