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Daily News - 5 April 2002

13 climbers located, not rescued
As of Friday morning, the Army has not yet been able to rescue the 10 men and three women who got lost on Sunday in their trek through the Cordillera Central mountains. They had taken a little-used trail and then took wrong turns as they made their way down to Bonao. 
The expedition of mountain climbers from Santo Domingo was lost in the Valle Encantado near Pico Duarte. They were located by search teams in the Loma el Piqon canyon, which has a 60-degree incline to a depth of 1,000 meters. The canyon is 3,000 meters above sea level and is forested by trees over 75 feet tall, which has made the rescue effort difficult. 
News sources carried conflicting reports yesterday as to whether or not they had been rescued. Yesterday afternoon, sources clarified that the mountain climbers had been located but the difficulties of the terrain and the climate prevented their rescue. 
Reports say the hikers are in good health, but exhausted from walking and spending many days and nights in the mountains. Their climb began on Thursday, and they were reported missing on Monday. 
The Army was criticized for the delay in the rescue, but mostly for the lack of accurate information for the press and the relatives of the climbers.
Reportedly, an Army rescue crew including medical staff is with the climbers, and food and supplies have been dropped to them. The crew is clearing an area to enable a helicopter to complete the rescue. Guides say visibility in the area is difficult after 2 pm.  

Taiwan donation for forests
Minister of Environment Frank Moya Pons received a US$1.7 million donation from the government of Taiwan for its tree-planting program. Ambassador Pedro Hsiang of Taiwan explained that the funds
will be used to build six nurseries where four million seedlings will be planted.

World Bank team meets President
Listin Diario reports that President Hipolito Mejia met yesterday with a visiting high-level mission of the World Bank. Marco Mantovanelli, local representative for the World Bank, said the President concurred with the World Bank that the country needs to invest more in education, health and the power sector. Mantovanelli also highlighted the importance of the private sector in creating jobs.
The World Bank officers praised the management of the economy.

RD$296.5 million to finance election campaigns
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has issued checks totaling RD$296.5 million to 19 political parties and four political movements to help finance their campaigns for the 16 May 2002 municipal and congressional election. 
The parties received:
Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD): RD$113,151,141
Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana (PLD): RD$68,829,166
Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC): RD$57,570,639
Partido Quisqueyano Democrata (PQD): RD$11,677,000
Partido Revolucionario Independiente (PRI): RD$9,925,000
Union Democrata Cristiana (UDC): RD$7,201,761
Partido Nacional de Veteranos y Civiles (PNVC): RD$6,282,130
Partido de los Trabajadores Dominicanos (PTD): RD$4,781,000
Fuerza de la Revolucion: RD$3,627,103
Unidad Democratica (UD): RD$3,310,000
Nueva Alternativa (PNA): RD$1,619,000
Ten other minor movements and political parties received contributions of less than RD$1 million each. The amounts are determined by the number of votes the parties received in the previous election.

Toll booths: the goose that laid the golden eggs?
The Mejia administration seems to have discovered the goose that laid the golden eggs. The previous government installed modern tollbooths at already existing toll points and increased the fees.
The effectiveness of the collections generated an important new source of funds for the government. 
Now the Mejia government wants to build on that. El Caribe reports that the government will install 11 new tollbooths at different highway points in the country. 
The government also announced it is transferring the tollbooth collections to the Banco de Reservas, the government-owned commercial bank. Bank administrator Manuel Lara said this will go
into effect 1 June. The government hopes to cancel its debt to the Banco de Reservas with this move. Lara says the government also seeks a new source of funds with which to finance new road
construction projects. 
El Caribe newspaper points out that the tollbooths of the Duarte (North-South), 6 de Noviembre (West) and Las Americas (East) highways produce RD$250 million a year. It also expresses a concern that the concessions granted by the government are all based on tollbooth fee increases that would triple the present collections.
It is yet to be seen if the increase in tolls will discourage Dominicans from traveling or will affect the cost of transporting goods.  The approved projects, their price tags and the companies contracted
to build them are:
Santo Domingo-Samana: Consorcio Autopistas del Nordeste, RD$2.1 billion.
San Cristobal-Bani: Consorcio Vial Dominicano, RD$1.5 million.
Autopista Duarte-San Cristobal: Consorcio Vial Dominicano, RD$192 million.
Others pending congressional approval are:
San Pedro de Macoris-La Romana: Concesionaria Dominicana de Autopistas y Carreteras, RD$4.5 million.
Cruce Autopista Duarte-San Francisco de Macoris: RD$1.7 billion.

