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Daily News - Monday, 26 November 2007

Labels in Spanish on hold
The National Regulation and Quality Control Office (DIGENOR) has extended the deadline for all products to be labeled in Spanish until 31 January 2008. Representatives of the importers association requested the extension in order to get their suppliers to comply with the new rules, and to get existing stocks off the shelves. The importers told Hoy reporter Soila Paniagua that the Dominican Republic's progress over the past ten years has been accompanied by the importation of products from all over the world, and this reality complicates the changeover procedure. In fact, the importers said that the timeframe to obtain permits from the Public Health Ministry was extended even further, to 28 February. For most importers, the new rules will require that the products be re-labeled in the Dominican Republic, since most suppliers are not equipped to change their production process to label a few hundred cases just for this country.

Refinery sale stirs more debate
The fact that the state might have to construct a brand-new refinery to supply local demand has heated up the debate regarding the sale of the Shell Company's 50% stake in the refinery. The current refinery was designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s. In addition, government officials have stated that the sale price should be just US$110 million, rather than the US$183 million that Shell is requesting. The president of the National Energy Commission, Aristides Fernandez Zucco, told Diario Libre reporters that the Dominican Republic enjoys a privileged geographical position that should allow it to export processed petroleum products if it had a much larger refinery. Meanwhile, experts such as Jose Luis Moreno San Juan and Conrado Depratt remarked that an expansion of the current refinery would not be possible.

Tourist Highway almost finished
Repairs to the Gregorio Luperon Tourist Highway between Puerto Plata and Santiago de los Caballeros are nearly finished, according to the project's supervising engineer. Most of the work is being done in areas affected by landslides that resulted from the recent storms. Currently, most of the work is taking place on the stretch between La Cumbre and the town of Yasica. Procisa is the company with the Public Works contract worth an estimated RD$200 million. Due to the difficulties of using the shorter route, many drivers choose to go around and use the highway between Navarrete and Puerto Plata. The Luperon Highway is 42 kilometers long, extending from Km 6 in Gurabo to the Gran Parada on the Puerto Plata - Sosua highway. According to supervising engineer Rafael Perez, rains affected twenty crucial spots along the highway. Repairs are expected to be finished by the end of December.

Families return no matter what
According to the Santiago Civil Defense director, Francisco Arias, most of the families relocated during the 1999-2002 period have returned to live along riverbanks, even though their houses had been destroyed by intense rains during storms. According to the official, 4,000 families are currently located in potentially disastrous places. Of the 700 families relocated to the Villa Liberacion project, half of them have sold their houses and moved back to their old locations. According to Arias, of the 2,000 lots that were donated to the displaced families, over half have been sold. The Villa Liberacion project was created for families displaced by Hurricane Georges. Army units and personnel from the National Property Office are watching the area to prevent further construction in dangerous or vulnerable areas.
President Fernandez ordered that homes that were destroyed by Tropical Storm Noel and are located in high risk areas not be rebuilt, but this is not happening, and in many cases government departments have even provided construction material for the repairs.

Low-cost housing: RD$2.0 billion
The construction of housing for seven thousand people made homeless by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Noel will cost an estimated two billion pesos, according to figures from the National Urban Affairs Council (CONAU). The budget is for building small houses costing US$8,000 each and occupying just 30m2 of land. According to Diario Libre, the houses can be expanded upwards, giving a total living area of 45m2. While all the details are not yet finalized, the Conau will be meeting with the National Housing Institute (INVI) and the Ministry of the Environment to reach a consensus about precise the locations for these housing units.

Business wants IMF to stay
The Herrera Industrial Association (AEIH) and the Federation of Industrial Associations have urged the government to continue with some type of agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in the light of new issues surrounding internal and external economic agendas. According to the associations, such a working agreement with the IMF would guarantee economic stability and maintain the confidence level of the international community, two of the present administration's major achievements. In a joint statement, the industrialists said that the current fuel price crisis, the sub-prime issue in the United States and the effects of Tropical Storm Noel, combined with next May's elections are enough to create adverse conditions that will require iron discipline in the handling of public finances. Business organizations have been critical of the fact that that even with the constraints of the IMF Stand-by Arrangement, the government violated its own Austerity Law and entered into international funding commitments, such as the Sun Land financing for public works.

