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Daily News - Friday, 08 June 2007

Apply then fly
The Homeland Security announced that US citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda who have applied for but not yet received passports can enter and depart from the US by air through 30 September 2007. Travelers will be required to present government-issued photo identification and a Department of State official proof of application for a passport. The temporary change in procedures is to facilitate summer travel. It usually takes 30-45 days to receive a passport after applying. It is estimated that only 25% of Americans have passports, which meant the new requirement was a major inconvenience for millions of summer travelers that complained to their legislators.
The announcement is good news for the Dominican Republic tourism industry that had been affected by the passport rule.
See http://www.dhs.gov/index.shtm

FTA talks to resume with Canada
On the occasion of yesterday's International Trade Day, Canadian International Trade Minister David Emerson told a Canadian Chamber of Commerce audience that the government of Canada plans to resume talks aimed at signing a free trade agreement with the Dominican Republic. "Today, I can announce that we are launching free trade negotiations with Colombia and Peru, and with the Dominican Republic," stated Emerson at the event. He announced that he has already instructed officials to begin talks "over the next few weeks."
The Canadian government announced a more aggressive strategy intended to reach out to Canadian friends and partners throughout the Americas to re-energize business relationships and build a hemispheric advantage.
In addition, he announced that Canada intends to initiate free trade discussions with the Caribbean community (Caricom) and conclude negotiations with Central America (CA4).
From the Canadian perspective, an FTA with the Dominican Republic will stimulate trade and help level the playing field for Canadian business vis-a-vis their competitors, namely the US, that is benefiting from DR-CAFTA preferential access terms.
The Canadian government says that two-way merchandise trade between Canada and the DR is increasing and totaled nearly $277 million in 2006. Canadian direct investment in the Dominican Republic was valued at $1.8 billion in 2006. Canada's commercial services exports to the Dominican Republic totalled approximately $24 million in 2004 (the latest year for which official data is available). The successful conclusion of the agreement is expected to expand opportunities for Canadian exporters and investors in agriculture, mining, communications, financial services and tourism.
See http://w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.aspx?...

Senator on protected areas revision
The ongoing drama regarding the turning over of protected area beach lands for resort development continues. After Environmental Minister Max Puig named Senator Ruben Dario Cruz (PLD Hato Mayor), president of the Senate Environment Commission, as holding meetings to change protected area limitations, Cruz admitted that two meetings have taken place between legislators to discuss changes to the Sectorial Protected Areas Law. Cruz added that other senators, including Charlie Mariotti (PLD Monte Plata) had also attended the meetings, as well as Environment deputy minister Daneris Santana. He said that environmental consultant Bolivar Troncoso was one of the participants and described him as his "honorary adviser" on the matter. Colonel Rosanna Pons of the Military Cartography Institute was present at the second meeting. Cruz, however, says that the modifications to the protected areas laws have nothing to do with Puig's recent accusations and continued by saying that legislators are only trying to correct the "mutilations" that have been made in the recent past. Cruz says that the senators are moving forward towards modifying the law because "Puig hasn't had the courage to do it." Cruz says that he is in favor of modifying the law, which he says was created under illegal pretenses and says that the process should take place in a transparent and democratic way. Cruz claims that in 2004, when the lands were being protected, legislators were being paid 30% for those lands and that since those lands are public there is no way that those transactions could be legal.

Coalition will monitor situation
The Coalition for Protected Areas says it will keep abreast of all the developments in the protected areas story and has called on all interested parties to do the same. Eleuterio Martinez and Luis Carvajal say that changes had to be made to the protected areas law to repair the damage done in 2004. The pair pointed out that 34% of land in Costa Rica is protected and that figure is set to rise to 45%, while in the DR protected lands are being handed over for the construction of resorts. They pointed out that the only beaches that remain in the east are part of the National Park of the East. The National Park of the East made headlines, after Diario Libre revealed that the Ministry of Tourism had granted a no-objection to Bahia Principe hotel chain for the construction of the Bahia Principe Bayahibe resort. The company later announced it desisted from the intent after the go ahead was not cleared by the Ministry of Environment.

SFS discussions not happening
National Business Council (CONEP) president Lisandro Macarrulla said yesterday that the commission created by President Leonel Fernandez to resolve the issues with the government's Health Insurance Plan (SFS) has still not been convened. Macarrulla says that 90 days, the period allotted to resolve any remaining issues, is enough time to achieve that purpose and says that the government should take the lead on the issue. The commission is headed by Vice President Rafael Alburquerque. He said that so far the business sector has not been asked to any meeting. Macarrulla, referring to one of the concerns about the SFS, says that the plan will end up being more expensive for employees who already have quality private insurance cover.

