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Daily News - Thursday, 21 August 2008

Officers confirmed in their posts
On occasion of the start of another four years of the Fernandez administration, President Leonel Fernandez confirmed several key officers in their posts. Yesterday he issued decrees confirming the Governor of the Central Bank Hector Valdez Albizu, the director of Customs Department Miguel Cocco, the director of the Tax Department Juan Hernandez and the president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute Jose Rafael Vargas. He also confirmed his press officer Rafael Nunez and Felix Bautista, director of the Supervisory Office of the Presidency. President Fernandez has practically kept his cabinet quite the same as during 2004-2008. He also confirmed Santo Domingo prosecutor Perfecto Acosta.

German assumes post
Former Education Minister Alejandrina German has accepted to be Minister of Women after rumors circulated that she was unhappy with her appointment. At a press conference, German said she took the post to comply with President Leonel Fernandez's wish. German's appointment has been controversial. Several women's group contested the appointment.
In related news, former Vice President Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal has yet to assume his position as new Minister of Environment. Hoy reports that Fernandez has yet to be sworn in or to appear at the Ministry. He has not commented to the press, allowing for media speculation.

Rule of the law?
Santiago senator Francisco Dominguez Brito criticized yesterday in the Senate that government authorities are indifferent in complying with the laws of state, as reported in Hoy. He said this can be sometimes explained by clientelism or submissiveness. He criticized that neither the Controller of the Republic nor the Chamber of Accounts, the body that audits government spending, have been able to guarantee the fulfillment of the Procurement Law and the legislation that establishes the percentage that must be used for public works in municipalities.
For many in the DR, the law is only applied when convenient, he said. "If this continues to be so, then reforming the Constitution will not contribute to national development," he said.
He said the present political leadership needs to set the example. He called for all sectors to commit to respect the norms and laws.

Cleaning up the Ozama
National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo, Santo Domingo East Mayor Juan de los Santos, Santo Domingo North Mayor Jesus Feliz and Navy Chief Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet have agreed to work together to clean up the contamination in the Ozama and Isabela rivers. Salcedo explained that the Navy will assess the situation to determine the complexity of the problem.

Cement prices too high
The Dominican Construction and Housing Promotion Association (Acroprovi) is demanding that cement and metal bar producers lower prices. ACROPROVI president Jaime Gonzalez says that the price increases of 5% for metal bars and 20% for cement are unjustified since fuel prices have gone down 30%, reducing the cost to produce cement. He added that increases in material costs would eventually cause a 5% to 8% increase in the price of housing. He said housing sales have decreased 70% since January.

Large deficit reported
The government's accumulated spending was RD$11.88 billion, or 8% more than revenues collected through 8 August. According to a report by the Ministry of Hacienda the government's spending totaled RD$164.9 billion while revenues were RD$153 billion. The report indicates that the bulk of the spending was directed towards energy and petroleum subsidies. 31% or RD$51.1 billion was spent on electricity and petroleum, transport and bread subsidies. The report indicates the Tax Department collected RD$101.2 billion (66%), Customs collected RD$35.3 billion (23%) and the National Treasury collected RD$16.3 billion (11%) in revenues. The Ministry of Hacienda reported that the Central Bank's reserves decreased 11% and 0.5% between December 2007 and July 2008. Gross reserves in 2007 were registered at US$2.95 billion and in 2008 registered at US$2.7 billion for a US$282.8 million, or an 11% decrease. Net reserves went from US$2.41 bullion in 2007 to RD$2.4 billion in 2008 for an RD$11.7 million decrease, or 0.5%.

Young girl doing ok
A young Italian girl injured during last week's bus clash accident on La Romana/Higuey highway is in stable condition at the Plaza de la Salud. Meanwhile Haitian national Berthony Vorneus is recovering at the Dario Contreras Hospital with a broken leg and multiple scars. Tashira Martinez, public relations officer for Plaza de la Salud, said the girl is still in pain from the injuries suffered during the crash and will not be released from the hospital because of her delicate status. The child's father has been released while her mother is in the serious but stable condition. In the accident that occurred on 15 August, 19 persons died, 13 of which were Dominicans and six Italian.

