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Daily News - Tuesday, 04 November 2008

JCE begins biometric program
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has embarked on its biometric registration program, which will record every citizen's photo, signature and fingerprints. This information will be entered into a database and will then be incorporated into birth certificates and 'cedula' identity cards. The program aims to eliminate identity fraud in the DR. The program is expected to last nine months and will collect information from more than six million documented people nationwide. The JCE is also working on a program to register previously unregistered citizens.
See: www.jce.do/web/PORTADA/tabid/284/newsid1161/171/...

Power situation worsens
Rolling blackouts have continued nationwide. Yesterday the energy deficit was of 976 MW, or 42%. Extended blackouts are threatening businesses of all sizes. Business owners say that they only receive between three and four hours of power each day. Businesses with inverters and generators are finding there is not enough power to re-charge inverters and fuel bills for running the generators are skyrocketing. Ramon Perez, a business owner in Villa Mella says even with no power, a bill for RD$106,000 still comes every month. As if that were not enough, he has to pay more or less the same amount for generator fuel per month. The blackouts are being attributed to a US$364.9 million standing debt owed to the energy generators. Hoy explains that the government's debt to the energy generators totals US$700 million, US$300 million in standing debt and US$400 million of a "frozen" debt.
Quoted in Listin Diario, Pablo Linares, director of the Dominican Foreign Investment Association (ASIEX) asked, rhetorically, why anyone would want to invest in a country that can't provide the basics to operate. Linares said the DR is at a crucial moment considering it has formed part of the DR-CAFTA and EPA trade agreements and has the potential to attract foreign investment. Manuel Cabrera, director of the Herrera Industrialists Association (AEIH) has also voiced concern about the situation and is calling on the authorities to do something urgently. Pablo Piantini, president of the National Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) said the solution is not to rent new floating generators, but to invest in a real solution.
Former president of the National Council of Business, puts it simply as reported in the Listin Diario: "The solution is simple. Rid the system of politics and hire real managers."

Segura says...
State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura says that an extra 305 MW of energy will enter the national grid today. Segura made the announcement after a meeting with representatives from the National Business Council (CONEP). Segura also announced that the San Pedro de Macoris Electricity Company (CESPM) would provide an extra 200MW to the national grid by the end of the week, as part of an agreement to pay off US$30 million of the outstanding loan. Segura has made these very same promises before, insisting that the government would pay off US$34 million to the generators by October, in order to appease them and buy more time. However, the government didn't pay and a crisis ensued. Segura says government officials plan to meet at the CDEEE Club in order to discuss possible solutions to this crisis. Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa will also be present at the meeting. Trying to pass the buck on the issue, Segura, quoted in Listin Diario, said the crisis was the private sector's fault for not investing proper funds in the energy infrastructure. Segura made no comment on the US$700 million total debt the government has with the generators and how that has influenced the blackouts. Segura also said that fault lay with the former PRD government that extended the Madrid Accords. Segura says that of the 1000MW deficit in the energy grid, 500MW are because lack payment and 500MW are because of technical problems with the generators.

Playing the blame game
Plenty of blame to go around, but the administrator of the Dominican Hydro-electric Generation Company (EGEHID) Rafael Suero says the reasons for the blackouts that have hit the DR in the last month are the fault of former President Hipolito Mejia. Suero pointed out that Mejia had extended the Madrid Accords, which were due to end in 2004, by 16 years. Suero says there is a commission that is trying to renegotiate the agreement on more favorable terms for the DR. Playing the same broken record, Suero said that the government will resolve 80% of the energy problem by 2012 and has planned investments in hydro-electric plants which will double the DR's energy production capacity. However, Suero failed to comment on any short-term solutions from President Leonel Fernandez or any other government body. President Leonel Fernandez is on a world tour and has yet to make any comments about the energy situation back home.

