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Daily News - Wednesday, 03 October 2007

Stability in spite of oil prices
Dominican Republic Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu has reiterated his belief that rising oil prices have not affected the Dominican economy's macro-economic stability. Valdez Albizu told reporters from Hoy newspaper that inflation figures for September were within the limits established by the current stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund. Valdez Albizu spoke to reporters after attending a meeting with IMF officials at the Presidential Palace. Also at the meeting were the Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas and Banking Superintendent Rafael Camilo. The Central Bank head declined to say whether the Dominican Republic would be signing a new agreement with the IMF.

New currency
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic has announced the creation of two new currency denominations: a RD$200 peso note with the Mirabal Sisters on the front, and a RD$60 peso coin commemorating 19th century educator Salome Urena. The new issues are part of the activities related to the 60th anniversary of the Central Bank. The creation of the new RD$200 peso note was a process that involved years of planning. The idea was first proposed on 15 December 2005, in a resolution by the committee that oversees the printing of the currency, which suggested a currency bill between the RD$100 peso note and the RD$500 peso note. Central Bank management finally settled on the RD$200 peso denomination as the best option. The new bill is being printed by La Rue International.

Praise for two airports
Technicians from the United States Transport Safety Administration (TSA) have praised the high safety standards at the Cibao International Airport and the new El Catey Airport near Samana. The three officials sent their findings to the TSA and to General Juan Bautista Rojas, the chief of the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA) in the Dominican Republic. The report states that airport security at the two airports is above the levels set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the ICAO. The technicians spent more than a week at the Cibao International Airport, and reported that they were highly satisfied with security levels. The report was signed by Victor Guardia, TSA representative for Central America, the Dominican Republic

SFS collects RD$2.1 billion
The Social Security treasury has collected over RD$2.1 billion in fees for the Family Health Insurance (SFS) program during its first month of operations. Patients who have had to pay for medical consultations have provided RD$400 million in coverage. The situation affects a great number of employees, their dependents and employers who do not appear on the HMO registration lists. This has pushed business leaders to look for alternative solutions to their employees' health issues. Social Security office treasurer Henry Sadhala said that collections for the three programs (retirement, work injuries and family health) have been "adequate".
Maribel Gasso, president of the Management Confederation, and Marisol Vicens, spokeswoman for management at the National Social Security Council, said that they felt that the authorities should refund money that workers had to pay for health services, but which had been paid into the SFS funds. Vicens said that a study was being prepared to look into the SFS program, and asked for a solution to a problem that was not created by management or the employees.

Guajimia work goes well
The awful stinkhole called the Guajimia Creek is gradually becoming a much nicer place. According to Diario Libre reporter Yvonny Alcantara, things are changing. The mountains of garbage that used to line the creek have mostly disappeared, the frequent floods that came in the wake of every rainstorm are pretty much a thing of the past and the stench that marked the sluggish waters is gone. Work is being carried out on several fronts: the Guajimia is being channeled and lined with concrete, and the smaller Indio and Buenos Aires creeks are being channeled under ten-foot aluminum storm drains. Local residents appreciate the work that is going on, and told the reporter that, "this is the best thing that has been done on the creek." The channeling work is combined with a new apartment complex that will house residents who have been displaced by the reconstruction work. The movement of people from one very poor area to modern living quarters involves a process of social re-engineering and adaptation. Most of the relocated residents have been able to adapt to the new way of life with indoor sanitation facilities and electricity. The Re-establishment of Social Networks is a program designed to teach the new residents how to live in modern urban dwellings. The biggest problem is the issue of payment for services, especially electricity, and the local residents' association is asking power distributor Ede-Sur to establish a fixed rate for the apartments.

Deputies to probe Sun Land deal
The ruling party PLD-majority Chamber of Deputies has decided to look into the issues surrounding the US$130 million in IOUs signed by the head of the Supervisor's Office for State Public Works, Felix Bautista in favor of the Sun Land Corporation. The notes provide a government guarantee for the funds. Chamber president Julio Cesar Valentin has appointed twelve deputies headed by PLD spokesman Alejandro Montas to look into all aspects of the case. The commission will examine the use given to the resources rather than the legality of the deal. The probe followed an initiative of PRSC deputies.

