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Daily News - Thursday, 15 November 2007

Fernandez to speak, again
President Leonel Fernandez will once again address the nation from the Presidential Palace at 9pm tonight. Fernandez is expected to focus on the issue of rising petroleum prices, at US$90/barrel of crude for the first time in history. President Fernandez spoke to the nation last week to discuss government plans in the wake of Tropical Storm Noel. President Fernandez is known as one of the Dominican Presidents who makes the least number of public appearances, to the point that a press conference with the President is a rare occurrence. Nevertheless, he is frequently described "as the President who speaks nicely," and comedians like to imitate his tone of voice and mock his words.

Producers exonerated
The administrator of the Banco Agricola (Bagricola), Paino Abreu Collado has announced that 10,000 of its 55,000 clients, who were affected by Tropical Storm Noel, will be exonerated from making interest payments on their loans. Abreu said that the loans add up to RD$370 million. Abreu explains that a six-month moratorium will be placed on the capital payments and interest on the loans. He also announced the creation of the Tropical Storm Noel Recovery Fund to ease the pressures on the producers. Abreu said that the Bank would lend producers RD$1.2 billion, adding that managers and those in charge of Bagricola offices have been instructed to speed up the banking process in order to ensure that producers can get back to work as soon as possible. Also, loans for producers were extended to up to three years. The interest rates will be 6% annually for renewals and 6% annually for refinancing.

RD$3 billion surplus for relief
Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa has announced that the government would use a RD$3 billion surplus to tackle the effects of Tropical Storm Noel. Speaking yesterday, Bengoa said that the funds come from a total surplus of RD$8.6 million and that the IMF has given permission for the funds to be used. The funds will be used for public works, health, education, drinking water and dam repair efforts. Bengoa said that it was unreasonable for the DR to take out more loans to pay for relief and recovery when there was a surplus to draw on. Bengoa also explained that another complementary budget of transfers or appropriations, worth RD$7 billion, would also be sent to Congress for approval. Bengoa added that in order to combat material losses, funds from an emission of public debt in the form of bonds worth RD$5 billion would be used.

Eighth IMF review
A team from the International Monetary Fund recently met for the eighth and final review of its Stand-by Arrangement with the DR. The mission was also in the DR for the periodic discussion of economic policies and the medium-term macroeconomic outlook.
The IMF says that following a series of meetings with senior government officials, they concluded that economic growth remains strong, inflation is under control, and the financial system has been strengthened. The IMF, nonetheless, report that the conduct of macroeconomic policies has become more complicated in the context of rising oil prices, more uncertainty in the prospects for world economic growth, and the reconstruction needs after the Tropical Storm Noel.
The IMF went on to state that the authorities also provided extensive documentation on the contract with SunLand, and that the IMF staff is reviewing this information.
In a release from the IMF, the multilateral organization indicates that IMF staff and the Dominican authorities have yet to conclude the review of the Stand-by Arrangement and the Article IV consultation, but it was agreed that this would take place "at the earliest possible opportunity".

Where's Waldo? At the CMD
Dr. Waldo Ariel Suero is the president-elect of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD). Forty percent of all votes have been counted. Dr. Plutarco Restituyo, who leads the electoral commission, said that full election details would be announced later today. This is Suero's second time as CMD president, as he held the post during the 2002-2004 period.

Possible leptospirosis outbreak
Hoy is reporting that in the last week four people have died of leptospirosis at the capital's Luis A. Aybar hospital and 23 others are still being treated for the disease. Luisa Lafontaine, director of the hospital, issued a warning to people who live near flooded areas. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by the urine of wild and domestic animals. Leptospira organisms have been found in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs and rats. Symptoms include high fever, headaches, general sickness, yellowish skin, and is commonly confused with other diseases, although pain in the calves is a distinguishing factor. The increase in cases is being blamed on the rains and the spread of diseases in flooded areas. The disease is not known to be spread from person to person.

US doctors offer help
Doctors and epidemiologists with ties to the Dominican community in New York City have offered their services to the Ministry of Public Works to fight health ailments caused by sanitation problems in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Noel. NY Assembly member Adriano Espaillat made the offer on behalf of the doctors, who offered their help to Deputy Public Health Minister Dr. Nelson Rodriguez Monegro. The doctors will help the Dominican health authorities combat skin diseases that may have affected victims of flooding from Tropical Storm Noel. Rodriguez thanked Espaillat and the doctors for their offer and said that the doctors' contribution would strengthen the provision of medical services to thousands of families.

Schools get cleared out
Schools in Santo Domingo and the National District, which had been used as shelters during the last 18 days, were cleared out by the authorities yesterday. 200 families were each given RD$15,000 towards renting a home for three months, while the government works out a long-term solution. Deputy Education Minister Mery Valeria handed out the money on behalf of the ministry. Valeria explained that students will not return to school right away since the centers needed to be cleaned, fumigated and repaired to prevent putting the children at risk. One of the evacuees, Ramon de Leon Tavera, explained that he had returned to where his house in the Juan Guzman barrio used to stand, because the money the government had given him wasn't even enough to buy a bed. Nevertheless, Mauricio Encarnacion, who was affected by the storm but didn't stay at the shelter, said that many of the people in the shelters had not been affected at all. He said they were just there to receive government benefits.