CONEP agrees with economists
National Business Association president Lisandro Macarulla backed the idea expressed by three economists yesterday that the DR needed to sign a new accord with the International Monetary Fund, just as long as there is not another 'fiscal reform.' Yesterday, three economists from the Intec, Apec and UASD universities said that the Dominican Republic needed to sign a new Stand-by agreement with the IMF in order to tackle the effects of the world economic crisis. The economists, Favricio Gomez of Intec, Melvin Perez of the UASD and Carlos Cuello of Apec shared the view that an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would send a positive signal to investors and improve the country's risk rating. The economists said that US$200 million is available in funds for emerging economies like the DR economy.

OTTT doesn't play
The Land Transport Office (OTTT) announced yesterday that it continued to confiscate public transport vehicles that did not adhere to the mandated fare reduction announced last week. Hoy writes that OTTT officials surprised drivers and asked passengers how much they paid for fares, and if it was above the mandated price, the vehicle was confiscated. OTTT did not announce the number of vehicles taken but said it would continue its action. FENATRANO transport union leader Juan Hubieres described the OTTT clampdown as "rubbish" and said the union would raise prices again if the government removes the fuel subsidy.

M-16 was used
Ballistics reports indicate that an M-16 rifle found in the Caribbean Sea near the National Aquarium on 24 October was in fact used during the Bani drug massacres that resulted in seven deaths. They say that a second gun, registered to a former Navy officer, was also used during the massacre. Three other guns believed to have been used that night are still being analyzed. Police also announced that Edward Mayobanex Rodriguez Montero, wanted for his part in the crime, is still on the loose. He has been quoted as saying he would die before being taken into police custody.

Bomb scare at AILA
Flights departing Las Americas International Airport were suspended yesterday afternoon after a hoax bomb scare call was received. Listin Diario reports that more than 10 passenger flights and three cargo flights were affected. IB 6501 arriving from Madrid around 5pm was held at the gate and while passengers were told that the delay was due to security reasons, nothing unusual was perceived within the arrival hall at the time. Security forces combed the airport and any airplane that was on the tarmac for five hours after the alert, but nothing was found. General Carlos Robles Diaz, chief of the security forces at the airport said that a Spanish tourist on his way out of the country had been detained for investigation after dogs detected a large amount of salt and sugar in his luggage. Listin Diario reports that the authorities managed to trace the hoax caller.

Turtle power
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal says that the DR could be heavily sanctioned for failing to implement turtle protection laws. The laws are part of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement, which also covers environmental issues. As a result Fernandez has announced a plan to confiscate any turtle products or derivatives, especially in the country's small markets. Last month the DR-CAFTA Environmental Issues department said it would take disciplinary action against the DR if it did not ensure that turtles were protected. Biodiversity director at the Dominican Environment Ministry Amarilis Polonia said the decision to confiscate any turtle products or its derivatives is a sign that the country is ready to protect turtles. Asked if this could stop the disciplinary actions against the DR, Polonia said it wouldn't stop it completely, but would help.

Supreme Court upholds Bancredito ruling
The Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the ruling that calls for eight years of jail and fines totaling RD$2.5 million each for two former Bancredito executives convicted of fraud. Judges Hugo Alvarez Valencia, Julio Ibarra Rios, Edgar Hernandez Mejia, Dulce Rodriguez de Goris and Victor Jose Castellanos Estrella rejected a petition presented in the name of Manuel Arturo Pellerano and Felipe Mendoza that would have relieved them of the ruling on grounds that the state prosecutors were no longer interested in pursuing the case. Those whose savings had been affected had previously retired their case once they received their deposits back. The Supreme Court ruled on grounds of Art 426 of the Penal Code Procedures and that the state prosecutor Radhames Jimenez had deposited the request after the term established in Art 419 of the penal code.

Banana prices drop
Banana producers have reduced the price of a 40lb box of bananas by US$1. A box will now cost US$5.25 instead of US$6.25. Luis Bonilla, one of the country's leading banana producers announced the move. Although Bonilla gave limited details, he said that the move was due in part to concerns about revenues generated by the banana sector.

