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Daily News - Tuesday, 08 April 2008

Fernandez back after tour
President Leonel Fernandez was back in the DR last night after finishing his re-election campaign tour of various US cities. Fernandez, accompanied by his wife Margarita Cedeno, arrived at the San Isidro Air Force Base at 8:05 pm to full military honors and was greeted by the Minster of the Armed Forces and the Minister of the Air Force, as well as other government officials. Fernandez then made his way to the Presidential Palace. During his US tour Fernandez made stops in Boston, New Jersey, Long Island and New York. Fernandez received the support of veteran (45 years) PRD member Johnny Ventura and spoke about the importance of the Santo Domingo Metro, calling it the most transcendental public works project of the century.

IDB funds tax office
The Tax Department (DGII) will receive financing worth US$10.5 million from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) for an institutional strengthening program. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa and IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno signed the agreement.

53%, 37%, 6% in poll
President Leonel Fernandez has widened his lead, according to the most recent Greenberg-Diario Libre poll. The poll found that 53% of voters would vote for the President, four points up from last month's poll. This would give Fernandez enough of the vote to win in a first round, where 50%+1 of the vote is required. A total of 37% said they would vote for leading opposition contender, Miguel Vargas of the PRD. A further 6% said they would vote for Amable Aristy Castro, who has campaigned as the "candidate of the poor" for the PRSC. Pedro de Jesus Candelier showed up with 1% of the vote, but Eduardo Estrella of the PRD and PRSC dissident organizations, and Guillermo Moreno, the two candidates who have made the strongest stand against corruption, did not get any votes. Neither did Trajano Santana of the PRI, a spin-off from the PRD founded several years ago. Diario Libre points out that Fernandez leads Vargas by 16 points, up from nine in the previous poll.

Indetur back to commission
Economy and Planning Minister Temistocles Montas has urged the Chamber of Deputies to re-examine the proposal for the creation of the National Institute for Development of Tourism (Indetur). Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez and former President Hipolito Mejia have actively campaigned for its approval as sent from the Presidency. Montas told Diario Libre that the bill would create a new body in conflict with attributions of the Ministry of Tourism itself and several other government ministries. He recommended that if the idea is to reform the institutions in the tourism sector, this should start with bringing the legal framework of the Ministry of Tourism up to date. "In that order, and in line with the general reform of the state, the strengthening of institutions, before creating parallel organizations with underhand duties, and which often have more weight than the lead institution," he explains in a letter sent to the Chamber of Deputies. He cautions that there would be a duplication of duties with the Ministry of Tourism and other central government bodies, such as municipalities, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Environment, in regards to territorial planning.
Furthermore, he warned that the body would not be subject to government control organizations, only to its own controls. "That is an open violation of the Law of the Controller of the Republic and the Chamber of Accounts, both organizations that are responsible for the controlling of government departments," said Montas.
Jose Tomas Perez, director of the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute, also opposed the Indetur as drafted. He complained that Indetur would take over the US$1 dollar per passenger departure and entry charge that the IDAC receives, money that Perez says is crucial to the development of the department's plans and projects.
The special commission of deputies that is studying the bill, and was expected to approve it this week, now announced it would take another 30 days to continue their discussions. Members of the commission are Victor Terrero, Luis Jose Gonzalez Sanchez, Agnes Berenice Contreras, Miguel Vasquez and Lethi Vasquez.
The bill has much support in Congress because Jimenez has campaigned for it, indicating that it will bring resources for development to areas where tourism has not yet caught on.

Food prices rising
Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez says that the high prices of some food products are unjustified considering that some of those foods are abundant in the DR and are of good quality. He said that eggs, chicken, rice, potatoes, onions and meats are produced here in the DR and there is no reason for their prices to go up. Jimenez announced that four million pounds of chicken would enter the market below market prices in order to stop speculation and lower chicken prices.