Strike toll
Yesterday's one-day national strike called by the Alternative Social Forum left a toll of 14 injured in several incidents across the country. No deaths have been reported as a result of the strike. Overall, the stoppage was generally hailed as peaceful, and few arrests were made. While some tire burning took place in several barrios, only a few people were injured in violent incidents. One man was injured when a homemade bomb blew up in his hand, and another three were injured by another explosive device. In Salcedo, a police sergeant was wounded and in Mao another sergeant was injured in a confrontation with demonstrators. In Bonao, a young man was hit by gunfire and a TV cameraman was injured. In San Francisco de Macoris four people were injured, one man receiving a gunshot to the leg. Similar incidents were reported in other towns, but on the whole the day passed quietly, with stores and businesses going about work almost as usual. The biggest problem was public transport access for workers. Police chief Rafael Guzman Fermin congratulated his troops on their behavior during the strike. Listin Diario reported that a one-day strike costs the Dominican economy RD$3.0 billion in lost income. This is calculated on the basis of a GDP estimated at a little over a trillion pesos.

Washed-out strike
Diario Libre editor Adriano Miguel Tejada takes a hard look at the strike in today's A.M. column on page two of the newspaper. According to the editor, all strikes in the Dominican Republic are based on the premise of the threat of violence. Years ago it was burning tires and vehicles that characterized events. Since that method went out of favor and led to harsh criticisms of the strikes, a new method has come into play: that of "trailers" of violence, like the ones seen on the UASD campus on Monday. Since maybe half of the cars that are out early are parents taking their children to school, the strike-callers have this working to their advantage since there are few cars on the street at the start of the day. All this works in favor of the strike. By 9am workers who have not found transportation to their jobs no longer have a reason to get to work, and when people note that nothing has happened they start to get out their domino sets and all the other Dominican leisure accessories. The torrential rains at midday tended to wash out the strike and anything planned for the afternoon was "rained off." Something few thought about was the plight of the "chiriperos", the street traders who offer everything from fast food snacks to cellphone accessories at stoplights and crossroads. They lost their day's earnings, and today they woke up only with the hope of eating. "How many cooking fires wait to be lit in our barrios?" asks Tejada.
If the strike organizers were hoping to shake up the government with the work stoppage, they got the opposite effect. The government showed that it was in control of the situation; the people demonstrated their disregard for violence and went out on the street and were able to witness the poor drawing power of the organizers for themselves.
Tejada ends by suggesting that the Dominican political parties need to define their strategies: either play within the system or opt for the more violent route. A party that is betting on elections can never flirt with violent force.

Rains to continue today
The National Meteorological Office, ONAMET, has issued a warning for residents of low-lying areas in the eastern Cibao Valley. Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua), Espaillat (Moca) and Monte Plata provinces are especially vulnerable to the continuing rains, according to the forecasters. The meteorological office says that the rains are the result of a series of storm fronts crossing the country from east to west. Some flooding is expected.

Victor Capellan behind NYC award
Dominican students and educators were the recipients of the latest Broad Prize for Urban Education, called the Nobel Prize of United States education. The annual prize is awarded to schools that demonstrate the highest rates of academic improvement, especially among poor and ethnic minority students. Five schools represented New York City, three of which have Latino principals, one of whom is Dominican, as are most of the students in all five schools. The Dominican, Victor Capellan, a native of Santiago de los Caballeros, heads the EBC High School for Public Service in Brooklyn. His school, located in Bushwick, has 608 students and an 80% graduation rate. The average for public schools in New York City is 60%. Capellan praised the efforts made by his students' parents. He said that they take the time to get involved in school affairs. Joel I. Klein, the Chancellor of Schools for New York City was effusive in his praise for the work done by the teachers and schools. As the winner of The Broad Prize, the New York City Department of Education will receive $500,000 in college scholarships. Victor Capellan is also president of the Dominican American Roundtable,
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