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Daily News - Thursday, 08 May 2008

Fernandez leads polls
A Clave Noxa-Cies poll shows President Leonel Fernandez of the PLD winning the 16 May election with 54% of the vote. Miguel Vargas of the PRD would come in second with 36% and Amable Aristy of the PRSC would be third with 9%. An earlier poll published by this company on 26 March-3 April showed Fernandez with 54%, Vargas at 30% and Aristy at 8%. A total of 1,600 eligible voters were polled.
Meanwhile, a Penn & Shoen poll published in Hoy newspaper shows Fernandez winning with 56% of the vote, Vargas obtaining 37% and Aristy receiving 5%. This poll was carried out 21-25 April. Fernandez has been gaining in Penn & Shoen polls. In a previous March poll he received 56%. A total of 1,016 people eligible to vote were polled.
The polls have a 3% margin of error.

Scanners will be tested Sunday
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said that all the scanners that will be used to transmit Election Day results to the JCE headquarters electronically will have arrived in the country by Sunday and that a general test of the scanners will be carried out that same day. A total of 740 scanners will be used to transmit results from the voting stations nationwide on Election Day. The system is being installed to speed up the vote count.

Politics very costly in DR
Guatemalan Manfredo Marroquin, international elections expert and coordinator of Transparency International, says that Dominicans spend an exaggerated amount on their elections. He said that Dominican parties receive the most public funding for their activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. He estimated that the parties receive US$5 per vote, compared to US$2 in Central America. "That is an immense amount that no other country has. It is a lot for not being accountable and for not making a quality investment. It is an exaggerated expense for a country of the size of the Dominican Republic, which has very high poverty indexes," he told Clave newspaper.
Bruno Wilhelm Speck, an international expert on electoral systems and party financing said that public funding needs to come with responsibility and accountability, which is not the Dominican case. He criticized the fact that the Dominican system, including the judiciary, is completely politicized. "What we have here is a vicious circle. The political parties are not accountable, the electoral justice is not in control, and the citizenry and the media are not interested," he commented.

PRSC strikes back
The PRSC has expelled almost 400 party members for supporting President Leonel Fernandez's candidacy in the 2008 election, as opposed to their own party's candidate. The PRSC sent a list of 395 expelled members to the Central Electoral Board. The document explains that over a number of years, PRSC members have left the party or taken government positions without proper authorization from the party, which calls for their removal according to PRSC party rules. Among those formally expelled are Carlos Morales Troncoso, Fulvio Lora, Johnny Jones, Hector Rodriguez Pimentel, Tito Hernandez, Rafael Corporan de los Santos, Joseito Mateo, Atilio Guzman Fernandez, Margarita Alvarez de Peynado, Modesto Guzman, Leonardo Matos Berrido, Prim Pujals, Licelot Marte de Barrios, Aristides Fernandez Zucco, Simon Tomas Fernandez, Rosita Fadul, Maria Antonieta Bello, Juan Demostenes Cotes Morales, Rudy Nelson Frias, Carmen Leyda Mora, Leoncio Almanzar, Carlos Cota Lama, Gabriel del Rio Done, Pablo Yarul, Juan Aristides Taveras Guzman, Pedro Blandino, Humberto Salazar, Rafael Augusto Collado, Alexandra Izquierdo, Angel Lockward, Adriano Sanchez Roa, Felix Vasquez, Camilo Nazir Tejada, and Hector Marte.

DR can be food self-sufficient
Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), met with President Leonel Fernandez at the Presidential Palace yesterday. Diouf says that the FAO has been working with the Dominican Agriculture and Environment ministries to improve the competitiveness and productivity of farms and fish production. As reported in El Caribe, Diouf says that the DR can be self-sufficient in production of food for its population. However, he highlighted the fact that since inputs have a direct effect on the price of food products, measures should be taken so that the poor can still have access to affordable food. As reported in Listin Diario, Diouf said that the country could achieve self-sufficiency if there was political will to invest in farming. He added that government policies on irrigation would also have a major effect on increasing agricultural production.

Morales on DR food supply plan
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso has welcomed the country's endorsement by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who expressed confidence in the Dominican Republic's ability to set up a program aimed at solving food shortage problems throughout the Caribbean. Morales Troncoso says that the UN would help the DR through all its agencies. He also mentioned working in partnership with the World Bank, through its president Robert Zoellick, to address the regional food shortages. One of the solutions in the works, proposed by President Leonel Fernandez, is the creation of a food solidarity fund. Morales Troncoso said that President Leonel Fernandez will be attending the 3 June World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy Summit to take place on 3 - 5 June 2008 at the FAO headquarters in Rome. Morales said that international representatives would travel to the DR and Haiti to study food supply plan alternatives following the summit.

No strikes for now
Public hospital doctors have agreed not to strike or protest until after the May 16 presidential elections, says Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero. The doctors have been picketing and striking in pursuit of wage increases and other benefits for several months now. The strikes primarily affect the poorest in the DR, the main users of public hospital services. The Ministry of Public Health is against the across-the-board wage increase being sought by the CMD, and wants to tag payments to productivity.

