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Daily News - Friday, 24 April 2009

Power situation will improve
President Leonel Fernandez says the power situation affecting the country will get better in the next few days, explaining that the recent series of blackouts were the result of "technical problems." Fernandez said that Radhames Segura, vice president of the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) had informed him that the situation came about when two energy generators went offline. He added that the generators should be back online on Friday.

Lots of employees, no efficiency
Listin Diario reports today that the CDEEE, the government entity that has the final say in the DR's power sector, has little to show for meeting the goals that were set in its 2006 recovery plan. At the time, the principal objective was to supply sufficient power, with the necessary quality and for a reasonable price. Jairon Severino reports that the arrears in payments to generators and the deficit are maintained, despite statements to the contrary by the CDEEE. "The only thing that the reports on the performance of the electricity sector show is an increase in the number of employees at the power distribution companies, the CDEEE, including the programs for rural and suburban electrification (UERS) and the Program for the Reduction of Blackouts (PRA)," writes the reporter.
The PRA was object of a scandal when TV journalist Nuria Piera revealed facts and figures on its bloated employment that led to the prompt removal of its director.
The newspaper also reports that two deputies work in the CDEEE in the area of communications, which is in violation of the ban on legislators holding two jobs, he reports.
Celso Marranzini, a former president of the National Business Council (CONEP) says that the CDEEE has a minor role in the electricity sector of coordinating contracts and distributing the funds received from the Ministry of Hacienda to cover the deficit in the sector, which totaled around US$1.08 billion last year. Despite this reality, its payroll is one of the largest in government.
"I think the CDEEE needs to be revised from top to bottom because there is no reason why to think that what happened in the PRA should not be happening in other places, when one sees that the structure of that institution alone, which could operate with 300 or 400 employees, has a staff of around 4,000," he said. He reports that in January alone, the CDEEE increased its spending by 65.32%. Despite a budgeted RD$209.94 million, it spent RD$345.43 million, or RD$135.49 million more. He complains that the CDEEE payroll alone has increased from 2,505 fixed employees in December 2008 to 2,757, or 252 more employees.
Marranzini says that Art. 138 of the General Law of Electricity establishes that the role of the CDEEE is to coordinate the electricity companies, executive programs in rural and suburban electrification, and manage power contracts with independent power providers (IPPs).

More nepotism revealed
Minister of Education Melanio Paredes said a commission has been set up to investigate the accusations that the Seguro Medico para Maestros (Semma), the health insurance provider for state sector teachers is also plagued by high levels of nepotism, with as many as 15 employees said to be directly related to the company's director, according to a report in Hoy. This is just the latest accusation of nepotism in a Dominican government institution and is further proof of how entrenched this practice is in the system. According to the newspaper's source, Semma's ex-president Francisco Cruz Pascual, its financial director Marcelino Rijo Guzman and educational director Belgica Diaz all hired family members. Official payroll records from Semma reveal that their relatives receive monthly salaries of between RD$12,000 and RD$44,200 per month. Of particular concern troubling is the fact that they are employed in the areas of treasury, sales, auditing and invoicing, contravening company policy, which prohibits family members of the administrator from being employed in financial areas of the company.

DR seeks reciprocity with Haiti
Interviewed on the Alicia Ortega & Miguel Guerrero radio talk show on 106.5FM yesterday, Airports director general Andres Vanderhorst said that the decision to suspend charter flights by Tortuga Air was taken in order to pressure Haiti to grant reciprocity in flights. Vanderhorst says the Haitian aviation authorities are claiming that they have already granted an airline permission to fly. Nevertheless, the authorized airline has not yet begun these flights. Other Dominican airlines want to fly to Haiti and thus are impeded from doing so. Vanderhorst says that when the authorized number of charter flights granted to Tortuga Air expired, the local authorities did not authorize new flights. Pending is the granting of permission to a local airline that is ready to start the flights.
Luis P. Rodriguez Ariza from the Civil Aviation Board (JAC) told El Caribe that his department has also sent the Haitian authorities a draft for an aviation agreement between both countries. The DR is seeking reciprocity with Haiti.
As reported in El Caribe, 6,809 passengers used the Port-au-Prince-Santo Domingo route from January to 15 April. Of these, 3,353 flew from Haiti to the DR, and another 3,456 flew from the DR to Haiti.

Green areas will be protected
Legislators have agreed that the laws on protected areas in the DR will not be modified in the expanded and revised version of the Constitution. The announcement came after legislators rejected a proposal that would have given Congress the authority to reform Law 64-00 on Protected Areas and Natural Resources.

Press protests proposed limitations
Today's El Caribe editorial focuses on a proposed change to the Constitution that would prohibit media from covering court cases until the final sentence is issued. Veteran journalist Radhames Gomez Pepin, a former president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) says that, "this change would not be passed unless we were crazy or shameless". Deputy Pelegrin Castillo gave the warning about the threat against freedom of the press and free speech. Another veteran journalist, Rafael Molina Morillo, says that the proposal clashes with the principle that penal court cases need to be transparent and public. El Caribe writes that the proposal by deputy Eugenio Cedeno is so unheard of that General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez has suggested that the members of the Revisory Assembly review and discard it.

