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Daily News - Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Government pays with bonds
The government has reached an agreement with power generators to ensure improved reliability of the service. The press reported that the companies agreed to accept a US$250 million bond emission from the government to reduce arrears. The bonds will yield 10.6% and 8% if Congress passes a tax exemption. According to a news release appearing in several local newspapers, with this the government reduces its frozen accumulated debt with the power generation companies from US$413.7 million in 2004, to US$202.64 million as of 31 December. Reportedly, the generators have received US$5.14 million of US$5.31 billed in the past four years, or 97.5% of the total. A remainder of US$85 million is pending.
State Run Electric Companies vice president Radhames Segura signed the agreement on behalf of the government while Marco de la Rosa and Tito Sajurjo signed the agreement on behalf of AES Dominicana and EGE-Haina.
According to Hoy, as of 31 December the government owed the generators upwards of US$440 million for billed energy. On this amount, other payments had been made, with funds from the government, the power distribution companies and the CDEEE, says Segura. De la Rosa explained that the government owed AES US$170 million and the bonds would pay off US$104 of that debt, while Sajurjo explained the government paid EGE Haina US$76 million.

Tax collections on the rise
Juan Hernandez, director of the Department of Taxes (DGII) reports that collections were RD$13.85 billion in January, which was RD$168 million more than budgeted. He said the DGII has met its goals for the month, attributing this to a major stemming of tax evasion. Nevertheless, he admitted that in general government tax collections are down US$1 billion, but this is primarily due to the decline in the price of petroleum. In the DR, Hydrocarbon Law revenues are pegged to the price of petroleum, thus government revenues increase with the increase in the price of fuel.
Hernandez spoke after the signing an agreement with the Universidad Cultural Dominico-Americano for the preparing of tax personnel, as reported in Diario Libre.

Wikipedia founder at Funglode
Jim Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, the user-driven online encyclopedia, was in Santo Domingo to speak at the Global Foundation, President Leonel Fernandez's think tank. President Fernandez himself attended Wales' conference, "Wikipedia, Wikia and the Culture of Free Access to Knowledge." President Leonel Fernandez himself introduced Wales. Fernandez told Wales that he is his best public relations representative in the DR. "I am because knowledge is the base for any change and Wikipedia is a revolution in that sense. Yours is one of the most transcendental contributions in the history of knowledge," said Fernandez.

Environmentalists win case for dunes
The case against the mayor of Bani, Nelson Camilo Landestoy, and six councilmen involved in the lease of 56,993 square meters of protected area within the Bani dunes has been closed, reports the Listin Diario. Judge Felix Maria Matos Acevedo, in charge of the first judicial procedures in the case, accepted a request from the Environmental Prosecutor Andres Chalas to close the case. Chalas explained that the environmental groups that had challenged the mayor, Grupo Mundo Ecologico, Grupo Jaragua, Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano, Sociedad Ecologica de Bani and Grupo Ecologista Tinglar reached an agreement on 5 February whereby the lease of the area of the dunes of Bani with a third party company was rescinded by the Bani government officers. The decision was taken because Law 202-04 says that public areas that fall under the national protected areas system cannot be transferred to a third party under any circumstance. The Listin first published the story of the lease on 9 October 2007, indicating that during an ordinary session, the councilmen and Mayor Landestoy had approved a request for the lease of the area for 10 years to Ciramar International company, a ship building firm.

No more money for education
When money is tight, spending is cut and once again education and funds for local city governments are getting slashed, says Presidential Minister Cesar Pina Toribio. According to a report in Hoy, Pina Toribio explained that giving education and local government's 4% and 10%, respectively, of the GDP, as is determined by law, is not sustainable. He says that those who don't understand this just don't get the nation's financial situation. In a year when the government has been blamed for unlimited spending and large size of government, as well as large budget for the construction of the metro, Pina Toribio preferred to go further back and blame the economic "disorder" during the 2000-2004 presidential period of former President Hipolito Mejia. He added that the economic situation inherited by the current administration is forcing government to make payments on a RD$65 billion debt and that paying out the full 14% of the GDP to education and local governments would cost an estimated RD$72 billion.

