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Daily News - Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Fernandez provides support
Dominican president Leonel Fernandez has voiced his support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is struggling to control widespread social unrest in his country and faces the possibility of a coup d'etat. In a letter sent to Morales, Fernandez makes the point that his counterpart was elected by the Bolivian people, and that his tenure should end as established by the nation's constitution. UNSUR, the recently inaugurated South American political bloc, has also voiced its support for Morales.

IMF agreement coming
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu says that officials would take advantage of a visit from IMF officials to initiate conversations on a post-program monitoring (PPM) agreement that would allow the IMF to monitor the Dominican economy. A PPM is a rigorous monitoring program awarded to nations that have recently completed agreements with the IMF. It includes twice-yearly visits from IMF officials. Valdez Albizu explains that as part of the IV Article of the Constitutive Agreement, to which the DR is a signatory, IMF officials visit the DR once per year. An official IMF mission is expected on 15 October.

Notes on the economy
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu notes that the Dominican economy is set to grow between 5% and 6% by the end of 2008 and that the deficit of the current accounts would settle between 8% and 9% by the end of the year. Valdez said that the accumulated rate was 7.57% during the first semester of the year. Accordingly, 470,542 new jobs were created between 2004 and 2008. In terms of trade, fuel, food, metals and capital goods represented 60.1% of imports and 61.0% of the current accounts balance. Valdez's report indicates that the Central Government's deficit in the first semester was RD$20.9 billion.

DR won't meet Millennium goals
Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, speaking at the 55th Session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held in Geneva, said that the DR would only be able to fulfill three of the eleven Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Montas explained that despite the country's recent economic progress, economic troubles are affecting the Millennium Goals project. Montas blamed increased world food prices for failing to achieve the goal of 300,000 fewer poor people in 2007 and 2008. Montas was the first speaker at UNCTAD's "Trade and Productive Capacities for achieving Internationally Agreed Development Goals, including the MDGs" panel discussion. Montas said that this year inflation should reach 17%. The statement contradicts the Central Bank forecast for 13% inflation.

SET will only mediate
Labor Minister Max Puig says that the Labor Ministry (SET) will only provide technical advice as negotiations for a private sector minimum wage increase proceed. Puig added that the Ministry would not impose or draw conclusions during the process. Discussions about a potential pay raise have been taking place as the cost of living increases and purchasing power declines.

DR helps Cuba
The Dominican government is sending 500 tons of food and construction materials to Cuba. The RD$17 million donation is being made to help the neighboring island recover from the devastating damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The DR government is sending 2,750 quintals of rice, 1,000 quintals of beans, 204,400 planks of wood and 22,857 sheets of zinc. The DR has also provided aid and medical support to Haiti, which has also suffered severe storm damage in recent weeks.

Metro in jeopardy
The recent heavy rains have put the November opening of the Santo Domingo Metro in jeopardy. Hoy writes that the intersection of Hermanas Mirabal and Charles de Gaulle Avenues are still flooded and mud in the surrounding areas has made construction work difficult. According to two engineers quoted in Hoy, the intersection will not be ready by November, but they would not provide more details. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the builders are not explaining why the Reyes Catolicos Avenue that intersects with Maximo Gomez and the Alma Mater intersection with Independencia Avenue are closed.

Hospitals and death
Hoy writes that 80% of maternal deaths occur at seven of the country's largest hospitals. These are Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia, Luis Eduardo Aybar (Santo Domingo), Juan Pablo Pina (San Cristobal), San Vicente de Paul (San Francisco de Macoris), Jose Maria Cabral y Baez (Santiago) and the Antonio Musa Hospital (San Pedro de Macoris). Hospital officials have defended their record, saying that it's not always the hospital's fault, but rather because many patients in critical condition arrive at the hospital too late, limiting what doctors can do.

Colombian ambassador leaves
Colombian Ambassador in the DR Juan Jose Chaux Mosquero has resigned from his post, saying he will return to his native Colombia to defend his name and his 30 years of public service. According to published reports, Chaux Mosquera is being investigated for connections to Colombian paramilitary groups. Chaux does admit to meeting with members of the AUC paramilitary group when at President Uribe's office, but argued that the Colombian political opposition is making a scandal out of this. Colombia's paramilitaries are the unofficial armed groups allegedly linked to the state and the army who fought against left wing guerrilla groups like FARC but also committed atrocities against civilians. The Colombian authorities strenuously deny these links.

