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Daily News - Monday, 18 May 2009

Fernandez in Spain
President Leonel Fernandez traveled to Spain on Sunday for a nine-day official visit. Speaking in Madrid, he referred to his recent pact with opposition politician Miguel Vargas Maldonado of the PRD that will allow former Presidents to run again in the DR. Fernandez, nevertheless, expressed that he was putting national interests above his own conviction that Presidents should be allowed at least two terms to fully develop their programs. The pact bans consecutive re-election. Fernandez made his comments during the launch of a book dedicated to Dominican author and former President Juan Bosch.
Fernandez's agenda in Spain consists of several events including a meeting with King Juan Carlos, meetings with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, and with Spanish legislators.
He is also scheduled to address the New Economy Forum and hold meetings with Spanish business representatives.
He traveled to Spain with his wife, First Lady Margarita Cedeno, Administrative Secretary Luis Manuel Bonetti and Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa. Fernandez will also be attending events in Salamanca and Cadiz as part of his agenda. He is scheduled to return on Sunday, 25 May. See:
www.presidencia.gob.do/app/article.aspx?id=10871

Salary details
The National Social Security Council (CNSS) reports that 66.61% of the people registered for social security make RD$10,000 or less per month. This means that of the 1,1616,194 workers registered for SS benefits 716,026 received RD$10,000 or less per month. An estimated 161,305 workers earn between RD$10,000 and RD$15,000 per month, which is 13.09% of all contributors to the system. An estimated 84,609 workers make between RD$15,001 and RD$20,000, which is 7.28% of all contributors. Also, 5.9% of SS contributors make between RD$20,001 and RD$25,000 per month, which is 68,568 contributors.

DR / Brazil strengthen relations
The Dominican government and the Getulio Vargas Foundation have signed an inter-institutional agreement backing a series of education, scientific, and environmental studies, among other projects. Signing were Administrative Secretary to the Presidency Manuel Bonetti and Ivan Simonsen Leal for the Brazilian foundation. This is the latest in a series of agreements between both countries that has led to increased social and commercial ties. The Dominican government recently purchased eight Super Tucano planes from Brazil, new Mercedes OMSA buses and has awarded Norberto Odebrecht, Brazil's larger contractor, several major construction contracts. Plans are under way for Brazilian budget airline Gol to launch direct flights to Santo Domingo. Recently, Brazil was the guest of honor at this year's Santo Domingo Book Fair and a Brazilian cultural center was also recently inaugurated in the city.

Concerns grow over H1N1
Concerns about the H1N1 virus (previously known as swine flu) have been revived in the DR after Chilean Health Minister Alvaro Erazo confirmed to the local medical authorities on Sunday that a Chilean woman who had visited the DR on 8 May and departed on 15 May via Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport had tested positive for the flu upon her return to Chile. She had traveled here on board a Copa flight from Panama. The DR has yet to report its first case of the H1N1 virus.
A second 32-year old woman who was traveling on the same flight is currently in quarantine at a Santiago de Chile hospital. Earlier, a government source told Reuters that the woman was 25 and had been traveling in Mexico.
The Ministry of Public Health said that as soon as they were notified from Chile they began monitoring where the Chileans vacationed in the East.
Health Minister Bautista Rojas explained that the incubation period of the virus is 4 to 5 days, which explains how the tourist could have come with the illness. "We do not know yet, but we have not detected a case in the country, and we continue to investigate," he said as reported in the Listin Diario.

Cement factory impasse
The Ministry of Environment is confronting its first major credibility crisis following a decision by Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, who has given the go-ahead for the construction of a cement factory three kilometers outside the perimeter of the Los Haitises National Park.
Fernandez Mirabal defended the decision on the grounds that it will be the first green certified cement factory in the country, bringing jobs to an impoverished area. While legal because it is not actually within the protected area, environmentalists say that even studies by Ministry experts found that the factory would have a negative effect on water sources within the protected area. The Ministry of Environment concession is for around 7,000 tareas (one tarea = 629m2) of limestone rock that will be used to produce Portland-type cement.
The cement plant was authorized to the Santiago based Grupo Estrella and its Consorcio Minero Dominicano.
Fernandez Mirabal has established a reputation as a law-abiding Minister, willing to take unpopular decisions to adhere to Environmental Law 64-00.
See www.accionverde.com

Real estate market bouncing back
Real estate sales within the tourism sector have experienced a revival during the last two months, according to Juan Bancalari, president of the Dominican Association of Tourism Real Estate Companies (ADETI). "There have been increases in sales and investments over the last few months. It's not the same as the beginning of 2008, but sales are moving and it's a very positive thing," said Bancalari.

