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Daily News - Monday, 14 April 2008

1000 jobs at Metro
The Santo Domingo Metro will provide at least a thousand jobs according to Leonel Carrasco, the assistant manager of the Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET). Carrasco told Diario Libre reporters that the Metro will operate 17 hours a day in two work shifts. Each station will be staffed by at least 16 people working in maintenance and service, and each worker will have a replacement. With sixteen stations going into service some time during the second half of the year, this means a total of 1,024 new jobs at this level. This figure does not take into consideration all the jobs that will be created in the operational and management areas, which are yet to be announced.
The OPRET office has announced a new series of tests for the Santo Domingo Metro mainline. However, according to sources close to the scene, the system will not open for business until after the 16 May elections. An engineer who is working on the elevated portion of the railway system told Listin Diario reporters that government officials and employees have been invited to the trials. The same source also confirmed that many details still needed to be fixed before the system could enter into service. Carrasco meanwhile denied rumors that the subway system would be used to transport people attending the Book Fair this month.

Presses roll on May ballots
The presses began to roll as delegates from all the political parties watched the first run of the ballots for the May presidential elections come off the printer's table. The total press run is said to be 7,200,000 ballots. According to Roberto Rosario, the magistrate responsible for the administrative aspects of the election, the ballots should be ready by Wednesday, but the administrator of Editora Corripio printers told Hoy reporters that it was possible that the press run could be finished before then. The contract was granted after open bidding that was held on 14 March.

Hamilton-El Dia: Fernandez 48%
If the elections were held today, President Leonel Fernandez would fall short of the 50%+1 vote needed to win in a first round, according to the latest Hamilton-El Dia poll conducted in March. A total 48% of voters would favor Fernandez (PLD), 31% would vote for Miguel Vargas (PRD) and 19% would vote for Amable Aristy (PRSC), 19%. One per cent said they would vote for Eduardo Estrella of the Fourth Option, a PRSC and PRD dissident group. The poll showed Fernandez as strongest in Santiago, with 56%. Vargas has his strongest backing in northern and southern provinces with 33%, and Aristy is strongest in the east with 24%.
The same poll showed that Fernandez would win in a second round, with 51% of the vote, while Miguel Vargas would receive 34%.
Hamilton polled 1,200 eligible voters.

Jewish leaders in Sosua
A delegation of 40 Dominican and Jewish leaders from the US is visiting the Dominican Republic this week. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) host the delegation. The group arrived in Sosua yesterday for a three-day visit, which will include meetings with Jewish leaders and Dominican government officials, with the mission of educating and raising awareness of Jewish migration in the DR.
In 1938, 100,000 Jewish refugees were offered the opportunity to settle in the Dominican Republic to escape persecution in Nazi Europe. Just under 1,000 came and settled in Sosua.
The 40-member delegation includes well known Dominican leaders including Victor Capellan, (president of the DANR), Cid Wilson (former president of the DANR), Moises Perez (president of Alianza Dominicana), Rhode Island Senator Juan Pichardo, Julio Guridy (Allentown, PA Councilman), Alejandra Castillo (DANR) and Lilliam Perez (Office of Sen. Eric Schneiderman). The members of the American Jewish Committee are led by Dina Siegel Vann, National Director of the AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute in Washington, DC and Diane Steinman, Executive Director of the New York chapter of the AJC. The delegation will meet with Jewish leaders in Sosua before traveling to Santo Domingo where they will be received by US and Israeli diplomats, and high-ranking Dominican officials. The visit is considered historic because of the level of support from key national organizations as well as government and civic leaders in the US and the Dominican Republic. This year has seen a renewed interest in preserving the history of Jewish people in the DR. Last February the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City held "The Sosua Exhibit" with the help of NY State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who is Jewish and represents the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, a predominantly Dominican neighborhood. Additionally, several books and news magazines documenting Jewish history in Sosua were published this year.