Rains cause damage
Rains have continued bringing mudslides and flooding. Tamboril, in the province of Santiago, has been among the worst affected areas. Reports indicate that the constant rains damaged 100 homes. Reportedly, the root of the problem in this area is a sand mine that resulted in an enormous hole that filled with water and caused a landslide that destroyed 60 homes, two schools and a church. The sand was used for construction in the Cibao. According to Hoy, the town of Carlos Diaz, 10 kms from Tamboril, with a population of 2,500 people, has been devastated. Itss mayor called the town a "ghost town" and is asking government to declare it in a state of emergency.
San Jose de Ocoa, Puerto Plata and Monsenor Nouel have also reported rain-related damages.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that 63,000 tareas of bananas, rice, corn and other crops have been damaged by the rains.
Huchi Lora afternoon radio talk show focuses on the untimely and rushed release of dam reservoir waters causing major flooding. He criticized that the authorities did not gradually release the waters and waited for last minute to do so. This resulted in the destruction of large crop areas in the Northwest.
Listin Diario, citing reports by the Center for Emergency Operations (COE), explains that 34 communities in El Seibo, Sanchez Ramirez, Maria Trinidad Sanchez and Duarte are now isolated, with 2,623 homes affected and seven bridges suffering significant damages.
COE director Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia says that 13,165 people have been evacuated in recent days. Meteorologists predict that rains will slow today, giving some of the nation's most vulnerable areas a break. Strong winds and cool temperatures are expected for the next couple of days, especially in the Cibao Valley and Samana. Warnings are still in place for residents of Puerto Plata, Santiago, Monsenor Nouel, Duarte, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Hermanas Mirabal, Santiago Rodriguez, Valverde Mao, Samana, Sanchez Ramirez, Hato Mayor and La Vega.

Health burns meds
Continuing efforts to reduce the amount of counterfeit pharmaceuticals on the market, the Ministry of Public Health burned medicines seized during operations in the province of Santo Domingo, the National District, Moca, Salcedo, San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana and Santiago. Five trucks carrying the merchandise arrived at the incinerators at Hato Nuevo. Recently, the Ministry has received staunch criticism fors its inability to control the sale, distribution and import of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The criticism came after two persons died after being injected with a fake tetanus shot. Heath Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez reiterated his dedication to fight the sale of illegal pharmaceuticals.

Waiting for the 20th
Later this month, anyone caught stealing energy or committing any type of energy fraud will be fined and could face jail time. The Superintendence of Energy has announced that beginning on 20 February, Law 186-07 on energy fraud will be applied. Energy Superintendent Francisco Mendez during a conference at the Hotel Santo Domingo explained that in 2008 the government spent US$740 million to cover the energy deficit that in part is attributed to unpaid consumption of power. Mendez said that type of "bleeding" could not continue. He added that the law is a two-way street because large companies would also be held accountable for energy theft. He added this law would help with the energy sector's efficiency, a better standard of quality and a chance to have more sectors on 24-hour power.

Company will remove ad
The GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company has announced that it will remove an ad campaign urging Canadian citizens to obtain Hepatitis A and B vaccinations before arriving in the DR. The company decided to end the campaign after the DR's Tourism and Health officials, Francisco Javier Garcia and Bautista Rojas Gomez, criticized the campaign, calling it negative and affecting the DR's tourism sector. Both ministers called for the campaign to be removed from air, print and television. In a press release GlaxoSmithKline says its been working for 30 years in the DR and prides itself on the work done for the health of the Dominican public. The firm said that it occasionally urges travelers to get shots to other Caribbean destinations, not just the DR.

Good grades on the elections
Jose Octavio Bordon, speaking on behalf of the Organization of American States (OAS), says that Dominican institutions have been strengthened in recent years. Bordon made his comments upon receiving the OAS's report on the 2008 presidential elections. He highlighted the participation of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and the political parties in the elections. "I want to say that it's been exemplary, not to say there aren't any suggestions, and there aren't things that can get better."

Mazzarella to be deported
Italian mobster Ciro Mazzarella will be deported to Naples within the "next few hours." Hoy reports that Italian police, currently in the DR, are coordinating his transfer with Dominican officials. Police Chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said Mazzarella's capture came after a long investigation and that before being deported he will face questioning by officers from the International Police (Interpol). Officials are trying to determine if he has any connection, legal or illegal, to the DR.
It is yet unknown how long Mazzarella has been in the DR. It is said the mafioso was the head and organizer of the "Clan of Camorra" (the Naples Mafia), better known as the Clan Mazzarella in Italy and has been linked to more than 90 murders in Italy. Listin Diario writes that Mazzarella spent most of his time moving from hotel to hotel and it was because of this that it took officials more than six months to capture the fugitive.

