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Daily News - Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Heads of state coming for inaugural
13 heads of state, two vice presidents and the Prince of Asturias (Spain) have confirmed they will attend President Leonel Fernandez's 16 August second-term inaugural. Those who have confirmed are:
Presidents Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales (Honduras), Elias Antonio Saca (El Salvador), Rene Preval (Haiti), Ma Ying-jeou (Taiwan), Martin Torrijos (Panama) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea).
And prime ministers Dean Barrow (Belize), Denzil Douglas (St. Kitts & Nevis), and Emily Jongh-Elhagg (Netherlands Antilles). Also Vice Presidents Rafael Espada (Guatemala) and Abbelaziz Blekhadem (Argelia).
Spain will be sending Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Asturias.

Supplementary budget approved
The Chamber of Deputies fast-tracked the approval for the supplementary budget in time for the 16 August inaugural ceremonies. Members of the opposition PRD party were not in the chamber and there was a vote against from the bloc of PRSC deputies, but their presence made the needed quorum to pass the bill. The approved legislation now goes to the Executive Branch for signing and publication.

Constitutional Reform issues
The President proposes, but legislators will have the last word, maybe. On his afternoon CDN talk show, journalist Huchi Lora says so far, the PLD-majority Congress has just served to stamp bills coming from the President. Yesterday, the PLD political committee recently agreed that President Leonel Fernandez would decide on whether the constitutional ban on his and former President Hipolito Mejia running again would be kept.
Now the Chamber of Deputies says that they agree to remove the "never again" clause on presidential re-election from Article 49 of the Constitution. This article refers to a President serving more than two consecutive terms.
According to El Caribe, Chamber president Julio Cesar Valentin favors that again presidential and the congressional and municipal election be held in the same year. He said this would mean either a reduction to two years of the next term, or an extension of the present term. Congressional and municipal elections are set for 2010.
Valentin is also a strong supporter that the number of deputies be reduced from 172 to 120.
Valentin said that the resolutions approved by the PLD Political Committee are slightly different from those submitted by the special commission that was created to draft the reform proposals. The PLD already has the two-thirds majority needed to change the Constitution. Valentin thinks that the PRD party, currently in the opposition, will support the changes because "tomorrow they could win the election."

Dengue alert
The Center for Tropical Diseases has issued an alert to watch for stagnant water that may become breeding ground for the dengue-spreading Aedes Aegipty mosquito. Summer is the high season for dengue fever. Dr. Jose Manuel Puello, the director of the National Center for Tropical Diseases (Cencet), under the Ministry for Public Health, also alerted the municipalities to clean up garbage where water can accumulate. Puello, a specialist in contagious diseases, said that although the fever is endemic in the Dominican Republic, there are times when the mosquito multiplies faster, especially in places where there is a scarcity of water and the families keep stored water without a lid or chlorination. He said that 55-gallon tanks have become the favorite breeding ground for the mosquito, since the tank is used to hold water for several days. He said that such a tank could produce between 80 and 130 adult mosquitoes per day. He recommended wiping down the sides of all water recipients with chlorine and keeping it covered.

Inflation up 1.62%
Central Bank reports inflation was 1.62% in July. July inflation is attributed to rising oil and food prices. Accumulated inflation for the first seven months of the year is at 9.31%.
http://www.bancentral.gov.do/publicaciones_economicas/cipcm/cipcm2008-07.pdf

$$$ to send a kid to school
The best inheritance a parent can give to a child is education, according to an old saying, but the investment that is required to achieve this goal is getting larger every passing year. According to the El Caribe, this new school year means parents in the DR will need to spend RD$13,375 to RD$33,000 for the child to go to private school with new uniforms and supplies.
One mother "cried to the heavens" when she realized the cost of sending her two children to school. Registration fees were RD$7500 each; required textbooks and supplies were RD$15,000 for the two; and backpacks, shoes and uniforms amounted to RD$7400. The total investment to get the kids ready: RD$33,875. Add to this RD$1500 a month for the seat on the school bus and RD$5000 for tuition.
Another, reasonably affluent woman told the reporter that her family has to pay US$4000 (RD$138,000) for her son to attend school. This is RD$13,800 per month for the ten-month school year.
Lower middle class families pay fees that are in line with their incomes. For example, the reporters interviewed the family of Gloria Mella that has three children in a school near their house. They paid RD$400 each for registration and the books and supplies were RD$12,000 this year. Most parents complain about having to buy new books each year, because the practice sheets for many classes (arithmetic, geometry etc) are included in the textbook, making their reuse impossible. Another complaint is the obligatory use of the school uniform that can only be purchased in specified stores or at the school itself.

