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Daily News - Thursday, 26 April 2007

CNS approves increase
The National Salary Committee (CNS) has approved a 15% minimum wage increase for private sector workers, including farm workers and night watchmen. This means that the minimum wage level will be RD$4,485 while the next pay levels will be RD$5,060 and RD$7,360 per month. Rural workers who currently make RD$130 per day will receive a wage increase of RD$20.00 and night watchmen will now earn RD$6,210. Although the business sector and the workers unions agreed on the wage increase, union leader Rafael Abreu, vice president of National Union Unity Council (CNUS), walked out of the meeting because he disagreed with the decision. Both sides also signed an agreement for a 5% increase for workers who earn up to RD$30,000. Hoy writes that Lisandro Macarrulla, president of National Business Council (CONEP), and Maribel Gasso of the Dominican Employers Confederation (COPADOM) signed the agreement on behalf of the business sector. Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado and Vice President Rafael Alburquerque were both present as witnesses.

Raise not mandatory for all
Marisol Vicens, of the Dominican Employers Confederation (COPADOM) says that the 5% wage increase for people earning up to RD$30,000 is not mandatory, as opposed to the 15% increase to the minimum wage. Vicens, speaking in El Caribe, said that the 5% is only a reference point and not required by all businesses. Vicens pointed out that some businesses had already gone ahead and given workers a pay raise, which doesn't oblige them to make any additional increases. She also said that as in the case of wage increases, they are only obliged to increase the minimum wages and not any other wage level.
The pay increase is retroactive to the 1 April 2007.

Congress and Senate take a break
Legislators will be taking a break due to the upcoming PLD primary election, which will be held on 6 May. Both the Chamber and the Senate will resume their sessions on 8 May. The ruling PLD holds the majority in Congress.

Political parties want reform
Leaders of the PRSC, PRD and PLD have all expressed their support for the idea of campaign finance reform after Central Electoral Board judge Dr. Jose Angel Aquino revealed that the three main political parties have spent RD$350 million on their pre-presidential campaigns. Sergia Elena de Seliman of the PRSC, Danilo Diaz of the PLD and Orlando Jorge Mera of the PRD say that it is time for campaign finance reform. Orlando Jorge Mera called the spending "excessive" and says that the PLD needs to explain its level of spending. He said that the public should be concerned about this situation. He said that the PRD would be submitting a bill calling for campaign finance reform. Jorge Mera also called for transparency and said that the PLD has been anything but transparent.
The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin (PLD) committed to submit changes to the Electoral Law. The plan is to make campaign spending more transparent and incorporate controls on spending and duration of the campaigns, as well as define the use of taxpayer money for politics. The new regulations would also curb the use of the so-called noisey "discolight" vehicles that blast music to stir citizens to vote for a candidate. The legislation could be in time for the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Pointing out the weaknesses of the DR
International consultant Elena Di Vico has pointed out some of the DR's weaknesses at the start of DR-CAFTA. These include infrastructural problems like the state of the energy sector, low levels of Internet access and the poor school attendance rates. She also considered that the country had displayed weaknesses in fulfilling requirements for industrial property, lack of experience in high technology, and lack of investments to facilitate commerce. The report also mentions the inability to create jobs and to eliminate administrative bureaucracy as problems. The report says that the country needs to put more of an emphasis on innovation and education and needs to do more to help the most vulnerable members of society. The country should also work towards increasing competitiveness levels in both business and social aspects. The report clarified that DR-CAFTA is not a solution to the DR's problems and that the country needs to improve its positioning in the international market.

DGII goes digital
The Tax Department (DGII) is reporting that it has collected RD$600 million via the Internet during the first four months of the year. The collections were made through the country's two largest banks, BanReservas and Banco Popular. The DGII reports that 71 importers are going online to pay taxes, saving time in the process. The DGII urges more businesses to follow their lead.

Criticism for HIV/AIDS exclusion
The connection between the transmission of HIV/AIDS and violence against women is ever increasing, according to international organization Development Connections, and this is why, according to them, it should be included in the Plan Basico de Salud (PBS), the national health coverage insurance plan. Development Connections, an organization that works with women who are victims of violence and HIV/AIDS, says that the percentage of women in this category is between 22% and 30%. Other organizations working on these issues include the Presidential AIDS Council (COPRESIDA), the National Gender Alliance and the Women and Health Collective. Hoy explains that violence against women is becoming a major factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS and that the government should introduce policies aimed at protecting and caring for women who are victims of violence.

