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Daily News - Friday, 12 January 2007

Leonel returns from Nicaragua
Last night at 7pm, President Leonel Fernandez returned from his trip to Nicaragua where he attended the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega. During his visit to Nicaragua, President Fernandez met personally with Ortega and they both discussed strategies for reducing poverty. It is also reported that Ortega asked for Fernandez's opinion on Nicaragua's energy issues, mentioning that Nicaragua and the DR have similar power distribution problems. Union Fenosa is a major player in Nicaragua, as it was in the DR. Both leaders promised to strengthen ties between their countries.
In Nicaragua, President Fernandez also met with Taiwan President Chen Shui-Bian and discussed the ongoing free trade agreement with Taiwan.
Press reports indicate that once he landed, Fernandez briefly greeted some government officials, and was then whisked back to the Presidential Palace. Unfortunately not all was picture-perfect for Fernandez's return. Two members of the presidential press corps were injured after the vehicle they were traveling in crashed on the San Isidro Highway. Neither Ramon Ademas Cordero nor Roberto Romero were seriously injured.

Exports increased
Center of Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) Director Eddy Martinez is reporting that the DR exported US$1.32 billion as of November 2006. He forecast US$1.4 billion in exports for all of 2006. Exports have been increasing, going from US$897 million in 2004 to US$1.08 billion in 2005 and US$1.32 billion in 2006. Sugar by products, minerals and non traditional exports all experienced healthy growth numbers.

Dominicana in London
Today's Diario Libre carries a photo of a large double-decker London bus in the UK capital. On the side of the bus, spanning its length, is a large advertisement for vacation opportunities in the Dominican Republic. The caption under the photo explains that the advertisement was highlighting the attractiveness of the DR as a tourist destination. The actual advertisement features a photo of a beautiful Dominican girl against a background of tropical "paradise" scenery. The advertisements are part of the Dominican government's United Kingdom tourism promotion campaign.

Farming gets a break
The government has eliminated the 16% ITBIS (VAT) tax on fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and machinery. The objective is to restore competitiveness to the agriculture sector and consolidate it as the country's third most important economic force. The decision was made after a meeting of government officials, at the urging of the president of the Commission for Agricultural Affairs Amilcar Romero, minister of agriculture in the first two years of the Fernandez administration, and current senator for Duarte province.

The Ministry of Interior (SEI) plans to invest RD$3.6 million (roughly US$108,534) on 1,200 alcohol detectors, which will be used by AMET officers to determine whether a driver is within the permitted alcohol limit. Through a public bidding process, the SEI chose Vilarta Technology, SA. Nelly Labrada Rosario, who led the commission that chose Vilarta said that 30 companies had taken part in the bid. The CDP-6000 Professional model was chosen. The model is advertised on the Internet for EUR66 each. The move to purchase breathalyzers comes as part of the government's increased awareness of the dangers of drunken driving, and is being made in conjunction with the application of recent laws that make it illegal to drink in vehicles or have opened alcohol beverages in the front or back seats.
See http://www.cientifika.com/ficha.asp?id=18292...

Santiago getting railway?
Technicians from the leading Spanish rail company FEVE (Ferrocariles Metropolitanos de Vias Estrechas de Espana) were in Santiago to begin feasibility studies for the construction of a surface level railway for the city. Mayor Jose Enrique Sued stressed that the railway would be a foreign investment concession that does not require funds from the municipality, according to Diario Libre. The local promoter is Consulting APD Dominicana. The initial proposal is for 12 stations with stops at intervals of 620 meters and a train that would travel at a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour. Diario Libre reported that the Santiago surface railway could cost five times less than the Santo Domingo underground metro line.

RD$12 million for primaries
The Central Electoral Board has announced it has available RD$12 million to help the three leading political parties organize their primaries. Yesterday, the JCE announced that RD$4 million are allotted to the PRD that has announced its convention for 28 January.

Threatening to strike
Forming a unified front to put pressure on the government, private bus transport unions Fenatrano, Conatra, Mochotran and Fenatrapego met yesterday and are threatening to strike as of 30 January if the government doesn't agree to subsidize public transport by 30 January, the four transport associations will go on strike. The already heavily subsidized unions are asking the government for an additional RD$12 to 15 fare subsidy. Without such a subsidy, they say they would have to charge fares of up to RD$27 per ride, and they claim that passengers would not accept this. On Tuesday Fenatrano and Conatra announced that they were joining forces to pressurize the government for funds. Both Fenatrano and Conatra have usually been at odds with each other.

The DR leads in lead
International organization the Blacksmith Institute, which is focused on helping resolve some of the worst environmental problems around the world, is voicing concern at the Dominican government's seemingly continual indifference, and the Environment Ministry in particular, in tackling the lead poisoning problem in Haina, to the southwest of Santo Domingo. According to Blacksmith's president Richard Fuller, and Stephen Null, who represents "Friends of children of lead", Haina has the third worst lead pollution levels in the world. They say that Dominican Environment Minister Max Puig has not responded to phone calls and requests. Haina is a major industrial area where a battery-manufacturing factory is known to have caused much of the pollution.
See http://www.blacksmithinstitute.org/site10c.php

