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Daily News - Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Documentation for Dominicans
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber, Roberto Rosario has announced that the JCE has come to an agreement with the World Bank to issue 600,000 birth certificates or cedula identity cards to people who currently lack these documents. These people have already been identified by programs sponsored by the World Bank, the government's Solidaridad welfare program and other NGOs. Rosario announced the plan after a meeting held with Programa Solidaridad head Fernando Reyes Castro, the World Bank's economist Sam Carlson and other officials who were in the country to discuss a loan for US$12.4 million to the DR, which will be used to complete the documentation process. Rosario explained that US$5 million would go towards improving civil registries, late registration offices and verification offices. He also explained that a verification office has been open since February as part of an agreement with the Servicio Nacional de Salud (SENASA).

Rio Group meets today
The Rio Group (GRIO), an association of Latin American and Caribbean states, begins its meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Santo Domingo at 2:30 pm today. Fifty foreign ministers are expected to attend the meetings and 2,000 participants and 500 journalists have been issued with credentials, as reported in Diario Libre. The ministers will discuss drug trafficking, the environment, free trade, the situation in Haiti and other regional issues. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso explained that although Haiti is not part of the Rio Group it is of interest to the Dominican government that a delegation, headed by the Haitian prime minister, is present at these proceedings. The DR will be heading the Rio Group for the next two years.

Plaza de la Salud organ transplants
Doctors at the governmental Plaza de la Salud medical center have successfully completed their first liver and cornea transplant. The surgery was conducted thanks in part to a family that allowed the organs of a deceased 33-year old man to be used. Plaza de la Salud president Julio Amado Castanos Guzman said that the surgery is a move forward for this type of surgery in the country. Thirty-seven-year old Iris Corcino received the liver transplant, which took place on 23 March. Other patients who received cornea transplants were Teodora Buret Almonte and Geraldo Perez. Hoy newspaper explains that in the past Dominicans in need of liver transplants had to travel to Colombia, paying around US$50,000 for the procedure. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, president of the Plaza de la Salud board, expressed his approval for the operation and appeared at the press conference to remind the public that the Catholic Church is in agreement with transplant surgery.

Education on Dengue
More than 2.38 million students and 8,000 teachers from the public and private school system will take part in a day of action against dengue fever. The day is being launched at 9am today at the Republica de Panama School. Today has been declared "National Day Against Dengue," and Education Minister Alejandrina German is calling on the public to support today's efforts because it could save a lot of lives.

Understanding FTZ struggles
A study carried out by the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development lists a series of challenges that the Free Trade Zones have had to confront over the last few years. The good news is that electricity costs for many FTZ parks have declined because they have been granted non-regulated consumer status, being able to connect directly to transmission lines and source power at lower costs. But the report also reveals that competition from Asia, the slowdown in the US economy and an increase in services sourced by the FTZs have affected the competitiveness of the local manufacturing plants. The FTZs, for instance have been affected by a 35% increase in domestic cargo transport costs. Customs tariffs are also an increased burden. In the DR, Customs charges US$100 per freight container while Customs in Central American countries charge between US$50-75 per container. The report says that if FTZs are to survive, the government should provide them with more support.

Helping FTZs
Diario Libre writes that today the Senate will be looking at a bill aimed at providing an endorsement on loans for up to RD$2 billion, which will serve as a guarantee for the loans that commercials banks give to Free Trade Zones (FTZ) suppliers. This is part of a strategy to help strengthen the FTZ sector. President Leonel Fernandez submitted the bill to the Senate on 11 April.

No wage parity
Diario Libre writes that the DR's highest minimum wage (RD$6,400 per month) is comparatively higher than the minimum wages in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and other Latin American countries. But Diario Libre also writes that the DR's lowest minimum wages for specific sectors (RD$3,900 and RD$4,400) are comparatively among the lowest in the entire region.
Dominican labor unions are demanding that the minimum wage be increased to RD$8,000, which would bring benefits to RD$4,696.80. Business sectors are proposing an increase to RD$7,168, and benefits to RD$4,208.33. Free zone workers make at least the RD$6,400 minimum wage.
Furthermore, a paid advertisement by Eng. Bolivar Morel in today's newspapers says that when added benefits are included in the minimum wage, this reaches RD$10,157 a month. Added benefits include the Christmas bonus (RD$533.76 or 8.34%), vacation pay (RD$313.60 or 4.90%), profits bonus (RD$800 or 12.50%), accrued severance payments (RD$470.40 + RD$627.20, or 7.35% + 9.80%), Social Security (RD$410.88 or 6.42%), Infotep training (RD$64 or 1%), health insurance (RD$448 or 7%), work accident insurance (RD$89.60 or 1.40%), for a total of RD$3,757.44 or 58.71%.
The same comparative analysis with competitors in Central America published in the advertisement indicates that at its net total of US$193.93, the Dominican generalized monthly minimum wage is the highest in the region except for Costa Rica, where it stands at US$226.
Current minimum wages in El Salvador are US$151, Guatemala US$131.30, Honduras US$154 and Nicaragua US$72. The labor unions' proposal would bring the wage to US$242.41.

Taiwan gives medicines
A medical mission from Taiwan, which has been in the country since Friday has been providing free medical services and donated medical supplies worth RD$825,000 to the Ministry of Public Health. International Health Action (IHA) is in the country with 10 specialists and will be here until 20 April. The doctors are working at the San Lorenzo de Los Minas Maternity Hospital, Ricardo Limardo Regional Hospital, Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital, Monte Llano Hospital and Dario Contreras Hospital.

Justice for Orlando
Mariano Duran Cabrera and Rafael Alfredo Lluberes Ricart have been sentenced to 30 years in jail while Joaquin Antonio Pou Castro has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 1975 murder of journalist Orlando Martinez Howley. Listin Diario writes that Martinez was shot and killed with a .38 caliber revolver by a group of civilians and military personnel on Jose Contreras Avenue, near Santo Domingo's UASD University on 17 March 1975.

A Dominican at Virginia Tech
Dominican student Carlos Alberto Espaillat Bonnelly was one of the many students who personally experienced the tragedy at Virginia Tech University where 32 people were killed and 15 injured after a gunman went on a morning shooting rampage. Espaillat explains that he was sleeping in his dorm room when he received a phone call at around 7:30am warning him about events outside his dorm room. He said that he then turned on the television and watched the story as it developed. Espaillat is a first year civil engineering student.

Subero says investigation is stalled
Businessman Miguel Subero says that the investigation into an attempted robbery last month in which he was left for dead has stalled, and claims that it was more than just a simple robbery. Subero, who is in Miami recovering, was interviewed by Dominicanoshoy.com and said that two of the robbers were members of the National Police (Ernesto Encarnacion Borquez) and Armed Forces (Luis Rafael Ramirez.) The robbery, which took place at Subero's Casa de Campo villa on 13 March, was apparently planned by a trusted former assistant, Alexander Alejo Diaz.

Dominicans in sports
"Big Papi" David Ortiz is heating up. Last night the Red Sox power hitter hit his fourth homerun of the season, placing him among league leaders. His long field blast helped the Sox beat the Anaheim Angels 7-2.
Sacramento Kings forward Francisco Garcia is finishing off the regular season on a high note and is securing his presence in the NBA for years to come. Garcia, who had been playing in the shadows of Kevin Martin, has averaged 15.7 ppg for the last seven games, earning the praise of coach Eric Musselman.
Florida power forward Al Horford and Depaul point guard Sammy Mejia have both contracted agents and thus effectively ended their college careers. Although Horford is considered a top 15 pick, Mejia's status in the draft is still up in the air.
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