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Daily News - Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fernandez goes to Enriquillo
President Leonel Fernandez will travel to Lake Enriquillo on Thursday and visit the community of Los Rios, Bahoruco where he will outline the government's efforts to help people who have been affected by the rising lake waters in the provinces of Bahoruco and Independencia. Fernandez will be accompanied by the officials in charge of finding a solution to the problems created by the rising waters. Several municipalities in the area have been calling for urgent assistance. Fernandez decided to visit Los Rios on Thursday after yesterday afternoon's meeting with the official commission studying the demands from the region. According to Hoy newspaper, over 500 families have lost their homes and possessions in the floods, and hope to be relocated. The communities are making seven demands: the construction of a dike on the Trujillo Canal, rural roads, restoration of coffee plantations in La Ceiba, in Neiba, as well as help for sowing short-cycle crops, a census of the people affected and the displacement of the South Yaque River towards Puerto Blanco. They also want the riverbed to be deepened and the drainage of the Cabral Canal to be rebuilt. Presidential press secretary Rafael Nunez said that President Fernandez would be taking concrete solutions to the meeting in Los Rios. He said the displaced families would be relocated to Tierra Prieta, Los Indios de Postrer Rio, Guzman, La Trocha de Saqueta, La Baitoa and El Proyecto de Villa Jaragua. Fernandez will go to Los Rios after stopping at Azua, where he will watch the celebrations in commemoration of the 165 anniversary of the Battle of 19 March when Dominican troops halted the Haitian army that was coming to the aid of their occupation forces as the Dominican Independence movement got under way. Accompanying the president will be the ministers of the Environment and Public Works, the directors of the Dominican Agrarian Institute, Hydraulic Institute (INDRHI), and Territorial Organization and Development director Franklin Lambourt who delivered the technical report on the reasons for the lake's recent increase in size.

President criticizes salary increases
President Leonel Fernandez has criticized salary increases across government departments and several municipalities, saying that they not in keeping with the current situation. In a press release issued by the Presidential Press Department yesterday, the Chief Executive states that these increases "are creating a distortion in the salary regime throughout the administration, as some state employees' salaries do not match their level of responsibility." Diario Libre quotes the President's statement as saying "it is inappropriate that at a time of world economic crisis and reduction in fiscal income, public officials should be getting salary increases without a collective decision." It adds that he has instructed the Ministry of Public Administration to set up a commission to conduct studies and make recommendations on the public sector salary scale.

CB & banks: interests are down
Central Bank (CB) governor Hector Valdez Albizu and the Dominican Association of Commercial Banks (ABA) have both issued statements that said, in effect, that interest rates on loans are going down as a result of the measures ordered by the Monetary Board. Although they did not name names, both entities were no doubt referring to recent statements from the Herrera Industries Association that stated the contrary, saying that interest rates were in fact going up. The CB governor stated categorically that interest rates on the financial markets had begun a process of reduction compared to the December 2008 levels. The lower rates are for loans and for interest payments on deposits.
Valdez Albizu said that the active rates had gone down by 2.15%, going from 23.96% to 21.79% as of March 2009. Commercial loans were also cited as going from 23.47% to 21.16%, a 2.31% drop.
The governor said, according to Hoy newspaper, "These lower rates are just marking the beginning of a substantial reduction in the cost of money that should be consolidated in the next few weeks."
The Central Bank has been adopting measures to accelerate the transfer of lower interest rates, as for example freeing up the legal reserves.
Valdez Albizu reminded reporters of the announcement made by the administrator of the Banco de Reservas (BanReservas), which began offering mortgage loans at 15% and preferential loans at 17%.
The ABA presented slightly different numbers, but confirmed the trend towards lower interest rates on bank loans, going from 25.2% in January to 21.8% in March 2009. The association, which represents the twelve commercial banks in the Dominican Republic, confirmed that the lower price of money is the result of the measures taken by the monetary authorities.

