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Daily News - Friday, 28 September 2007

Fernandez at UN
Speaking before the UN's 62nd General Assembly yesterday in New York City, President Leonel Fernandez warned that the increase in oil and food prices and the challenges that this poses to economies like the DR's, in comparison to the economies of industrialized nations, is creating a very dangerous situation that could lead to a major famine for developing countries. Fernandez also spoke about climate change, whose impact is already being felt in the DR through frequent flooding, droughts and hurricanes, which destroy the ecosystem, biodiversity and the country's infrastructure.
"Due to all these challenges presented by globalization, a country like the Dominican Republic, asks itself where is the international solidarity, where is the cooperation between countries, how are we going to collaboratively address all of these challenges, which affect many people around the world?" said the President.
Speaking about the DR situation Fernandez reminded the General Assembly of the 2003 crisis that devalued the peso by 100%, forced the working class had to work twice as hard to meet the basic needs to survive, drug trafficking and the crime gained a foothold, and the country's credibility at the world level decreased." Fernandez cited several reports that indicated that the 2003 crisis created 1.5 million "new poor people." Fernandez continued by saying that since he took office in 2004, the nation has done a turnaround. "Although we began like the Phoenix bird, emerging from our own ashes; negative international circumstances threaten to impede our prospects for future growth."
Speaking on increasing oil, milk and food product prices Fernandez said that it is a vicious cycle that has affected food prices, while government subsidies protect the products of the world's industrialized nations.
Fernandez also made the case for the DR to be elected to the UN's Security Council. The President said that the DR is looking to be "a voice in favor of the weak, the most vulnerable, the deprived, and the most condemned on the Earth."
Fernandez continued in his speech by criticizing the inequalities between countries and affirmed that you can't have equality when countries accumulate wealth on the backs of others. Directing his comments to UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, Fernandez said, "There cannot be cooperation, Mr. President, when there are people that only think of conducting business without taking into account the pain and anguish of those who are suffering."
Fernandez also said that the current structure of the United Nations no longer represents the modern day. "The structure corresponds to the Cold War era still, although the world has advanced beyond the era that was dictated by the rivalry of two superpowers," he said to the world audience.
See http://www.dr1.com/news/2007/PresidentspeechUN2007.shtml

Milk prices skyrocket
Listin Diario is reporting that over the last five days milk prices have skyrocketed, with hikes ranging between RD$4 and RD$149. Powdered, evaporated and condensed milks have all been affected by the price increases. Daniel Pena, president of the Santo Domingo Wholesalers Association, said that the price increases are abusive and affect the development of the poorer classes. Among the brands that have been subject to increases are Nido, Anchor, Kanny and Carnation. Nido 2,500g increased to RD$625 while Nido 1,800g increased to RD$600. Anchor 2,500g increased to RD$650 while Anchor 1,800g increased to RD$499. Kanny 2,500g increased to RD$595 while Kanny 1,800g increased to RD$521.95. The only brands that have maintained their prices are Listamilk RD$42.95, La Vaquita RD$34.95, Rica Lactose RD$49.95, and Extra Milk RD$56.95. The increase in powdered milk prices is due to the increase in the price of a metric ton of milk from US$2,400 to US$5,300 on the world market.

DR formalizes relationships
Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso has formalized, on behalf of the DR, relations with Guinea-Bissea. The Minister also signed agreements with Sudan, North Korea, the Congo, Algeria and the Ivory Coast. Morales signed the agreements while in New York for the 62 General Assembly of the United Nations.

Chile interested in DR
In October a group of Chilean investors will be visiting the DR to study the possibility of building a wind park that could produce 100 MW of energy for the country. Dionisio Sanchez, senator for Pedernales, recently returned from the Third Ibero-American Parliamentary Forum where he exchanged ideas with technicians and investors about the possibilities about a wind park in the remote southwestern province.

Border proves challenge for trade
President of the Association of Industries from the North Region (AIREN) says that Asian products are being sold on the Haitian market and enter that country without paying taxes while Dominican producers are forced to pay taxes through the application of rules that aren't clear and change every day. He says that four or five shipments of Dominican products are currently stuck at the border because the Haitian authorities are asking for Dominicans to pay the taxes on those shipments. AIREN president Oliveiro Espaillat questioned the situation and urged the country to resume the mixed bilateral commission and negotiate an FTA directly with Haiti before it is done through an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

CNSS justifies exclusion
National Social Security Council general manager Ana Ilse Mena is justifying the exclusion of HIV/AIDS patients from the SFS on the grounds of fiscal balance. Mena explained that the decision was made by all parties but added that it is an issue that will have to be resolved gradually. Patients with cancer and pancreatic problems are included in the SFS but HIV/AIDS patients were excluded.

