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Daily News - Friday, 27 March 2009

Fernandez and many aqueducts
President Leonel Fernandez has inaugurated a new aqueduct in La Romana. He announced that the government had spent RD$2.4 billion on the new water supply installation and renovations at others in the provinces of La Altagracia, Hato Mayor and San Pedro de Macoris, benefiting 600,000 residents. Biwater-Sinercon built the La Romana Aqueduct at a cost of RD$1.8 billion. Partial financing came from the US government Export-Import Bank. Renovation of Hato Mayor's aqueduct was completed at a cost of RD$388 million and will benefit an estimated 103,294 residents. Bayahibe's aqueduct serving 4,135 people was also repaired, at a cost of RD$513 million.

Public works pick up speed
Looking to ease tensions from continuous protests in the eastern provinces of the DR, yesterday, the Dominican government agreed to initiate public works projects in Higuey, La Romana, El Seybo, Hato Mayor, Miches and San Pedro de Macoris. Officials agreed to "fix" the Higuey-Bavaro roadway, but also agreed to speed up work on the Coral Highway. The Ministry of Public Works, which is handling all the constructions, will also fix the Gri-Gri intersection as well as the road between Coco Loco and Bavaro.

Almeyda firing back
Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier is continuing his personal campaign against the PRD, this time calling the rival party, "a party of violence." Almeyda, who has been engaged in a war of words with PRD president Ramon Alburquerque, made his comments in the light of recent nationwide protests. Local campaigners are demanding road repairs and other public works projects. Hoy reports Almeyda's suspicion that these strikes were not spontaneous and described PRD member Miguel Vargas Maldonado's support of these protests as "irresponsible". Almeyda claims that the protests aren't even headed by members of the local communities, but by "mercenaries" who are brought to the communities to start trouble. Almeyda did not say who was funding these so-called mercenaries.

Work hour controls at hospitals
In an interview with CDN yesterday, Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that as of 1 April physicians would have to register their work hours on a daily basis, as reported in El Caribe. He said the measure would be implemented in all public hospitals. He commented that 50% of physicians do not fulfill the hours for which they were contracted. "We do not keep strict control of employee attendance, or their job fulfillment track record. We have accommodated the doctors, so this would be a start," he said. Public hospital physicians are contracted for four hours per day. He said that the time has come for professional managers to take charge of administering the hospitals, and that a doctor should be appointed deputy director in charge of the medical aspects. He said the Ministry of Public Health allocates 65.8% of its budget to its staff and that a full-time physician can make up to RD$29,000 a month, according to rank, in addition to incentives that range from RD$4,000-RD$8,000 for productivity. He said that depending on their rank in the hospitals, other doctors make RD$27,000, RD$25,000 and RD$23,000 in the case of residents in training.
Hospital directors interviewed by the Listin Diario admitted to the doctors' lack of fulfillment of contractual obligations, but added that so far no mechanisms have been in place to oblige doctors to comply with the established schedules. As reported in Listin Diario, one doctor said that the failure to keep to their schedules means that operations or specialized medical appointments have to be made up to three months in advance.

Councilors get raises
Hoy is reporting that Santiago council members will get a RD$20,000 raise, authorized by city mayor Jose Enrique Sued. According to reports councilors used to be paid RD$44,000 per month, plus RD$6,0000 in per diems, but now workers will receive RD$70,000 as well as the RD$6,000 in per diems. Hoy writes that workers starting receiving their new salaries on Tuesday, via bank cards.

DR big loser in regional FTAs
Customs Department Director Miguel Cocco spoke up yesterday urging actions to increase Dominican regional exports. Cocco spoke during an event during which he was honored by the Dominican Association of Exporters.
He says the DR has been the big loser in regional trade. For every US$10 the country exports to Central America, it imports US$90 from those countries. And for every US$18 exported to the Caribbean, Dominicans import US$82, he said. The Dominican Republic signed trade agreements with Caricom and Central America ten years ago. But the DR has not been able to take advantage of the agreements. In 2008, DR exported US$157.2 million to Central America and Cariforum countries, while purchasing US$1,016.7 million, a difference of US$859.5 million, or 84.5% more, as reported in El Caribe.
Cocco said that exports to Central America were a mere US$39.3 million in 2008, while imports were US$386.1 million, for a trade deficit of US$346.8 million. Exports to Cariforum countries totaled US$117.9 million, while imports were US$630.6 million, for a US$512.7 million (81%) difference. Natural gas imports from Trinidad & Tobago make up the bulk of these imports. The Cariforum countries are:
Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Chevron signs deal
After months of negotiations, Chevron and the Fuel Transporters Union have signed what is being called a definitive agreement. The agreement states that Chevron will pay RD$19 million in benefits and additional compensation to the truckers and agreed to rehire some of its drivers. The agreement was signed by Rosanna Grullon on behalf of Chevron and Clemente Morillo on behalf of the union. Also present at the meeting was Vice President Rafael Alburquerque, Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado and Industry and Commerce Minister Ramon Fadul. Grullon said that although Chevron did not have a contractual obligation, it decided to sign the agreement.

Fight for Cabrera beach
The Coalition for the Defense of Protected areas reports that Saturday, 28 March at 3pm all environmental organizations and the general public are invited to assemble at Cabrera's El Puerto beach, at the mouth of the Cigua stream in the province of Maria Trinidad Sanchez. The Coalition claims that Swiss national Renato Bruno Vicetti and another foreigner named as Chester Steward Smar have "irregularly occupied the beach", displacing the fishermen who used the beach as a secure fishing harbor and residents who used to use the beach. According to the Coalition press release, the foreigners, "with the complicity of some Dominicans have illegally built apartments for sale or rent within the maritime zone and the river."
The Coalition complains that the beach has been privatized, in detriment to the fishermen and the general population.
The Coalition will be holding a protest at El Puerto beach to raise awareness about the alleged irregularities.

