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Daily News - Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Palamara-La Vega deal
The Palamara-La Vega generation group has inked a deal with the CDEEE whereby it agrees to renegotiate 187 megawatts of energy that it has contracts for under the Madrid Accord. The renegotiation is expected to bring savings for the distributors, especially government-operated Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur of about US$19 million per year by means of a 2.13 US cent reduction in the price of a kilowatt hour. In exchange for this deal, Palamara-La Vega asked that the RD$32 million debt be honored by Ede-Norte and Ede-Sur. The CDEEE spokesperson said that US$15 million of this debt was being paid now and that the rest would be paid in quotas. This is the first successful renegotiation by any of the participants in the Madrid Accord. However, consumers will not benefit from this action until the more than US$400 million subsidy the government pays to the distributors is eliminated.

Senate oks quasi-fiscal funding
Last night the Senate of the Dominican Republic gave its approval to the bill to recapitalize the nation's Central Bank by means of a RD$320 billion bond issue. The idea behind the project is to cover the "quasi-fiscal deficit" initially taken on by the Central Bank as a result of the banking crisis of 2003-2004. Up until 2005, this "quasi-fiscal deficit" was at RD$202,104,583,810.00. The IMF sought the approval of the legislation to move on a pending review of the stand by arrangement. The plan is for the Central Bank to sell bond issues from 2007 until 2016, and thereby cover the debt.

Senate condemns bias campaign
The Dominican Senate unanimously condemned the organizers of the international campaign that uses Haitian immigration to discredit the Dominican Republic. The legislative initiative was started by senator Prim Pujals and approved by the other 22 senators present in the chamber. The note says that international enemies of the Dominican Republic are trying to discredit the country in spite of the tremendous efforts the DR is making to alleviate the living conditions of the Haitian immigrants. The measure also asks that the international community take on its own responsibilities in the face of the difficulties being experienced in HaitI.

Military behind copper stealing
The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio CEsar ValentIn, reported yesterday that military officers of the highest rank are involved in the mafia that is stealing electric and telephone cables in order to melt them down for their copper content and to export the metal. ValentIn urged his colleagues to pass the legislation that prohibits the exporting of any copper material. The legislator took a brief turn at the podium during the session that gave the special commission one week to report back on the bill submitted by Deputy PelegrIn Castillo. ValentIn said that it is an absurdity that the DR, where copper is not mined, should turn up on a list of copper exporters. The legislative project would punish illegal movement of copper with up to 10 years of prison and fines ranging from 20 to 30 minimum wages.

Caribbean Biological Corridor
Three nations, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, underwrote an agreement yesterday to create the first Caribbean biological with the idea of reducing the loss of bio-diversity in the region and protecting the environment. The agreement, which has the blessings of the Latin American office of the United Nations Program for the Environment (PNUMA), was signed by Environment Minister Max Puig of the Dominican Republic, Haiti Environment Minister Jean Claude Germain and Environment Minister Fernando Gonzalez Bermadez from Cuba. At the signing, Max Puig pointed out that the area is one of the most important in the world with regard to bio-diversity. According to the experts a "biological corridor is a defined geographical space that facilitates the relation between human beings and nature and provides connections between ...ecosystems, habitat and culture, contributing to the upkeep of the essential ecological processes...and economic development of the communities served." The 1,600-kilometer-long Caribbean Biological Corridor spans the biosphere reserve of Jaragua-Bahorouco-Enriquillo and the Central Mountain Range in the DR to the Haitian border. In the future, the area around Montecristi and the adjacent costal marine areas might be included.

DR has low index at World Bank
The Dominican Republic continues to show poor indexes for governance according to World Bank numbers for 2006. The indicators are included in the report, "A Decade of Measuring the Quality of Governance" (1996-2006) published by the World Bank. The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project defines governance as the set of traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. The WGI project reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 212 countries and territories over the period 1996-2006 for six dimensions of governance: voice and accountability; political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. The indicator control of corruption shows a notable decline over the 10 year period.
A country data report (1996-2006) is provided for the DR at http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi2007/pdf/c64.pdf
See http://www.govindicators.org

Oligopoly behind high prices
The Dominican Federation of Merchants (FDC) says that the Minister of Agriculture and the Administrative Minister for the Presidency are involved in assigning import quotas that result in RD$2 billion in profits for just four companies. Ivan Garcia, the FDC president and one of his economic advisors, Miguel Sang Ben, told ListIn Diario reporters that items such as garlic, beans, sugar and onions are imported according to the whim of the officials who benefit from these four importers. GarcIa and Sang called the four a 'cartel' and said that in the case of garlic, the cost of a pound of garlic is just RD$10.60, but the item is selling for more than RD$60 pesos in the marketplace. The two accused the Minister of Agriculture and the Presidential Minister of "sponsoring a monopoly of imports," and detailed the cases of beans that cost RD$12 and sell for RD$24.00 and onions that cost RD$8 and sell for RD$30 per pound.
At the same time, the sole importer of the Milex brand of powdered milk said that if the government removes the 20% tariff currently in place for the product, there would be no need to increase the price of the product. The tariff reduction would absorb the increase in the world price of milk, according to Bayardo MejIa.

