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Daily News - Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Guerrero provides proof
Senator Wilton Guerrero (PLD-Peravia) has been voicing his concerns about alleged complicity between drug traffickers and officials for four years and until now rarely has anyone listened. Guerrero says that accompanied by civic society members of his province, he met with officials on several occasions but nothing was ever done. As a result of last week's drug-massacre of seven men, officials are now investigating ties between drug dealers and local authorities. The Senator also claims there are 375 drug points in Bani and one is located only a few meters away from the Police station. Guerrero said that Bani Police chief General Hilario Gonzalez should be investigated for his supposed drug ties as well as former district prosecutor Victor Cordero and three other members of the Public Ministry. Cordero has responded to the accusations by saying he will sue Guerrero for defamation. Guerrero showed the media proof of the meetings he had had with the PLD party and government officers since 2004, where he urges officials to investigate drug dealing in his province. As reported in Hoy, he met four times with the prosecutor general, twice with the legal advisor to the Presidency and deposited copies of his claims in the secretary general and legal matters secretariats of the ruling PLD party. At the end of 2005, he said he met with then chief of the National Police, Major General Manuel de Jesus Perez Sanchez to explain the situation.
He even says that some of the men massacred last week had been seen riding around town in police vehicles, eating dinner and drinking whisky with police officers. During his press conference, Guerrero says that in the past four years he took these names, and proof, to on four separate times to Dominican Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena, who took no action in response nor investigated his claims. According to Guerrero, police in Bani are connected to a band of thieves in Azua known for "stealing" drug shipments.

Commission meets
The commission created by President Leonel Fernandez to investigate the drug-related massacre of seven men in Bani met yesterday and interrogated Senator Wilton Guerrero, Deputies Licelotte Arias and Milciades Franjul as well as Police General Hilario Gonzalez, Mayor Nelson Camilo Landestoy, provincial Governor Bienvenido Montero, District Attorney Roberto Lugo and state prosecutor Miguel Mejia. No details of the meetings were released and Gonzalez defended his innocence upon leaving the Senate. Gonzalez says he has proof that he has done his job as head of the police department in Bani. Gonzalez says that his conscience is clear and he is unaware of the situation described by Senator Guerrero. The commission includes National Police Chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, Armed Forces Minister Lt. Ramon Aquino Garcia and Attorney General Radhames Jimenez Pena.

No drugs in government
Presidential legal advisor Cesar Pina Toribio says that no government official has direct or indirect connections to drug trafficking. Pina Toribio says he is supporting the government's decision to tackle the issue more vigorously. Pina Toribio says that President Leonel Fernandez's government has increased its drug fighting efforts. Pina Toribio is contradicting Senator Wilton Guerrero's accusations that officials are involved in drug trafficking. The presidential legal advisor adds that the government follows up on all drug cases and punishes criminals to the fullest extent of the law.

Jorge Isa asks for investigation
Supreme Court President Jorge Subero Isa is asking for central government and judiciary officers that have accumulated unexplained great wealth to be investigated. He says that one of the best ways to fight drug trafficking and corruption is to determine where the goods that are magically exhibited by people have come from. Jorge Isa lamented the fact that there are many authorities that are breaking the rules, but added that Dominican society is still salvageable.

Ostentatiousness and impunity
Journalist Juan Bolivar Diaz calls for an end to pretentious displays of wealth by government officials as well as to impunity, which he says are behind the drug trade's penetration into Dominican society. "Crime in all its manifestations has found fertile ground in which to multiply in this country where the quest for a quick buck is motivated by impunity and the culture of unbridled ostentatiousness exhibited by many in contrast to the levels of poverty of most of Dominicans," he comments in Hoy. " More people are becoming convinced that the country is going through a crisis that requires new policies that come down to earth in keeping with the economic-social reality and adjust the lifestyle and consumption of privileged groups, especially those in government and politics, imposing the rule of the law," he writes.
To read his analysis, see http://dr1.com/news/2008/081208_juanbolivardiaz.shtml

RD$52 billion missing
Economist Jose Luis de Ramon told Hoy that the government needs a radical cut in spending and to reduce its size if it is to survive rising international costs and the rising fiscal deficit. De Ramon says the government has said there will be a 2.3% GDP deficit, when what is needed is a 1.5% surplus at year's end. That means the government is 3.8% of the GDP short, or RD$52 billion, he explained. He said that kind of money cannot be had by just more efficient tax collecting by the Tax Department.

Fiscal surplus needed
Bernardo Vega comments in Hoy on what needs to be tackled to avoid serious balance of payment problems and the depreciation of the peso. Vega concludes a devaluation will be avoided only if the government can achieve a budgetary surplus. He blamed the strong budgetary deficit on the re-election campaign overspending. He called for transparency. He complained that the government is keeping a secret the deficit numbers, that previously were published on the Ministry of Hacienda website.
Vega said the government is taking a big risk by counting on a continued decline in imported oil and food prices. He said that if that does not happen, the budgetary deficit would have to be met by the government printing money. He explained the country is before a situation of rising costs and volume of imports, while foreign exchange receipts have not kept the same pace.

