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Daily News - Monday, 07 July 2008

Leonel off to Margarita, Venezuela
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to Margarita, Venezuela on Saturday, 12 July to attend the V Summit of the PetroCaribe Agreement. Fernandez will meet with the heads of state of other 15 members of the group of Caribbean nations that benefit from the agreement. A source in the Presidential Palace told Hoy reporter Diego Pesquiera that all 16 heads of state and heads of beneficiary governments will be present at the summit.
The main item on the agenda is the hefty increases in the price of a barrel of oil. Fernandez is expected to ask President Chavez for an increase in the quota assigned to the Dominican Republic.
One of the main aims of the Petrocaribe Agreement is to ensure that petroleum prices do not impede the development of the Caribbean.

5 to Chamber of Accounts?
After accepting the resignation of eight members and firing the ninth, the Dominican Senate requested that President Leonel Fernandez submit a new list of names for filling the posts on the Chamber of Accounts. Only lawyer Alcides Benjamin Decena Lugo stayed around for the final day of the hearings, and he was fired. Previously, the 27 senators who sat at the final session accepted the resignations of Andres Terrero the president of the Chamber of Accounts, Jose Gregorio, the secretary and panel member Julio de Beras de la Cruz who wrote out their resignations as the hearings were going on. All of those who resigned affirmed their innocence.
Technicians have proposed that President Fernandez appoint only five members, which would be in compliance with the Constitution, and they feel would make the auditing department more efficient. The technicians say this mean savings of RD$20 million a year. As reported in Hoy, the members of the auditing body of the government were paid upwards of RD$400,000. In addition to their extraordinary pay packages, the former nine members of the Chamber of Accounts were notorious for their low productivity and low quality of their work.

Thousands learn English
More than 10,000 students have passed through the government's English Immersion Program offered by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology over the past four years. The government hopes to graduate 40,000 over the next four years of the program, averaging 10,000 per year. Program director Mirtha Lora, told the Listin Diario that the program was started in three provinces and today is working in 13 provinces and could be extended to other provinces.

Environment admits it goofed
Environment Minister Omar Ramirez has admitted that his ministry "poorly handled" the case of the MC Trinidad, the cargo vessel that docked at Barahona and tried to offload toxic waste. The minister, Omar Ramirez Tejada, told Diario Libre reporter Wanda Peralta that the director of Environmental Quality, Felipe Ditren and the director of Environmental Protection, Jaime Lockward, together with the technician Eladino Lopez Aquino were those who mishandled the case. The report filed by the Ministry says that it was a big mistake to issue a Certificate of No Objection before a full analysis of the materials on board the vessel had been made. This was the job assigned to Eladino Lopez, who "was never physically aboard the ship." The permission was granted over the phone. Ditren and Lockward are accused of not verifying the case documentation. Ditren and Lockward have resigned from the Ministry and Lopez was suspended for 90 days without pay. Community groups gave the alert, and found support from the Department of Customs in time to avoid the unloading of the toxic shipment.

Police won't back down
The Chief of the National Police, Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, says his department will not cede one inch in its mission to fight crime. The words from the chief sent this message to the members of the Police and the families of policemen who have been killed in the fight against crime. Guzman Fermin said that the Police accepted its responsibility. The chief's strong words came at a time when several officers have been shot and killed in Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Macoris as well as other communities.

There is avgas
The Autonomous Syndicate of Petroleum Transport Drivers announced the aviation sector would be excluded from their ongoing conflict with Chevron-Texaco. They guaranteed the supply of fuel for the nation's airports. The decision came after a meeting with Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, Labor Minister Ramon Fadul and Chief of the Police Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin at the Presidential Palace. Alburquerque stressed that the supply of aviation fuel was an issue of "essential service" and asked the syndicate to be flexible. The nation's aviation fuel is primarily supplied by Chevron-Texaco. Vice-President Alburquerque is acting as a mediator in the conflict between the truckers and the oil company. Both the syndicate and the Chevron-Texaco teams have submitted proposals to put an end to the dispute.

AmCham for Chevron settlement
The American Chamber of Commerce in Santo Domingo (AmCham) has called for a settlement to the dispute between the trucking syndicate that controls the flow of petroleum products from the refinery and the Chevron-Texaco Company. AmCham appealed to the government to take prompt and appropriate actions in the case so the blockade set up by the truckers in front of the refinery be removed. AmCham called the blockade an "illegal act that violates the laws and restricts commerce and free enterprise..." AmCham called for "order" to be restored and reminded the syndicate that the right to chose suppliers is protected by the Constitution and is part of the DR-CAFTA trade agreement.

CONEP wants a pow-wow
The nation's business leaders, under the guidance of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), is urging the government to meet with economic sectors and reach an agreement on the measures that need to be adopted in to avoid an economic collapse. Also part of the agenda for the CONEP is the need to discuss salaries, both public and private, because it recognizes that the buying capacity of the population has been reduced as a result of the increases in the cost of goods and services both in the Dominican Republic and abroad. Lisandro Macarrulla, the CONEP president, warned that issues such as the increase in the deficit, governmentspending and the fiscal deficit have to be faced in order to protect macroeconomic stability. Regarding a possible salary increase, Macarrulla said that the issue had to be handled with prudence in order not to create a viscous circle of inflation.