Energy sucks money
During the first four months of the year the energy subsidy sucked US$105.8 million, which is US$15.8 million more than was assigned during the same period in 2006 and 2007. Listin Diario writes that this demonstrates the effect the "freezing" of the energy bill has had during the last two months, and during the last four in particular. As a result of this decision by the Executive Branch, the Energy Superintendence has maintained the rate that is applied by the energy distributors to consumers, so in effect the Superintendence has instead focused on calculating the amount of the monthly subsidy. Accordingly, the estimated subsidy for the entire year should equal US$423.2 million. Energy Superintendent Francisco Mendez said that the government is looking for ways to lower the energy subsidy.

What's with Sun Land?
It's been months since government officials have commented on the Sun Land case controversy, while citizens continue to lobby the Supreme Court for a verdict in the US$130 million loan scandal. Yesterday, social activist groups, alongside other organizations like the Dominican Lawyers Association (CARD) and the Alternative Social Forum (FSA) took up the baton to press for answers from the government. Up for debate is the use that the government gave the costly foreign loan that irregularly bypassed Congressional approval. The protest began at the corner of Alma Mater and Correa y Cidron streets and made its way towards the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) building. Union leader Victor Geronimo said that if the SCJ doesn't respond to their demands, the social groups would organize more protests.

UASD suspends classes
The UASD University has suspended classes for the next three days after rioting broke out around the campus and because the Social Alternative Forum plans a 24-hour strike beginning on Wednesday. Listin Diario writes that student groups started altercations with National Police officers yesterday as a "warm up" for tomorrow's strike. The Fenatrado bus union and the Private Business Council (CONEP) as well as other groups have come out against the 24-hour strike planned by the Forum. UASD officials said they would take action against the protest organizers. El Caribe reports that the rioters threw rocks and other objects at vehicles in the area around the UASD, as well as burning tires and other materials. The altercations began early in the morning and lasted until 4pm.

FSA calls for strike
The Alternative Social Forum (FSA) has called for a 24-hour national strike beginning at 6am on Wednesday. The FSA is calling the strike to put pressure on the government into giving workers a 40% wage increase, reductions in food, medicine and energy prices, as well as a modification of fuel legislation. The FSA is also calling for large-scale agrarian reform.
Fidel Santana, speaking on behalf of the FSA strike committee, said that only President Leonel Fernandez could stop the strike.
Metropolitan Transport Authority (OMSA) director Ignacio Ditren reassured public transport passengers that their services would not be interrupted and the FENATRADO transport union has come out against the FSA's call for a strike, saying that their services would run normally tomorrow.
The Private Business Council (CONEP) and the Santiago Business and Industrialists Association (ACIS) have also rejected the need for the strike. CONEP president Lisandro Macarulla said that while he respected the FSA's right to fight for a cause they think is right, a strike should only take place when all other options or negotiations have been exhausted, which is not the case.

JCE removes government ads
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) is ordering the removal of eight TV advertisements from Dominican airwaves on the grounds that they could cause "unnecessary confusion during the electoral process." Listin Diario writes that the ads were sponsored by public ministries and highlighted the work of President Leonel Fernandez, who is running for a second consecutive term in office. In all, 70 ads were studied but only these eight were deemed to be in conflict of interest.

Taiwan looking for more cooperation
Taiwanese Ambassador to the DR Isaac Tsai says that his main objective as a diplomat is to present Dominicans with the modern technologies that Taiwan has available in order to help in the development of the agricultural sector and thus increase its level of production. The goal is also to increase the relationships with small and medium-sized enterprises (PYMES) in order to establish new strategic production alliances. Tsai says that another aim is to increase the flow of Taiwanese tourists to the DR. Hoy writes that the estimated amount of Taiwanese investment in the DR could surpass US$100 million and generate 2,300 new jobs.

Pioneer cardiologist dies
Doctor Angel Chan Aquino, who performed the country's first open heart surgery, has died. He was 85. Chan had been suffering from pancreatic cancer for the last nine months. Chan was a practicing physician for 58 years and carried out the country's first open heart operation in 1974. Chan began practicing medicine in 1949 and his first office was located where the Corazones Unidos hospital stands today. Later in life Aquino founded the Instituto del Corazon, which helps treat children with heart ailments and once recorded the song "Noche de Playa" in order to help raise funds for children.

