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Daily News - Monday, 08 September 2008

Ike rains cause damage
Reports from the Emergency Operations Center (COE) indicate that the rains caused by Hurricane Ike, which passed 150 kms to the north of the DR, led 16,000 people to seek shelter outside their homes over the weekend. A COE report this morning says that six communities were cut off, two bridges were damaged and 2,383 homes were flooded. The Ministry of Public Works estimates the damage to structures at RD$500 million. Rivers flooded in San Jose de Ocoa, Santo Domingo and Monte Plata. Water levels in several other rivers were high, increasing the risk of future flooding. In the northwestern province of Monte Cristi banana and rice plantations suffered considerable damage due to the preventive release of waters from the Chacuey Dam and strong winds.
El Caribe reports that most people in shelters would be going home on Monday. The only reported death occurred in Nagua in the northeast, when one man was killed by a falling tree.
In Santo Domingo, city mayor Roberto Salcedo announced an urgent tree pruning drive.
The Ministry of Education has ordered schools to reopen in the east, the National District and Santo Domingo province. The UASD University has also announced that classes would resume today.
The Weather Department forecasts that rains will continue.
For information on future developing storms, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/...

Storms affect traffic
The intense rains affected traffic along the Duarte Highway at km. 59 (to the west of Villa Altagracia) towards Bonao. In the south, the flooding of Ocoa river caused disruption to traffic between Azua and Peravia provinces and affected several communities in the vicinity of Palmar de Ocoa. As a result, dozens of trucks loaded with farm products from Barahona and San Juan de la Maguana could not make it to the capital on Sunday, affecting supermarket fresh food supplies. On the south east coast, there was flooding for about 500 meters at Km. 16 on Las Americas Expressway, causing major traffic delays.
Last minute reports are that traffic to the Southwest was restored in the early morning.

DR aid to Haiti
The DR is sending a team of 17 doctors and paramedics to Haiti via the border crossing at Jimani to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of the recent storms. Rains and winds caused by the latest storm, Hurricane Ike, have killed 58 people in Haiti, which had already suffered the effects of intense rains resulting from previous storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna. President Leonel Fernandez ordered RD$10 million worth of food and medicines to be sent to help 150,000 refugees in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives. The Ministry of Public Health said the team would be in Haiti for three days. Also participating are 20 Haitian medical students from PUCMM in Santiago. The team was standing by yesterday, waiting for the Bani-Azua highway to be reopened to traffic.

Focus on protected areas
Eleuterio Martinez, the new deputy minister in charge of Protected Areas at the Ministry of Environment has announced that one of his first tasks will be to seek a series of changes to Sectorial Law 202-04 on Protected Areas. As reported in Diario Libre, he said, "What we have is madness. There are many protected areas that are only protected on paper. Now we have to see how these areas can be managed." Martinez was involved in the creation of 55 of the 68 protected areas defined in 2004. He said that another of his first tasks would be to salvage the Los Haitises National Park, because it is a vital source of drinking water production for the country. He said that both the Jaragua and East national parks, two protected areas where major hotel developments were being contemplated by the Ministry of Tourism under former minister Felix Jimenez, would be placed at the service of Dominican society and the greater Dominican interest. Martinez first became involved in the environment as a guide to protected areas. He said he would be found more on site in protected areas, than at the office.
Eleuterio Martinez was appointed as part of the new Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez team that took office last week.

EPA meeting in Barbados
Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations Jose Manuel Trullols and Dominican Ambassador to the European Union Federico Cuello will represent the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Heads of Government Summit scheduled for 11 September in Barbados, where the signing of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) will be decided. The signing of the agreement has been postponed on several occasions. As reported by UK-based Caribbean Council Director David Jessop, Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson has made clear that in his view the meeting is not about renegotiating the agreement but aimed at forging a common position on the EPA. So far, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, the DR, Belize, the Bahamas and St. Vincent have agreed to sign. But St Lucia is against this, and Guyana is still consulting, Grenada wants more time, and other Cariforum nations are mute.
For more on the EPA and the DR, see http://www.dr1.com/trade

