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Daily News - Thursday, 14 June 2007

Fernandez honors revolutionaries
Last night President Leonel Fernandez honored the heroes and martyrs involved in the revolutionary events of 14 June 1959 and 30 May 1961. The ceremony, which took place at the Presidential Palace, was attended by family members of the revolutionaries who took part in the assassination of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

First Lady returns in the nick of time
First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez got lucky yesterday. She was in Guatemala for a First Ladies Meeting but decided to leave earlier than scheduled and flew back home to the DR on a private flight. Her departure came just before the Central American country was hit by an earthquake, registering between 6.5 and 6.8 on the Richter scale. The First Lady was in a hurry to return to the DR because she had to attend her eldest son's graduation.

DEA and DNCD sign agreement
The director of the Office of Counter Narcotics Enforcement at the United States Department of Homeland Security Uttam Dhillon and Interim American Ambassador Roland W. Bullen have visited the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) and met with DNCD head Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the issue of drug trafficking affecting both countries and to coordinate efforts to tackle the problem.

Jimenez Pena denies claims
Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena has dismissed reports that the Dominican Republic fails to uphold the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and the mistreatment of children. The claims were made in a report by the United States State Department but Jimenez says he doesn't know where the report came from or what it was based on. Jimenez says that there are problems in the country but described these as isolated cases, saying that the DR doesn't mistreat anyone. He added that the country is working to provide the best protection for its children and young people. In contrast, Nilza Areas, head of the National Children's Council (CONANI), says that the country is at risk of losing valuable aid from the US if it doesn't do a better job of controlling human trafficking. Areas said the country could be penalized as a result. She pointed to the illegal trips that are organized to Europe with the express purpose of working in prostitution. Hoy writes that this is the third time since 2005 that the DR makes this list and explains that Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are also on the State Department list.

Energy contract only gets worse
The contract that the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) signed with the Sichuan Machinery & Equipment Company, to build a coal burning energy plant that would produce 600 MW of energy has been modified several times to improve profitability for Sichuan, against the better interests of the Dominican Republic, reports Diario Libre. According to the newspaper, the company was originally going to deposit a US$10 million guarantee into a bank account if the project didn't start in 120 days. Also, the company was to deposit another US$10 million in an account if electro-mechanical work didn't begin in 210 days, but those deposits were never made. As for the CDEEE's side of the agreement Diario Libre explains that initially the CDEEE had to present a US$21 million bank guarantee but this sum was raised to the status of a US$30 million sovereign guarantee. Later the contract was modified so that the government would guarantee to buy 7,884 hours of power a year, which amounts to 90% of the energy that Sichuan will theoretically produce. Finally the price of the energy produced was originally agreed at RD$2.57 cents /kWh but has been increased to RD$2.90/kWh.
The newspaper warns that the contract as modified by the CDEEE and sent to Congress for approval would be notoriously onerous for Dominican consumers, and would compromise state finances. A competitor, is contending that Sichuan won a tender with the original contractual conditions, and these should not now be modified.

The two Chinas and the DR
Clave Digital focuses on the dispute between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan for the DR's favor. It mentions that trade is increasing with both countries. The DR exported US$23 million to China in the first quarter of the year, or up by 152% compared to US$9 million in 2006. This was because of significant increase in ferronickel (US$22 million) exports, as well as the export of iron, aluminum and plastic scrap to China.
Exports to Taiwan have also been growing, from US$1.8 million in 2001 to US$12.7 million in 2006. The DR exported electric components to Taiwan, primarily US$438,568 in computer parts and iron scrap. The DR imported US$255 million from Taiwan in 2006, and exported US$3 million.
The report explains that the Dominican government has maintained good relations with both countries. Meanwhile, Taiwan is working towards the signing of a free trade agreement with the DR. Yuen-Chuan Chao, president of the Board of directors of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) says that while no date has been set for the signing of the free trade agreement, "we trust it will be in the very short term." He mentioned that DR and Taiwan delegations would meet in July for a second round of negotiations leading to the bilateral free trade agreement. During the meeting the conditions for market entry and services sections of the treaty will be discussed. James Hsin-hua Wu, deputy director of the Taiwanese Ministry of Economy's foreign trade office said that he trusted that the agreement could be completed no later than the start of 2008.
Taiwan Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien is expected in the Dominican Republic in early July for continued talks on DR-Taiwanese cooperation. This visit comes in the wake of statements by Costa Rica President Oscar Arias who said that Taiwan had been "stingy" with its aid for neighboring Haiti.