Codia vs. Osiris de Leon
The Dominican College of Engineers and Architects (Codia) has announced disciplinary hearings for geological engineer Osiris de LeUn, one of the most vocal critics of the construction of the Metro. The Diario Libre obtained a copy of the resolution issued following a 26 May meeting of the Codia whereby participants agreed to "disavow and disqualify De LeUn in a public statement". This decision was taken because of De Leon's firm stance regarding the Codia and what he has called improvisations carried out for the construction of the first 14-km line of the Santo Domingo metro. The Codia resolution mentions Article 13 of its code of ethics that refers to allegations that reflect on the reputation of Codia members. Although the note obtained by the Diario Libre does not specify just how De LeUn has affected the reputation of Codia members, persons close to the scene told the newspaper that it all revolves around De Leon's comments on how the Metro is being built. When asked about this, De LeUn said that he had not violated the code of ethics, and that the resolution was just an attempt to try and shut him up for his criticisms on the Metro. The geologist said that his only intent was to "see that the construction fulfills the quality control requirements for a metro system." De Leon said he had not been officially notified by the Codia, but he said that the Codia would be doing him a big favor by taking him to a disciplinary hearing, "...because this would give me the opportunity to demonstrate to the nation that the current board of directors of the Codia is made up of government and metro servants."

Falsely accused will sue DNCD
The family of Isa Mabel Pujols announced that they would sue the National Drug Control Office (DNCD) and the UCE Medical Center after the woman was falsely accused of carrying 50 pellets of cocaine in her stomach. According to the Diario Libre, the DNCD apologized publicly to the young lady for the mistake. According to the press release, the DNCD said that "in no way was there any intention to harm her reputation." The statement made by Isa Mabel Pujols comes after she was stopped at the airport last Sunday, taken to the UCE Medical Center where x-rays were taken and revealed, in the opinion of the doctors that attended the case, that foreign objects in her stomach were bags of cocaine. From the UCE Medical Center, the woman was taken to the Armed Forces Hospital and there she was subjected to enemas throughout the night. When no cocaine was expelled, she was subjected to a vaginal search. The lawsuit will accuse the DNCD of defamation of character and libel, since the DNCD published her name and photograph with the accusation that she was a "mule" carrying drugs inside her body.

Customs seizes US$738,585 on ferry
Customs officials seized US$738,585 after inspecting packages of rice and laundry detergents that accompanied a woman on the ferry from Puerto Rico. The stash of money was found when officers checked the baggage accompanying Dianna Marte Perez, who stated that she was headed to Arroyo Barril on the Samana Peninsula. Money was also found in perfume bottles and an inflatable mattress. Her passport showed she had visited the country on seven previous occasions since October 2006, and all of her visits were for just three days. On all the trips she came on the Mayaguez ferry. This is the second large seizure of undeclared money made on the ferry. The first find was in April when agents found US$420,000 on a naturalized US citizen.

Identity theft in the DR
Identity theft is keeping banks, telephone companies and embassies on their toes these days as thousands of persons are discovering their "cedulas" have been usurped by other people who then attempt to sell property, obtain a loan or who simply want to be younger. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) is working on more than 3,500 case files of persons whose identities have been switched since 2002. The JCE has said that 900 persons were subject to identity theft during 2006 and 2007. According to magistrate Juan Gulliani, some people only discover that they have been victimized when a commercial entity calls them to collect on a bill they never really incurred. On other occasions, persons going to the offices to renew their identity and voting registration cards (cedulas), find that someone beat them to the punch. The fraud results when a person is able to obtain a cedula with the name of the right person but with the photograph of the thief. According to Guilliani, in many cases the fraud has been committed with the assistance of employees of the civil registry offices that provide them with copies of birth certificates of persons who are not in the database of the new cedula because they did not retrieve their new cedula number that was issued after 1992. Before 1992, the cedula was blue. This has affected thousands who have migrated, died or some who just neglected to renew their cedula. The JCE is working on ways to stem the flow of irregular identities.

Bomb builder dies
One of the three men injured when a homemade explosive device that would have used during the Monday strike went off unexpectedly has died in the Regional University Hospital in Santiago de los Caballeros. The police identified the victim as Claudio Marmolejos Cruz, 25. According to the ListIn Diario, one of the two remaining individuals, Jaime Tomas Morel, 24, continued in critical condition with burns and wounds to his head, face and other areas. A third young man, known as either JosE RodrIguez or Willy Ventura, 24, is recovering. According to the Front for the Fight for Unity and Progress (FLUP), the group that claims all three as members, the police took the injured JosE RodrIguez/Willy Ventura for interrogation.

Tragic death in Italy
Evelyn Cardona, counselor minister at the Dominican embassy in Italy, died of a surprising death on Sunday, 8 July. She was to be buried on Wednesday, 11 July in Florence where she lived with her family. Work colleagues describe her as a charming and happy person, full of life. She was the daughter of the Superior Education Minister Ligia Amada Melo, who immediately traveled to Italy, with her other daughter, a cardiologist.
Evelyn Cardona was only 43 years old. She leaves a 20 and a 14-year old daughter, and her beloved Italian husband Pasquale Ballestrieri. A heart attack is suspect. She was a chain-smoker. At home on Sunday, 8 July she felt an intense pain in the arm and an ambulance was called. When the paramedics arrived, she was already in coma. She died on the way to the hospital. She participated actively with the mission of Dominican bishops that visited the Vatican for their recent ad limina pilgrimate.

Pan Am Games forecast
The president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, Luis Mejia forecast that the DR could win 18 medals at the Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games, 13 July - 29 July. The DR team will be 161-athlete strong. Dominicans will compete in 21 sports. The DR won 41 medals in the 2003 Santo Domingo Pan Am Games, but 9 in the previous Winnipeg, Canada games in 1999. In 2003, the Dominican team was 516-athlete strong.
 
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