ANJE wants deeds not words
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) announced that the time has come for concrete measures to come from the government and not just words. Piantini commented on recent meetings of the President with his advisors.
ANJE called again for cuts in "unnecessary government spending." Pablo Piantini took part in the Listin Diario Breakfast where he and his executives, Ricardo Bonetti, Miguel Roig and Lara Guerrero, agreed that the time has come for action. They called upon the government to set the example.

A call to spread the subsidies
Business groups had initially recommended the government remove subsidies in order to reduce its spending. But, instead, the government has chosen to increase these. So now, industry leaders are calling for the government to spread the diesel subsidy program to include them, too. They base their plea on the fact that industry is a productive activity and the subsidy will enable local industry to compete in the marketplace. According to Ernesto Vilalta, an executive with the Herrera Association of Industries, the call to put a freeze on taxes on diesel fuel is absolutely necessary.
Also calling for help are the members of the Dominican Confederation of Small and Medium Businesses (Codopyme) who suggest that a deal similar to that given last week to truckers would save thousands of small businesses from failure. Codopyme says that small and medium sized business have to pay twice for power - their normal power bills and the extraordinary power bills to run their power generators. The present fuel crisis has brought back long hours of blackouts.

Food and transport eat budgets
The agreement between the government and the transport syndicates doesn't help the average housewife or job holder at all, because the recent increases in fares and freight rates were not rescinded in the wake of the agreement. So the bus owners and truck owners get cheaper fuels but the fares stay high, as if the fuels were at normal prices. So far this year the taxis known as "conchos" or "publicos" have increased their fares as much as 67%, arguing the increasing cost of gasoline, which very few of them even use. According to El Caribe newspaper, the local population is now into a "forced" austerity program. One person interviewed by the newspaper, an executive secretary, told the reporter that she spent RD$104 per day on getting to and from work. Just eating at the work place has gotten more expensive, too. With a normal meal now costing at least RD$90, a worker is spending RD$1,700 a month on lunch, whereas before he was spending just RD$1,250. Adding up transportation and food, a worker earning a minimum salary in the private sector will spend 67% of his income on these two items alone.

Cardinal to head Council
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez was elected to head the Dominican Council of Bishops this past week during the 46th General Assembly of the Council of Bishops. Lopez Rodriguez will follow Santiago's archbishop Ramon de la Rosa y Carpio as head of the council. Joining the cardinal on the council will be Higuey's Archbishop, Nicanor Pena, Santiago's Archbishop, Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, and bishop Jose Dolores Grullon of San Juan de la Maguana. The assembly also elected a new secretary general, replacing Benito Angeles with Francisco Antonio Jimenez. The new Episcopal authorities will serve for three years. In another decision, it was announced that Caritas, the charitable organization of the council, will be headed by Bishop Grullon. The 2007-2009 program from Caritas calls for 1,733 housing units, 130 refurbished houses and an investment of RD$198 million in all of its projects.

Authorities say Bertha's okay
Local meteorological officials say that Hurricane Bertha, way out in the Atlantic, does not present any danger to the Dominican Republic. However, a tropical wave will bring heavy rains to the area over the next 24 hours. At the same time, the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) will be keeping an eye on Bertha, since hurricanes have a way of misbehaving from time to time. Bertha is the second named storm of this year's hurricane season.

Dominican to PSOE post
The General Assembly of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) elected Dr. Bernarda Jimenez, a Dominican immigrant, to the post of secretary general for immigrant affairs. This is the first time that an immigrant has held an executive position in a Spanish political party. She was presented to the press by vice secretary general of the PSOE, Jose Blanco. Blanco said that the election of Jimenez showed that the PSOE was clearly in favor of integration and immigrants' rights. Dr. Jimenez, who was born in Moca, Espaillat province 58 years ago, has worked for immigrant rights in Spain since arriving there 24 years ago. She was a fiery opponent of the immigration policies of the Popular Party, and just four months ago requested membership in the PSOE, the ruling political party.

Dominican stars in the All Star Game
A total of eleven Dominicans will probably see action in this year's All Star Game that will be played in the "House that Ruth Built": Yankee Stadium. This marks the sixth time that the country has been represented by at least ten players in the mid-summer spectacle. The list is headed by Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees who will play in his twelfth All Star Game, and who for eleven of those years has been the biggest votegetter of the game. Accompanying Rodriguez will be Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox (twelfth time on the team) and David "Big Papi" Ortiz, who will have to sit this one out because of injuries. Pitcher Ervin Santana will go to the game for the first time.
For the National League, Alfonso Soriano will be accompanied by six of his Chicago Cub teammates, including Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto. Also on the National League team are Albert Pujols and the sensational Hanley Ramirez. Miguel Tejada almost edged out Ramirez for the starting shortstop position. Cristian Guzman and Edison Volquez will also be on the team.
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