Inflation increased in May
Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased by 1.06% in May due in large part to the increase in international petroleum prices. According to the Central Bank the accumulated inflation for the first five months of the year is at 3.9%. An agreement between the IMF and the government looks to keep the inflation between 4% and 6%. The inflation rate between May 2006 and May 2007 was 6.28%. Inflation of food prices increased only by 0.29% but transport prices were affected by an inflation rate of 3.47%.

Airport tax will pay for planes
The government plans to pay for the new Dominican Air Force planes it is buying from Brazil with money that comes from the tax that visitors pay when they enter or leave the country. Hoy writes that the one-dollar tax, paid for by airplane passengers, was approved on 19 April. President Fernandez will be in Brazil next week and will visit the manufacturing company that is building the planes. The tax was approved by decree 225-07 and it increases the price that airlines have to pay for each passenger to US$13.75. The decree came in effect on 2 June. It is estimated that this year 4.7 million people will pass through the country's six airports, which will generate an estimated US$10 million in 2007 and RD$20 million in 2008. The tax was initially introduced to build tourism infrastructure.

Tourism sector not concerned
The vice president of the National Hotel and Restaurant Association (ASONAHORES), Arturo Villanueva, says that the tourism industry is not concerned about the regional decline of tourism reported by the Caribbean Tourism Association. He said that the tourism sector has successfully begun the process of diversifying the options and offers for tourists. Villanueva made these statements in response to a 2006 report featured in the Wall Street Journal that found that tourism in the region had declined by 3.8% and also declined internationally by 5%.

Park of the East irregularities
Diario Libre continues to provide more details on the irregularities surrounding land deals in the National Park of the East. The newspaper mentions that the Ministry of Tourism "no-objection" to hotel construction granted for the Bahia Principe Bayahibe was issued despite the fact that the sale of land on which a 20-rooms per hectare hotel would be constructed was never final. Reportedly, owner Daniel Antonio Minaya was to sell the land to Spanish buyers Ignacio Coronado Ruiz, Carlos Sanchez Hernandez and Andres Lietor Martinez. These in turn were to sell it to Grupo Pinero for the construction of the Bahia Principe Bayahibe. The sum agreed between Inversiones Trubia S.A. was US$19.8 million. The deal fell through when state lawyer Fermin Casilla opposed the sale of the land because it was part of the National Park of the East. Minaya says that he still holds the title to the land because Sanchez Hernandez, who is in jail in Spain in connection the Marbella fraud case, had never paid him a dime.

Dominican soldier tells his story
Jose Francisco Solano, a 26-year old Dominican-American soldier serving in the United States Armed Forces, has survived two tours in Iraq and is now describing the horrors of the war zone. Solano, a sergeant, says that he was deployed to Iraq for a nine-month period and was stationed at a hospital near a combat area. He says that he was horrified at what he witnessed. He says he saw soldiers from different nationalities in the hospitals with life-threatening wounds. Solano was met by his family at Las Americas Airport. He says that he is happy to back in his country and that he is even more happy to be out of Iraq without an injury.
Solano is fortunate to tell his story days after the body of another Dominican-American soldier Junior "Bryan" Cedeno Sanchez arrived at the La Romana International Airport last week. Cedeno was one of the countless victims of the war in Iraq. His body would be cremated and returned to his parents that live in the United States.

Former First Lady passes away
Asela Mera, 74-year old wife of former President Salvador Jorge Blanco (1982-86), and mother of the secretary general of the PRD political party, Orlando Jorge Mera, died suddenly of a hypoglycemic attack in the early hours of the morning. She suffered from diabetes. She is being mourned at Funeraria Blandino in Santo Domingo. She is also survived by her daughter, lawyer Dilia Leticia Jorge Mera.

Dominican baseball in Taiwan
The Dominican baseball team that will be competing in the Pan-American games in Rio de Janeiro will travel to Taiwan first in order to prepare for the games. The team, headed by Luis Polonia, left for Taiwan on Wednesday. Hector Pereyra, head of the Dominican Baseball Federation, says that these training sessions in Taiwan will be very important. Going to as far as Taiwan to train seems awful far, but it is part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries, said Pereyra.

Rains continue
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) issued more warnings for 17 provinces after the DR experienced yet another week of wet weather. The weather department predicts that the rain will continue and a number of provinces are dealing with floods and mudslides even though they have barely recovered from the rains that poured down last week. Meteorologists blame the rains on a pressure system that is currently moving across the Dominican Republic.
For weather updates, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/...
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