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Daily News - Thursday, 25 October 2007

DR takes leadership in WiMax
The Dominican Republic became the first country in the Americas to introduce WiMax technology yesterday, with the launch of sales to the public of OneMax, the first wireless broadband mobile company. The technology is also available in Korea, but will not be launched in the US until Sprint does so, reportedly by the end of this year, with commercial services beginning in April 2008.
The DR's OneMax is first to use the IEEE 802.16e-2005 standards provided by Alcatel-Lucent. The state-of-the-art technology promises seamless broadband mobility with a single subscription and device, known as OneBox. Users have access to high-speed Internet and telephone services via Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The use of broadband makes it possible to use video gaming, video services and on-board automobile entertainment, geo-location and security services for the same cost as the Internet connection.
First Lady Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez cut the ribbon marking the launch of the service. Raoul Fontanez, the man behind the successful development of Orange telecom in the DR in its cell phone phase, is the president of OneMax. At the inaugural event, Fontanez highlighted the fact that they plan to reach out to the 90% of the market that uses pre-paid cards in cell phones in the DR, making the Internet more accessible with pre-paid plans. Also attending the event were Eddy Martinez of the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD), and Jose Rafael Vargas of the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (INDOTEL). OneMax is a mixed French-Dominican investment.
Michel Camilo provided the evening entertainment playing three piano pieces, including his version of Amor de Conuco that he recorded with Juan Luis Guerra and Tomatito, which is being considered for a Latin Grammy.
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It's a mobile nation
In the DR, 65 out of 100 Dominicans have a phone, 55.6% of which are cellular phones, according to Jose Rafael Vargas, president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL). Vargas added that the increase in telephone use is due in large part to the increase in the use of the cellular phone in everyday Dominican life. Vargas also says that a common trend in the DR is for cellular phones to outnumber LAN by five to one. Vargas spoke during the OneMax inaugural.

Competitiveness bill for more exports
The executive director of the National Competitiveness Council, Andres van der Horst Alvarez, is advocating for the development of an export culture as a way of mitigating the continuing increases in the price of imported fuel. "The most sustainable way to confront the increase in the price of petroleum is to stimulate an export culture that enables the country to generate the hard currency to maintain economic growth and pay the ever-increasing fuel bill," he stated in a press release. He said that in addition to having an energy savings plan and promoting alternative sources, an increase in exports is essential. He said it could be many years before the DR is able to reduce its dependence on petrol. The DR consumes approximately 110,000 barrels of petroleum a day, for an annual bill worth over RD$13 billion.
He called on Congress to pass the Industrial Competitiveness Bill, which he describes as an instrument for encouraging the development of an export culture now that the country is implementing DR-CAFTA that has stimulated imports. He said that the bill incorporates ways of creating a base for a new export oriented industry, and would make it easier for small and medium-size companies to also become exporters.

CEI-RD reaches out to small exporters
The Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) is reaching out to enlist 10-15 small to medium-sized companies that seek to export their products to the northeastern US markets, primarily the Dominican ethnic market in New York/New Jersey. The department has teamed up with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and presented its II Agro-Export Platform. IICA specialist Daniel Rodriguez said that this integrated program aimed to serve as a pilot to prove that exporting is possible, so that other companies can be encouraged to sell abroad. Participants will receive training, assistance in developing export business plans, assistance in how to close deals, market, packaging and logistics knowledge, and support. Rodriguez said that the platform has been implemented in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, where 175 companies have undergone the training, of which 50% are now exporting to the US. The other 50% decided they were not ready to export. He said that companies could then apply the knowledge they acquire about exporting to the NY market to other markets in the US and Canada. Any companies that are interested should contact the CEI-RD offices in Santo Domingo as soon as possible to make the group.