Abortion debate continues
Article 30 outlawing abortion was passed in its first reading by legislators reviewing the Constitution this week. But Dr. Justo Nicasio, head of Emergency at Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia, the largest maternity hospital in the country, says that legislators have sentenced many women to death with this decision. Hospital director Dr. Juan Cid Troncoso said he would not let any patient die in his care, no matter what it says in the Constitution. Nicasio said that sometimes pregnancy is not "compatible" with life "and this is why I listen to the clamor of feminists." He pointed out that some women who suffer from heart conditions or other health problems could die unless a doctor interrupts the pregnancy.
Earlier this week, the Revisory Assembly passed Article 30 of the new Constitution, which defines human life as starting at the time of conception, meaning that any doctor who aids in an abortion could be tried for murder. Yesterday the Papal Nuncio to the Dominican Republic Monsignor Josef Wesolowski said that "therapeutic abortion" was still abortion and described it as "homicide".

Charges dropped re Paya suspect
Charges have been dropped against ex-Police major Frederick Medina Abud. The decision was made by Peravia judge Karen Castillo, who decided that there was not enough evidence to keep him in jail. Medina was one of the people accused in relation to the murder of seven men in a drug-related massacre in Paya in August 2008. However, Medina is not out of the woods yet. He will still be charged with possessing an illegal firearm, which was found during investigations and will be sent back to jail on an unrelated murder charge regarding an illegal energy connection.
Hoy reports that Nicaraguan Orin Clinton, the only survivor of the massacre, had identified Medina as the person who kidnapped the seven Paya victims and instructed the murderers to shoot them. But now, as reported in El Caribe, Orin Clinton Gomez is saying that he made a mistake. Medina was dishonorably discharged because of extortion charges and is also being mentioned in connection with the murder of Jose Manuel Herran Mancebo.
Peravia senator Wilton Guerrero has said that the government investigation has yet to identify the heads of the operation. He has said several times there is complicity with higher-ups in government.

Rabies victim dies
A four-year old boy from Haina, Kelyn Flores, has died of rabies at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital. A second rabies victim, Martha Laura de Jesus, is now out of critical condition. Flores died in the early hours of Thursday, and his death is being blamed on the fact that he was not given a rabies vaccination after being bitten. According to reports, the child was not responding to any types of medication and fell into a deep coma before dying. Listin Diario reports that the child was bitten by a dog on 27 February 2009, but was not inoculated. His mother Marlene Flores says she was never told she had to get her son vaccinated.

Remembering the Civil War
Today, April 24th, marks the 44th anniversary of the beginning of the April 1965 Civil War. Revolutionary groups fought to restore the constitutional government of deposed president Juan Bosch. Bosch was removed from power in 1963, seven months after taking office, by a group led by General Elias Wessin y Wessin, who died recently. The ideological leader of the revolutionary movement was Rafael Fernandez Dominguez, with Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamano Deno taking command in the field. The ensuing conflict led US President Lyndon B. Johnson to send 400 Marines to the DR to quell the uprising, protect US interests in the DR and aid US citizens living in the country.
This number would swell to a contingent of more than 20,000 soldiers. See a discussion at http://www.dr1.com/forums/general-stuff/90237-1965-civil-war-400-u-s-marines.html

Aventura keeps winning
Dominican-American bachata group Aventura took home two more Latin Grammy Awards last night, continuing their unprecedented streak of success. The group won the awards "tropical airplay song of the year by a group or duo," for the song "El Perdedor," and "top Latin album for a group or duo," for "K.O.B. Live".

Baseball updates
Whoever said Albert Pujols would have a down season this year is slowly being proven wrong. Coming off a fantastic season last year, the power-hitting first baseman is continuing his strong play during the 2009-10 season. Last night Pujols hit a pair of homeruns, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets 12-8.
In other news, Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez is going through a homerun slump. Though his batting average is at .345 and has on OBP of .486 and a slugging percentage of .618 Ramirez has yet to get one over the fences. However, yesterday demonstrated why he is the league's best clutch hitter after hitting a game winning single to give the Dodgers a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros.
Pitcher Pedro Martinez is still out of a job and at his asking price it looks like it will stay that way for a while. Reports indicate that Martinez wants a one-year, US$5 million contract offer from a potential suitor. However, teams are not willing to pay that much cash for a player that has gone 17-17 in the last three years, is aging and has been injury prone. Rumors were that Martinez was close to signing with the Angels and now the Washington Nationals have entered the rumor mill. MLB.com is reporting that Martinez would be a National if he agreed to their parameters -- accept an inexpensive contract and be a mentor to the young starting rotation. That, however, does not seem likely from Martinez, who still sees himself as a viable number 2 starter.

Pavel Nunez concert in Madrid
He performed alongside Juan Luis Guerra when the later toured Europe with the Travesia Tour last year, now Pavel Nunez gets his own space in Madrid on 29 April. He will perform at Casa de America in Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid at the 550-person Sala Gabriela Mistral (250 seated, and 300 standing). He will be performing many of the themes that gave him his start in Santo Domingo. Nunez has won seven Casandra awards, including new artist of the year, soloist of the year, show of the year.
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