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Daily News - Tuesday, 03 June 2008

Leonel is Food Summit VP
President Leonel Fernandez has been chosen as Vice President of the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) World Food Summit taking place in Rome, Italy. Mexican Ambassador to the FAO Jorge Chen nominated Fernandez on behalf of the Caribbean and Latin American Group of Countries (GRULAC). Fernandez received unanimous support from the 33 GRULAC member states.
Fernandez's stock on the international scene has been on the rise after the March 2008 Rio Group Summit in Santo Domingo, when Fernandez helped ease tensions between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. During the World Food Summit, which ends on Thursday, 60 heads of state and prime ministers will discuss rising food prices, a consequence of increasing fuel prices.
Hoy reports that Fernandez has been an outspoken supporter of food programs and has been speaking on the subject since 2007. In 2007 Fernandez, in an address to the United Nations, highlighted the need for countries to face issues of rising food and fuel prices. More recently, regional leaders meeting in El Salvador for a heads of state meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) adopted President Leonel Fernandez's proposal to call for an extraordinary session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss, with urgency, the looming global economic crisis based on skyrocketing fuel prices and the resulting food crisis.
At the Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a 50% increase in world farm production by 2030 to meet growing demand. The Fernandez administration has set as a goal for the next four years to step up local efforts to convert the DR into a leading regional food producer and exporter.

Free trade with South America?
The Dominican Republic could soon have a free trade agreement in place with South America, now that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has formally invited the Central American Integration System (SICA) to join the South American trading bloc MERCOSUR. Da Silva made his invitation during the II SICA-Brazil Business Forum. The Brazilian President is quoted as saying that "negotiations for a free trade agreement between Central America and MERCOSUR have been a challenge for Brazil and our MERCOSUR partners for some time. We can't depend on a few economies to look for new market niches." According to Lula, trade between Central America and MERCOSUR has jumped 280% in four years, going from US$594 million to US$1.7 million. SICA is made up of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama with the Dominican Republic as an associate member. MERCOSUR members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The prospect of joining MERCOSUR (which will eventually evolve into the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR) would open the DR to a market of 382 million people in South America. The DR already has free trade agreements with Europe, the Caribbean and Central America.

DR Stock Exchange: 607% growth
Growth continues at an impressive rate at the Dominican Stock Exchange (BVRD), as the institution achieves its potential as a leading source of financing for business. Trading leaped to $13,930,111,262 for the first five months of the year, for a 607% growth compared to the same period last year. In only five months, the BVRD has traded more than 90% of the total volume traded for all of 2007. Trading for all of 2007 was $15,414,587,959, compared to a mere RD$1,64,299,250 in 2006.
The changes come on the heels of the appointment of Darys Estrella, a former Goldman Sachs vice president in NY, to the helm in April 2007. Estrella confirmed the growth is due to increased confidence in the institution, efforts to reach out to new companies with new products, the active participation of the pension funds and continued political and economic stability in the country. She says, "In the next six months, volume will most likely double as we see more companies and investors realizing the benefits of participating in the market."
Every day at the end of the day, the issues traded are posted open to the general public in the BVRD's website (www.bolsard.com) with all the details: issue, price, coupon and maturity date.

Public transport update
The government is asking the transport unions to come to the negotiating table instead of indiscriminately raising bus fares. Vice President Rafael Alburquerque repeated his pleas to the bus unions to get back to talks. Ignacio Ditren, acting as spokesperson for the OMSA bus company, said that a meeting will be set up in order to discuss the options available to the bus unions. Meanwhile, he asked that the fares be left the same.
Diario Libre writes that the transport sector will meet with President Leonel Fernandez after his return from Europe on 9 June.
The Fenatrano bus union run by Juan Hubieres said that his buses would raise fares to RD$20 for public taxis and RD$35 for inter-urban routes from tomorrow unless the government can come up with some type of agreement.
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes argued against the fare increase, saying that during the last four weeks the government has absorbed the rise in fuel prices and has subsidized more than two million gallons of fuel per month, which totals 67% of the sector's demands. Unatrafin, Asetran, Conatra and Mochotran transport unions will not raise their fares yet.

