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Daily News - Monday, 09 July 2007

Fernandez starts cutting ribbons
President Leonel Fernandez, the PLD candidate for re-election, will begin a long period of ribbon-cutting, as the government inaugurates completed public works nationwide with the first in Monte Plata. According to governmental spokespersons, every Tuesday and Thursday from now until December, the President will be cutting ribbons on some RD$56 billion in public works that have been completed. A total of 88 projects will be inaugurated. Among the projects are housing units, university extensions, elementary schools, water works, rural clinics, rural roads and technology centers. One of the biggest projects will be the Northwest Water Works, built at a cost of RD$8.0 billion. The project has been years in the making.

Goodbye Victoria
Attorney General Radhames Jimenez has wanted to dynamite the old prison at La Victoria for years. Now he has been joined in his fight by the leader of the Prison Pastoral Movement, priest ArIstedes JimEnez, who called the La Victoria prison a center of backwardness, violence and corruption. The Attorney General spoke at the ceremony where 40 former inmates received their certificates of post-prison /treatment at various Houses of the Redeemer throughout the country. During his sermon, the priest called for the demolition of other old prisons, including the one in Azua. Jail stats show that more than 50% of inmates are in jail for drug trafficking charges.

Segura defends Sichuan deal
The vice-president of the Dominican Corporation of State Owned Electrical Enterprises (CDEEE), RadhamEs Segura, revealed that he is willing to debate, in the Senate, the contracts that guarantee the installation of the coal-fired generation stations in ?zua and Manzanillo. He denied that the contracts contain a prejudice of US$100 million against the Dominican state. He also denied that there was an inflated cost of US$270 million in the overall package, assuring reporters that there was an open bidding for the jobs. Segura tried to dispel worries voiced by the opposition PRD party that dealt with issues surrounding the contracts. The PRD say the contracts are a repeat of the worst contracts signed in the past.

PYMES want at pension monies
The nation's small and micro businesses will have access to money from the pension funds once the Law to Develop the Micro, Small and Medium Industries is approved, and the guarantee fund is established. According to persons in the area, these funds would be channeled through a sort of stock market. Juan RodrIguez, the director of the government's PROMIPYME program, said that the government is very interested in this sector and is backing the legislation that would create the framework for better financing. Spokespersons from the Dominican Confederation of Small and Medium Businesses (CODOPYME) and the Dominican Association of Graphic Industries assured reporters from Hoy that the formation of clusters would facilitate the placement of bonds in the market, and these bonds could be purchased by the pension funds. They cited the recent case of the Hidalgo Construction Company that was able to place bonds under similar conditions.

How to lower milk prices
According to the Osmar Benitez, the executive vice president of the Dominican Agro-business Board (JAD), the Dominican Republic has the possibility to access milk that is cheaper, and thereby avoid international price increases. Benitez explained this can be achieved by administering an import quota from the European Union and, at the same time, permitting that it be broadened to cover a local deficit.
Benitez rejected the idea of applying a 40% tariff on imports because it would imply an important increase in the already increasing price of milk.
The JAD administrator told reporters from the Diario Libre that the Dominican government should notify the European Union that it would manage the 32,000-ton yearly quota, and purchase this milk from those countries that offer the best prices. Currently, the UE is assigning 70% of its milk to New Zealand, and this increases its price. BenItez made it clear that the rules of the World Trade Organization (OMC) permit the DR to take on the administration of its import quota.
And, being an advocate of Dominican agriculture, BenItez assured the reporters that the DR could double and even triple its own milk production with government investments in the sector. Nonetheless, the expert confirmed the fact that the local production is not sufficient to cover demand and therefore it is necessary to open the quota to more than the current 32,000 tons that enter under the 20% tariff, especially since any milk that enters the country above and beyond the quota is subject to a 56% tariff. Because of this, BenItez says that local producer should modify their stand and permit a broadening of the current quota.

Cuba interested in Dominican markets
The Cuban Embassy in the Dominican Republic announced the opening of an exhibition of 36 Cuban companies that are interested in entering the Dominican market. This First Commercial Mission will be at the Hotel Dominican Fiesta until 13 July. Hospitals and research facilities will also take part in the mission. The exhibition will also serve as a connector for Dominican exporters to access Cuban markets.

Rogelio still working hard
Father Rogelio Cruz, the often times controversial priest, is now hard at work making things better for families in the "Maria Auxiliadora" parish in La Vega. As part of the activities surrounding the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Salesian fathers to La Vega, Father Rogelio had sought better housing for 50 of the poorest families. After a census of the parish's 1,400 homes, word got out as to what Father Rogelio was trying to do, and over 400 requests for consideration flooded the parish offices. With the help of the National Housing Institute (INVI), the project got a start with ten houses. So far, two have been finished and a third, destined for a man and his six children, is almost finished. Each person will be the owner of the house at no cost. If the unit is sold, the costs of the remodeling or construction must be repaid. If the house is rented out, half of the money has to go back to the community building fund. Additional benefits of the program are the salaries earned by the workers and the transfer of technology in the actual construction of these prefab houses.

