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Daily News - Monday, 11 June 2007

Huge benefits from the NCF
The Fiscal Invoice Number (NCF in Spanish) is an easily applied mechanism that has generated over RD$6.5 billion additional pesos for the Dominican Treasury. It is so efficient that many tax payers have increased their payments, in some cases by as much as 150%. The bonanza has been a RD$450 million surplus over all estimates each month since January. Estimates for the January-May period were for RD$53.3 billion to enter the treasury. Thanks to the new NCF, a total of RD$6.7 billion has entered the till. According to Internal Revenue boss Juan Hernandez, the amount of information provided by the NCFs obliges businesses and traders to function transparently, considerably reducing the practice of double bookkeeping that was so popular in the Dominican Republic. For example, VAT evasion was estimated at 42.83% in 2003. It is estimated at 32.1% for 2006.

Government looks at teamsters
The nation's cargo haulers, known in the English speaking world as teamsters, are under close scrutiny by the Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET), the office run by Metro czar Diandino Pena, and by the National Competitiveness Council (CNC). According to El Caribe, the sector needs "urgent" reorganization. Over the next seven months, the powers that be will try and design a project to recover control of the haulage industry in the Dominican Republic. The resources, US$170,000, are coming from a program funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and channeled through the Competitiveness Fund. One of the key issues is how licenses are secured by the drivers. Another is the operation of cargo hauling businesses. Perhaps one of the major goals is a reduction in the age of the cargo fleet, where the average age of the semis is 16 years and the goal is to reach five years. Currently, it can cost a business more to haul a container from the port of entry to the business site than it does to ship the container to the Dominican Republic.

Magistrate calls law obsolete
Central Electoral Board (JCE) magistrate Eddy Olivares has called the current Civil Registry Act an obsolete piece of legislation that needs to be reshaped. According to Olivares, the current legislation is a stumbling block for people trying to get their documents. Law 659 requires the President and the Justice Department to intervene in many cases where people's names or dates are incorrectly written in the Civil Registry of Vital Statistics. A 1948 decision that has been confirmed by the Supreme Court establishes that it is not a person's fault if a name or date is improperly recorded on an official birth certificate, for example. Olivares says that the common citizen is unduly penalized when attempting to correct such errors. Olivares is suggesting legislation that would send such requests to the JCE Contentions Chamber, eliminating the need for a Presidential signature.

Do not jump a red light
General Jose Sigfrido Fernandez Fadul, head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) has issued orders for all drivers ticketed for passing a red light to spend six hours in jail before paying the fines. Drivers will also receive a series of classes and talks on how to drive safely. According to the general, red light violations and reckless driving are two of the major sources of traffic violations according to the statistics collected by AMET.

Contractors assist in fraud
The National Support Program for the Elimination of Electricity Fraud (PAEF) reported that more than 50% of the contractors working for the electric distributors (EDEs) engage in some sort of fraud against the very companies they work for. This information was provided by PAEF director Delis del Pilar Hernandez Pena who told reporters from Hoy that supervisors have found these contractors making adjustments to equipment in order to reduce clients' electricity bills. Many have been arrested, and certain companies have been identified as the major offenders. The PAEF spokesperson demanded better staff screening and urged business owners to cooperate with the authorities.

Visa mafia in Ministry of Labor
The magistrate at the Third Court of Instruction for the National District has ordered the director of the Department of Human Resources at the Ministry of Labor to be sent to Najayo Prison. The woman is accused together with her husband and two other employees of swindling a bunch of people by promising work visas to Spain and Canada. They are accused of taking in over two million pesos. Magistrate Alejandro Vargas sent Doris Altagracia Vargas Nunez to preventive custody for three months. Chauffeur Danilo Moreta was released on RD$100,000 bail, and banned from all foreign travel. He must appear in the court each week. Husband Narciso Reyes Cabrera was freed with no restraints. One of the accused, Diovanna Vianne Arias was not located by authorities. Minister Ramon Fadul denies any knowledge of the affair.

Last day to renew gun permits
At midnight tonight all carry permits for weapons that have not been renewed will be cancelled. For the past week, the Ministry of the Interior and Police has been publishing advertisements in the papers announcing the end of the grace period, and according to Diario Libre and other papers, about 40,000 permits are pending renewal. The same announcement says that from 12 June until 21 June applications for possession permits will be accepted. After the 21st, Minister Franklin Almeyda said that the computer system would proceed to cancel all non-renewed permits.

Experts look at Penal Code
Not yet two years into its life, the new Penal Code is being closely examined. A group of well-known legal experts are meeting at the PUCMM in Santo Domingo to analyze the code and its workings. The seminar is sponsored by the Embassy of France (because Dominican law is based on the Napoleonic Code) and the Chamber of Deputies. Vice President Rafael Alburquerque and Attorney General Radhames Jimenez are among the attendees. Speakers included famous jurists such as Artagnan Perez Mendez, Jottin Cury Jr., Marino Vinicio Castillo (Vincho) and Cristina Aguilar, as well as French jurist Jean Pradel. The idea behind the seminar is to work up some ideas aimed at helping the Chamber of Deputies in its deliberations on legislation designed to make a few changes in the Penal Code. Contributions included a brief description of the Dominican Penal Code's development over the last two centuries by Perez Mendez and a hard look at what were considered to be weakness in the current code by Cury. Cury emphasized that the bureaucracy that has built up over the past two years is slowing down the processing of cases, creating unnecessary delays in justice. The seminar continues today.