What's up for grabs
In an op-ed contribution Listin Diario, Legislator Vinicio A Castillo Seman comments that what is worth noting about the Sonia Pierre nationality case is that it could "officialize" the forgery of nationality paperwork as a way of securing Dominican nationality. Castillo points to the investigation carried out at the Central Electoral Board that found strong evidence that leading Haitian rights activist Sonia Pierre's parents obtained their child's Dominican citizenship irregularly. JCE investigations have revealed thousands of cases of forged citizenships, which means that the decision could affect thousands in similar situations and thousands more in future years. Castillo says that the forgery issue has yet to be addressed by the JCE. He comments that the United Nations Assembly Resolution 869 IX General Assembly of 4 December 1954 effective 13 December 1975 establishes in its Art. 8 that to obtain nationality through false statements or fraud is one of the exceptional causes for which a state can revoke a citizen's nationality, even in extreme cases where a citizen might be made stateless. Castillo writes that in Pierre's case, she would not become stateless because the Haitian Constitution says that children of Haitian parents are Haitians no matter where they were born. Castillo asks: "What is the sin, or the problem with Mrs. Pierre being Haitian? Why do she and her defenders understand that it is denigrating to state that she is a citizen of Haiti?"
"Mrs. Pierre, her defenders and powerful nations (that do not want a single Haitian in their own vast territories), want to abolish, diminish and contract our laws and our sovereignty to draft immigration policies. They want to achieve, as they have been achieving, that anyone who can cross the border, be born or say they were born here, that Haitians can obtain their nationality with fake statements through forged declarations and with the last names of Dominican parents," writes Castillo.
He wonders why Mrs. Pierre does not suggest that the powerful Kennedy Foundation use its influence so that Florida can accept even a minimal amount of Haitian immigrants?
Castillo concludes that if despite proof of forgery, Pierre's Dominican nationality is consolidated, it would send a message to all Haitians to "entren to", quoting a popular statement by legislator Ramon Alburquerque meaning "open the gates, all are welcome".

Focus on Dominican deportees
A workshop on Dominicans who have been repatriated from the United States sponsored by the UASD University's Faculty of Judicial and Political Sciences and UNIBE University's Center for Research and Social Studies has concluded that deportees are not the main cause of the increase in violence in the country. As reported in Hoy newspaper, more than 35,000 have been obliged to return to the DR in the last year, and of these, only 1% is known to have committed crimes after their return. Another detail is that 30-40% of the deportees have found ways to return to the US for family and work reasons. More than 25% of deportees had lived in the United States for at least 20 years, according to the research.
Researcher Vielka Polanco and the president of the Bienvenido Seas Foundation, Rene Vicioso stated that when deportees arrive in the DR, their rights are violated. Polanco explained that when they arrive they are "fichado" at the Police, which becomes a major obstacle for them in finding work and getting access to education, health and other services. Jose Poche of the National Police told attendees at the workshop that the police is aware of this situation and does not carry out "fichas", but defined it as a registration procedure to help them know the whereabouts of people who are deported from the US.
Statistics show that 77% of people who are repatriated have committed a crime in the US - such as drugs, murder, kidnapping, violence, illegal weapons possession, forgery and traffic accidents. Most deportees are men and 52% have served jail sentences for drug trafficking. However, 19.3% of the people repatriated in 2004 were deported for their illegal status in the US.

Only 100,000 "fichas" valid
The Attorney General's office is reporting that of the 400,000 "fichas" (police records) at the National Police only 100,000 are now valid. Criminal Investigations System director Moises Ferrer Landron said that the 300,000 police records that were removed would be transferred to a passive file as decided by a presidential decree. Ferrer explained that no organization other than the state prosecutors office could have a record on a person, although they may still hold records on "persons of interest".

Toddler abducted; ransom wanted
The two-year old son of Javilla Tours owner Alejandro Salcedo and Miguelina Marte was abducted yesterday morning and his captors are asking from US$100,000 in ransom, as reported in Listin Diario. The family believes that Carlos Santiago Polanco is responsible for the kidnapping, but he is denying any involvement in the incident. The abduction occurred from Puerto Plata's Residencial Codetel at 9am and the child's mother says she saw Santiago Polanco take her child and drive away in a white Honda Accord. The mother says that she left her child with a man, identified as "El Gordo", and that Santiago Polanco tricked him, saying he was the boy's father. Marte says she went to inspect some buildings for her husband and when she returned she saw the alleged kidnapper leaving with her child. Police say they found a note at the Javilla offices asking for the ransom. The search for the child continues.

Fishermen rescued
The total number of people rescued from the boat that sank near the town of Montecristi yesterday has reached 20. Diario Libre writes that 14 survivors were taken to the hospital in Manzanillo. In today's Diario Libre some of the survivors discussed their 17-hour ordeal in the water after their ship Abracadabra, captained by Amancio Mirabal, began to sink. Mirabal is still missing. One survivor, Teofilo Rosario explained that the boat left at around 3pm on Sunday with 39 people on board and started sinking nine hours later about 20 miles off Montecristi. Bad weather caused significant wave surge in the ocean, which caused the boat to capsize.
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