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Daily News - Friday, 26 October 2007

Fernandez defends Sun Land deals
After weeks of silence surrounding the controversy over the recently disclosed Sun Land financing of Dominican public works, President Leonel Fernandez invited a selection of media directors to lunch and defended the legality and transparency of the contracts. He stressed that these were commitments to pay, not loans, and thus did not have to go before Congress, as the PRD opposition party has been demanding. Huchi Lora and Miguel Guerrero, the two radio media program directors that have been most critical of the borrowing, were not invited to the luncheon.
Fernandez stressed that they had consulted former Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa, who said that according to number 10 of Article 55 of the Constitution, Congressional approval is not required on those contracts signed by the President, acting as head of the public administration. Fernandez also cited lawyer Marino Elsevif Pineda who explained that according to Article 37 number 15 of the Constitution, the contract did not have to be approved by Congress because it was representative of an unregulated act that isn't on the list of things that require congressional approval. "None of the legal experts consulted said that the contract was illegal, or that it had to be sent to Congress because the contract doesn't affect national revenues considering that the repayment of the loan will be included in the national budget and general law of revenues and public costs," said the President. Fernandez added that the government didn't have the money to start those five projects at the UASD since the IMF had capped the borrowing level.

Fernandez reveals addendum
Speaking yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez revealed the existence of an addendum between the government and the Sun Land Corporation that reduces the amount of works being built with the US$130 million Sun Land loan from 11 to 5. The addendum also extends the period, until 15 July 2008, in which the works are to be finished. Among the works are the parking structure, the "Dr. Heriberto Pieter Cancer Center," a university cafeteria, and the UASD technological and administrative building. The total costs of the works are US$111,986,906 of which US$87,517,862.88 corresponds to construction and US$24,469,043.12 corresponds to equipment. There is also an added US$18,013,094 for legal fees, bank fees, insurance, finance interest and other costs. As for the form of repayment, it will be included in the 2008 budget. The first repayment will be of a US$13,684,210 sum, paid on 15 January, the second part will be a US$29,006,717 sum paid on 12 February, the third will be a US$22,164,612 sum paid on 15 March and the final sum of US$22,164,612 will be paid on 15 April. The fifth and sixth payments will be for the sums of US$14,262,924 and will be paid on 15 May and 15 July. The final sum, of US$14,454,001, will be paid on 15 July 2009.

Official holidays in 2008
The Ministry of Labor has announced the official schedule for holidays in the Dominican Republic in 2008. Next year there will be six long weekends. Law 139-97 establishes that holidays falling on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday will be celebrated on the following Monday, with the exception of certain dates. For the Ministry calendar, see

Cell phone nation
According to the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) Dominicans use more than one billion cell phone minutes per month and is one of the countries in the Americas with the highest number of calls - both incoming and outgoing - to the US. Indotel director Jose Rafael Vargas made these comments during the launch of new telecom OneMax that began offering WiMax service in Santo Domingo.

Codetel says it invests
Oscar Pena Chacon, president of Codetel, says that during this year alone the country's largest telecommunications company has invested RD$8 billion in remodeling and renovations in order to provide a better service. Pena made his comments during a ceremony inaugurating a new customer service office at the company's corporate building on John F. Kennedy Avenue. Although Codetel says it has been upgrading its infrastructure to provide users with better service, the process hasn't been without complaints. Users have noticed a sharp decrease in the quality of its Internet service and Codetel has only recently accepted that there is a problem, but has yet to resolve it. Last week Codetel published an apology to its users in Diario Libre, but instead of accepting full responsibility for the lack of service it blamed the issue on technical problems.

CMD contests legislation
The National Social Security Council (CNSS) has approved an infractions and sanctions ruling for the SFS, the government's health plan. Hoy writes that immediately after it was announced, the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) said it was not acceptable. The CMD says it has own set of rules. Enriquillo Matos, head of the CMD, said that doctors have special laws that establish a court for their infractions. The CNSS says that despite being invited to participate, the CMD did not send their position to CNSS for consideration when the legislation was being drafted. The ruling defines infractions, and their level of severity, and will establish sanctions that correspond to each case as is ordered by articles 181 and 183 of Law 87-01 that created the Dominican Social Security System (SDSS). Infractions will be classified as not severe, moderate or severe. The Health and Labor Risks Superintendence (SISALRIL) is responsible for applying the sanctions. The legislation will be applicable to the health risk administrators (ARS), administrators of work risks (ARL) and the health services lenders (PDSS).

