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Daily News - Friday, 30 January 2009

Metro inaugurated
In an event worthy of Hollywood, the Santo Domingo Metro, built at an official price tag of US$700 million, was inaugurated yesterday. During a ceremony at the southernmost station at Centro De Los Heroes, south of Jimenez Moya Avenue, Metro office (OPRET) director Diandino Pena spoke about the controversial public works project. New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, Boston slugger David Ortiz, long distance swimmer Marcos Diaz and first Dominican Olympic gold medal winner Felix Sanchez were on the stage. During his speech Pena declared that the Metro marks the birth of a new culture in the area of public transport. The Metro will travel a 14.5-kilometer route, stopping at 16 stations along the way, linking the Villa Mella section of the city with the Centro de los Heroes. Rides will cost RD$20.

The metro stops
The 16 metro stops are Mama Tingo. Av. Hermanas Mirabal and Charles de Gaulle. Near to: Villa Mella, Villa Linda, Maranon. Gregorio Urbano Gilbert. Km. 10.5 of Av. Hermanas Mirabal. Near to: El Eden, Barrio Nuevo, El Primaveral. Gregorio Luperon. Sol de Luz neighborhood. Near to: Cerros de Buena Vista Primera, Santa Cruz. Jose F. Pena Gomez. El Torito, Villa Mella. Near to: El Torito, Santa Cruz, Cachiman and Los Guaricanos. Hermanas Mirabal. Mirador Norte. Near to: Maximo Gomez neighborhood. Maximo Gomez. At the site of the old government cement factory. Near to: La Zurza, Puerto Isabela. Los Tainos. Maximo Gomez at Ovando. Near to: Cristo Rey and Villas Agricolas. Pedro Livio Cedeno. Opposite the Maximo Gomez cemetery. Near to: Villas Agricolas and Ensanche La Fe. Pena Batlle. Maximo Gomez at Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. Near to: Ensanche Kennedy and Miraflores. Juan Bosch. 27 de Febrero at Maximo Gomez. Near to: Miraflores, El Vergel. Casandra Damiron. Off the National Theater. Near to: Gazcue and La Esperilla. Joaquin Balaguer. Maximo Gomez at Juan Sanchez Ramirez. Near to: Gazcue and Ciudad Universitaria. Amin Abel Hasbun. Near UASD and Ciudad Universitaria. Francisco A. Caamano. Correa y Cidron at Abraham Lincoln. Near to: La Julia, Matahambre. Centro de los Heroes. Av. Jimenez Moya at Independencia. Near to: La Feria (Centro de los Heroes).

Deputies approves; Perez clarifies
Reinaldo Pared Perez has clarified that President Leonel Fernandez never said the passing of constitutional reform would be postponed. Press reports yesterday interpreted the President's declaration as an intention to postpone the reform process. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez said that Congress was a separate body and the President could only request an extension, not order one. Pared said that the bill that declares the need to reform the constitution will be passed next Tuesday by the Deputies and would become law in 45 days.

Taxes for the medics
Legislators have rejected a bill that sought to increase taxes on Liquid Propane Gas sales or luxury cars as a way of paying for a planned wage increase for public sector doctors. A commission headed by Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez has been trying to find funding sources to cover the increase in wages promised to public hospital physicians since the end of 2008. So far, the only proposed source of funding that has not met with strong opposition is a new tax on sports betting shops.

IDs for the poorest
Close to 400,000 people in the Dominican Republic do not have identity documents. A new World Bank and Central Electoral Board (JCE) program seeks to document these individuals over a four-year period. The World Bank will be providing US$19.2 million in funds for this purpose. The program involves US$2.6 million in co-funding from the Dominican government.
The plan is to reduce the number of heads of household who do not have ID cards and thus cannot benefit from the governmental welfare programs targeted at the poorest from 28% to 10%. In the DR, an ID card is essential to for entering secondary education, obtaining access to health services, property, banking and legal services.
There has been progress, since a study showed that in 2005 there were 600,000 people without identification.
Speaking at an event announcing the program, JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said that the program would "turn a happy page in the history of the DR because we will bring people who were legally dead back to life."
In the DR the problem is the result of delays in implementing government mechanisms that would allow any child born at a public hospital to automatically be issued an ID. The program has been gradually implemented. In the DR, if a parent does not declare the child within 30 days of birth, the late declaration procedure becomes very tedious and time consuming and many parents just don't do it.

