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Daily News - Thursday, 13 September 2007

Fernandez makes pitching debut
President Leonel Fernandez will make his pitching debut with the New York Yankees this upcoming Sunday, 16 September when he throws out the first pitch during the highly anticipated Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Fernandez is accepting an invitation by Alex Rodriguez.
Fernandez will be in New York to attend the United Nations 62nd General Assembly and Dominican Week activities.
For details, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/dominicans-abroad/...

Clinics want out of SFS
President of the National Private Clinic Association (ANDECLIP) Rafael Mena has announced that beginning next week the clinics affiliated with ANDECLIP will no longer accept SFS plans for their services. Mena, speaking on behalf of 237 private clinics, said that if the clinics accepted what the health risk administrators (ARS) are offering to pay for their services, they would go out of business.
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez is optimistic this one and other snags will be worked out and the plan will accomplish its objective of providing health coverage to residents in the Dominican Republic. He said that the government would make all the necessary adjustments to make the new nationwide health plan (SFS) work.

Available health plans
Former general manager of the the National Council of Social Security (CNSS), Arismendi Diaz Santana writes in Diario Libre yesterday on the different health plans that are now available through the Dominican Social Security System (Sistema Dominicano de Seguridad Social, SDSS).
These are:
Basic Health Plan (Plan Basico de Salud). Managed by the Health Risk Administrators (ARS) and financed by deductions in the wages of employees registered with the Tesoreria de Seguridad Social (TSS). Companies pay the larger percentage, but workers also contribute. The basic plan has limits on coverage. For a private room in a private hospital, for instance, the patient needs to pay the difference.
Voluntary Plans (Planes Voluntarios). Optional basic health plan available to independent technicians and professionals and their families, micro-companies, and domestic staff available through the ARS and paid by these persons directly to the ARS. The cost of these is RD$483.33 per person that needs to be paid directly to the chosen ARS. Employers of domestic staff should cover this cost for their employees.
Diario Libre points out that since the prepaid Subsidized Contributive Regime (Regimen Contributivo Subsidiado), designed for coverage for independent workers, has not yet entered into effect, those interested in this coverage need to contract the service with an ARS.
Complementary Plans (Planes Complementarios). These plans are in addition to the basic plan. The individuals pay for this extra coverage directly to the ARS.
The new system also contemplates Pre-paid Special Medical Plans and Complementary Services. Both of these require payment of the individuals directly to the service providers.
All these plans fall under the supervision of the governmental Superintendency of Health and Labor Risks (Superintendente de Salud y Riesgos Laborales, SISALRIL).
According to lawyer Fabio Guzman, "All Dominican citizens and residents are included as beneficiaries of Social Security Law #87-01 (Article 5)."

ONAP regulating salaries
National Office for Administration and Personnel (ONAP) director, Ramon Ventura Camejo announced yesterday that with the help of the EU, Chilean and Spanish technical advisors and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) they have been developing norms to regulate the salaries of high-ranking government officials, including the salary of the President. The announcement by ONAP is in response to the revelation that Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu makes more than RD$2 million a month in wages and perks.

Not working; no problem
It is a common practice in the Senate for senators to sign for attending a commission meeting, and then not attend the meeting, Hoy reports. By signing, the senators accrue the RD$2,400 per meeting stipend.
Environmental Commission head Ruben Dario Cruz (PLD-Hato Mayor) complained that many times he has a full list of attending senators and when it is time to start the session, he is the only one attending.
A senator's base salary is RD$125,000 plus RD$50,000 for representation expenses, RD$25,000 for housing, RD$25,000 for per diem, RD$3,500 for expenses and RD$2,400 for each commission meeting. Senators also receive RD$400,000-RD$1 million per month in funds to be used at their discretion to support their community activities.