Customs seizes lots of money
During the first five months of the year the Customs department (DGA) has seized almost US$4 million in undeclared or illegal cash and has seized more than US$8 million in the last 17 months, according to a DGA report published in the local media. The busts have been made with cooperation of national and international entities.
One of the most high profile cash seizures was the money brought to the DR in a plane piloted by Rafael Alberto Luciano Corominas, son of Supreme Court vice president Rafael Luciano on 30 April. The total sum seized in that case was US$569,000. Luciano Corominas, Jose Martin Gomez Guichardo and Manuel Ovalles Tejada were arrested for smuggling the US$569,000, but only Ovalles Tejeda was prosecuted because he admitted sole responsibility for the money. He was released on 21 May after posting bond. DGA director Miguel Cocco believes that this money is narcotics-related.
The highest seizure came this week, with US$969,166 left behind on a private plane that landed at the airport in La Romana. Cisnero Antonio Paredes, who brought the money to the DR, was able to evade capture. The airplane was piloted by Sergio Oriolis, an American. The Air Force Major Honorio Acevedo Canela, was also arrested for complicity.
Other noteworthy cases include Puerto Ricans Luis Angel Correa and Ray Antonio Coto Carrasquillo who were found to have US$250,000 in cash in their possession, and US$520,000 from two Venezuelan nationals. Correa and Coto Carrasquillo tried to bring in US$250,000 on a yacht in the Punta Cana area. They were arrested in Cabeza de Toro. The authorities believe the money would have gone to pay for a drug transaction.
On 13 May, the DGA confiscated US$520,000 that Venezuelans Jimmy Jose Naranjo Angarita and Johnny Alexander Tesorero Hernandez were trying to smuggle out of the country. They were boarding a plane to Venezuela at Las Americas International Airport (Santo Domingo). The total sum confiscated in the first five months of this year is equal to the money confiscated by smugglers in all of 2007. In 2007, the largest money smuggling operation intercepted was the case of Diana Marte Perez, a US citizen, who was carrying US$738,585 in cash. She is currently in jail at Najayo. The DGA has stepped up its search for money, and this explains why agents are now checking passengers' bags upon arrival at Dominican air and seaports.

Responsible dam management
The Dam Management Committee meets at the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDHRI) headquarters today to discuss returning responsibility for dam management to INDHRI. The Dominican Hydroelectric Generation Company currently has the last word on the management of the dams.
As the DR enters this year's hurricane season, discussions over control of the dam is sure to heat up, as officials want to avoid repetition of the tragedies that occurred during last year's hurricane season. In 2007 dozens of deaths in Santiago were blamed on the waters released from the Tavera-Bao Dam. A technical report ascertained that the waters were not released in time, because management gave priority to their potential for generating earnings. This caused the Yaque del Norte River to burst its banks when thousands of cubic meters were released at once. The country's main dams, Tavera, Valdesia, Sabana Yegua and Hatillo were all at maximum levels and in the aftermath many officials said that the mismanagement of the dams had led to many preventable deaths and millions in material and farming losses.

Shelter for a million
The Civil Defense Corps will provide emergency shelter for 1,201,027 million people this year if necessary. The announcement was made on occasion of the start of the 2008 Hurricane Season. Civil Defense Director Luis Luna Paulino says that there are a total of 2,666 shelters around the country, which can be used in case of an emergency, including schools, churches, government buildings and military compounds, in the worst-case scenarios. In Barahona there are 41 shelters with capacity for housing 7,345, in Baoruco there are 23 shelters with capacity for 4,390, Independencia has 33 shelters with capacity for 2,220 and Pedernales has 28 shelters with capacity for 9,050 people. Valverde province has 44 emergency centers with a capacity of 19,085 while Santo Domingo province has 585 shelters with a capacity of 374,240, the National District has 201 shelters with capacity of 174,814, Santo Domingo East has 83 shelters with capacity of 94,600, Santo Domingo North has 95 shelters with capacity of 33,518 and Santo Domingo West has 158 shelters that can house 62,428.

Delta cancels JFK-SDQ
Delta Airlines announced that as of 9 and 12 September it will cancel its flights from JFK (New York City) to Santo Domingo. High fuel prices and the low profitability of the route are being cited. Carlos Santos, the company's regional communications manager, said that this particular route has not been profitable for the company. It was also announced that the Santo Domingo-Fort Lauderdale route would be cancelled for low load factors.

BPD Bank in Santo Domingo
BPD Bank, the New York-based affiliate of the Banco Popular has opened a Santo Domingo office to provide a better service for its DR-based clients. The branch is now open at the AFP Popular building at Av. Abraham Lincoln 702, corner Andres Julio Aybar, in Piantini. The BPD is a US-incorporated bank. During the inaugural ceremony, BPD Bank president Luis Canela said that the Santo Domingo branch opening coincides with the bank's coming of age in the US. The bank was opened 21 years ago. It is a member of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Deposit Insure Corporation.