Business wants IMF back
Spokesmen for leading business organizations want the International Monetary Fund back to monitor the Dominican economy and government handing of its finances. "We cannot go at it alone," said Pedro Perez, spokesman for the National Organization of Shopping Malls (ONEC).
"It is sad to see the government hiring bonanza, with an incredible number of deputy ministers," said Perez. "I do not know how we are going to fund the government payroll. We are talking about 20 deputy ministers in Agriculture, 12 in Youth, an increase from 7 to 12 in Education. Many of these without a desk and probably without any tasks," he complained.
Ignacio Mendez of the Federation of Industrial Associations (FAI) urged the government to sign a new agreement due to the balance of payment deficit and government overspending problems that affect the country and what he deemed as a loss of confidence in the government by economic sectors. "We need a guardian to manage the public finances with efficiency," said the business sector spokesman. He said that after achieving a fiscal surplus of RD$4 billion in 2006 and RD$5 billion in 2007 (years in which the IMF Stand-by arrangement was in effect), the government submitted the 2008 budget with a RD$10 billion deficit, which has since climbed to RD$34 billion. In the first half of 2008, the government increased spending by 34.6%.
"Confidence was what led to the miraculous recovery in 2004. It is sad to see how the government's initiatives have led to a loss of credibility and how politicians do all they can to undermine confidence," he said, as reported in Hoy.

Government spending up
The government increased its spending by RD$50.46 billion from January to August, compared to the same period in 2007. That is a 40% increase, according to a report in Listin Diario. This is RD$11.6 billion more than tax collections. As reported, the government spent RD$176.69 billion, compared to RD$126.23 billion in 2007. According to the Ministry of Hacienda, RD$130.69 billion, or 74% were for current expenditures, and only RD$46 billion were allotted to infrastructure and capital expenditures, reflecting a disproportionate ratio between investments and spending. The Fernandez administration has passed several dispositions and laws calling for austerity measures, but these have not been implemented.

Spendthrift and gushing corruption
As reported in Hoy, former Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Tolentino Dipp described President Leonel Fernandez's government as one of liars, spendthrifts, full of fallacies and opportunism and bursting with corruption. Speaking on the Aeromundo TV program on Sunday, Tolentino Dipp said that the President violates and mocks its own Law of Austerity. Tolentino Dipp, a historian, is remembered for having resigned as minister of foreign relations under Hipolito Mejia when the latter chose to send Dominican troops to Iraq.

Alvarez Renta hospitalized
Convicted financier Luis Alvarez Renta was admitted to Corazones Unidos hospital yesterday, on a special permit to leave Najayo jail where he is serving a 10-year sentence for his role in the Baninter bank fraud. He was admitted for high blood pressure and other heart problems.

Bani governor should resign
Senator for Peravia Wilton Guerrero has said that provincial governor Bienvenido Montero should be investigated by the Commission appointed by the President. "I think he would do well, in the same way as General Hilario Gonzalez," said Guerrero, who has been very critical of the presidential commission for what he described as a superficial probe. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez refused to interrogate the governor when the latter visited the Senate. Guerrero said, "What the governor should have done before making a fool of himself visiting the Senate was to submit his resignation to the President. As reported in El Caribe, Guerrero said he was never an enemy of General Gonzalez. On the contrary, when Gonzalez arrived he collaborated with him, thinking that since he was a "compadre" of Attorney General Radhames Jimenez, he would be an enemy of the people he [Guerrero] has denounced. But Guerrero said he is an enemy of the corrupt, criminals and drug dealers. He denied he had met with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but said he has delivered the evidence he has about the trio in Peravia (governor, police commander and DNCD director).

New killing linked to massacre
Senator Wilton Guerrero has speculated that the man found murdered in a Nissan Murano SUV in Santo Domingo is likely to be linked to the killing of seven suspected drug traffickers in Bani last month. I think there is a message, not only because of the Paya street where the SUV was found, but because of the recording related to drugs that was playing in the car, and the fact that the barrio where he was found was built by people with links to Bani", said the legislator, "and that is why several of the streets in the neighborhood have names of areas in Bani". Several people are in jail in connection with the massacre, including a Nicaraguan national who saved himself by playing dead.
The relatives identified the victim as 42-year old Jose Felipe (Joselito), who was found bound and gagged in a stolen SUV with the CD player playing a song about what happens to those who tell on others in Urbanizacion Tropical on Km. 7-1/2 of Independencia Avenue. The man had been shot in the back. Felipe, who ran a cell phone business in Villa Consuelo, Santo Domingo had been deported from the US for illicit trafficking in weapons 14 years ago.
DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron said that there was nothing unusual about the DEA collaborating in a case in the DR.
Early reports indicated that cash and 1,200 kilos of cocaine are missing following the Bani massacre.