Customs seizes thirty containers
Thirty containers full of what authorities are calling "counterfeit" popular consumer goods, and their labels, have been seized by the Customs authorities. Literally hundreds of thousands of clothes, shoes and more than 600,000 yards of Chinese denim were in the containers. The goods would have been subject to RD$46 million in tariff duties. The consignees never turned up to claim their cargo in the Customs area, and, according to Diario Libre, the cargo could be incinerated or, with the approval of the trademark concessionaires, it could be marked and donated to non-profit institutions.

Marbella again makes local headlines
Diario Libre reveals that Carlos Sanchez Hernandez, who was sent to jail in Spain for corrupt real estate dealings (Caso Marbella), appears as one of the buyers of more than 3 million meters in the questioned lot that would be separated for development from National Park of the East protected land. The businessman would pay US$19.8 million for the beach land in three sums of US$6.6 million each. The Ministry of Tourism established that it did not object to the construction of hotels in the land. But the Ministry of Environment does and has contested the separation of the land for resort development.
In a separate article, Diario Libre points out that state lawyer Fermin Castilla Minaya is questioning the legitimacy of the separation of the lot from the National Park of the East. Castilla has denounced that powerful sectors are trying to take over the park beach lands to launder money of dubious origin. He said that a company known as Inversiones Trubia seeks to take hold of 35 million square meters located in the National Park of the East. He explained that to make the deal legal, a judgment favoring Trubia was obtained during a court hearing without the presence of the state lawyer and the Ministry of Environment. The ruling is now pending a hearing to establish the legitimacy of the decision at the Superior Court of Land (Tribunal Superior de Tierras).

Dispute over power plant guarantee
HN Energy Solutions, that lost a bid called by the government CDEEE to build two power plants to generate 600 megawatts to Sichuan Machinery & Equipment, is disputing that the government would grant a US$30 million sovereign guarantee to Sichuan for the construction of the power plants. Diario Libre reports today that the company's position is that the guarantee is illegal because it would create a privilege not granted to the other companies that participated in the tender. In a letter to Congress, HN Energy Solutions says that Sichuan won the tender with the commitment of a US$40 million guarantee that the works would be carried out and that if the civilian works did not start within 90 days and the electromechanical works in 180 days. "The Dominican government has lost out on receiving US$40 million for not executing that guarantee established in the tender," stated the company, as reported in Diario Libre. The company sent the complaint to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate that are reviewing the US$30 million sovereign guarantee. Legislators of the opposition PRD party have stated that the guarantee contract would be very onerous to the interests of the nation. HN Energy Solutions warns that if Congress approves the guarantee, a new international scandal against the Dominican Republic for violation of a government tender, could occur.

Aristy leads in vote count
The president of the Dominican Municipal League, Amable Aristy Castro is leading in the count of the PRSC primary. With results from 448 voting stations of 1564 stations in, Aristy Castro and 64,583 votes counted, Aristy Castro had 15,382 votes, for 52.01%, followed by Eduardo Estrella with 13,096 votes for 44.24%. In third palce was Luis Toral, with 1,096 votes, or 3.71%. Aristy Castro led a populist campaign where he appealed to the poor and distributed money from a helicopter and appliances to lure voters. A poll published on Friday by CIES International in DR1 forecast Aristy to be the most likely winner. As reported in the Listin Diario, Aristy's closest contender, Eduardo Estrella requested that the PRSC electoral commission end the count today, and exclude all voting acts that accounted for more than 600 voters. Rogelio Genao, spokesman for Estrella, said there were voting station acts sent in with more than 2,900 voters. He explained this is not possible because even if a person per minute had voted from 8 am to 5:30 pm, that would only add up to 480 voters.

Tardif canonization sought
Dominican Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez has started a process that could culminate in the canonization of Father Emiliano Tardif, M.S.C., a Canadian priest who worked in the Dominican Republic for 27 years as the head of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Tardif's remains were recently transferred from his original burial site in Spain to a new location on Santo Domingo's Jacobo Majluta Avenue. According to Lopez Rodriguez, the first step in the process is a request for authorization from the Congregation for Holy Causes in Rome. The prelate told reporters that after consulting with the Congregation and obtaining the required permission, he would address the Cardinal Prefect, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martinez, requesting formal permission to begin the process. Father Tardif's new resting place is a building that will house a new church, "Christ Resurrected", built by the Community of Servants of Christ, an order founded by the priest in 1982. Father Tardif preached in 71 different countries, and is said to have had the gift of healing.

Earthquake felt Cibao
A very short and moderate earthquake of 4.9 on the Richter Scale hit the southeastern part of the Cibao Valley on Friday morning. No damages were reported. The Seismology Department at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) registered the quake at 9:30 in the morning and located the epicenter some 60 kilometers southeast of the city of Cotui at latitude 19 degrees North and 70.23 degrees West. According to El Caribe, spokesperson Juan Payero said that the quake was associated with the well-known Hatillo fault line.
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