Illiteracy rates
The Endesa 2007 survey shows that the level of illiteracy in rural areas is 18%, compared to 8% in urban areas. This is a slight improvement over the findings of the previous Endesa 2002 survey when illiteracy was recorded at 19% in rural areas and 9% in cities. On the other hand, the 2007 survey shows that the gap between urban and rural areas has widened. While five out of every 100 people in Santo Domingo do not know how to read or write, in Elias Pina, on the border with Haiti, 31 of every 100 are illiterate.
Illiteracy has declined overall. In 2002, the survey showed that 13% of the population over the age of 10 was illiterate. Five years later, the 2007 survey showed that illiteracy has declined to 11%. Illiteracy rates are slightly higher in men, with 10.9% compared to 10.5% in women.
The five areas with the lowest illiteracy rates are the National District (Santo Domingo city) with 5% and Santo Domingo Province 6%, La Romana 8.7%, La Altagracia 9.5% and Santiago 9.7%.
Illiteracy rates are highest in the border provinces with Haiti. There, Elias Pina records 30.5%, Bahoruco 24.4%, Azua 21.8%, San Juan de la Maguana 21.5%, Pedernales 19.7% and Independencia 19.5%.

Electrocution kills more than dengue
In 2007 more people died as a result of electrocution than of dengue fever, according to a report in Diario Libre. Of these electrocutions, 94% occurred during the installation of illegal electrical connections. In 2007 only 50 died of dengue while 278 died as a result of electrocution. Julio M. Rodriguez, director of the Ciudad Sanitaria at the Luis E. Aybar Hospital, is calling on Public Health officials to take a closer look at this issue, saying that it should be taken more seriously. Rodriguez says 27% of patients admitted to the burn unit at the hospital were victims of electrocution.

BAT goes to bat
The Baseball Assistance Team, a little known organization founded in 1986, is forming a preliminary committee that will determine the needs of former Major League baseball players living in the DR. Stanley Javier, Winston Llenas, George Bell, Mario Soto, Junior Noboa, Jim Martin, Virginia Carballo, Julian Javier and Jesus Rojas Alou all form part of this committee, which works through the Dominican Professional Baseball League. Because of the high volume of Major Leaguers from the DR, it is the first time that BAT creates a committee outside the United States and it was appropriate to form such a committee in the DR.

On to 600
It took Manny Ramirez a few tries to hit his 500th homerun and join an exclusive collection of hitters, but in a Monday game against the Baltimore Orioles Ramirez belted his 501st career homerun. The fact that Ramirez hit a homerun in consecutive games isn't the real news here, rather that each dinger puts Ramirez one homerun closer to the ultra-exclusive 600-homerun club. The chase is now on for Manny to complete the feat. At 36 years old Ramirez is aging, but if he stays healthy and decides to play at least three more seasons we could see another Dominican in the 600-homerun club. The bomb, hit into deep right field, helped the mighty Boston Red Sox, and Ramirez's hot bat is now a must as slugger David Ortiz was placed on the DL with a wrist injury.

DR volleyball keeps going
The Dominican volleyball team remains undefeated as they continue play in the seventh Pan American Volleyball Cup. The games are being played in Tijuana and Mexicali. In their last game the DR beat Costa Rica 25-15, 25-17 and 25-19. The only other undefeated team is Brazil. The two top scoring teams will go on to compete in the 2009 Volleyball Grand Prix.
For more on the Cup, see www.dr1.com/forums/dominicans-abroad/...

Tuesday sales
Plaza Lama is advertising carrots for RD$5.95lb, potatoes for RD$10.95lb, bell peppers for RD$17.95lb, onions for RD$9.45lb, mangos for RD$8.95ea, yucca for RD$18.45lb, avocados for RD$10.95ea, green bananas for RD$2.95ea.
Carrefour has beef filet for RD$169.95lb, short ribs for RD$37.95lb, ground beef for RD$42.95lb, and sales in their seafood department.
La Corbateria has 20-70% off their ties. Located at Acropolis Center, Plaza La Lira and Plaza Andalucia. Valid through 15 June.
Sales Anthony Outlet. Herrera and Mega Centro. RD$1,500 Eddie Domani suits.
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