Brit arrested with cocaine
A British national has been arrested at Puerto Plata Airport, attempting to smuggle 2.2 kilos of cocaine on a flight to Manchester, England. Michael Derek Alan Harris was arrested after the drug was detected inside a surfboard.

Drug shipment confiscated
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has confiscated a shipment of 127 packages of cocaine, with 130 kilos of the drug, which was due for shipment to Puerto Rico. Harry Heinsen & Co was the shipper for Constructora Ruben de la Cruz, located in Moca. The company had sent seven previous shipments to Puerto Rico. The drug was located in nine pallets that appeared to contain construction blocks for paving streets. Customs Director Miguel Cocco, DNCD president General Gilberto Delgado Valdez and the chief of the J2 investigations department of the Armed Forces, General Pedro Antonio Chestaro Caceres led the operation, once the notification of the find was made. The cargo was confiscated at a warehouse at Av. Prolongacion 27 de Febrero, Urb. Alameda after the drugs were detected by a trained dog.

Vincho on lack of support from US
Presidential advisor on drug trafficking, lawyer Marino Vinicio (Vincho) Castillo has complained about the limited support the country has received from the Bush administration. Castillo said that the opposite had been the case under the Clinton administration. Speaking on Teleradio America, Channel 45 program produced by Jose Baez Guerrero, Castillo said that from 1996-2000, the US backed the local war on drug trafficking, with General Barry McCaffrey, commander of the United States Southern Command, and director of the US Office of the National Drug Control Policy (1996-2001) himself coming to the country on several occasions. He also commended the support received from former heads of the Dominican mission Donna Jean Hrinak and Linda Watt. "But that all vanished in 2000. The Bush administration (2000-2004 removed its logistical support, there was carelessness, which was a bit dangerous," he said, as reported in El Caribe. Castillo stated that there had been blatant neglect in the case of the DR, and that the diplomatic representatives sent to the country since 2001 were "low level", coinciding with what he described in El Caribe as a dangerous and permissive government administration.
"That the doors were open to drug dealers, to the point where we are on the verge of becoming a narco-state, and operations were carried out with people tied to power," he said, alluding to former President Hipolito Mejia's administration. He said that a local purge of the Armed Forces and Police is needed.
Castillo commented that on the night when seven people were massacred in Paya, Bani, the entire DNCD staff was removed from the area and sent to Barahona. "That kind of maneuver of removing the DNCD staff to Barahona had to be linked to someone with a lot of authority," he said. When the staff returned the next day, the killing and the dispatch of the truck with 1,200 kilos of cocaine had already taken place. He said that structures are in place that favor drug trafficking.

Gold medalist to stay amateur
Dominican Beijing Olympics gold medalist Felix Manuel Diaz Guzman says he will continue boxing as an amateur. In an interview with Listin Diario, he said that he did not panic and accept offers to turn professional when things were tough, and much less now that he has resolved the major problems in his life. He commented that he now has a house of his own, and another for his family, both furnished, he will have his own vehicle, and almost eight million pesos in the bank to ensure the future of his offspring, their studies and their meals. These were his rewards for winning gold in the Olympics.
"Then why should I despair to go professional now?" he asks. He said he has received many offers, but is happy to continue fighting for the Dominican Republic. He said that he has not received a good enough offer to make the change. "All will come in time," he said.

Manny Ramirez: 500-500 club
Los Angeles Dodgers' slugger Manny Ramirez is the only Dominican to boast 500 homeruns and 500 doubles, a feat of balance between power and speed. He is only the 9th player in the history of Major League Baseball to achieve the record. He accomplished the feat during the 30 August game against Arizona Diamondbacks. Other players in this exclusive club are Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. Aside from Manny, Palmeiro (who was suspended for steroids) is not in the MLB Hall of Fame.
 
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