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Daily News - Friday, 26 January 2007

DR1 breaks for Duarte Day holiday
Duarte Day actually falls on Friday, 26 January, but Dominicans will honor the country's forefather with a holiday on Monday, 29 January. Thus, Friday marks the start of a long weekend, a peak time for domestic travel. A compilation of breaking news over the weekend will be compiled for the Tuesday, 30 January issue. For more information on future long weekends and holidays in the DR, see http://dr1.com/travel/prepare/holidays.shtml
Any breaking news over the long weekend may be commented in our 24/7 Forums at http://www.dr1.com/forums
Also, check Calendar Events at http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Juan Pablo Duarte's birthday
Today is the 194th anniversary of the birth of Juan Pablo Duarte, founding father of the Dominican Republic. Duarte was the founder of the underground society La Trinitaria and was also a member of the more public entity, La Filantropica, which used theater to spread separatist ideas. Through these societies Duarte and other Dominican patriots helped in the fight for independence from Haiti in 1844. Duarte was exiled to Caracas, Venezuela in 1843 and thus never got to see the proclamation of independence. He returned to the Dominican Republic soon after, only to be exiled once more in 1845. Duarte eventually died in Venezuela in 1876, at the age of 63, and his remains were brought back to the DR in 1884.

Strike canceled; unions to negotiate
The nationwide public transportation strike scheduled for next Tuesday, 30 January has been canceled by union leaders who announced they would be working with the government to begin the process of negotiating effective transport policies that will guarantee efficient, secure and organized transport for the Dominican citizenry. The decision to call off the strike came after union heads met with President Leonel Fernandez. Fenatrano leader Juan Hubieres said the President did not offer to subsidize fares, as demanded by the transporters. Discussions and negotiations will continue today between the transport unions, the directors of OMSA government bus office, the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) and the Land Transport Office (OTTT). On behalf of the government authorities, Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET) head Diandino Pena said he would evaluate drivers' expenditures to determine whether their claim that operating costs are higher than revenues is in fact true.

IDB provides funds
The Ministry of Agriculture is to receive a sum of US$100,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank. The funds will be used to encourage more competition in the sector. An agreement was signed yesterday by the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Competitiveness Council and the Competitiveness Fund. Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez says that this agreement is vital for the sector as the country prepares to enter DR-CAFTA.

Cid Wilson to PepsiCo board
The president of the Dominican-American Roundtable, the leading Dominican advocacy group in the US, Wall Street broker Cid Wilson has been appointed one of 9 Latinos that sit on the Hispanic Advisory Board of PepsiCo. The board advises PepsiCo senior management on issues relating to Latinos. The Hispanic Advisory Board is very similar to a regular board of directors for a corporation except that our motions are not binding and simply advisory. It's understood that this is considered one notch below being an actual member of the PepsiCo board of directors. Wilson was selected after a nationwide search for a board member who not only understands the business world, but also understands the Latino community (in his case, the Dominican community in the US). PepsiCo owns Frito-Lay, Tropicana, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, and Aquafina.

DR could lose credit
Hoy newspaper is reporting that the DR could lose US$33 million in credit if the country continues dismissing specialist staff at the Presidential AIDS Council (COPRESIDA).
The warning was included in a letter sent to Public Health Minister Dr. Bautista Rojas Gomez by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The letter refers to the dismissal of journalists Vianco Martinez and Gisela Mera. The letter sent by Wolfgang Munar, chief of the Global Fund mission in Latin America and the Caribbean, asks for an explanation for the dismissals. The letter was also sent to Humberto Salazar who heads COPRESIDA. Salazar has already explained the dismissals, saying that Martinez was not sufficiently qualified for the post. Munar sent a copy of the letter to Temistocles Montas and said that any staff changes in programs such as COPRESIDA must be done in prior consultation with the Global Fund. Munar is also asking for the CVs of those appointed to positions within specific programs and wants detailed accounts of changes that have been made. The DR will receive a total of RD$48 million from the Global Fund, of which US$33 million have yet to be disbursed.

No new FTA's
Juan Bancalari and Milagros Puello, president and vice president respectively of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce and Production, are urging the government not to sign any new free trade agreements this year and say that any similar negotiations should cease. Both executives say that the country needs to wait and see how things develop with DR-CAFTA and then focus on signing new agreements with Caricom and the European Union. Puello said that after five years of the signing of the agreement with Caricom, Dominican goods still enter that market with tariffs, which she sees as a threat to Dominican competitiveness. Puello says that the government should understand that there should be limits on signing so many free trade agreements. In referencing free trade agreements, both executives cited the planned agreements with Taiwan and with countries like Colombia and the Mercosur trading block, which produce almost the same products and have more tropical fruits than the DR. Bancalari says that before signing any more agreements, the country should evaluate if it would be beneficial, adding that agreements can't be put in place from one day to another.