US elections spark excitement
The eyes of the world will be on the United States elections tonight, and the DR is no exception. The historic race between Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain will come to an end today with US voters choosing either the first African-American president or the first female vice president in the country's 232-year history. In the closing days of the election campaign the Dominican media has increased its coverage, demonstrating the election's importance, with radio and television explaining details to Dominicans, who might otherwise not be aware of the significance of these elections. The election has become a topic of conversation around the dinner table, with many Dominicans throwing their support for the Junior Senator from Illinois, Obama.
The DR1 thread on this very same topic has also garnered intense traffic with more than 200 pages and 2,000 posts since October: www.dr1.com/forums/general-stuff/...

Two Dominicans in NJ election
In Passaic, New Jersey, a special election is being held to fill the vacancy for mayor. Five candidates are running for the seat, including two Dominicans. Passaic is a non-partisan city, meaning that by law, the candidates do not run under a party political banner, but under their own slate. However, party affiliation may play a role in this election. Democrat Dr. Alex D. Blanco and Republican Jose M. Sandoval are the two Dominicans running in the five-man race. If one of them is elected as mayor, it would be a first for a Dominican in US history. According to the Dominican-American National Roundtable (DANR) in Washington, DC, no Dominican has ever been elected as mayor in the US, however in September 2001, Marcos Devers of Lawrence, Massachusetts was appointed to fill a vacancy as acting mayor, thus becoming the first Dominican in US history to serve as mayor. Devers later ran for mayor but lost the election. In Passaic, NJ (where an estimated 15% of the population is Dominican), there is no run-off election, which means that the top winner becomes the mayor of Passaic. This could be potentially challenging for both Blanco and Sandoval because of the risk of having the Dominican vote split between them. The candidates are running to fill the seat vacated by former mayor Samuel "Sammy" Rivera who was convicted of accepting bribes and attempted extortion. He subsequently resigned from his seat on 9 May 2008. Election day in the US is Tuesday, 4 November.
See: www.politickernj.com/max/25061/... and www.politickernj.com/max/24603/...

Capellan up for MillerCoors 2008
The president of the Dominican-American Round Table, Victor Capellan has been honored as one of the 13 MillerCoors 2008 Leaders of the Year. The annual MillerCoors campaign recognizes the leadership and arduous work of a number of Hispanic leaders across the country. The winning Lider will receive a US$25,000 grant for a leadership project of their choice to continue their good work. Capellan says he would use the grant to fund the DANR Youth Program that takes young people to Washington to receive training on becoming immigration advocates.
"It is an honor to be considered a candidate for Lider of the Year," said Capellan. "Educating our youth has always been my priority. By providing our young people with the tools to become immigration advocates, we will arm them with information to educate our citizenry and our political officials on the true, valuable and critical contributions immigrants are making in this country."
Capellan has held numerous positions around the country, such as Executive Director of Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy, in Rhode Island, President of DANR in Washington, DC, Principal of EBC High School for Public Service in Brooklyn, NY and now as Director of School Improvement and Leadership Services for Fall River Public Schools in Massachusetts. His focus has been on educating the community on the importance of political involvement, creating paths to success and moving the community into positions of power.
To elect the 2008 Lider of the Year from this slate of candidates, the campaign encourages the general public to log on to their website, coorslideres.com, to vote for their choice from 1 November through 12 November.

Pujols continues success
Dominican slugger Albert Pujols is continuing what is certain to become a Hall of Fame career. After elbow injuries threatened his career, Pujols re-emerged in 2008 with his best performance yet. The star has received four post-season awards this off-season including Sporting News Player of the Year, Player's Choice MLB Player of the Year, Player's Choice NL Player of the Year, Sporting News All-Star Team 2008 and the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. Pujos was also an All Star in 2008, his seventh. Pujols has also made history by becoming the first player to ever win the Fielding Award for the third straight year. Fellow Dominican Adrian Beltre also received a Fielding Award for his play at third base.
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