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Daily News - Thursday, 15 May 2008

Fernandez going for four?
President Leonel Fernandez hasn't even won his third term in office yet during an interview with CNN reporter Claudia Palacios last night, Fernandez said that although a fourth term isn't the best option, a change in the situation could determine a change in circumstances. Fernandez is quoted in Hoy as saying, "I find your question interesting considering that we have yet to finish this campaign and you've already started asking about my next campaign". He added that he does not control his destiny and political circumstances. He pointed to the situation of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, who according to Fernandez, didn't want to be re-elected, but went on to run again. He said he was not focused on 2012, but rather on 2008.
The Dominican Constitution impedes Fernandez from running for a third consecutive time. Fernandez, nevertheless, gave priority to debates about changes to the Constitution. The PLD ruling party has the majority in Congress, which is responsible for constitutional reform. His predecessor, Hipolito Mejia, used his majority in Congress to reinstate re-election, which ironically benefited Fernandez, enabling him to run for office again.
On the same program, Fernandez said relief for the economy would come by the end of 2008 when he expects the cost of the barrel of crude to drop by US$30. Fernandez says he's been following the world petrol situation and forecast that prices could drop to US$105 a barrel or even as low as US$90. However, Fernandez did not give substantial references to back his claims. He also spoke of the effects that world fuel prices were having on the cost of local food products.

PRD closes campaign
Fighting a raspy voice, Miguel Vargas Maldonado and the PRD closed its presidential campaign yesterday during a mass rally in Santo Domingo. Vargas and PRD took part in a four-hour long procession of vehicles before ending up at the stage at the intersections of the Abraham Lincoln, Roberto Pastoriza and Lope de Vega avenues. During his 24-minute speech, Vargas criticized President Leonel Fernandez and promised he would bring change for the Dominican Republic if elected. Vargas argued that Dominicans had the choice to either vote for the model that has led to the deterioration in quality of life, damaged institutional order and affected the nation's productive sectors, or they could vote for change. MVP, as he is known, stated that Dominicans should vote against re-election. Vargas continued his criticisms of Fernandez by saying that there has been no transparency over the Santo Domingo Metro project and this is why the DR overpaid for the train cars by RD$2.2 billion. He also commented on the purchase of eight Tucano airplanes from Brazil without public bidding, and on the PLD base committee payroll scandal, which Vargas said had cost the country RD$20 billion. Vargas said that during his administration the DR would have lower taxes, increased wages and pensions, 600,000 more jobs, and that he would provide more housing for the poor. He promised that more money would be in circulation. He continued by saying that he would focus on lowering the crime rate to bring peace of mind to Dominican mothers. Vargas was accompanied by his wife, who made a habit of touching up her make-up during her husband's speech, and their children. Once the speech was over, supporters made their way down to the Malecon to close the campaign. Eddy Herrera and his merengue band gave a free concert for onlookers.

Political publicity in the millions
If you thought politics paid off, you might want to consider a job in political advertising. Hoy writes that between January and April, Dominican political parties spent RD$871,358,054 on various forms of advertising. Citing a report by civic group Participacion Ciudadana, Hoy writes that of a total RD$871 million spent, RD$502,959,858 was spent by the parties themselves while RD$368,398,583 was spent by government departments. Most of the money spent, RD$423,481,941, was spent on TV ads while RD$57,824,301 went on radio ads. According to the report, the PLD spent RD$282,340,290 while the PRD spent RD$123,109,156, the PRSC spent RD$69,780,023, the fourth option spent RD$23,703,687, the PAP spent RD$2,893,610 while MIUCA spent RD$1,133,192. TV ads have been saturated with political commentary with 8 out of 10 ads on television corresponding to the PLD.

International eyes on elections
More than 200 representatives from international and diplomatic organizations will be in the DR to observe the 2008 Dominican Presidential Election. However, Hoy reports that many of those participants have yet to arrive.
During a speech welcoming election observers, Central Electoral Board (JCE) head Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said that since the death of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in 1961 the DR has held 16 free and fair elections, adding that "this is a country that knows how to vote and knows its destiny". Castanos thanked international observers for their presence while the president of the JCE Disputes Chamber, Mariano Rodriguez, guaranteed transparency in the electoral process and said that tomorrow's voting will be a true reflection of democracy.
The electoral observers represented include Organization of American States (OAS) observation mission chief Jose Octavio Bordon, director of the Electoral Promotion and Advisory Center (Capel), president of the Costa Rican Electoral Tribunal Jose Thompson, from El Salvador Eduardo Nunez, Nicanor Moscoso and Walter Rene Araujo from Panama, Erasmo Pinilla from Colombia, and Carlos Ariel Sanchez and Leonardo Valdez from Mexico.

Three more campaign victims
Three men were killed in political campaign violence yesterday, as reported in El Caribe. The events occurred in Villa Vasquez where former Deputy Antonio Fernandez was a victim. Two others, Carlos Polanco and Isidro Tavarez were also victims when rival "disco light" vehicles, blasting out their music, crossed paths on their respective campaign routes shortly before 10pm last night. Two other men were reported injured during the incident. There were small scuffles during the PRD caravan yesterday. The newspaper also reports that PRD members demanding equal television airtime as their PLD rivals forcibly closed down the Cable Vision TV station. It is being reported that owner Julio Pena chose to close down the station in order to prevent any further problems.

