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Daily News - Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Tomorrow work off after 12
The Presidency has declared that tomorrow, 15 May will be a holiday as of 12 noon through 6am on Saturday, 17 May. Decree 193-08 explains that the time off is aimed at making it easier for Dominicans to vote. Thousands of Dominicans live in one place and have to travel to another to vote, because they have not changed their voting station. The decree says that public services, such as fire stations, hospitals, transport or those offering continuous services (like hotels) will continue as usual. Most private schools also decided to give the two days off to their students.

Political parties take over radio
Turn on the radio today and it will be difficult to avoid a political message. For the first time in Dominican political history, political parties have invested heavily in using radio talk shows to get their message out to the Dominican people. Hoy newspaper reports that the ruling PLD party has 18 radio stations dedicated to promote President Leonel Fernandez's candidacy. The PRD has four stations in the National District, and several others in the interior. The report does not identify any station with the PRSC.
Promoting the Fernandez (PLD) candidacy are: Estudio (88.5), Escape (88.9), Neon (89.3), Fuego (90.1), Mania (92.9), Latidos (93.7), KQ (94.5), Espcio (96.9), Universal (98.1), Rumba (98.5), Sonido Suave (99.3), Super Q (100.9), Supra (101.7), Milenium (103.3), Power (103.7), La 104.5, Fiesta (105.7), Zol (106.5), Cadena Espacial (107.3).
Promoting the Vargas (PRD) candidacy are: Estrella (90.5), La Rocka (91.7), Hits 92 (92.1), Tentacion (102.5), and Kiss (94.9).
Radio stations that have kept to their regular programming are:
La Z-101, Radio Cima, Romantica, Primera, Independencia, Fidelito, La 91, La Nota Diferente, Ritmo 96, Radio Disney, Radio Listin, Antena 100, La X, Raices, Caliente, Mortal, Vida.

JCE sets rules for elections
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has set out a series of regulations for Friday's Presidential Election. The board issued three decrees outlining their stance: one prohibits any gatherings that are not peaceful; another prohibits carrying firearms or other weapons and bans the sale of alcoholic beverages on Election Day until three hours after the polls close (until 9pm); and the final decree prohibits all political propaganda as of midnight tonight. The three resolutions from the JCE Administrative Chamber also place police and military personnel under the authority of the local election boards and heads of polling stations in case anyone should attempt to disrupt the orderly election process. The JCE will provide a network of television channels, using the state-owned CERTV as its base of operations.

Plenty of cops for elections
The Central Electoral Board will have 42,000 troops and police on standby to maintain order across the Dominican Republic on Election Day. The chief of the Electoral Military Police, Brigadier General Pedro Caceres, told El Nuevo Diario that his team has organized a nationwide program to "guarantee that the elections go ahead in a secure environment..." The Electoral Police have 12 helicopters at their disposal and can reach any point in the Dominican Republic in 45 minutes or less.

OMSA to give free rides
The Metropolitan Bus Service Office (OMSA) will provide free bus rides all day on Friday, to help people to get to their polling stations and back home. OMSA director Ignacio Ditren Flores told El Nuevo Diario that their fleet of buses would be available from 6am until their normal closing time. The service will be available in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros. Other OMSA equipment has been placed at the disposal of the Central Electoral Board in accordance with a Presidential decree to that effect.

A.M. on Droit de Seigneur
Diario Libre Editor Adriano Miguel Tejada says that the Central Electoral Board (JCE) is claiming a kind of "Droit de Seigneur" when it comes to information on Election Day. Tejada, a noted author and lawyer, reminds readers of the medieval custom whereby the lord of the manor would take a vassal's bride for the first night after the wedding. He says this is what the JCE wants to do with the information stemming from the election process: halt the media from disseminating news on voting day, including results taken from exit polls, something that has been proven even in our media. Ever the lawyer, Tejada says that the Electoral Law establishes that the full board of the JCE "will take control of the transmissions relating to the electoral process", and obliges private media, which are not obliged to network with the JCE, to refrain from releasing information that "bothers the normal unfolding of the election process". He says that an elemental idea of public law and order establishes that false or distorted information shall not be disseminated, but the Constitution establishes the privilege of freedom of thought, only restricted by public order and good manners. Diario Libre's editor-in-chief says that releasing the results of an exit poll that comes from an institution well versed in this type of operation does not violate any disposition, whether constitutional or legal. On the contrary, it can clear the air when a candidate has certain reticence to admit defeat. Moreover, it is the right of the people to be informed about something so important. Therefore, he concludes: down with the droit de seigneur in the election wedding!

Foreign firms to do exit polls
Although the Central Electoral Board (JCE) did not object to the taking of exit polls, they did say that the results of such polls could not be divulged before the JCE itself has released its first bulletin with vote counts. International pollsters such as Penn and Schoen, and Gallup DR have announced that they plan to take exit polls around the country. The polls will be taken under strict measures of confidentiality and discretion in keeping with the Electoral Laws. According to the head of the JCE, magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman, these organizations can take the polls, but they cannot release the results. Andrew Claster of Penn and Schoen told Diario Libre that they would release the results to the international media. The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) has announced that it will be sponsoring exit polls by Gallup DR, using a random sample of 5,000. Readers might recall that in 2004 Penn and Schoen released their exit poll results to the international media and people were able to know the results before the JCE had even released their first bulletin.

