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Daily News - Thursday, 04 May 2006

OAS mission installed
The Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observers mission has already been installed in the DR by invitation of the Dominican government, to monitor the 16 May 16 municipal and congressional election. The mission's purpose is to observe the electoral process in the phase prior to the elections until the programming of the results and verification of the behavior of electoral protagonists within the framework of the country's Constitution and the electoral law, as reported in Listin Diario. The commission is headed by Dr. Ruben M. Perina and is composed of 50 experienced observers from 16 member states, who will cover the greatest number possible of provinces and electoral stations.

Minister meets with OAS Secretary Gen
Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Insulza has said that he is optimistic about the DR's May 16 midterm elections and guaranteed the presence of an OAS mission during the elections. According to a report in Diario Libre, Isulza spoke to Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso yesterday in Washington. Insulza trusts that the presence of the OAS mission in the DR will play the role expected by several sectors of Dominican society. Morales traveled to Washington to take part in a discussion about the migratory reform being debated by the US Congress.

Police to protect elections
More than 2,000 police officers will work with armed forces personnel to guarantee security during the 16 May elections. According to El Caribe, Police Chief Major General Bernardo Sanatana Paez said that the agents have already been selected and he announced that there would be a meeting next Friday at Police Headquarters with regional directors and commanders, to refine details of operations during election day. He said it is normal for police and the armed forced to be involved in these processes to avoid incidents that could disrupt order during the elections.

Bahia de las Aguilas ownership impasse
In response to lawyers claims on private ownership of Bahia de las Aguilas lands, Environment Minister Max Puig stated that notwithstanding the legal confrontation involving the land at Bahia de las Aguilas, it is owned by the Dominican state, as reported in Hoy newspaper. He says that the lands became the state property when they were declared part of a protected area. He understands that the original owners can go to court to demand payment for their land but not to have it returned. The Supreme Court of Justice has pending decisions on several recourses for Bahia de las Aguilas property that was transferred to private owners through irregular titles issued by the Dominican Agrarian Institute.
Puig explained: "Once the government declares that a land area is a protected area, that land practically is removed from the market. That is, it cannot be purchased or sold because it is part of the property of the nation, independent of the fact that the former owners have not been compensated."
Lawyers representing people holding property deeds to land in the Bahia de las Aguilas area have warned that the seafront land of the tourist area cannot by used by the government to allow foreign investors to develop projects there, because they are private property. They are also warning the French investors against trying to build hotel complexes on this land as there are legally issued property titles and whoever builds on the land risks being sued in court. They have also warned the land cannot be declared "of public interest" to later transfer it to foreign investors in the tourist field. This position was presented by Jottin Cury, Jr., the lawyer for Mantenimientos y Servicios Fernandez S.A. and DICSA, together with Mario Read Vittini, representing Aguilas Dominico-Internacional, Alquimia del Este and Meadowland Dominicana. According to Cury, the government does own land in the area but not on the shorefront. He doubts that any investor - national or foreign - would invest in a tourist area until the legal problem is resolved.

