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Daily News - Friday, 18 May 2007

Fernandez inaugurates remodeled facilities
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated the remodeled economics building at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) campus yesterday. The refurbishment cost RD$150 million. UASD rector Roberto Reyna and economics department dean Emma Polanco were both present at the inauguration ceremony. Rector Reyna thanked President Fernandez for the work on the building. Felix Bautista from the Ministry of Public Works who was in charge of overseeing the project, commented in Hoy how only eight months ago the department looked inhospitable, dark, and was extremely hot.

Business sector wants SFS postponed
Representatives of the business sector, headed by the National Council of Private Business (CONEP), proposed the idea of postponing the introduction of the Seguro Familiar de Salud (SFS), which is set to go into effect on 1 June. The business sector made this proposal to Vice President Rafael Alburquerque on the basis that the country is still not ready for the system. As matters stand today, the deductions are due but the service would not be provided, and affiliated employees would have to pay for alternate coverage in order to use medical services. As matters are today, the proposed plan would increase the cost of the service, but at the same time reduce services received by company medical plan to affiliates.
Manuel Diez Cabral of the Association of Industrialists said that if the plan is not ready and isn't going to provide the whole nation with proper services, then it is not advisable for it to start in those circumstances. As a whole the business sector is in agreement with the principle of a social health plan, but they are arguing for efficiency and are calling for intelligent integration of the proposed system. The SFS is currently at a standstill. Yesterday's meetings at the Presidential Palace with the Vice-President yielded no concrete results and further meetings are scheduled for today. The president of the Association of Clinics, Rafael Mena, said his position wouldn't change because he feels that Dominicans should have the right to choose the doctor and the clinic they feel is best for them. The Dominican Teachers Association (ADP) is seeking the reform of Law 87-01 on social security, hoping to make it more participative, while the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) is also calling for reforms to the law.

Protest against tree cutting
Luis Carvajal of the UASD state university's Environmental Commission says that the Santo Domingo municipality workers cut down an oak and not a neem tree, as was claimed, while replanting Parque Duarte in the colonial city, as reported in Hoy. Carvajal joined a protest by the Pro-Life Association (ASOPROVIDA) that opposes the cutting down of trees. They criticized the fact that the city government is cutting fig and oak trees in Parque Duarte. They also criticized the fact that many of the palm trees that are being planted die before they accomplish their purpose. City mayor Roberto Salcedo defended the municipality's actions saying that they were only toppling imported tree species, such as neem.
Eleuterio Martinez, president of the UASD Environmental Commission, also criticized the fact that the city government had cut down native mahogany trees along Ave. Jimenez Moya to replace them with palm trees.

Deputies present resolutions
Members of the Chamber of Deputies, headed by Victor "Ito" Bisono Aza have presented French Ambassador in the DR, Cecile Pozzo di Borgio, with a resolution condemning the anti-DR campaign they say is being promoted by the film "Slaves in Paradise", which is being shown in several French cities. The French ambassador said she would study the document and would pass it on the proper authorities in her country. Listin Diario writes that the resolution includes allusions to efforts by foreign entities to discredit the DR and its sugar industry, and includes an objection to the screening of the film in Paris. As a result of the scandal, Listin Diario writes that the Vicini group, one of the country's largest sugar producers is hiring foreign lawyers to defend its sugar producing industry.

France distances itself from anti-DR campaign
French ambassador in the DR Cecile Pozzo Di Borgio has distanced her country from the so-called anti-DR campaign and any attacks on its sugar industry, as reported in Diario Libre. Referring to a documentary film about Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic, di Borgio explained that the mayor of Paris, where the film was shown on Wednesday, is a socialist, which explains why the city might not be in harmony with the French government's official stance. Di Borgio made it clear to Dominican officials that France doesn't support this campaign. Di Borgio also pointed out that the priests featured in the film, Christopher Hartley and Pedro Ruquoy are Spanish and Belgian respectively and that their countries should be responsible for their actions. Di Borggio made these comments after a group of Dominican officials handed her a copy of a resolution denouncing Hartley and Ruquoy. The resolution was unanimously approved in Congress this past Tuesday. The controversy and "anti-DR campaign" began earlier this week when Hartley and Ruquoy premiered the film "Slaves in Paradise."

Amnesty not calling it slavery
Amnesty International said yesterday that it has never described the Haitian laborer situation in the Dominican Republic as slavery. The response by AI comes in the wake of the media firestorm caused by the documentary film "Slaves in Paradise," featuring Christopher Hartley and Pedro Ruquoy, which portrays the DR in a negative light. Many in the DR and abroad have described the film as part of an anti-DR defamation campaign and as a direct attack on the Dominican sugar industry. AI tried to make it clear that although they had sponsored the viewing of the film they have never used the word slavery to describe the situation in the DR in their own communications. Ivon Thiant, head of the National Federation of Overseas Migrants (FADOM) said that the film contained many lies and exaggerations. He concluded that certain figures were embellished, that the film spoke of cemeteries where there are none and speaks of hardships for immigrants that is a reality that is common not only in the DR, but across Latin America.
In the case of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Haitian daily toil and living conditions, with few exceptions, is an advancement over what these had in Haiti.

