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Daily News - Monday, 09 June 2008

Leonel in Barcelona
President Leonel Fernandez is looking for investors. As the President finished his latest junket to Europe, he met with investors in Barcelona and announced that he wanted to create a railway link from Santiago to Santo Domingo to match his Santo Domingo Metro system. He called it a "small AVE (High Velocity Express)" between the Dominican Republic's two main cities.
While he was in Barcelona, the President announced that business representatives from Majorca had informed him of their intentions to invest EUR3.75 billion in the Dominican tourism sector over the next four years. Speaking to the assembled group of investors, the President also announced that his government was planning a second Metro line to connect with the one now entering operation.
In Barcelona, Fernandez met with Juan Jose Hidalgo (Globalia, Air Europa and Air Dominicana and Oasis hotels), Abel Matutes (Sol Melia), Miguel Valls Maseda, president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Gregorio Grau, Manuel Grau, Alberto Parera, Adolfo Favieres, and propane gas businessman Arturo Santana. Energy, hotel investment, and rail projects were discussed.
In a somewhat unusual statement, Fernandez said that he was continuing the infrastructure work initiated by Rafael Trujillo and Joaquin Balaguer, albeit within a democratic setting.

Consumer Protection Law
The Presidency recently signed the ruling for the first Consumer Protection Law No. 358-05. The law obliges manufacturers to label the contents of the goods in Spanish on their packaging. The law also obliges companies selling goods and products in foreign currency to state the equivalent in Dominican pesos.
The bill, presented to Congress by deputy Pelegrin Castillo of the Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP, a PLD ally) has taken 10 years to go through. It was finally passed in 2005, but it took three more years for the ruling for implementing the law to pass. The managing body will be known as Pro-Consumidor.

Low protein drink for breakfast
TV journalist Nuria Piera dedicated most of her investigative journalism TV program screened on Saturday, 7 June to denouncing the low quality of the breakfast drink purchased by the Ministry of Education for distribution to public school children nationwide. Piera revealed that the level of protein and fat in the product produced by Ladom, the majority supplier of the school breakfast program is well below minimum standards, and well below the standards required by the Ministry itself and listed on the packaging of the drink. Lab tests carried out by the show indicated that the drink is most likely made from imported whey, not milk, with little or no nutritional value, despite an agreement between the Ministry and local milk producers to source at least 50% of their product locally.
On the program, one expert explained that whey costs 20% of what imported powdered milk costs. Sugar and flavoring are added to the drink. Piera also revealed that the minister's daughter is employed by the company at management level.
Ladom recently inaugurated a new facility said to have cost RD$20 million. On the program Piera reported that the inaugural was attended by President Leonel Fernandez, Mariano German who is director of the Santo Domingo Water Corporation and Minister Alejandrina German's brother, and Emigdio Sosa, director of the government's social program, who is the Minister of Education's brother-in-law.
Ladom produces 40% of the country's school breakfasts, which are distributed to 1.6 million public school children. Lab tests determined that the drink was 90% water, and less than 1% protein and fat. Ladom is the country's leading whey importer, with imports going from 340.2 tons in 2007 to 1,420.78 tons so far this year.
Freddy Garcia of Ladom denied using whey in their products because "it would damage the product". He said that when whey is used, "all the product's nutritional properties are reduced, the calories, the proteins". But when presented with the evidence of Ladom whey imports he said the product was used in their powdered milk formula, which are targeted at lower income consumers.
Lab tests on another brand showed 3.13% protein and 3.12% in fat content. The Ministry of Education's response to the journalist's inquiry was that it her claims were the result of pressure from competing firms.
For a discussion on the subject, see:
www.dr1.com/forums/government/... and www.nuria.com.do/casos.php for a video of Nuria Piera's report.