Drugs "biggest national threat"
Drug trafficking is the biggest threat to the nation. Armed Forces Minister Rafael Pena said that drug trafficking threatens security and the nation's institutions because it destroys society and its leaders and creates a culture of crime and terror. Pena was addressing a conference at the Dominican College of Engineers and Architects. He said the vulnerability of the border with Haiti, which extends for more than 360 kilometers, is a constant concern for security and defense bodies, given the permanent conflicts in Haiti, the country's extreme poverty and the poverty of Dominicans who live along the border. "This means that there is a need to work together so we can increase security and control drug trafficking, arms and people smuggling, and day-to-day crime," he said, in a speech on "New Threats to National Security." He was accompanied by deputy ministers Hugo Gonzalez Borrel, Juan Antonio Campusano Lopez and Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet, as well as Police chief Major General Rafael Guzman Fermin.

Quirino family leaves
After all the legal rumblings, several members of former military captain Quirino Paulino left the DR for the US yesterday, on one-year provisional visas. Among those who left were Quirico Montas Paulino, Carol Smaily Paulino Florentino, Yolaisi Antonia Montero Morillo, Robinson Ernesto Paulino Diaz, Nallely Rosalit Rodriguez and Jefferson Ernesto Paulino Montero. Paulino's wife Belkis Ubri Medrano was not allowed to leave as a court issued an order for her to remain in the DR awaiting a second trial for her role in her husband's drug ring. Hoy reports that National District DA Alejandro Moscoso Segarra had revoked her authorization to leave. This is the second group of Paulino's relatives that has been allowed to leave the DR as a result of Paulino's plea bargain with the US authorities. According to Hoy, today was the deadline for the family members to leave.

Patient on the run
Franklin Romero Mateo is on the run after killing a man and a woman. But it's where he escaped from that has raised eyebrows. Romero was in Najayo prison for the murders when he began complaining of pains. He was taken to the Los Rios hospital in Santo Domingo and then escaped with the help of a group of armed gunmen. Listin Diario reports that the men showed up at the hospital with guns drawn and tied up the staff on duty.

Tejada gets light sentence
Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada was sentenced yesterday to one year's probation, fined US$5,000 and ordered to do 100 hours of community service after being found guilty of lying to Congress. Though this troublesome stage in Tejada's career is over, it has left a stain on his legacy and he has now become the first victim of the steroid era prosecution. Tejada apologized for his actions saying: "I take full responsibility." He continued by apologizing to kids who looked up to the former All-Star. Tejada could have faced one year in prison, but the judge in the case took into consideration Tejada's admittance that he lied and the fact that he has no criminal record.

Aventura takes awards
Dominican-American bachata group Aventura swept the Premio Lo Nuestro Awards, winning in each of the four categories they had been nominated in. They won awards for Tropical Album of the Year, Group or Duo of the Year, Tropical Artist of the year and Song of the Year. This comes only days after the group won a statuette at the Cassandra Awards, held on Tuesday.

Custo Barcelona at the Jaragua
The Dominican Association of Society Writers (ADCS) will be hosting its traditional Pasarela Rosa fashion evening this coming Tuesday, 31 March at the Teatro La Fiesta at the Hotel Renaissance Jaragua. Spanish designer Custo Barcelona is the guest fashion designer. Custo will be accompanied by creations by Dominican designers Jenny Polanco, Giannina Azar, Marisol Henriquez and Arcadio Diaz. Choreographer and producer Chiqui Hadad is in charge of the event this year. Dancers Victor Ramirez (winner of the Casandra award for best Dominican classical dancer) and Mercedes Morales will perform on stage. Set designer is Fidel Lopez, and Luz Garcia is the presenter. Proceeds will be donated to the Dominican Autism Foundation. The event is scheduled to start at 6:45pm, with fashion walks as of 8pm. Tickets are RD$1,500 (US$43) and are available from Ticket Express (www.ticketexpress.com.do) or the Jaragua.

World Archery Cup
A total of 29 countries have confirmed their participation in the Archery World Cup 2009. For the second year running, Santo Domingo is hosting the event from 31 March to 5 April 2009. Competitors from 28 countries in five continents will be attending. The event is organized following the International Archery Federation (FITA) rules for the World Cup for 2009, in both divisions: recurve and compound. Dominican team members are: Paris Goico de Lara, Modesto Antonio Betances, Cesar Lopez, Jose Miguel Robiou, Ibel Feliz, Elida Hurtado, Amarilis Reyes, Luis Diaz, Michael Stern, Gustavo Casanova, Manuel Guzman, Iara Tejada, Lya Solano and Adrien Portes. The finals are scheduled for 5 April at Plaza de Espana in the Colonial City.

Outstanding concert in Colonial City
Bonye, an assortment of very talented professionals from a range of Latin musical genres, meets every Sunday at 5pm to wait for the sunset and play among the inspiring ruins of the first monastery in the New World, the San Francisco Monastery in the Colonial City. This Sunday, they will host a special guest. Fernando Echavarria, of Familia Andres, who will share their stage. Echavarria was chosen by Carlos Santana to perform at Altos de Chavon earlier this month. This promises to be an electrifying evening of son and a selection of Latin music. Felix Baez, group director, himself an engineer, says they play "for the love of art" - and it shows.
Free admission. For more on events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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