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Daily News - Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Bonogas starts Monday
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque announced that beginning Monday 800,000 citizens will have been issued Bonogas cards for charging the purchase of up to six gallons of propane gas per month, a RD$228 credit that is part of the RD$182 million per month Bonogas program. Alburquerque added that half of the families that have received Bonogas cards also have the "Eating is First Card", that enables them to charge RD$700 per month for food at select suppliers. This card is also known as the Solidarity Card. Families that do not already have the Eating is First Card, (perhaps 150,000) will receive a food bonus of RD$300 per month. These families were selected through the SIUBEN system that periodically checks on the status of the country's poorest families. According to the Vice President, the program seeks to benefit the 800,000 families that live in extreme poverty of the 2.2 million poor families living in the DR.

Roads getting fixed
The Ministry of Public Works has received 40,000 gallons of AC-30, the main component of asphalt, and within the next 15 days 30,000 more gallons will arrive. The shipment of AC-30 is part of the National Asphalt Plan, which looks to restore many of the nation's badly damaged roads. In recent weeks, the media and citizens have complained of the potholes that affect many leading roads and highways, which cause traffic jams, due to drivers avoiding pot holes, and increased wear and tear on vehicles.

Business calls Haitian migration a priority
The National Business Council (CONEP) urged the government to put away the traditional policy of laissez faire regarding Haitian issues. It writes that hoping that time will resolve the issues has only lead to the escalating of the seriousness of the issues and the intensification of the negative international campaigns that affect the good image of the country abroad. Conep issued a statement addressing the ten points that require proactive attention of the government.
See http://dr1.com/news/2008/090208_Conep-Haiti.shtml

VP favors Senasa
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque feels that government employees need to be affiliated to the AFS Senasa, and not to private health purveyors. "The Social Security Law is clear and establishes that government employees fall under Senasa," he said. A local court ruled that government employees could affiliate also with private providers. Alburqueque says that they are awaiting a judgment from the Supreme Court of Justice, and he expects the court to rule backing Art 32 of the Social Security Law that establishes the obligation of government employees to join Senasa.

Government is biggest advertiser
The Dominican government, despite having a monopoly on most of the services it offers, is by far the leading advertiser in the Dominican Republic. A report in the Listin Diario indicates that from 2003-2007 the Dominican government spent RD$900 million in advertising in newspapers alone. The Centro Cuesta Nacional (RD$500 million), Plaza Lama (RD$400 million) and Grupo Ramos (RD$350 million), all food and household goods chain, are the second, third and fourth largest advertisers in newspapers. Telecom giants Claro Codetel (RD$300 million), and Orange and Centennial (RD$200 million each), Tricom (RD$125 million) follow. Commercial banks Banco Popular (RD$200 million), BHD (RD$175 million) are next, according to the Dominican League of Advertising Agencies.

GLP coming
Yesterday, tanker ships arrived in the DR to deliver propane gas. More tankers are expected this week to restore supplies and ease the present propane shortage. Propane distributors have closed shop because they have depleted their inventories. Public transport unions say that half their vehicles are out of service because they have not been able to get propane and gasoline is too expensive to operate the service. A total of 4.7 million gallons arrived yesterday, with another 4.5 million gallons expected today. One more tanker with, 1.7 million gallons, should arrive on Thursday. Industry and Commerce officials explained the lack of GLP was due to the dangerous maritime conditions caused by Hurricane Gustav.

