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Daily News - 17 December 2002

Let them eat yucca!
In one of his typically bold comments, President Hipólito Mejía advised Dominicans to eat yucca, plantains, and cassava bread when questioned about the recent 100 percent increase in the price of bread. Mejía said there was an abundance of these products and that the people should take advantage of them instead of paying higher prices for bread and other flour-based products. Reporters questioned President Mejía in reference to the decision taken by the union representing small- to medium-sized bakers to double the price of bread. 
Today’s editorial in the Diario Libre supports the President’s idea, saying that, years ago, the basic breakfast of the Dominican family did not even include bread. “There are options, and nearly all of them better than the poor-quality breads that sell today for RD$2.00 each. We’ll eat better and cheaper,” said the editorialist.
Bread has replaced plantains, yucca and other tubers as a main staple in the Dominican diet, due to its convenience and to the increased cost of cooking brought about by the government’s elimination of the subsidies to the cost of propane gas. 

Mind what you say
The Solicitor General of the Dominican Republic told reporters yesterday that he would prosecute anyone who libeled the President of the Republic because “you cannot play with a person’s honor.” So far this government has taken action against six people for libel and defamation of the President, but none of those individuals has been found guilty. The latest arrests occurred after a radio program broadcast that there was an active trade of contraband items (especially rice) taking place at the Haitian border crossing of Dajabon. Full-page ads by the son of the President proclaiming his innocence, as well as cries of foul from the National Commission on Human Rights have exacerbated the conflict. 
Listin Diario reports that the Executive Branch replaced Maria de los Santos Tejada, the solicitor in Dajabon, after the official demanded that the army free a journalist who had been arrested in the evening, without written authorization from the correct judicial authorities. She was replaced by Tomas Taveras Perez, who is described in the Listin as a well-known PRD politician, with close ties to the governor and the president of the PRD in that province. 

Oil and gasoline supply
Amid fears that the Venezuelan crisis may affect the DR’s supply of oil and gasoline, the Dominican Petroleum Refinery assured the general public yesterday that there are enough petroleum reserves in the Dominican Republic to meet the needs of the country.
The price of oil has increased by US$4.16 per barrel since November 11, in direct response to the current situation in Venezuela, reports El Caribe. Since last Friday, oil prices have jumped again by US$1.66 per barrel, according to the West Texas Index. Local prices are adjusted weekly and reflect these increases. 
In a related issue, Minister of Industry and Commerce Sonia Guzman met with representatives of the refinery and of the National Association of Gasoline Retailers (Anadegas), the largest gasoline retail organization. Shell, Esso, Isla and other petroleum wholesalers confirmed that the system of quotas was properly functioning last week and rejected the allegations of ANADEGAS that unfair distribution of fuels had caused distortions in marketplace. 
The spokesman for Anadegas had complained that 25 of its members had run out of diesel fuel and that this was due to unfair trade practices. According to the Listín Diario, the government has promised to maintain a daily supply of 21,000 barrels of diesel fuel. At the same time, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce put together a commission to monitor the results of the agreements between the refinery and the gasoline stations.
A spokesman for the refinery told reporters that there were currently 21,000 barrels of diesel fuel on hand. 
The Anadegas spokesman clarified that they are seeking compensation -- not a government subsidy. They again explained that international norms for fuel delivery require that a certain temperature be maintained and that the gasoline distributors (Shell, Esso, Isla and others) are not complying with these standards. When the gasoline is delivered to the retailers at temperatures higher than those specified, there is a swell in the volume of the product. As the product cools down in the underground tanks and deflates, the retailers say they lose RD$0.67 cents on the gallon due to temperature variances alone.

