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Daily News - Friday, 04 May 2007

Metro records to be withheld?
President Leonel Fernandez has congratulated journalist Huchi Lora on his request for Santo Domingo metro records and information while saying that the freedom of information act has its limits when it comes to national security. Fernandez thus upheld metro director Diandino Pena's argument that the requested information could not be revealed for security reasons. President Fernandez said that the country is still learning how to work with this new law. He concurred with Pena that the information would not be released in the same way that the public cannot have access to plans of the New York metro or even take photos at JFK airport.
On Friday, 27 April, the Disputes, Taxation and Administrative Tribunal had ordered the metro office to present journalist Luis Eduardo Lora (Huchi) documents detailing plans and geological studies for the Santo Domingo Metro. Lora had taken OPRET director Diandino Pena and the Presidency to court on 13 February demanding the information. Lora says that his request is basically to determine whether the necessary geological studies had been carried out and if the construction was being managed according to the correct governmental procedures, including Ministry of Public Works certification. Geologist Osiris de Leon has said that the cost of building the metro has increased significantly due to reported improvisations, which he says are the consequence of the lack of adequate studies.

Fernandez says metro will be cheap
President Leonel Fernandez is standing firmly behind the idea that the Santo Domingo metro will cost US$550 million and said that it would be one of the cheapest metros in the world. Fernandez also said that with bonuses contracted by former President Hipolito Mejia for US$1.1 billion, the country would be able to build three metro lines. Fernandez also justified the metro project by saying that Santo Domingo's population is set to grow to more than six million in the next 20 years.

Fernandez defends spending
President Leonel Fernandez has defended the multi-million peso pre-presidential campaign spending by saying that most of the money is provided by the private sector and therefore has nothing to do with the government's austerity plan. He said that when he speaks of austerity he is referring to public spending matters, as opposed to political campaigns. He pointed out that the private sector has paid for his campaign for the PLD presidential candidacy and said that he collected RD$90 million during his first fundraising meeting. The issue of spending millions on campaigns while hospitals are in need of supplies, leading to the deaths of patients, was also brought up. The President responded that this was a government issue and it should be understood as such. He added that campaign spending has to do with the political parties.
The PLD pre-presidential campaigns will officially close at midnight tonight. The PLD primary will be held on Sunday between 9am and 5pm.

Conciliation in the PLD
In his closing event for his campaign for the PLD presidential candidacy, former secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina sent out an apology. "I apologize and apologize for my followers. If in some way I have offended you, I ask to be forgiven and I also forgive you for all the insults I have received in this campaign. I pardon you and forgive you for the pejorative manner in which the re-election campaign started off," said Danilo Medina at the Palacio de los Deportes campaign closure rally. He compared the struggle to what happens in any family, where some brothers are loved more than others, but that "purple blood runs through our veins", a reference to the party color.

Jaime David backs Fernandez
Former Vice President Jaime David Fernandez has joined the long list of PLD members who have been vocal about their support for President Fernandez. The former Vice President called for the immediate reunification of the PLD. President Leonel Fernandez ended his campaign with an event at the Melia Santo Domingo hotel, attended by Jaime David Fernandez, who was his VP during his first presidential term in 1996-2000. Jaime David Fernandez opposed Danilo Medina for the PLD presidential nomination into the 2000 election.

83.4% Leonel, 16.6% Danilo
A poll carried out this week by the Cibao Economic Center shows that the President has 83.4% support of PLD members to win the party's presidential nomination. His rival Danilo Medina has 16.6% of support nationwide. Analysts say that if Fernandez garners the coveted 85%+ vote in the primaries, he will consolidate his status as the indisputable leader of the party and will be in a stronger negotiating position with his former right-hand man, Danilo Medina. Medina's followers are known to have a majority in Congress and in many key government positions.

DR attractive for investments
According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Dominican Republic ranked third in receiving direct foreign investment in Central America and the Caribbean. The ECLAC report indicates that in 2006, the main recipients of foreign investment in Latin America were Mexico (US$18.94 billion), Brazil (US$18.78 billion) and Chile (US$8.05 billion). In Central America and the Caribbean, the top recipient countries were Panama (US$2.56 billion), Costa Rica (US$1.40 billion) and the Dominican Republic (US$1.18 billion).
See www.eclac.org/prensa/noticias/comunicados/5/28485/...

