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Daily News - Monday, 08 October 2007

Lula to visit the DR
Brazil's Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva will visit the Dominican Republic next month in order to take part in an "International Meeting of the Left and Progressive Movements in Latin America" sponsored by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, according to sources. Temistocles Montas, the PLD's International Affairs spokesman, told El Caribe that the get-together would be held on 23-25 November at the Hilton Hotel in Santo Domingo. Over a hundred delegates from dozens of leftist and progressive political movements throughout Latin America are expected to attend.

Montas and the economy
The Minister for Economy, Planning and Development, Temistocles Montas, has warned that the ever-increasing price of oil is a threat to the Dominican Republic's economic development and long-term stability. He warned that setting a price limit on fuels would seriously erode government income. While acknowledging that the high cost of fuel was affecting the population, Montas also pointed out that 14% of the government's tax income comes from fuel taxes. Looking at the economy, Montas predicted that high oil prices would soon be reflected in production costs, higher salaries and higher prices. During the "Dialogue with the Dominican Government on Economic Policies", held at the Casa de Campo Resort in La Romana over the weekend, Montas pointed out the "excellent" economic indicators currently on track for 2007. The dialogue included specialists and leading figures from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.

Questions for Sun Land
Diario Libre editor Adriano Miguel Tejada asks some pertinent questions about the controversial Sun Land IOUs in today's A.M. column. Tejada says that the nation has a lot of questions about the Sun Land deal and the only answers that have been provided are political, of the "he said, she said" variety. Tejada then puts the newspaper on record as asking for specific answers to several questions. His stance reflects similar comments by Listin Diario's Orlando Gil. The questions can be answered by government officials, the engineers who received contracts, or anyone with accurate knowledge of the issues. (1) Tejada says that we know that IOUs were issued and that they were sold on the international market. What is the interest rate on the IOUs? How many were given to each contractor for each project? What was the discount rate on the IOUs? Who distributes the funds, Sun Land or the State Engineering Office? (2) Sun Land was the middleman that obtained the funds for the projects. Who are its principal executives? What role does Daniel Mejia play in all this? Who is Daniel Mejia? Does Sun Land hold the resources that paid on work done or is it the State Inspection Office (OISOE)? Where are or where were the funds deposited during the construction phase and who benefited from these deposits? (3) If the funds received by Sun Land were obtained due to the government's guarantee, should these hard currency funds be listed at the Central Bank? Considering that the official listing of the Sun Land's commercial status appeared just a few weeks ago, even though it had been doing business beforehand, how did this business operate? Did it pay taxes? What did the Dominican government require in order to do business with this entity? (4) And lastly, why not publish the Sun Land contract, whether with the contractors or with the Dominican State, or both? The editor-lawyer-writer concludes by saying that there are a lot more questions, but these are enough for the moment. Who is going to answer?

Bautista audited
The much talked-about OISOE (the Office of Supervising Engineers of State Projects) is now undergoing a full audit by the Chamber of Accounts, the government's accounting branch. The chief magistrate of the chamber, Andres Terrero told reporters that the audit has been under way for about a month. Terrero also pointed out that the audit began before the current Sun Land controversy had hit the headlines, but added that he had been obliged to beef up the personnel assigned to the case in the light of the Sun Land debate. Terrero also promised to publish the results of the audit, and said that if there were any irregularities, the case would be sent to the proper jurisdiction.

Government gets back half of tax
The Dominican government assigned RD$3.379 billion towards propane subsidies during the first eight months of this year. This is the RD$17.35 that the government subsidizes for each gallon of LPG used for "domestic use", although more and more is used for fueling vehicles. According to Diario Libre, propane consumption for the first eight months totaled 194.8 million gallons. Nonetheless, the government also collects a 16% tax on the cost of LPG. This came to about RD$8.00 per gallon over the same time-period. This information was published in a report from the Treasury (Hacienda) Ministry.

Republic Bank leaves DR
The Republic Bank, a financial institution with headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago, has decided to sell its operations in the Dominican Republic. The winning bidder was BHD, The Dominican Mortgage Bank, according to full-page announcements in all today's papers. Republic Bank had come to the rescue of the ailing Banco Mercantil in October 2003 and tried to make a go of it. Last September, Republic sold off its personal banking operations to BHD and tried to reposition itself as a corporate banker. However, Republic Bank officials told Diario Libre reporter Eduardo Delgado that there were too many threats to profitability, which led them to open public bidding for their remaining business portfolios. In Santo Domingo, accounts with Republic Bank will be shifted to the BHD head office at the corner of 27 de Febrero and Winston Churchill Avenue. In Santiago, operations will be transferred to the Los Jardines Commercial Center branch on 27 de Febrero and Texas Avenue.