ARS vs. Senasa
Three Health Service Insurers (ARS) -- Humano, Colonial and Monumental -- have gone before the Contentious and Administrative Court with an appeal designed to protect their clients that work in government. In a paid announcement in today's El Caribe, and other papers, the three insurers explained that they are trying to preserve their clients' right to affiliation with the ARS of choice. The companies have gone to court after the National Health Service (Senasa), a competing ARS, said it wants to cover all government employees.
Spokesmen for the three ARS say that the Constitution clearly establishes that all Dominicans are equal before the law and it condemns all privileges and all situations affecting this equality. The petitioners say that the Constitution also establishes the freedom to choose, one of the fundamental rights of Law 87-01 that regulates Social Security. Since public servants are also taxpayers, and pay exactly the same quotas as employees of private firms, they therefore have the same right to choose the ARS that they prefer. Finally, the petitioners indicate that Law 358-05, on Consumer Rights and Protection, establishes the client's right to choose freely the products and services according to his or her own criteria.

Textile exports are down
The export of apparel manufactured or assembled in the Dominican Republic fell 12.7% in volume exported and 25.5% in the value of the exports for the first six months of the year. The fall in the sale of apparel also reflects some of the diversification that is taking place in the industrial free zones nationwide. Today, the business mix of Dominican free zones is much more diverse. From 60% apparel years back, apparel companies now only make up 32% of free zone companies. Others are health products at 18.4%, electric products at 16.6%, jewelry at 14.5% and services at 13.1%. Tobacco products (primarily cigars), footwear and marketing services make up the rest.
According to the latest report from the Major Shippers Report, the Dominican Republic exported 180.7 million square meters of apparel to the US market during the first half of the year, a 12.7% decrease from a year ago. (Costa Rica also registered a loss of 21.7%).
The report also states that on a worldwide level there was a 3.84% fall in volume and a 4% drop is value in the textile trade. Of the countries associated with the DR-CAFTA agreement, only Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua increased their textile exports. Of interest to the sector is the fact that the report states that China faced increasing workers' demands for higher wages, and saw their volume and value fall, although by only 7% and 6% respectively.

Power plant issues in POP
The authorities from the San Felipe Power Station denied that their generators are causing the air pollution that is affecting the nearby Costambar enclave. In a paid announcement in most of today's newspapers, the San Felipe officials say that they work with the Ministry of the Environment to preserve the local ecology. The business says it complies with all of the norms and laws relating to the environment and that they have gone beyond their mere obligations and contribute to the economic, social and environmental progress of the city. They say that they have been measuring the fallout from their smokestacks for ten years in Cofresi and Costambar and that all the measurements indicate that environmental standards are being met.
On the other side of the coin, Asonahores, the Hotel and Restaurant Association, has asked that the San Felipe generator be moved somewhere else where "it will not affect the tourist activities currently in existence nor damage the health of local residents." Asonahores president Luis Lopez argued for the reorganization of the tourist areas and the need to strictly regulate the areas.
Last Monday, Deputy Minister of Environment Ernesto Reyna told the Listin Diario that the problem was possibly caused by the purchase of poor quality fuel that clogged the facility's filters and released a lot of soot into the air. He said that the Ministry of the Environment will send an expert to measure the air quality.
Luis Lopez said that the installation of the San Felipe generator has caused the closure of many hotel establishments in the area and cited the cases of three hotels and a tourist project that was closed because of the visual and smoke contamination. He stressed that the soot coming from the plant causes serious health issues.

2600 stopped at the gate
Migration at the Las Americas International Airport has detected 2,631 persons that attempted to leave the country with false documents over the past seven months. Of these, 1,023 were women between the ages of 22 and 40, and the rest were men between the ages of 29 and 50, including several deportees from the United States that attempted to return. Diario Libre reports that forged passports, birth certificates, residency cards, letters of recommendation to consulates and embassies, Social Security cards and drivers licenses were used. The falsifications primarily were discovered to passengers attempting to travel to Spain, the United States, Italy, Venezuela, and Germany, and Caribbean countries under European rule.

