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Daily News - Friday, 30 May 2008

Leaders take Fernandez's advice
Regional leaders in El Salvador for a heads of state meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) have made theirs President Leonel Fernandez's proposal on the calling of an extraordinary session of the United Nation's General Assembly to discuss, with urgency, the looming global economic crisis based on skyrocketing fuel prices and the consequential food crisis. Heads of state of Central America, the President of Brazil and the Minister of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica, gathered in San Salvador for the meeting, highlighted the dramatic effects fuel prices are already having on non-producing countries. The leaders will send a letter to the UN officially asking for an urgent meeting to find ways to lower lower fuel prices.
During his speech to regional leaders Fernandez warned of the passive attitude towards the new petroleum crisis, saying that the crisis that the world is currently facing is the most serious since the Great Depression.
Also during the meeting, regional officials discussed the possibility of a free trade agreement between SICA and the MERCOSUR trade block. Talks should begin in Brasilia in September. No word on how the recently created UNASUR, which merges MERCOSUR and the Andean Community, will affect the negotiations. If a free trade agreement is signed, the DR and SICA nations will have access to a consumer base of more than 380 million people.
President Leonel Fernandez returned to the DR at 9pm on Thursday evening on a private plane after spending the day in El Salvador at the SICA summits. The President's delegation included Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, Drug Czar Marino Vinicio Castillo, Minister without Portfolio Miguel Mejia and Press Minister Rafael Nunez.

Customs signs agreement
The Customs Department (DGA) has signed an agreement with the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP). Under this agreement the US agency will donate modern inspection equipment to the DGA in order to guarantee transparency in customs declarations. The system, which is valued at US$1 million, has been in place at the Multimodal Caucedo port since 2007, but the agreement gives ownership to Customs. The CBP will provide maintenance for the equipment.
During the signing, Cocco expressed his concern for the increase in money laundering operations in the country. He complained that there is permissiveness in the judgments issued by local courts in charge of evaluating the crime. He said the government had confiscated RD$200 million in money laundering operations in 2007 and he expects this year the amount to be even greater. The money is registered as "other income" by the Customs Department.

1:30hr to Samana
Minister of Public Works Victor Diaz Rua has announced that the authorities will be opening the new 106km highway to Samana from Km14 in Santo Domingo this Sunday, 1 June. The road cuts driving time from the current four hours to under two hours, a considerable saving with gasoline at around RD$200/gallon. Diaz estimates that drivers will save some RD$1,200 in fuel costs.
There will be a RD$350 toll, nevertheless. The tollbooths are located at Las Americas, Naranjal and Guaraguao. Fees are RD$650 for buses and RD$860 for trucks. He said the company would be constantly maintaining the highway, and that security and an ambulance service will be provided.
The early opening on 1 June responds to public demand. Hundreds of vehicles are already using the road, given the considerable savings for travel. Road construction will continue, nevertheless, as it is far from completed.
Armin Garcia Acuna, president of Autopista del Nordeste, which has the 30-year concession for the road, said that while some paving and signage is missing, most of the principal structures are in place. Construction continues also on the bridge over Rio Yuna, which should be finished by August. The route by way of San Francisco de Macoris from Santo Domingo requires a drive of about 220 kms to get to Samana vs. the 106 kms of the shorter highway.
The Carretera Santo Domingo-Cruce de Molinillos was begun in Feb 2006. As reported in Diario Libre, it was budgeted at US$150 million, including US$30 million contributed by the Dominican government.

Country prepares for hurricanes
Many areas in the DR are still recovering from the effects of Tropical Storms Noel and Olga, yet the 2008 hurricane season is already upon us. Weather experts forecast that a dozen hurricanes will affect the Caribbean this year. Many in the DR hope that emergency officials have learned from last year's mistakes. During a press conference yesterday the Emergency Operations Center (COE), weather officials said they are ready to handle the worst. Arthur, Berta, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paloma, Rene, Rally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred are the names for this year's expected storms. Hurricane seasons starts this Sunday, 1 June and extends through 30 November.
See http://dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml

Deputies approve IDB loans
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a set of loans from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a total of US$80 million. The money will be used to repair roads and strengthen the nation's emergency program and statistical system. The loan designated for the statistical system is valued at US$10 million while the loan for used rebuilding roads is for US$50 million. The remaining US$20 million will be used for emergency preparedness.

