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Daily News - Wednesday, 15 October 2008

President Fernandez travels
President Leonel Fernandez is traveling to El Salvador to take part in the Ibero-American Heads of State Summit scheduled for 29-31 October, Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso announced yesterday. Heads of government and state from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Europe and the Americas will be attending the summit, which takes place in a different country each year.
Morales also said that President Fernandez would make his first trip to the Middle East to promote investments later this year, when he travels to Qatar from 3-6 November. Fernandez is accepting an official invitation.

EPA signing in Barbados
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso announced the signing of the European Partnership Agreement with the European Union today at the Sherbourne Conference Centre in Bridgetown, Barbados. He stressed that the agreement would enhance the DR's relationship with 27 countries in the European Union and 15 Cariforum countries (Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic). Morales highlighted the fact that it would have a positive effect on cacao, sugar, tobacco and free zone manufacturing exports. Once signed in Barbados, the agreement requires Congressional approval. Morales Troncoso is traveling to Barbados with a delegation that also includes the Minister of Industry and Commerce, the government department in charge of administering the agreement. In addition to the DR, 13 other Caribbean countries are scheduled to sign the European Partnership Agreement today. Haiti will reportedly be the only country not to sign. The agreement reciprocates free trade agreement on almost all products with Europe. Previously, free trade was one-way, from the Caribbean to Europe.
See: www.jamaicaobserver.com

New Water Research Center
A center for water research in the Caribbean and Central America has been inaugurated in Santo Domingo during the commemorative week marking the 20th anniversary of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) National Committee in the DR. The Center for Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Caribbean Island Centers is sponsored by the IHP and UNESCO. The new center seeks to encourage and develop scientific research in water sciences, facilitate synergies between researchers in different states and promote south-south cooperation. Its aim is to promote and develop technologies, methodological tools and research to support the integrated management of water resources as a key element of sustainable development and country level and for the wider Central America and Caribbean region, particularly for Caribbean island states. It builds on an original DR-based initiative, the Water for Irrigation Technology Research Center (CITAR) launched in 2007 by the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI) that prioritizes irrigation issues and an inter-sectorial focus on water management, especially water quality.

A push for breastfeeding
Dr. Clavel Sanchez, coordinator of the National Breastfeeding Commission, complains that clinics and baby formula companies are discouraging successful breastfeeding by making their products freely available to mothers shortly after they give birth. She says this practice violates Breastfeeding Law 8-95. As reported in Listin Diario, she complained that in most cases babies are fed with milk formulas without their mothers' permission and that mothers are not even given the chance to choose. She says that the lack of adequate space for the baby to stay with the mother in many hospital rooms also affects successful breastfeeding.
She presented the results of a study on breastfeeding at birth carried out together with the Dominican Journalists Association (CDP).
Sanchez said that another frequent violation is advertising formula without indications that the formula should not be a substitute for breast milk. She said that all formula labeling is sent to the Ministry of Public Health's Breastfeeding Commission that makes observations on what should be included in the label, but she says these observations are ignored, and many companies keep the original labels.
She said that Art. 9 of the law bans the promotion and advertising of formula, baby bottles and pacifiers in both private and public hospitals. Law 8-95 also prohibits promoters of these products from visiting the health centers.
Dr. Sanchez and Sarah Melendez, nutrition officer for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that several companies distribute formula to pediatricians who in turn recommend the product to the mothers of newborn babies, which also violates the law.
As reported in Hoy, Sanchez says that only 8 out of every 100 women who give birth in the DR breastfeed their children. She called for an alliance with local media to create awareness that babies need to be breastfed for at least six months.
She said the commission would meet with the Dominican Pediatrics Society with a view to launching a nationwide campaign to promote breastfeeding as a way of ensuring the best nourishment for newborn babies.