Soldier remembered
Today at 10am the body of Dominican American soldier Jose Enrique Ulloa was to be buried at the Jima Arriba cemetery in La Vega. US Ambassador to the DR, Robert Fannin expressed his condolences to the Ulloa family. He joined the family as they received the body at the Cibao International Airport. 23-year old Ulloa was killed while patrolling an area in Iraq. Ulloa's wife Nieves, his 6-month old son Steven and Captain Maribel Munoz, Sgt, Sylvester Lloyd, Sgt. William Russell and Sgt. Ruben Burgos all flew to the DR for the ceremonies.

Communities getting restless
Citizens in communities nationwide are now taking to the streets to protest the extended blackouts. Officials have yet to provide answers for the blackouts, adding to the frustration of many. Listin Diario writes that two people were hurt and 5 arrested after protests in Dajabon. Citizens also burned tires and impeded traffic. Members of the Cachiman neighborhood of Villa Mella protested in the streets arguing they haven't had power in seven days. Protests were also reported in El Ejido, Yaguita, Bermudez and Los Ciruelitos. Residents in these neighborhoods are complaining of 20 and 24-hour blackouts. El Caribe cites the CDEEE webpage that explained the demand was at 1,810 MW but only 1,434 MW were generated, for a 376 MW deficit. The decline in generation is attributed to low fuel levels at the generators and the announced cease of operation at the San Felipe generator for maintenance purposes.

Olympic excitement
There is excitement in the air as Dominican boxer Felix Diaz gets ready for his match on Friday against Frenchman Alexis Vastine. Diaz has guaranteed at least a bronze medal. He says, "I am ready to get to the finish and be champ." He is the only remaining Dominican boxer in the Beijing Games. The DR has secured two medals in these Olympics, the first time it wins more than one medal. In the 1984 Olympics, the DR won a bronze in boxing (Pedro Nolasco) and in the 2004 Athens Olympics the DR won a gold (Felix Sanchez).
Dominican-Chinese Xue Wu also made sports history for the DR by being the first to represent the DR in a semifinal round of the women's individual table tennis tournament. She would eventually lose to Chinese athlete Yue Guo.

Mercedes a champ
Dominican taekwondo fighter Gabriel Mercedes did the unthinkable and is bringing home a silver medal. Mercedes's medal, the third for the DR since it began competing in the Olympic Games in 1964, was highlighted by his brush with perfection throughout the tournament. The young athlete from Monte Plata won his first round match against Portuguese athlete Pedro Povoa, 3-0. He then went on to beat former Olympic gold medalist Chu Mu-Yen, from China Tapei. Mercedes next faced Spaniard Juan Antonio Ramos. In his final match he faced Mexican athlete Guillermo Perez, where he was defeated in a judge's decision after a four-round match.
The score was tied 1-1, but the judges awarded Mexican Guillermo Perez the gold because he had scored first. This is the country's first silver in an Olympics, and a first for taekwondo. In the course of a week Mercedes has become a national hero, joining the ranks of Felix Sanchez or David Ortiz. Less important, yet gratifying, is the fact that Mercedes will be awarded a vehicle and RD$5.5 million from the government for his medal wining performance. What makes Mercedes medal more interesting is the fact that the young man started off as a shoe shine boy to make enough money.

DR b-ball has troubles
The Mexican consulate in the DR has been unwilling to provide the Dominican National Basketball Team visas to visit Mexico for the 2008 Centro Basket Tournament, being held in Chetumal and Cancun 24 August. This is the first time the Dominican team has faced any issues in securing a travel visa to Mexico and no word has been given as to why the delays. A spokesperson for the Mexican Ambassador says that Dominicans need to present the same requirements as other travelers, including a letter of employment, a letter from the bank and credit cards. Hoy reports the team went to the Mexican consulate to meet with officials, but weren't received. Dominican Basketball Federation president Frank Herasme says that the requirements by the Mexican consulate are absurd. He has filed a petition with FIBA, basketball's governing body.
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