The dead ain't cheap
So you thought that dead people didn't need money? Well, you were wrong. According to Hoy, funeral costs have increased for both families and for the Santo Domingo municipality (ADN). This has forced the ADN to assign RD$74 million to public service costs, of which 60% will be spent on maintenance for Santo Domingo's cemeteries. Hoy writes that the cost is around RD$1 million per month for maintenance alone. A family with limited resources needs to come up with at least RD$20,000 in funeral costs, but if they don't have the money the ADN provides them with the funds. The ADN runs two funeral homes and in the last two years has provided help for 560 poor families, including the funeral service and the burial plot.

Junot Diaz wins Pulitzer
Dominican-born author Junot Diaz has won yet another prize for his magnificent novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." Yesterday it was announced that Diaz had won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The award is accompanied by a US$10,000 prize. Diaz has said that it took him 11 years to write the book. The writer, who moved to the US when he was just six years old, told the NY Times "in some ways I think that this book waited for me to become a better person before it wrote itself".
In March, Diaz was awarded the US National Book Critic Circle Award for Fiction. "Oscar Wao" tells the tragic story of a young Dominican-American man's search for love. The story switches back and forth between urban slang, Dominicanisms and references to Dominican historical events, while recounting Oscar Wao's life story. According to the NY Daily News, up till Monday's announcement, the only US Latino writer to ever receive the Pulitzer Prize for literature was Oscar Hijuelos, for "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," published in 1989. With this prize, Diaz now joins the ranks of Pulitzer-winning authors like Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway.

Best in Japan volleyball
Dominican national team players, center Erika Araki and attacker Bethania de la Cruz have led their team, Toray Arrows, to victory in the Japanese Women's Premier Volleyball Tournament. Araki was named most valuable player of the league. Likewise, Bethania de la Cruz led the average scores for all players in the league. The Dominican women's volleyball team has yet to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
De la Cruz and Araki will now return to the DR to train for the Women's Volleyball Qualifying Tournament for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the qualification tournament that will be held 17-25 May to determine the final four spots for the Olympics. The round-robin tournament will double up as the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament and so the best three teams plus the best Asian team will then win the right to play in Beijing. Hosts Japan will be joined by Thailand, Korea, Kazakhstan (best-ranked teams at the Asian Continental Championship), Serbia, Poland (best world-ranked teams from CEV), and the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (best world-ranked teams from NORCECA).

Tuesday sales!
Plaza Lama supermarket is advertising red onions for RD$9.95lb, corn for RD$10.95 the cob, potatoes for RD$13.95lb, salad tomatoes for RD$7.95lb, green bananas for RD$2.95ea, carrots for RD$6.50ea, red peppers for RD$17.95lb, papayas for RD$9.95lb, chicken thighs for RD$26.95lb.
La Cadena supermarket is advertising chicken for RD$29.95lb, Goya white beans for RD$14.95lb, Pan de agua for RD$3ea, Victorina sweet corn for RD$19.95/15oz can, Linda guandules for RD$26.95/15 oz can.
Bravo supermarket, for its cardholders, has 30% off fruits and vegetables and flowers.
Jumbo supermarket is advertising potatoes for RD$11.95lb, tomatoes for RD$6.95lb, watermelon for RD$5.95lb, red onions for RD$9.95lb, cantaloupe for RD$18.95ea, broccoli for RD$11.95lb, plums for RD$59.95lb, green plantains for RD$7.95ea, and 25% off its blowers and irons.
Vitros, that sells tableware and cooking items, has a sale on glassware, plates and cooking utensils. They are located at Roberto Pastoriza 409.
La Sirena is advertising Macaroni & Cheese for RD$14.95/7.25oz box, Tuna Brunswick for RD$17.95/170g can, Soy Milk Vitasoy for RD$49.95/32oz.
Planeta Fashion has major discounts in its clothing stores all month. Naco, Piantini, Av. Venezuela stores.
Batavia furniture store at Rafael Augusto Sanchez No. 37 in Piantini, is advertising 20-60% off on select items.
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