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Daily News - Thursday, 29 March 2007

Fernandez inaugurates new park
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated yesterday under a downpour of rain the Nunez de Caceres Avenue Environmental Park, which includes a lagoon, sculptures, a cascade, an amphitheater and other installations. The park, built by the Aqueduct Corporation of Santo Domingo (CAASD) cost RD$348 million. The park covers an area of 16,000 meters and was planted with exotic flowers and palm trees. The amphitheater has capacity for 300 people. The President, accompanied by his wife Margarita Cedeno, Diandino Pena, Roberto Salcedo and his mother, Yolanda Reyna, arrived at 7:30pm. Director of the CAASD, Richard Martinez said that the park solved three problems that affected the area: sanitation, rain water and environmental troubles. Previously water would stagnate at the lagoon and became a breeding ground for mosquitoes and also gave off a terrible smell. Now there are new water pumps that take the water to a treatment plant and then finally out to the Caribbean Sea.

Deputies return to work
PLD deputies who support the election campaign of Danilo Medina returned to work today but on the condition that Medina supporters who have been fired because they support Medina's aspiration to be the PLD presidential candidate be reinstated to their posts. Alejandro Montas, spokesman for the PLD deputies that support Medina, said that the memo that was released prohibiting that persons be fired because they support Medina is a positive sign. Presidential hopeful Danilo Medina, speaking in Hoy newspaper, defended the deputies who abandoned the congressional session on Tuesday. He said that those who left had exercised a right to protest something they believed was wrong. Medina denies there is an internal conflict in the PLD and labeled that party as the most important in the DR. The situation stems from a heated debate that took place yesterday between PLD members, which led to 53 deputies leaving the Chamber of Deputies in protest. The ruling PLD party is majority in Congress.

IMF: energy sector doing well
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has complimented the energy distributors and the Energy Cabinet for completing the requirements set forth by the stand by arrangement and said that it has been done better than expected. After a meeting of the Committee for the Recovery of the Electricity Sector, members of the IMF expressed their satisfaction with the results of the first quarter. Speaking for the group, Division Chief in the Western Hemisphere Department Andy Wolfe said that up to this point in the year the energy sector is functioning better than expected though the IMF is still waiting for the approval of a bill that would heavily punish electricity fraud. Radhames Segura, head of the State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) said that government subsidies to the sector will be less this year -US$400 million compared to US$545 million in 2006).
Wolfe did not comment on the TCW lawsuit against the Dominican Republic and answered proposals to privatize the energy sector by saying that he knows of countries where the sector is publicly run and does well and countries where it is private and doesn't do so well.

Government suspends CNS
Hoping to give both sides more time to talk, the government has decided to suspend the National Committee on Salaries (CNS) meeting. The meeting had been called by Vice President Rafael Alburquerque who earlier this week joined the negotiation talks between both sides. The meeting was scheduled for 10:30am today at the Ministry of Labor but Alburquerque told Labor Minister Ramon Fadul to cancel the meeting and both sides agreed to continue talks. Both sides have continued firm with their proposals making negotiations extremely difficult. The business sector, through Maribel Gasso of the Confederacion Patronal (Compardom), has now proposed an increase of only 12% to the minimum salary while the laborers want a 25% wage increase for all persons making up to RD$30,000 per month. The significance of convening the CNS is that it has the authority to increase minimum wage standards, even without the consent of labor or management. Mediator Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, commented yesterday, and had greeted the intervention of the CNS as a sign that workers would get a salary increase.

Money for the Metro
The Executive Branch submitted to Congress four contract loans for a total of EU238 million. These contracts will be used to build the Santo Domingo Metro. The contracts were signed by Office for the Reorganization of Transit head Diandino Pena. One contract was signed with the CIM TSO Consortium for EU33,059,375.96. That contract is for the construction of the 14.2 kilometer railways and for the equipment to provide maintenance to the railways. The second contract was signed with Alstom Transport S.A. for EU94,302,000. This contract is for the manufacturing, supplying and guarantee of 19 cars for the Metro. The third contract was signed by Sampol Ingenieria y Obras S.A for a sum of EU12,036,673.90. This contract is for the supplying of electricity. The final contract was signed by the Siemens Consortium and is for the installation of electrical mechanic materials. The Diario Libre writes that the Senate is expected to approve the contracts by Tuesday of next week.

Juan Bosch Bridge gets maintenance
The electricity cables that were stolen from the Juan Bosch Bridge were reinstalled yesterday. The Program for the Elimination of Electricity Fraud (PAEF) in conjunction with EdeEste helped restore the lighting to the bridge. Army Colonel and PAEF head Delis del Pilar Hernadez oversaw the installation and explained that there will be an armed unit specially designated to patrol the bridge and ensure that the cables are not stolen again. The Colonel explained that 5,800 feet of aluminum cable #4 cable were installed and that PAEF funded the project at a cost of RD$200,000. The cable used this time, according to the Colonel, is not as attractive to thieves but is still of good quality.

Pigs need government help, too
The pig-producing sector is now looking for the government to help them in the same way they rescued the chicken-producing sector. Diario Libre writes that the pig- producing sector has an overproduction this year and is looking for the government to buy pigs in order to avoid a loss of millions for the sector. In a meeting with Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez, the sector explained that three years ago there were only between 35,000 and 40,000 pig mothers and that currently there are 76,000.

