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Daily News - Tuesday, 09 September 2008

Enhanced security at ports
The Customs Department (DGA) will begin to use a radioactive waste detector at the Multimodal Caucedo port in Boca Chica as of this month. Officials say that it is part of new security plan for national ports. The detectors will work around the clock and will help detect radioactive materials. DGA official Heriberto Minaya explained that the detectors were installed with the help of the US Energy Department as part of an agreement between the DGA, the US Energy Department and US Border Protection. The agreement was originally signed on 7 July 2006.

Government advertorial
On occasion of the inaugural of the second term of President Leonel Fernandez, The Economist carried an advertorial produced by the staff of Press Tribune of London. The feature highlights the Dominican Republic as "A Caribbean Economic Success Story." It carries interviews with then Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez, Juan Hernandez Batista of the Tax Department, Economy Minister Temistocles Montas, Competitiveness Council director Andres Van der Horst, Energy Commission president Aristides Fernandez Zucco, and features on the Santo Domingo Metro, Induban coffee, Rizek cacao, Central Romana Corporation, Basic Energy Group, Vicini Group, Roco Ki and Westin.

Salcedo promises clean up
National District mayor Roberto Salcedo says that all the trees, trash and waste in Santo Domingo would be cleaned up within the next 24 hours. Salcedo said that recent weather conditions have made things worse, but compacting trucks would be out today cleaning up the city. Also, Salcedo confirmed the rule for no parking on Avenida Duarte between Paris Street and Chinatown.

Deputies want extension
A group of deputies are drafting a bill that seeks to amend the Dominican Constitution to allow six-year terms for deputies, who currently serve four-year terms. The bill also looks to allow unlimited re-election, nullifying the "never again" clause inserted in the 2004 constitutional amendment. Hoy writes that Deputy Radhames Castro is leading the group of 100 legislators who are in favor of the extension. Castro explains that the extension would be beneficial to the country because it would save taxpayers RD$6 billion. Another option that would accomplish the unifying of the presidential and congressional elections in the same year would be to shorten the term of the next legislators to two years.

It's their fault
Geologist Osiris de Leon says that bridges in the DR collapse because of shoddy construction work by the Ministry of Public Works. He said the collapses could not be attributed to the intensity of the rains. De Leon explains that often when a bridge is being built cheaply, gravel-based materials are used, which almost guarantees the eventual collapse of a bridge. De Leon questions the quality of all the bridges built this year, some of which have already collapsed. Speaking on Huchi Lora's CDN afternoon talk show, Public Works Minister Victor Rua argued that bridges were constructed using usage averages and that given the intense rains the country has been receiving, these will not have to be revised and more resistant structures built in the future.

Quality in education
Jeffrey Puryear, vice president for Social Policy at the Inter-American Dialogue and Co-Director of the Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas (PREAL) has words of warning about the major deficiencies in Dominican public education. He comments on how the Dominican Republic and Cuba compared in the UNESCO-led Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (SERCE) conducted by the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE) showing contrasting evaluations of quality in education.
"What can we learn from Cuba and the DR", published 14 August, he comments on the low scores of DR public school students compared to Cuban students. His point is that scores from a recent region-wide student achievement test demonstrate again that an overwhelming number of Latin American children are failing to reach adequate levels in math, language and science.
He writes: "But most striking is that two countries - Cuba and the Dominican Republic - scored much differently than the others. Cuba scored way above the rest of Latin America, while the Dominican Republic scored way below."
The research showed that in third-grade reading, nearly half of Cuban students scored at the highest level, compared with1% in the Dominican Republic. By contrast, nearly a third of students in the Dominican Republic scored below level one, compared with 1% in Cuba.
"What is going on?" he asks. "What policies account for Cuba's high levels of achievement? What major, systemic changes will countries like the Dominican Republic have to make in order to raise student learning to adequate levels? International tests of student achievement like SERCE are crucially important in showing us who is doing well and who is not. They sound the alarm. But in order to improve, we need to take the next step and figure out how over- and under-achievers got that way."
See report at http://portal.unesco.org/geography/es/...

