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Daily News - Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Former Chilean president visits
President Leonel Fernandez hosted former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, in the DR on a courtesy visit. They met at the Presidential Palace for 45 minutes. Lagos was accompanied by Chilean ambassador Manuel Hinojosa, secretary general of the Socialist International political organization Luis Ayala, and by PRD vice president Tony Raful and the party's international relations secretary, Peggy Cabral. Lagos will be speaking at the state UASD University, where he will receive an honorary degree. Lagos served as President of Chile from 2000 to 2006. This is his second visit to the DR since leaving office.

Fernandez, Castro, Chavez & Obama
President Leonel Fernandez could act as an intermediary between US President Barack Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro, speculates Ruddy Gonzalez, writing in Listin Diario. Gonzalez reports that Chilean Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, says that he favors Cuba to be readmitted to the regional organization because 31 of 34 nations in the region already have formal diplomatic relations with the Castro regime.
President Fernandez held an in-depth interview with Fidel Castro during his five-day visit to Cuba earlier this month, and will be meeting US President Barack Obama during the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago on 17-19 April. Obama is also expected to hold face-to-face meetings with controversial Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Gonzalez writes that the new US establishment regards Fernandez as a democrat who admires the new US president, and is savvy in international affairs and an excellent conciliator.
Leaders from 34 nations across the Americas are expected to congregate at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. Summit coordinator Luis Alberto Rodriguez says a series of private sector meetings will act as a precursor to the main government level meeting (where the Heads of State will meet).
The Summit of the Americas is the only forum where the 34 democratically-elected Heads of State in the Western Hemisphere meet to exchange ideas and opinions on the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region and to develop a shared vision for the development of the hemisphere.
On 5 June 2006, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas meeting in the Dominican Republic at the 36th regular session of the OAS General Assembly formally accepted the offer of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to host the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009. TT is the first Caricom nation to host the Summit since its inception in 1994. The summit will be the first for Obama since he was elected President on 4 November 2008.
President Fernandez was recognized for excellence in diplomatic efforts to conciliate between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe during the Rio Summit celebrated in Santo Domingo in 2008. Chavez has already told the press he will use April's Summit of the Americas to pressure the United States to drop the trade embargo on Cuba.

Leonel talks with Dilone
President Leonel Fernandez spoke with former baseball star Miguel Dilone on the phone yesterday. Fernandez expressed words of encouragement for Dilone who is now recovering after having his left eye removed. The operation to remove his eye was needed after he was struck in the face with a foul tip baseball during a training session with some prospects. Media reports indicate that Dilone is in a stable condition and in good spirits after the operation. Fernandez said that he hopes Dilone makes a quick recovery.

Summit budget
Hoy reports that the recently concluded national summit had an initial budget of RD$15,564,163, of which RD$13,825,511 has been spent to date, according to Economy Minister Temistocles Montas, who coordinated the event. The summit, which generated a great deal of expectations, was held with the aim of finding solutions to the economic and social problems facing the DR as a result of the global economic financial crisis.

DR and Colombia naval agreement
Naval authorities from the Dominican Republic and Colombia have signed cooperation agreements covering joint anti-terrorism efforts and work in areas that pose a common security threat to both nations. The agreement was signed by DR Navy Chief Luis Lajara Sola and Commander of the Colombian Armada Guillermo Barrera Hurtado. Cooperation will also include work in fighting against drugs, arms and people trafficking.