Kidnappings get government’s attention
Last night the President, the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Chief of Police, along with the Solicitor General of the Dominican Republic, held a lengthy meeting to focus on the three kidnappings that have occurred over the past three weeks. Kidnappings had previously been a rare occurrence in the DR. Virgilio Bello Rosa, the Solicitor General, told reporters that family members that do not report the kidnappings to the authorities create a serious problem. Just yesterday, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked the population to break the taboo and report kidnappings to the proper authorities. 
In the most recent incident, a person close to the victim’s family tipped off the police, shortly after a ransom was paid for the return of the abducted 18-year-old Guillermo Polanco. 
The fact that the police were able to act quickly resulted in the capture of the suspected culprits and the recovery of RD$900,000 in ransom money. Polanco was kidnapped near the Clinica Corazones Unidos, where he had gone to get the results of lab tests for his grandmother. 
The police killed one of the kidnappers, Edgar Garcia, who, according to his widow, had turned himself in. The widow of the slain suspect told Diario Libre newspaper that the police shot him to steal part of the money. Three other suspects were injured and hospitalized at the Darío Contreras clinic in Santo Domingo, after being wounded in a shootout on the Duarte Highway between La Vega and Santiago, just hours after the ransom was paid. Emmanuel Alcantara and Juan Carlos Gomez, both wounded in the leg, admitted their participation in the kidnapping, according to police sources. 
Two other kidnappings over the past three weeks of neighbors Eduardo Najri, 25, and Alexis Dume, 19, have been successful operations for the bandits, so far. In neither of these cases did the family notify the police until days after the abductions took place. 
The Listin Diario reported that Major General Jaime Marte Martinez, Chief of Police, said that the phone tip enabled them to quickly solve the case. Marte Martinez urged citizens to go through the police in these cases, citing the swiftness in which this most recent case was cracked, thanks to the efforts of the Fast Action Group and the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) of the police force.

Need to define who is Dominican
Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp advocated yesterday the need for Congress to modify the Constitution and eliminate any ambiguity regarding who has the right to Dominican nationality. Tolentino Dipp said that the DR cannot bear the weight of the unrestrained immigration from Haiti and that the social services available are inadequate to meet the needs of the Dominican population, let alone its non-native residents. According to the minister, Haitian immigration only aggravates local problems, given the high economic and cultural cost of massive immigration of impoverished people unable to subsist in Haiti. 
He made the statements in reference to a judgment issued by Judge Samuel Arias that ordered the civil registrar to grant Dominican nationality to two sons of illegal Haitian immigrants on the grounds that the children were allegedly born on Dominican soil. 
The Dominican Constitution grants nationality to foreigners born in the DR, with the exception to the children of diplomats and those that are in transit. For years the term “in transit” has been interpreted to mean having legal residency, regardless of the number of years lived in the Dominican Republic, however, the term’s ambiguity is obvious. Deputies have expressed their concern that by granting Dominican nationality to anyone who can in some way “prove” they were born in the Dominican Republic, they would be opening the doors to a flow of massive immigration of impoverished Haitians.

Vice Consul sent to court
Judge Doris Josefina Pujols is sending former vice consul in Haiti, Ormis Freddy Peña Mendez, his chauffeur and three other individuals to court under the accusation of cocaine trafficking. Plinio Perez, Victor Contreras Ferreras, Wilvio Medina Cuevas, Gilberto Antonio Pujols and Peña Mendez are due to stand trial for violation of the drug and arms law. The vice-consul was intercepted by drug enforcement agents, who discovered 50kgs of cocaine in the diplomat’s Mitsubishi Montero. Peña subsequently led the agents to where he would drop off the shipments, at which time the other members of his group were arrested. In his possession at the time of arrest was a Uzi gun. According to the investigations of the Drug Control Department, Peña was known to transport 60kgs of cocaine a week.

Business people demand Pact be respected
Santiago business executives praised the nation’s capacity to resolve disputes at the bargaining table. Carlos Manuel Alvarez, Jose Luis Bonilla, Miguel Angel Tallaj and Ruben Reinoso, spokesmen for the Free Zone Industrial Association, the Association of Industry and Commerce of Santiago, the Santiago Chamber of Commerce and Production, praised the signing of the “Pact for Stability and Development” at the Presidential Palace as a way to show confidence and contain the devaluation of the peso. 
“The work of promoting confidence in the nation’s efforts to better itself should be a permanent job,” they express in a press release. They urged Congress to pass the agreement.

