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Daily News - Monday, 09 March 2009

Big success for agro-fair
The Santo Domingo AgroAlimentaria Fair held at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel last week exceeded the organizers' expectations. The effective coordination work carried out by the Agribusiness Board (JAD) with the backing of the Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD) working through Dominican Embassies abroad and foreign embassies in the Dominican Republic succeeded in attracting several key buyers for Dominican farm produce. During the four-day fair, local producers were able to place major shipments of organic bananas, avocados, mangos and pineapples. Osmar Benitez, executive vice president of the JAD, said that the fair linked Dominican produce to a Japanese supermarket chain with 3,500 stores in Japan. He said US$200 million a year in additional farm produce sales were transacted in the eent where there were over 450 pre-scheduled business appointments. Buyers came from Antigua & Barbuda, St. Maarten, Colombia, Curacao, Uruguay, Chile, Japan, the United States (NY and Miami).
A third AgroAlimentaria Fair could take place towards the end of 2010 or in 2011.

DR still not "feeling it"
According to Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa, the DR and Central America have yet to feel the pressures of the world economic crisis, saying that what is being seen is a deceleration of growth in the region's economies. Bengoa explained that a recession is defined by two consecutive semesters of negative growth, while what is being seen in the region is a period of slower growth. Bengoa predicts that economic growth will be an estimated 3% in 2009 after having registered 8.5% in the last four years.

Metro load below expectations
The promoters of the first line of the Santo Domingo Metro originally predicted 175,000 users per day, but reality has shown the demand to be about half that number. Hoy reports that average demand is 67,678 travelers, as was the average daily use from 30 January to 26 February. Hoy says that the government is spending US$25 million a year to subsidize the operation of the first line of the metro.
In his 27 February state of the nation address, President Leonel Fernandez announced that he was assigning priority to the construction of the second line of the metro and to the construction of the Haina-Santiago passenger-cargo train.

Thumbs down for mega-projects
Former Central Bank governor Bernardo Vega is wary of the government's announcements of new large-scale public works projects. Vega said that instead the government should embark on projects that use a large workforce. He said these so-called mega-projects usually use imported heavy machinery, as reported in El Caribe. He said that what the government should be doing is investing in building homes, rural roads and repairing irrigation canals. The former ambassador in Washington, D.C. said the Dominican government should take pointers from the Costa Rican government and its global crisis programs. When interviewed by Orlando Jorge Mera on his weekly program Lideres, he criticized the fact that the government is becoming larger with the purchase of the Shell-held stock in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery, the construction of the second line of the metro and a train to Santiago and the power distribution companies. Vega said that this just adds to government spending, because it is all subsidized. "This is not the time to make the government bigger," he said. Furthermore, he said that the government's monetary policy is not coherent with its fiscal policy. He said that regardless of a country's size, increasing taxes is not prudent in recessionary times like these. Vega does not expect the recession to clear until 2011.

Gas conversions need warranty
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has issued resolution 25-09 (Article 7), requiring authorized natural gas conversion workshops to issue warranties on the systems they install. The warranties will be for 25,000 kilometers and will require technicians to perform a check-up and keep a log of every check- up of the gas conversion systems. The aim is to keep records of all systems installed so that the information can be used for statistical purposes. The resolution also requires the technicians to have a contract with gas conversion kit importers to ensure improved communications between the installers and the producers of the kits. Other measures included in the resolution are for conversion garages to cover a minimum area of 250 square meters and include an area for checking vehicles. Installers may also not install the systems on car roofs or within a vehicle, except the tank, and all systems must include a safety valve.

Too many generals
Interior and Police Minster Franklin Almeyda Rancier admits that there are too many generals in the DR and said that more should be retired. Almeyda says that instead of more generals there should be more street level cops patrolling the streets of Santo Domingo. Quoted in Listin Diario Almeyda said, "the least amount of generals, the better. We still have too many. There are something like 57. We have to keep removing some."

Angry sergeant removed
The Armed Forces has dishonorably discharged Sergeant Angel Sena Perez after the sergeant punched a priest during an argument in February. According to media reports, Sena owns a "disco-light" party bus in Neyba and on the night in question priest Michel Vargas voiced concern about the noise coming from the mobile disco. Sena responded by punching the priest and throwing a chair at him. The Ministry of Environment closed down the disco-light and Sena will now be tried in a civil court.