Loud campaigning shuts down
With the presidential election a day away, the customary switch from loud campaigning to eerie calm is expected over the next 24 hours as businesses, schools and campaigns will shut down in preparation for Friday's election. Dominican electoral law bans political advertising on TV, radio or print and political campaigning in any form is prohibited as of midnight on Wednesday, 14 May and into the election. This is sure to be a welcome sign for many Dominicans who have grown tired of the constant bombardment with political messaging for the last several months. Sale of alcohol is also prohibited, making this a time for friends and family to gather at home. Voting begins Friday at 6am. Several companies have chosen not to work on Saturday, making it a long weekend.
The Presidency decreed a holiday as of noon, Thursday 15 May 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 (such as hotels) will continue as usual. Most private schools also decided to give their students these two days off.

Court rules on Sun Land complaint
The First Penal Court of Appeals has ruled that the PRD has the legal capacity to bring a formal complaint against Public Works Supervisor Felix Bautista for his involvement in the Sun Land corruption scandal. Judges Miriam German Brito and Julio Cesar Cano Alfau ruled that the PRD's Orlando Jorge Mera and Rafael Alburquerque have the right to file the complaint.

Metro more important than court
Magistrate Jose Arturo Uribe Efres has submitted a formal complaint stating that three cases were canceled on 8 May because the judges and prosecutors in charge of those cases decided they'd rather go ride on the Metro than sit in court.

Scrap metal makes money
A report by the Dominican Republic Center for Exports and Investment (CEI-RD) indicates that in the first four months of the year scrap metal exports totaled US$14.1 million while aluminum exports totaled US$11.6 million. Aluminum was subject to the greatest increase. Last year exports of the metal totaled US$290,000. Together the metal exports represent 15.4% of total quarter exports. Steel and iron exports also increased by 11.8% this year with relation to last year. While the authorities have tried to structure the export of scrap metals, trying to limit the theft of the metal products, including telephone and electric wiring, Listin Diario writes that there is little or no transparency when it comes to knowing the origins of the metals. Theft and resale of metal objects have become big business in recent years.

One vehicle for every four residents
A total of 2,291,907 vehicles are registered with the Tax Department (DGII) as of year's end 2007. Given that the population of the country is estimated at 9,659,278, this would mean there is a vehicle for every four inhabitants. The DGII says that the number of vehicles has increased by 31.2% (545,151 vehicles) over the past four years. The numbers went from 1,746,756 units in 2004 to 2,291,907 today. The Dominican population has increased by 5.5%, from 9,152,816 to 9,659,278 inhabitants in 2007.

Plaza de la Salud foot clinic
The Plaza de la Salud medical complex has recently opened a Diabetic Foot Clinic that seeks to prevent and treat foot pathologies in patients of all ages, regardless of whether the patient has been diagnosed with diabetes or not. The center provides education, prevention and treatment services for diabetes foot complications to ensure that patients' lives are not limited by foot problems. Services offered include full risk evaluation, prevention, and treatment of ulcers, charcot fractures and other foot complications of diabetes.
Located in the Infectology area of the complex, the new service offers assistance to all patients with foot troubles.
The center is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Dr. Nalini Campillo leads a team of specialists, including podiatrists, heart surgeons, orthopedists, psychiatrists, nutritionists and rehabilitation specialists. Previous appointments are required.

Helicopter falls from sky
A Bell 206 helicopter owned by the Hanabanilla Trading Company crashed into the driveway of a home near INTEC University five minutes after takeoff from La Isabela Airport in northern Santo Domingo. The helicopter, which was on its way to pick up photographers and cameramen who were taking aerial photographs of the PRD rally, crashed into a wall adjacent to the driveway of the house at Calle Anamas No. 4 in Los Rios before catching fire. The pilot, National Police captain Juan Heriberto Perez Pena, miraculously saved his life by jumping from the copter shortly before it crashed. He suffered fractures to both his legs and is hospitalized. The house where the helicopter landed received minor damage, as did a vehicle parked in the driveway.

Smuggling US$520,000
The president of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) reports that two Venezuelans were arrested and are under investigation by the DNCD and Customs Department for attempting to covertly export US$520,000 in cash hidden in two suitcases.
Johnny Alexander Tesorero Hernandez and Jimmy Jose Naranjo Angarita were arrested at Las Americas International Airport. In this case, DNCD president Rafael Ramirez Ferreira said that Customs is in charge of the case, but that the DNCD is also investigating links to drug trafficking. The Venezuelans planned to board an Acerca flight, with a stopover in Aruba, prior to their final destination, Caracas.
This is the second recent case of money confiscated while being irregularly transported. Earlier this month, US$569,412 was confiscated on board a small airplane property of Rafael Luciano Corominas, son of a Supreme Court justice, that arrived from Puerto Rico.

Thursday sales
Plaza Lama supermarket is advertising chicken thighs for RD$23.95lb, rice for RD$149.95/10lbs, carrots for RD$6.45lb, and Hatuey crackers for RD$79.95/615g.
La Sirena is promoting items for family gatherings, including foldable plastic tables, chairs, coolers, BBQ utensils, and frozen chickens for RD$19.95lb, Brunswick tuna in chunks for RD$34.95/170g, and Crisol soya oil for RD$129.95/64oz.
Jumbo has sales in its meat and seafood department, with Boston steak selling for RD$78.95lb, Milex powder milk for RD$389.95/2000g, and Sosua Danes cheese for RD$124.95lb.
Baccessory has 15%-75% off bathroom accessories at their Lope de Vega 37, Naco store.
 
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