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Daily News - Monday, 04 August 2008

Education will provide 3 million cedulas
The Ministry of Education will provide a personal identification card called a "cedula" to every student in Dominican schools. The number on the cedula will be much like the Social Security Number issued at birth in the United States, and will stay with the person throughout his/her life. Part of the aim of the program, is to control to some degree the desertion levels in the schools. According to Diario Libre the program is part of a joint effort with the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and the Ministry of Education. The initiative was kicked off at the Cristina Billini Morales Model School with Minister German and JCE chief magistrate Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman attending the ceremony. 119 students were "tagged" during the ceremony.

Superintendent says electricity is back up
With one newspaper reporting that the recent rains have hurt the electricity sector and another saying that the Superintendent of Electricity has announced a return to the "normal " level of 85% of capacity, many Dominicans continue to sit out 12-hour blackouts. Diario Libre says that the weekend spat of blackouts appeared to diminish yesterday with just a 19% deficit in electricity production. The Superintendent of Electricity, Francisco Mendez said that the rains did affect the system, and the AES Andres facility lowered its output significantly. He did say that he was optimistic for an improvement with hydroelectric power at 85% level and the repair of damaged generators all finished. Mendez told reporters that generation reached 1,577 megawatts yesterday but demand was for 1,788 megawatts. Over the weekend the generation was just 1,343 megawatts. Mendez also addressed the issue of the electricity rates and said that, for now, the rates were had not been changed. He said the system is facing a 7.30% increase in the cost of production.
According to the Nuevo Diario, Mendez said that the AES Andres generators were now back on line as was the Itabo facility that was off-line over the weekend. He said that the thunderstorms and high winds (including two tornadoes-see next story) had caused a lot of damage "but these problems have been repaired."

A.M. Life is like that
Last Saturday, while he was driving along Winston Churchill Avenue, a stoplight halted Adriano Miguel Tejada at the corner of Heriberto Nunez. While waiting for the light to change, and in sight of a young AMET agent, some Haitian children were running around asking for money and trying to clean windshields. According to the Diario Libre editor, when he asked the AMET agent why she was allowing this to happen, in view of the fact that both activities were in violation of the child labor laws, she answered him with one of those "you know how it is" looks, confirming that she was not able to do anything because if she kicked the kids from one corner, they would just appear at another one, in a business that appears to be better organized than drug distribution in the barrios.
However, according to the editor, the curious thing happened next. Next to his car was a Jeep Wrangler, fairly new, with Haitian license plates, and driven by a large Haitian of fairly light color. When the child approached the car to ask for some money, the man did not even look at the child and merely moved his index finger. On the other side was a Dominican lady, apparently middle class, who lowered her window and gave some pesos to the little beggar from the neighboring country.
The quick lessons of the situation are obvious: The law does not apply; officers in charge do not apply it; the Haitians do not help their fellow citizens; and the middle class feed the business with their pity.
You can draw your own conclusions.

Minister goes to Congress
The joint congressional commission will talk to Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa this morning about the supplementary budget request submitted by the minister last week. The RD$31 billion proposal must be approved by the Congress. The meeting is set for 10am in the conference room of the Senate. One of the issues pending is the request for funds from agencies and institutions, but which are not currently included in the proposals. Deputy Ramon Cabrera told Diario Libre reporter Socorro Arias that he was concerned with the missing RD$5 billion needed to recapitalize the Central Bank as planned in the 2008 National Budget. Other requests include RD$325 million said to be needed by the UASD and the Dominican Federation of Municipalities wants 10% of the new money in accordance with the law.

Chief blames justice for lynchings
The chief of the National Police, Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, said his institution has nothing to do with the recent spat of lynchings that have happened over the last few days. The chief attributed the lynchings to the leniency of the justice department towards criminals and robbers that sow fear among the citizenry. When reporters asked the major general what he felt was the cause of the large number of lynchings in the capital and in the provinces, he answered: "This is the result of something else, the lynchings are the product of the impunity and I have said that several times before." Guzman Fermin complained that criminals and robbers walk through the streets shortly after being placed before the courts. The usual is for them to be out on the streets in a few days. Last Friday a man was killed by a mob that chased him after surprising him together with two more young men robbing inside a house on Colon Street in Villa Fundacion, Bani. The victim was Ramon Otano Jimenez, 22, who lived at 54 Esperanza St., Domingo Savio, in the Los Guandules barrio. Nonetheless, Guzman Fermin was firm in saying that the police have been holding solid on crime through good intelligence and patrol work. He pointed out to the reporters that from Saturday to Sunday, "nothing had happened." In the first seven months of 2008, there have been at least 12 lynchings of young men surprised committing crimes in commercial establishments and in homes as citizens resort to taking "justice" into their own hands.