AIRD reject post-election tax reform
The Association of Industries the Dominican Republic (AIRD) is concerned there may be a new "fiscal reform" after Friday's elections. According to their statements in Listin Diario, the industrialists feel that such a move would represent a change in the rules and any added income would be used to plug some of the holes in the government's fiscal policy. AIRD president Manuel Diez Cabral and his vice-president Circe Almanzar were speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by Listin Diario's economic section. The AIRD representatives insisted that the government needed to focus the subsidies that are currently in force because, otherwise, they are just not sustainable in the long haul. According to their analysis, the government cannot maintain the 35% increase in spending that was registered over the past few months. As AIRD spokespersons, both Diez Cabral and Almanzar called for renewed dialogue between the industrial sector and the government after the election. This proposed dialogue would aim to address the main issues that are stalling the development of a competitive and developing industrial sector.

Possible IMF agreement looms
The superintendent of banks, Rafael Camilo, has told reporters that the government has put conversations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on its post-election agenda, with the idea of reaching a new accord. According to Hoy newspaper, Camilo explained that the agreement would not be the same as the most recent one. The "Stand-by" arrangement was established in order to lessen the impact of the economic crisis generated by the 2003-2004 banking scandals. Camilo said that the current talks are looking at a "watchfulness agreement", adding that the government was not going to ask the IMF for any money since the current hard currency reserves were sufficient.
Camilo is challenging forecasts that claim interest rates would increase in the coming months. He said that the exchange rate remains stable, and changes in the demand for money in the economy are not expected. Furthermore, he said that the Central Bank does not plan to adjust upwards the interest rates on its certificates of deposit. Camilo did say that consumer and mortgage loans are up by 25%.

Non-traditional exports: US$277 million
Non-traditional exports rose to US$277 million in the first quarter of 2008, a delightful 31% increase from a year ago when non-traditional exports totaled US$211 million, the Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD) reports. Growth in the exports of avocados, organic bananas, organic cacao, re-bar, cement and rum have spearheaded the increase. The CEI-RD reveals that industrial products jumped from US$46 million a year ago to US$120 million this year. And, for a 'banana republic', it is curious that avocados were the leading agricultural export in the first quarter. The United States and Puerto Rico were the main markets for these exports. Organic banana exports grew by 167% from a year ago, reaching US$27 million this past quarter.

Rescued baby now with grandma
A newborn baby boy, who was rescued by C-section from his dead mother's womb, is now safe in the arms of his grandmother and aunt. Doctors at the Elio Fiallo Public Hospital in Pedernales saved the baby after his mother was shot and killed by her husband, who then committed suicide. After only three days in the hospital, staff released the baby to the care of his grandmother and aunt. Pediatrician Ana Maria Acosta, who had the infant in her care, told El Caribe reporters that "the child was in perfect physical and neurological condition" and had suffered no cerebral damage.

Cops catch S&L killer
In a lightening fast response to the robbery and murder of a guard at the Cibao Savings and Loan Association office on Juan Pablo Duarte Avenue in Santiago, the police have arrested Robinson Alberto Bautista Mercedes, 27, originally from the town of La Vega and who resided in Licey al Medio. He was a former employee of the Banco de Reservas in Santiago. S&L employees identified Bautista as the person who shot Jose Rodriguez Bautista, the guard at the bank. After killing the guard, the assailant made off with over RD$850,000. The police recovered RD$292,500 in cash and a Certificate of Deposit from the Dominican Mortgage Bank (BHD) for RD$400,000. The weapon used to kill the bank guard has not been recovered, but it has been identified as a Smith and Wesson .38 cal, serial number CT-6292. The media has praised the swift police work, just one in a series of successful apprehensions over the past few weeks. The local police, under the leadership of General Raudo Ramirez Comas, have captured the killers of another watchman in Las Trinitarias, as well as an assailant who killed a messenger working for the Antonio Cruz group of betting parlors. These two incidents occurred on 7 and 9 May.

Lucky guy!
Former radio announcer and journalist Otilio Antonio Castro went to sleep dreaming of picking up a little "extra", and he woke up to a RD$21 million lottery bonanza. Yesterday he picked up his check from the Leidsa office, surrounded by his very happy wife, his children and his grandchildren, who all arrived in a limousine. The former owner of radio station 88.5FM, La Brava, told reporters that he was going to deposit RD$10 million in the Central Bank and give the rest of the money to his children. He said, "I don't have any plans. My projects are over and done with. The radio station was my project and I sold it. Now I am going to enjoy this money taking it easy in my house". He said that he played the same number that the Loto machine had given him the week before.

"In the Heights" leads Tony Awards
A new Broadway production providing a snapshot about Latino families in New York's Dominican enclave Washington Heights topped the Tony Award nominations with 13, including two for Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical's 28-year old composer and star. "In the Heights" has gotten very good reviews for its cast, dancing and for its tale of hope and self-discovery. The show is rap, hip-hop and salsa flavored. The winners will be announced at the 62nd annual Tony awards ceremony on June 15 at Radio City Music Hall, which will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. The musical began last year off-Broadway before moving to the big time.

Wednesday sales
La Sirena is advertising its usual Wednesday 35% off fruits and vegetables, with cantaloupes for R$16.95ea, Bugalu tomatoes for RD$6.95lb, celery for RD$2.95lb, Blue Bonnet margarine for RD$39.95/4bars, Linda tomato paste for RD$49.95/kg, Langers Cranberry juice for RD$79.95/64oz, and double liter Pepsi for RD$31.95.
La Cadena advertises Bugalu tomatoes for RD$8.95lb, papaya for RD$6.95lb, cherry tomatoes for RD$15.95/package, Barcelo oranges for RD$29.95bag, green bananas for RD$2.95ea, sweet potatoes for RD$10.95lb, squash for RD$4.95lb, and carrots for RD$5.95lb.
El Nacional has its Wednesday 20% off fruits and vegetables, and 40% off lettuce, plus 30-egg carton for RD$89.95, La Vaquita milk for RD$31.95/liter, fresh chicken thighs for RD$29.95, red snapper (sans head) for RD$54.95lb, and white rice for RD$14.95lb.
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