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Daily News - Monday, 06 October 2008

Hotel construction toppled in Saona
Last week the Ministry of Environment announced the demolition of two hotels under construction in the township of Mano Juan on Saona Island, a protected area within the National Park of the East. One of the structures was a two-floor concrete construction measuring 600 square meters. The other was a 400-meter construction, in an advanced stage of completion, featuring 16 rooms with private bathrooms, a lobby area and a second floor with 16 more rooms. The owners never received the required construction permits from the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Environment's Environmental Prosecutor ordered the demolition on the grounds that it was in violation of Articles 174 and 175 of Environment Law 64-00, Art. 33 of Protected Areas Law 2002-04, and Art. 13 of National Parks Law 67-74.
All new construction on the island has been banned.
The action comes after the Fernandez administration appointed new ministers of Tourism and Environment.

Santiago river houses toppled
The Ministry of Environment has also ordered the demolition of houses recently built on the banks of the Yaque del Norte River near the Avenida Circunvalacion in Santiago. The houses were located in the New York Chiquito barrio, near the Nibaje neighborhood. Trees and recreational facilities were due to be planted and installed in the area where the demolition of recent constructions had taken place.
The Ministry of Environment recently made the news when it was announced that that another government department, Direccion de Bienes Nacionales, had irregularly sold land adjacent to the Military Club park area at the entrance of Santiago, primarily to a group of military officers. Reportedly, the Ministry of Environment is recommending that Bienes Nacionales refund any down payments that may have been made by the buyers.

Propane subsidy removed
The government has removed the propane gas subsidy and propane is now selling for RD$75.95, a reduction from RD$87.13 the previous week. This comes after the government distributed or is in the process of facilitating an announced 800,000 Bonogas cards that provide RD$228 a month in credits for low-income families purchasing propane. The RD$228 will pay for three gallons of propane.
The program will also benefit 15,000 taxi drivers, who will receive a RD$5,700 credit for their gas purchases.

La Vega judiciary "soft on drugs"
Senator Euclides Sanchez (La Vega-PLD) has reiterated his claim that judges are making lenient decisions in cases involving drug dealers. As reported in Hoy, he said that the judiciary in his province is being complacent with drug dealers. He mentioned the case of prosecutor Carmen Elizabeth Jimenez Frias who did not sit for two appointments made by Judge Jose Martin de la Mota, for which the procedure against a well-known drug trafficker in La Vega had to be dropped, and the dealer released. He said the prosecutor knew that her absence would result in the trafficker being discharged. As reported in Hoy, Senator Sanchez has sent letters to the president of the Supreme Court of Justice Jorge Subero Isa and to General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena, requesting an investigation into specific cases.
He said that there are many cases where drug dealers are acquitted for a legal loophole or issued fines of only RD$1,500 to RD$3,000 even in cases of repeat offenders. He said that his research has shown that trafficking and drug consumption in the province is on the rise, while the number of arrested drug dealers is on the decline.
Sanchez's allegations support recent claims by Senator Wilton Guerrero of Peravia, who complained about complicity between the authorities and drug dealers. Guerrero is expected to meet with President Leonel Fernandez this week to present his case.

Photoshop alteration of photos
The Dominican College of Journalists (CDP) is condemning the Police for tampering with a photograph sent to El Nacional newspaper, depicting the eviction of Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero from the Ministry of Public Health building as part of the CMD's campaign for increased wages for public hospital doctors. CDP president Mercedes Castillo said that a computer photo-editing program like Photoshop was probably used to "remove" the handcuffs that were used to subdue Suero when he and six other doctors were forcibly removed from the ministry building last Thursday at 2am. The doctors, who were on hunger strike, had staged a sit-in to publicize their cause. Castillo said that the fact that the photo was tampered with could only increase the Police's lack of public credibility.

Interpol colonel investigated
Police have announced the suspension of the director of the local division of the International Police (INTERPOL), Colonel Frener Bello Arias, who is being investigated for extortion. Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin says that he has requested the assistance of an assistant prosecutor to investigate the case. Colonel Cabrera Sarita has been provisionally appointed as Bello Arias's replacement.

Major robbery gang disbanded
Police have announced they have broken up a powerful gang that they say committed robberies at the BHD and Asociacion Dominicana de Ahorros y Prestamos banks, La Sirena and Ole supermarkets, among other companies. The police accuse fugitive Julio Ehrain Christiaan from Curacao and Dominican Jose Santana Rodriguez (El Gordo) of heading the group. The largest and most recent robbery was at the BHD branch in Santo Domingo's Quisqueya neighborhood, where RD$4 million was stolen.

Floating hospital's medical mission
USS Kearsage is docked off Santo Domingo Port and doctors on board plan to see approximately 6,000 low-income patients. The medical team on board includes ophthalmology, dental, pediatric, and gynecology and obstetrics staff who will work from 8 to 5pm. The medical teams are working simultaneously in Santo Domingo, Bayaguana (Monte Plata) and from the naval base at Las Calderas, Bani.
US Ambassador Robert Fannin, his wife Dr Lisa Fannin and Dominican Navy chief Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Bayonet were present at the launch of the program. Patients are being transferred to the ship by helicopter. Project Hope is also taking part in the initiative.
Another medical group, under the Foundation Arizona, arrived on Saturday for a series of operations for 60 low-income patients at the HOMS Hospital in Santiago, announced hospital director Dr. Rafael Sanchez Espanol.

Teneria Bermudez corrects info
The Teneria Bermudez tannery has corrected an item that appeared in the local press, explaining that it has spent RD$30 million on installing a new residual water treatment plant to prevent polluting the Yaque del Norte River. The company says that it has Ministry of Environment Permit No. 0613-07 to operate. The company was fined RD$300,000 for polluting the river and was closed down by the authorities, but subsequently took the necessary measures, making the story that appeared in last week's media old news.

Audiences still love merengue
Dominican Grammy-winning songwriter Juan Luis Guerra has challenged claims that merengue is on its way out as a musical genre. During an event in his honor on radio station Zol 106.5, he said that on the contrary, doors are now open to merengue in markets where it had previously never been heard of. Guerra said that during his long international La Travesia tour of the US and Europe he met with a great deal of receptiveness for the catchy Dominican music. He said that although he had toured places he had been to before, like Spain, he also visited new countries such as Norway and Sweden, where merengue was very well received. He said that his performances consisted predominantly of merengue music, with 25 merengue songs.
Guerra told listeners that he would be returning to Boston's Berklee College, where he studied music as a young musician. He said that he planned to take some classes but would also be teaching at his alma mater next year.
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