Concession passed without congressional review
San Cristobal congresswoman Maria Gertrudis Mejia complained that the deputies representing the southwest were not allowed to comment on the government granting of the concession of the San
Cristobal-Bani highway expansion to a private company. The company was chosen by the Mejia administration without a tender. 
The Deputy said the project had been sent to commission for evaluation and then unexpectedly, 24 hours later, it was placed on the house agenda and approved. She said there are many things that
are not clear in the concession contract. She expressed her concern that it allows the contractors to unilaterally increase the tolls.

A coup to Ministry of Environment head?
Ecologist Domingo Abreu Collado warns that interested parties are trying to invalidate the work of the Ministry of Environment and undermine the authority of Minister Frank Moya Pons or get him
removed in order to push forward highly lucrative projects that violate environmental laws. 
Moya Pons is regarded as a professional who cannot be bought. Abreu speculates that to attain their goals, the project promoters are lobbying the press. 
Abreu, who is ecology editor of Hoy newspaper, writes in his page today that the recent press focus on the extraction of sand from the Bani Dunes and the fires in Los Haitises and Mirador del Este Parks are part of the plan to undermine the authority of the Environment Ministry. He urges the Ministry of Armed Forces to come forth with the results of their investigations. 
Abreu Collado says that behind everything are events such as the issuing of Decree 36-02 by President Hipolito Mejia. He speculates that the President did not read what he signed. He explains the decree gives extraordinary powers to the new Cemento Andino company, which has been granted a concession in Pedernales by the government's Unidad Corporativa Minera. He speculates the decree was written up by the company itself and not by government officers because the overly generous wording grants previously unheard-of concessions to the company, in contradiction of the Environmental Law. 
Decree 36-02 instructs the Ministry of Environment, the Office for the Promotion of Foreign Investment, the Customs Department, Ministry of Finance and other government departments to offer all their assistance to the company so it can obtain all necessary permits. The Environment Law establishes procedures for operation that so far the cement company has not fulfilled. 
He says the decree establishes the irregular appropriation of property located in the Jaragua National Park, the coastline of Cabo Rojo (which has great tourism development potential), and the sale of land within the Bahia de las Aguilas Nature Reserve. 

Focus on prostitution and AIDS in jails
Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa announced a commission will study the problems denounced by series of reports in El Caribe newspaper on the nightmarish situation in Dominican jails. The stories focus on the prevalence of untreated AIDS-infected inmates, rampant prostitution, corruption, and torture.

The powers that be in the DR
According to the Hamilton poll commissioned by Hoy newspaper, the powers that be in the DR are the President of the Republic, the Catholic Church, big companies and the government of the United
States. 27% of those asked said the President when asked to name the most influential institution in the Dominican Republic. 23% said the Roman Catholic Church.

Public transport a big plus, job creation a big minus
Dominicans perceive improvements in public transportation as the most positive accomplishment of the Mejia administration. Other pluses are construction, repair of highways and streets and improvements in farming. Job creation is the big minus of the present government. The findings are from the March poll carried out by Hamilton, Beattie & Staff for Hoy newspaper.

Faith healing not black magic
Diario Libre reports that Juan Carlos Guerrero Batista, the La Altagracia man arrested with 20 others for supposed black magic, is actually a faith healer. He denied the accusations that he practiced
black magic. The Roman Catholic Church has warned that satanic rituals are taking place, and apparently this lead police in the area to be overzealous. 
Guerrero said over 40 people per day visit his sanctuary in El Mamey, two kilometers from Higuey, the capital of La Altagracia province, seeking relief from health problems that modern medicine
can't cure. The newspaper reports that Guerrero uses herb teas and a baptism ceremony in a nearby  river. But he says he is Catholic and during the ceremony participants give thanks to God. 
Diario Libre points out that the Dominican constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

A Dominican-Puerto Rican love story
Public relations entrepreneur and former national tennis champion 45-year-old Ivelisse Jose has become engaged to the former husband of Puerto Rico Governor Sila Calderon. Adolfo Krans, a Puerto Rican insurance businessman and the governor divorced after Calderon was elected. They had been married for 26 years. 
Ivelisse Jose is president of Artis Agencia de Imagen. She has been divorced for 12 years now from her second marriage and has two sons.  She met Krans at a restaurant in Puerto Rico. As reported in the Listin Diario, Krans was attracted by the elegance of the Dominican lady who was dining with her younger son and a group of lady friends, none of whom knew who Krans was. He invited them for drinks after dinner, and the next day invited Ivelisse to lunch. They are considering marrying before the end of the year and setting up residence in Santo Domingo.
Krans is 60 years old and had five children with Governor Calderon. 
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