Recruiting votes in Santo Domingo?
Meanwhile, sociologist Ramon Tejada Holguin writes in today's El Caribe that the transfer of 3,454 people's voting stations, or one out of every five voters currently registered in Pedernales province, leads to speculation that this could be related to the Bahia de las Aguilas tourism development. "One could think that that movement has to do with the objective of controlling the mayor, deputy and senator positions to influence the tourism development of the Bahia de las Aguilas area, located in Pedernales. A hypothesis that causes concern." He says that Pedernales has two municipalities where people vote: Oviedo that in the 2004 election had 7,760 registered voters and where the PRD won with 2,275 votes, and the PRSC was second with 1,665 votes. In the present voting list, those that have been relocated to vote in Oviedo now number 1,773, or more than the votes that the party that came in second obtained in the 2004 municipal election.
Tejada goes on to explain that 74.1% of the voters that have been relocated to Oviedo, or 1,314 voted in the National District and Santo Domingo in the past election. He said there is no sense in this because it is unlikely that there would have been such a high flow of people from affluent areas to a depressed area.
Tejada says that the situation is similar for Pedernales. The difference between the PRD, that won the municipal election and the PRSC, which came in second, was of 610 voters, but the voters that have been displaced add up to 1,681. Again, 60.4% of those who have been relocated are from Santo Domingo and the National District, or 1,015 voters.
He explains that the difference in the Congressionals is even greater. The difference between the PRD in first place and the PRSC in second place was 2,438 voters, and now those who come from a province other than Pedernales are 3,454. The candidate who obtained second place in 2004 received 1,896 votes, or around half of those that have been relocated.
Tejada says that Participacion Ciudadana volunteers have visited around 30 households in each municipality, or 60 in total, where supposedly those who have relocated are now living, and did not find those voters. Some of the addresses were non-residential, others were vacant lots, and at other addresses, the voter was not known.
He urges that the problem of the voters who have been relocated to Pedernales be investigated and measures taken to take the lawbreakers to justice. "This is not a matter to be left without penalty," he writes. "Is the desire to engage in the exploitation of Bahia de las Aguilas and the tourism development potential of the province behind this?" he wonders.

PC makes demands to JCE
Yesterday, civic movement Participacion Ciudadana asked the Central Eletoral Board (JCE) to annul the changes that affect 3,496 people who reside in the National District and Santo Domingo Province and who were transferred to electoral stations in Pedernales and Oviedo without consultation. According to a report in Listin Diario, they are also requesting a complete list of candidates who have resigned their nominations and the documentation that supports these resignations. Also requested is an additional roster of electors that would allow those affected with transfers to vote in the stations where they were originally registered. The petitions were made in written communications sent to JCE President Luis Arias on the 2nd and 3rd of May by PC General Coordinator Paulo Herrera Maluf.

Ambassador: DR has right to deport
Haitian Ambassador to the DR, Fritz Cineas, stated that all countries have the right to deport but asked that deportations be carried out with dignity. The diplomat was interviewed during the First International Conference for the Future of Relations between the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti. He said he is not opposed to deportation of Haitians by the DR, as reported in Diario Libre.

Argentina and DR review cooperation
The governments of the Dominican Republic and Argentina began a series of reviews of the aid programs provided by the Argentine Fund of Horizontal Cooperation. Officials from both governments met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of an initiative by Argentina, which is offering more aid to the DR.

Buying is up
Chief executives of Grupo Ramos, better known for their La Sirena and Pola stores, on occasion of celebrating their 40th year in business, said that while there is not a boom in shopping, consumption has bounced back in the DR. In an interview with El Caribe, Roman Ramos, president of the group, Mercedes Ramos, vice president and Luis Fernandez described as "moderate" the increase in consumption explaining that people are shopping for necessary items not so for luxury items. Roman Ramos said this is evidenced with the increase in sales around pay day times. Ramos said that they are optimistic about the continued growth of the country, and thus their recent major investment to purchase the five-store Ole supermarket chain. Maria Ramos explained that the secret of their success is that they pass on volume buying savings to their shoppers.

Cid Wilson ranked No. 1 by Forbes
The president of the Dominican American Round Table and member of Dominicans on Wall Street, Cid Wilson has been honored with a No. 1 ranking by Forbes Magazine in their Best Wall Street Analysts of 2005 list. Wilson was ranked No. 1 in the country in terms of estimating company earnings in the Specialty Retailing Analyst category. This is a first for a Dominican on Wall Street.
See http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/26/Name_7.html

DR does better on Failed States list
The Dominican Republic has moved down the Failed States Index in the 2006 version that was recently released. Last year the DR had ranked 19th in the world. This year, it moved down to 48th place. The list is compiled from tens of thousands of articles from global and regional sources that were collected from May to December 2005
See http://www.fundforpeace.org/programs/fsi/fsindex2006.php?column=rank&#

