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Daily News - 12 August 2002

Looking for a plantain flour manufacturer
The government is looking for a company that would be interested in manufacturing plantain flour. The ready-to-mix flour would then be used to prepare the traditional Dominican breakfast food known as: mangu. Only hot water would have to be added.
When campaigning for President, Hipolito Mejia promised to serve mangu and eggs in Dominican public schools. This would replace the small cake, milk and juice offered today. So far, the logistics of boiling and mashing the plantains for the mangu have delayed the fulfilling of the promise. 
With the development of plantain flour, now it is only a matter of finding a local manufacturer.
Minister of Education Milagros Ortiz Bosch raised the challenge during the V Encounter of Agriculture Leaders held in Puerto Plata on Thursday and Friday.

Artificial economic boom?
Is the half year 6% Gross Domestic Product growth real? Yes, the Central Bank figure is real, but what is behind the growth is now being debated. 
Former President Leonel Fernandez said the growth primarily reflects the expansion in the government sector. He said the economy grew as a consequence of excessive spending of the government. The economy is reacting to the cash flow injections from foreign loans contracted by the government from foreign commercial banks. Fernandez says this growth is very different from the real growth that occurred during his presidency from 1996-2000. Fernandez cut US$200 million off the foreign debt he had inherited in 1996. The Mejia administration is said to have added more than US$2 billion in its first two years.
In an editorial today, Hoy newspaper concurs with this point of view. It also says that the big spending of the government, complemented by the present high level of imports is what is propelling the fictitious growth. Since it is not based on export-driven revenues, this growth is said to be unsustainable in the long run.

Dominican businesses cringe
Several Dominican industries have suspended their operations, others have gone bankrupt and others are up for sale given the excessive costs, according to business spokesmen. In an interview at Hoy newspaper, businessmen Ignacio Mendez of the Federation of Industrial Associations, Rafael Alvarez Crespo of the Association of Industries of Haina and Jose Ernesto Sanchez, president of the Herrera Industrial Association spoke of the present-day frustrations of doing business. 
Mendez mentioned that of the three candy manufactures left, one is up for sale, another has suspended operations for 30 days, and another has plans to close at the end of the year. This is attributed to government protectionist measures that benefit the dominant sugar producing companies. 
Mendez also mentioned that a paint company has closed its operations, as has a glue factory. HB Fuller has relocated to Costa Rica after 20 years in the country and Ray-o-Vac has also moved its manufacturing operations abroad. 
The businessmen mention this has all happened prior to the new tax proposals made by the government, in its effort to increase its income. Mendez says this new proposal could bring about the closing of many more companies. 
Alvarez Crespo said that if the government insists on the new tax measures, the much-touted National Competitiveness Plan would become nothing more than lots of press releases, with no substance.
Meanwhile, Jose Ernesto Sanchez said that the pressures on company finances caused by excess taxation would translate into increased firing at Dominican businesses. “If the companies disappear, where will the taxes to pay for the social programs come from?” he asked. 
Mendez concludes: “The government needs to understand that we are on the same side. We produce the money for the taxes, and to pay taxes there has to be earnings.”

Train businessman indicted in Puerto Rico
The Dominican businessman resident in Puerto Rico who recently was awarded a government concession to build a train that would cross the Dominican Republic from the South to the North was indicted Friday, 9 August in Federal Court in San Juan, Puerto Rico for alleged extortion. Jose Ventura Asilis was again arraigned in Federal Court today for his involvement in alleged kickbacks to an aide to former Governor Pedro Rossello, according to extensive reports in El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s leading daily newspaper. Deputy Pelegrin Castillo had warned the Dominican Congress not to pass the concession on grounds of the businessman’s problems with the Puerto Rican judiciary. He criticized there was influence-peddling in the passing of the concession. Caribbean Business, Puerto Rico's leading business newspaper, last week also published a story on the Dominican train concessionaire.

Kidnapped businessman released
Santiago businessman Juan Fernando Capellan Diaz was released at around 5 am on Saturday, 10 August after relatives paid a US$1.5 million (approximately RD$27 million) ransom, as reported in Diario Libre. This is the highest ransom paid in the Dominican Republic so far. 
Father Rogelio Cruz, of the Santo Domingo Cristo Rey parish church, delivered the money following the kidnappers’ instructions. Cruz tells the story of his involvement in the case after he received a call on Thursday in an interview in Diario Libre today.
Capellan relatives have not given any press interviews. 
Capellan was kidnapped on Friday, 2 August early in the morning when jogging near his home. 
The newspaper says that business associations of Santiago are offering RD$500,000 to whomever provides information that could lead to the capture of the kidnappers. 
In an interview for Cadena de Noticias news network, Cruz said he suspected that foreigners were involved. He said the caller he dealt with had a Central American accent. 
The Catholic priest also spoke of the professional manner in which the kidnapping was handled. “Those are people that are not inventing; they know what they are doing,” he told El Caribe/CDN news organization. “They are prepared; they know it is a business, and they will continue at it,” said the priest, as reported in El Caribe newspaper.

Juana Arrendel is tops again
Juana Arrendel set a new record in high jump for the Dominican Republic during the North America, Central America and Caribbean Under-25 Track and Field Championship held last weekend in San Antonio, Texas. Over 400 world-class athletes from 32 countries competed in the meet that took place at Trinity University 9-11 August.
She jumped 1.95, a best mark for her. As reported in the Listin Diario, this is better than the 1.90 mark with which Russian Victoriya Seryogina won the European Track Championship this year. 
Arrendel’s previous best mark was precisely the 1.93 she jumped during the 1999 Winnipeg Pan American Games. At the time, she won the Pan American gold but was subsequently stripped of the medal after testing positive in a doping test. 
Despite defending her innocence for the minimum amount of stanozolol found in that doping test, she was banned from competing for two years. 

Great weekend for Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa had a great weekend Major League Baseball games. In a grand slam, the Chicago Cubs slugger knocked three three-run homers in consecutive innings on Saturday night to place his name in the record books in several categories. On Saturday, Sosa tied Hall of Famer Johnny Mize with his sixth career game of at least three homers, became the fifth player to hit homers in three consecutive innings, and tied the Cubs' 91-year-old record for RBIs in a game with nine. 
He also drove in 14 runs total in the final two games of the weekend series against the Rockies. 
In the process, Sosa set the National League record for RBIs in consecutive games as the Cubs beat the Rockies, 12-9 Sunday afternoon at Coors Field in Denver. 
 
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