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Daily News - Tuesday, 04 December 2007

Cotui getting help
The government council, headed by President Leonel Fernandez, declared the repair and reconstruction work to all roads to the central city of Cotui an urgent priority, and declared that the distribution of drinking water was a "high priority." Fernandez instructed the aqueducts authority (INAPA) to place this on the top of the agenda for Cotui. Hoy writes that RD$87 million will be spent on rebuilding roads in the province and bridges like Cotui-Cevicos, Cotui-Pimentel and Piedra Blanca-Maimon-Cotui are already being repaired. In the next few days work in the sectors of La Colonia, Vista del Valle and Plan Piloto will begin. As for the bridge over the Rio Yuna, Fernandez explained that the Public Works Ministry would decide whether to build a new one or reconstruct the existing one.
State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura said that the CDEEE is working on increasing the power service to the province, which is currently unstable. Segura says that the CDEEE is working with a RD$49 million budget that will benefit 466 families in Sanchez Ramirez province. As for education and health, Fernandez said that the government is working on repairing hospitals and that 22 schools that were affected by Tropical Storm Noel have been rehabilitated. Farming in the area has also received aid, and Fernandez says that the government is working on plowing farmland and that 233 kilometers of small pathways have been repaired. Also, 1,600 quintals of fertilizers have been handed out to farmers as well as seeds for planting a variety of foods. On the question of the housing situation, the President said that in cooperation with the National Housing Institute (INVI) 192 homes were repaired, 129 were built and 70 more are planned. Fernandez says that the government has spent RD$4,132,000 on homes and RD$3,623,000 on building materials. According to Fernandez, RD$25 million has been spent on the reconstruction efforts so far, through the Presidential Social Plan.

Christmas bonuses are coming
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has confirmed that the government will be paying its employees more that RD$10 billion in Christmas bonuses this holiday season starting 10 December. Bengoa said that next Monday alone, employees at some of the government's centralized and decentralized offices will receive RD$4.3 billion in bonuses and the same amount will handed out on the 21 of this month, when the normal December wages will be paid. Bengoa says that the total doesn't include the amounts paid to decentralized government departments, such as the Central Bank, the Superintendence of Banks, BanReservas, the National Lottery and other government offices. Bengoa says that a proposal is being submitted, to authorize the Hacienda Ministry to approve loan requests by BanReservas to the tune of RD$820 million, so that all public offices can give their employees their bonuses. Bengoa explained that due to the Law on Public Credit those public offices are not able to take on more debt without Congressional approval. The payment of the bonuses always stimulates commercial activity, and Hoy writes that an additional RD$20 billion will be in circulation during this month as a result.

Protect our potatoes
Potatoes growers in the DR are asking negotiators to keep potatoes out of the negotiations for a free trade agreement with Canada. Trade negotiations with Canada are to begin between 10 and 15 of December in Ottawa. Hoy explains that the growers want high duties on vegetables, and potatoes in particular, since Canada is considered a world leader in potato cultivation. Enrique Duran, Ramon Hernandez, Maria Esperanza Alvarez and Salvador Ferrer, presidents of the Agricultural Producers Association, San Jose Potato Producers and other agricultural organizations said they would provide the government with a document setting out their position.

Transport unions at it again
The SACTP transport union is threatening a work stoppage if the companies that contract their services don't raise salaries to RD$15,000 and give drivers 40% of commissions per trip. Hoy writes that the transport of liquid propane gas (GLP) is at a standstill throughout the country. SACTP secretary general Clemente Morillo Uribe says that the DR has enough GLP to last for the week and that there would be problems if both sides don't come with an agreement. Morillo says that some businesses have reached an agreement, but that if the remaining businesses don't follow suit, SACTP would have no choice but to increase pressure. Diario Libre writes that GLP shortages are already being reported in some parts of the country.

Lincoln getting a facelift
Abraham Lincoln Avenue, one of Santo Domingo's busiest thoroughfares, is being repaved this week. The work is part of a city- wide effort to repave roads and a special schedule has been put in place to prevent large traffic jams. Public Works Minister Victor Diaz says that the paving began before Tropical Storm Noel and that the project would extend to all 31 provinces around the DR. The paving work began when an AC-30, the machine that makes the paving material, arrived from Venezuela, as part of the PetroCaribe agreement. Along with Lincoln, the Luperon, Winston Churchill, El Puerto, Espana, Kennedy and Gustavo Mejia Ricart avenues will also be repaved.

