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Daily News - Friday, 19 October 2007

Fernandez will promote competitiveness
Last night President Leonel Fernandez met with representatives from the country's industrial associations and promised to support their efforts to lobby for Congressional approval for the Industrial Competitiveness and Innovation bill submitted by the Executive Branch. According to business leader Manuel Diaz Cabral, the legislation will allow industries to make the most of DR-CAFTA. Diaz Cabral said that the meeting with Fernandez was positive and added that the President has always understood the need for competitiveness. The legislation is currently being studied by the Chamber of Deputies, where it has already been approved by the industrial commission. It now needs to go before the floor.

Private schools in trouble
More than 2,000 private schools out of 3,416 evaluated by the Ministry of Education have received notifications that they need to improve or face being shut down by the authorities for not meeting the required minimum standards. Manuel Antonio Suero, in charge of the private school department at the Ministry of Education, said the number could be even greater because there is no adequate registry of all private schools in the DR, as reported in Hoy. He estimated that around 1,500 more schools were operating without Ministry of Education recognition. He said the evaluation was long overdue and that it would continue this and next year.
Where major infractions were detected, the students were relocated to nearby schools, and the schools banned from accepting last year students for 8th or 12th grades, that are subject to taking the National Tests (Pruebas Nacionales). While some of the schools did not comply with requirements for libraries, science laboratories and recreation and sports activities, others did not meet minimum requirements for adequate furniture, bathrooms and potable water, and school materials.
Suero commented that in the DR only 148 centers meet all the requirements for private school operation approved by the National Education Council in June 2005.

Politics pays, but cause headaches
The prospect of earning an extra RD$1,000 per month is enough to lead drivers in the DR to wait in long lines, causing head-bruising traffic jams. The PLD has begun a campaign of paying drivers RD$1,000 to place posters on their vehicles advertising President Leonel Fernandez's re-election aspirations. Large numbers of car owners are taking the President up on the offer. This has caused more than the usual traffic jams around the Catholic University of Santo Domingo. In some cases drivers chose to go the wrong way on one-way streets to reach their destination and transit officials seem powerless to control the traffic. Hoy writes that the lines began yesterday around 6am and jammed traffic on Abraham Lincoln, Bolivar, Alma Mater and 27 de Febrero avenues.

Clientelism threatens development
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) clientelism, authoritarianism and lack of state policies are among the principal factors that threaten human development in the DR. UNDP, represented by economist Miguel Ceara Hatton, presented the findings of the soon to be published UNDP Human Development Report to the Chamber of Deputies yesterday. According to Ceara, in the DR "street principles" govern laws, where the concept of "I do things because he did it too," seems to prevail.

CIECA doesn't see the difference
The Caribbean Center for Economic Research (CIECA) warned yesterday that as negotiations for the European Partnership Agreement continue between the DR, Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the European Union (EU), there are not that many differences between this proposed agreement and conventional free trade agreements, like DR-CAFTA. According to CIECA, an EPA will not recognize the asymmetries that already exist between the economies of Caricom nations and the EU, and that in fact there will not be a development aspect to the agreements, as was defined under the Cotonou agreements. CIECA says that the DR, during the negotiations with Caricom and the EU, should define a policy consistent with national interests and conjunctly consistent with regional development. Francisco Checo, president of the institution, says that DR-CAFTA has created an incredibly open market in the DR, in comparison to Caricom countries, and the country should make sure this doesn't become an obstacle to an equal distribution of the EPA's benefits and costs.

Deutsche Bank provides loan
Hoy is reporting that for the first time a foreign bank will provide a US$500 million fund for people to buy homes at Cap Cana, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic. Vice president of Commercial and Institutional Relations at Cap Cana, Elis Perez, says that it is the only case he is aware of where a large international bank is providing such a fund for potential homeowners. The agreement between Deutsche Bank and Cap Cana was signed months ago in New York, but because of housing woes experienced in the US market the Bank didn't feel it was the right time to reveal details. The funds will be open to Americans, Europeans and Canadians and mortgages will be for a 30-year period at a rate negotiated by the bank and the client.

