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Daily News - Thursday, 11 October 2007

Fernandez makes changes
President Leonel Fernandez has named 60 persons to new positions in his government. Among those receiving new posts are transport association businessmen Antonio Marte, Ramon Perez Figuereo and Alfredo Pulinario Linares Cambita. These three have pending cases in court for corruption in government Plan Renove, and for the bombing of a bus during a strike supported by their unions. Others appointed are Anastacio Gonzalez and PRSC member Angel Lockward who were named to government transport-related bodies.
Highly reputed Josefina Pimentel, deputy director of INFOTEP, was designated as director general of the National Institute for Professional Training (INFOTEP), to replace Melanio Paredes, who is now minister of Industry and Commerce. Ricardo Guarionex Garcia Garcia was appointed director of the National Botanical Gardens, with Daysi Argentina Castillo Pimentel appointed as deputy director. Zoila Gonzalez de Gutierrez was named advisor to the President on environment. Santiago Rosa Martinez was made deputy director at the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC), and Andres Sencion Villalona is now secretary of the Civil Aviation Board (JAC). PRSC member Victor Hugo Hernandez was named advisor to the Executive Branch, with rank of minister.
Ana Silvia Reynoso de Abud, previously ambassador in Italy, was appointed ambassador in Portugal. And Maria Isabel Caceres de Esteves was appointed ambassador to Sweden.
Newspaper stories on the appointments highlight that singer Fefita La Grande was named as presidential assistant.

BanReservas doing well
Banco de Reservas (BanReservas) has announced that in the last three years it has obtained more than RD$8 billion in utilities for a 30% increase and that its holdings surpass the US$4.1 billion mark, more double the US$1.94 billion that were registered in August 2004. Daniel Toribio, director of the BanResrvas, says that in its recent car sales fair more than 1,300 vehicles were sold after more RD$5.5 billion in financing was made available at attractive rates to consumers. The bank has received RD$2.422 billion in profits since September 2006, a 15.3% increase.

New office in NY
The government has opened a new office in Hunts Point (the Bronx), New York to facilitate agricultural importers and exporters and reduce the hurdles that businesses face in shipping their products. Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez made the announcement and added that in the last three years the export of Dominican agriculture products has increased by 50%, which he attributes to the support of the government. Jimenez says that the office will offer technical assistance to Dominicans looking to export to the US and those who are looking to import from the DR.

Fighting malnutrition
The Dominican government with the cooperation of the World Nutrition Program (PMA) will evaluate the state of child malnutrition in the 10 poorest provinces of the DR with the goal of implementing nutrition programs for children between the ages of three and 35 months, as reported in Hoy. Three thousand homes in Bahoruco, Barahona, Elias Pina, Duarte, Independencia, Pedernales, Monte Plata, Salcedo, Samana y Maria Trinidad Sanchez provinces will be studied to determine the scope of the program. PMA country official Pavel Isa says that the family surveys will cost around RD$3.5 million The German government is also contributing to fund the survey. The survey should be completed by the end of October. According to the program "Eating Comes First" that was established in 2005, 237,000 homes will benefit from the program, as will 1.5 million people. The goal is for 300,000 homes to benefit from the program by 2008. This year the government spent RD$100 billion in nutrition program making up 6% of the National Budget that translates to 0.5% of the GDP. Hoy writes that the government is set to spend US$190 million on nutrition programs. Thirty five percent of those funds will be directed towards the Solidarity Program, which is a component of the Eat First program.

Dominican economy must change
Eighty years ago the Dominican economy had to make a drastic change from an economy based on the production of sugar to an economy based on services, with free trade zones and tourism providing the most jobs. Now economist Pavel Isa feels that once again the Dominican economy must make changes or face a crisis in the future. The economist, speaking in an interview with Hoy, says that the DR is on the way to suffer an economic crisis because its current economic model is wearing thin and the economy must be restructured now. He says the economy must become more dynamic. He cited the example of the free trade zones, which according to him, grew, not because of competitive forces, but because of protectionist policies implemented by the US. He added that because of this when the sector was opened up to competition, as it has been in recent years, the sector didn't do particularly well. He also added that the tourism sector is pushing itself out of the market because the focus is now on high end tourism and there is not attention being paid to mass priced tourism.

Curing the dead?
Jose Ramon Fadul, President of the National Social Security Council said that he is preparing a document that will focus on the weaknesses in the current health care insurance plan, the SFS, and also said that he has information that the health risk administrators (ARS) are including the names of dead persons as affiliates in order to charge the per capita cost. Fadul said that the ARS are supposed to fulfill the requirements of the Health and Work Risks Superintendence (SISALRIL), but are refusing to do so. He added that the ARS are the entities that contract the doctors and that they cannot keep receiving the benefits they have been receiving up to this point while they present obstacles to the flow of the system. Fadul says that there are about 3 or 4 ARSs that don't want to adhere to the rules of the SFS and that they are bringing in Colombian health officials in order to try to circumvent the system. The Dominican law on this matter is based on Colombian laws. Fadul says that once the document is ready it will be published.