Less perceived corruption
The Dominican Republic's corruption indicators are going down, according to Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index. Spokesperson Jesus Sanchez Lambas said that this reduction is a response to the introduction of more effective measures to fight corruption. Spaniard Sanchez Lambas told reporters from Hoy newspaper that most corruption in developing countries is found in the health and education budgets. For example, the jurist cited the sale of medicines that have passed their sell-by dates. With regards to education, with corrupt governments, budgets are usually reduced or frozen at prior levels. The full report will be released on 7 December.

Tender made to order?
Diario Libre is questioning whether the recent tender held for the purchase of 300 public transport buses was custom designed to benefit a single supplier. The newspaper reports that the tender only accepted applications from companies with five years in the market (which eliminated competition from Scadom, the new Scania bus concessionaires), and the companies had to manufacture standard, buses for handicapped passengers, and accordion buses (which eliminated Volkwagen from bidding). The specifications also eliminated Volvo buses, according to Diario Libre. The newspaper points out that a Korean company (Hyundai?) chose not to tender after noting that the specifications appeared to have been drafted to favor Brazilian-manufactured buses.

Kids are victims, too
More than three hundred children have been orphaned because their fathers have killed their mothers, according to Santo Domingo District Attorney, Jose Manuel Hernandez. Although the Ministry for Women has registered 143 women who were killed by their partners, the DA said that only 75 women have died in these circumstances so far this year. The District Attorney was speaking at a ceremony promoting violence prevention leaflets that were being distributed at different stores and businesses throughout the city. The leaflets provide information and advice about identifying, preventing and reporting of domestic violence.

Santo Domingo mayor sued
The mayor and some of his staff are being sued by Impacto Urbano, a foreign capital publicity company. According to lawyers for the company, the mayor and his staff have not heeded five judicial orders in favor of the company. Mayor Roberto Salcedo ordered 619 illuminated signs to be dismantled, and assigned many of the locations to another company. The illuminated signs belonged to Impacto Urbano. According to the lawyers, the Appeals Court ruled in favor of the company with a decision ordering the mayor to abide by the terms of a contract signed in June 2001. The lawyers added that the mayor has also refused to obey the court order that required the municipality to pay RD$10,000 per day for each day that the sentence was not obeyed. The president of Impacto Urbano said that the situation has cost his company RD$100 million in lost earnings, damage to equipment and loss of business standing with customers.

Killers killed
On Sunday, the National Police announced that two men had been killed during a shoot-out in the Vista de Cerro Alto section of Santiago de los Caballeros. The men were identified as Eddy Antonio Torres, a.k.a. Edgar Kila, and Eddy Sarate. They belonged to a gang that murdered four people in the Pastor section of Bella Vista, Santiago in October. The police spokesperson said that the group members had carried out contract killings and drug trafficking and were wanted for 15 different crimes committed over the past two years. According to the spokesperson, the police patrol found 43 empty shell casings after the shoot-out, along with three pistols, eight clips and a pair of handcuffs used to restrain victims. The police said that they are still searching for Rafael Codil Salcedo (Nino Hot Dog) and the two Santana brothers, Anyelin and Ambiorix. The main suspect in the Pastor murders, Roberto Toribio Rodriguez was apprehended in Santo Domingo ten days ago.

Leptospirosis cases decline
Just two more confirmed cases of leptospirosis were reported over the weekend and three other cases are being investigated. No further deaths have been reported due to the disease. Armed Forces units, together with teams from the Public Health Ministry, spent the weekend combing Santo Domingo barrios, looking for people with fevers, providing advice on prevention and distributing rat poison. Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez told Listin Diario reporters that the incidence of the disease was falling, and the most recent cases were widely dispersed.