Fuel demand down
During the first three months of this year, general demand for fuel dropped by 11.7%, reportedly as a result of lower fuel consumption for electricity generation, whereas in the case of gasoline, LPG, and diesel, the level of demand remained stable. According to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, there has been a reduction in the consumption of regular gasoline (-9.5%), an almost equal increase in the demand for propane gas (9.1%), which explains the trend to change motor vehicle technology from the latter to the former type of fuel. Diario Libre reports that there were increases in the consumption of premium gasoline and premium diesel (9.8% and 9.2% respectively), whereas regular diesel dropped by 8% between January and March 2006. The decrease in fuel consumption for power generation was 63.3%. During the first quarter of 2005 consumption was 48.7 million gallons whereas this year it was only 17.9 million gallons.

Dominican casualty in Iraq
A US soldier of Dominican origin, Jose Gomez, 23, was killed by a bomb in Iraq last Friday, an event that has caused sadness in Queens where the young man lived since his birth. Gomez enlisted in the US Army in 2003. According to Diario Libre, he and another soldier died when the vehicle they were traveling in was destroyed by a bomb, as reported by the US Department of Defense.

Promoting slavery-watching trips to the DR
For 23 years, a retired Catholic religion teacher from Mississauga, Ontario has dedicated herself to taking young people and adults to Third World countries to expose Canadians to poverty afflicting people elsewhere in the world. The trips first were to Haiti, but in recent years she has moved on to take her students to watch the hardship in the rural bateyes (cane cutter settlements) where the most destitute of Haitian immigrants work in the Dominican Republic.
Sugar cane cutting jobs are considerably diminishing as more and more harvesting is being mechanized, especially in the east coast. Nevertheless, Petrone circulates information that claims there are 750,000 cane cutters in the DR, earning Canadian $1.20 a day, cutting for 12-16 hours a day, and working six and often seven days a week.
Stella Petrone stresses the low wages that cutters are paid and the long working hours for those still doing the physical work. "You're looking at modern-day slavery, that's what it is," says Petrone. "They live on the cane fields, including the children. We spend most of the time with the children." Inquiries to Petrone's e-mail yielded a reply with information about anti-slavery sites, linking the Dominican Republic to slavery practices, and pleas for spreading the word on the hardships that Haitians experience in the DR.
"If you can, inform others about the trips to the DR to spend a week with the Haitian (Dominicans don't cut cane) slaves (forced labour) in the Dominican Republic," she responded to an inquiry about the trip. As part of the trip, participants organize a summer camp-style program with toys, games, and arts and crafts activities for the children.
Trips this year are scheduled for the first and second weeks of July, 23-30 August and the third week of December. Visitors pay US$25 per day for lodging, and share guide and transportation costs. As part of the visit, participants are recommended to report back to the Canadian media to give an audio report from the cane fields. Accommodation for the participants is in a residential teachers' college near the batey they will be visiting.

Dominican music in FIFA World Cup
A Dominican band has just had a major music break. Masrhon was chosen to be part of the soundtrack for the World Soccer Cup Germany 2006 and be part of the official videogame of the championship. They credit the band's representative Pedro Guzman for their achievement.
The group is made up by: Alyosha M, producer, vocals; Jay Martinez, producer, vocals; Adolfo Guillen, vocals, Cyrille Daudel, vocals; C.J. Baez, guitars, LuiGu Arambilet, bass, Alfredo Ricart, drums, and Jose Brea, live sampling and keyboards.
Their track Sobremesa was chosen. Sobremesa (After Eating) is part of the 9-song CD Mucha Nada (Lots of Nothing), a Sony Music Publishing release. The CD is a mix of styles - jazz, rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Moncion Alfonso, of the PR agency Relaciones Publicas Impulso, explained that the lyrics present the way Dominicans live.
The FIFA World Cup 2006 videogame will be available for Playstation 2, Game Cube, DS and GBA of Nintendo; Xbox of Microsoft, and PCs and cell phones.
Others in the soundtrack are Depeche Mode, Fisherspooner and Sergio Mendes.
See http://www.myspace.com/masrhon
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