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Viewing cable 09SANTODOMINGO570, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC IS BAD FOR BUSINESS, SAYS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANTODOMINGO570 2009-05-18 17:05 2010-12-17 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Santo Domingo
VZCZCXYZ0008
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDG #0570/01 1381729
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181729Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2771
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAY 0569
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 1158
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 1793
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SANTO DOMINGO 000570

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAR,
LA PAZ FOR A/DCM C LAMBERT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2019
TAGS: EAIR KCOR EINV ECON DR
SUBJECT: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC IS BAD FOR BUSINESS, SAYS
ADVENT INTERNATIONAL

REF: A. 08 SANTO DOMINGO 141
B. 08 SANTO DOMINGO 1456

Classified By: Richard Goughnour, Charge d'Affaires, Reasons 1.4(b), (d
)

1. (C) Summary: Managers from U.S. investment company Advent
International told EconOffs that they have faced numerous
barriers to their conduct of business since acquiring the
airport concessionaire Aerodom Dominicana Siglo XXI in
October 2008. Among these is a GODR official who has
harassed, threatened and sought bribes from the company.
Also, President Fernandez issued a decree directly
undercutting Aerodom revenue, in direct violation of the
company's concession. As a result of this difficult business
environment, the Aerodom CEO told EconOff that Advent plans
to turn around the Aerodom asset within five to seven years
and has nixed earlier plans to broaden its investments in the
Dominican Republic. End Summary.

----------------------------------
Never again, says Advent executive
----------------------------------

2. (C) The CEO of airport concessionaire Aerodom Dominicana
Siglo XXI, a subsidiary of the U.S. investment fund Advent
International, told EconOffs that he has become disillusioned
with the Dominican Republic as a target for investment.
Shortly after Advent purchased Aerodom in October 2008, CEO
Rodolfo Salgado told the Ambassador that this would be the
first of many Advent investments in the Dominican Republic.
Just seven months later, however, Salgado confided to EconOff
that Advent would make no further investments in the country
and sought to turn around Aerodom within five to seven years.
He expressed grave misgivings about a government that
succeeds in attracting investment through good public
relations, pro-business rhetoric and even signing contracts
with favorable terms for investors when in reality the
panorama for foreign investors is muddled with corrupt
intermediaries and a legal framework that is bent to satisfy
the whims of public officials.

3. (C) Salgado echoed a growing refrain that the Embassy is
hearing from U.S. investors in the Dominican Republic. "The
Dominican Republic needs to realize that it is becoming
integrated into the global economy and it needs to start
behaving as such," Salgado said. He noted that Advent has
been investing in Latin America for over 20 years and has
never faced this level of government resistance to the
uninhibited operation of its business. Salgado noted two
particular issues that the company is facing. One is the
harassment by Andres Van Der Horst, the director of the
Airport Department, who has sought to disrupt Aerodom
operations in an apparent attempt for personal gains. The
other is a presidential decree that directly violates
Aerodom's concessionary contract, the terms of which were
ratified by the Fernandez government at Advent's request last
October.

4. (SBU) Aerodom has completed Foreign Commercial Service
advocacy forms but has not requested Embassy advocacy as of
this time.

--------------------------------------------- --
Aviation official pressures Aerodom for a bribe
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (C) Aerodom CEO Rodolfo Salgado and Advent executive Luis
Solorzano told EconOffs that Van Der Horst has harassed,
threatened and even explicitly solicited a bribe from the
company. The Airport Department, which manages the
state-owned airports not included in the Aerodom concession,
has no direct supervisory role over the Aerodom-operated
facilities. The only legal relationship between the Airport
Department and Aerodom is the fact that Van Der Horst sits on
the Airport Commission, the government agency that oversees
the concession and is chaired by Secretary of Public Works
Victor Diaz Rua.
Salgado noted that although the Airport Commission had not
met for five years prior to Advent's purchase of Aerodom in
October 2008, it has already met twice since the purchase.
The content of the meetings has focused on what Salgado
described as Van Der Horst's nitpicky complaints about

out-of-order toilets or damage to a non-essential wall
surrounding the perimeter fence at Las Americas International
Airport (SDQ) in Santo Domingo.

6. (C) These complaints and other similar attcks, contained
in what Van Der Horst presented a an official audit of Las
Americas operations autored by the Airport Department (even
though the irport Department has no authority or oversight
f that airport), gained wide coverage in many Domiican
daily newspapers, particularly in late Janury and early
February. At first, Salgado said, h did not understand why
Van Der Horst was attackng his firm. Then, Van Der Horst
asked Salgado o provide free storage space at the airport
for gricultural exporters, a business area where Van Dr
Horst has personal and family interests. When algado
refused this request, Van Der Horst escalated the attacks.
According to Salgado, General Jaime Osas entered Aerodom
executive offices, placed a firearm on a desk and said he had
come "to settle a score between you and my boss." Osas
served in the military as an at-large general at the time but
made clear that he was representing Van Der Horst during that
hostile encounter. Advent executives complained vehemently
about the incident and Osas was recently retired by President
Fernandez. Aerodom has succeeded in calming the media
attacks by hiring a media relations specialist to explain the
situation to press representatives and correct the claims
made by Van Der Horst.

