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Daily News - Friday, 23 March 2007

LF discusses business
President Leonel Fernandez held a meeting with representatives of the Santiago business community at the Presidential Palace last night. At the meeting, the businesspeople outlined their concerns about the state of the Dominican economy and discussed the separate limitations on the free trade zones (FTZs) in detail. The business group also proposed the need for more infrastructure projects in the province of Santiago and expressed their concerns about the recent decline in business and the FTZ closures in the area. Businessman Felix M. Garcia, head of the Development Association, announced that President Leonel Fernandez has promised to hold a consultation meeting in Santiago in the next few days, aimed at defining the priorities for the region. Santiago free zones have reported losses of 37,000 jobs last year, primarily because of contract work moving on to China.

Business organizations support President's Plan
The National Business Council (CONEP) as well as three other business organizations, the Associations of Industries of the Dominican Republic, the Chamber of Commerce and Production, and National Association for Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE), have announced their support for the implementation of President Leonel Fernandez's National Competitiveness Plan. The organizations explain that the plan will enable the country to better face the challenges brought on by the DR-CAFTA agreement.

Using pension funds is not unusual
Although President Leonel Fernandez's proposal as part of the implementation of the National Competitiveness Plan to use pension plan deposits to help fund infrastructure projects has received some criticism, it is said to be common practice in other Latin American countries. Diario Libre writes that in Chile, more than 50% of pension funds are used to help fund housing, business and public works projects. Currently 13.09% of Chilean pension funds are invested in government financial instruments (Central Bank, bonds) while 27.3% is invested in business projects (stocks, bonds and investment funds). As a way of diversifying their investments, Chileans allow pension funds to be invested in foreign holdings. Currently 32.3% of Chilean pensions are invested abroad. Currently the DR has 98.4% of its pension funds deposited in banks and the remaining 1.6% is invested in business bonds.

Segura challenges business sector for solution
State Run Electric Company (CDEEE) head Radhames Segura is challenging National Business Council head Lisandro Macarrulla to outline the private sector's solution to the energy problem. Segura however said that the plan could not include any additional costs. Segura's comments come in response to comments that Macarrulla made yesterday where he called for the privatization of the energy sector. Macarulla is quoted as saying that as long as the government controls the energy sector the public will never get quality service. Segura pointed out that the private sector isn't any more qualified to run the energy sector. He points to the case of EdeEste, which according to him is deficient, despite not being government-run and receives more subsidies than EdeNorte and EdeSur.

Wind power park conflict ends
Head of the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) Radhames Segura announced that the Punta Cana-Macao Energy Consortium has agreed to install its wind power park in another part of La Altagracia province. The new site will be at Punta Espada. The project, which has been in the works for more than 10 years according to Hoy, is worth US$20 million and will generate 9 MW of energy for the eastern region, especially the tourist areas. This wind park is the first of its kind and is being used as a trial for a park that will generate 100 MW of energy. The Ministry of Tourism and tourism developers in the Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana area had contested the site chosen by the company.

Alburquerque to mediate wage impasse
In the hope of ending the stalemate in negotiations between the workers' unions and the business sector, Vice President Rafael Alburquerque has announced that he will take part in the discussion between both parties. The Vice President said that beginning with Monday's meeting, which will take place at the PUCCM University, he would join Labor Minister Jose Ramon Fadul and Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado in trying to come up with a solution. National Federation of Union Unity (CNUS) head Rafael (Pepe) Abreu has confirmed Alburquerque's presence while Monsignor Nunez Collado has asked the workers' unions not to give up on the negotiations. Speaking for the private sector, National Business Council (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarrulla urged fellow employers to continue working towards a solution. Vice President Alburquerque is a leading national expert on labor affairs, and a former Labor Minister.

JCE creates 41 electoral colleges
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has announced the creation of 41 new electoral stations, bringing the total of stations created in the last 24 days to 129. For the 2006 Congressional and municipal elections, 12,500 voting stations were opened for 4.2 million eligible voters. Since the last election, the number of stations has increased to 12,678 due to projections estimating that there would be 5.5 million potential voters in 2008.

Government surprises public; pays compensation
The Dominican government has agreed to pay compensation to two girls of Haitian origin as part of a ruling issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on 8 September 2005. The girls, Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosico, had accused the government of denying them birth certificates, but the government argued that their parents had not fulfilled the late registry requirement. The announcement was made by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and according to Hoy has caused public surprise in the light of President Leonel Fernandez's announcement in Puerto Rico earlier this month that his administration wouldn't pay the compensation. One girl, who is now of age, will receive US$8,000 and US$6,000 for legal fees. The minor will receive US$8,000 and will be able to access the funds when she is of age.

Amarante considers AI report one-sided
Migration head Carlos Amarante Baret has described Amnesty International's report on Haitians in the DR as subjective, one-sided and part of an international campaign against Dominican sovereignty. Amarante says that if anything the DR is the country that has been most hospitable to Haiti migrants. He said that the DR is the only country that receives Haitians because no one else wants them and that Haiti hasn't completely collapsed thanks to the large-scale migration to the DR. He continued by saying that AI didn't provide the Dominican government's opinion on the matter, making the report one-sided.