Aristy provides proof
Head of the Dominican Municipal League (LMD), Amable Aristy Castro, has provided proof that he is paying for his pre-presidential campaign with his own money, much to the delight of the Central Electoral Board (JCE). Diario Libre writes that Aristy sent a letter to the JCE certifying the payment of political campaigns with his own funds, contrary to accusations that he had been using public funds, from the LMD, to pay for his campaign ads. The total amount of the invoice, numbered 773230, was for RD$90,619.20. The controversy with Aristy arose last week when there were accusations that he had printed a booklet promoting his presidential pre-campaign using LMD funds.

Massive blackouts blamed on vandalism
Both the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) and the Electricity Superintendent have explained that a massive blackout that affected the southern and northern regions of the DR on Wednesday evening was caused by an act of vandalism on the transmission lines at Palamara-Hainamosa. Listin Diario writes that an unidentified individual tried to make an illegal wiring connection to the energy network at Palamara. The blackout occurred on Wednesday at 9:30, but 90% of power was restored three hours later. AES Dominicana prevented a total nationwide blackout by keeping 400 MW of power on line through their Andres and Los Mina IV plants.

Scheduled blackout for tomorrow
EdeEste is notifying users that there will be controlled power outages in the National District tomorrow between the hours of 7am and 5pm in order to complete work on the city's power system. The areas of Santo Domingo that are due to experience these outages include Gazcue, Miraflores, Villa Consuelo, San Juan Bosco and Avenida Duarte.

Central America and Caricom negotiate FT
The Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have announced plans to begin negotiations for a new free trade agreement. The decision came as result of meetings held during the Second Summit of Heads of State, which took place last week in Belize. Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso attended the summit as President Leonel Fernandez's replacement. The DR is one of the seven DR-CAFTA signatories, has observer status in CARICOM, so an agreement between SICA and CARICOM could lead to increased trade benefits for the DR.

Positive gesture in light of tragedy
Thanks to Dominican ambassador in Spain Alejandro Gonzalez Pons, Air Europa will be transporting the bodies of Elena Pina Mateo, Andy William Medina, their 18-month old daughter Keila Medina Pina, and Sugey Altagracia Valdez Mateo back to the DR free of charge. The families will also be exempt from paying 50% of the costs for the preparation and transport of the bodies to the airport. This was achieved with the help of the Dominican consulate in Spain. The family members were killed on Tuesday morning when the car they were traveling in crashed into a bus as they returned from a party. It is not clear whether speed, alcohol or negligence was to blame for this tragedy.

Largest cruise ship to visit
The largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Freedom of the Seas, will be visiting La Romana port this Wednesday, 23 May. The 155,000-ton ship has capacity for 4,500 passengers. La Romana Port is served by Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises and Aida Cruise ships. More than a quarter of a million cruise ship passengers visited the DR through La Romana port in the 2006/2007 season. The number of passengers is expected to double for the 2007/2008 season that begins in October. Attractions for passengers in the La Romana area include the Altos de Chavon artists' village, the modern Casa de Campo marina, and the town of La Romana itself, with its arts and crafts shops.

Police chief
Police chief Bernardo Santana linked drug trafficking to 77% of the violent crime happenings in the country. In a conference on Police Reform and the Struggle Against Violence he presented at the Dominican Society of Psychiatry conference, he said that there have been achievements with the Democratic Security Plan and the Safe Neighborhood Programs. He mentioned there has been a decline in homicides from 25 per 100,000 in 2005 to 17 per 100,000 in 2006.

Man gets 30 years
Gregorio Martinez Cuevas has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for cutting his ex-girlfriend Dolfi Gonzalez's hands off. Thirty years is the maximum sentence for any crime in the DR. Listin Diario writes that Martinez cut off Gonzalez's hands because she refused to resume her relationship with him. Dolfi Gonzalez explained that Cuevas had also been abusive towards her during their relationship. The court ordered Martinez to pay Gonzalez RD$5 million in damages.

Manny passes Willie
There's no guarantee that Manny Ramirez will be a sure bet Hall of Fame candidate but he's passing many Hall of Famers along the way. Yesterday Manny hit his 1,541st career RBI, passing hall of Famer Willie Stargell in the process. This puts Ramirez at 38th on the all-time RBI's list. Along with his RBI total, Ramirez has 476 total career homeruns.
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