The Monday strike
On Monday morning, reporters said that large stores remained open for business as usual, but received few clients. Few students went to classes at the state university, that remained open. Offices and factories opened as usual and by midmorning vehicular circulation of private vehicles was picking up, according to the Listin. El Nacional reported that the absence of the leading transport union vehicles was notable. The government sent troops and police to patrol the city.
In spite of reports of a call for dialogue from the Fernandez government, the promoters of today's national strike, the Alternative Social Forum, chose to maintain the call for work stoppage on Monday nationwide. Spokespersons from the Forum told television reporters that they never received any invitation to talk. President Fernandez met with the high command of the Police and the Armed Forces to outline government responses and to receive reports on the explosion in Santiago (see following story). Meanwhile, the Technical Office of Transportation (OTTT) and the Metropolitan Bus Service (OMSA) guaranteed transportation service throughout the nation. According to the OTTT director German Peoa Guadalupe about 60 to 70% of the buses that serve the public should be operating since several of the transport unions have indicated that they do not support the strike.
The strike organizers mainly target cities. The call to strike is barely felt in tourism areas, where previous calls to strike have been ignored.

Bomb blast injures three
A home made explosive device, allegedly for use in today's strike, exploded in the hands of its supposed constructors, severely injuring all three. The incident occurred in the Cienfuegos section of Santiago. The three young men were taken to the hospital where their conditions were listed as severe. One lost a hand and others suffered serious burns. The house where the bomb was being assembled lost part of its roof in the accident. Elsewhere in Santiago, Caribe Tours Bus Company reported an attempted bombing of one of its vehicles, and FALPO leader VIctor BretUn ratified that group's support of the strike.

Who are these guys?
Most readers have never heard of the Alternative Social Forum (FSA). They are, however, well known among intelligence agencies as the remaining members of the leftist movements of the 70s and 80s. According to the El Caribe, there was no way that President Fernandez could have halted this week's strike, since the action is part of a greater plan by the movement that is trying to "measure just how far advanced" things are in the face of those things they want to change are concerned. According to the newspaper, the government was not all that enthusiastic in seeking a dialogue with this group since it was quite convinced that it was dealing with a new type of organization, very different from the transport unions that it had dealt with previously.
This group is the new face of the failed left that died with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The demands of the FSA are, of course, impossible to fulfill. Some are quite common sense, such as lower food prices, good water supplies, roads and highways, increased salaries (including the police and armed forces), all of which are totally understandable by everyone. However, other demands are structural, such as "the defeat of the imposition of the neo-liberal model that destroys the national productive apparatus and places the Dominican nation in danger." The group also pushes for a break with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the withdrawal from DR-CAFTA, among other things. The group is part of the FALPO.

Mother and son reunited
The combined efforts of Dominican diplomatic and police officials, together with assistance from Haitian authorities prevented a Pakistani father from kidnapping his son Hashim Khan Brea. Located last Thursday in Port au Prince, HaitI, the eight year old was brought back to the Dominican Republic by the Dominican consul in HaitI, Carlos Castillo in a Dominican Air Force helicopter. The boy was swept up into the arms of his mother Suany MarIa Brea. The boy was found in the company of his father Azhar Daud Khan and a friend of the father. On 29 June the boy was reported missing after he reportedly left his house to have breakfast with his father. After checking the boy's passport, Rosanna Reyes, a prosecutor for the Court of Women's Affairs, told reporters that the passport had several visas, including one to Cuba and another to Pakistan. The boy's mother was totally surprised and kept asking how the father was able to get these visas without her knowledge. It is currently unknown how the boy crossed into HaitI, since there is no exit stamp in the passport. The prosecutor said that the case will be handled as a kidnapping.
On Saturday the magistrate at the Court of Instruction, Fanny Gonzalez ordered six months of detention for Daud Khan, accused of kidnapping his own son together with two other Pakistanis. These two, Ijar Ahmad and Khuram Shahadad were also remanded to custody until the trial in October.

Thirty years later
It could well be a soap opera, but, in this case, it is real life. A woman found her biological parents after 30 years. Ramun Perez Reyes, a journalist from the ListIn Diario, tells how the girl was separated from her real parents by a godmother of her biological mother in Sabana Grande de Boya, Monte Plata Province. The girl's birth was difficult and as a result, the mother was confined to bed for a long time. Josefa Espinal, the godmother, had come from Santo Domingo to help in the birthing, and offered to care for the newborn baby girl. She took the baby back to Santo Domingo and when the husband was sent to pick up the baby, he was told that the "baby was not his."
Later the mother went to Santo Domingo to claim her baby and was told the same thing. In the meantime, the godmotehr had gone to the civil registry and claimed that the baby was hers.
Thirty years ago DNA testing was only something that appeared in the movies, and the courts were faced with a "he said-she said" issue, and ruled against the birth parents.
With migration to Puerto Rico, and other family moves to Santiago and La Vega, it seemed that the real parents would never find their daughter. Fortunately, a grandchild of the original parents, who grew up listening to the sad tale of the missing daughter, continued the search, promising the family that she would find her. The whole thing appears as difficult as any possible movie scenario. However, after years of searching, the real family was able to reunite with the lost member.

Dominican bishops invite Benedict XVI
The bishops of the Dominican Republic invited Pope Benedict XVI to take part in the fifth centennial of the establishment of the first dioceses in the New World in 2011. The first dioceses was established on 8 May 1511 in what is now the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. According to the president of the Dominican Council of Bishops, Archbishop Ramun Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, the hope is "that the Pontiff be present in the events that will celebrate the beginning of the evangelization of the New World." The Dominican bishops were in Rome as part of their "ad limina" consultation with the Pope, a pilgrimage held every five years.
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