NASA report highlights flooding
A report produced by the US National Space and Aeronautical Administration (NASA) and provided by the National Department for Environmental Information (DIARENA) explains the scope of the flooding around Lago Enriquillo. According to the report, which provided satellite imagery, the lake has flooded more than 121,544 tareas since 2000. According to images from 2000, the lake covered an area of 328,560 tareas and currently occupies a total of 450,144 tareas. A tarea is equal to 629 square meters (1 acre = 6.43 tareas). Lago Enriquillo has been receiving continuous water ever since a dike and floodgate that controlled the amount of water from the Yaque del Sur River, were damaged.
Engineer Gilberto Reynoso told Hoy that repair works and water channeling estimated to cost RD$350 million are necessary prior to the hurricane season. The peak of the season is in September. Several attribute the flooding to subterranean waters left after tropical storms Noel and Olga in 2007. However, engineer Eleuterio Martinez, who is deputy Minister of Environment, writes in today's Hoy newspaper that these factors are not likely to be the main causes of the flooding. He says that it is known is that numerous springs in the Bahoruco and Neiba mountain ranges are feeding the lake. He said there is a need for a study to determine the principal causes of the problem.

Eliminate the Pruebas Nacionales
The president of the Dominican Association of Public School Teachers Maria Teresa Cabrera says that the government should eliminate the standardized national tests (Pruebas Nacionales). She said the results of the evaluation have not been used to draw up strategies to improve education deficits. Furthermore, she says the money spent on these tests would be better used on training teachers and teaching support materials. She commented on the more than 30,000 senior year students that were affected when the fourth test session was suspended. The tests should have been served in February. Students need the test scores to register for university.

Doctors on strike
Public hospital doctors are on strike today with the work stoppage continuing through tomorrow. This is the latest attempt by the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) to pressure the government into agreeing to pay increases for physicians working at public health centers. Doctors will only be treating emergencies. Legislators have agreed in principle to the doctors' demands but have yet to agree on where the money would come from. This is the 15th strike the CMD has held in the last 13 months.

Mocano pharmacists continue
Despite continued warnings and operations by the Ministry of Public Health, backed up by the Army, clandestine pharmacies in Moca continue to operate, flouting efforts by the Ministry to curb the distribution of fake pharmaceutical products. Moca has become the focal point of Ministry efforts to curb the spread of fake medications, but Hoy reports that after the Ministry conducts a seizure operation the pharmacies open back up the next day, with this continuing as normal. Maximo Trinidad, president of the Pharmacies Business Association, defiantly said they would continue operating despite the threats from the Ministry. Though Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez met with officials in Moca to discuss how to keep these businesses closed, Trinidad's attitude foreshadows a continued struggle for the Ministry.

Copper theft continues
Ministry of Public Works officials say that thieves have stolen power cables in the 27 de Febrero Avenue tunnel. The theft of more than 1,500 feet of standard caliber cables 4, 6 and 8 has left close to 70% of the tunnel without power. Officials say the cables were stolen in order to sell the copper inside the cables. The theft of metals and cables is big business in the DR as they are sold to third parties, recycled and resold for profit. As a result the tunnel will be closed for repairs beginning tonight at 10pm.

Rates decline, but on new loans
Herrera Industrial Association spokesman Manuel Cabrera says that while interest rates have declined for new loans, they have gone up for renewals of existing loans. As reported in Hoy, he said that the recent Central Bank measures aimed at stimulating declines in lending rates have only affected new loans. Cabrera mentioned the case of an AEIH member who had a loan with a savings and loans association for which he paid RD$68,000 at 19% but last week, the monthly payment was increased to RD$88,000 and interest rates raised to 26%. This was the same loan that was originally contracted 18 months ago at 15% and RD$57,000 monthly payment.
He said that those loans were gradually increased, as interest rates climbed to 18, 19% and 22% and now are at 26%.
Cabrera said that the banks don't have any excuse for the increases.
Recently, the Central Bank changed its monetary policy, reducing yields on its own certificates, and bank costs in the handling of money. "That should be reflected in the lending rates," said Cabrera.