OTTT serves its director
Nuria Piera has done it again, unearthing another extreme case of Dominican government corruption. On her Saturday Color Vision Channel 9 investigative journalism show, she presented the case of the director of the Land Transport Office (OTTT) Franklin Beltre who confirmed nepotism in his department. There are 19 employees with his two last names Beltre and Cabral on the OTTT payroll. Many of them are from his hometown, Guayabal, in Padre de las Casas.
According to El Caribe, Beltre admitted he has no real clue as to how many people work in his department and accepted that members of his family are working there. The report says that the OTTT employs 635 workers and spends an estimated RD$7.8 million per month (RD$94 million per year). But Beltre says the "official" payroll doesn't include an extra 200 unaccounted people. "I don't know exactly how many people are employed by OTTT," said Beltre. Beltre revealed that three of his nieces and nephews were working for him, as well as the godfather of one of his children, who is a sub-director for OTTT. "I appointed him sub-director, but he doesn't even come in, but I do things out of love, because I always think of family, but it's not just him. There are others."
ElCaribe reports that other attention-grabbers on the TV show were the news of Beltre's purchase of a US$64,000 Chevy Tahoe only months after he became director of the OTTT in 2007, as well as the purchase of a Honda CRV. There are also reports of a RD$7 million house in Santo Domingo East and the purchase of five plots of land that doesn't have the corresponding paperwork. Beltre has monthly car payments of RD$30,000 and apartment payments of RD$42,000 per month. After being appointed to the OTTT in August 2007, the department went on to purchase 10 Isuzu 2008 pickups, one of which was assigned to take his daughters to school. His wage is RD$87,000 a month. He defends himself by saying his wife takes care of their household expenses.
See www.nuria.com.do/inicio.php

No way to Park construction
Deputy Minister of Environment Eleuterio Martinez said that even if the Chamber of Deputies approves a bill legalizing the sale of areas within the National Park of the East, the Ministry would not authorize any construction within the park. Earlier, the Ministry's director of protected areas, Manuel Mateo Feliz warned about plans to exclude areas that are part of the National Park for tourism projects and would not benefit the community of Boca de Yuma, as the legislators argue.
The controversial bill has the support of the following deputies:
PRSC: Sergio Antonio Cedeno De Jesus, Ramon Ricardo Sanchez De la Rosa, Guido Cabrera Martinez, Carlos Jose Ramon Martinez Arango, Victor Orlando Bisono Haza, Radhames Castro, Roberto Ernesto Feliz Feliz, Carmen Mirelys Uceta Velez, Remberto Arturo Cruz Rodriguez, Cesar Enrique Gomez Segura.
PRD: Eugenio Cedeno Areche, Bernardo Sanchez Rosario, Luis Ernesto Camilo Garcia, Aquiles Leonel Ledesma Alcantara, Victor Luis de Jesus Lasose Figueroa, Lucila Leonarda De Leon Martinez, Hugo Rafael Nunez Almonte, Pablo Adon Guzman, Jose Altagracia Gonzalez Sanchez, Wagner Manuel Jose Mosquea, Juan Benito Reyes Brito, Manuel Alberto Sanchez Carrasco.
PLD: Felix Antonio Castillo Rodriguez, Maria Cleofia Sanchez Lora, Plutarco Perez, Mauro Pina Bello, Ramon Antonio Cabrera Cabrera, Hugo Fernelis Fortuna Tejeda, Radhames Fortuna Sanchez, Santiago Vilorio Lizardo, Radhames Vasquez Reyes, Juan Antonio Perez, Juan Gilberto Serulle Ramia, Ramon Dilepcio Nunez Perez, Jose Casimiro Ramos Calderon, Jose Acevedo Trinidad, Carlos Manuel Pena Batista.
Monsignor Fabio Mamerto, president of the Catholic Church's National Pastoral Environmental Council, has joined the chorus of voices rejecting a bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies that affects the limits of the National Park of the East as established under Law 202-04. The news involving the park was first reported on Friday and has since provoked widespread rejection from both the public and private sector. The controversy is over the purchase of lots Nos. 92-H, 92-N, 92-P and 92-Z in the municipality of Boca de Yuma. Claims indicate that companies Fulcasa S.A and Playa Verde del Caribe C por A and subsequently Stratstone Real Estates S.A., violated local laws in the expectation that Congress would change the legislation to validate and legalize their investments. Mamerto says that "institutionalism needs to be respected and where it doesn't exist it needs to be created." Mamerto is urging legislators who are in favor of selling off the protected lands to reevaluate their positions for the benefit of the country.