The Metro dream continues
No real date for the completion of the Santo Domingo Metro has been set, and the chorus of criticism keeps growing but this isn't stopping the government from planning a second metro line. Hoy writes that the Metro Minister, Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) head Diandino Pena has announced that the government is planning a second metro line running from Los Alcarrizos to San Luis. The new line would be 22 kilometers long, about 8km longer than the current line, and would run from the Duarte Highway through John F. Kennedy Avenue, continuing to the Quinto Centenario Expressway and on to the Mella Highway.

OMSA to get new rides
The Metropolitan Office for Autobus Services (OMSA) has announced the purchase of 300 new air-conditioned buses. The announcement was made by OMSA director Ignacio Ditren. Ditren says a "completely transparent" tender will be held for the purchases.

PRD senators challenge coal plant
Members of the opposition PRD party have presented a report indicating that the proposed loans for the Pepillo Salcedo coal plants will be too onerous for the country to handle. The party says that it is opposed to the US$30 million loan for the coal plants. According to this report, the Independent Private Producers contract is not in the country's best interests. The report also claims that this contract will result in an additional cost of US$270 million and that the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) will have to take on 65% of the operational costs. The report also says that the country could end up owing more than US$800 million as a result of this contract. It includes a clause for payment for the service, regardless whether power is generated or not. This clause was included in the notoriously burdensome Smith-Enron and Cogentrix plants.

AES Andres gets natural gas
The Blue Sky ship, originating from Nigeria, unloaded a shipment of 135,000 cubic meters of natural gas at the AES Andres docks, which guarantees the country's energy supply for the next 60 days. Blue Sky is the largest ship that has ever entered this terminal. It is the fifth ship to make a stop at the terminal and the 22nd since AES Andres began operations at Boca Chica. AES Andres provides the country with 20% of its energy needs.

Border bridge re-opens
The bridge over the Rio Massacre has been reopened. The bridge was closed for repairs after a "tornado" on 8 May caused severe damage and made crossing the bridge dangerous. The bridge, located on the border between the DR and Haiti at Dajabon, allows for transit between the two countries and is an access point for the bi-national market in the northwestern town. Repairs to the bridge cost the government RD$25 million. During the tornado 600 hundred houses were also damaged, 600 people were forced to find refuge and 36 military personnel were injured. Commerce at the bi-national market had been suspended due to the tornado and province governor Arturo Socias said that this had led to shortages in the Haitian border town of Ouanaminthe (Juana Mendez). President Leonel Fernandez is scheduled to visit Dajabon today to see the results of the work that was carried out. He is also expected to stop by in Palo Verde, Montecristi to see how rains have affected the area in the last few days.

Cardinal speaks
During yesterday's Corpus Cristi celebrations Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez urged the Dominican public to unite in response to the daily reports of violence, poverty, violence against women, theft and murder. The Cardinal blamed the crime rate on the government's inability to protect its citizens. He continued by saying that if there were such a thing as security and safety there wouldn't be a need to disarm the population, as has been proposed. The Cardinal asked the public to pray so that God can thwart the plans of thieves and evildoers against the public. The Cardinal made his comments during a speech held at the Estadio Quisqueya where thousands of Catholics celebrated the religious holiday.

"Anti-Christ" in the DR?
No the anti-Christ has not surfaced in the DR though some, including Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, would have said otherwise upon the arrival of Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda. De Jesus, speaking in Listin Diario criticized some in the Dominican Republic for trying to impede his speech on the number 666, that was scheduled to be given at the Aula Magna at the UASD University. He says that the Catholic Church used its influence to not make this happen. The speaker, who calls himself Christ Man, says that he only wants the DR as well as other nations to learn the real meaning of the number 666, that is the supposed representation of Satan. De Jesus arrived in the country yesterday, greeted by religious protestors, and though his speech has no venue yet Listin Diario writes that it is a guarantee that many will be paying attention to what he says.
The Cardinal made a scathing attack on preacher Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, calling him "a charlatan." Miranda calls himself the Anti-Christ because "we are no longer supposed to follow Jesus of Nazareth, therefore we are antichrists." The Cardinal said that the preacher should be sent home as soon as possible, without any hesitation.