Senator calls for case to be resolved
Speaking to the press after a meeting with General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez and Peravia Governor Bienvenido Montero at the Presidential Palace, Peravia Senator Wilton Guerrero maintained his claims that the presidential commission that investigated the massacre of seven men in Peravia on 6 August did not get to the bottom of the killing. As reported in Listin Diario, Guerrero reiterated his accusations against Governor Montero for complicity with drug dealers. He said that the investigation would not be complete until the masterminds behind the crime are sent to trial, and the drug haul and money that motivated the killing recovered.
Guerrero was at the Presidential Palace yesterday for the meeting with President Leonel Fernandez, Governor Bienvenido Montero, General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez, Secretary of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio and a commission appointed by the ruling PLD's Political Committee - Radhames Segura, Radhames Camacho and Lidio Cadet.
"You all know my position on the report. I reaffirm that it was incomplete. The commission has to find those responsible for the 6 August killing in Paya. If the masterminds, or the body of evidence that is the drugs and money are not presented, then the snake is being shown by the tail, not the head," Guerrero told the press at the end of the two-hour meeting.
He said that if the commission appointed by the President cannot come up with these answers, another one needed to be appointed.
The meeting came a day before Guerrero was scheduled for a conciliation hearing at the Supreme Court with General Hilario Gonzalez, former Police commander in Peravia. The General sued the Senator for slander after the latter accused him of complicity with drug dealers in the province. Former Peravia prosecutor Victor Cordero is also suing Senator Guerrero for publicly linking him to drug dealers.
Today's Hoy newspaper carries a photograph of the participants in the Presidential Palace meeting and questions the political focus that the Presidential Palace has given to what Hoy says is rather a public order (security) issue. Following the two-hour meeting with the President, Secretary to the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio announced an end to the confrontations between government officials over the Paya massacre case.
"The confrontations between these officials, who are sorry for their remarks, are now over so that from now on they can work together with the same courage and efforts to eradicate the scourge of drug trafficking in the country, and especially in Bani," said Cesar Pina Toribio when reporting on the results of the meeting to the press.

The military
The increasing number of military and Police officers involved in crime is a major concern for society, reports Hoy. The newspaper says that since 1991 the press has reported 45 cases of military personnel involved in drug dealing. Hoy highlights the recent case of pilot Harold Manzano Garcia who used to fly the presidential helicopter and who is now under investigation about drugs dropped over Barahona. Interviewed on the Hoy Mismo TV program, Presidential drug advisor Marino Vinicio Castillo said that the authorities had taped conversations between Manzano and persons related to drug dealing.
Likewise, on 17 September, the Police said that one of the suspects in the 6 August Paya massacre case was Major Frederick Guillermo Medina Abud. The newspaper points out the military came under scrutiny after the arrest of Colonel Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, who was extradited to the US to stand trial in a NYC court. He was arrested for his role in transporting a 1,387-kilo cocaine shipment with Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Nin Terrerro who was also extradited. Since 2004 there has been a considerable increase in the number of arrests for drug-related charges. In most cases, military personnel are merely dismissed from the service, however, and no charges are pressed.
On 26 April 2006, then president of the National Drug Control Department, Rear Admiral Ivan Pena Castillo said that 498 of his agents had been dismissed. Another former DNCD chief, General Radhames Ramirez Ferreira said on 24 July 2008, 5,000 members had been dismissed, although as in the first case, not all were linked to drug trafficking.
Hoy comments: "Just two months after the Paya, Bani massacre, an event which allegedly involves representatives of the Executive Branch, the Police and the state prosecutors, the complicity of military and police with drug dealers seems unstoppable. A couple of examples are Lieutenant Colonel Jose Luis Pena and Sergeant Eduardo Garcia of the Air Force who were sent to trial for supposed complicity in smuggling 95 kilos of cocaine dropped over a batey near San Jose de los Llanos in San Pedro de Macoris on 10 October.
Today's Hoy also reports comments by Presidential drug advisor lawyer Marino Vinicio Castillo who said that 200 officials from different branches of the military would be dismissed for ties to drug trafficking; that Colonel Manzano also piloted airplanes for the Benitez brothers (who are involved in a US$100 million Medicare scam), including two Benitez brothers with alleged ties to drug trafficking operations; and that he recommended that the President carry out a drastic purge of his military aides. Vincho Castillo has been warning about the penetration of drug trafficking into the country for a long time now, and for many years his warnings fell upon deaf ears.

Profiting from price fluctuations
The Dominican government seems to be keeping more than its share of taxes on oil prices in the DR. Diario Libre points out today that a year ago, on 13 October 2007, the price of the oil in the Texas market used as reference to set prices in the DR was US$83.08 the barrel. At that time, fuel prices were RD$154 premium gasoline; RD$142.80 regular; RD$124.50 premium diesel; and RD$120.50 regular diesel; RD$81.04 unsubsidized propane.
A year later, for this week the price of petroleum is coincidentally the same - US$83 - but local prices are much higher than a year ago. This week, premium gasoline sells for RD$181 (RD$27 more), regular is RD$166 (RD$23.20 more) premium diesel is RD$154 (RD$29.80 more), regular diesel is RD$150.40 (RD$29.90) and all GLP sells for RD$74.63 (RD$6.41 less).
According to Ramon Alburquerque, a former president of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery, if the Petrocarbon Law were applied correctly, premium gasoline should cost RD$115 and regular gasoline RD$103. Transport leader Juan Hubieres says that premium gasoline should cost RD$148 and not RD$181 and regular diesel RD$142 and not RD$150.40, with regular gasoline costing RD$114 instead of RD$150.40 and propane RD$60 and not RD$74.63.
Industry and Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul told Diario Libre: "It is not possible to automatically drop the local price of fuel when there are reductions in world oil prices, because those two markets are not necessarily behaving in a uniform manner," he said.
He said that the DR only refines 25% of its domestic consumption, while 75% is imported refined, with higher prices. He said that recent hurricanes had forced refineries to sell their reserves, which increased source market oil prices.