Food dependency is a worry
The director of the United Nations World Food Program for the Dominican Republic, economist Pavel Isa Contreras, is warning about the Dominican Republic's increasing dependency on imported foods. He cited the fact that in 1980 food imports constituted just 5% of total consumption. However, in 2003, the percentage of imported foods went up to 17%, and "is possibly higher today." Isa Contreras made his comments during a radio interview with journalists Huchi Lora and Nuria Piera broadcast on CDN Radio, part of the El Caribe network. According to the economist, the problem is partly due to the fact that the government has concentrated its efforts in the service sector and has not paid enough attention to the agricultural sector. "The idea is.... to place national production in a competitive position", stated Isa Contreras.

A week of protests
This week, teachers, taxi drivers and doctors will take to the streets in protest. Despite being just 32 days short of the 16 May elections, these groups are insisting that their protests are not politically motivated, but have been provoked by the urgency of each respective set of issues. Conatra and CNTU transport union members say that they plan to hold protests to push for higher fares due to the increasing cost of fuel. The Dominican Teachers Association says that it will march to call for an increased budget for the Education Ministry on Wednesday. The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) will hold a work stoppage, except for emergency care, on Thursday as part of their campaign to obtain higher salaries and the elimination of the "recovery quota". This quota is the fee that public hospitals charge for operations. It is usually a small percentage of the real costs.

IAD director dies in crash
One of the PLD's leading members and the head of the Agrarian Reform Institute, Quilvio Cabrera, has been killed in an accident on the new highway to Samana. His driver and wife were also injured in the crash. Cabrera, a member of the PLD Central Committee, was a Presidential advisor on agriculture before being appointed to his present post. A founding member of the PLD, he held the same post during the first Fernandez administration. Cabrera was highly as an honest government official by business groups. According to newspaper reports, the vehicle struck a cow.
El Caribe reports that 1,400 people died in traffic accidents last year, most involving motorcycles.

Haitian violence disrupts market days
Even though last week's Dajabon border market days went ahead without incident, fewer people were in attendance. According to Diario Libre, the number of Haitian traders and buyers was considerably reduced due to fears of disturbances in their own communities provoked by the higher prices for basic foodstuffs. Many also cited the lack of security and fear of being robbed of the new purchases as deterrents for crossing the border. The Haitian town of Ouanaminthe (Juana Mendez) was the scene of violent protests last week. However, the newspaper also reported that most traders at Friday's market had sold out by the end of the day due to the high demand for products from locals.

Armed Forces has evac plan in place
Faced with rising tensions in Haiti, the Dominican Armed Forces has tested its plans for the evacuation of personnel through the frontier. Working together with United Nations peacekeeping troops in Haiti, the Dominican Specialized Frontier Security Corps (Cesfront) went through the protocols for evacuating international personnel and Haitian nationals in case the violence reaches crisis levels. The plans involve coordination between UN troops in Haiti who will escort evacuees to the frontier where they will be met by Cesfront troops and taken to Santo Domingo by helicopters and ground transport. Haitian nationals will be received, classified and checked by units from Immigration, the Public Health Ministry and the International Red Cross. Even members of the UN troops will have to go through the immigration process. El Nuevo Diario followed the practice run up close, and reported on the use of counter-terrorism troops in the operation, which began in the southwestern Dominican border town of Jimani.
The crisis in neighboring Haiti has led the Haitian Senate to give a vote of censure to the Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, forcing a reshuffling of President Rene Preval's cabinet. The violence, fired by high food prices and shortages, has shaken the country, and forced the Dominican government to take precautions along the frontier. Preval has ordered a lower price for rice, and announced that he would seek a "consensus" nominee for Prime Minister. The violence in Haiti has led the United States to order its citizens to evacuate the country, and at least one United Nations soldier was killed in the rioting.

