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Daily News - Tuesday, 05 June 2007

Fernandez names Guajimia council
President Leonel Fernandez has announced a commission to tackle the problems of Guajimia Creek. The creek flooded in the recent rainstorms. The commission will comprise of the Director of the Presidency's Social Plan, Emigdio Sosa, Santo Domingo Aqueduct Corporation head Richard Martinez, National Lottery administrator Ramon Rivas, and the governor of Santo Domingo province Eladio Martinez. Sosa and Martinez said that the President had instructed them take food, medicines and appliances to the area to speed up the restoration process.

Agriculture in Cibao takes a hit
Last week's continued rains caused large financial damages to the agricultural sector in the Cibao region. Reports indicate that 115,000 tareas (a tarea= 628 square meters) of land have been affected by the rains, according to Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez. Jimenez says that the damage to plantain, banana and rice crops exceeded RD$400 million. Jimenez, however, assures the public that this would not lead to price rises for these products because production for this year is above average. Jimenez says that of the RD$1 billion designated by President Leonel Fernandez for aid, RD$450 million will be directed towards farming.

COE warns the public
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) has issued a warning to the public in response to reports of a high-pressure system developing over Cuba, which could make its way to the Dominican Republic. The warnings are in place for the next 24 to 36 hours. The DR is still recovering from the heavy rains that hit the country last week. In all, eight people were reported dead and many homes ruined because of the non-stop torrential downpours. For updates on weather in the DR, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/

Morales defends the DR
Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso traveled to Paama for the 37th General Assembly and used the Organization of American States (OAS) forum to defend the DR's image. Morales denounced a supposed anti-defamation campaign against the DR on migration issues with Haiti. The foreign minister was attending a meeting of foreign ministers, and also defended the country against claims made in a documentary film that claims that the DR practiced modern day slavery against Haitians. He called the claims unfounded and exaggerated. Afterwards Morales met with his colleague, Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Renalde Clarisme to continue discussions on the subject. Last month a documentary, Slaves in Paradise, was released in France claiming that the DR practiced modern slavery against Haitian laborers. The film caused a firestorm of opinions.
This comes as France continues to distance itself from the events. French ambassador in the DR Cecille Pozo di Borgo, who says she has not seen the film, says that Americans living in France, and not Frenchmen, produced the film that she says was promoted by a non-governmental organization and had multiple sponsorships. The ambassador has distanced the French government from the film. The ambassador said she had sent her government the 16 May Congressional resolution that rejected the content of the documentary on grounds of defamation and damage to the country's image.

Discussions set for the 12th
Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations Juan Giuliani Cury has announced that the eighth round of negotiations between the DR, the Caribbean and the European Union will take place between the 12th and 15th of this month in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Giuliani is in charge of Trade Negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. These talks will hopefully lead to the development of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Giuliani says that a new Dominican negotiating team will be present at the talks, together with business sector representatives who have been invited to the discussions. Others representing the government in the discussions for the Dominican Republic are Federico Cuello Camilo, Dominican ambassador in Brussels who is in charge of the services area, and economist Roberto Despradel, who is attending as alternate negotiator in the area of market access for the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery.
Prior to the trip, the Ministry of Foreign Relations is holding two meetings with government and private sector representatives to discuss the position the country will present in Trinidad.

