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Daily News - 11 October 2002

Widespread irritation over electric bills 
The Listin Diario reports that the increases in charges for electricity have reached as much as 291% in September’s billing. Marco Cadet, a reporter for the Listin, visited several of the pay windows of the electric distributors in Santo Domingo. The clients of Ede Este and Edesur expressed their disgust and say they consider the increases to be “abusive.” Most are not prepared financially to pay such increases. The people consulted by the Listin had received increases in their September bills of 291%, 200%, 100%, 90% and 50%, in spite of blackouts last month lasting up to 20 hours. Added to these complaints is the statement by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Subero Isa, that the Court does not owe the distributors, but rather that distributor Edesur owes the Court RD$10-million in double billing errors and overcharges.

Monetary Board to reduce legal reserves
According to sources within the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the Monetary Board lowered yesterday the requirements for the legal cash reserves of the national banking system by 3%, from 20% to 17%. This move is seen as one of several taken to improve the liquidity of the Dominican financial system. The chief overseer of the financial system also eliminated a former resolution that had prohibited the Reserve Bank of the Dominican Republic (Banco de Reservas) from making loans to the private sector for a period of 60 days. The drop in the banking system’s legal reserves, in addition to a change in the nature of these reserves, frees up some RD$3-billion for loans. The Listin Diario states that these steps were motivated by a need to slow the rise in the exchange rate for the US dollar, which, according to the bank sources is fueled by non-monetary related issues.

Otto Reich statement before House Committee 
Otto Reich, the US Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, declared yesterday before the House Committee on International Relations that “the relations of the United States and the Dominican Republic are today more dynamic than ever before.” 
While the State Department official praised the actions President Hipolito Mejia has taken against drug trafficking, the statesman was criticized for his inability to combat corruption and human rights violations at all levels of his government. Reich also noted in his declarations before the House of Representatives that there was excellent cooperation between the two countries in the areas of the extradition of criminals, the control of illegal immigrants, both Dominican and other foreign nationals, and in the fight against narcotics.

Jail inmates deaths investigated
Six prisoners have been blamed for the tragic fire in the La Vega jail and two army officers have been arrested in connection to the case also.
The investigating committee that looked into last month’s tragic fire in the La Vega prison has determined that the guards were negligent when they permitted the prisoners to take control of the facility before the fire. They also cited the warden, Freddy Navarro, as being unfit for the job. Furthermore, the national prosecuter, Virgilio Bello Rosa, accused on Thursday six prisoners for being responsible for the 30 deaths that occurred in the fire they started. 
The motive for the fire was said to be an attempt to hide the drug operations and the weapons that had allowed these men to enjoy many privileges in the jail, as well as to carry out their nefarious businesses. At the same time, the commander of the National Army, General Carlos Diaz Morfa, recommended 30-day arrests for Colonel Delio Buenaventura Colon and Captain Andres Perez, who were in charge of the La Concepción penal facility in La Vega. 
The Expreso newspaper states that 60 knives, 9 daggers, 15 ice picks, 3 sharpened pieces of re-bar, 7 machetes, 3 mobile phones and 1 electric scale were found in a subsequent search of the prison.

Barge with shredded tires deported
The “Wild Bill”, an oceangoing barge loaded with some 13,000 tons of shredded rubber, left the port of Haina yesterday afternoon. The shipment of rubber had come from Puerto Rico on consignment to a Dominican company, to where it will be returned today. The government officials of the Ministry of the Environment had given the owners just 48 hours to leave the Dominican Republic. 
The departure of the barge and the tugboat that brought it to the DR was somewhat of a surprise, since one of the tugboat’s crewmen had stated that there was a problem with one of the electric generators.

Public phones in the countryside
The president of the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications, Orlando Jorge Mera, announced yesterday that the government institution will install approximately 500 public telephones in the rural areas of the Dominican Republic. The 13 provinces to be endowed with this public service are some of the poorest in the Dominican Republic: Dajabon, Pedernales, Azua, San Juan de la Maguana, Samana, Monte Plata, Sanchez Ramirez, Santiago Rodriguez, Independencia and El Seibo. 
Jorge Mera made the announcement during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Loyola Politechnical Institute, located in San Cristobal. The Polytechnical Institute is currently working on four innovative projects, said Jorge Mera, among which are the rural telephones, distance learning, community call centers and even tele-medicine. Jorge Mera said that the new phones will feature satellite technology and be solar-powered.

New rates were a last minute deal
In the lead article of the Economic Section in today’s Hoy newspaper the editor, Mario Mendez, cites sources close to the electricity sector as saying that the new electricity rates were a last minute deal and that the government had committed to a subsidy that had not been initially discussed. Mendez says that in the dealings of the government committee and the electric companies, at the last minute, the offer to increase the rate was changed to an offer for even higher rates but with a government subsidy that had not been mentioned beforehand. 
According to informed sources, a rate of RD$2.31 pesos per kilowatt/hour for all clients was initially discussed, making the residential clients the hardest hit. As was explained to the reporter, this rise in the rate had been agreed to initially without taking into consideration the commitment that the government had made to send electricity to the poorest of neighborhoods. However, a counter-order came from the Union Fenosa in Spain and this caused the basic rate to be elevated to RD$2.35 pesos per kilowatt/hour for consumers of up to 300 kilowats/hours a month and RD$2.90 pesos for consumers over the 300 kilowatt/hour limit. 
According to Mendez, his sources say that both sides approved the higher rates and then agreed to a RD$100-million peso subsidy for the poorer neighborhoods that were to receive electricity on a continual basis.

Excellence in technology
Dominican Rosa Abreu was awarded a New York City Excellence in Technology Award by the offices of Mayor Bloomberg, New York Governor George Pataki and city commissioners. She represents the Office of Chief Medical Examiner and received the award of Excellence in IT Support and Services. She is the only Dominican in New York City to have obtained this award. Next month, Rosa Abreu was designated a 2002 Public Service Awardee for her outstanding performance and dedication to government as well as for her willingness to contribute to the community. 
The annual citywide Excellence in Technology Awards Program (ETAP) was established to salute the City’s IT professionals and managers for their dedication and hard work. Agency heads throughout the City are invited to submit nominations, with a formal Nomination Committee reviewing each submission and selecting a winner in each category.

NBA game and Miguel Tejada
All the seats are sold for tonight’s pre-season game between the Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves. 
Miguel Tejada of the Oakland As told the Listin Diario that he is expecting a multi-year, 16 to 20 million per year, contract extension.
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