EPA still in limbo
The European Partnership Agreement process is once again dragging on with no timetable set for when the agreement will formally come into play. Issues with the EPA have developed in all stages of process. Originally it was the negotiations that caused problems, with smaller Caribbean nations asking for larger concessions. Opposition to the agreement is lead by Guyanese President Bharet Jagdeo who says the agreement isn't in the Caribbean's best interests. St. Lucia and Grenada have backed Jagdeo in dissension. Many critics also claim the region had once again been hoodwinked and overpowered by the European Union, while some cynical comments inferred that negotiators had received special compensation to force the signing of the agreement. Though the region has cleared many hurdles, a signing date has yet to be set. Today was the expected official signing for the agreement in Barbados, but to this date no CARIFORUM nation has taken any real step to implement the agreement. And there are dangers ahead. According to Jamaican Foreign Affairs Minister Kenneth Baugh, if in fact the agreement does not work out for CARIFORUM there is an exit clause stipulated in article 244.3c of the EPA, which comes into effect six months after signing the agreement. Baugh, however, urges that implementation of the agreement be a priority. EU officials, mindful of the discontent, explain that if in fact nations decide not to sign into the agreement or exit after six months the alternative would be the less beneficial generalized system of preferences (GSP), which would limit market access for Caribbean countries looking to export to Europe. The DR is a strong supporter of the signing of the agreement.
For more information: www.dr1.com/trade

Discontent brews in PLD politics
Aside from dealing with the normal issues facing the nation, President Leonel Fernandez must now deal with the internal strife caused in his party over the allocation of well-paid government posts. Fernandez has continued naming party members to various positions, but many party members are unhappy with the allocations. Given the situation, the PLD held a three-hour meeting yesterday to discuss the issues at hand. Fernandez was not present. As a result, it was decided that Minister to the Presidency Cesar Pina Torribio would deal with the internal party issues. PLD members have gone on the offensive against each other, hurling insults and accusations through the media. The PLD has warned all members that continued public attacks will result in sanctions.

Excessive hiring by government
Ines Aizpun of Diario Libre writes today of the need to de-politicize politics in the DR. She comments that the plan for a professionalized bureaucracy has been thwarted by pressures on the government to find jobs for those that campaigned for the reelection of President Leonel Fernandez, regardless of their qualifications, and despite the fact that there are already too many people on the government payroll. "Meanwhile, capable professionals, students with degrees from local and foreign universities, those with experience are left out of the public service career that never could be because the preference is to the guy who campaigned, even though he may not know where he will be placed, he will take any job!" explains Aizpun. She writes of the need to de-politicize politics, because from what we are seeing, political patronage is bursting at the seams!
The Foundation for Institutionality and Justice (Finjus) also criticized the unjustified increase in the government payroll and the delays in the government releasing information on public spending at a time when austerity and control of spending should prevail in government. Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman, executive vice president of Finjus criticized the recent appointment of dozens of new deputy ministers. He urged the Executive Branch to contain the appointments, and requested information in the law of access to public information on how many new government jobs are being created and their cost to taxpayers. "For years the leading Dominican institutions have pinpointed political patronage as a fundamental obstacle to advances in the integral development and the fight against poverty and democratic institutions consolidation," says Finjus.
The president of the Association of Industries of Herrera, Manuel Cabrera, also has said excessive hiring in the government is at a critical level.
In an editorial today, Hoy newspaper urges that the opportunity of the upcoming constitutional reform be used to incorporate measures that eradicate political patronage given its high cost to society.

Nine months & counting
It's been nine months and still Haitian authorities have yet to allow Dominican chickens and eggs to be sold legally in Haiti. Authorities in the neighboring nation originally prohibited the sale of Dominican chickens and eggs because isolated incidents of Avian flu were reported in the DR. Dominican authorities took drastic measures to contain the outbreak and weeks later the US, Puerto Rico and other nations lifted the ban on Dominican chickens and eggs. But not Haiti. As a result, a black market for chicken and eggs has sprung up to meet the needs of consumers. Hoy writes that Haitian Ambassador to the DR Fritz Cineas has met with Dominican agricultural authorities. However, Cineas claims that new ministers have entered office in Haiti, making it difficult to attend to this situation at the moment.