Commercial banks yield increases
Apolinar Veloz, former general manager at the Central Bank says that the measures announced by the Central Bank to stimulate a reduction in lending rates have so far only benefited the commercial banks. He said the rate reduction has yet to trickle down to business and individual consumers. Veloz, interviewed on the Uno + Uno TV program on TeleAntillas said that the monetary measures have so far only had an impact on the cost of money for banks. Veloz said that what has resulted is that the banks' profit margin and money yield has increased for the banks.
He says since there is a lack of liquidity in the financial markets, those who need to borrow money will have to continue to pay high interest rates, as reported in Hoy.
Veloz said that administrative costs at Dominican banks are excessively high, adding that until they resolve that problem, the banks are not likely to pass any savings on to consumers.

Advertorial in NY Times
The Fernandez administration tells the story of its progress in these difficult economic times in an advertising supplement in the New York Times Magazine. The 22 February 2009 supplement features interviews with President Leonel Fernandez, Economy Minister Temistocles Montas, Center for Exports and Investments director Eddy Martinez, and Andres Vanderhorst of the National Competitiveness Council providing an overview of the Dominican Republic today.
See www.summitreports.com/dominicanrep2009/

Andeclip and HMOs can't agree
The Private Clinics Association (Andeclip) and the Health Management Providers (HMOs) just can't seem to reach an agreement. The clinic owners rejected the HMO request to eliminate deductions on invoices until the National Council of Social Security readjusts the official rates. Andeclip president Rafael Mena said that he did not know anything about this agreement and the clinics and health centers that he represents have nothing to do with any adjustments in payment schedules. With this in mind, he said that independently of whether or not an adjustment is made, these deductions have to go. He added that if the invoices were not paid in full the association would cease services to the two HMOs that have not adjusted their pay schedules. Mena said that "the clinics are in agreement that the per capita fees paid to the HMOs should be increased, but one thing does not have anything to do with the other." Mena said that the deductions made by the HMOs have pushed some clinics to the brink of bankruptcy. Part of the problem stems from the fact that late last year the clinics and the HMOs signed an agreement aimed at eliminating these deductions. However, there was a clause in the agreement that said that as of 15 May 2009 the practice of making the deductions would cease but before this date the health authorities should have readjusted the HMOs' per capita fees. To date, 15 of the 17 HMOs have ceased the practice. Although an article in El Caribe does not name the two that haven't, the only HMO representatives at the meeting yesterday that were mentioned were from ARS Humana and ARS Universal, the two largest companies.

Price of eggs and poultry goes up
Colmados and supermarkets in Santo Domingo are selling eggs and poultry at higher prices. Eggs were at five and six pesos and poultry was selling for between RD$45 and RD$60 a pound. These high prices are due to shortages and speculation by intermediaries. Last year there was a serious egg production crisis and several producers went under, and the result is the current shortage, which is accentuated during Lent, when consumption increases. Diario Libre reports that the problem will be resolved within the next two months by increasing the age of the layers, according to the president of the National Association of Egg Producers (Asohuevos), Manuel Escano. "If you walk the streets, you will find very few old layers for sale since they are forced to produce for more than 100 weeks in order to supply a small part of the deficiency in the production that resulted from 2008," says Escano. The country consumes 125,000,000 eggs per month, but when Haiti banned imports of all Dominican egg and poultry products, the egg producers re-programmed their egg-laying facilities for internal consumption, but now the reality has hit the Haitians in the face, and they have been forced to acquire eggs from the Dominican Republic. Escano said that Haitians consume about 30 million eggs a month so Dominican production would have to exceed 150 million per month in order to fulfill this demand. There is currently a 10-million egg deficit that producers are trying to resolve by keeping the hens laying for longer periods. Moreover, steps are being taken to get the producers that left the market last year to return to production. The hope is that within two months production will reach last year's levels with more than 150 million per month. At least 30 egg producers have been out of production since last year. As of just a few weeks ago, that number was closer to 50, but some have returned to production. Escano said that the producers expect to satisfy demand and the prices should go down a little on the local market. The Dominican Republic has 300 registered egg producers.

Decline in remittances forecast
The Inter-American Development Bank is warning that Latin America should expect a decline in flows of money sent home by migrants hit by the economic slowdown and exchange rate swings. The IDB says that after almost a decade of growth, remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean are likely to decline in 2009 for the first time since the IDB began tracking the flows in 2000. Remittances have been decreasing since late 2008. The IDB says that after many years of persistent growth, remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean came under pressure in 2008 as major source countries, including the United States, Spain and Japan, fell into recession. The crisis has especially hit industries that employ foreign workers, such as construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants.
See www.iadb.org/news/detail.cfm?language=English&id=5160...