Hertell receives Order of Merit
President Leonel Fernandez is to present the US ambassador in the DR, Hans Hertell, with the Duarte, Sanchez and Mella Order of Merit. The decision to award Hertell was made through Presidential decree 128-07, but no date for a recognition ceremony has yet been announced. The decree explains that Hertell's efforts have led to a better understanding and increased cooperation between the DR and the United States.

Developments in EU agreement are positive
German Ambassador Karl Kohler says that talks for a trade agreement between the DR and the European Union are progressing. He is hopeful that the Economic Partnership Agreement will be in place by 2008. Kohler's comments were made during a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the European Union's formation, as quoted in Diario Libre. The ambassador highlighted the positive developments leading to the European and Caribbean trade agreement.

Pension thieves are on the run
Director of the Department for the Prevention of Corruption (DEPRECO), Octavio Lister, has disclosed that Odalis Carmen Santana, a former employee at the Ministry of Finance Pensions Department, has left the Dominican Republic via Las Americas International Airport and is now in an unnamed Caribbean country. Lister also announced that the whereabouts of Angel Jose Castro are currently unknown and officials believe that he too was successful in fleeing the country. Castro was in charge of the Electronic Payroll at the Ministry of Finance. In all, nine people, including Castro and Santana, are accused of taking part in the Pensions Department scam whereby checks were issued and cashed irregularly. An estimated RD$50 million was fraudulently disbursed to dead people, to people who had never worked and to young people who do not qualify. People as young as 23 were collecting monthly pension checks for up to RD$50,000.

Ex-judge questioned
Former Central Electoral Judge (JCE) Ramon Hernandez Dominguez has been questioned over the Soluciones Modernas (SOMO) contract scandal, believed to involve US$62.5 million. Octavio Lister, director of the Department for the Prevention of Corruption (DEPRECO), said that Hernandez was questioned on Wednesday and that several other former judges are due be questioned in the future.

More surgery for bus bombing victim
Santa de la Cruz, one of the victims of last week's bus bombing, will be heading into surgery once again, and the team of doctors at the Salvador E. Gautier hospital is confident that the procedure will be successful. Gabriel Fernandez, director of the Dominican Social Security Institute hospital said that the surgery, to the neck area, is needed because de la Cruz suffered second and third degree burns. She will be given a skin graft in the affected area. The twenty-five year old is in a stable condition and doctors hope she will be able to return home in the next few days.

Unionists to wait before appealing
The three transport union leaders charged for inciting last week's bombing of a bus on Las Americas highway are to wait until Monday to decide on which course of legal action to take, according to Juan Hubieres, as quoted in Listin Diario. Juan Hubieres, Alfredo Linares (Cambita) and Ramon Perez Figuereo are being held responsible for the bombing but have called the charges unjust. The bomb exploded inside a private bus that was transporting laborers to work, despite a union call for transporters to strike. The unions are seeking more privileges from the government.

Tragedy in San Francisco
The body of 33-year old German architect Lucie Francisca Zlobinski was found in a decomposed state in the northwestern city of San Francisco de Macoris. Zlobinski's body was found in a four-meter deep hole in the back yard of her home. Zlobinski had been missing for nine days. Police are holding Juan Alfredo Roque Rosario (aka Nito) and Rafaelina Jimenez Abreu in custody for questioning. Police are saying that Roque Rosario, who had lied about Zlobinski's whereabouts and falsely claimed to have received a call from her, killed Zlobinski in order to steal her property. Colonel Frank Almonte Castillo, quoted in Hoy, said that police became suspicious when they checked at immigration and established that Zlobinski had never left the country.

Omega gets deported
Merengue singer, Antonio de la Rosa (aka Omega) was deported yesterday after he made a visit to Puerto Rico. No reason was given for his deportation. Omega, who is famous for his "mambo violento" version of merengue was scheduled to board a direct flight to Manhattan. He missed that flight and took a flight to Puerto Rico where he met with family. He was detained by US Immigration officials when he returned to San Juan's Luis Munoz Airport to board his flight. The singer is most famous for his song "Alante Alante."

Strange but true maternity mishap
Thomas and Nancy Andrews are suing a New York City fertilization clinic after having a black child. The problem is that neither of the parents is black. The Daily News reports that Thomas and Nancy, who is Dominican, had one previous child in 2002 and went to the New York Medical Service for Reproductive Medicine to have a second child. The child was born in 2004 and was born with African-American traits. This was confirmed by DNA tests.
For comments on the happening, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/general-stuff/...

Santiago reigns with beauty
For the second straight year the winner of Miss Dominican Republic comes from the province of Santiago. Last night 22-year old Massiel Taveras was chosen to represent the country at the 2007 Miss Universe contest. She succeeds Mia Taveras, who also represented the central province of Santiago.
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