Pared passes the buck
Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez (PLD-Santo Domingo) says that the findings of the United Nations Development Program's report, released yesterday, can't be attributed to the current administration, but to accumulated social debt. As he continued to pass the buck, Pared said that former President Hipolito Mejia should be held responsible for much of what the report reveals.
PRD and PRSC deputies weren't as quick to discount the importance of the UNDP's report. PRSC spokesman Ramon Rogelio Genao said that the report reflects the public frustration. PLD Deputy spokesman Alejandro Montas said that it is time to look for solutions to these problems.

OAS on constant campaigning
The official report from the Organization of American States (OAS) Electoral Observers indicates that the constant electoral process in the DR is excessive. The report indicates that campaigning every two years also places an economic burden on citizens. The report was presented by OAS mission chief Jose Octavio Bordon who says there is a concern about the use of public funds for electoral purposes. Bordon said that officials investigated the use of public funds and payments to party activists. He added that there was proof of excess by the government and asked for prudence by the administration in this regard. As for the 16 May elections, the report indicates that the electoral process went on without many problems. He adds that the DR has a stable democracy.

Dominicans need to keep calm
According to a nationwide survey by the Center for Social and Demographic Studies (ENDESA), 7% of Dominicans suffer from hypertension, with people over the age of 45 showing the highest risk. An interesting detail of the report is that hypertension is more common among people with higher incomes. Ten percent of people who make at least RD$8,323 per month have been diagnosed withs hypertension. Also, women (9.8%) are more prone than men (5%) to suffer from hypertension. Six percent of Dominicans between the ages of 35 and 44 suffer from the condition, while 16.5% of those between 45 and 54 have hypertension. Thirty percent of those between the ages of 55 and 64 suffer from hypertension and 41% of those 65 and above have hypertension. Some 92.6% of sufferers receive treatment.
The survey showed that 27% of the population is covered by a health insurance.

Flight cancellations hurt Santiago
Despite heavy demand, American Airlines has reduced its flight schedule to Santiago's Cibao International airport to two, down from five, and this is creating serious inconveniences for passengers. The airline also eliminated Samana Airport from its route, as part of measures to compensate for the increase in fuel prices. Engineer Felix Garcia, president of Aeropuerto Cibao, said that the problem could be solved if the Dominican government reduced taxes on fares. He said that of every 100 pesos in fares, 40 are taxes, including 30 for the Dominican government and 10 for the US government.

Better Internet in the east
CEPM, one of the leading energy providers in the eastern region, is moving into the Internet business, according to company president Rolando Gonzalez Bunster. This development means that access to the Internet in the east coast and Bayahibe will only get better.
CEPM, a privately-owned energy consortium, chose ECI Telecom to enter the rapidly growing telecom market in the DR. CEPM is building a new fiber network and chose the ECI's XDM next-generation platform to meet the growing demand for bandwidth and increased traffic demands. CEPM seeks to enter the "carrier of carriers business", providing more opportunities to its customers to leverage increased bandwidth needs. CEPM will provide transport capacity from the Caribbean NAP, located in the Parque Cibernetico Santo Domingo, to the easternmost part of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana. ECI will supply CEPM and its customers with WDM, SONET and Ethernet capabilities to improve traffic and increase the number of available services to the surrounding and expanding resorts and airports.
Operating since 1992, Consorcio Energetico Punta Cana-Macao (CEPM) and its subsidiary, Compania de Electricidad de Bayahibe (CEB), are energy companies that generate, transmit and distribute electricity to the Punta Cana, Macao, Bavaro and Bayahibe tourist resort areas, using state-of-the-art technology that assures constant and reliable power.

