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Daily News - Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Subero proposes changes to judiciary
The Supreme Court's chief magistrate, Jorge Subero Isa proposed the creation of a Judicial Council that would be "responsible for the management of the Judicial Power, and have charge of all administrative, managerial, and discipline functions of the judicial branch." Subero Isa spoke on "The New Wave of Judicial Reform" when invited to a Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (FINJUS) luncheon at the Santo Domingo Hilton attended by leading members of political parties, churches, business, the judicial and legislative branches of government, diplomats, and other opinion-making members of society.
He called for the National Council of Magistrates (CNM) to nominate additional judges to the Supreme Court. Subero also favored changing the present immovability status for a performance job review of the magistrates every ten years to see if these are worthy of continuing at their posts.
He also suggested an increase in the number of members of the CNM, including the president of the College of Lawyers, a representative of an NGO related to the judicial sector, and one of the deans from one of the nation's law schools.
Subero said that the axis of what he called the second wave of judicial reform had to relate to those aspects that are not jurisdictional, but administrative. He proposed that these aspects be handled by a third body in the Judicial Branch.
Subero Isa also addressed the environment in his speech. He said the country is being destroyed by natural resource predators, which he attributed to implementation of bad policies and lack of penalties in the DR. He proposed that special courts for damage to the environment be created.

Puig warns of protected area breakup
Former Minister for the Environment, and, until this week, presidential advisor, Max Puig alerted on the imminent major deforestation of protected areas for profiteering of particular interested parties. Puig said that forests, beaches and rivers are under siege by environmental predators. He told Hoy reporter Odalis Mejia that when he was at the Ministry, he had to fire a lot of people that tried to file improper requests for environmental dispensations and such. Puig said he followed a "zero tolerance" policy regarding the environment. He warned that "there are people that want part of the Dominican Republic for their own use." Although the former minister did not specify names, he was energetic in saying that there were people trying to exploit the nation's watersheds. He praised his team of vice-ministers as "serious and respectful."

He lost count of his salary
Apparently, the Superintendent of Banking has lost track of just how much money he is making. During his interview yesterday on Color Vision's Hoy Mismo show, Rafael Camilo said that "(he) didn't know. In reality (he) did not know whether his salary was RD$360,000 or RD$450,000 per month..."
Camilo did admit that he received additional benefits that when put all together his wages "go up plenty." He acknowledged that if his "extras" such as security personnel were included in his own salary, "then the salary is going to be a million."
Nevertheless, Camilo told the interviewer that because of the lack of budget resources, he had not been able to raise the salaries of his people for two years.
According to the opposition PRD party the current administration has authorized million peso monthly salaries for many of its ministers and cabinet members.
Presidential Press Officer, Rafael Nunez, told El Caribe reporters that the whole thing was a PRD plan to discredit the administration. He showed evidence that current salaries are the same as they were during the previous PRD administration. He mentioned that Alburquerque himself made RD$874,500 a month when he was president of the Senate. The high wage issue was recently brought up again by Ramon Alburquerque, the PRD secretary general, when he reported that the governor of the Central Bank Hector Valdez Albizu enjoyed compensation for RD$1.9 million per month. Alburquerque latter produced a graph whereby Valdez made RD$2.1 million, when his perks are added in.

Millions for Central Bank concert
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic has apparently just spent RD$10,000,000 to bring pianists Richard Clayderman and Raul Di Blasio to the National Theater as part of their 60th Anniversary celebrations on 13 October. The National Theater has capacity for 1,446 patrons. According to the Listin Diario, this comes at a time when there is an Austerity Law in place and amidst the hubbub of the PRD accusations of high ranking public employees making huge salaries. As reported in the Listin Diario, Clayderman would be paid US$80,000 for his performance and Di Blasio would get US$65,000. The Listin Diario comments that the payments are markedly above their normal fees of $15,000 and $25,000. The fees are in addition to the Central Bank covering the room and board requirements of the artists. A 60-musician orchestra is also part of the performance.