DR formalizes relations with Bahrain
The Bahrain News Agency reports that the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Bahrain and the DR have decided to form ambassadorial-level diplomatic ties, effective 22 October. The announcement came in a joint statement signed in New York by Bahrain's United Nations Ambassador Tawfiq Mansoor and an unnamed deputy Dominican permanent representative at the UN.
The news agency explains that the decision was made due to the "joint interest in reinforcing bilateral friendship relations in all fields, based on mutual respect and sovereignty and territorial integrity of both states as per UN conventions and international law.
It is likely that the Dominican Ambassador in Qatar, Hugo Guiliani, will be appointed concurrent ambassador to Bahrain.
It has also been reported the DR UN representative also agreed to formalize diplomatic relations with the east African state of Uganda.
Hans Dannenberg, ambassador in India, explains that the signing of formal relations does not cost the country anything and opens the doors to countless cooperation, trade and exchange opportunities. He explained that the Fernandez government has formed a record number of new relationships.

McDougall on Haitians in the DR
Gay McDougall, who is visiting the Dominican Republic to verify the existence or non-existence of racism in the country has told the press that she was surprised at yesterday's Senate resolution describing her visit here as part of an international conspiracy against the Dominican Republic.
She and her colleague, Senegalese Doudou Diene, explained that they were not UN officials, as had been reported in the press, and said that they were independent professionals chosen by the UN Committee on Human Rights to study the racial problem in the DR. McDougall is a former executive director of the International Human Rights Law Group in Washington, D.C. She was a judge in the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award that honored Sonia Pierre for her activism in favor of improving life for Haitians in the Dominican Republic. In an online press release from the RFK at the time, she stated her position: "'The level of violence against Haitian immigrants and their descendants in the Dominican Republic is alarming', said Gay McDougall, RFK Human Rights Award Judge and UN independent expert on minority issues. 'At a time when even second and third generation ethnic Haitians are targets of brutal human rights abuses, Sonia Pierre has risen as the most profound leader in the nation's movement for minority rights.'"

The Church on the offensive
The Catholic Church is on the offensive with its desire to discourage Congress from the decriminalization of abortion in its revision of the Penal Code. The Church has rallied students at Catholic schools to protest and took a large group of children to the Congress yesterday. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez boarded a helicopter yesterday to fly over Santo Domingo and rally the support of protesters who gathered on some street corners in favor of keeping the absolute criminalization of abortion in the code. During the march hundreds of religious groups, Catholic schools and evangelicals met in front of Congress holding signs and voicing their concerns on the subject.
Presidential hopeful Amable Aristy Castro made an appearance at the march and claimed that President Leonel Fernandez was trying to legalize abortion. Diario Libre reports that Aristy loaned the Church a sound system and a helicopter for the occasion. On Sunday there will also be a march, this time on the Malecon, culminating in a vigil rejecting the legalization of abortion. The Catholic Church is calling on its followers to join Sunday's march.
The proposed reform of the law, which as it stands prohibits abortion under all circumstances, would decriminalize abortion in certain cases, such as when the mother's life is in danger, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Pope gives his blessing
Pope Benedict XVI has given his blessing to the Dominican public after meeting with Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez and his wife Ingrid Mendoza de Pared. Pared is in Europe meeting with political officials from several countries in order to discuss topics of interest concerning the DR.

End of October gastronomy events
Santo Domingo is the site of several gastronomic events as October comes to an end.
There is the Macadamia Festival at the Melia Santo Domingo on the Malecon, at its Cafe Casabe, right off the lobby. 37 delicacies, including salads, soups, main dishes, and desserts have been created by Mexican chef Oscar Orbe using Dominican macadamia nuts. The Festival is a la carte, with most dishes ranging from RD$300 to RD$600.
The 7 to 11:30pm Festival ends on Saturday, 27 October.
There is the Oktoberfest, taking place at the Chalet Suizo Restaurant on the Malecon from 25-28 October. This is a time to sample German food and meet the German community that congregates at the restaurant for the event.
And the first The Gourmet Show, a major gastronomic gourmet fair, is taking place at the Santo Domingo Hilton this weekend, 26-28 October. International chefs will be present to share their knowledge in workshops. Tickets are RD$800 for general admission, RD$600 for students. See the complete program at www.thegourmetshow.com.do
El Catador liquor distribution company announces the hosting of its annual pre-Christmas season liquor tasting event at the Hotel Embajador for Wednesday, 31 October and Thursday, 1 November. Prices are RD$5,000/person for the charity evening, which is scheduled for 8pm on 31 October, RD$3,500/person for the private tasting on 1 November from 5-7pm and RD$2,000/person for the grand tasting as of 7pm, also on 1 November. For more information, contact [email protected]
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