Sanders on the Spanish Caribbean
Caribbean trade expert Sir Ronald Sanders believes that the DR should be accepted into the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom). The government of the Dominican Republic (DR) has applied to become a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom), and heads of government of the regional organization will consider the application at their meeting in July. "The DR is already an elephant in the Caricom room that cannot be ignored - its participation in Cariforum and the terms of the EPA with the EU make it a big player," says Sanders. He said that Caricom countries along with the DR form Cariforum and last year they each signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the 27-nation European Union (EU), which overtakes the objectives of Caricom's slow-paced Single Market and Economy in many aspects.
Sanders makes the point that the EPA's Regional Preference clause obliges Cariforum states to extend to each other the same treatment they extend to EU. "Therefore, from the DR's standpoint since it has entered a game, it makes sense to help make the rules."
He also mentions that it is only a matter of time before "the big three", the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic) dominate in the region, "with markets and investment opportunities that are far greater than all the Caricom countries", he explains.
"Caricom countries would delude themselves if they believe that with their individual small markets, high investment costs, high costs of doing business and vulnerabilities both to natural disasters and external economic shocks - such as the current global financial meltdown - they could each operate successfully in the global marketplace in competition with the 'big three'", he writes.
www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/html/...

Dental studies: clues to first settlers
Over the last few years, sophisticated chemical studies on the skeletons of Christopher Columbus's crewmembers from the 17 ships that came when the first settlement in the Americas was built are producing some interesting results. The studies, especially on their teeth, have begun to yield new insights into the lives and origins of Columbus's crew. The studies hint that, among other things, crewmembers may have included free black Africans who arrived in the New World about a decade before the slave trade began.
The study of the La Isabela skeletons grew out of a project in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where in 2000 researchers were surprised to find the remains of West Africans among those buried in a mid-16th-century church cemetery in Campeche. Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina from the Autonomous University of Yucatan invited T. Douglas Price, director of the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, to do isotopic analyses of those skeletons' teeth.
See: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/17/...

Florian gunned down
Notorious drug kingpin Rolando Florian Feliz was killed after being shot several times on Saturday night at Najayo jail in San Cristobal. Florian had served 13 years of a 20-year sentence. He was regarded as the biggest drug trafficker in jail in the DR, and was known for being a key link to the Cali Cartel in the Caribbean. He was imprisoned in 1996 after being caught with a 954-kilo cocaine shipment. Florian was anything but a model inmate.
On several occasions, he sought release from jail on the grounds of having served half his sentence. In jail, he was given privileged treatment by the authorities despite being known for causing conflicts both within and outside the jail. He was also serving a six-year sentence for being an accomplice in the kidnapping and murder of the son of Victor Matos, son of a Barahona senator, and other sentences for attempted escapes. In the DR, though, sentences are not accumulative, and thus, he had just seven years remaining on his term in jail.
There have been conflicting versions of the circumstances leading up to Florian's death. Hoy suggests that the shooting didn't happen in the yard area of the jail as reported, but in the hallway near Florian's cell. Carlos Balcacer, lead attorney for the family, claims that Florian got into an argument with a prison official, officer Lino de Oca Jimenez. Florian retreated to his cell where he obtained a knife and lunged at the cop. Florian was then shot by an unnamed police captain. Once shot, Florian supposedly fled back to his cell where he called his family to let them know what was happening.
As reported in Listin Diario, Oca Jimenez says that he killed Florian in self-defense because Florian had tried to kill him and the unnamed police captain. Oca says that Florian was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident and was angry because officers had told him to ask his two female visitors to leave.
See: www.hoy.com.do/el-pais/2009/5/17/278019/...

Miss DR Ada Aimee de la Cruz
Ada Aimee de la Cruz will represent the Dominican Republic at the Miss Universe 2009 pageant that takes place in the Bahamas in August. She is probably one of the most experienced candidates the DR has ever sent to the pageant. In 2007 she was chosen to represent the country at the Miss World contest and traveled to China where she made the top 10 semi-finalists and was the first Dominican to win the event's Miss World Beach Beauty title. She has modeled internationally, participating in events such as the Miami Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week and Dominicana Moda.
She was selected to represent the DR at Miss Universe at an event held at the Sans Souci Port facilities in Santo Domingo last night. She grew up in Villa Mella to the north of the capital, but chose to represent her grandparents' province, San Jose de Ocoa.

Super Sanchez returns
Felix "Super" Sanchez is making a comeback to competitive racing and has qualified for the 2009 World Athletics Championships, which are being held in the German capital Berlin this August. Sanchez ensured his participation by coming in third place during the Adidas Grand Prix, held over the weekend in California. He ran a time of 48.95 in the 400m hurdles. Sanchez's time was his fastest in the last two years and means he is a contender for a medal in Berlin. The Dominican Olympic gold medalist could be on the verge of reviving his career, which had been on hold for several years due to a series of injuries.

Gatorade 10k a success
The Gatorade 10k Marathon is becoming a popular yearly event in Santo Domingo and this weekend's third celebration of the event was testament to that. Venezuelan Pedro Mora and Puerto Rican Carmen Valle took home first place in this year's race in the men and women's category. Puerto Rican Daniel Soto came in second in the men's race and Dominican Jesus Ramirez came in third. Dominican Andreina de la Rosa came in second in the women's race while Puerto Rican Maria Pilar came in third. The race began at the Plaza de Espana and 4,000 runners took part. Although medals were only given to the top runners, everyone was a winner during the event. Participants paid a registration fee of RD$200 with all proceeds going to a Childhood Cancer charity.
 
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