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Daily News - Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Fight for cigar and textile sectors
President Leonel Fernandez tried to help the Dominican tobacco and textile sectors yesterday warning on the damaging effects a proposed US cigar tax bill could have on DR exports and for Dominican flexibility to import textiles from Mexico. Fernandez told US Trade Representative Officer Susan Schwab that the DR needed to source textiles in Mexico to compete in the US market. The pending legislation on a new tax on cigars - which would go towards funding children's health care in the US - would affect a sizable sector of Dominican industry. According to the press release from the Dominican Presidential Press Office, Ms. Schwab listened "attentively" to the President's comments about the creation of mechanisms aimed at allowing Dominican textile manufacturers to procure cloth from Mexico under the aegis of the DR-CAFTA agreement. According to the note, Schwab promised to work with the Bush Administration and congressional leaders to avoid such negative effects in the Dominican textile and tobacco sectors. President Fernandez met with Schwab as part of his US tour. Yesterday the President spoke at the American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA)'s Annual Meeting/Businessmen and Policy makers from the Western Hemisphere.
For more on Fernandez's US tour, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/dominicans-abroad/...

A future for both Haiti & the DR
Haiti's former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has spoken out against what he called an international campaign to discredit the DR, which includes false claims about Haitian immigrants supposedly living in conditions of slavery in the DR, as reported in El Nacional.
"We will not allow people with bad intentions to attempt to sabotage the excellent relations between our two countries," said Latortue, who was taking part in a conference organized by the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, also attended by President Leonel Fernandez on Monday as part of his US tour. "These people have not caught on that times have changed and you can't talk about a future for Haiti but rather of a future for both countries. I know President Fernandez and know he loves Haiti and wants to see its problems resolved," he added.
Latortue, who served as prime minister from 12 March 2004 to 9 June 2006, explained that, "decisive international cooperation is needed to create more jobs in Haiti and so keep Haitians in their own country. When that happens, Haitian tourists will visit the DR, not immigrants looking for work."
During the same conference, a journalist asked President Leonel Fernandez to comment on Haitian migration to the DR. He turned the question over to Latortue who responded that could be expected when on the same island you had a growth rate of 6-8% and another of 0%.
Latortue expressed confidence in the good relationship between President Fernandez and President Rene Preval, saying that this would be decisive in pushing ahead agreements to secure international cooperation for the development of the island.
Since the start of the year, films highlighting supposed slavery-like conditions experienced by Haitian workers in the DR have been shown in major cities abroad. The DR government has denied that Haitian workers are smuggled into the country to work in the cane fields, and says that of the estimated one million Haitian migrants in the DR, less than 1% works in the sugar industry.
According to a World Bank funded study carried out by Inter-American Dialogue and released yesterday, Haiti's economy depends on remittances, and US$200-US$300 million come from the DR each year. The study shows that 76% of the Haitians who live in the DR visit Haiti at least once a year, staying for a week to two months.

The IMF and Minister Montas
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas has told reporters that the government will decidee whether or not to continue with the IMF Stand-by arrangement later this year. According to Hoy newspaper, the government will have to analyze the "delicate international situation" before taking a decision about future relations with the IMF. Montas referred to the price of oil, which has surpassed the US$80.00 per barrel mark, and the volatility of the New York Stock Exchange over the past few weeks as two major international concerns.

You can eat bread
The Public Health and Industry & Commerce ministries made a ruling yesterday aimed at prohibiting the use of potassium bromate in bread made in the DR. They gave traders 30 days to stop adding the substance to bread manufactured in the country. The decision came after a heated press debate on the adverse health effects of potassium bromate in bread.
The additive is used to "improve bread dough" and is said to preserve the flour for longer. The flour is imported from the United States, where a level of 50 mg/kg is permitted. According to local authorities bromate is toxic at 62mg/kg. Studies have shown that bromated flour is a cancer threat. The local authorities therefore announced gradual new limits on the level of potassium bromate in flour imported from the US. For May 2008, the maximum level of bromate in flour will be 30mg/kg. From June 2008 to January 2009, 15mg/kg will be allowed. By February 2009, potassium bromate will be totally banned as an additive in imported flour. Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) is an alternative.
Potassium bromate is a suspected carcinogen and is banned from food in Europe, Japan and Canada, but not in the United States. Though potassium bromate has not been banned in the United States, the FDA urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it since 1991. Only flours sold in California are required by law to label the addition of potassium bromate. Such flours are often referred to as "brominated".