12 billion, not million
Last week DR1 erroneously reported that the former president of the board of Banco de Progreso had been sentenced to pay RD$12.2 million in compensation to the Grupo Progreso and the Banco Dominicano del Progreso. The report should have read RD$12.2 billion.

Free operations begin today
Doctors from the Walter Reid Hospital taking part in the United States Southern Command exercise, in partnership with doctors from the Armed Forces will operate on 150 children from around the country. The children have a variety of deformities and there will be no cost for the procedure. Military Hospital director Dr. Francisco Araujo says that the mission is being funded by the US Embassy in the DR.

Dominican team rebounds
The much anticipated World Baseball Classic is finally here and this year's teams are bringing the heat. Just ask the Dominican team what they think about the Dutch team, which pulled off a surprising victory against the DR, 3-2, in Pool D's opening round game on Saturday. The win is being described as the most shocking victory in international baseball history. The Dominican team came into the tournament a heavy favorite, especially since the DR is one of two teams in the 16-team tournament, made up off all MLB professional baseball players. However the Dutch, not known for their baseball prowess, came into the tournament with a ragtag bunch of players from Curacao, Aruba and Canada. The Netherlands mustered three hits during the game and only three balls "escaped" the infield, but the Dominicans' sloppy play had much to do with the loss. However, facing elimination the Dominican Republic stepped to the plate during Sunday night's game 2 and took their frustrations out on Panama. It was a must-win situation for the DR and they came through as they pummeled the Panamanian team 9-0 on the back of catcher Miguel Olivo, who had two homeruns. Now the DR will sit back and await the winner of the Puerto Rico v. Netherlands game. However, there is no longer a guarantee that the DR will make it to the second round.

A-rod out for 6-9 weeks
The news is sobering and the cloud that hangs over Alex Rodriguez's career has only gotten bigger. Only weeks after admitting to taking performance-enhancing substances, the New York Yankees have announced that A-rod will indeed have surgery to repair a labrum tear in his hip. Rodriguez flew to Colorado last week to have a cyst drained in the hip and upon further review it was determined that Rodriguez had a labrum tear. Doctors considered a variety of options, basing their decision on which one would keep Rodriguez in the dugout the least amount of time, and this initial surgery was chosen. But it doesn't end there. Providing all goes well and Rodriguez returns this year he will still need to have a second operation at the end of the season, and there is no way of knowing what state his hip will be in at that stage. The ramifications of this injury are serious. No word on whether the injury was steroid-related, but the last major athlete to have such problems with his hip was Bo Jackson, who was only a shadow of his former self when he returned to play. As for the Yankees their World Series aspiration took a downturn and the reality is that they cannot void A-rod's 10-year, US$275 million contract, which still has nine years left on it.

DR goes undefeated in tennis
The Dominican tennis squad, playing in Group II in the American region, finished the elimination round of the Davis Cup BNP Paribas tournament undefeated (5-0) against Guatemala. The games were held at the Santo Domingo Tennis Club. The DR moves on to Round I and will play the winner of the Paraguay/Bahamas tournament, with play beginning in July.
See www.daviscup.com/results/am2.asp

Felix Diaz turns pro
Dominican Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz has decided to join the professional ranks. The 64kg (130-135lbs) Beijing Olympics champion said that he was going professional because he was thinking of his children's future. The announcement was made at a press conference held by the Dominican Boxing Federation on Tuesday. He said he would share details of the contract and his boxing schedule later.

March shows
The artistic calendar continues very active in the Dominican Republic. Some of the international performers booked for Dominican shows are: Reik at the Hotel Jaragua, 12 March. Wisin & Yandel in Santiago, 13 March. David Guetta at the Jaragua, 19 March. Eumir Deodato at the Jaragua, 26 March. Prague Black Theater at the NT, 28-29 March. Tiesto at the Olympic Stadium, 28 March.
For details on these and other coming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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