Nurses on strike
Nurses' unions at public hospitals went on strike yesterday in demand for increased wages. The National Nurses' Union (Unased) announced the strike in public hospitals nationwide. Jose Rodriguez Aybar, deputy administrative and finance minister at the Ministry of Public Health, told Diario Libre that nurses' wages have improved considerably during Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez's term of office.
In August 2004 a nurse's aide earned RD$5,876.94 a month, while the current salary is RD$11,367.23, which according to Rodriguez Aybar proves that the nurses have seen considerable improvements in their working conditions in the last four years.

Deciding the future of Cabarete
Students and professors from Baylor University in Texas visited Cabarete earlier this month to collect preliminary data for a study focusing on the mix and characteristics of high-rise residential development and hotels. Marlene Mints Reed, of the Hankamer School of Business Management & Entrepreneurship program headed the group on its first visit. The Federation for Sustainable Cabarete warned about the effect of condo development in Cabarete. Sports and hotel groups are divided in opinion with real estate promoters over the desirability of high-rise condos at or near the beach for the sustainable development of the north coast beach destination. Omar Bros, speaking for the Sailing Federation, has warned that the new high-rise condos could kill "the goose that lays the golden egg" and do away with the essence that has spurred tourism in the area - wind sports, such as windsurfing and kiteboarding. Ari Barshi, one of Cabarete's original wind sports businessmen, says the study would also provide recommendations for the ratio of hotels and condos in Cabarete.
The Urban Lab at the Earth Department, Columbia University in New York City has also expressed interest in participating in a study on sustainable options for the development of Cabarete. The study comes on the heels of information circulating on real estate developers currently seeking government permits for buildings over 11-meter high. The present zoning Law 256-75 and Decree 1432 dated 6 November 1975 establish a maximum of three floors.
In addition to a wind study in the area, the Baylor University team will also study the impact of an increased density in the Cabarete lagoon, and how to plan in advance for housing for the expected increase in construction workers moving to the area. "This is the right time to plan for development in advance," says Barshi. He says that the study will make recommendations for the best mix between real estate and hotel tourism.
Barshi says that the Federation for a Sustainable Cabarete has received a donation of helicopter hours. A local photographer is donating his time to take aerial shots, and government inspectors will be using this service too.

15 Dominicans on tennis ranking
For the first time 15 Dominican tennis players have made the rankings of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Association of Tennis Professional (ATP). Dominican Tennis Federation president Persio Maldonado said that seven new players were added after the celebration of the Mangu Cup, a youth tournament that was held here in September. The Mangu Cup was organized by the Dominican Tennis Federation under the supervision of the Central American and Caribbean Tennis Confederation. Dominican ranked tennis players are: For men: Jose Ramon Hernandez (61), Luis Delgado (734), Oscar Dominguez (1003), Andres Gonzalez (1361), Carlos Junio Tavarez (1595), Rafael Artiles (1595), Leury Arias (1673), Fernando Adames (1836), Jesus Nolasco (1836), Eduardo Pou (1888) and Sergio Tobal (1888). For women: Francesca Segarelli (164), Maria Clara Bernardez (890), Rebeca Delgado (1385) and Lisbeth Vargas (1510).
See: www.atptennis.com www.itftennis.com

Play ball
The Dominican Winter Baseball League Championship, now in its 55th year, opens today with games at three Dominican stadiums: the Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris (Gigantes vs. Aguilas), the Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo (Licey vs. Escogido) and the Tetelo Vargas (Toros vs. Estrellas) in San Pedro de Macoris. The Licey and Escogido matches will be televised on CDN, Channel 37, and Antena Latina, Channel 21, will televise games between the Estrellas and Azucareros.
Gigantes games will be televised by CDN2, while Telecentro (Channel 13) will be telecasting Aguilas games, as well as Channel 4, Virus (Channel 20) and Teleuniverso (29). The Aguilas are the team to beat with 20 championships. Licey is second in championships with 19, Escogido has won 12, Estrellas 2 and the Toros 1. Aguilas have won 10 of the past 16 championships, and Licey has won five.

Dominicana Moda
Santo Domingo is the capital of fashion as the Dominican Fashion Week, Dominicana Moda continues at the Hotel Embajador. Novel and outstanding international fashion designers, including Hannibal Laguna fashions in the closing gala will be staged through Saturday, 18 October. Now in its third year, this year's fashion week includes a trade show.
For the program, see: www.dominicanamoda.com
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