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Daily News - Thursday, 08 November 2007

High expectations for tonight's speech
Expectations are high in the run-up to President Leonel Fernandez's address to the nation tonight. He is expected to speak about the government's efforts in helping the recovery of areas affected by flooding caused by last week's Tropical Storm Noel and to mitigate the effects of fuel prices, which are currently approaching the US$100 mark. The President's speech will be read to the cabinet and other government officials at 7pm. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez has also been invited to the reading. It is scheduled for transmission on national TV and radio at 10pm. The private business sector is also hoping that the President will announce policies aimed at facilitating the development of long-term business projects.

Government to receive more aid
The World Bank, European Union and UN Development Program (UNDP) yesterday announced that the DR would have US$115 million at its disposal in order to help the victims of Tropical Storm Noel. The World Bank has allocated US$56 million in emergency funds, the EU added EUR30 million (US$44 million) and the UNDP is contributing RD$15 million. The EU's money comes from a fund designated to help Caribbean nations affected by natural disasters and comes in addition to the initial EUR$1.5 million donated last week. Also, the EU has allocated EUR$6.5 million towards long-term recovery and disaster prevention programs.
The World Bank's US$56 million in assistance for the Dominican government will be put towards projects for the flood victims. The World Bank allocated the funds for rehabilitation and long term recovery works that could also include up to US$100 million in loans for emergency assistance. A further US$2 million will be available for the purchase of vaccines, medicines and other urgent medical supplies. The World Bank will also be funding an evaluation of the damage, at the Dominican government's request. Pamela Cox, World Bank vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that Bank staff are already evaluating damages with the government, the United Nations and other multilateral organization teams. Juan Jose Daboub, managing director at the World Bank, is expected in the DR in early December to take part in the World Bank evaluation.
Tad Palac from the United Nations said that the UNDP contribution comes from a fund from its donor countries.
Also, Puerto Rico said it would donate US$25,000 in emergency funds.

Preventive health measures
The Pan-American Health Organization's representative in the DR, Cristina Nogueira, has praised the Ministry of Public Health (SESPAS) for its work in helping flood victims and reducing the risk of diseases in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Noel. As reported in El Dia, Nogueira said that the Ministry of Public Health has taken the correct measures to protect public health. "SESPAS is present and is making an impressive effort to coordinate and respond to the needs, but it requires greater participation from all sectors to tackle the problems," she said.

Aid not political
Venezuelan Ambassador Belisario Landis has dismissed claims that Venezuela's aid to the DR is political, and said that those rumors are malicious. Santo Domingo Mayor Roberto Salcedo also denied the rumors, saying that Venezuela has a history of helping Dominicans and that the aid is not for political gain. Venezuela has offered 500 pre-built homes, monetary assistance and has sent technicians and engineers to the DR to help with the post-flooding reconstruction efforts. There have also been discussions about sending petroleum to the DR to help with possible shortages.

Cocco slightly better
Customs director Miguel Cocco's health improved slightly yesterday and he was able to undergo dialysis. He was in good enough spirits to speak to President Leonel Fernandez on the phone. Hoy reports that Cocco will be fitted with a pacemaker today. His physician, Dr Pedro Urena says that Cocco's condition is stable.

Politics could endanger your health
Attending a rally in support of Amable Aristy Castro's presidential campaign could put your life at risk. The PRSC presidential hopeful has embarked on a campaign strategy that involves throwing money, chickens and other items at onlookers as he tours through some of the country's most impoverished neighborhoods, causing havoc as onlookers do all they can to get what they can. Last night, according to a report in Hoy, this happened again as an argument broke out near Aristy's Hummer, prompting security officials to fire warning shots into the air. People scrambling for money surrounded Aristy's vehicle and when the shots were fired the Hummer was forced to move through the crowd at a higher speed. Listin Diario reports of vehicles and businesses in the areas of Aristy's caravans being damaged as people fight for the presidential candidate's "gifts". Fortunately, this time, no one was hurt.