Aerodom buyout
Latin American Airport Holdings, a subsidiary of global private equity company Advent International, announced the purchase of the Aerodom airport operations company from the Hazoury Group, Vancouver Airport Services and other local investors on 9 September. The value of the transaction was not disclosed. This is Advent's first venture in the DR. The acquisition, funded with equity from Advent and debt financing from the Bank of Nova Scotia and ING Group, is the first leveraged buyout in the Dominican Republic. It also marks Advent's 13th deal in the airport sector.
The concession in the DR covers Las Americas airport in Santo Domingo (SDQ), Gregorio Luperon in Puerto Plata (POP), Samana and Arroyo Barril in Samana (AZS) La Isabela in Santo Domingo (JBQ) and Maria Montez in Barahona (BRX). Aerodom airports handled more than four million passengers in 2007, or about half of all airport passengers in the DR, according to the Advent release.
Aerodom's existing management and Vancouver Airport Services, its current operating partner, will continue to run the company. "Advent International has a long history of investing in Latin America, particularly in the airport sector, and we look forward to working closely with them as we embark on our next phase of growth," said Ken Hassard, Commercial Director of Aerodom. "In addition to increasing commercial revenue, we will pursue a number of value-creation initiatives such as improving car parking facilities, expanding infrastructure for private aviation, improving fuel services and expanding cargo operations."
Advent International is one of the most established and successful private equity investors in Latin America. Since it began operating in the region 12 years ago, the company has invested in 37 companies with a combined enterprise value exceeding US$8 billion.

Venezuela angry over housing
Venezuelan Ambassador in the DR Francisco Belisario Landis is denying that the Venezuelan government has formally handed over 100 houses to the Dominican government as was announced by Monsenor Nouel provincial governor Nestor Francisco Melenciano. According to an official protest by the Venezuelan government to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, 100 homes that were built by Venezuela for victims of last year's tropical storms Noel and Olga were handed over to families that didn't meet the requirements stipulated by the bilateral agreement. Dominican Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso says that the mix-up has not affected President Leonel Fernandez's relationship with Hugo Chavez or the DR's relationship with Venezuela.

Guerrero in danger
Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero says there is a RD$10 million bounty on his head for his recent whistle-blowing on drug trafficking in the DR. Guerrero has not identified who has put up the bounty, but says he will do so when he meets personally with President Leonel Fernandez. Guerrero says he is not scared, and vowed to continue the fight against drug trafficking.

Alvarez Renta in the hospital
According to Central Bank lawyer Carlos Salcedo, convicted financier Luis Alvarez Renta's latest "medical emergency" is just part of a plan to get him out the country instead of serving his 10-year prison sentence. Alvarez was sentenced to jail for his involvement in the Baninter scandal. Salcedo believes the next step after the hospitalization in Corazones Unidos is to get Alvarez to Boston, under the guise of his needing medical treatment. In a report in El Caribe, he requested that a medical board be named to evaluate the patient. He said that local physicians and hospitals are capable of treating Alvarez Renta.
Salcedo laments the fact that now two of the Baninter culprits are not in jail. Banker Vivian Lubrano de Castillo has claimed medical reasons to avoid jail. Lubrano has asked to serve her sentence at home, instead of in Najayo. Meanwhile, she remains hospitalized.

Papi still hurt
Dominican slugger David Ortiz is hurting again. Ortiz, who hit his first home run in 70 at-bats, says the tendon on his left wrist is bothering him. Ortiz missed two months this season due to the injury. Ortiz explained the pains have returned and he is more concerned about a clicking noise his wrist makes. The injury couldn't come at a worse time as the Red Sox make their push for the playoffs. They are .5 games behind Tampa for the AL East lead and six of their next nine games are against Tampa Bay.

Summer league takes hit
The Dominican Summer League has taken a hit this year after 45 players, 39 of whom are Dominican, were suspended for using steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. The biggest concern for baseball officials is that in many cases the athletes were using drugs that are meant for veterinary use. The substances include Caballin and Boldenona, which have become very popular with players in recent years. Baseball officials are also concerned that the same drugs have been found in most players, which suggests that someone is supplying these athletes.

Controversy over medal
Olympic silver medalist Gabriel Mercedes has rarely spoken out about it, but many in his corner feel that the young athlete was cheated out of a gold medal during the taekwondo finals in Beijing. The controversy began after Mercedes tied his Mexican opponent Guillermo Perez during their match, but since Perez had scored first he was awarded the gold medal. A protest was filed on behalf of Mercedes, but little was done to prove any wrongdoing. Now, Hoy is quoting Mexican newspapers, which claim that Mexican officials had a "strategy" to "butter up" Olympic officials. Mexican journalists reveal that officials held special dinners for Olympic officials and referees prior to the Olympics. The reports go on to claim that members of the refereeing committee that officiated the match had attended these dinners. Mexican officials have yet to respond to these allegations.

Weather watch
A loud thunderstorm with brilliant flashes of lightning led to flooding in Santo Domingo early on Tuesday morning. Heavy rainfall flooded major and minor roadways. Meteorologists say the early morning showers are due to an active tropical wave that is interacting with the last remnants of Hurricane Ike.
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