Apartment buildings causing "chaos"
The enormous increase in the number of high-rise apartment buildings in Santo Domingo is the main cause of the traffic chaos experienced by most of the city's population on a daily basis. This was the opinion of the National Forum "UNPHU Spaces", sponsored by the Pedro Henriquez Urena National University (UNPHU). The city center is the focus of most traffic jams, and the forum analyzed traffic patterns and came to the conclusion that "the number of housing units and buildings has outgrown the supply of basic services". The forum brought together urban planners, housing and construction promoters, municipality representatives and neighborhood groups. One of their conclusions was the urgent need for a Master Plan for Greater Santo Domingo, including the municipalities. They cited the lack of adequate water, sewage, electricity and roadways for the expanding population. The discussions were led by Omar Rancier, dean of Architecture at the UNPHU. Finally, the forum suggested severe penalties for anyone violating municipal regulations as well as a coordinated effort by the service agencies to provide the city center with adequate water, electricity and transportation.

Police to help with triplets
The Police Officers Wives Association has said it would help support the police private who gave birth to triplets at the Centro Medico Vista del Jardin in Santo Domingo. They will ensure that she receives a year's supply of baby milk formula, and will purchase the cribs and baby clothes. Police private Medara Linares, a 29-year old single mother, gave birth to three daughters - Aimee Lisselot, Dylan Alexander and Morelia Orfelia. Patricia Chomali de Guzman, president of the Association and wife of the chief of the police, promised to ensure the babies' wellbeing. As reported in Diario Libre, the hospital also contributed by discounting several of their usual charges.

New protests in Santiago barrios
Community organizations from La Yaguita de Pastor, Bella Vista and Pastor have resumed their street protests after the expiry of the deadline issued to the authorities to restart repairs to the streets, among other things, that had been promised. Diario Libre says that the government, through provincial governor Jose Augusto Izquierdo, had promised to start the public works by midday on Monday at the latest, but this did not happen. In the afternoon, a series of explosions was heard, as well as shots and confrontations between groups of protesters and police SWAT units. The tense situation forced shops to close, and protesters stopped traffic and blocked streets with burning tires, rocks and garbage. The spokesperson for the community organizations and leader of the Front for Popular Struggles (FALPO) in La Yaguita de Pastor, Jose Martinez, warned that they would only stop protesting when the equipment arrives to begin the street repairs and other projects. The community's demands include street repairs, gutters and sidewalks, sewers, a bridge, drinking water, and an end to blackouts. Santiago governor Jose Izquierdo argued that work had not restarted because of the supposed lack of security in the barrios.

Police 'solved 3,633 cases in 2009'
The National Police reported yesterday that in the first three months of the year, the Central Investigation Department (Dicrim) resolved 3,633 cases including assaults, residential robberies, kidnappings, capture of fugitives and forgeries. These cases are from December, January and February: 646 from Santo Domingo East, 473 from Santo Domingo North and 368 from Santo Domingo West for a total of 1,487 cases. The remainder was divided into 1,116 robberies, with 49 persons wanted by the Justice Department captured, 9 kidnappings resolved, 225 missing persons found; and 190 counterfeiting cases solved. Moreover, 14 cases of merchandise theft were dealt with, 60 were accused in 43 cases of human trafficking, 129 murders were solved and more than 130 people were arrested and sent to the justice department. At the same time, according to the report, 371 stolen vehicles were recovered and returned to their owners. Dicrim director General Pedro Julio Henriquez Perez said that the departments he commands are solving major cases every day, and told reporters that pending cases are close to 80% ready. Henriquez Perez said that none of the cases sent the National Police are passed over, "all (cases) are important and each investigator puts the same effort into each case." The general said that the Chief of Police, Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, gives daily instructions for solving each case. Dicrim's Forgeries Department has struck some hard blows against the gangs that forge money, CDs and DVDs. Two months ago, counterfeiting agents led by Colonel Ney Aldrin Bautista dismantled a gang that counterfeited 2,000, 1,000, 500 and 100 peso bills. More recently they busted a gang that had been faking CDs and DVDs in Los Mina, Ensanche Ozama and La Esperanza.