Sextuplets doing well
Five of the six sextuplets who were born on 26 December 2005 are adjusting well to their new routine at a childcare facility at the parish center in San Felipe, Villa Mella. According to the children's mother, the five are more sociable and are learning to live with other children. Now they can eat with spoons by themselves. Only the tiniest, Emely Mariel is still under medical care, working with physical therapists on a daily basis. The sextuplets, born at 29 weeks were the first to be born in the Dominican Republic and their arrival was one of the major news stories for 2005.

Drugs from the skies
Clandestine flights over the southernmost territory of the Dominican Republic are becoming ever more frequent, according to reports from the Dominican Air Force. Air Force Chief-of-Staff General Rafael Pena Antonio told Diario Libre reporter Leoncio Compres that radar units at Punta Cana and Las Americas did not have the range to track these illegal flights and that drug traffickers were currently taking advantage of this blind spot. A recent news story about a new radar unit on display at San Isidro Air Base reported that this new equipment could cover the entire Dominican territory at a cost of several million dollars. The Air Force chief said that as many as five flights a week cross Dominican waters along the Pedernales and Bani coastlines. As yet, the Air Force has not received all the equipment for the new Super Tucanos that were purchased to patrol the local air space.

Weekend Baseball update
The big news from Friday's games was that the Tigres del Licey clobbered former big-leaguer Jose Lima and beat the champions Aguilas Cibaenas 11-4. Lima was lifted after the second inning after the Tigres had scored six runs.
The Leones del Escogido were not very nice guests at the Tetelo Vargas Stadium in San Pedro de Macoris where they beat up on the Estrellas Orientales 8-1. Julio Mateo pitched six shut-out innings, and the Leones beat out 14 hits. In San Francisco de Macoris, Brad Nelson hit a single in the last half of the ninth inning to give the Gigantes del Cibao a narrow 3-2 victory over the Azucareros del Este in the Julian Javier Stadium.
On Saturday, the Estrellas continued their losing streak as they succumbed to the Azucareros del Este 7-1 in their own ballpark. Joselo Diaz threw six innings of one-run baseball, striking out seven. The loss extends the Estrellas streak to five games.
In San Francisco, the Gigantes del Cibao continued their winning ways as they defeated the Aguilas Cibaenas 8-6 in an interesting game that saw four lead changes. An eighth inning hit by Wilson Valdez brought the Gigantes back from a one run deficit, giving the Gigantes their 16th win of the season.
In Santo Domingo's venerable Estadio Quisqueya, the Leones del Escogido defeated their "eternal rivals", the Tigres del Licey 4-3. The Leones won the game with a run in the bottom half of the tenth inning, leaving the Tigres in the field.
On Sunday in Santiago, the once feared "Valley of Death" for opposing teams has apparently lost its mystic powers, as the Tigres del Licey beat up on the Aguilas Cibaenas 8-2. The Aguilas opened the game with big-leaguer Julian Taveras on the mound, but he did not have much of his 'stuff' and was touched for five runs in just four and a third innings.
In Santo Domingo, the Leones del Escogido continued with their winning ways, defeating the Estrellas Orientales 3-1. This is the sixth loss in a row for the Estrellas, and the fifth victory in a row for Escogido.
In The Francisco Micheli Stadium in La Romana, the Gigantes del Cibao kept a firm hold on second place with a 7-3 victory over the Azucareros del Este.
In other news, the Aguilas Cibaenas traded mighty Willy Mo Pena to Escogido for shortstop Rafael Furcal. The Estrellas Orientales, looking to bolster their team, obtained Willy Otanez, Henry Mateo and pitcher Felix Diaz for reliever Damaso Marte and their first round pick in next year's player's draft.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 18 10 .643 --
Gigantes 17 11 .607 1.0
Aguilas 15 14 .517 3.5
Escogido 14 16 .467 5.0
Estrellas 12 18 .400 7.0
Azucareros 11 18 .379 7.5
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