Bahia Principe Bayahibe on hold?
Spanish hotel chain Grupo Pinero has told Diario Libre that it has put the construction of its new Bahia Principe Bayahibe on hold after receiving a notification from the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry objected to the hotel's construction in the National Park of the East, which is under Ministry of Environment jurisdiction. The company Inversiones Coconut S.A. had received a certificate of no-objection from the Ministry of Tourism for the construction on 10 January 2006.
Yesterday's Diario Libre highlighted comments by environmentalist Eleuterio Martinez on the multiple environmental violations by Bahia Principe hotels in the country. These include the first Bahia Principe San Juan in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province on the north coast, which was built in a mangrove area, with more rooms than the authorized limit for the zone and within the 60-meter coastal limit. Furthermore, the newspaper points out that groups in Samana have criticized the chain's privatization of beaches and the company's failure to present environmental permits for the expansion undertaken at the Cayo Levantado hotel.
Grupo Pinero operates the Bahia Principe Punta Cana and Bahia Principe Bavaro on the east coast. The Bahia Principe La Romana (former Santana Beach Resort) is scheduled for opening in November 2007. The Spanish chain's first hotel in the Dominican Republic was the Bahia Principe San Juan, in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province on the north coast. The chain is the largest single player in tourism in Samana on the north east Coast, with concessions to operate the Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, Bahia Principe Cayacoa and ownership of the Bahia Principe Samana (former Gran Bahia) and Bahia Principe El Portillo (former Portillo Beach Resort).
The Coalition for the Defense of Protected areas has criticized the Ministry of Tourism for granting the no-objection permit for the hotel's construction in the National Park of the East. As reported in Diario Libre, the no-objection was granted based on recommendations contained in a land use report contracted by the Ministry of Tourism to French businessman Francoise Fontes. The Ministry of Tourism also entrusted Fontes with the preparation of the land use plan for Samana. Fontes is best known, nevertheless, for the controversial proposal for construction of eco-lodges in the Bahia de las Aguilas protected area in the remote southwestern province of Pedernales, a proposal in which the government was asked to contribute the Bahia de las Aguilas beach lands to the project.

DR and Brazil strengthen ties
The Dominico-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and the Dominican Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD) held a workshop yesterday called "Business Opportunities between the DR and Brazil." The workshop sought to strengthen ties between the two countries, which have become stronger in recent years. Ronaldo Edgar Dunlop, Brazilian ambassador to the DR, says that DR-CAFTA would open up new avenues for investment and commerce for both countries. Hector Dionisio Perez, the Dominican consul in Brazil, says that a Brazilian delegation is in the DR looking into options for investing in the country. They say that the investment climate in the DR is great. The consul also mentioned that talks aimed at allowing more Dominican products to enter the Brazilian market were under way.
The Fernandez government has taken on millions of dollars in loans from commercial banks in Brazil for the purchase of Brazilian products and services.

Cigarettes to stay expensive
Smokers might have cheered last week when it was announced that the 100% ad valorem tax on tobacco products would be reduced to 20%, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the tax reduction. Diario Libre writes that although the proposal is to reduce to the tax to 20%, the proposal includes a 54.5% fixed tax, making the proposed reduction almost invisible. Currently, a box of 20 cigarettes pay a RD$16.82 tax and a 100% ad valorem tax, but the proposal would decrease the ad valorem to 20%, although the regular tax would increase to RD$26.00. Accordingly, a box of 10 cigarettes would pay a RD$13.00 tax, up from RD$8.41. At this moment a box of 20 cigarettes costs between RD$80 and RD$95 and a 10-cigarette box costs between RD$45 and RD$50, but with the tax reduction they could end up costing RD$30 and RD$60.

Dolphy becomes an inspiration
Dolphy Angelina Gonzalez has experienced a tragedy that not many can imagine, but she's not letting it stop her from leading a normal life. Gonzalez was a victim of domestic violence, which culminated when her ex-husband cut off her hands, but she refuses to discuss the events and Diario Libre reports that she is now working at the Justice Department at Ciudad Nueva. Gonzalez says she won't let this hurdle stop her and she will continue working to accomplish her dreams. She says she wants to study languages and give motivational speeches. Gonzalez says she appreciates the support she has received. Her husband has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crime.

Hope dwindles in DR soldier case
It's been three weeks since Dominican-American soldier Alex Jimenez disappeared, along with two other soldiers, in an area 30 kilometers from Baghdad, and although no definite answer as to what happened to the soldiers has surfaced, SPC Jimenez's family have released a statement saying that they were prepared for the worst. Diario Libre reports that an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization released a video demonstrating that they did in fact have the soldiers in their custody, displaying their military identity cards and such, but no sign of the soldiers themselves appears in the video. Hoy writes that the Al-Qaeda group claims to have killed the soldiers, but there is still no solid proof that the soldiers have been killed either. Hoy writes that the voiceover in the video says that the Americans sent 4,000 troops out to find the soldiers, who were once alive but now they are dead.

