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Daily News - Friday, 30 March 2007

Stavridis meets with Leonel
Admiral James Stavridis, Chief of Southern Command for the United States met with President Leonel Fernandez yesterday. Fernandez was accompanied by Armed Forces Minister Ramon Aquino. Stavridis recognized the weakness at the border with Haiti and how this affects the trafficking of drugs, arms, and people. The rear admiral also said he would talk with high ranking military officials to see what kind of help the US can give the DR. In a press conference after their encounter Stavridis challenged the President's claim that the United States has neglected aerial and naval surveillance against drug trafficking in the Caribbean. Stavridis argued that in the last five years there has been an increase in the amount of drugs confiscated and said that in only one year authorities have seized more than 262 tons of drugs. He continued by saying that the US government seeks to dedicate equal resources to fighting drug trafficking and terrorism.
The Dominican government seeks more support from the US for the war against drugs traffickers that use the DR as a transshipment point for the US drug market.

Fernandez could sit in wage talks
Diario Libre is reporting that Vice President Rafael Alburquerque has set up a meeting with the business sector for Monday of next week to discuss the pertinent issues regarding the on going negotiations with the labor unions. Diario Libre is also reporting that President Leonel Fernandez could be present at this meeting and would try to help find an end to the stagnated negotiations. After this initial meeting, Alburquerque along with Labor Minister Ramon Fadul and Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado will meet with heads of the labor unions with the hopes of reaching a solution before the end of Easter Week.

Fernandez on the campaign trail
President Leonel Fernandez is very active on the campaign trail and last night he was at the Country Club in Bonao speaking about his bid to be reelected. Fernandez is quoted in Hoy as saying that he will easily defeat Danilo Medina in the PLD primary on 6 May. The Listin Diario quotes Fernandez as saying that he has the Dominican people favor his quest for reelection. Today at 10am the President will continue his visit to the Cibao region. He will preside over a Government Council in Santiago, as he promised he would do last week. The President will be in Santiago for two days and will also be present at the military parade commemorating the Battle of March 30 and he will inaugurate a series of public works projects, including the repaving of the Santiago-Tamboril highway. To prepare for the trip, through Presidential decree, the site of government was relocated to to Santiago.

Fernandez submits bill
President Leonel Fernandez submitted a bill to the Senate for approval of a letter for stand by credit for US$30 million. The State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) requested the guarantee on behalf of the Pepillo Salcedo Consortium, which is constructing two coal powered energy plants in Monte Cristi. The letter sent to the Senate explains that the credit will serve as guarantee the Energy Transformation Contract (ATE) for the building of two coal energy plants in Montescristi by the Pepillo Salcedo Consortium. One of the details of the ATE is that the CDEEE will open a bank account at the BanReservas so that the consortium can withdraw funds in order to cover the costs of fuel and carbon used at the plants and also to cover the payment of 2.9 cents per dollar per KW/hour of energy billed.

Pie could loose citizenship
Haitian rights activist Solain Pie, a.k.a. Sonia Pierre, could have her status as a Dominican revoked by the board of the Central Electoral Board (JCE). A recent investigation revealed that her declaring parents were illegal Haitians, Ramon Jean and Marie Pie. The investigation showed that her father declared her irregularly stating he was a Dominican, and only the name of her mother and not her mother's details, irregularly appear in her birth certificate. Pie is the founder and director of Haitian-Dominican Women's Movement (MUDAH) and in 2006 she was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award for her activism in favor of Haitians living in the DR. She is especially known for her campaign to seek that all those who can claim having been born here be given Dominican citizenship. The JCE recently instituted a separate procedure for the registration of births of those born to non-legal resident foreigners.
Commenting on the case, Pie admits that her parents were Haitians but stands by her right to the citizenship arguing she was born in the Dominican Republic. She clarified, as reported in Diario Libre, that Ramon Jean was not her father, but her godfather. She said her father died when she was nine months old, prior to declaring her birth. She said she would dispute her right to Dominican citizenship in the Dominican justice.
Pie's case is common to hundreds of thousands of Haitians who investigations have shown irregularly received Dominican citizenship. The new board at the JCE is trying to institute new controls to check internal corruption in the department that had led to the widespread forgeries. The Haitian Constitution recognizes as Haitians all those that are born to Haitian nationals, regardless of where they are born.

Imaginary border controls
Diario Libre reported yesterday on what it describes as the "imaginary" migration controls exercised by the Dominican military along the border with the DR and Haiti. The newspaper points out that the illegal trafficking in goods, firearms and drugs is normal at the border and money talks. Smuggling of Haitians, drugs, wood and coal is prevalent at the Jimani border point, while rice contraband crosses primarily through the Pedernales point. Elias Pina is known for its firearms contraband. Dajabon, nevertheless, is the main border contraband point, open to all sorts of contrand.

IMF plans revision
The IMF will review its stand by arrangement with the DR during the second half of May. Diario Libre writes that the current IMF mission in the country is monitoring the current situation, but explains that it is too early to present all the data. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says that the country has fulfilled all the requirements set forth by the agreement. Bengoa also explained that the country has received RD$4 billion more than expected in revenues. This is due to the Falconbridge mine that reported RD$2 billion more in revenues, because of the increased price of nickel and a similar sum received by the Tax Department due to increases in amounts paid for the ITBIS tax.