WB helps civil registration
The World Bank and the Dominican government have signed an agreement under which the bank will lend US$19.4 million towards securing documentation for nearly 400,000 people currently without even so much as a real birth certificate. This paperwork will allow them to access government health benefits and other social programs. The deal was signed by Vicente Bengoa, the Minister of the Treasury (Hacienda) and Caroline Anstey, the World Bank's Caribbean officer. The Dominican government will contribute a counterpart fund of US$2.6 million towards the project. As part of the overall project, the Civil Registry Office will be refurbished and computerized, the Birth Registration Office will be modernized and receive technical assistance and three mobile Civil Registration vehicles will be put into service. Assistance will also be provided to the Attorney General's office and the Supreme Court to help improve efficiency in issuing documents. This program is just part of the "Dominican Republic Assistance Strategy", and the World Bank has earmarked as much as US$360 million for the different projects involved.

Matos asks for intervention
Dominican Medical Association president Enriquillo Matos has asked the government to intervene in four of the largest private health insurance providers (ARS) in the Dominican Republic. Matos said that the companies in question, Humana, Universal, Monumental and SDS are engaging in monopolistic practices which are having an adverse effect on the government's new Family Health Service plan (SFS). According to Matos, in spite of a joint obligation taken on by the government and the ARS companies, there is widespread pessimism about the system's workability. The doctors' leader told reporters from Diario Libre that until the government takes a look at the major ARS client lists, there will be no way of knowing who is affiliated to which system, and whether clients know what is being offered in return for their payments.
In a related note, Listin Diario reports that the National Health Insurance program (SENASA) has opened services in three more southern provinces, San Cristobal, Peravia (Bani) and San Jose de Ocoa. Approximately 100,400 people are expected to benefit from the Subsidized Family Health Insurance Program (SFS). SENASA already has 908,213 people on their subsidized health care lists. According to SENASA executive director Altagracia Guzman, the government is going to put aside RD$2.0 billion to guarantee healthcare for the poor.

Industrialists question 10% tax
Business and industry leaders are questioning one of the provisos of the recently modified Electricity Law, stipulating that all entities that are granted "non-regulated consumer" status - which purchases electricity directly from the generators-will be subject to a 10% tax on the energy consumed. The basic argument by the business and industrial sector representatives is that there is a legal principle that states that no law can be retroactive if it is prejudicial to those affected. In this case, the argument is that all consumers that followed the existing rules and requested their change of status before the legislation was passed should not be affected by the new regulations. Many industrialists, traders and businesses have had requests for the non-regulated status pending for years, some as many as five years, and see the new rules as very prejudicial. The National Energy Commission is responsible for writing up the regulations for the application of the modified law and presenting them to the President for final approval.

A.M. Speaking of regulations
The plan to establish a set of rules and regulations aimed at controlling political activities in the run-up to an election has been posted on the Central Electoral Board's website, www.jce.do. According to Adriano Tejada, today's Diario Libre A.M. editorialist, these are some of the regulations: No asking people not to vote. Corrections must be made by newspapers on anything the political parties feel is incorrect. If there is a dispute, the issue will be settled by the JCE Contentious Chamber, not in the regular courts. Official propaganda cannot promote any given candidate. There will be no political propaganda in government offices. There are to be no inaugurations or start-ups of social programs in the 30 days before an election. The JCE will create a list of pollsters, and only those on the list can publish the results of polls. No polls can be published in the five days previous to an election. Polls can be taken at voting places - exit polls - but the results cannot be publicized until the final JCE count is given. Media that publish polls outside the limits placed by the JCE will have to pay for any correction made by the JCE count. Ninety days before the elections, the political parties must submit their budgets for campaign expenses. The highest budget submitted will be the expense limit for all the parties. Tejada, known for his somewhat sardonic humor, points out that his readers can see that the regulations are full of good intentions on the road to Hell. As a lawyer, Tejada also says that some of the rules are outside the law and predicts that if the regulations are approved by the parties, a lot of people will challenge the ruling.