Government threatens ARS
National Social Security Council president Jose Ramon Fadul has warned the private health insurers (ARS) that they could have their licenses canceled if they challenge the government's health plan, the SFS. He is quoted in Hoy as saying that the ARS do not own the country even if they run an industry with transactions worth more than RD$16 billion per year. He said the ARS should be regulated and specified that there are only two or three of them that would like to see the system collapse. According to Fadul, the ARS are only worried about their profitability.

Church vs. aggregate extractors
The Dominican Catholic Church said today it would be vigilant so that there is not a revoking of the Ministry of Environment Resolution 16-2007 that called an end to aggregate extraction from rivers in 90 days. Extraction is outlawed as of 10 November. "The cost to repair the damages to nature is much greater than any increase in the cost of construction materials," said Monsignor Fabio Mamerto Rivas, president of the Pastoral Commission for Ecology. He urged that the nation be aware that damages to nature revert against humans and called for all to cooperate to protect the country. He spoke during the presentation of the "Ten Commandments for the Ecology" of the Catholic Church.
As reported in Clave newspaper, Juan Brea of Mon Braca aggregate company working in the Nizao River has said that it would need another six months after the 10 November deadline to relocate. The end to river basin extraction has been requested by environmentalists for years, with the government being lenient with the companies. Spokesman for the UASD environmental team, Luis Carvajal told Clave that there has been complicity of the aggregate companies with governments over the years. The Ministry of Environment under Max Puig issued the resolution on grounds that there are sufficient inland sources of aggregate so as to not have to affect the rivers. Puig was removed shortly after issuing that resolution.

Presidential loan scandal hots up
The PRD has repeated its demand for an explanation for the US$130 million the country has taken on in public debt after Presidential Works Supervisor Felix Bautista, from the Office of Engineers and Supervisors of State Works (OISOE) signed promissory notes worth US$130 million without Congressional approval. Bautista reportedly received authorization from President Fernandez to do so. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has said that is not a government debt. However, yesterday PRD secretary general Orlando Jorge Mera produced nine copies of the promissory notes worth approximately US$61.5 million that are formally being offered to investors by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The prospectus indicates that these are Dominican government notes. As reported, the government issued the notes in favor of the Sun Land Corporation, which received the funds from HSBC Bank USA, which in turn transacted these to the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is now seeking placement with private investors. The PRD had earlier produced a first promissory note following an inquiry from the Ministry of the Hacienda to Sun Land Corporation into the transaction.

Police explain death
Police are investigating the events that led to the death of 26-year old Engelis Maria Gonzalez Castillo Wednesday. Contrary to initial reports published in yesterday's Diario Libre, today's edition reports that retired Captain Rafael Garcia Sosa had tried to shoot driver Cruz Nidio Tejada Tejada and shot Gonzalez, who happened to be sitting behind the driver, instead. Garcia Sosa was angered because he wouldn't be let off the bus, lost his temper, and killed the young woman. She leaves her husband and three-year old son. Gonzalez was finishing a degree in engineering at INTEC and worked at a pharmaceutical company. She was on her way home when the tragedy occurred.

ADN wants debt paid; Bengoa says no
The Santo Domingo City Hall (ADN) wants the central government to pay the RD$418.7 million debt accumulated by bus union Fenatrano. The debt was contracted when the former mayor of Santo Domingo, Johnny Ventura agreed to guarantee a commercial bank loan so that Fenatrano-affiliated bus owners could replace their vehicles. With bus owners falling into arrears, the Banco de Reservas is now demanding payment from the guarantor, the Santo Domingo municipality.
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has rejected a proposal from the ADN for the Office for the Reorganization of Transit (OPRET, better known as the Metro Office) to take on the debt. He rejected the request for the government to take on more private debt. Diario Libre is reporting that if the debt isn't paid, BanReservas will begin discounting the money from the ADN bank accounts. Bengoa said it was absurd that Fenatrano doesn't want to pay for its commitments. He called for Fenatrano owners to meet their responsibilities.
Fenatrano leader Juan Hubieres said that the union would pay the debt, which was taken out in 2002. He was defiant in his response and said you would never read a letter by him asking for help from this or any other government. Hubieres also took a shot at Bengoa and said that the Minister should be out looking for those who stole billions in the pension mafia scandal instead of going after the drivers.

Discovering through education
The Discovery Channel will promote a pilot program in Dominican schools called "Discovery in the classroom." The program will train teachers in three schools in Santo Domingo and Haina in the use of technology and how to use it to teach. The schools will receive a TV, a DVD player and the educational DVDs.
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