Cesfront corrupt, says Mayor
Speaking at a press conference at the Presidential Palace, Dajabon mayor Sonia Mateo declared that the new Specialized Border Security Corps (CESFRONT) is corrupt and accused its members of charging each Haitian who wants to cross the border RD$100, up from the RD$20 "fee" that their military predecessors used to charge. Mateo says that Cesfront officials mistreat workers in the bi-national market as well as the motorcycle taxi drivers who work in the area. Mateo said that the citizens of Dajabon had asked the President to send a specialized group that was honest, not corrupt. Mateo also claims to have a video supporting her accusations, saying it was available for anyone to watch, and that the head of Cesfront, Adriano Silverio Rodriguez, is responsible for what is happening. Mateo also claimed that Rodriguez is a member of former President Hipolito Mejia's faction, the PPH (Proyecto Presidencial Hipolito) and that he has a personal vendetta against anyone from the PLD.

Giuliani vs. Olivares: round 1
John Giuliani is petitioning the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to penalize fellow judge Eddy Olivares for his public opposition to a decision by the JCE judges. The spat between Olivares and Giuliani began when the JCE judges voted in favor of ceasing all political ad campaigns and forcing the political parties to remove all ads from TV as well as billboards and posters. Olivares responded to Giuliani's petition by saying it was a way of diverting attention from a resolution that he describes as illegal. Giuliani defended his bid by saying that Olivares's attitude creates a sense of anarchy within the JCE that shouldn't be tolerated. Asked if penalizing Olivares would be legal, Giuliani said that the JCE is a sovereign institution and that the situation could be examined to see if he is violating any rules. Giuliani continued by saying that as well as a public or private penalty the JCE could decide to take whatever decision it sees fit against one of its judges who goes against a Board resolution.

Election organization on schedule
The president of the Central Electoral Board, Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman says that the organization of the 2008 presidential elections is moving ahead satisfactorily. This week, election director Joel Lantigua presented the timetable for the event. He received reports on information technology, logistics, transport and other aspects of preparations for the 16 May 2008 presidential and vice presidential election.

Tricom to offer WiMAX
Airspan Networks has announced that Tricom, the third largest telecommunications company in the DR, has awarded it a contract to supply its WiMAX service using the licensed 3.5GHz frequency band. Tricom is a full-service provider and one of the largest data services providers in the Dominican Republic, offering a wide range of fixed, mobile and pay-TV services across the country. Under the terms of the agreement Airspan will supply Tricom with its HiperMAX base stations and related customer premises equipment, which support 802.16e-2005 mobile WiMAX services in both indoor and outdoor base station configurations. During the first phase of the network rollout, Tricom will offer services in the Santo Domingo metropolitan area, Bavaro, Haina and Santiago.

Dell fighting sentence
Dell Computer Corporation says it will appeal the sentence that orders the company to leave the DR and cede its representation to a local company. In a press release, Dell announced that it would fight until the last consequence. Last week Dell was found guilty of violating an agreement with the Dominican company Xolusat. Dell says that it plans to continue working in the DR.

Illegal migrants beware
US Coast Guard is using biometrics to identify illegal immigrants. On 14 November, the department announced that the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus repatriated 29 Dominican migrants to La Romana on Tuesday, while another seven Dominican migrants were detained for prosecution by the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Cushing, following three at-sea interdictions on Monday and Sunday. The Coast Guard says that the new Biometrics at Sea pilot program in effect since 2006 in the Mona Passage has helped reduce illegal migration by 50%. The program will be extended to Florida waters in 2008. The program collects biometric information from illegal migrants who are intercepted while attempting to enter Puerto Rico from the DR. The US Coast Guard compares the digital fingerprints and photographs of illegal migrants against the US-VISIT database in Washington D.C., which includes information about wanted criminals, immigration violators and anyone who has encountered government authorities in the past. This process takes just three to five minutes. People who try to enter United States and its territories illegally are prosecuted under US law. As reported in Listin Diario, statistics show that about 5,000 migrants still try to make it to PR illegally, down from 10,000 a year ago.

Baseball update
Licey leads in the Dominican Winter Professional League Championship after Jose Mercedes pitched six innings without hit in the game he won against Jose Lima of the Aguilas, 5-0 yesterday at the Cibao Ballpark. The Aguilas had been first in the standing up until now. Last night, the Estrellas Orientales, with Japanese Shojih Nagamine pitching, defeated the Escogido 4-2 in Santo Domingo. And the Azucareros playing at their home stadium in La Romana, defeated the Gigantes del Cibao, 2-0. The only game scheduled for tonight is Gigantes vs. Aguilas at the San Francisco de Macoris Julian Javier stadium.
 
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