New zip codes
The Dominican Post Office (Inposdom) announced that the city of Santo Domingo has been assigned the zip code 11211. Towns in the interior will have the zip code 51101. He says these codes can immediately be used in mail correspondence, as reported in El Caribe.

PLD discusses reform
The PLD Political Committee has approved the proposed constitutional reform that President Leonel Fernandez will introduce to Congress on 16 August. According to Listin Diario, the Committee leaves it up to President Fernandez to decide whether to change the Constitution so that he can run for President again. PLD Secretary General and Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez says that the PLD is against indefinite re-election. Pared explained that the party agrees with the status quo. The Constitution only allows for one consecutive re-election. There have been calls by the public and private sector for the current administration to postpone submitting the constitutional reform and focus all energies on pressing economic and social problems instead.

Customs makes bust
The Customs Department (DGA) has seized 200 sacks of illegal pharmaceuticals worth an estimated RD$40 million. The drugs were found during a series of raids around the city of Santo Domingo in five separate stings. During the raids, officials seized three vehicles, guns, cell phones, cash and bank account numbers. Customs director Miguel Cocco says that the DGA has seized more than RD$150 million worth of illegal pharmaceuticals so far this year.

Bread more expensive
Bread that was sold last week for RD$3 is now being sold for RD$5. El Caribe writes that some colmados will maintain the original price until their current stock of bread runs out and then implement the increases when new batches of bread come in. Bakers increased the price of bread after the government removed the bread subsidies. According to Hector Delgado, president of UMPIH, the RD$3 bread could end up costing as much as RD$7 or RD$9.

Ballplayer gets caught
Hoy is reporting that officials at the Central Electoral Board (JCE) have uncovered attempts to get Jose Rafael Juan Pula a fake birth certificate, so that he could qualify to play for the Colorado Rockies. Reports indicate that Jhonathan Leyba initiated the fake birth certificate process and tried to get Pula registered in the books at the Villa Mella civil registry under the name of Rafael Laureano. The JCE has also determined that civil registry employee Jose Garcia is involved. The JCE recently announced that it has increased its monitoring in an attempt to prevent the forgery of birth certificates, a common practice in the DR.

Diabetes warning
The National Diabetes, Endocrinology and Nutrition Institute (INDEN) reports that between 7% and 8% of the population suffers from diabetes and is calling for increased awareness about the disease. According to Dr. Ammar Ibrahim the incidence of diabetes has been on the increase during the last decade. He estimates that by 2025 the number of diabetes cases will double in the DR. According to Ibrahim, fast food, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and genetics are all behind the increase in the condition. Ibrahim and INDEN have announced a series of activities to mark Diabetes Month, which will include workshops and summer camps for kids.

Olympic round up
Track star Felix Sanchez says he is under pressure to run the 400-meter hurdles race on the 15th, in light of the fact that Dominican athletes in other events have failed to win medals. Sanchez, who is still recovering from a lingering foot injury, thanked the millions of Dominicans who have supported his every move.
Sports Minister Felipe (Jay) Payano and US President George Bush exchanged pleasantries during a basketball game in Beijing. Both Bush and Payano, who is representing President Leonel Fernandez, were sitting in the section reserved for foreign dignitaries. According to Hoy, Payano was introduced to the US President by USA Basketball's managing director Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo and Payano have known each other since 1997. President Bush is quoted as saying that President Fernandez is a very intelligent man.
The Dominican Table Tennis team is in its final stages of preparation for its debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although the Chinese national team is heavily favored, Dominicans Lin Ju ad Nieves Xue (both Chinese-born) are expected to compete for medals in the team and individual events. Pingpong coach Miguel Rodriguez says the training has been intense, and the team's spirits are very high. The team is in the same group as Croatia, China and Portugal.
Dominican sailor Raul Aguayo came in 37th place in his first race and 30th place in his second race yesterday. He will continue to compete today. Although Aguayo is ranked 77th in the world in his category, there is still a chance that he will win a medal. In recent years, Aguayo has become one of the best sailors in the region and is one of the sport's rising stars.
Also, Juan Carlos Payano made his debut, holding the DR's best chances for a medal. The boxer faced Frenchman Jerome Thomas who was a bronze medal winner in the 2000 Sydney Games. His rival's past success didn't deter Payano who beat Thomas 10-6 in his four-round bout. Meanwhile, Dominican Roberto Navarro lost to Ecuadorian boxer Luis Porozo in a sloppy fight.
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