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Daily News - Tuesday, 13 November 2007

RD$400 million for Noel victims
President Leonel Fernandez has announced the creation of a RD$400 million fund to help farmers and people made homeless in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel. Fernandez also announced that the next government council meeting would be held in the city of San Jose de Ocoa, capital of one of the provinces most affected by the floods. Alma Fernandez, director of the National Housing Institute (INVI) announced the launch of a housing reconstruction program and said that the government would cover the costs of renting homes for affected people. Alma Fernandez also said that INVI has received RD$58 million to be used to start immediate construction efforts.

JCE crisis brewing?
Central Electoral Board president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman has called the magistrates who passed resolution 07-2007 irresponsible, while magistrate John Guilliani has accused Contentious Chamber colleague Eddy Olivares of speaking on behalf of the PRD party, which rejects the resolution calling for campaign advertising for the 2008 presidential election to be suspended until the official campaign period begins. Gulliani says that Olivares represents the PRD in the JCE because the party had lobbied to appoint him to the post. The controversial resolution bans political parties from premature campaigning and calls for the parties to pull their spots from TV and radio and to remove all election banners and posters. Castanos told journalists that the resolution is final and that nine JCE judges had voted for it. The major political parties, flush with cash provided by a law that funds them with a percentage of taxpayer money, have all begun electioneering months before the JCE is due to launch the campaign.

Running out of plantains
Diario Libre is reporting that plantains, which are an important part of the Dominican diet, are beginning to run, out causing prices to skyrocket. At Avenida Duarte's Mercado Nuevo only five truckloads of plantains had arrived, with prices ranging from RD$4 to RD$10 per unit. Diario Libre is reporting an incident where two men drew their guns in a dispute over plantains. At the Mercado Modelo only two vendors had plantains, selling them for RD$10 per unit, and even cassava prices are inflating with each unit rising to RD$12 in some cases. Farmers say that the rain caused by Tropical Storm Noel ruined a large part of the plantain crop and that increased shortages are likely. Plantains were available at supermarkets this week for prices ranging from RD$5 to RD$10 per unit.

Less bread for your money
As food prices rise due to shortages caused by TS Noel, bakeries are reducing the size of some bread products in order to keep unit prices of 'pan de agua' bread rolls down to RD$3. Hector Delgado, president of UMPHI, an association of medium and small bakeries, said that although producers are losing out they have decided to absorb this cost until the country gets back on its feet. Delgado added that all bakeries are experiencing difficulties since international flour prices soared from US$408 to US$1,338 for a 125lb sack of flour.

Premium still at a premium
Hoy is reporting that that 99% of the 486 gas stations that belong to the National Association of Gasoline Retailers (ANADEGAS) have run out of premium gasoline and 14% of gas stations are also reporting shortages of regular gasoline. The Dominican Petroleum Refinery said that it received 5 million gallons of regular gasoline and 2.3 million gallons of premium on Monday. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce said that since Sunday night gasoline has been dispatched and reassured the public that GLP and diesel fuels aren't in danger of running out. ANDEGAS president Juan Ignacio Espaillat said that although the DR is receiving gasoline, the independent retail sector has not received any, leading to increased concern. Minister of Industry and Commerce Melanio Paredes maintains that gasoline will not run out.

Cocco going home
Customs director Miguel Cocco is going home tomorrow after spending more than a week at the CEDIMAT medical center. He was fitted with a pacemaker and at one point was said to be in a critical condition, but managed to recover and has been receiving guests and well-wishers in his hospital room.

CESFRONT soldiers get rest
The Armed Forces Ministry has announced the replacement of the Specialized Border Security Corps (CESFRONT) soldiers who were stationed in Dajabon. These soldiers were immediately replaced by a new contingent of CESFRONT troops. The new soldiers were transferred from their previous postings in the southern region of the country. Army officials explained that these changes are routine and are aimed at preventing soldiers from developing relationships with smugglers, human traffickers and drug traffickers. It also allows for soldiers to take a break and see their families. This new contingent is double the number that was originally sent to the border in September.