Drug ring details
More details of the drug ring busted earlier this week at New York's JFK airport have been released as the US v. Henry Polanco (07-M-1115 case) is heard at the US District Court of the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn). Listin Diario is reporting that two people, identified as DS-1 and M-1, were supplying the drug ring, which was allegedly run by Henry Polanco, with the necessary drugs and that M-1 was providing at least 10 kilos of heroin and cocaine per week.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Meredith Leung explained that the airport workers had "virtually unfettered and unsupervised" access to the cargo holds of planes, where the drugs were stored during flights, as reported in the Queens Courier. "Because they are so effective, these types of conspiracies often entrust the airline employees with kilogram quantities of narcotics, much larger than that which is typically brought into the United States by a single narcotics courier," said Leung in a filed affidavit.
Ten JFK Airport baggage handlers were among 18 arrested on Tuesday, October 16 for allegedly smuggling heroin and cocaine into New York City. Jorge Espinal, a cargo supervisor for Delta Air Lines, allegedly oversaw the diversion of shipments into so-called "safe areas" where drug-sniffing dogs and inspectors would not see them.
Leung said some workers whose jobs gave them access to arriving flights removed the drug-filled bags from the jets' cargo hold and walked off with them, as reported in the NY Daily News.
Police say the ringleader would coordinate shipments with distributors in the Dominican Republic.
A two-year investigation utilized phone call interceptions in which the defendants allegedly referred to the drugs as "chickens and ducks."
According to the NY Daily News, the feds learned of the scheme two years ago, after a large amount of cocaine and heroin was intercepted in the cargo hold of a Delta flight at the airport. Since then, agents have seized four additional caches aboard Delta flights.
Seven defendants work for Delta; one for American Airlines; one for Aramark, an airport maintenance company, and another for JFK-TNT courier service.

Looking for Narcisazo's killer
The country's Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena and National District prosecutor Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero have offered an RD$1 million reward for information about the disappearance of university professor and journalist Narciso Gonzalez on 26 May 1994. The AG and prosecutor say that they offered the money because they have run out of leads in the case and haven't seen any progress. Hernandez says that any informants' identities will be protected. Anyone with information can write to [email protected] or call 809-221-6400 ext 2005.

Government will absorb increase
The government has decided not to increase the energy rates and has chosen to absorb the increase instead. The electricity price increases are a direct result of the increase in international petroleum prices, which have reached US$90 per barrel for the first time in history. State-run Electricity Company vice president Radhames Segura said that the government based the decision on the fact that electricity prices in the country are already high.

Trade deficit with El Salvador increases
The trade deficit between the DR and El Salvador is increasing. In 2006 the DR exported US$5 million to El Salvador while importing US$49.2 million in goods, according to Listin Diario. During the first three months of the year imports have been at US$19.5 million while exports are at US$1.7 million. This trend concerns Salvadoran officials. Ernesto Ferreiro, Salvadoran ambassador to the DR, says that the trade balance is now significantly unfavorable to the DR when it should be two-way. Ferreiro says that because of this El Salvador is suggesting that a mission of Dominican business representatives should go to El Salvador to examine ways in which Dominican business can make the most of the free trade agreement with Central America and opportunities under DR-CAFTA.
Ferrerio says that El Salvador has been making DR-CAFTA work for them and has increased ethnic exports to the US market. El Salvador exported close to US$1.5 million in goods to the eastern United States. Two million Salvadorans live in the US, an existing market for products. According to the diplomat when missions go to El Salvador, the Salvadoran government covers 50% of airfare and expenses.

PRD asks to annul deal
The PRD officially presented the Supreme Court with a recourse of unconstitutionality against the Sun Land Corporation contracts signed between the company and the state for a total of US$130 million. The recourse assures that the government is named as the debtor in the contracts and the PRD has claimed all along that the current government, and Leonel Fernandez signed the promissory notes for the loan without Congressional consent, which if true, would be illegal. Sun Land has been hushed about the whole issue only issuing one previous statement to Diario Libre. The statement did not answer many of the questions posed by the press and critics of the contract. Felix Bautista, who was given special powers by President Fernandez to sign the loan, was also questioned by the Chamber of Deputies but failed to give definitive answers on the contracts. Diario Libre also reports that no one knows the interest rates for the promissory notes signed by the government. All Sun Land has been able to say is that the interest rates were "competitive".

Baseball updates
The Boston Red Sox finally saw off the team that was supposed to sweep through the playoffs last night as they pounced on the Cleveland Indians 7-1. Pitcher Josh Beckett pitched a stellar game and Sox's batter David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez continued to be a terror for pitchers driving in three runs last night. For the playoffs Ramirez has eight Hits, eight RBI, is batting .471 with two homeruns while David Ortiz has six hits, three RBI, one homerun and a .300 batting average. Game six now moves to Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday.

Macadamia Festival at the Melia
Hotel Melia Santo Domingo on the Malecon seafront avenue is hosting a Macadamia Nut Festival at its Cafe Casabe restaurant, located right opposite the hotel entrance. Mexican chef Oscar Orbe has created some 30 delicacies, including salads, soups, main dishes and desserts for the delight of customers. The Festival is a la carte, with most dishes ranging from RD$300 to RD$600. The Festival begins at 7pm today and will continue through Saturday, 27 October, from 7 to 11:30pm. La Loma brand macadamia nuts, cultivated as part of a project initiated by Jesus Moreno of Helados Bon to save Dominican forests, are the main ingredient in the featured culinary creations.
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