Hubieres jailed; freed
Fenatrano public transport union leader Juan Hubieres was arrested yesterday after a violent incident involving two members of his bus union. Hoy reports that the incident was sparked off when union members Frank Sanchez and Pedro Segura got into an argument with another driver, from the Ruta 96 union, over control of the Tamarindo/UASD bus route. The drivers made their way to the AMET headquarters in Villa Juana to resolve the issue. Members of the Fenatrano union also went to the headquarters to show support. Mass traffic jams were reported. Hoy writes that Kan Fung Leung Chan, driving a white Peugeot, who was enraged with the traffic chaos, fired several shots. Segura and Sanchez were both injured during the shooting. Hubieres made his way to AMET headquarters around noon. He was immediately arrested on suspicion of having ordered the shootings and was taken to the Prosecutor's Office in Ciudad Nueva. The situation became tense as many Fenatrano members followed to the Prosecutor's Office in support of Hubieres. Hubieres claims that his arrest was politically motivated because he had supported the PRD presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The union leader was interrogated and released six hours later. In response, Fenatrano drivers staged an impromptu strike and the DA's office confiscated 15 Fenatrano buses on charges of traffic obstruction. The strike caused a shortage of buses and caused havoc for returning commuters.

Impromptu strike causes problems
Dominican commuters trying to get home yesterday during the late afternoon rush hour were greeted with a terrible surprise: a shortage of buses running their normal routes. The bus shortage, caused by an impromptu drivers' strike, made home commutes long and unbearable. DR1 News correspondent Lu Olivero reports that the situation was frustrating for many. In a one-hour period Olivero reports that only seven buses passed the Ave. Kennedy bus stop next to Almacenes Unidos. Those that did pass by were filled to capacity, leaving many hoping for a spot on the next bus that came by. Usually, buses on this route come every five minutes. Those waiting had to resort to taking taxis, but those were also filled, leaving citizens to run and push for a seat in a taxi. Adding to the frustration was that with no direct buses running many had to wait in the rain and take several taxis to get home. One elderly woman voiced her discontent saying, "This is only a sign of things to come. While Fernandez makes his speeches about progress we're stuck in the rain like animals. They will raise the prices and wages will stay the same. But what do they care, they drive around in 'jeepetas' I paid for and I can't even get to Los Alcarrizos. Don't you see how wrong that is?"

Remembering history
On this day in 1961, the bloody 30-year regime of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo came to an end. Marking the 47th anniversary, Antonio Imbert Barrera, the last surviving participant in Trujillo's assassination recalls the events of the night when he and a group of men ambushed Trujillo's vehicle on Santo Domingo's Malecon seafront boulevard. Imbert said that the mere thought of killing Trujillo was suicidal, especially if they didn't succeed. He describes following Trujillo's vehicle, saying that once it came to halt, Antonio de la Maza shot at the dictator. A shootout then ensued with Trujillo's driver, Zacarias de la Cruz. Trujillo was shot dead on the Malecon on 30 May 1961. Imbert's co-conspirators in the assassination plot were Antonio de la Maza, Amado Garcia Guerrero, Pedro Livio Cedeno, Huascar Tejeda Pimentel, Roberto Pastoriza Neret and Luis Manuel Caceres Michel.

Friday sales
La Isla department store on Ave. Tiradentes in Naco is offering 50% off selected household items.
La Cadena supermarket is selling six pack Brahma beer for RD$119.95, brown sugar for RD$8.95lb, tomatoes for RD$14.95lb, Italian eggplant for RD$11.95lb, goat meat for stews at RD$79.95lb, and mangos for RD$8.95ea.
Pola is advertising their Friday seafood sales day with frozen salmon for RD$59.95lb, robalo for RD$42.95lb, cod for RD$68.95lb, frozen octopus for RD$99.95 and fresh dorado filet for RD$89.95lb.
Bravo is offering La Yogurt yoghurt for RD$19.95/6oz, Santal juices for RD$34.95l, Primavera cream cheese for RD$99.95lb, Caserio ham for RD$119.95lb, ripe plantains for RD$8.95lb, Maasdam cheese for RD$189.95lb, 30 eggs for RD$89.95, Stefanutti bacon for RD$74.95/8oz, and Kellogg's Corn Flakes for RD$119.95/660g.
La Sirena has reductions on appliances, with TVs ranging from RD$4,350 to RD$14,500 on sale.
Carabela has floor ceramics from RD$275m2.
La Nacional Home Gallery has 70% off Spanish furniture line Hurtado at their Gustavo Mejia Ricart 105 location.
 
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