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Daily News - Thursday, 27 September 2007

DR has place on ICAO
For the first time in the DR's history, the country has been granted a position on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO is based in Montreal, Canada and is an agency of the United Nations that has 196 member nations. Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) director Jose Tomas Perez will represent the DR. ICAO promotes understanding and security through cooperative aviation regulation.

DR promotes ties with Ethiopia
The DR is keen on establishing a diplomatic representation in Ethiopia. The Dominican government has requested accreditation for Ambassador Hans Dannenberg who is accredited to the Organization of the African Union, and to India, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The DR is interested in establishing a resident mission in Ethiopia in the near future, Dannenberg told the Ethiopian press. "We are very much in the process of getting closer to Africa in a more formal and diplomatic manner," he explained. He announced that foreign ministers from the two countries are due to sign agreements to formally establish diplomatic relations during the UN General Assembly in NY this week. The agreement would enable the DR to appoint an ambassador to Ethiopia who will also be accredited to the African Union.
He explained that the DR is keen on pursuing cooperation with Ethiopia in trade, investment and agriculture, and the country is especially interested in forging closer ties with Ethiopia in the tourism sector. Dannenberg said that Ethiopia has a huge potential for tourism with its very unique culture, ancient civilization and proud people, while the DR has experience in the tourism industry with a tourism flow of more than four million tourists a year. "We believe we can help Ethiopia in the development of their tourism industry," said the official.
"We can provide assistance to some African countries in the development of the tourism industry, respect for environmental issues and the benefit of all the population," he said. "Since Ethiopia has such a strong airline carrier, I believe Ethiopia should be a gateway for tourism to Africa."
Dannenberg, a former airline executive and deputy minister of tourism, said: "We hope that once we establish formal diplomatic relations, Ethiopian airlines will consider the DR as a destination to connect people from Africa to Latin America." He added that he believed that trade between Africa, Latin America and Asia could develop further once there is a direct link between Africa and Latin America.

Government breaks the law
Spokesmen for the industrial sector are asking the government to abide by the law. Manuel Diez Cabral, president of the Dominican Association of Industries (AIRD), complained that the government seems to lack interest in applying the Anti-Dumping Law. Diez Cabral says that free trade agreements have opened up Dominican markets, and that the import of heavily subsidized foreign goods is affecting local production sales. "The FTA with the US obliges governments to facilitate a legal framework for competition with equity. In the DR, this is becoming increasingly difficult every day," he commented. He said although the law was approved six years ago, it has not yet been implemented.
Diez was reacting to comments by Deputy Pelegrin Castillo who recently complained that the government is breaking a number of laws. Castillo also criticized the fact that the PLD administration has ignored the law that regulates procurement, and is buying goods abroad that could be sourced locally. Castillo, of the Fuerza Nacional Progresista, a PLD ally, said that his party is studying what recourse citizens have to ensure that the government complies with these laws. Hoy newspaper commented that citizens would look forward to learning what formula Castillo can come up with to break the Dominican state's indolence. "It will be a great contribution," comments the opinion writer.

Mortgages down to 11.9%
The leading Santiago Savings & Loans Association, Asociacion Cibao, has announced it is lowering its mortgage interest rate to 11.9%. Its general loans to the public will now be at 13.9%. This represents an all-time low. Although it is located in Santiago, the Asociacion Cibao has attracted borrowers from all over the country. Bank president Domingo Fadul made the announcement during the opening of Expo Cibao, the trade exhibition under way at La Barranquita in Santiago this week.

Six million could vote
According to the Central Electoral Board (JCE), there are 5,599,910 registered voters as of 16 September. This represents an increase of 230,846 voters compared to the figure for the 2006 congressional and municipal elections. Registered voters outside the DR total 83,019; 31,434 in New York, 13,457 in Madrid, 8,118 in Barcelona, 6,988 in Puerto Rico and 23 in Virginia. JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario also informed that the JCE judges have vetoed a proposal to allow inmates awaiting sentencing in the country's jails to vote.

Transparency International ranks DR
Global coalition against corruption Transparency International has released a report on the perception of corruption in 180 countries, which lists the DR 99th. Of the 32 countries in the Americas, the DR is ranked 21st. During the three years of Fernandez administration, the CPI for the DR has worsened. At the change of government in 2004, the country was ranked 87th in the world.
While its world ranking on the table remained the same compared to last year, the DR has slightly improved its Corruption Perception Index from 2.8 in 2006 to 3.0 in 2007. Scores range from 0 for highly corrupt to 10 for very clean. The report says that the improvement came about because some major corruption cases, notably the Baninter bank case, went to trial. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries in terms of the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. It is a composite index, a poll of polls, drawing on corruption-related data from expert and business surveys carried out by a variety of independent and reputable institutions. The CPI reflects views from around the world, including experts who live in the countries that are being evaluated. Corruption in the public sector is defined as the abuse of public office for private gain.