Supreme Court environment rhetoric
Kelvin Guerrero, member of the Coalition for Protected Areas, says that the recent statement by the Jorge Subero Isa on the need for a special court to manage environmental matters to confront depredators of the sector, is "ironic, disrespectful and mocks the intelligence of Dominicans." Subero Isa proposed the new court during a FINJUS-organized conference on Monday after stating that violations to Environmental Law 64-00 continue to occur due to bad government policies and the lack of penalties.
Guerrero criticizes that the Supreme Court had the opportunity to rule against the "aberrant and inapplicable" Sectorial Law on Protected Areas (Law 2002-04 of 30 July 2004), when the Coalition for the Defense of Protected Areas took the legislation all the way to the Supreme Court for charges of violation of the Constitution.
"Apparently, Subero Isa does not understand that many of the problems that are affecting natural resources and protected areas, the same ones that he is denouncing today, and of which he was warned, are happening precisely because of the approval of that Sectorial Law," writes Guerrero.
Guerrero is also critical of the almost year long time it took for the 15 judges of the Supreme Court to issue their opinion on the request for violation of the Constitution. This was finally issued on 9 February 2005, with what he describes as "very empty and insufficient and even ridiculous."
"My final deduction is that we are in a situation where "he who creates the game, makes the cheats," and no matter how much we may complain and protest, they care very little, because rhetoric and peaceful protests will never result in their losing their jobs, and thus they act in this manner," writes Guerrero.
He also comments that the same can be said of previous government officers that when they were in power also failed to act in favor of the environment. He laments the much-used justification of environmental law dispositions on grounds that "the others did it too."
Guerrero called for a stepping up of actions, for moving from rhetoric in the environmental movement to exemplary actions. "The day will come when the screw will not be able to be tightened any more, and something will happen, and then maybe they will pay attention," he concludes.
Guerrero can be contacted at [email protected]

Campaign reform approved
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman has announced that the JCE judges have agreed in principal to the approval, with some modifications, of a campaign reform bill for the 2008 presidential elections. The JCE rejected the idea put forth by Judge Aura Celeste Fernandez that would have created a superstructure at the institution. Castanos explained that the campaign reform bill would be posted on the JCE web page within the next few days for review by political parties and civil society prior to a definite vote by the JCE judges.

Aura Celeste calls out the JCE
Central Electoral Board (JCE) Judge Aura Celeste Fernandez says that the internal rules of the JCE are illegal and added that the Administrative Chamber has overstepped its authority. The Judge explains that JCE rules establish a budget for each chamber of the JCE and that the budget of the Administrative Chamber will be managed autonomously and she says that is illegal. The oft-outspoken judge says she doesn't fear anyone or anything saying that he who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear. She says that her actions are guided by a clean conscience and her interest in seeing that things get done correctly.
She said that the JCE budget is RD$1.5 billion and should be executed by the 9 judges of the JCE, including the three that make up the Administrative Chamber. Aura Celeste Fernandez, who has been very outspoken in her struggle for increased austerity and transparency at the JCE, added that no judge can shut his eyes to the responsibility to society.

Heliport in front of Metaldom?
Though the idea to build a heliport at the Plaza Omar Torrijos on the Malecon near where Abraham Lincoln Ave starts has been rejected, Santo Domingo Mayor Roberto Salcedo says that the heliport project is not dead. He says they are considering a location in front of Metaldom. Salcedo explained that the Plaza Torrijo was rejected because it would have had to be constructed less than 60 feet from the coast, which would be in violation of the Environmental Law. The new proposed site, also on the Malecon, but near the Nunez de Caceres overpass, has enough space.

El Salvador Vice President visits
El Salvador Vice President Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar said yesterday that job creation is the most effective social investment a government can make to fight poverty. The Vice President spoke yesterday at the American Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon.
During her talk, she recommended the DR adopt development strategies that have worked well in El Salvador to take better advantage of DR-CAFTA and increase trade with El Salvador. As reported in Hoy, she said that one of the biggest challenges of DR-CAFTA is that small and medium-sized businesses benefit from the free trade agreement, not just big business.
She spoke of the El Salvador government program to quadruple El Salvador exports in the next 10 years. The strategy focuses on enhancing the country's image and business competitiveness. She mentioned programs are in place to turn El Salvador into a bilingual nation in 10 years.
Priority is being given to education, given what she described as the direct correlation between quality of life and education. She explained that 2.9% of the DGP, or 14.5% of the national budget is dedicated to education. Nevertheless, she says this is not enough. She commented that the Ministry of Education in El Salvador has built 500 Internet technology classrooms, and parents of students have funded another 1,023.
She commented that El Salvador food exports have increased after the signing of DR-CAFTA. One of the snags is monitoring intellectual property.
Albanez said that El Salvador could become a doorway for Dominican exports to Central America. She challenged Dominican businessmen to explore the trade opportunities.