Bishop asks for forgiveness
Bishop Diomedes Espinal de Leon, the head of the Mao-Montecristi dioceses, has asked the Haitian people for forgiveness for the 1937 massacre that took place near Dajabon on the Haitian frontier. Espinal de Leon was celebrating a commemorative mass on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron of Dajabon. His sermon asked, in the name of the Church and the Dominican people, for the Haitian people to forgive the horrendous events of 1937 "that have caused deep wounds to the Haitian people, and scarred the Dominican people" Espinal de Leon reminded his audience that Pope John Paul II had asked the Jewish people for forgiveness for the Holocaust, and he was asking the Haitians in a similar manner. The Mass was co-officiated by Bishop Espinal, Haitian Jesuit Perard Monestime as well as Dominican Jesuits Guillermo Perdomo and Ramiro Pampols, and Father Roberto Guzman, the head of the parish.

Park makeover uncovers old cemetery
In Moca, the provincial capital of Espaillat province, workers carrying out reconstruction work on the city park alongside the Our Lady of the Rosary church have uncovered a very old cemetery. Some observers think that this could be the final resting place of the city's original settlers. The contractors contacted the authorities at the Museum of the Dominican Man, and the museum asked for an immediate halt to the reconstruction work so that they could conduct a proper investigation.

Red palm aphid "not a threat to crops"
The Minister of Agriculture has reassured farmers by announcing that the red palm aphid recently found on trees in the garden of the United States Agricultural Department's official in the Arroyo Hondo area of Santo Domingo, was not a threat to their crops. According to Hoy, the official, the USDA's watchdog on plant diseases and other issues that could affect agriculture in the US, found the bright red aphid on a coconut palm tree in his yard. He was accompanied by Colmar Serra, a scientist employed by the National Program for Vegetable Protection. The red aphid can live on coconut palms, plantain trees, banana trees and other crops. However, Minister of Agriculture Chio Jimenez told farmers that the bug was under control and the areas infected were being tightly controlled. It is not considered to be a danger to Dominican agricultural production. A heavy infestation will produce a yellowing of the infected leaves. The aphid is found in most of the Caribbean islands.

Internet and Wi-Fi in Santo Domingo
Internet service centers are abounding in Santo Domingo and free Wi-Fi is widely available. According to El Caribe, Internet services are gravitating towards the areas where there is a high concentration of university students. Just around the UASD there are more than 50 Internet facilities. Some former call centers are now offering just Internet service, since the Internet "is the way ahead." Costs average RD$30 pesos per hour of use. The services offer video-chat facilities for the same price, as well as snacks, soft drinks and photocopying services. However, with pockets getting emptier each day, at least thirty businesses, 10 shopping centers and six universities are now offering free Wi-Fi service, including the Hard Rock Cafe, the Diamond Mall, some branches of the Pizzarelli chain, Sheherazade, La Bricciola, El Patio, La Trattoria, Palmito Gourmet, Costelao, Don Nacho, Sophias, Haagen Daz Cafe, Bob's, Cafe Cuesta, Tony Roma's, Fridays, Boga Boga and El Agave. There is also free Internet access at the Ministry of Youth, in Plaza Central, Acropolis, Bella Vista Mall, Fellini, Mitre, Pepperoni, Green Light Cuisine, and in the PUCMM, UCSD, UASD, Apec, INIBE and Intec universities.

Suspected arsonist arrested.
Hector Guzman Valdez, aka "Papo Problema", was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of setting the fire that killed three children and their aged great-grandmother in the Katanga area of La Romana. The magistrate at the Court of Instruction will hear arguments about whether the prisoner should be held on remand or not. The accused also faces charges of assault stemming from a fight last December, but he jumped bail. Sources in La Romana told El Caribe that lawyers for the family have submitted a formal complaint to the magistrate, accusing Guzman Valdez of the arson.

Kids' parks for Santo Domingo
Although the local authorities are giving them different names, the construction of special park areas for young children continues throughout greater Santo Domingo. Called, in Spanish, "canquinas", after old-fashioned multi-colored candy canes, the idea has attracted support in east Santo Domingo where the parks are called "rainbows" and up in Pedro Brand where they are called "crayons". In North Santo Domingo the parks are called "cacaitos", the local name for chocolate candies called 'Kisses'. Haina was the first town to imitate Mayor Roberto Salcedo's parks program, and just a week ago Santo Domingo celebrated the first anniversary of this good idea. There are now eight children's playgrounds of this type in the National District.

Big Papi and Manny go long
"Big Papi" David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez assisted Curt Schilling's masterful pitching with back-to-back homeruns in the fourth inning to give the Boston Red Sox a three-game sweep of the Anaheim Angles. A seven-run eighth inning sealed the deal for the Sox, who have won nine straight playoff games over Anaheim. David Ortiz and Mike Lowell were the only Sox with more than one hit, but everyone in the line-up produced runs for the resounding victory. Ortiz scored two runs but it was Coco Crisp who batted in two runs, a curious reversal of form for the powerful Sox. Now Boston must await the outcome of the Yankees-Cleveland series. The American League Playoff Series will begin on Friday. Last night the Yankees staved off elimination with a come-from-behind victory over Cleveland, 8-4. Alex Rodriguez awoke from a post-season slump and went two for four, and former Red Sox Johnny Damon hit a three-run home run to push the Yanks ahead for good. Cleveland leads the best-of-five series 2-1.
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