Anti-Corruption March
Several leading civil society organizations are organizing a March Against Corruption for this Saturday, 29 September, departing from the Plaza de Espana in the Colonial City at 3:30pm. The coordinators include: Dominicanos por la Integridad, Red Dominicana Anticorrupcion, Participacion Ciudadana, Fundacion Institucionalidad y Justicia (FINJUS), Consejo de Organizaciones de la Region Oriental (CORO), Asociacion Nacional de Jovenes Empresarios (ANJE), Coalicion por la Transparencia y la Institucionalidad (CTI), Centro Juan XXIII, Iglesia de Dios, Asamblea de Dios, Consejo Dominicano de Unidad Evangelica and the Comite de la Zona Norte del Distrito Nacional.

DNCD takes on challenge
Money laundering has been labeled priority 1A by the National Drug Control Department (DNCD). Director Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira says that a lot of people in the DR have lots of money but can't justify how they obtained it. Ramirez also spoke about the challenges posed by the judicial system when trying drug traffickers. The DNCD director explains that some traffickers have so much power in the country that they can be found with drugs in their hands and all they need to do is hire a good lawyer and they are out on the streets again in a matter of days.
Major General Ramirez said the country has made major strides in the war against drugs. He said they have dismantled 17,000 drug-vending posts nationwide, many of which were closed following leads from citizens, as reported in Hoy.
El Caribe reports that Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin has offered his full support and cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking. Fermin says that 33,000 police officers are ready to help the DNCD at any point. US Embassy Charge d'Affaires Ronald Bullen says that the DNCD has been doing a good job and that this makes the DR an ally of the US in the war against drugs. Bullen made these comments during a meeting with DNCD director Ramirez.

AIDS patients excluded from SFS
More than 7,500 people with HIV/AIDS have been excluded from the government's new nationwide health plan, the SFS. Hoy explains that more troubling is that funding for anti-retroviral medicines is due to run out in 2009. Presidential AIDS Council (COPRESIDA) director Dr. Humberto Salazar explained that all HIV/AIDS patients are excluded from the program, which constitutes discrimination. Salazar called for these patients to be included in the SFS, or face the equivalent of a death sentence. Salazar criticized the high cost of imported medicines from leading pharmaceutical companies, and said that selling these drugs at such high prices violates a person's right to life.

Another public transport tragedy
Once again, an innocent bystander has become the victim of a tragedy on a public bus. Yesterday 26-year old Angeli Maria Gonzalez, who was on her way home, was shot and killed by retired military captain Rafael Santiago Garcia. Initial reports in Diario Libre say that Santiago, who was drunk, demanded to be let off the bus on the John F. Kennedy Avenue and San Martin overpass. When the driver refused, Santiago threatened to kill everybody on the bus and then pulled out his gun and turned it on Gonzalez, shooting her once in the head. Santiago is in custody at the National Police station.

Fire at Meteoro
A fire yesterday evening destroyed the Industrias Meteoro Baterias warehouse at the Industrial Park in Haina. The fire started at 5:50pm. The authorities are launching an investigation to determine the nature of the fire. Initial reports indicate that the warehouse was closed when a 1,000-gallon tank exploded, setting the building alight.

Alternative Social Forum warms up
The Alternative Social Forum held a test strike yesterday as a way of warming up for its scheduled 24-hour strike, set for 2 October. Many of the organization's leaders met at the capital's Independence Park holding signs and Forum coordinator Jesus Adon said that Tuesday's protest is against the high cost of living, high gasoline prices, increased public transport fares, lack of jobs and opposition to the mega-public works projects being undertaken by the government. Quoted in El Caribe, the Forum made it clear that "nothing and no one" would stop this strike.

Convicted rapist denied entry
El Caribe is reporting that the Dominican authorities are denying entry into the country to Jose Rodriguez Salvador, a Spanish national who was convicted and sentenced to 311 years in jail, but was recently set free after serving just 16 years in jail. Migration director Carlos Amarante Baret said that all airlines have been notified that he will not be allowed to enter the country. Spanish wire services warned last week that Rodriguez, known as the Vall d'Hebron rapist, could be headed for a monastery in the DR. He was charged with committing more than 40 rapes between 1990 and 1991, and was convicted of 16 of these assaults. Amarante explained that no person who was convicted and had served time for criminal activities would be allowed to enter the DR. He says that the migration law is clear in that regard.

Women dominate tourism sector
Diario Libre writes that the DR tourism sector is female-dominated, with women making up 65% of the 250,000 employees in the sector. These statistics come from the World Tourism Organization. As part of the Organization's World Tourism Day, the theme is "Tourism opens its doors to women". Listin Diario writes that two-thirds of tourism students are women. In the DR, approximately two-thirds of all university students are women.

Dominican music to Korea
Dominican musician Roldan will be performing traditional Dominican music at the World Masters" Festival in Arts & Culture 2007 being held in South Korea, a gathering of 51 countries from around the world. The event is described as a culture Olympics of the traditional artists from the world and is staged to display the traditional arts and culture of participating countries. A world master is an acclaimed artist who has inherited and developed the traditional culture of his or her own heritage and who is acknowledged and respected by his or her own society as an outstanding figure in the field. Roldan will be playing gaga, salve, palo, guloya and merengue and these rhythms will make their Korean debut in Seoul from 1 October to 5 October for the festival. This festival is the largest of its kind in South Korea and seeks to unite different world nations through art, music and culture. The DR is one of seven Latin American countries participating in the festival with performances set for the opening day. Others are Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama.
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