7. (C) Salgado also told EconOffs about an incident that took
place at a recent gala dinner for the travel industry.
Talking over cocktails with a small group of people,
including Salgado and Solorzano, Van Der Horst made the
comment that "For 5 million pesos (about USD 143,000), I
could go away." While Salgado said Van Der Horst,s tone was
joking, he turned abruptly to face Salgado and Solorzano when
he made this comment. Also present at the time were Arturo
Villanueva, the Vice President of the National Association of
Hotels and Restaurants, and Pablo Lister of the Civil
Aviation Board (JAC). Salgado said that although his tone
was lighthearted, Van Der Horst's message was clear and
pointed.

8. (C) In both of their meetings with EconOffs, the Aerodom
executives have reiterated their commitment to avoid corrupt
practices and assured the Embassy that they would not succumb
to Van Der Horst's solicitations. In addition to discussing
this issue with EmbOffs on various occasions, including
meetings with EconOffs on February 4 and April 22, Salgado
said he has broached this subject with Foreign Minister
Carlos Morales Troncoso, Deputy Foreign Minister Jose Manuel
Trullols, Dominican Civil Aviation Institute Director (IDAC)
Jose Tomas Perez, Defense Minister Pedro Pena Antonio, Public
Works Minister Diaz, and members of the JAC. The response
from these officials was all similar, Salgado said. Diaz
told him, "It's just Andres." Morales said, "That man is
corrupt."

9. (C) Advent Senior Partner Juan Carlos Torres came to the
Dominican Republic on April 23 to meet with President
Fernandez. According to Salgado, during the meeting, Torres,
Salgado and Aerodom advisor Jose Luis Abraham explained in
"polite" terms that they had trouble dealing with Van Der
Horst. After the meeting, Abraham, a close associate of
Fernandez, remained with the President and told him more
details of the Van Der Horst problems. President Fernandez
assured Abraham that he would instruct Van Der Horst to back
off, and noted that August 16 is typically a day when
personnel changes are announced. Salgado was not sure
whether President Fernandez was implying that he would remove
Van Der Horst in August or whether he would simply use this
possibility to exert control over Van Der Horst. Salgado
said that, so far, President Fernandez' intervention appears
to be helping.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Fernandez ratified Aerodom contract, then violated it
--------------------------------------------- --------

10. (SBU) Aerodom also complained of a different, though
related, affront on the company's business. In late
February, President Fernandez issued a decree eliminating a 4
cent fee charged on air cargo exports of vegetables. This
was a recommendation from the national economic summit that

Fernandez held in February to address the global crisis.
This fee represents one of the primary revenue generators for
Aerodom and is an integral component of the concession
contract. Solorzano said that this decree would cost Aerodom
millions of dollars per year, cutting profits by as much as
30 percent. Salgado told EconOffs he has spoken with
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas
and Customs Director General Miguel Cocco about the decree.
They both acknowledged that the decree was illegal, but
neither was willing to inform the president that he had made
a mistake. Salgado said he was suspicious that Van Der Horst
may have had a hand in pushing the decree to the President's
desk without a diligent legal review; the decree is very
favorable to agricultural exporters.

11. (SBU) Salgado said that this decree was the primary
reason for Torres' visit and the meeting with President
Fernandez. He said that President Fernandez reacted "frankly
and openly" when they told him that the decree violated their
contract. But Fernandez stopped short of offering to rescind
the decree, instead asking Aerodom for help in strategizing a
solution that would allow him to "save face." Salgado said
that one possibility would be to impose the fee on airlines
that carry cargo and let them pass the costs on to the
exporters. Fernandez told the Aerodom executives that Montas
would contact them about the solution, but Salgado said he is
becoming impatient as three weeks have passed without any
visible progress.

-------
Comment
-------

12. (SBU) The Advent experience is unfortunately typical of
foreign investors who arrive in the Dominican Republic
enthused by a legal framework that, on paper, appears
favorable to business when in reality the investment climate
is much less certain. When asked in December about his
impression of the new Aerodom management, the general manager
of the privately owned and operated La Romana International
Airport told EconOff that the American company needs to
"aplatanarse", a term that refers to learning to behave like
a Dominican, in order to survive. Yet if Dominican
government officials wish to attract and retain foreign
investors, they cannot require these investors to participate
in the rampant corruption of "negocios aplatanados"
(Dominican-style business). It is the local business climate
that needs to reform, not the foreign investors.
End Comment.

13. (U) Please visit us at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/santodomingo/
GOUGHNOUR