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Daily News - Thursday, 19 April 2007

JCE approves birth registry for foreigners
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has approved the creation of a new registry for children of foreign, non-resident mothers born in the Dominican Republic. JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said that a text explaining the workings of the registry would be distributed to the national media early Thursday morning.

Fabiancic offers aid
United Nations Development Program country representative Nicky Fabiancic considers that the DR should prioritize the issue of undocumented citizens and offered a US$150,000 donation to the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to help with the process. Fabiancic also said that the JCE needs to be strengthened. Fabiancic made these statements after a meeting with JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman.

Rio Group meetings continue
The Rio Group meeting continued yesterday with bi-lateral and multi-lateral sessions for participating foreign ministers. European Union Council president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Dominican Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. Steinmeier arrived in the DR with a 47-person delegation yesterday, the first visit to the country by a German Foreign Relations Minister in 122 years. During the meeting Morales said that Germany is the DR's second largest European aid donor, after Spain, and Steinmeier commended the DR's hard work in the development process. Morales also mentioned that the Dominican authorities are considering an arrangement that would allow all people born in the European Union to enter the DR without a visa. Morales said that this would open the country up to a market of 480 million people.

Supreme Court tests for drugs
The Supreme Court has begun its anti-doping campaign by testing the president of the institution, Jorge Subero Isa, as well as the other 15 Supreme Court judges. In all, 581 total judges will be tested for various types of drugs and all the Court's 5,597 employees will have to undergo testing. The testing will be carried out by the National Forensic Science Institute.

Improving the freight system
The National Competitiveness Council and the Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) have signed an agreement aimed at improving and developing freight transport in the country as well as increasing the system's competitiveness and logistical flow. Hoy writes that the DR will never be able to make the most of its comparative advantages without efficient transport.

Presidential campaign funding mystery
The source of the PLD's pre-presidential campaign funding is a mystery, or at least a secret. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) admits that it has the figures for the campaigns but say that these are "still being studied". Diario Libre writes that the public has only been made aware that in the first month after the PLD's internal pre-candidacy process began, President Leonel Fernandez spent RD$25 million, Danilo Medina spent RD$18 million, and Jose Tomas Perez spent RD$11 million. JCE Administrative Chamber head Roberto Rosario said that he doesn't have the exact figures for the three PLD presidential pre-candidates' budgets. Diario Libre also points out that when the PRSC and the PRD presented their pre-presidential candidates to the JCE, their campaign budgets were announced immediately.

New bus fares come into effect
Bus drivers are beginning to charge the new higher fares as of today. The RD$3 and RD$5 price increases are for short and long bus routes but bus union leaders have promised that "concho" cars will also be increasing their fares. The drivers have however agreed to postpone the increase of fares on "university routes" for thirty days. This postponement will allow them to plan strategies aimed at forcing the government to agree to fund a subsidy so that student fares don't increase. Union head Juan Hubieres reiterated that the fare increase comes as a result of a government decision and that it is the government that has chosen not to subsidize bus fares.

Hoy-Gallup poll
The latest Hoy-Gallup poll has found that only 10% of the population believes that the government is solving the country's problems while 54% believe that the government knows how to do this, but just needs more time. In contrast to these figures, 30% of Dominicans believe that the government doesn't know how to solve the nation's problems. One surprising finding by the poll is the revelation that 98% of the public feels that there is corruption in Leonel Fernandez's government and what's more, 36.3% of citizens believe that there is more corruption in this administration than during the Hipolito Mejia government. The poll was taken between 9 and 11 April and 1,200 people were interviewed. The margin of error is 2.8%.

Unions march; want raises
Workers and drivers union members marched towards the Torre Empresarial yesterday in order to demand a 25% wage increase for workers making up to RD$30,000. The march is just one event planned by the unions in order to pressurize the business sector into increasing wages. The unions warned that if their demands aren't met there could be a general work stoppage in May. The march began on Abraham Lincoln Avenue on the corner of 27 de Febrero and ended at the Torre Empresarial on Sarasota Avenue. The group was met by police when it reached the building but Colonel Francisco Aquino Eugenio said that police officers were only there to ensure the marchers' safety.

Pushing for wind, solar and hydro power
Geologist Osiris de Leon considers that the country could establish a system where 25% of the country's energy is produced hydroelectrically, 25% wind produced, 10% solar energy produced and 40% coal produced. The Dominican Academy of Sciences' Natural Science and Environment Commission says that as a 1990 signatory to the Kyoto protocols the country is obliged to reduce its carbon emissions by 5%. De Leon says that renewable energy sources would help the country reach new levels of development because of the resulting decrease in energy costs. The geologist also observed that by using renewable energy the country would only have to import one quarter of its petroleum from Venezuela.

No Presidente Music Festival this year
The Presidente beer brewery, Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana has announced that it will not be sponsoring the Presidente Latin Music Festival this year. The brewery explained they have suffered a 20% decline in the beer market in the first quarter of the year, and a 30% decline in beer sales. Sales declines are attributed to the new taxes levied on beer this January, that made beer much more expensive, as well as to the effects the limitation of hours for the sale of alcohol already had on beer sales.
The decision has been met with much disappointment and musician Hector Acosta said that the country's economic situation isn't the best and that it is sad that Dominican talent will not be able to perform for the public.

Preparing for Book Fair
Final preparations are under way for the inauguration of the Santo Domingo International Book Fair, which begins next Monday. The annual event features Colombia as its invited country and distinguished Colombian intellectuals like Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza will be making an appearance at the fair. The annual book festival seeks to increase reading among the Dominican population.

Hear the drums
The first annual "Percussion Festival" is taking place 19-22 April at the National Music Conservatory. Besides workshops on percussion, the festival is showcasing both local and foreign performances. Attendees will be able to purchase percussion and other music instruments that will be on sale at small gift shops.
Some of the best Dominican musicians will be participating side by side with foreign performers. The festival opens Thursday, 19 April at 6 pm. There will be master classes and jam sessions on Friday and Saturday from 3 to 10 pm.
The program is:
Thursday, 19 April. Opening at 6 pm, Doors open to the public at 8 pm. Jam session at 9 pm. Friday, 20 April. Opening at 3 pm. Clinics with Gustavo Melly, Guy Frometa, Chocolate. Master class to follow with David Armengod, Eddie Sanchez, Guarionex Aquino, Isidro Bobadilla and jam session at 9 pm. On Saturday, 21 April, clinics at 3 pm with Antonio Sanchez, Changuito, Luis Enrique and master class to follow with Juan Luis Guerra and Manuel Tejada and the third jam session. On Sunday, 22 April, clinics start at 3 pm with Pablo Pena, Joel Rossenblatt and Thomas Lang to be followed with a master class with Thomas Lang, Chichi Peralta and the fourth jam session. For more on current and upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

A-rod red hot; Big Papi does it again
Dominican Alex Rodriguez is burning up the American League. The controversial player hit his ninth homerun last night and has a total of 23 runs batted in for the season. Big Papi David Ortiz is also heating up and will soon be on Rodriguez's tail. Last night Ortiz hit his fifth homerun of the season, his second consecutive night with a homer, and with his play likely to get better as the season progresses, it looks like Ortiz and Rodriguez will battle it out in a homerun race.
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