IMF boots DR rep
In an unusual move, the International Monetary Fund has requested the formal substitution of the Dominican Republic representative at the IMF general headquarters in Washington, D.C. The formal request came after an incident in which security personnel were called in to forcibly remove Ruddy Santana from the IMF premises. Sources in Washington indicate that Santana has violated internal norms of behavior on several occasions. Apparently the situation came to a head when Santana allegedly threatened to hit a representative from another Latin American country. About a week ago, the director general of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, sent a note to the head of the Dominican Central Bank, Hector Valdez Albizu, informing him of the situation. Neither the IMF in Washington nor the Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo would comment on the situation when contacted by the newspaper.

ECLAC meets in Santo Domingo
Delegates from 50 Western Hemisphere countries are meeting at the Santo Domingo Hilton for the 32nd assembly of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The meetings run through Friday, 13 June.

US aid exceeds US$45.2million
The United States Embassy says that the US has increased its aid to the DR from US$29.4 million in the 2007 fiscal year to US$45.2 million in the 2008 fiscal year, a 54% increase. The funds are directed at programs to strengthen democracy, health, education, farming, environment and biodiversity, as well as trade under DR-CAFTA.
US Embassy press officer David Searby explains that this includes US$10 million for HIV/AIDS programs. The funds are channeled through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies. But this sum does not include assistance through the Peace Corps, Military Assistance (MAAG) or humanitarian aid, such as the emergency funds provided after Hurricane Noel.
Searby's comments come after President Leonel Fernandez's mention during the World Food Summit that Venezuela, Cuba, Chile and Brazil were the countries that showed the most solidarity towards the Dominican Republic. Venezuela has the PetroCaribe program that provides major credits for purchase of fuel. The DR has taken on millions of dollars in loans for Brazilian aqueduct and dam projects, as well as a project to purchase Brazilian airplanes. Cuba is known for its donation of the Maximo Gomez technical high school in Bani.

Fewer flights = lower income
The effect of the recent reduction in the number of flights forthcoming from the United States starting September has generated "collective alarm" in the tourism and export sectors. Many representatives of the most affected sectors are waiting for a meeting of the Civil Aviation Board to discuss matters. The most affected sectors are tourism, but not just vacationers, but also people who come here to buy real estate, expatriates and exporters of time sensitive products or products that have strict deadlines. Added to this is the section of the Dominican population that can afford to vacation outside of the country. Faced with higher and higher fuel prices, American, Delta, and US Airways have announced they would reduce the frequency of their services to the Dominican Republic. A spokeswoman for the Dominican Association of Travel Agents, Linette Arbaje, said that the Dominican government should try to align itself with countries with national airlines, such as Colombia, Venezuela or Chile. Arbaje also complained about the fact that the Dominican Republic, as the largest receptor of tourism in the region does not have a national airline. The head of the National Council on Competitiveness, Andres Van der Horst Alvarez, told El Caribe reporter Hector Linares that the real pinch would come in September when vegetable exports enter their peak season. The government reported that 1.2 million passengers arrived in the DR aboard charter flights in 2007, and an additional 3.33 million aboard commercial flights.

JAD looks for an airplane
The Agro-Business Board (JAD) is supporting the efforts of the Airport Department, which said it was looking to charter a cargo plane in order to maintain and even expand the export of vegetables to markets in the United States. The news, which JAD president Ramon Peralta disclosed to reporters from Hoy newspaper, emphasizes some of the current problems facing exporters due to the announced reduction in the number of flights to and from the Dominican Republic as of September.
Airport Department head Andres Vanderhorst told reporters that the lack of reliable and fast access to the US market represents a potential loss of as much as US$70 million.

Hipolito revives team
Former President Hipolito Mejia has decided to reactivate his political team known as the PPH, in an attempt to "participate and influence" the internal processes of the PRD party. According to El Caribe, the group's spokesperson Hector Guzman said that the group associated with former President Mejia is "conscious of the importance of its role in Dominican politics." Political commentator Orlando Gil mentions in his Listin column that Mejia wants to be in position to act just in case President Leonel Fernandez reforms the Constitution to eliminate the clause that impedes a President who has run for re-election to run again. As the Constitution stands today, neither Fernandez nor Mejia could be candidates in the 2012 presidential election.