Airplane bill goes to Senate
President Leonel Fernandez has sent a bill to the Senate to approve a US$93.7 million loan for the controversial purchase of eight Super Tucano planes from Brazil. Critics say that the planes do not represent the best technology available for pursuing drug traffickers, and have complained about the high price involved. Financing for the loan is being provided by the Brazilian government export agency, the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) and the Brazilian Aeronautics Company (EMBRAER). Financing will be for 12 years, with quarterly interest payments of 1%. The President also submitted an aviation agreement with Austria for approval.

Petroleum hits record high
Hoy is reporting that the cost per barrel of "light sweet crude" oil reached US$98 yesterday, and Texas crude reached US$96.37, paving the way for the barrel to hit the US$100 mark for the first time in history. The increase in prices, which have shot up consistently over the last two weeks, has been blamed on increased tension in the Middle East and dwindling oil reserves. Hoy also reports that US reserves fell by 800,000 barrels to 311.9 million last week. The full economic impact of the fuel price increases hasn't been felt yet, but many fear that economic growth might be stunted as a result. Hoy estimates that this year's national fuel purchase bill will be double what it was last year, jumping from US$1.5 billion to US$3 billion.
Cesar de los Santos, president of the National Vehicle Distributors Association, quoted in Hoy, expressed concern that the high cost of fuel would reduce new car sales in the DR.

San Cristobal still in the dark
Twelve days after Noel flooded large areas of the DR, fresh water supplies have still not been restored to many areas in San Cristobal province, including Los Cacaos, where foods and power are still scarce because of collapse of the road connection. Listin Diario reports that people in Los Cacaos have resorted to old techniques of getting water from wells and other natural sources because the aqueduct system is still not up and running. Reports indicate that food stocks are at a minimum in some small stores.

Sun Land back in the news
A group of high-ranking IMF officials have arrived in the DR seeking detailed information about the Sun Land Corporation loans. Listin Diario reports that they received this information from a PRD spokesperson and writes that the IMF wants to determine if, and by how much, the country has indebted itself, and to determine whether the loan violates the debt limits established by the IMF Stand-by arrangement. The scandal behind the loans began to make headlines a month ago, but Sun Land and government officials have been quiet on the subject, rarely releasing any information on the case. President Leonel Fernandez, who is at the center of the scandal, has maintained that the loans are legal and that the Constitution gives him special authority to approve such loans without Congressional approval. Recently, the Supreme Court published that it would not be issuing an opinion on whether recent Sun Land borrowing constitutes a violation of the Constitution that requires foreign borrowing to be approved by Congress arguing that Tropical Storm Noel has created other priorities.

Money mule gets sentenced
Juan Carlos Genao Dorrejo has been sentenced to three months at La Victoria prison for trying to leave the DR with US$250,000 in undeclared money. Genao was caught with the cash on 15 October. The law only allows up to US$10,000 undeclared dollars to be taken out of the country.

De la Renta "among most influential"
Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta has been voted one of New York City's most influential Latinos. The New York Post published its list of most influential people in the areas of politics, arts, health, fashion, communications and other areas. Carlos Gomez, owner of a phone-card company, and Omar Minaya, general manager of the New York Mets, were also on the list.

Juan Luis honored
Dominican singing/songwriting superstar Juan Luis Guerra has been honored as 2007's "Person of the Year" by the Latin Academy of Recording Artists. Guerra received the recognition for his personal and professional successes and his contributions to philanthropy and culture. The performer has been nominated for five Latin Grammy awards and is sure to take home at least one. Other Dominicans nominated for Latin Grammy awards are Tono Rosario, Kinito Mendez, Aventura and Michel Camilo, who will be in Las Vegas tonight hoping to walk away with an award. Guerra is almost guaranteed a Grammy, as he has been nominated four times. Camilo, a former winner, also has high expectations, as do Rosario and Mendez, who have also received nominations in the past.
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