Taiwan should be in the UN
The DR, through Vice President Rafael Alburquerque will continue to support the right of Taiwan to be a member of international organizations. Alburquerque, who is in Tapei, said that 20 million people can't be isolated from international bodies. Alburquerque, speaking in Hoy, added the need to continue strengthening ties with the Asian country, with which the DR has had relations for more than 60 years.

Cesfront receives complaints
The Specialized Frontier Security Corps (CESFRONT) is receiving new complaints from businesspersons in the border region where the corps is working. Businesspersons say that because of new and stricter rules enforced by Cesfront many Haitians that they say have the proper identification are being deported back to Haiti. Diario Libre writes that many Haitians, who cross over regularly to work in the DR are not being allowed in the country. Eduardo Perez, spokesman for the rice industry, has added intrigue to the discussion accusing Cesfront military personnel of being involved in the illegal rice trade. Perez claims that guards aren't allowing products to come in because they are working with smugglers who are paying them extra. Father Regino Martinez agreed with Perez and added that the ones who add to the illegal trade of rice, drugs and people are the very people charged with protecting the border. Carlos Amarante Baret, director general of Migration, said that in the next few days Cesfront will create a database with the necessary information on those who will be allowed to transit between Haiti and the DR. Day laborers, domestic staff and students are among the groups that will receive identification that will help speed up and organize the border migration process. The cost of the identification will be passed on to employers. Hoy reports that though Cesfront has received its share of complaints members of the community concur that the work carried out by Cesfront was needed. Cesfront was created to reduce people and illegal goods smuggling at the border with Haiti.

Equal rights for religions
More that 60 deputies from various political parties have introduced a bill that seeks to provide equal treatment under the law for all religions that are not currently covered by a special law or international agreement. Deputy Carlos Pena drafted the bill that contemplates the creation of the National Religion Associations Registry for major and minor churches and religions with practices in the DR. Pena adds that the churches will be eligible for tax exemptions and government funds for the construction of churches nationwide. It also establishes that marriages can be carried out by the groups that would be recognized in the same light as civil marriages. Today, the government regularly builds churches for the Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, only Catholic marriages are recognized by the state. Pena says that the DR respects the Vatican but that other religions have the right to receive benefits from the government.

Sun Land replies; doesn't say much
The Sun Land Corporation, in a press released directed towards the director of the Diario Libre, Adriano Miguel Tejada, answered some of the questions posed by that newspaper, though it was unable to provide definite answers (full disclosure) as to the dealings with the government. In the press release, Sun Land states that the promissory notes signed by the state were negotiated with a very competitive interest rate though that interest rate was not revealed. The release was also unable to clearly identify who was responsible for distributing the funds, Sun Land itself or Office of Supervising Engineers of Public Works of the Presidency (OISOE). In this respect the release states that the funds distributed to the contractors were handed out periodically and that this was supervised by Techno America and authorized by OISOE. Sun Land says that it has the promissory notes in its possession as a guarantee of payment for the funds financed to the contractors. The release also failed to answer where the funds were, or are deposited, and who benefits from the interest collected on the funds, should those funds be registered at the Central Bank, what were the requirements needed for the government to negotiate with that company and why doesn't Sun Land publish the details of the contract?
OISOE director Felix Bautista will be at the Chamber of Deputies today to explain the details of the Sun Land Case. His meeting at the Chamber is scheduled for 5pm. The ruling PLD party is majority in Congress. Adding to the political volley Roberto Rodriguez, spokesman for the PRD senators, said that the PRD is willing to file charges against Bautista if the Sun Land Case is not cleared up.

Metal thefts reach new lows
The illicit business of stealing metals and selling them for profit has reached new lows according to the Diario Libre. Yesterday Juan Aneudy Duran Baez, 35, was shot in the back and legs after he was caught trying to steal boxes of bronze zippers from the Notion factory at the free trade park in Santiago. Duran and his accomplices were caught trying to steal 80 boxes of zipper, which had a reported sales value of RD$1.5 million. More disturbing is the continuing trend of cemetery theft. Diario Libre reports that many tombs at the cemetery at Av. Maximo Gomez have been vandalized and their doors and other metal objects stolen for sale to metal exporters.

There were more dead
Chief of the Navy Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet says that the possibility exists that more than three persons died earlier in the week as they tried to illegally enter Puerto Rico on small makeshift boats. Ventura says that three women were identified dead, but he is almost certain that more people died. He failed to speculate on how many people died. The Vice Admiral said that patrol on the Mona Passage will increase.
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