Police chief moves to Santiago
National Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin will move to Santiago tomorrow to lead efforts aimed at controlling an outbreak of criminal activity in the area. Guzman Fermin said that there has been a "weakness and carelessness" in the police work in the region, hit by no less than 16 robberies and several deaths in a week. The police chief told Hoy reporters that he accepted recent criticisms by Minister of the Interior and Police Franklin Almeyda who said that a "lack of watchfulness in the region" was behind these incidents. General Raudo Ramirez Comas, the commander of the Central Region, told reporters that he has worked to preserve the security of the general population in Santiago, and to respect their rights.

Marranzini : higher paid cops
Industrialist Celso Marranzini Perez has suggested a large pay increase for the Police Force as a way of reducing the temptations that corrupt some of its members. He was sharply critical of the fact that the starting pay for policemen is just RD$3,000 per month, equivalent to less than US$100. The former president of the National Council for Private Business (CONEP) emphasized that such a starting salary is certainly no incentive for chasing down criminals, with the added problem of inadequate health insurance. He argued that higher pay would certainly decrease the pressures on members of the force and perhaps lead to fewer crimes going unpunished.

Quirino mate turns tail
Former National Police colonel Lidio Arturo Nin Terrero, implicated in the transport of more than a metric ton of pure cocaine (1,387kg) has turned state's witness and reached a plea bargain with the prosecutors of Quirino Paulino Castillo, the accused drug lord and major trafficker who owned the shipment under Nin Terrero's care. As a result of the plea bargain, Nin Terrero, who was facing a minimum of 40 years in jail, is expected to get a much lighter sentence. With the deal, Nin Terrero accepts he could get a maximum of 40 years in jail, of which five years would be mandatory. According to the translation of the court transcript published by El Caribe, Nin Terrero told the judge in New York that he knew that he was in a truck loaded with cocaine that was en route to the United States.

Rains to continue, alerts still on
The National Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is forecasting continued rains throughout much of the Dominican Republic and the Committee for Emergencies (COE) has maintained Green and Yellow alerts for large parts of the country. A tropical wave crossing the Mona Channel is causing this rainfall, and the alerts affect the provinces of Santiago Rodriguez, Valverde, Dajabon, Elias Pina and the Lower Yuna River Basin. Alerts are also in place for Samana and Monte Plata provinces. Residents are warned to watch for flooding and landslides and advised to be prepared.

Pan Am Volleyball Cup: gold & bronze
The Dominican Republic women's team won a much-needed gold medal at the Pan American Cup organized by NORCECA league in Mexicali, Baja California. The DR team defeated Brazil 26-24, 30-28, 22-25, 19-25 and 15-11. Sidarka Nunez, Bethania de la Cruz and Cindy Rondon were the high scorers who led the team to win the Pan Am title. The team recently barely lost their right to compete in the Beijing Olympics in Tokyo. "We wanted this medal so badly," said an emotional Rondon. "Since the start of the tournament we were thinking about this contest against Brazil, so we came well prepared. Thanks to God, we won it."
The men did their job, too. The Dominican men's team brings the bronze medal home with a tight win over home-team Mexico, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 18-25 and 15-12. Best for the DR were captain Elvis Contreras and Victor Batista. With the win, the Dominican men qualify for participating in the America Cup next year.
www.norceca.org/endex.htm

Cincinnati honors Geronimo
Cesar Geronimo, ex-major league baseball player with the Cincinnati Reds, and better known in DR as Cesarin Geronimo, is being inducted to the Cincinnati Reds' Baseball Hall of Fame this July. His induction coincides with the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the team's hall of fame.
This is the first step on his way to the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame.
MLB says: "Cesar 'Cesarin' Geronimo is perhaps one of the overlooked regulars on Cincinnati's Big Red Machine of the 1970s, but his role on that overpowering team cannot be underestimated. His play in center field was key for the Reds, combining with that of Dave Concepcion at short, Joe Morgan at second and Johnny Bench behind the plate to form one of the best defenses ever up the middle. And at the plate, Geronimo had his share of timely hits for Cincinnati's World Series champion teams of 1975 and 1976."
http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/ballpark/museum/index.jsp
 
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