Salami high
Police in La Victoria prison have arrested a man that tried to introduce a salami roll filled with marijuana into the prison. The salami trafficker was Carlos Manuel Ramirez Tejada and a man named "Carlos Pelota" was on the receiving end of the package. Officials say the salami bandit tried to introduce a quarter pound of marijuana to the jail. Ramirez had been originally caught with cocaine in 1993 and again in 2002.

The search continues
Authorities are continuing the search for bodies of six passengers of a plane that crashed of the northern coast of Puerto Rico, on Sunday. US Coast Guard in Puerto Rico spokesperson Ricardo Castrodad said that a body has been found, but has yet to be identified. The plane had departed from Casa de Campo and crashed shortly before arriving in Puerto Rico.

Looking for justice
A group of Dominican activists have set out to right the wrongs of history and will head to international courts with the hopes of finding and sentencing those responsible for the 1960 torture and campaign of 27 Dominican youths. The youth were suspected of plotting to overthrow the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The announcement was made after the screening of the documentary "Los Panfleteros de Santiago," which documents the work of the youth group. The announcement was made during the "9th Annual New Jersey Conference on Dominican Affairs. Dominican American Senator Juan Pichardo said he would aid in the investigations, considering "that this injustice should never happen again in my country or in any other part of the world." Maria Feliciano, one of the film's producers explained that may of the people responsible for what happened are in hiding, but that it was a crime against humanity, none the less.

Hammer hits Tejada
The names keep on coming and yesterday it was Miguel Tejada who was officially caught up in the purging of the "Steroid Era." Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP, was charged with lying to Congress about steroids. Tejada's reputation, already smudged by accusations that surfaced in 2008, could face possible jail time for perjury. Tejada is the latest player to be caught up in the whirlwind controversy of steroids that has stained baseball. Reports indicate that Tejada will appear in court on Wednesday and is expected to plead guilty on the charges. FoxSports News says that Tejada has already reached a plea deal that could limit the time he spends in prison, if at all. According to published reports Tejada lied to Congress when he vehemently denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
FoxSports reports, "The charge came in a legal document called a "criminal information," which only can be filed with the defendant's consent and typically signals a plea deal.
A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Wednesday in Washington, and Tejada and his lawyer plan to hold a news conference later in the day in Houston."
Tejada originally went before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in 2005. During questioning Tejada denied knowledge of an ex-teammate's steroid use.
Papers "charge that during spring training in 2003, Tejada had purchased a substance believed to be human growth hormone (HGH) from the player, giving him payments of $3,100 and $3,200. In the Mitchell Report, which examined steroid use in baseball, Oakland outfielder Adam Piatt is cited saying he discussed steroid use with Tejada and having provided Tejada with testosterone and human growth hormone. The Mitchell Report, issued in December 2007, also included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Piatt in March 2003 for $3,100 and $3,200 - the same payment amounts in Tuesday's court filing." Suspicion on Tejada increased after it was revealed that former Baltimore Oriole's teammate Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for drugs. Palmeiro said his positive test must have resulted from a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada. No word on Tejada's chances to play for the Dominican team during the World Baseball Classic, his status for the 2009 MLB season or his standing among Dominican fans.

A-rod dodges one bullet
Image tarnished, legacy-tainted, records questioned, but at least A-rod won't have to go before Congress and rat on his colleagues. It has been reported that Alex Rodriguez won't be summoned to Capitol Hill to discuss his role in the Steroid Era or provide politicians clues as to who was part of the intricate performance-enhancing web that has smashed baseball's image. "The American people need leaders who will focus on stemming job losses and getting credit to flow in the marketplace before hearing from yet another person who cheated both himself and the game of baseball," said House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Edolphus Towns. It was reported over the weekend that Rodriguez took steroids during his three seasons in Texas, citing pressures from his enormous US$250 million contract., and not able to lie any further Rodriguez held a press conference and admitted that he'd taken steroids. Though Rodriguez seemed sincere in his apology fans will find it hard to believe the star considering he had consistently lied about his use of drugs.

Moises Alou at WBC
Moises Alou is the captain of the Dominican team to the World Baseball Classic, announced Stanley Javier. David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez are expected to be on the team. During the press conference to make the announcement, Moises Alou said that the team will have several captains. "You have the case of Albert (Pujols), Alex (Rodriguez), both are great leaders and have motivated the boys to get moving on the team," he said. Alou himself is not sure he will play in the Classic. "Now I am 90% sure, but not 100%. We will see," he said.
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