Newest “business”
More than 20 large government offices in the area of Gazcue have between them a mere 300 parking spaces. This scarcity of parking has given rise to a new business: that of “renting” spaces along the street. While this might seem ludicrous to the uninitiated, quite a few individuals are eking out their living by babysitting the cars along the jam-packed streets of the area. Of course, the service is illegal, but it is, in the words of one member of the Municipal Council, “a chaotic and disorganized solution” to the pervasive parking problem. Some of the “parkers” have been on the job for over six years, and at least one of them, interviewed by El Caribe, even has an assistant. According to the newspaper, this is the only way to park a car safely in the area.

Rafael Herrera Library goes to PUCMM
The university library at the Santo Tomas de Aquino Campus of the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra inaugurated the Don Rafael Herrera Room yesterday. Rafael Herrera was, for three decades, the editor of the Listin Diario and had donated his vast personal library to the university. Over 7,000 volumes make up the collection, in addition to the assorted documents and personal possessions now held in the reading room. Herrera was a brilliant essayist, civic leader and journalist. He learned Latin, English and French, by himself and once said, “There is no such thing as a bad book, where something good cannot be found. Likewise, every book allows us to hope to find within its pages some phrase, at least one phrase, that might increase our knowledge.” 
At the dedication of the Reading Room, Monsignor Agripino Nuñez said that it was “the university’s intention that the ideals held by the self-taught Herrera be available to the young people of the country.” 
Herrera, a voracious reader, was knowledgeable in history, literature and philosophy to such a degree that his editorials were required reading for generations of Dominicans.

Harvard teaching school in the DR
Harvard Medical International will support Universidad Dominicana O & M’s intention to build a medical school and a teaching hospital in the Dominican Republic. O&M president Rafael Jose Abinader and HMI president Robert Crone made the announcement in Santo Domingo last week. O&M is the largest private-owned university in the Dominican Republic with over 35,000 students enrolled in social sciences, business and physical sciences programs. 
Harvard Medical International (HMI) is a self-supporting, non-profit subsidiary of Harvard University that has worked in over 30 countries on 5 continents to create partnerships in health care, medical education and medical research. 
The goal is to create an academic medical center consisting of a premier medical school as well as an affiliated state-of-the-art teaching hospital that would cater to students in the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, and the Americas. 
The plans aim to staff the academic medical center with high-caliber physicians from the Dominican Republic, and from top-ranked medical schools in Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere. HMI will be working closely with O&M to develop the center, drawing on the resources, expertise and experience of Harvard Medical School’s 8,000 faculty members and 17 affiliated health care centers, according to a HMI press release.
The first phase of the collaboration with HMI is to help O & M develop the program plan for the school and hospital and to assist in the execution of a feasibility study.

Hotel Association rejects walkway
Calling the plan “absurd”, The National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (Asonahores) rejected yesterday the plans laid out by the city government of Santo Domingo, which would convert the Malecon (George Washington Avenue) into a Sunday walkway as of January. The Listin Diario interviewed the executive director of ASONAHORES, Paola Dimitri, who, along with Roberto Grisi of the Jaragua and Marleny Hernandez of the Inter-Continental V Centenario, questioned the logic of the proposal. Not all of the hotels have easy access by way of Independencia Avenue, and the most affected businesses, the restaurants, have not been consulted, they say. The Mayor of Santo Domingo, Roberto Salcedo, says that the municipality’s proposals are “flexible”, however, Dimitri suggests that the government might better serve a revival of the area by recovering the social areas of the avenue, along with a renewed effort to improve the gardens in park areas along the Malecon.

Crusader dies in Bonao
Aniana Vargas, a dedicated revolutionary, defender of the ecosystem and leader of the poor, died of leukemia yesterday in Bonao at the age of 72. Vargas was a fervent opponent of Trujillo and the US intervention of 1965. She was a strong defender of the natural resources in her area, and had just been declared “Mother Nature” by the Dominican Senate. The CDE (Dominican Electric Company) named the Yuboa Dam after her and the Ministry of Education named a school for her efforts to teach the rural population the techniques of self-help and appropriate technology. 
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