More dead fish in Sanchez
Investigators from Santo Domingo, from the Ministry of the Environment and the UASD University environmental commission, are studying the evidence along the shoreline at Las Garitas Beach where thousands of small and a few large fish were found dead or dying over the last few days. According to Hoy newspaper, some believe that poison was used to kill the fish. Felicita Heredia and Luis Carvajal from the UASD environmental group told reporters that they were worried about the large number of fish that had been affected. Their version of the scene was in marked contrast with early reports that claimed that the fish were the victims of illegal fishing methods. Carvajal praised the concern expressed by the mayor of Sanchez, and said that experts from the Academy of Sciences and the UASD were going to investigate the incident further.

Seven get to see Najayo
Seven people who were caught as they waited for a plane to drop some drugs were sent to Najayo Prison to await trial. Five Colombians and two Dominicans were sent to the prison by magistrate Franny Manuel Castillo. The seven were seized by DNCD agents at kilometer 26 of the Yamasa Highway as they were waiting for a plane that the DNCD had been tracking. Santo Domingo District Attorney Jose Hernandez Peguero asked for preventive custody for the seven.

Long time land sales approved
The Chamber of Deputies has finally approved 919 land sales, some of which had been pending for decades. The lots were each less than 1,000 square meters in area, as the larger portions were removed from the bill. The deputies accepted the favorable report issued by deputy Radhames Gonzalez, the president of the permanent committee on contracts.

Police and OTTT work together
The police and the Technical Office for Land Transport (OTTT) will join forces to clamp down on drivers who use their vehicles to commit crimes. Apparently there has been a series of robberies committed by people passing themselves off as official drivers of the various "concho" routes. As a result, the OTTT and the police will begin a plan to supply each official driver with an ID card that will be visible to the passengers.

Money mule sent to Najayo
The prosecutor for Santo Domingo managed to get a magistrate to send Roberto Perez Reyes to Najayo Prison under the accusation of bringing in over half a million dollars hidden inside his vehicle and some furniture last Saturday. The Assistant Prosecutor, Rita Maria Duran, got the magistrate to issue the preventive custody ruling after establishing the fact that Perez Reyes had hidden the money in the vehicle and furniture and tried to avoid the rules established by Law 226-06 regarding contraband. Perez Reyes was traveling on the ferry service from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico in order to bring the money into the Dominican Republic.

PhotoImagen 2007
The leading Dominican Photography Festival is ongoing from 4 September through 6 October with exhibitions at several venues primarily in Santo Domingo and Santiago. Highlight of the week is a Press Photography Exhibition at several venues. These include: Casa de Teatro. 19 and 26 September at 7:30pm. Biblioteca Pedro Mir (UASD), 20 September at 7 pm. Museum of Modern Art of the Plaza de la Cultura on 21 September at 9:30 pm. Funglode on 25 September at 7 pm. Photographers: Anabel Perez, Orlando Ramos, Ricardo Hernandez, Pedrito Guzman, Orlando Barria, Pedro Jaime Fernandez, Pedro Holguin, Ricardo Rojas, Jorge Cruz, Felix Lara, Ricardo Munoz, Eduardo Encarnacion, Walter Astrada, Roberto Guzman, Miguel Gomez and others. The event is part of the extensive program underway for the PhotoImagen 2007 event.
See program at http://www.photoimagenrd.com/programa.php
For more on other ongoing and upcoming calendar events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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