Bloomberg remembers victims
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has led a memorial service for the victims of American Airlines Flight 587 that crashed shortly after takeoff in New York City six years ago. The flight was en route to the DR. All 260 passengers perished together with five people on the ground. The plane crashed in the Belle Harbor area on 12 November 2001. Bloomberg read a statement and explained that some NY city officials weren't able to attend the ceremonies because they were in the Caribbean analyzing the after-effects of Noel in the DR. Listin Diario reports that although the crash was a major tragedy, most Dominicans don't appear to remember the event. Several passengers questioned by reporters at Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport admitted to having forgotten about the crash.

Inside the Civil Aviation Institute
Erick Christopher, the son of former director of assassinated Angel Christopher Martinez, accused the deputy director of the Civil Aviation Institute Santiago Rosa Martinez of impeding investigations to resolve the murder that took place on 21 July 2006, as reported in the Listin Diario. The family suspects Christopher, known for being immune to corruption, was killed for job-related reasons. Erick Christopher said the family had reached an agreement with the former director of the institution, Norge Botello and with his successor, Jose Tomas Perez for the expediting of the investigations. But the Institute has never complied with the funding "because the agreements have unexplainably been boycotted by insiders in the Institute," he stated in a press conference at the Colegio de Periodistas. He said he would request that the attorney general look into reasons for the lack of collaboration. He said they have hired outside specialists to investigate possible ties of officers inside the department that could have ties to the material and intellectual authors of the crime.

Adding up the aid
Listin Diario is reporting that to date the government has received international donations worth US$325,000, EUR20,000 and RD$57 million, all in cash, for relief and recovery efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel. Rafael Perez Modesto, Presidency Administrative Sub-Secretary said that more aid money is being processed but has yet to be received.
The money has come from various sources. The German Embassy donated EUR20,000, South Korea donated US$100,000 and Taiwan donated US$200,000. Anonymous donors donated RD$6 million, RD$50 million were donated by the Savings Insurance Superintendence and the Turkish Red Cross donated US$25,000. As for money that is being processed, the Spanish Cooperation Agency will give EUR20,000, US$535,000 from the Canadian Embassy and US$350,000 from the United Nations. The Brazilian government has pledged US$200,000, Spanish agency Intermon Oxfam has offered EUR40,000 and Venezuela has pledged an extra US$100,000, as well as the technical assistance they have provided.
The US government has contributed more than US$1.5 million.

Leading media lawyer dies
Pascal Pena Pena, recognized as the national authority on media legal affairs, died yesterday in Santo Domingo of a heart attack. He was 74 years old. Pena taught media law at UASD & O&M universities and was a prolific writer on the subject. At the time of his death he maintained a column on media law in the Listin Diario. Born in Bani in 1933, he studied law at the University of Santo Domingo, and specialized in media law in Spain. Hours before his death, he had visited Hoy newspaper where he met with several journalists. His wake is of 9am at the Blandino funeral home of Av. Abraham Lincoln. He will be buried tomorrow morning in his hometown Bani. He is survived by his wife Nancy Perez, and his children Angelo, Yanco, Euridice, Pascal, Virginia and Olga.

Rains forecast for DR
The Weather Department is reporting showers will affect large areas of the Dominican Republic over the next three days. Weather could be good again, for the weekend. Disorganized showers and thunderstorms are forecast for the Western Caribbean due to a weak area of low pressure and a tropical wave that this morning was located along 73W south of 17N moving west.
For local weather reports, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/

Baseball games
The Aguilas continue to lead the Professional Winter Baseball Championship. The Licey is a game and a half behind, followed by the Gigantes, the Estrellas, the Escogido and the Azucareros. Escogido fans enjoyed last night's 7-1 win at the Quisqueya Ball Park. The Escogido players have batted an unusual 27 runs in three games. Yesterday, Licey beat the Gigantes 12-5 in San Francisco de Macoris, and the Estrellas defeated the Azucareros 4-1 in a 12 inning game, where the pitchers were the star performers. Rains permitting, games scheduled for tonight are: Estrellas vs. Licey at 7:30pm at the Quisqueya in Santo Domingo; Escogido vs. Gigantes at 7:30pm at the Julian Javier in San Francisco de Macoris; and Aguilas vs. Azucareros at the Francisco Micheli in La Romana at 7:30pm.
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