Bengoa will meet with Shell
Today, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa will meet with Shell Oil Company executives to continue discussing the sale of Shell's 50% share in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (REFIDOMSA). Diario Libre says that three Shell officials have arrived in the DR and initial reports indicated that the sales tag for Shell's shares was US$183 million.

Child labor program restarted
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has begun the second stage of its International Child Labor Eradication Program in the DR. The ILO has a RD$25 million budget, which will go towards helping an estimated 5,100 children who are forced into child labor. Program coordinator Elias Dinzey explained that the second phase includes education services, vocational training, health services and legal aid for these children. Funding for the program is provided by the US Labor Department. Dinzey added that the program would also be targeting children working in urban and rural areas, who engage in domestic jobs and are sexually exploitated.

Haina still has problems
Over 14 months after the Blacksmith Institute's report placed Paraiso de Dios, Haina as one of the world's 10 most polluted places on earth, nothing much has been done to tackle the situation. Diario Libre writes that Blacksmith, the Public Health and Environmental Ministries have met with the manufacturing plant Metaloxa on several occasions to discuss how to fix the lead contamination problem but so far nothing has been done. Diario Libre also writes that a fence was installed around the Metaloxa grounds to impede access, but that it is now on the ground. Officials are said to be discussing which offices will be in charge of what and how much money will be distributed to those offices.

PLD thinks it's too early
The PLD is asking the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to reject the request by the PRD and PRSC to formally launch presidential campaigning in December. Electoral Law 275-97 establishes that the JCE will open the electoral campaign "no later than 90 days before election day." The presidential elections are set for 16 May 2008.
The PLD also said that they would remove their political ad campaigns from TV if the rival political parties did the same.
The PLD says that political proclamations should be made in the month of January and says that it is unacceptable for the PRD and PRSC to push for moving the dates forward when civil society and the private sector have called for a reduction in political campaigning.

Ortiz Bosch joins Miguel Vargas
Former Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch has announced that she is joining Miguel Vargas Maldonado's presidential campaign. Ortiz Bosch, a former rival for the PRD party presidential nomination had challenged Vargas Maldonado's victory in the primary. She was appointed to head the Presidential Commission for Campaign Support and Follow-up in the National District, and the Presidential Commission for Promoting Good Government Public Policies. Ortiz Bosch is a two times senator for Santo Domingo, and served as Vice President during the Hipolito Mejia administration.
News reports also indicate that former Santo Domingo mayor and minister of tourism Rafael Subervi has also announced he will actively campaign for Vargas Maldonado.

Miss DR announced
Marianne Cruz Gonzalez was crowned Miss Dominican Republic 2008 last night and will go on to represent the DR in the Miss Universe pageant. This year she was chosen from eight finalists who competed in a televised show. Miss DR was the runner up in last year's contest.
Twenty-two year old Cruz was representing the Hermanas Mirabal (formerly Salcedo) province. Runners up Mariel Sabogal from La Romana and Yadira Geara from the National District will compete in the Miss Hispanic America and Miss Continent pageants.

Columbus Park Arts Fair
Some of the country's best and most authentic arts and crafts are on sale starting today at a crafts market in Parque Colon, opposite the Santo Domingo Cathedral in the Colonial City.

Horford named ROM
Dominican power forward Al Horford was named Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference in the NBA. Horford averaged a solid 8.7 points per game and 10.2 rebounds for the month of November. Horford, the third pick in the NBA draft also leads the Atlanta Hawks in rebounds, is second in blocks and shooting percentage and fifth in scoring.

Baseball update
In last night's only game the Toros were powered home to victory over the Aguilas, 6-5, behind a game winning. Leadoff hitter Aaron Rifkin ended the game last night as he hit the blast in the top of the 11th inning.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 22 13 .629 --
Gigantes 21 13 .618 0.5
Aguilas 17 17 .500 4.5
Escogido 16 19 .457 6.0
Estrellas 14 21 .400 8.0
Azucareros 14 21 .400 8.0

Tonight's games:
Santo Domingo - Gigantes vs. Licey 7:30pm. Estadio Quisqueya
Santiago - Estrellas vs. Aguilas 8pm. Estadio Cibao
La Romana - Escogido vs. Azucareros 7:30pm. Estadio Francisco Micheli
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