Fernandez breaks silence on drugs
During a special ceremony celebrating the careers of long-standing military officers, President Leonel Fernandez used the occasion to comment on the increased involvement of Dominican military and police officials in the DR's growing drug trafficking network. Fernandez's comments came as a surprise, especially as he has never addressed the August 2008 drug massacre at Paya, Bani where seven alleged drug dealers were murdered, unleashing a series of revelations of official complicity.
Speaking at the Presidential Palace, Fernandez said that officials could not be allowed to take part in drug trafficking. Fernandez warned members of the Armed Forces and Police not to succumb to the temptations of drugs and called on the security forces to continue their struggle to rid the country of the crime. "At this moment our country is threatened, not by a conflict with another state, but by the threats and challenges of the 21st century... the proliferation of drugs, and their consequences in terms of violence and crime. But aside from the threat that exists at the national level, we have recently come across a particular problem with drugs permeating our military institutions."

Where are the drugs?
Senator Wilton Guerrero is in the news again, this time for reiterating his claim that a small airplane dropped a shipment of drugs close to the Las Calderas Naval Base in Peravia province, as reported in Hoy. Both chiefs of the Army and the Navy had promptly responded to Guerrero's original accusation by saying that he had confused a scheduled Air Force patrol flight with a drug operation. Guerrero, who has become an outspoken voice in the "war on drugs," insists that on 13 January a shipment of drugs was in fact dropped from the small plane that landed near the naval base. The Senator quoted from an intelligence report he had in hand, saying that the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) had been alerted that a suspicious plane would be flying over the military base. In a press conference, Guerrero said that the DNCD had done its job and that he has photos that prove this, which were found near the entrance of the Matanzas shrimp farm. He added that evidence of a pre-fabricated boat was also found at the site. The Senator for Peravia province said that at 8pm, another government security department had alerted the DNCD that the flight would be made so it "could take the required action." Guerrero claims that the operation to intercept the plane began at 8pm and ended at 4am. Quoted in Hoy, the Senator says that photos of the plane are available, as well as other evidence, and he expressed disappointment at the fact that these pictures have not been released to the media.

Prosecuting power thieves
The government will begin prosecuting people who are caught stealing power in February. Energy Superintendent Francisco Mendez says that the government plans to implement Law 186-07 in a bid to reduce losses in the electricity sector. The law against electricity theft, which was passed in late 2007, has never been implemented. Mendez was speaking at the 9th Annual Platts Caribbean Energy conference that focused on mitigating prices, fuel options, renewable alternatives, hedging, finance and policies. The event is taking place on 29-30 January at the InterContinental V Centenario Hotel in Santo Domingo.

AMET defends action
Director of Communications for the Transport Police (AMET), Miguel Medina, claims that a man shot by AMET officers on Thursday was neither a driver nor a fare collector and that the bullet that hit him, resulting in his death, had been aimed at the floor and not at the man. There have been conflicting reports from various witnesses as to what happened. What is known is that Jose Aridson Rodriguez was stopped by AMET officers Juan Francisco Fabian and Gustavo Garcia Estrella for a minor traffic violation on Maximo Gomez and Los Martires avenues. After discovering that Rodriguez did not have a driving license they proceeded to seize the vehicle. While this was happening, a man identified as Santo Henriquez Abad stabbed one of the officers in the left arm. As a result a gun was produced by one of the officers and Henriquez was shot dead. AMET says that the incident is being investigated.

DR Diplomat robbed
Andres Perez Heredia, an advisor at the Dominican Embassy in Haiti, has reported that two armed men stole his 2005 Toyota Prado SUV, a gun and a cell phone. Perez said the theft took place in the Eugenio Maria de Hostos neighborhood in Santo Domingo East, where he resides. Perez says that the incident happened while he was talking to friends, who were also robbed. Perez says that his vehicle should be easy to find since it has Haitian license plates.

Vigilante victim dies
"Cama Larga," an alleged thief from San Cristobal, died in the early hours of Friday at the Juan Pablo Pina Hospital in San Cristobal. The thief was hospitalized with serious injuries after a mob caught him trying to steal thousands of pesos worth of household appliances. Cama Larga suffered burns, bullet wounds, knife wounds, blunt force trauma and stoning by a furious mob in the Las Coqueras section of San Cristobal. Hoy reports that local residents were tired of the constant stealing and took matters into their own hands. Residents claim that in recent weeks Cama Larga had increased his workload. It is unknown whether charges would be brought against members of the vigilante crowd.