Cocco on prices
Director of the Customs Department, Miguel Cocco, is surprised that the prices of goods haven't decreased after the elimination of tariffs, the elimination of the exchange rate commission, increased transparency in Customs declarations, and increased stability in the exchange rate. Quoted in Listin Diario, Cocco said that there is no justification for prices not falling. He said that after all that has been done there is no reason for prices to continue as high as they are. Cocco said that he hopes that the world market will oblige what he called "monopolies" to reduce prices. Cocco continued by saying that prices should fall in the import market because of the strength of the market. The Customs director added that he believes that the only way to really reduce prices is by creating competition. Importers claim that the Customs Department increased the appraised values of goods, thus increasing the base upon which goods are taxed.

CDEEE gets bulk of money
Listin Diario writes that of the US$400 million designated by the government to cover the deficit in the energy sector, the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) will get the bulk of funding. The CDEEE will receive US$209.1 million, equivalent to 52.2% of the total. According to a report by the CDEEE, the energy sector is currently experiencing a major crisis, though it does point out that the subsidy for the energy sector in 2007 is 27% less than it was in 2006 when the sector received US$350 million. In January the CDEEE had a deficit of US$30.66 million, in February the deficit was US$24.38 million, in March the deficit was US$28.17 million and in April the deficit equaled US$21.4 million. Whether the CDEEE even has a role to play is questionable, since most of its functions passed on to the power distributors with privatization in 1998. Despite this, the number of CDEEE employees has increased.

Improving the power situation
According to Diario Libre the government is working on a plan to spend RD$250 million on a pre-paid energy system for poorer neighborhoods. This system would enable each family to consume the energy they can pay for and through a computerized system clients would be able to see how much energy they have left each time they make a payment. The Demonstrative Efficiency and Savings Project will be conducted through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce's Non-Conventional Energy Department in cooperation with the European Union. Salvador Rivas of the energy department said that a public bidding process would be launched in the next days in order to select the company that will handle the project.

Renewable energy
Once the renewable energy act goes into effect by executive decree, investors will be able to begin construction on energy generation projects with the capacity of producing 503MW of energy. According to the Energy Superintendence 409.5MW will be wind powered, 50MW will be biomass produced and 43.5MW will be diesel motors. Estimates from the energy sector place the amount invested into renewable energies at US$500 million. Presidential environmental adviser Paino Abreu Collado says that the new law will bring new investments to the country and said that Congress had made a wise decision by passing the bill. He continued by saying that the bill will allow for the diversification of energy in the country.

Haitian and Dominican officials meet
Dominican and Haitian officials are holding a meeting at Kaliko Beach near the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. During the meeting officials will discuss issues concerning both countries. Diario Libre writes that 150 participants are attending the conference, which was organized by the forum for Haitian-Dominican Dialogue and is the second of its kind. The first conference was held in the DR last year.

RD$450 million for Higuey jail
At a ceremony yesterday the government launched the construction of a new jail in Higuey with an initial cost of RD$450 million. The jail will have the capacity to house 600 inmates. Ten percent of the initial cost of the project, RD$45 million, has been given to the three companies contracted to build the jail. Hoy newspaper writes that the authorities hope to have the jail ready for inauguration in December.

DDP in Spain
A youth gang, Dominicans Don't Play (DDP), has become one of the more prominent gangs in Madrid. Diario Libre writes that it is now said to be bigger than the Latin Kings and the Netas. Police work has reduced the amount of gangs and gang members, but DDP has managed to become the strongest of them all with 130 known members. Although there are 280 registered gang members, police in the Spanish capital say that there could be as many as 1,300 active members. DDP is a transplanted organization with its roots in the urban neighborhoods of New York City.

Sammy and Manny set marks
Sammy Sosa, who is five homeruns short of 600, batted in his 1,596th career RBI, passing Hall of Famers George Brett and Mike Schmidt for 26th all time.
Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, coming out of the worst April performance of his 14-year baseball career, belted two homeruns yesterday to give the Red Sox an 8-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The homeruns tied Ramirez with Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Stan Musial for 26th all time with 475 total career homeruns.
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