Accused makes accusation
General Hilario Gonzalez has gone on the offensive against Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero, making his own set of accusations. Gonzalez is asking for Guerrero's financial records to be investigated, insinuating that the Senator is not as clean as he claims. Gonzalez said: "According to people from Bani, Guerrero used to sell papayas from an old Chevrolet pickup truck and now is one of the richest men in the province with a chain of stores." Gonzalez hints that Guerrero made his fortune after working at the governmental Dominican Agrarian Institute between 1996 and 2000.
Meanwhile, the former Police commander in Bani admitted that one of his sons had spent six months in jail on drug charges.
After initially denying the charge, General Gonzalez confirmed that a son of his, who worked for an airline company, was arrested in JF Kennedy Airport in NY with a suitcase with drugs. He testified that he was asked to carry the suitcase for an undisclosed person. He said his son was able to prove that the suitcase was not his.
He also mentioned the case of another son of his who Senator Guerrero denounced for drug trafficking. "It is an independent case that escapes my control, even if I have tried to guide my sons along the best of roads, but unfortunately, this son committed an error such as has happened to other sons of eminent persons," he declared.

Who should be denouncing whom?
In today's Diario Libre AM editorial, Ines Aizpun writes on the sharing of knowledge about criminals between those in charge of prosecuting crime in the Dominican government. "If military officials are involved in drug trafficking, it is the same military that knows who is doing what. If police officers are in criminal gangs, the police have the names and the proof. If politicians are involved in corrupt acts, their colleagues in government have the data on this. If government officials are committing "indelicate acts" (a subtle way of saying robbery), this information is known by those in government before anyone else. And this is the talk of the town on the street, in colmados, among friends, but it looks like those who are involved are not noticing.
Aizpun says it is time for those who have the duty and the attribution, because of their jobs, to stop (or at least attempt to stop) these activities to stop talking "about the crisis of values that corrupts Dominican society" and demanding that the civil society and the press should take roles that should be their own.
She says it is tiresome that those in charge of stopping corruption and crime are periodically preaching to us, making us responsible for what they probably have not made a point of avoiding.
Aizpun says that it is not out of fashion to show responsibility and love for the country. What is out of place, she says, is empty rhetoric, and statements filled with honorable principles, while the names, actions and concrete acts that are costing us too much are hidden.

Henriquez to jail
Fatima Henriquez, the only person charged in the Quirino Drug Case, and the only one not to negotiate with the judiciary has been found guilty of money laundering. Judge Kimba Woods has yet to issue the jail sentence. Henriquez's lawyer Eric Franz maintained his client's innocence, claiming that she had been duped into her role in the drug smuggling ring. Henriquez admits that she did send money to accused Luis David Ulloa in Santo Domingo. Ulloa had been deported from the US and Henriquez claims that Ulloa told her he was in the construction business. There's been a great deal of smoke in regards to the Quirino case. Some media outlets are claiming that the former military captain has negotiated a deal with prosecutors, though nothing has been confirmed. Listin Diario is also reporting the charges against Quirino's family in the DR have been dropped and they have been allowed to travel to the US. Finally, Listin also reports that National District Attorney General Alejandro Moscoso Segarra has traveled to the US to finish working out the details of Quirino's deal. At the moment this is all speculation, though. Adding to the rumors is a story published by Diario Libre that quotes US federal prosecutor John J. O'Donnell, saying that all the accused have struck deals, except for Henriquez.

Guerra receives recognition
At a ceremony in Paris, France Juan Luis Guerra received his UNESCO Artist for Peace designation from UNESCO director general Koichiro Matsuura, exclaiming: "I am a Guerra who loves peace." His last name translates as "war" in English. Guerra's words were brief and then he delighted guests with some songs. Guerra was accompanied by his wife Nora Vega de Guerra and Dominican Ambassador to France Guillermo Pina Contreras.

Guzman's troubles cause waves
Dominican boxer Joan Guzman's inability to make weight for his Saturday night bout against Nate Campbell could cost him more than just a championship belt. Reports indicate that the Mississippi Boxing Commission will try to have Guzman banned from boxing anywhere in the US for a year. Adding to the tangle, Sycuan Ringside Promotions offered Nate Campbell US$50,000 to fight Guzman in the future. Guzman's manager says that Campbell has yet to accept the offer.
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