Power outages
EdeEste is announcing scheduled power outages for tomorrow, 31 January, due to required maintenance operations in the Santo Domingo area. EdeEste says the outages will begin at 8am and extend until at least 2pm. The affected areas are Villa Francisca, Borojol, San Carlos, Villa Consuelo, Ensanche Isabelita, Los Mameyes, La Francia, Maquiteria, Villa Duarte, Avenida 30 de Mella, Avenida 30 de Marzo, Club San Carlos, Benito Gonzalez, 16 de Agosto and Tomas de la Concha. The Colonial Zone, Ciudad Nueva, El Conde, Padre Billini, San Lazaro, San Miguel and Atarazana will also experience scheduled power cuts.

Remittances will drop
Freddy Ortiz, president of the Dominican Association of Remittances Companies (ADEREDI) said yesterday that 2009 could see a steep decline in remittance levels as a result of the recession that hit the US in late 2008, as reported in El Caribe. It has been expected that the DR would follow the present regional trend of reduced remittances. Recent reports indicate that Mexico is showing a decline in remittances for the first time ever. Ortiz added that since August 2008 there has been a downward trend in remittances to the Dominican Republic compared to previous years. He explains that from January to September 2008, remittances were RD$2.33 billion, which was US$109.9 million more than last year, for a low 5% increase so far. He says there has been a significant decline in remittances as of August, reflecting the number of Dominicans losing their jobs in the US and Europe. Ortiz says the outlook for 2009 is bleak and that recent news reports coming in from the US and Europe focus on the downturn.

Consumer sales down
The president of ONEC, the association of shopping malls and large department stores in the DR, says they are already feeling the economic pinch in the shape of a lull in sales. Pedro Perez says that sales in January were lower than was expected and that the government would begin to feel the pinch when it collects less tax money in February. He said it is time to revise the 2009 National Budget with a focus on restructuring government spending. He also called for more capital spending to encourage job creation. Speaking on Telematutino 11 by Telesistema, he said that the investment in infrastructure would help reactivate the economy and create jobs. He also said that high interest rates have penalized the middle class, and called on banks to increase efficiency and to reduce the spread between loans and savings.

Licey has problems
With only hours before Dominican players are required to deposit their passports at the Mexican Embassy in the DR, the Tigres del Licey, which will be representing the DR at the Serie del Caribe in Mexico, has yet to complete its roster. Four of its pitchers Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Daniel Cabrera and Carlos Marmol have still not decided whether they will play and a fifth pitcher, Jorge Sosa's passport is at the US Embassy. Closer Julio Manon has the added problem of an expired passport. General manager Fernando Jose Ravelo says part of the problem is that every year the period between the end of the winter baseball championship, the beginning of the Serie del Caribe and the date when players have to report for Major League Baseball spring training is getting shorter and shorter.

Super Bowl show
Local US football fans have a date on Sunday, 1 February 7pm at the kick-off event organized by the Dominican League of American Football (LDFA), Dominican Raiders team at Beer House Cafe. The Super Bowl XLIII game matches the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Arizona Cardinals. The gathering will be at the Beer House Cafe, (Tiradentes 28, 2nd floor, Naco, between Max Henriquez Urena street and Gustavo Mejia Ricart avenue).
The Dominican League of American Football will make the most of the occasion to present the exhibition and international games scheduled for 2009, and more on flag-football prior to the start of the game.
The Dominican Raiders brings together several generations of players. The team was founded in 1982. "We are ready to compete with teams from abroad and we expect to bring several teams to compete here in 2009," said Ross A. Levy-Tovar, the LDFA general coordinator.
February is the preferred month for playing football in the DR because of the cooler temperatures.
The Dominican League of American Football was re-launched in 2007 with an exhibition at the Central Bank Club in February and a clinic and exhibition with Luis Castillo at the Olympic Stadium in March. Dominican-born Castillo plays professionally with the US National Football League's San Diego Chargers. Levy-Tovar says that Castillo is committed to promoting the sport in the DR.
For more information on the LDFA, contact Ross Levy-Tovar at 809 564-6251 or 829-375-0989.
 
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