ARS are not essential
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque said that if necessary, the Family Health Plan (SFS) could operate without the intermediation of the Health Plan Administrators (ARS). The companies serve as managerial link between medical service consumers and providers. Alburquerque said that clinics, medical professionals and consumers are the essential elements of the system.
As reported in Diario Libre, days into the start of the new nationwide health plan, the Dominican Medical College accused the four leading Health Administrators (ARS) that manage 85% of affiliates (Humano, Universal, SDS and another unnamed) of trying to sabotage the SFS through a series of maneuvers that seek to bring chaos among its affiliates.
Dr. Rosalda Damiano, president of the Society of Pediatrics, speaking at a press conference called yesterday by the Dominican Medical College, alerted of differences with the ARSs. She said that the specialists would not accept fees that are less than they were making previous to the start of the SFS on 1 September. She urged members not to sign contracts until the rules have been clarified with the ARSs, as reported in Listin Diario.
Physician Manuel Escarraman, president of the Dominican College of Surgeons said that the ARS had been paying RD$5,295 for an appendix surgery, and now they have reduced the fee to RD$4,200. Escarraman said that patients would suffer when the physicians refuse ARSs contracts, obliging patients to pay the higher fees for private consultations.

Senate gets a move on
The Dominican Senate moved on eight legislative initiatives yesterday. One of the bills authorizes the municipal government of Santiago de los Caballeros to seek financing for RD$480 million to be used to pay debts and better municipal services. Another would approve the regulations governing the development of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MIPYMES) through a RD$1 billion fund. Also in the mix are bills to push industrial innovations and competitiveness, one that penalizes the practice of stowaways, and one that controls and protects the use of the logos of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. Another bill concerns the marketing of perishable farm produce. Still another creates the National Institute for Tourist Development, an initiative received from the Executive Branch. Finally, there was a bill that declares 11 October to be the Day of the Craftsman.

JCE internal differences
The magistrates of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) have signed an "informal" pact to lower the tensions that are being aired publicly. Behind these tensions are several amendments that would be added to the package of rules and regulations that would be enacted to control the 2008 Presidential elections. According to the Diario Libre, the controversial set of regulations might be approved shortly.
Once again, the JCE will try and get it done. But behind the differences, political analysts say is a power struggle for a controlling say in JCE decisions. Primarily, there is a confrontation between Aura Celeste Fernandez and Roberto Rosario. Rosario is the only judge to continue on the JCE board. In the previous board, he represented the PLD political party's interests.
The complete board of the Central Electoral Board is scheduled to meet amidst a series of small but important issues pending between the nine JCE judges. Magistrate Aura Celeste Fernandez has released a letter to the press in which she questions some of the attributes of the magistrate president of the Administrative Chamber of the JCE, Roberto Rosario. The letter mentions some one billion pesos that might have been handled without the proper authority, according to Fernandez. Today's meeting will take place with some of the tensions lessened, but observers say that there is a strong undercurrent of division among the magistrates.
Currently, according to the Diario Libre, there is a 7-2 split in the voting on the issue of whether or not the set of regulations designed to control political activities leading to the 2008 elections will be approved. Once the JCE approves the package of rules, it has to go before the major political parties for their observations. And, complicating things even more, the media, the civil observers and community organizations will all have a say in the matter.
Magistrate Eddy Olivares told Diario Libre that he thought that the regulations would be approved during today's meeting of the board. JCE chief magistrate Julio Cesar Castano Guzman told reporters that the internal squabbles of the board would not stall the approval of the new rules.

Scotiabank gets bigger in DR
Scotiabank, the Dominican affiliate of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada's second-largest bank, has agreed to buy a controlling stake in BBVA Crecer AFP for US$50 million in cash to expand its operations in the Dominican Republic. Scotiabank had previously considerably increased its presence in the DR when in 2003 the government chose it for the purchase of 22 of the best branches of the intervened Baninter commercial bank. The purchase further enhances Scotiabank's position as a major player in Dominican financial market.
The new purchase includes the country's largest pension fund administrator in number of affiliates and its related insurance company, BBVA Seguros. BBVA Crecer is a unit of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain's No. 2 bank and has assets of US$190 million (RD$6.5 billion), Toronto-based Scotiabank said in an 11 September statement.
"The expansion of Scotiabank Group's operations in the Dominican Republic is indicative of the opportunity that we see within this dynamic and growing market," said Oscar Zimmerman, President and CEO Scotia Life Insurance Company.
BBVA Crecer AFP has over half a million affiliates and RD$6.5 billion in assets under management, representing a 32 per cent market share by affiliate.
BBVA Seguros was created in 2006 to provide life and disability insurance to BBVA Crecer AFP's affiliates. BBVA Crecer AFP and BBVA Seguros, together, have 99 employees.
"As an international financial services provider with more than 175 years of experience, the Scotiabank Group is optimistic about the future in the Dominican Republic and confident this acquisition will complement the financial services we currently offer our customers," said Nicole Reich de Polignac, Senior Vice-President and Country Manager for Scotiabank in the Dominican Republic. "Scotiabank Group is known throughout the region for our stability, strong customer focus, and our commitment to our employees and to the communities where we live and work."
Established in the Dominican Republic in 1920, Scotiabank has had a continuous presence in the country for more than 85 years. Scotiabank has been part of the Caribbean and Central America region since 1889 when the Bank opened an office in Kingston, Jamaica. Some 118 years later, Scotiabank is the leading bank in the region, with operations in 24 countries, including affiliates. Scotiabank is the only Canadian bank with operations in four of the seven Central American countries, namely Costa Rica, Belize, Panama and El Salvador.