Tourism numbers to be studied
Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez has announced that the arrival of tourists has only grown by 1.6% in the first nine months of the year. Jimenez says that this relatively low growth comes at a time when travel to the Caribbean region in general decreased by almost 3%. Jimenez said the decline would be analyzed by representatives from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America and the DR during a summit of regional tourism ministers scheduled for 2-4 November, as reported in Hoy.
Today's Listin Diario reports that during the first nine months of the year, there was a 0.6% decline in air arrivals compared to last year.
Jimenez advocated for an increased emphasis on the cultural aspects of the country, and said that the ministries of Culture and Tourism had signed a cooperation agreement with this aim in mind.
Jimenez spoke of the importance of a mix of entertainment for visitors, adding that the sun and sand model, which attracts 90% of visitors to the region, isn't enough to deliver an experience that will make travelers want to return. The plan includes lighting for six Colonial City monuments, celebration of cultural events, conservation and restoration of 16th century sugar mills in Engombe, Diego Caballero and Nigua, and the creation of a sugar mill tourist route. Likewise, historic ruins in old Santiago, in Jacagua and La Vega Vieja, Rio Verde will be restored.
Director of the UN Special Office Manuel Escudero encouraged Dominican tourism officials to get together and draw up a plan, bringing together the airlines, cruise ships, tour operators and other tourist related businesses, in order to create a sustainable tourist sector. Escudero made his comments with the intent of creating the Global Tourism Alliance that aims to draw up a basic design strategy comprising 10 main principles designed to help tourism development, including fighting corruption, eco-friendliness, and human and labor rights, among others.

Fernandez receives credentials
Yesterday President Leonel Fernandez officially received the credentials of new Israeli Ambassador Amos Radian, Ecuadorian Ambassador Carlos Manrique and Trinidadian Ambassador Ivonne Gittens Joseph. Fernandez was accompanied by Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, Vice Minister Jose Trullols, Roberto Blandino and Pedro Gomez.

Fernandez leads in CIES poll
CIES International, a polling service based in New Jersey, publishes the findings of its most recent poll of 1,223 Dominican voters, held on 3-6 October 2007. Andy Abreu of CIES reports that the figures reveal an improved positioning for PRSC candidate Amable Aristy. He is basing his campaign on giving away $100 peso bills, chickens, mosquito nets, notebooks, even wheelchairs, attracting mobs of people who seek the handouts, generating lots of press in the process. Meanwhile the PRD candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado's support has remained relatively stable.
Abreu said the trend is for the gaps between the candidates to narrow as the 16 May election date approaches.
Voter breakdown of replies the question of if the election were held today, who would you vote for: Leonel Fernandez 37.6%, Vargas Maldonado 25.2%, Amable Aristy 22%, Pedro Candelier 3.8%, Eduardo Estrella 2.7%, no one 7.5%.
The same poll asked if there were a second round, who would you vote for and the responses were: Leonel Fernandez 53.9%, Vargas Maldonado 35.5%, undecided 10.7%.
Voters described the Fernandez government as:
Excellent 19.5%, More or less 32.2%, More or less bad 25.6%, Very bad 17.4%.
Voters said that the most crucial problem that needed to be resolved now was: security 25.4%, electricity 14.2%, high cost of living 11.9%, jobs 11.4%, education 11.1%, health 10.5%, corruption 6.5%, transport 3.4%.
When asked whether they would vote in the next elections, 80.5% said they would vote, and 19.5% said they were considering it.
CIES International has accurately forecast the results of Dominican primaries as well as the election of Acevedo Vila in Puerto Rico in 2004.
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New procedure for selling state property
The Presidency has announced that from now on any planned sale of government property by municipalities needs to reach the legal advisor's office accompanied by a technical study establishing that the property is not located in a protected area. Legal advisor Cesar Pina Toribio made the announcement following the scandalous sale of the Dunes of Bani protected area to a shipyard by the Bani municipality, backed by a presidential authorizing decree. Pina Toribio said that the new disposition is aimed at turning a wrong into a right. Pina Toribio blamed the previous sale on the Dominican Municipal League (LMD) that gave the green light to the sale, even motivating an increase in the price. "That means the municipality sold the land knowing that part of the dunes was being negotiated," he said, as reported in Listin Diario. He said the government decree was based on the LMD's recommendation.

More Sun Land loans
With many questions still unanswered regarding the US$130 million Sun Land scandal, details of several other deals coming out of the woodwork. Yesterday, Sun Land general manager Heredia Lombert told radio journalist Huchi Lora that there were no more loans.
But now Diario Libre is reporting that there are more Sun Land loans. The first scandal revolved around a US$130 million loan, that was revealed when protested by the PRD opposition party. Then radio journalist revealed there the minister of Public Works had contracted another US$200 million loan signed by the Minister of Public Works. The government responded that one was annulled more than a year after it was signed. These revelations came after the government would cancel a US$132 million loan with Sun Land that was sent to Congress and deemed overpriced.
Now, Sun Land vice president Rafael Suncar says the country also will have to pay back a commercial bank loan for US$51 million with INDHRI (National Hydraulic Resources Institute) and two more loans with the Armed Forces (FFAA) and INVI (National Housing Institute). Quoted in Diario Libre, Sun Land vice president Rafael Suncar said that public conflicts and rejection of the loans is nothing new. Suncar says that the company has been dealing with this since 1993, when they first came to the DR. He added that lack of information or political chess moves might be behind the media hype surrounding the loans, but added that this is not exclusive to the DR. He continued to defend the loans and added that he would continue signing as many contracts as the government offered. He did highlight the possibility that the increase in negative press could keep foreign investors away from the DR. Tenders were not called for any of these loans.