Protecting the turtles
The International Humane Society has made a complaint against the DR for supposed mistreatment, capture and killing of turtles. The group based the claim on a DR-CAFTA treaty environmental resource. Hoy writes that the complaint was submitted on 9 May, along with pictures, demonstrating that the country is violating DR-CAFTA environmental rules. Hoy writes that the Ministry of Environment was surprised at the claims, which could lead to an US$15,000 fine. Environment Minister Max Puig says he has set up a committee in order to come up with a position on the situation. The DR has 45 to 60 days to respond to the accusations. In its defense the Ministry of Environment says that the Humane Society didn't wait for a response before submitting their complaint and says that the ministry doesn't have the funds to effectively enforce all environmental legislations.

Pepe Goico leaves the country
Ex-military colonel Julio "Pepe" Goico departed from Las Americas International Airport en route to Spain yesterday. Goico displayed a defiant attitude, telling airport staff that he could go "to the ends of the earth without having to ask for anyone's permission." Diario Libre writes that there was some excitement at the airport when staff realized that it was Goico who was leaving and military officers phoned their superiors to find out whether Goico was in fact allowed to leave. To many people's surprise, Goico's exit impediment had been removed. Goico is due back in the DR for a court hearing on 11 July. He is being questioned for his connection with the drug ring headed by ex-military captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo.

Drug pilots headed for jail
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) says that the two pilots who were caught with more than 31 kilos of cocaine will be sent to jail in La Romana. Federico Guillermo Polanco Rios, who was accompanied by an Argentinean, Mario Enrique Cersosimo were caught with the drugs when they stopped to refuel at La Romana's International Airport on Friday. The DNCD informed that both men had been interviewed by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and that the pilots were on their way to Puerto Rico when the shipment was intercepted.

DR wins in men's volleyball
The Dominican Republic lost the first set against Panama but recovered well to get its second win in as many outings in Pool B of the Second Men's Pan American Cup. The Dominican hosts triumphed with scores of 25-27, 25-20, 25-22, 25-15, and today will meet Cuba to define the winner of the pool that will automatically advance to the semi-final phase. Elvis Contreras, Jose Caceres and Juan Pozo had 17, 14 and 12 points respectively for the Dominican Republic. Carlos Zuniga (14), Domingo Avila (13) and Gabriel Calderon (11) were Panama's top scorers, as reported on the Norceca site.
The Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center Volleyball Pavilion is hosting seven teams for the Second Men's Pan American Cup from 3-8 June. The tournament is a qualifier for the 2008 America's Cup in Brazil. Competing are Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico in Pool A and Cuba, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and host Dominican Republic in Pool B. See www.norceca.org/endex.htm
Meanwhile, the Dominican women's volleyball team did well in a Spain-DR tournament yesterday. The team defeated Spain (23-25, 25-20, 19-25 and 24-26) to start the four-match friendly series in the first of four friendly matches between the two squads. Playing for the DR are Rosalin Angeles, Nuris Arias, Cindy Rondon, Kenia Moreta, Sidalka Nunez, Bethania de la Cruz, Brenda Castillo and Carmen Casso (Libero). The tournament is one of several to prepare the women for their participation in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Best of handball
The Dominican Republic team has qualified for the 18th Women's World Handball Championship to be held in France in December. They won a bronze medal in the Pan American Handball Championship Senior Women's Elite tournament, which took place in Santo Domingo from 31 to 4 June. Teams from Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, the USA and Paraguay also competed in the tournament which took place at the handball pavilion at eastern Santo Domingo's Parque del Este sports center.

Kiteboarding championships at Cabarete beach
Kiteboarders from around the world will be meeting at Cabarete beach to compete in the fourth annual Kiteboarding Championships sponsored by Presidente Beer. The event will be held between 26 June and 1 July and around 100 enthusiasts will take part in the events. The event is organized by the Professional Kiteboarders Association. Six Dominicans, four men and two women, will represent the country in the competition. For more upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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