Parmalat decides not to pursue case
The prosecutor for the province of Santo Domingo says the executives of the Parmalat company that was the target of a 12-man armed raid last month will not be pressing charges. Perfecto Acosta told El Nuevo Diario reporter Milagros Sanchez that the executives said that the money that was taken was insignificant in comparison to what it would cost the company in lawyers fees in order to pursue the case in the courts. Air Force Major Jorge Luis Vargas Cuello, Air Force Sergeant Carlos Santana Camacho and civilian Roberto Carlos Concepcion Comas (Marcos Comas), are accused of the raid on the Parmalat premises last week.
Major Jorge Luis Vargas Cuello has defended his innocence. He said that he was in the area at the time of the robbery when he received a call from Comas asking him to pick him up in his vehicle because a motorcycle belonging to him that Comas had taken for a test drive with the intention of possibly buying it had broken down. He said that after putting the motorcycle on his pick-up they drove along for a short distance before being intercepted by a Police patrol that shot at their feet and later took them to the Dario Contreras Public Hospital.
A patrol from the Villa Duarte police station detained the pair and recovered three guns, Carandai, Glock and Jericho, 9mm caliber, a Nissan Frontier pick-up truck with an official license plate, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and four cellphones, as reported in El Caribe.
The assailants entered the Parmalat premises under the guise of a National Drug Control Department operation, wearing uniforms with the DNCD logo.

Miguel Dilone loses eye
Former major league baseball player Miguel Dilone lost his left eye yesterday in a freak accident during baseball practice in Villa Olga. The player, known as the "Saeta Cibaena" (the Cibao Dart) underwent surgery at the Union Medica del Cibao where doctors managed to save his right eye. Ophthalmologist Dr. Tony Fernandez, one of the doctors who treated the former ballplayer, said that the patient had suffered an accident that caused the left eye to rupture. "We did what is called an evisceration, which is a cleaning of the eye socket, we will soon fit a prosthetic device, and then we have to see how this procedure continues," said Fernandez.
The accident has caused distress in the city of Santiago and a large number of people gathered at the medical center asking about the health of the former leader of the Aguilas Cibaenas. Rollin Fermin, one of the leading sportswriters in Santiago, told Diario Libre, "This was a near-tragedy, because Guelo is still a great leader, a idol who has always had a good relationship with fans." Guelo Dilone, the all-time leader in stolen bases in the history of Dominican baseball, regularly visited the ball field at Villa Olga to see how the young players were developing.
Apparently he was practicing with a 15-year old prospect and the incident occurred as he was giving instructions on a batting technique. The prospect was practicing with one of his sons. According to Dr. Ruddy Pichardo, a foul tip hit one of the pipes on the protective screen and ricocheted to hit the former star of Dominican and Major League baseball, where he played with the Cleveland Indians.

Arlenis Sosa: cover of Time Style
A 19-year old Dominican model, Monte Cristi-born Arlenis Sosa is on the cover of Time magazine's April 2009 Style & Design supplement. Arlenis, a new discovery by the fashion industry in 2008, has taken the fashion world by storm. She has been described as "the new face of fashion" by Time Magazine and has posed for Vogue USA and Italy, Harper's Bazaar, and many other leading publications. And she has modeled in several major shows for Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Victoria's Secret, Donna Karan and Carolina Herrera, among many others. She is also the "spokesmodel", or new face of Lancome cosmetics this year, and her face is what's new at Macy's flagship in NYC.
She was discovered by fashion designer Luis Menieur when she was in Santo Domingo to look into studying communications at a Santo Domingo university. She would be a contestant in the 2006 Elite Model Look in Santo Domingo, but Menieur thought she could be a world class model and made it happen.
TIME Style & Design is a glossy, stand-alone supplement to Time Magazine published six times a year. Each issue takes an in-depth look at the influential worlds of style and design and how fashion, architecture and product design influence the way people work, live, travel, shop and build our environment.
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