Wheat and corn more expensive
Commercial manager of flour mill Molino de Ozama, Teresita Vargas and CSM Bakery Supplies Latin American representative, Luis Navarro have said that the prices of a metric ton of wheat and corn have increased by up to 100% in some cases. The increase is due in part to rising fuel prices but is also the result of the increased use of these products as alternative fuel sources. This is leading to a trickle-down effect and now the price of flour has also increased in a short period of time. Bread prices are expected to soon reflect the increases.

DR's trade with Trinidad
90% of the DR's imports from Caricom nations comes from Trinidad, Dominican consul in Trinidad, Freddy Reyes told Diario Libre. The DR is the largest importer of petroleum and its derivatives among Caricom nations. The DR imports an annual value of US$250 million in natural gas, propane gas and lubricants. Reyes added that this year's bill for those derivatives could surpass US$300 million. As a sign that relations between Trinidad and the DR need to be strengthened, Trinidad appointed Ivonne Gittrens-Josephs to be ambassador, based in the DR. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the region's largest petroleum producers and exporters. Gittrens-Josephs says that the DR is an important trading partner for Trinidad and her designation as ambassador reflects that. She added that in the last few years trade between both nations has increased, especially in petroleum products.

Teacher run down on main avenue
Fifty-one year old teacher Daisy Gomez was hit by a motorcycle and then run over by an SUV yesterday at the intersection of Ortega y Gasset and 27 de Febrero Avenue. Neither stopped to assist the victim. Gomez was trying to cross the street to get a pair of shoes fixed when she was hit. Witnesses say that as she crossed the street the motorcycle hit her and then a white SUV ran her over. Drivers in the area tried to stop the motorcycle driver and jeep driver from fleeing the scene, but to no avail. Gomez's children made their way to the scene and police questioned onlookers to get information about the drivers involved.

Vla's sentence confirmed
The 30-year jail sentence imposed on gang member Edri Vladimir "Vla" Pujols has been upheld by a court of appeals in San Cristobal. Vla, leader of Los Zayayines gang, had been sentenced to 30 years in jail for the murder of Azua journalist Juan Andujar and for injuring another man, Jorge Luis Sencion. An appeal request from Juan Bautista Ramirez Paniagua, who was convicted for the same crime, was denied. Ramirez is serving a five-year sentence and must pay RD$300,000 in compensation. Vla was also charged with the attempted murder of Sencion, who had his arm amputated after the incident, and for assaulting Antonio Munoz and Sandy Munoz. Andujar was murdered in 2004 and Vla had been on the run since then. He was apprehended by officials on 30 March 2006.

Two arrested in mob incident
Two men have been arrested for taking part in a mob style attack on a thief earlier this week. The incident, which has generated much discussion around the DR, was caught on tape by CDN news cameras. Some have justified the gruesome and violent attack on the thief as necessary, on the grounds that the police are either unable or unwilling to deal with the increase in crime around the country. Domingo Cruz Baez, 36, and Mayobanet Prefinal, 27, were detained by police for their role in the incident that led to the death of Francis Veriguete de los Santos, who had stolen RD$31,000 in cash from Fausto Sosa and Roberto Antonio Pena. Cruz Baez was apprehended with an illegal gun. During the incident Veriguete was caught by the mob and stoned repeatedly. He was then thrown off the second story of a building. As his body lay lifeless the mob continued to stone him, and one unidentified man began to shoot at his body.

Baseball update
It looks like its going to be a short World Series after all as the streaking Boston Red Sox continue their steady pace towards a second World Series title in four years. The BoSox continued their WS hopes yesterday by exploding for 13 runs against the NL Champion Colorado Rockies. The Rockies had won 21 of their last 23 games and all eyes seemed fixed on a Game one upset. But a record eight-day lay off for the Rockies coupled with continued clutch hitting by the Sox made sure that didn't happen. Pitcher Josh Becket pitched seven innings giving up one run, Manny Ramirez went 3-3 with three RBI and Big Papi, David Ortiz, drove in two runs.
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