Aristy can't lose this one
Political analysts speculate that there is no possible way that Amable Aristy Castro (PRSC) can lose his quest for re-election to head the Dominican Municipal League (LMD). This is because Aristy will be the only candidate for the position of Secretary General. The 154 municipal delegates will vote on Friday, 26 January at the Riu Palace hotel in Punta Cana. This is the third time Aristy seeks to be elected. The selection process hasn't been without controversy, as PRD member Julio Marinez was denied the opportunity to run against Aristy in the elections. Marinez says that his constitutional rights have been violated, and is claiming that his own party, including former President Hipolito Mejia, was against him. The LMD manages the budget allotted to city and town governments nationwide.

Things get dirty as convention nears
Campaigning has turned dirty only days before presidential pre-candidates Miguel Vargas Maldonado and Milagros Ortiz Bosch square off in the PRD convention. Ortiz Bosch says that Vargas is running a dirty campaign by spreading rumors that she will not be running for the party's ticket on Sunday. Ortiz Bosch says that rumors that she would be pulling out of the convention are false and believes that they were started by members of Vargas's campaign committee and radio and TV commentators who work for Vargas. Ortiz says she has received phone calls at home asking her why she would not be running. Ortiz claims that Vargas's actions are a desperate attempt to discredit her and a way of hiding the fact that the party will choose her as their presidential candidate. She says that if anyone should remove themselves from the convention it should be Vargas. In response, Vargas says that he is guaranteed to win on Sunday and says that Ortiz's claims are "the screams of a person who feels they have lost". Vargas says that he does not need to spread any such rumors, considering that preliminary polls, according to him, have him ahead 87% to 11%.

George is curious about his jewels
An unidentified person has reportedly returned most of the jewelry that was stolen from George's Jewelry store, located in Santo Domingo's Piantini neighborhood. The mystery person gave the booty, valued at US$512,875, to TV journalist Nuria Piera who then gave the jewelry to the proprietor. The total amount stolen during the robbery was worth US$744,270, meaning that the sum returned is about 69% of the total amount stolen. On 9 November three men robbed the store dressed in military gear; they handcuffed the owner, George Echevarria, and injured a guard as they got away. Among the items returned were nine watches and two black pearl bracelets. A total of 47 pieces of jewelry were returned.

Pensions accused haven't paid bond
Manuel Vidal Castro Martinez and Evelyn Guzman Soto were ordered to pay RD$300,000 and RD$500,000 bail but so far neither has paid up in the large-scale pensions department fraud case. This "mafia" defrauded the state out of millions of pesos by giving out pensions to people who were ineligible or paying out pensions in the names of dead people. A third person, Isabel Maria Soto Santana, has paid her RD$1 million bond, according to Listin Diario. The Attorney General could order their detention if bail is not posted.

Departments cooperate in war against drugs
The National Drug Department (DNCD) and the National Drug Council (CND) have announced that they will join forces in the war on drugs, especially with regards to children. Major General Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira and Dr Mabel Feliz Baez said that cooperating against the threat of drug trafficking and consumption is of the highest priority. During a meeting, which was held in the DNCD head's office, Abraham L. Stein, executive director of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), part of the Organization of American States, commended these organizations' efforts in the war against drugs.

Carnival in La Vega
The La Vega Carnival starts off this Sunday, 28 January with an inaugural parade, a warm up leading to the next four Sunday runs of the prankish devil characters through La Vega streets.
For more on Dominican carnivals and their colorful costumes, see http://dr1.com/articles/masks.shtml

Baseball
Their backs are up against the wall and it seems like there is nothing Licey can do to change that, at least for now. In a highly anticipated game six match-up, the Aguilas came out swinging and gave Licey what can be considered a mortal blow to their championship hopes. Licey used eight different pitchers last night and none of them were able to find an answer for the scorching Aguilas' bats, which hit three homeruns last night. Jose Lima pitched a gem of a game giving up only four hits. The game's final score was 11-3 and the Aguilas head back to Santiago with a 4-2 series lead, needing just one more victory to close the deal. Will Licey be able to keep themselves alive for another game or will the Aguilas hoist another championship banner? You'll have to tune in at 8pm tonight to find out.
Tonight's Game:
Estadio Cibao - 8pm
Licey vs. Aguilas
Tomorrow's Game (if necessary):
Estadio Quisqueya - 7.30pm
Aguilas vs. Licey
 
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