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Daily News - Friday, 03 August 2007

Fernandez inaugurates works
President Leonel Fernandez was in the north-central Cibao region all day yesterday inaugurating 16 public works projects - highways, plant nurseries, schools, rural roads, housing projects and a youth center - built by the government at a total cost of RD$400 million. During a speech in the northeastern city of Salcedo, the President said that it is not enough for governments to build projects and have good intentions, but also stressed the value of citizen empowerment. He said that "democracy in the 21st century requires the participation of all citizens, so that they become architects of their own destinies," as reported in Listin Diario. Among the works, the President inaugurated the Arenoso housing project in Villa Progreso, which cost RD$145 million, as well as the Villa Tapia - Sabana Angosta - El Coco - San Jose de Conuco highway, built at a cost of RD$93 million.

Fernandez supports Subero
Last night President Leonel Fernandez said that in the last ten years the DR has gone from a judicial system where defendants could buy favorable sentences to a justice system that is reliable, honorable and honest. Fernandez says that the country is perceived as serious and trustworthy with institutions that are credible due to the increased strength of the justice system. The President added that there has been a real revolution within the democratic spectrum since 1997. Fernandez's support for Chief Justice Subero Isa comes after Subero and Attorney General Radhames Jimenez spent much of the week blaming each other for deficiencies in the country's judicial system and the ineffectual fight against corruption. Yesterday Jimenez suggested a meeting with Subero to discuss ways of fighting corruption, considering that both are at the top of the judicial system.
Director of the Department for the Persecution of Administrative Corruption (formerly DEPRECO) Octavio Lister tried to add some positive spin to the public disagreement. Quoted in El Caribe, Lister says that it was not so much an argument, as a divergence in criteria or positions.

Ministry of Foreign Relations cuts fees
The Ministry of Foreign Relations has announced that it is reducing taxes on the legalization of documents by 20%. The Deputy Minister in charge of Migration and Consular Affairs Rosario Graciano de los Santos said that each legalization would now cost RD$620. This reduction in fees is the result of the enactment of Law 173-07 on tax collection efficiency, which came into effect on 17 July.

No surprise: Deputies approve changes
With a vote of 87 to 13, and 9 abstentions, the Chamber of Deputies has approved the modifications to Social Security Law 87-01. Diario Libre writes that a letter from the business sector was not taken into consideration during the process. Deputies also disregarded a PRSC proposal recommending other changes. In making its decision, the Chamber heeded advice from a special committee led by PLD Deputy Victor Terrero who considered that the changes submitted by the Executive Branch would guarantee the start of the government's health plan, the SFS, in September.
The lower chamber also approved four commercial bank loans for the Santo Domingo Metro. One US$94.3 million loan was approved with the Alstom Transport S.A. Company. Another US$12 million agreement was approved for the Sampol Ingeneria y Obras S.A., which will be in charge of supplying energy. A third agreement was signed with the Siemens AG, Siemens Holdings S.A. and a loan for US$99 million with Thales Transportation Systems S.A, which will install the mass transport system. Another loan contract for US$33 million was approved for purchases from the CIM TSO consortium, responsible for constructing the railways for the metro.
The Chamber also approved a US$10 million loan negotiated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that will be used for consolidating real estate jurisdiction. And finally the Chamber approved a bill that will facilitate payments from employers with outstanding debts with the Dominican Social Security System.

Sichuan credit approved
The Chamber of Deputies also approved a letter of credit for a value of US$30 million, which will be used to guarantee the contract for the construction of two coal-powered plants by the Sichuan power company. Diario Libre writes that a US$90 million fund has been created, equivalent to three months payment of energy supplied by Sichuan.
During the first PLD administration, the Cogentrix power plant was built based on a contract that was to become a major nightmare for subsequent governments because it cost much less to keep the plant closed than in operation. The contract with Sichuan has been highly controversial and business sector and opposition PRD party spokesmen and even former Central Bank Governor Bernardo Vega have said it will be even more detrimental than the Cogentrix contract.