DR scores low in education
A regional comparison of test scores in math, science and language demonstrate the DR is below the regional average in all three categories, while Cuba is above the regional averages. The SERCE study, administered by UNESCO, compared the skills of third and sixth grade students in 16 Latin American countries. According to the study only 1% of Dominican students received max scores in reading comprehension, compared to 50% of Cuban students.
For information on the report: http://portal.unesco.org/geography/en/ev.php-URL_ID=...
Or to download the report: unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001610/161045e.pdf

Quirino case begins
The highly anticipated trial of former Dominican military captain Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, versus the US for their participation in a DR-based drug-trafficking organization is scheduled to be heard by Judge Kimba Woods today at the New York's Southern District Court. Paulino Castillo was extradited after being arrested on 18 December with a shipment of 1,387 kilos of cocaine in what was deemed the largest drug bust in Dominican history. Twenty-one other people have been arrested in relation to the case, with six accomplices reaching plea bargains with the state in exchange for their testimony.
District attorney John O'Donnell expressed his concern last week that the Dominican justice system and the government had not cooperated sufficiently to resolve this case, and he said that the Federal Court was not able to secure the recordings made of the accused to be used as part of the evidence, as reported on 26 August in Diario Libre.
For background on the case, see http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/nyc112105.html

Another Iraqi tragedy
Dominican American soldier Jorge Luis Felix Nieves was killed in a traffic accident in Baghdad, Iraq, as reported in Diario Libre. The Puerto Plata native will be flown back to the DR for burial, as per the wishes of his mother, Victoria Nieves. Little information has been released regarding how the young soldier has died. Felix is the 8th Dominican soldier to die in Iraq.

Possible Bani killer arrested
Police have arrested Colombian Alexander Restrepo Carmona for his alleged involvement in the 4 August drug-related massacre of six in Bani. As a preventive measure, Restrepo was sent to jail for 18 months. Police have also arrested Police Major Frederick Guillermo Abud for his involvement in the massacre. Six men were killed and another injured during the massacre. Judge Robert Betancourt says more arrests could be made in the case. Though little has been revealed about the investigations, Hoy indicates that the only surviving victim, Holy Gomez Halfar, has been key in helping officials piece together information about the case.

What will the weather be?
September is the peak month for hurricanes in the Caribbean. It is also the month when the most storms develop, with those beginning off Cape Verde in Africa having the highest potential for becoming storms that could affect the West Indies. This is also a time when rates at resorts are the lowest, and the hotels the least crowded. While September is a month with the most storms in the area, chances are these are spread out and the number of sunny days will outnumber the rainy days. The last hurricane to hit the Dominican Republic was Jeanne in 2003, and before that Georges in 1998. Both hit different coasts of this big Caribbean island.
To read up on weather in the Dominican Republic, see
At present, the DR is under the rain storms brought by the passing of Hurricane Hanna far to the northwest from us. For a thread on the storms as they develop this week, see:

Jumbo advertises its Tuesday fruits and vegetable sales. Squash is going for RD$3.95lb, peppers for RD$12.95lb, red onions for RD$6.95lb, plantains for RD$8.95 each, potatoes for RD$11.95lb, yucca for RD$13.95lb, cabbage for RD$39.95each, papaya(lechosa) for RD$11.95lb.
Bravo supermarket advertises its 30% off on all fruits and vegetables for its cardholders.
Plaza Lama advertises mangos for RD$8.95lb, Cubanela peppers for RD$16.95lb, pineapples for RD$24.95ea, red beans for RD$24.95lb, papaya for RD$12.95, bugalu tomatoes for RD$11.95, yucca for RD$11.95lb, garlic for RD$24.95lb
Carrefour advertises its Tuesday meat and seafood day, with ground beef for RD$42.95lb, premium ground beef for RD$59.95lb, Australian lamb chops for RD$144.95 lb, imported T-bone USDA for RD$144.95lb, beef filet for RD$169.95lb, fresh red snapper for RD$149.95lb, Black Tiger 16/20 shrimps for RD$254.95lb.
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