Santiago water and light rationed
Water and electricity services are being rationed in the nation's second city, Santiago de los Caballeros. Reporters are calling the situation "critical" due to the widespread cuts in service by the Water and Sewer Corporation (Coraasan) and by the Energy Distributor of the North (EdeNorte). Thousands of users are screaming every time the tap is turned on and there is no water or the switch is thrown and there is no light. In the southern part of town, all of the barrios, such as Villa Olimpica, Pekin, Los Jasmines, Amanza Tigres, Sal Si Puede, Barrio Lindo among others, have been hit by long blackouts. The same situation can be found in the northern and northeastern sections of the city, where areas like Ensanche Libertad, Las Colinas, Cienfuegos, El Ingenio and Monte Bonito were seriously affected by the power cuts. Even noted residential areas such as the Cerros de Gurabo, Llanos de Gurabo, Los Reyes and Canca la Reina were affected, even though these are registered as areas with 24-hour electricity service.
The lack of water in the Tavera Dam and issues at the generation stations in Puerto Plata, as well as at the hydroelectric units at the Tavera Dam are reported to be the main causes for the below usual service.

What about Sun Land?
The president of the PRD party, Ramon Alburquerque asks why the Supreme Court of Justice doesn't do what it preaches and convene judges to rule on the Sun Land case. A decision is pending in the Supreme Court on the legality of the US$110 million borrowed in name of the government without congressional approval. The use of the money has not been clarified. Alburquerque tied the Sun Land finance scheme scandal to recent comments made by Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa that an investigation should be called into the source of wealth of several government and judiciary officers whose recent fortunes have not been fully explained. Supreme Court president, Jorge Subero Isa had requested that investigations be carried out into the quick fortunes displayed by judges and government officers.
As reported in Hoy, Jorge Subero Isa has denied several times that the court is politically-biased in its choice of cases to review.

Caribbean Plan against drugs
The president of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), General Rafael Ramirez Ferreira is in favor of a Caribbean Plan, similar to the well known Plan Colombia or Merida Initiative that bring US resources to aid Colombia and Mexican authorities fight against the country's powerful drug cartels and organized crime networks. Ramirez Ferreira said that in the country there is the political will to fight drug trafficking, but there are not enough resources to carryout the fight successfully. There are not enough planes, helicopters or fast boats to do the job as the country is literally bombarded with drugs from air and sea.
The Hoy newspaper said that Ramirez Ferreira confirmed that "we need planes, helicopters and fast boats, not only to fight drug trafficking, but, because we are an island, these can be used to rescue people caught in storms." He called upon both the European Union and the United States to provide the logistical and material support needed to do the right thing.
He spoke at an event organized by the National Border Board CNF) to recognize his work to fight against illegal immigration and trans-border drug smuggling.
The statements are in line with the Cartagena Declaration, where Caribbean nations called for more involvement of the drugs buyer nations in combating the trafficking.
See http://dr1.com/news/2008/081308_cartagenadeclaration.shtml

Colonel nabbed with coke
A Lieutenant Colonel (called a frigate captain in Navy parlance) was arrested by two low-ranking members of the National Police and members of the Naval Intelligence Office (M-2) with eight packages of cocaine. The officer was identified as Ricardo Guzman Perez, who was accompanied at the moment of his arrest by his wife, Scarlet Aristy Rosa. The naval officer was intercepted on the Ecological Avenue in East Santo Domingo, according to the Nuevo Diario, carrying eight packages of cocaine in the car. Ricardo Guzman Perez was assigned to a dredge ship that has been out of service for several months because it was scrapped. This officer had been followed for several months because there was information that he was not doing good things. The government's intelligence operations are widening their investigations in order to determine the officer's contacts.

Payano keeps hopes for medal
Dominican boxer Juan Carlos Payano fighting in the Flyweight Class (51kg/112lbs) moved up defeating Frenchman Jerome Thomas in a 10-6 decision by points. Thomas was high-rated as he was the silver medallist at the Athens Olympics. Ironically, in Athens, Payano had lost to Thomas. Payano is a Pan American silver medallist and the country's highest hope for a medal in Beijing. Payano will next fight against an Italian. Hopes are also up for the performances of boxers Felix Manuel Diaz, Winston Mendez and Argenis Nunez.
Dominican laser sailor, Raul Aguayo has placed 37th and 30th in the first two regattas.
 
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