Being fair re electricity penalties
Hoy newspaper advocates that fairness prevail in a new bill that the IMF is seeking that Congress pass. In an editorial today, the newspaper urges that legislators also contemplate penalties for electrical fraud committed by companies against consumers, not only those committed by consumers that seek to get around some of the highest power rates in the region. Hoy says it will be fair to penalize illegal connections of consumers or those that evade paying for their consumption. "But the same instrument should cover modalities of fraud committed by those that produce and distribute power, such as the charging for power not supplied, for blackouts and the applying of penalties on individual contracts," writes the editorialist.

Hospitals getting funds
Through funds received from a World Bank loan the Commission for the Reform of the Health Sector (CERSS), in conjunction with the Support Project for the Reform of the Health Sector (PARSS) will invest RD$248 billion in the construction, repair, and purchase of equipment for 265 health centers. Gustavo Rojas, director of the CERSS, explained that the objective of the Infrastructure and Equipment Plan is to improve the access of the poorer sectors of the population to quality health services. Health centers in Barahona, Baoruco, Independencia, Pedernales, Higuey, Elias Pina, Hato Mayor, La Romana, El Seibo and San Pedro de Macoris will receive the funds.

Hubieres ends hunger strike
Bus owners leader Juan Hubieres has ended his three day hunger strike. And is quoted in the Diario Libre as saying, "I want to keep living," as his justification for ending his strike. Enriquillo Matos, of the Colegio Medico Dominicano (CMD), explained to Hubieres the risks if he continued the hunger strike given his heart condition and low blood pressure. In a related news story, the wives of the bus owner activists held a rally yesterday at the doors of the Presidential Palace supporting the demands that their husbands are making of the government. Diario Libre writes that because of the fear that they would be mistreated the group retreated without speaking to any government officials or voicing their demands.

Cardinal speaks out
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez says that the Dominican public is tired of the internal conflict going on in the ruling PLD party and says that it is damaging for the country. He continued by saying that "we are tired of violence, death, drugs, and instability." The Cardinal made his statements while speaking with Alicia Ortega on her show "El Informe." The Cardinal believes that the situation will benefit no one.
The Cardinal encouraged political candidates to leave it to the party to decide who will be the presidential candidate and to campaign by highlighting not what the other is lacking, but what they themselves would do if elected President for 2008-2012.
The Cardinal criticized the protests by organized groups that damage outsiders. He commented that the owners of transport businesses should be referred to as entrepreneurs and not union leaders. He said people that have been benefiting from the government for years represent no ideals nor are campaigning for workers. He said the transporters should apologize and ask for the pardon of the Dominican people for their involvement in the strike that resulted in the burning of several women that had nothing to do with the mobilization. "They called that strike, and God knows what criminal took advantage of that to carry out the crime, the terrorist act, that had such a tragic consequence," he said.

Burned workers released
Two laborers who were victims of a bus bombing on 12 March during a transport strike were released from the Salvador B. Gautier Hospital yesterday. Maritza de Jesus, 28, and Gladis Perez, 28, had been receiving treatment at the hospital for first and second degree burns. Doctors said that both are in stable condition. The two patients will not be able to work for two weeks, giving them time to continue healing. A third victim, Santa de la Cruz, 26, who received burns on 8% of her body was left in the hospital after having gone through a medical procedure to treat burns on her neck last Wednesday.

Canadian embassy gives funds
The Ministry of Environment began a bi-national project yesterday to rehabilitate the severely degraded watershed of the Artibonito River, between the DR and Haiti, the largest on the island of Hispaniola. The project is being conducted with a CAN10 million assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). There are 23,186 inhabitants at the Artibonito River watershed project that seeks to develop sustainable forestry, agriculture and community infrastructure to reduce poverty, preserve the environment, and rehabilitate the damaged areas.

Journalist found dead
Police Chief Bernardo Santana Paez says that police have enough evidence and the names of the people who were responsible for the death of journalist Victor Gulias Vicioso. The body of Gulias, head of public relations for the Dominican Municipal League (LMD), was found stabbed multiple times in his apartment on Ortega y Gasset Avenue. Santana Paez suspects that the death was a crime of passion and said that during the investigation used and unused condoms, pornography, and alcohol were found. LMD photographer Jorge Lorenzo Mena found the body when he went looking for Gulias when the latter didn't go to work or respond to his cell phone was found yesterday at 11am in the service room of his apartment.

Susan Sarandon to film in DR
American actress Susan Sarandon will be coming to the DR to film the movie "El Crimen de las Mirabal, according to producer Etzel Baez. Sarandon will be playing the role of Dona Chea. Baez explains that Sarandon will be in the country for one week to shoot her scenes in the hometown of the Mirabal sisters, Salcedo. Baez says that he hopes to premiere the movie in November of this year at Lincoln Center in New York City. Last year, Susan Sarandon was reported vacationing in Samana.
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