Old rocks, new tourism
Scientists working in the Central Mountains near Jarabacoa have discovered rocks dating back 160 or 170 million years, containing chromium, silver and platinum. The rocks also come from the Pacific Ocean. As a result, according to Diario Libre, a new type of tourism, scientific tourism, could develop as a result. The project that found the rocks was part of an initiative by the Ministry of Science and Education from Spain, and included Javier Escuder-Viruete from Spain and Cristina Thomen from the Dominican Republic Mining Board, and Eusebio Lopera Caballero, the chief researcher for the Spanish ministry and the leader of the Sysmin project for the DR. The project will provide a geological map of the Dominican Republic by 2010. The rocks found in Jarabacoa are similar to rocks found in Costa Rica and California. According to the researchers, the country "is a natural laboratory for the study of sedimentary processes and rock formation". This, according to the scientists, could attract a new type of tourist to the island.

Huge increases in air fares
Air fares from the Dominican Republic have increased by as much as 74% in just a few weeks as the result of increasing oil prices and the high taxes levied by the Dominican government on travel. The high price of air fares is in marked contrast to the "low season" for tourism when 'special' air fares are the custom. This information was provided by Eddison Urena, vice-president of the Dominican Association of Travel Agents (Adavi) and Arturo Villanueva, the vice-president of the Dominican Hotels and Restaurants Association (Asonahores). Adding to the situation, American Airlines has cancelled one of its three daily flights to Puerto Rico from Santo Domingo. With the cost of a ticket to New York reaching RD$17,991, Arturo Villanueva is questioning the government's policy of taxing everything related to air travel. Travel to Europe has increased in price from RD$21,000 to RD$35,000 over the past few weeks.

DR attends Lakeland Air Show
The Dominican delegation to the Lakeland Air Convention in Lakeland, Florida was pleased to announce the new government policies relating to fees for private small aircraft landing in the Dominican Republic. The news was well received, especially when the Santiago Airport Corporation announced that there would be no landing or parking fees for light aircraft. Jim Parker, a small plane tourism promoter, announced plans for the first flights to Santiago in the near future. The delegation distributed 10,000 brochures describing the new policies that will facilitate this variety of tourism, which brings families and small groups to the Caribbean.

El Caribe: 60th Anniversary
El Caribe newspaper is holding a birthday party with 60 candles today. Stanley Ross founded the paper in Santo Domingo on 14 April 1948. A series of commemorative activities is planned, starting with a mass led by Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez at the Santo Domingo cathedral. A special supplement will appear in today's paper, and a big party at the Hotel Embajador is taking place tonight.

Fugitives from justice
The courts in Santo Domingo and the National District have declared that 861 people are fugitives from justice, according to the latest reports. Some of the individuals listed are considered "dangerous". During 2007, a total of 697 people were declared fugitives by the seven courts of First Instance or the penal courts that operate in the Palace of Justice in Ciudad Nueva. The District Attorney's office provided the statistics. According to Article 100 of the Penal Code, the Justice Department is allowed to publish the names of those declared to be fugitives, many of whom are accused of involvement in the drug trade. District Attorney Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero complained that too many judges were being too lenient with accused criminals, granting them bail when there were clear indications of flight risk or recidivism.

Monday sales
Cucina is advertising 40% off its entire cooking inventory at their Roberto Pastoriza 321 store.
La Isla is advertising major clearance sales starting tomorrow.
Mueblex furniture store, Av. San Vicente de Paul in front of Bravo, is advertising 40-70% off.
Telas Etcetera has 50% off upholstery materials at their Max Henriquez Urena 61 store.
Plaza Lama is advertising a Mabe 30 inch stove for RD$18,995, a Frigidaire 30 inch stove for RD$12,895, a Frigidaire 20 inch stove for RD$8,395 and a Mabe 20 inch stove for RD$5,995, a 18 foot Frigidaire refrigerator for RD$29,895, a General Electric 10 foot refrigerator for RD$11,695.
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