Abortion at San Lorenzo maternity
The San Lorenzo maternity ward in Los Mina Hospital has released figures revealing that 5,000 abortions were performed in 2006, of which 30% were for girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Hoy newspaper reports that in some cases the situation is so bad that girls come in for two or three abortions in one year, which has forced doctors to come up with contraceptive plans for the girls. Gregorio Rivas, Pablo Wagner and Paulino Diaz are calling for better sex education classes and recommending that parents discuss sex with their children. Hoy reported yesterday that 6,000 abortions had been carried out at the La Altagracia Maternity Hospital, also in Santo Domingo. Abortion is a criminal act in the DR.
Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez told Hoy that abortion and teenage pregnancy is an epidemic in the DR and it is a reflection of the breakdown of the Dominican family and educational system. Although the minister provided no further information or plans to tackle the epidemic, he insisted that teenage pregnancy is the result of irresponsible behavior and that education is the key in stopping abortions.
Hoy also reports that many of the girls who arrive for an abortion are found to have an infection known as condyloma, which can lead to cancer of the uterus. As part of their plan to help with the risks associated with abortion, the hospital doesn't allow patients to leave the hospital straight away, unless they are given a method for family planning. The doctors consider that abortions are a family issue that needs to be dealt with by the family, adding that whenever an abortion is needed it's because there has been a failure in the person's education.
In 2004 there were 4,874 reported abortions and in 2005 there were 4,996 abortions, most of which are induced by doctors. Hoy reports that at this particular hospital doctors perform up to 20 abortions per day.
Ten percent of the women who go to the Los Minas hospital are Haitians. For more information on abortions in the DR click here: http://www.dr1.com/articles/abortion.shtml

Children used for drug trafficking
Speaking on the El Dia program on Channel 11, Attorney General Radhames Jimenez addressed the growing number of minors being employed in the drug trafficking business. Coordinator of the Pastoral Juvenil, a youtn program, priest Luis Rosario said that the minors are being increasingly used because they can take more risks given that penalties for them are less severe. Around 400 minors are under arrest for drug trafficking. Rosario said that the solution is not to increase these, but rather to strengthen family. The president of the National Council of Drugs, Mabel Feliz Baez said that minors are used because of the lack of parental supervision. She called for media support to prevention programs carried out by the council. She pointed out that from being merely a bridge, the country is now a major consumer market for drugs. She said that airport controls are effective, and this has lead to an increase in drugs available for sales here. She announced a 2007-2011 National Anti-Drugs Program will be launched in February.

S&L process finished
Banks Superintendent Rafael Camilo says that the liquidation of the Asociacion Central de Ahorros y Prestamos is complete and that depositors have received their savings. At the institution, 2% of depositors with more than RD$500,000 were responsible for 96.6% of the deposits (RD$1.26 billion). The liquidation began with the 3,502 people with savings of less than RD$500,000, or a total of RD$28.6 million. Camilo clarified that no director from the savings and loans entity would be going to jail because they found that fraud was not committed against anyone. He said that it was just a case of bad management of bank funds and policies. Camilo says that payments were made with plots of land that the S&L owned. This is the case of the BanReservas, which received payment for a loan to the S&L with the transfer of land valued at RD$600 million. The only problem with that particular case is that the land was owned by the State Sugar Council (CEA) that had sold the property to Paulino Hernandez, Constructora Global, Ingenieros y Arquitectos Dominicanos y Constructora Sumo, companies with executives with close ties to the board of the savings and loan institution. The entities had only paid RD$78 million for the state land. Camilo says he doesn't know who will pay the remaining debt on the land. Camilo is in talks with CEA to find a solution.
Camilo announced that the three leading savings and loans organizations of the country, La Nacional, Popular and Cibao de Ahorros y Prestamos could take over the operation of four provincial savings and loans banks that do not meet the new banking regulations.

Serial rapist caught
Police in Santiago have apprehended a man who is accused of raping 15 women in December alone. Listin Diario reports that Bernardo Modesto Paulino Reynoso, 30, was caught after a woman went to the police to file a report against him. Police report that most of the women were assaulted on the Circunvalacion Avenue in Santiago and after the initial report was filed, five other women went to the police to make similar complaints. The women assaulted were between the ages of 17 and 45 and some said that they were robbed of jewelry and money after the assault. The identities of the women were not released.

Wisin & Yandel at Chavon
Popular Reggaeton group Wisin & Yandel will be performing at Altos de Chavon later this month. It's not the first time that the popular Puerto Rican duo performs in the country, but it might well be the litmus test for measuring the group's real popularity. The concert, on 27 January, forms part of their "Pa'l Mundo," tour and is also part of a DVD that the group will be releasing later in the year. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday and are priced at RD$900 for regular admission and RD$1,700 for VIP admission.

Mets could build their own academy
The New York City Mets, with the help of the Hope International Foundation, founded by former Major League player Dave Valle, have announced a community development partnership. Together with a delegation, Mets vice president Jeff Wilpon and general manager Omar Minaya visited the town of Nigua to present a check for US$25,000 to the foundation, to be used to help some of the poorest families in the area. Minaya said that he wants the Mets organization to be recognized for signing great Dominican players but also for helping the community. Minaya said that the Mets are also considering building their own baseball academy, most likely in Boca Chica because the most talented Latin American baseball players come from the DR.
Jeff Wilpon, Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, and Pedro Martinez also participated in the Mets donation to the foundation.

Baseball update
With only four games left in the semifinals of this year's Winter Baseball League playoffs there is no telling what will happen. Could this year provide only the seventh finals playoff series without a team from the capital city of Santo Domingo? It is too close to tell, but that possibility lingers as a reality. Last night Licey came back with a vengeance and pounded the Gigantes 14-1. The win not only provided a well needed confidence boost for Licey, but it also moved the Tigres to two games behind the Gigantes, who are still steady in first place. Last night's game between the Azucareros and the Aguilas was rained out meaning that they will make up the game tonight. The Aguilas, in second place in the standings, are still only half a game behind the Gigantes. Unfortunately for the Azucareros they have not won one game in this year's playoffs, but don't count the Azucareros out just yet. Being that the teams are so close it could be the Azucareros who play spoiler as a loss to the Azucareros in the next four games could change the balance of the playoff race.
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