Late birth declarations on the rise
The number of late birth declarations being reported by the National District Late Registrations Department increased by 235% in July, compared to June. In July alone the office received 1,370 applications for late registration. This is 786 more than July 2006. National District Attorney General Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero has increased staff numbers in order to deal with the barrage of requests. El Caribe writes that of the 1,370 registration requests 1,232 are for minors and 138 are for people over the age of 18.

Concern over toys affects DR
An international product recall by Mattel and Fisher-Price also covers the DR, where many of the affected products are on sale. Earlier this week Mattel's Fisher Price division issued a recall of 1.5 million toys containing lead in paint. The toys are painted by a contractor in China and CNN reports that this latest recall has added to increased US concern about the safety of Chinese products. Listin writes that this is the second major recall of the year, the 17th in the last ten years, and will include 83 products that were made between 19 April and 6 July. The toys include Elmo, Big Bird, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Diego, among others. This recall is not the first problem the US has had with Chinese products. In May the "Mr. Cool" brand of toothpastes, which was produced in China, was recalled because of high levels of a toxic chemical that resulted in the death of some users. Today's Listin Diario reports that Florida's attorney general Bill McCollum has joined other US attorney generals' warning the public about low quality Chinese tires manufactured between 2002 and 2006. The tires, for use on SUVs and small trucks, have been declared hazardous and McCollum warns that 450,000 of these tires don't meet minimum safety requirements.
See www.cpsc.gov and http://service.mattel.com/us/recall/39054_IVR.asp

Where apparel stands
Following an invitation from Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, the Fair Labor Association of the United States carried out an assessment of the Dominican apparel industry in May 2007 to identify possible opportunities for improving the situation. In the past 18 months the DR has lost an estimated 50,000 jobs in the apparel sector. Between 2004 and 2006, apparel exports from the DR to the US fell by nearly 25%. The main cause of the decline is the restructuring of the global apparel industry in the wake of the phase-out of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA), making the country more vulnerable to competition from China.
The 10-day research took place in May 2007 and was carried out by Jennifer Blair, a sociologist at Yale University; Antonio Baliarda, a textile industry consultant based in Barcelona and Franklin Chavarria, the FLA regional manager for the Americas. The group recommended a substantial re-orientation of the industry towards higher value-added production, including the provision of pre- and post-production services for foreign clients, and a better integration of Dominican manufacturers into the regional supply chain in order to make the most of an expanding textile base in the Caribbean Basin. The investigation also determined that the government's ability to address a number of issues beyond the apparel sector that negatively impact the industry's competitiveness, including energy and transport costs will be critical for its success. The investigators also noted that the appreciation of the Dominican peso against the US dollar exacerbates the competitive pressure on Dominican exporters.

AIDS doctor to be charged for deaths
Several health organizations working in the fight against HIV/AIDS have announced that they are preparing to bring formal charges against Dr. Jose Ramon Baez Acosta. They claim that he is responsible for the death of ten patients and for having damaged the health of a further 50 patients. According to the health groups, the deaths and injuries came after the patients were given an experimental drug that supposedly cured HIV/AIDS. Dominican HIV/AIDS activist Danilda Soto has called on the authorities to be more aggressive in their pursuit of Baez especially as he has stated that he would continue with his treatment regardless of these charges.

Brit mules now?
Two British citizens were arrested in possession of four packages containing approximately five kilos of cocaine as they tried to leave the country via the Punta Cana International Airport last night. The president of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), Major General Rafael Radhames Ramirez Ferreira named the pair as Gary Matthew McLacthie, 45, and Lynda McMillan, 24, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.
They were planning to board a flight to London when the cocaine was detected in their luggage, which was then searched in the presence of assistant prosecutor Domingo Antonio Guerrero in the anti-drug office. Both alleged smugglers, who are being held at Higuey police headquarters, will be appearing in court in Higuey today.

US specialists operate on children
Doctors from the International Children's Heart Foundation have completed a series of free operations on 18 children at the Arturo Grullon Hospital in Santiago. The children come from Santiago, La Vega, San Franciscio de Macoris, Moncion, Puerto Plata, San Jose de las Matas, Samana, Navarrete and Santo Domingo. Juan Ramirez, director of Heartbeats for Vanessa, said that the operations had been a success. Dr. Ramirez says that more than 400 children are born with heart problems every year, and need surgery in order to survive.
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