Diversifying free zones
Free zones in the DR have taken on the challenge of globalization and are evolving from the days when manufacturing men's pants were the main export, according to the National Council of Export Free Zones, as reported in the Listin Diario. DR free zone industries today manufacture plastic bags, medical components, aviation components, mannequins and their parts for vehicular impact tests, and a wide spectrum of other products. To survive the impact of lower costs of Chinese exports, the industry has diversified. Enter the sophisticated manufacturing of jewelry, assembly of solar molds, bricks, even roofing materials, wooden pallets, gas sensors and even trailers. Companies that would manufacture musical carrousels for babies have applied for installation in the DR. And seeking greater value added, the government is encouraging the installation of software developers, computerized design and other high tech businesses.
According to the National Council of Export Free Zones (CNZFE), from January-August of this year, 43 free zone industries were approved for operation in Dominican industrial parks. Of these, only 4 (9%) will manufacture apparel. Others are in services (14%), agribusiness (9%), informatics, footwear, jewelry, luggage, and others. These would add 4,245 new jobs to the free zone sector, and have called for a RD$3.16 billion investment. They are expected to generate US$38 million in hard currency. At present, there are 57 free zone parks nationwide and 560 companies.
Free zones located outside of established parks are also increasing in number. According to the CNZFE, there are now 83 exporter industries, of which only 14% manufacture apparel, with special free zone category operating outside the free zone parks. Investment in these is more than RD$4.85 billion. Projected exports of US$83.8 million and job creation of 10,976 posts. The special free zones are very diversified with exports ranging from food products, airline tickets processing, and architectural drawings.
As reported in Listin Diario, today apparel makes up only 41% of total production at free zone industries, down from more than half a decade ago. According to official statistics, in 2005 there were 556 free zone companies in operation, and in 2006, 564. The number of employees in the sector during 2006 was of 147,959 jobs, for a 4.4% decline compared to 2005, when there were 154,781 registered workers. From January to November 2006, the DR exported US$1.42 billion in apparel to the US market. In the same period in the previous year, the country exported US$1.69 billion, according to Major Shippers Report, January 2007.
The CNZFE report acknowledges the decline in apparel exports from the DR to the US. These were down 26.02% in June 2007 alone. The decline for the first half of the year is 19.21%. Global apparel sales was up 6.76%, and China's apparel exports increased 45.98%, Indonesia exports 18.29% and Vietnam 21.8%. Mexican apparel exports were down 14.67%. DR-CAFTA member nations, El Salvador (up 10.8%), Nicaragua (up 20.84%) and Honduras (up 2.5%).

Canadian drug cartel bust
A DR-related Canadian police announced the bust of what is being described as an international cocaine smuggling operation that saw drugs brought to Canada on commercial flights into Pearson International Airport, while money flowed back to the Dominican Republic by conspirators posing as tourists, and airport baggage handlers in both countries acted as accomplices.
The Canadian press reports that the well-established ring made attempts to import coke at least once a week. The cocaine was concealed in jet cargo holds.
The months-long investigation carried out by the Durham, Canada police led to the seizure of 26 kg of powder cocaine valued at more than CDN$3 million, 12 guns along with ammunition and nearly CDN$45,000 in cash. More than 200 drug, conspiracy and weapons charges have been laid so far against 12 people and cops have seized eight private vehicles they've labeled as proceeds of crime. The cocaine, weapons and cash were seized during a series of raids early Tuesday in Ajax, Bowmanville, Oshawa, Whitby, Toronto, Barrie, Brampton and Markham.
The Durham police caught on to the ring after discovering nearly 100 pounds of vacuum-packed marijuana and almost CDN$17,000 in a traffic accident last October. The event tipped police to a drug importing operation that soon became international in scope.
Among those arrested were Jeremy Wayne Brown, 30, of Margaret Street in Oshawa -- a full-patch member of the Hells Angels Oshawa chapter -- and a baggage handler at Pearson International Airport. Mr. Brown faces 47 charges, including conspiracy to import cocaine and trafficking and numerous weapons offences including 10 counts of possession of a weapon obtained by crime.

Dolphy gets justice
Gregorio Martinez Cuevas has been sentenced to 30 years in jail and forced to pay RD$5 million in damages who had been charged with cutting of the hands of his former girlfriend Dolphy Angelina Gonzalez Valdez. The verdict had been rendered in May, but an appeal was filed though judges upheld the original sentence.

Correction of Chayanne date
DR1 corrects that the performance of Puerto Rican superstar Chayanne will be on 15 December, and not on 17 September as erroneously reported yesterday. Chayanne has included the Christmas season 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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