Mejia says Soto "sold out"
Former President Hipolito Mejia told reporters from the nation's newspapers that his Minister of the Armed Forces, Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez, "sold out" to current President Leonel Fernandez. This announcement comes on the heels of several meetings between the former minister and President Fernandez. Soto Jimenez, who was a minister for all four years of the Mejia administration, was known to have been a staunch supporter of the PRD party, until the recent meetings. The Mejia attack did not receive any denial from the former general who limited his comments to restating his "friendship" and "appreciation" to the former President.
Later, on the Nuria and Huchi Lora afternoon talk show, Soto Jimenez said that there was no political agreement between himself and President Fernandez. In fact, said Soto Jimenez, "he did not ask me to support him." According to the general, all he did was attend the 55th Conversational Get Together of the Fifth Republic Foundation, "just like 46 other political leaders have done."
When told that Soto Jimenez had said that while he appreciated President Mejia's friendship, he had "no political commitments to President Mejia," the former President told reporters "four years of being the Minister of the Armed Forces, do you want more commitment than that? What more do you want, that is a lot."
Soto Jimenez, who is the president of the Fifth Republic Foundation, had praise for President Leonel Fernandez and his quest for a third term of office in an event organized by the foundation this week.

Pornography site principals deported
Migration director general, Carlos Amarante Baret authorized the deportation of Vladimir Medinsky. Medinsky, a German national, is implicated in the pornography and prostitution ring run by fellow German Lutz Robert Gunther Meyerling that placed videos of Haitian women on the Internet. Medinsky had entered the country on a tourist visa. District Attorney of the National District Jose Manuel Hernandez signed the deportation order. The Migration Department is also studying the case of Israeli Samad Payandeh who is also tied to the website. The Migration Department is studying the case of Payandeh to see whether he should have his residency cancelled and face deportation. Lutz Robert Gunther Meyerling is currently in preventive custody pending his trial for slave trading, pornography and promoting prostitution.

Duarte Hwy shut down again
The nation's principal north-south speedway, the Duarte Highway was shut down by protestors for two hours yesterday when the neighbors of Villa Altagracia demanded that the government build a series of overpasses. While when the highway was built there was scant population, with time the government has not impeded the illegal takeover of land for sprawling urbanization. Now the dwellers are demanding a east-west overpass to connect new developments to the original Villa Altagracia community. Community leaders pointed out that over the past 48 hours at least four people had been killed trying to cross the highway. Police and Army units were used to control the protestors and remove the trash that was strewn on the highway surface. This is the third time in recent months that communication along the highway has been blocked by protestors. The prior two events occurred in the area of Pedro Brand, near the toll plaza, as people there demanded tap water and a cease to evictions.

Chayanne for Christmas
Puerto Rican superstar Chayanne has included a 17 December date in Santo Domingo as part of his 100-city 2007 world tour. The pop/salsa singer known for his energetic dance numbers and power ballads will be performing at the Palacio de los Deportes of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. Three of Chayanne's albums have debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart in the past five years. The Mi Tiempo album promotional tour includes concerts in Latin America and Spain. Codetel is sponsoring a promotion and tickets are for sale at the Torre Cristal, Bella Vista Mall, Megacentro and Santiago. Tickets are expected to sell out fast at the venue.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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