Talk shows and lenient judges
Afternoon talk shows have been revealing scandalous content in the transcripts of the case for drug trafficking accusations against 31 cops in Puerto Plata. In the authorized taped conversations, the policemen clearly incriminate themselves, yet a Puerto Plata Penal Chamber judge, Rosa Francia Liriano, ordered them to be released from detention on the grounds of violation of technicalities in procedures.
First vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice Rafael Luciano Pichardo described Judge Liriano's decision as "imprudent", as well as the decision made by San Cristobal Judge Regina Carvajal Vizcaino, as reported in Listin Diario. The San Cristobal judge ordered the release of Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua, a nephew of former captain Quirino Paulino Castillo, currently on trial in the US for his role in a massive drug trafficking operation. Castillo was arrested in connection with the murder of a Spanish businessman linked to the drug-related Paya murder in Bani and the murder of National Drug Control Department official Guillermo Tejada Kranwinkel. The decision of Judge Regina Carvajal allowed Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua (Rafy) out on RD$3 million bail.
The release on bail of hit man Wilkin Emilio Abreu, who was arrested for the murder of Romelin Bobadilla de la Rosa during a shootout in Azua, has also added a stain on the DR judicial system.
Luciano Pichardo called on judges to be prudent and to put society above the criminals.
His superior, Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa has ordered an investigation into judge Regina Carvajal.

Looking for Tejeda's killer
The DR's Attorney General's office has released a composite sketch of a man who is suspected of killing Drug Control Department officer Guillermo Tejeda Kranwinkel. According to details it is a 5'5 light skinned male, age about 28, with a moustache. Officials say they are on the last leg of the investigation and are looking for two suspects in connection with Tejeda's murder. The young DNCD officer was killed in San Cristobal in 2008 as he came out of a barbershop. Officials believe that Tejeda's murder was the result of his investigation into drug trafficking in San Cristobal. Listin Diario reports that Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua, nephew of former military captain Quirino Paulino, is involved in the murder. Castillo had been arrested for the murder of a Spanish national who has been tied to the Paya drug massacre.

Who has drug money?
Chamber of Deputies President Julio Cesar Valentin is asking former Deputy Aridio Garcia to name all the members of the Chamber of Deputies who are supposed to have made fortunes from drug trafficking. Valentin asked Garcia to provide names in order for legislators to take action. Otherwise, making such claims without naming names is highly irresponsible, he says. Valentin said that such claims would not damage the image of Congress, adding that accusations are often made in order for the accuser to gain some kind of fame. According to Hoy, Garcia claims that some PRD and PLD legislators have amassed fortunes through the drug trade.

Carbo nation
Doctors in the DR are increasingly concerned at the increase of obesity cases among children. Hoy is reporting that obesity rates among the child and adult population is now 6%. During a video conference from Mexico, Dr. Lucero Rodriguez Cabrera urged officials to promote healthy eating habits among Dominicans. The video conference was organized by the National Institute for the Protection of Consumer Rights (Pro Consumidor). Doctors say that obesity leads to increased chances of diabetes and hypertension. As abroad, childhood obesity is attributed to reduced sports activity at school, more hours in front of the computer and TV, and the trend for families to live in apartments rather than in houses.

Street merengue in Casandra Awards
After continued pressure from fans and musicians alike, the Casandra Awards, which will be held on 24 March, has included the new and still controversial category of "Merengue de Calle" (street Merengue). However, the new award will not be voted by the ACROARTE judges, but voting has been put in the hands of fans, who will be allowed to phone in with their votes as of this Saturday at 9am. Nominated performers include Omega, Silvio Mora, El Cata, El Sujeto and Tulile. The Merengue de Calle genre, (considered a derogatory term by fans and artists), is relatively new on the Dominican music scene, only having developed within the last five to seven years. However, it has become very popular with young people, while drawing staunch criticisms from Merengue purists who say the genre should not even be called music. Critics also point to the sexual and violent nature of some lyrics as arguments against the music. Still, Merengue de Calle, also known as Mambo, is here. Fans can call (809) 220-2200 (from landlines) or (809) 200 0002 (from cell phones or from other parts of the DR). Codetel, which is running the phone voting, says voters will only be able to vote once per phone.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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