Amable Aristy to win PRSC primary?
A poll by CIES International forecasts that the president of the Dominican Municipal League, Amable Aristy Castro will win the PRSC nomination in the primary scheduled for Sunday, 10 June. The forecast shows electoral preferences for Amable Aristy with 46%, Eduardo Estrella with 39% and Luis Toral with 11%. Eduardo Estrella had the majority in the National District with 45% versus Aristy's 33% and Toral's 12%, and in the province of Santo Domingo with 62% versus 25% for Aristy and 2% for Toral. However, the poll found Aristy to be strong in other provinces, including Eduardo Estrella's hometown of Santiago, where Aristy shows 71% versus 16% for Estrella and 13% for Toral. In his home territory of the east, Aristy has 59% support, compared to 30% for Estrella and 11% for Toral. Aristy's positioning is strongest in the impoverished southern region, where he shows 55%, compared to 31% for Estrella and 12% for Toral. Aristy Castro's is well known for his clientelist campaign methods, known as "money talks."
Florida based CIES is a Hispanic-oriented marketing and public opinion polling service. The polling agency, working with Diario Horizonte, published a very close approximation to the results of the ruling PLD party primary on 4 May. (See www.diariohorizonte.com/view/articulopolitica,aspx?articleid+12865&zoneid=44
For the PRSC, CIES International is now forecasting that Aristy will win. Over 1,200 Dominicans eligible to vote in the 16 May presidential elections were polled in the 12 larger Dominican provinces. The margin of error is 2.58%.
The PRSC pre-presidential candidates will end their campaigns at midnight tonight as the party prepares for the Sunday primary.

Latest crime figures
According to figures released by the National District prosecutors' office, so far this year 233 vehicles have been stolen, 1,190 sex crimes were committed against children, there have been 64 homicides, and 4,42 crimes were committed against women. The report also indicates that there have been 3,209 requests for late birth registrations. There were also reports of 68 robberies and 289 cases involving drugs. The report does however indicate that of the 233 vehicles that were stolen, 213 have been recovered.

Check forgers caught
Chief of Police Bernardo Santana Paez announced the dismantling of a ring that forged checks with the logos of Major League Baseball teams and American Airlines. Vicente Corporan has been named as the ringleader. The group was apprehended at Santo Domingo's Embajador Hotel, were they had planned to meet and divide up the RD$2,772,750, the proceeds of cashing a fake check valued at US$92,425. Two of the group members were arrested as they tried to cash the check at Quero exchange house located on the corner of San Martin Avenue and Maria Montez Street. The check bore the Boston Red Sox logo. The group is also accused of trying to cash a check valued at US$53,000, with the American Airlines logo. The police chief said that when Corporan noticed the police presence he tried to flee the scene.

Student tragedy in Santiago
Santiago has suffered another student tragedy. On Wednesday, high school student Jessica Rosalia Rodriguez, 17, was shot and killed by gym teacher Manuel Maria Torres Nunez. Twenty eight-year old Nunez also injured another student and then took his own life with the gun. Jessica was hit with three shots to the chest as she entered the TV Centro School in the community of Los Jobos. Reports indicate that the teacher had been obsessed with the young woman for a few months but that Jessica had turned down his advances. Friends say that she had even considered changing schools in order to avoid a problem. Henry Arismendy Torres, 27, was also injured in the incident.

Beauty and the Beast a la Dominicana
The Dominican version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" musical is a success in Caracas, Venezuela. Scheduled for 13 performances, the Amaury Sanchez production has been performing to sell out audiences and getting good reviews in the press. The presentations end this 10 June. Sixty-five Dominicans traveled to Venezuela for the performance. The Dominican production was licensed by Music Theater International and Disney Theatrical served as consultant.
The success of this performance is expected to open door for more artistic presentations of successful Dominican theatrical presentations.
The presentation stars Maximo Martinez (the Beast), Stephanie Fatule (Belle), Roger Zayas (Lumiere), Luis Jose German (Ding Dong), Jose Guillermo (Gaston), Kenny Grullon (Lefou), Patricia Banks (Mrs. Potts), Cuche Gonzalez del Rey (wardrobe), Ivan Garcia (father of Belle) and Robmariel Olea (Featherduster).
Just as outstanding is the support staff, with Laura Garcia Godoy, theatrical direction; Isadora Bruno, choreography; Leonel Lirio, costumes; Fidel Lopez, scenography, among others.
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