Dams at low levels
The lack of rains in the high mountains that nourish the watersheds of the major rivers has caused a significant fall in the water levels in the many dams around the country. Water for agricultural production and electricity generation has significantly been reduced, nevertheless, the president of the National Dam Committee, Octavio Rodriguez, said that the dams are still guaranteeing the supply of drinking water for the population.
As an example, Rodriguez put the situation at the Tavera Dam in Santiago that has two pipes that supply water to Santiago, but only one is currently being used. The water level is currently 14 meters below the normal 327 meters (above sea level). Another example is the Hatillo Dam that is fed by the Yuna River. Currently the river is supplying 9 cubic meters of water per second, but the dam is sending out 27 cubic meters per second and has fallen 23 meters from the optimum level. The National Meteorological Office said that the recent rains have not done much to improve the situation because their measuring devices in the watersheds are indicating that very little rain has fallen in those areas.

Tornadoes destroy houses and power lines
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) reported that on Friday 12 houses in Barrio Lindo, a part of La Caleta, Boca Chica, lost their roofs. On Sunday, in the Lemba barrio, San Cristobal, 21 houses were completely left without roofs. Over at Kilometer 18 of the Sanchez Highway, neighbors were surprised by strong gusts of wind that damaged 17 structures. According to the report, the plastics factory near Nigua, San Cristobal was damaged by the winds and at Kilometer 18 power lines were torn down.
The Weather Department is forcasting rains for the DR.

Middle class is bearing the load
The owners of private cars received a little breather over the weekend when the Ministry of Industry and Commerce announced six and ten peso reductions in the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel. This relief should be taken with a grain of salt, because for the rest of the year and for 2009, there does not seem to be anything promising on the horizon for the Dominican middle class, especially the private sector employee. Meawhile, government jobholders have already begun to receive their 15% increase in pay. According to El Caribe, if we stick to the public announcements, starting with President Fernandez' speech, the social and economic perspectives for the middle class point towards a tightening of the belt. In his 17 July speech, the President said that although the government wanted to maintain the generalized nature of the various subsidy programs, when they put pencil to paper they realized that it was not sustainable over the medium term. Such a generous position would produce a large public deficit. Because of that reasoning, the government decided to assist the "most vulnerable." As a result their policy has been to broaden the Solidarity Card welfare program that primarily benefits the very poor. However, the deficit in the energy sector, expected to reach US$662 million by December has forced the government to look for other alternatives, and among these alternatives is an increase in the cost of a kilowatt/hour of electricity. The source of the money needed to cover this deficit is not clear. The government has said it could come from a renegotiation with the sectors involved in the Madrid Accord. It could come from a rescheduling of debt payments. It could also come from renegotiated contracts with the Independent Power Providers (IPPs), and finally, it could come from the consumers through a rate increase, that will primarily hurt the middle class.

Nobody can stop Caribe Tours
The head of the Office for Land Transportation (OTTT) has told reporters that there is no reason for the transportation syndicates or local authorities in Dajabon to prohibit the Caribe Tours buses from operating the route Santo Domingo-Cape Haitian. Franklin Beltre Cabral, said that the OTTT has authorized Caribe Tours to operate the route but the press handled the case very poorly, pushed by the syndicates and the mayor of Dajabon Sonia Mateo. Then, when reporters asked what the next step was, in the face of the threats by the local syndicates, the official said, "I do not know, I am not the public law enforcement agency." Transport unions are known to impose their "rights" by vandalism.

Environmental agency cannot protect dunes
The Deputy Minister for Environment says that in spite of the ministry's efforts, it has been impossible to protect the famous sand dunes in Bani. The dunes represent one of the natural treasures of the Dominican Republic, but they also represent millions in building supplies for construction companies. As such, they are the target for illegal extractions of sand, destroying part of the environment. Victor Garcia, the deputy minister, says that in spite of the park rangers stationed in the area, it appears impossible to put a halt to the builder's assault. The ministry official did tell Listin Diario reporter Viviano de Leon that if they are caught, the full weight of the law is applied. Garcia says builders have other alternatives rather than the dunes. He says if builders approach the Ministry, they can indicate where they can legally secure sand and gravel. Meanwhile, the Listin Diario reports that the trucks continue unchecked in their illegal extraction of sand from the natural monument.

DR chocolate for Italian kids
Dominican cacao is getting famous around the world. In the DR there are 48,000 cacao producers. This year cacao exports are expected to bring in around US$90 million. Beginning in September, Dominican chocolate will be served in schools in Italy, Simone Sebaini, director of the Italian consortium CMT announced at Choco-Caribe workshop on cacao in the DR. Dominican cacao is already being used in chocolate manufacture in Japan and the United States. According to the National Confederation of Cacao Producers (Conacado), the cacao produce for consumption is produced under the system of Fair Practice, under the guidance of CTM.
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