Southern Command chief makes visit
Admiral James Stavridis, USN, Commander, US Southern Command, that the biggest challenge to the country is poverty and that drug trafficking is the biggest danger. Admiral Stavridis is on a courtesy visit to the country but did say that the DR's efforts and cooperation against drug trafficking are exemplary. The admiral will meet with President Leonel Fernandez and the minister of the Armed Forces today to discuss border control.

Fake cigars confiscated and burned
A total of 1,778 boxes of fake cigars were confiscated and burned by the Anti Forgery and Pirating Department of the Dominican Tobacco Institute (INTABACO). The fakes were confiscated during several raids. Director general of INTABACO, Adalberto Rosa, says that these 1,778 boxes are in addition to the 30,000 already burned and which have a total value of RD$45 million. Rosa added that the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and government security offices helped in the operations to find the fake merchandise. Premium brands like Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta were among the forged cigars.

Hubieres, on hunger strike
Union leader Juan Hubieres is going into his second day of a hunger strike in protest for accusations that he had something to do with a bus bombing that injured seven people, including a pregnant woman. Hubieres is joined by 22 members of the National Transport Federation the New Option (Fenatrano). Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET) head Diandino Pena reportedly has offered an undisclosed deal to the bus owners. Union head Ramon Perez Figuereo says that it won't be until next Saturday that the unions and Pena meet again.

Interpol captures killer
The International Police (Interpol) has captured and returned Pascasio Bueno Rosario to the Dominican Republic after catching the 27-year old crossing the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Bueno Rosario, from La Vega, is charged with murdering a police sergeant in front of a jail and then fleeing the country on a forged identity. Bueno Rosario was known to use the aliases Sandy Urena and Francisco Bueno Rosario. Bueno Rosario was brought to the DR from Bogota, Colombia and was accompanied by an Interpol agent.

British announce new visa prices
As of 1 April prices for visas to the UK will be more expensive. The Listin Diario reports that a transit visa will now cost 44 pounds (RD$2,992) up from 30 pounds (RD$ 2,040). Six month visas will also be more expensive going from 50 pounds (RD$3,400) to 63 pounds (RD$4,290) while long stay visas will now costs 200 pounds (RD$13,600) up from 85 pounds (RD$5,780). Student visas will also experience an increase. The cost was 85 pounds (RD$5,780) and will now be 99 pounds (RD$6,780). Residency applications will now costs 500 pounds (RD$34,000). Adult passports will cost 119 pounds (RD$8,100) child passports will cost 76 pounds (RD$5,170) and emergency passports will cost 55.50 pounds (RD$3,780). Legalizations will now cost 27 pounds (RD$1,840)

Rains expected to stop
The Weather Department is announcing that heavy rains, which have flooded many parts of the DR over the last week, could stop today, giving many citizens a much needed break. The main streets and avenues around Santo Domingo have been flooded by the continuous rain backing up traffic around the city. The Center for Emergency Operations (COE), however, has decided to keep emergency warnings high due to the flooding in many parts of the country.

Brangelina getting married in the DR?
The Listin Diario is reporting that Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie could be getting married in the DR as soon as Easter of this year. Listin is citing a story that came out in "OK!" magazine. Also the Listin writes that they asked George Nader, a friend of Brad Pitt, and Nader confirmed that Pitt had emailed him about marriage laws in the DR and whether the marriage would be valid abroad. Nader said that he recommended that Pitt come here to get married and added that he would help get the lawyers and settle the details but no decision has been made. Pitt and Jolie have visited the island before and last year Pitt bought property on the island and built a home on it, according to the Listin Diario.

Paulina Rubio in the DR
Latin pop artist Paulina Rubio will be performing today at the Palacio de Los Deportes at the Estadio Olimpico. The concert, titled "Amor, luz y sonido, will start at 8:30pm and is being sponsored by Orange. Rubio, who is from Mexico, received an International Cassandra award on Tuesday.

De la Renta honored
Famed Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was honored yesterday by the Senate. De la Renta arrived at the ceremonies at 10am and was accompanied by businessman Frank Rainieri and his wife Haydee Kuret de Rainieri. De la Renta was greeted by Senate president Reynaldo Pared Perez and in a short speech said that he has always been proud of where he comes from.

Nieve Xue wins gold in table tennis
Chinese Dominican Nieve Xue Wu won a gold medal at the Latin American Table Tennis Tournament held in Brazil. Xue beat out Brazilian Ligia Silva 11-2, 11-3, 11-2, and 11-9. This is the second time that Xue wins gold in this event. Xue won the right to represent Latin America in the upcoming Table Tennis World Cup to be held in Japan. Only the 16 best athletes in the world are invited to this event. Meanwhile Luis Lin Ju, Pan American Champion, won a silver medal in the same event when he lost to the Argentinean Liu Song. Overall the Dominican team came in second in the tournament with 2 gold medals, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal. Brazil came in first overall and Argentina came in third overall.

Horford receives post season honors
Dominican Al Horford, son of former NBA player Tito Horford, has been honored this post season for his terrific play on the hardwood. Horford, a power forward on the Florida University defending national championship team, was selected 3rd Team All NCAA and was also selected 2nd Team All Defense. Horford averaged 13.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG and his strong post season play has landed his team a spot in the Final Four. Horford will next play on Saturday at 8:47pm against the UCLA Bruins where he will try to lead his team to the national championship game.
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