Government gives out rice
With barely a week to go before the 16 May election, the government has distributed 14,000 quintals of rice to the nation's retail and wholesale associations, so that the rice may be sold for RD$12 per pound in colmados. Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes made the announcement. Among the wholesalers who received the rice are Fermin Troncoso, president of Fenacodepro, Emilio Hernandez of Fecoder, Julian Antonio Parra from Asocomer and Rene Japa from the National District Wholesalers Association. Paredes said that these associations have pledged to distribute the rice to colmados, thus ensuring the sale at the RD$12 price. Paredes said that he trusts that these people have the character, transparency and connections to make sure the rice is sold at the agreed price.

Labels cause export issues
Dominican exports to the US continue to be affected by labeling problems, according to Daniel Orellano, an expert on the implementation of DR-CAFTA, speaking at a workshop on FDA rules at the Hotel Melia. Listin Diario reports that 60% of the products denied entry into the US market were halted for this reason. From January to August 2007, 600 product shipments were returned to the DR for failing to meet labeling requirements. Orellano said that FDA officials would be visiting the DR to help businesses label their products correctly. Orellano said that other DR-CAFTA countries were experiencing the same problem.

Killer cops could get 30
Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena has instructed the Public Ministry to seek 30 year sentences for the cops accused of killing innocent civilians during separate incidents last week. The officers responsible have already been fired for negligence in the line of duty in incidents that occurred on Charles de Gaulle Avenue in the Campo Bello sector in Santo Domingo East and four civilians and a Police colonel in La Caleta, in Boca Chica municipality. In the meantime Captain Valentin Encarnacion and Lieutenant Narciso Lugo Ramirez have been sent to one-year preventive custody at Najayo jail for their roles in the incident at La Caleta. Their status will be reviewed every three months.

The Luciano Corominas plane
Interviewed on the El Gobierno de la Manana (Z101) radio talk show, Customs Department director Miguel Cocco said that there are good reasons to believe that money confiscated from a Cessna HI831 flying in from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on 30 April is drug-related because the fact that the money was in low-denomination bills, wrapped in plastic and transported in a suitcase has not been explained. At no time have we tried to cover anything up", said Cocco. As reported in Clave newspaper, he confirmed that the same plane had made other trips to Puerto Rico. Clave says that Civil Aviation Institute certification indicates that the airplane had made nine trips to Puerto Rico in the past five months. There are also reports of non-declared flights.
Cocco explained that Customs reported to the National Drug Control Department on the trips and he said the DNCD is investigating and has the names and telephones of the people who delivered the money and to whom it was supposed to be delivered to here. He said that he believed that the plane's owner Rafael Luciano Corominas, passenger Juan Jose Martin Gomez Guichardo and pilot Luis Miguel Ovalles Tejada should all have been arrested when the money was confiscated on 30 April. However, only Ovalles was arrested because he took responsibility. There has been speculation that Rafael Luciano Corominas is being given privileged treatment because he is the son of a Supreme Court judge, Rafael Luciano Pichardo. Cocco said, however that the father has not covered for his son at any time. Investigations into the case are being carried out by the District Prosecutors.
Ovalles is on record saying that an unnamed individual had handed him the bag with the money that he was supposed to deliver to someone that he was to contact by telephone, and whose name he does not know, according to his statement to the case investigators. His lawyer, Salvador Catrain stated that the pilot does not take responsibility for the illegally transported money, but that he does take responsibility for the flight and the airplane.
Clave newspaper reports that the arrest took place after either the US Drug Enforcement Agency or Judge Luciano's older son, pilot Carlos Enrique Luciano Corominas called in to tip off the authorities about the money smuggling. Clave says that the DEA was watching the airplane and that six months ago it warned of a US$1 million consignment that was aborted when a high-ranking military officer, now stripped of his rank, warned the pilot and met him at the airport, picking him up after arrival. Clave says that sources indicate this was the same Ovalles who was arrested on 30 April.
Clave reports that the Cessna costs around US$200,000, and reveals that Luciano Corominas is the owner of a Porsche, and has taken a RD$12 million bank loan and paid back half. Officially, he works as a civil registry officer in Boca Chica on a salary of RD$35,000 a month.
Clave reports that the District Prosecutors have not shown any concern about the origin of the money. If there is no such interest, the case will end up being resolved with the mere payment of a fine.
Clave said that Luciano Corominas was not available for comment to the press.

A star in the making
This could be the next great Dominican pitcher. Last night young Cincinnati Reds flamethrower Edinson Volquez struck out 10 batters in seven innings of work to lead the Reds to a 9-0 mashing of the Chicago Cubs. Volquez, who only gave up four hits, is now 5-1 on the season and has only given up four runs or less in his first seven starts. He is pitching with a 1.04 E.R.A. in the National League.
As for the great Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, he continues his rehabbing stint, although no word on when the pitcher will be back on the mound. Martinez has been out all season due to injuries, and many speculate that the once-feared pitcher is in the twilight of his career.

Thursday sales
La Sirena has a sale in its meat department with fresh pork chops selling for RD$62.95, and frozen chicken for RD$19.95lb.
La Cadena has a meat and seafood sale with smoked pork chops selling for RD$69.95lb, chicken thighs for RD$26.95lb, pork fillet for RD$89.95lb, and squid fillet for RD$35.95lb.
Ocean Pacific store at Plaza Andalucia is advertising a 50% off sale.
Plaza Lama is offering a General Electric 30-inch stove for RD$11,595, Frigidaire 20-inch stove for RD$8,395, Frigidaire 18-inch stainless steel refrigerator for RD$29,895, Daewoo 12lb washing machine for RD$6,745 and a GE 22lb washing machine for RD$15,600.
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