King of Spain bets on DR|
His Majesty King Juan Carlos I has assured President Leonel Fernandez that Spanish businesses would continue to show their confidence in the DR's future, as they are currently doing, through investment "in traditional sectors, such as tourism" and in sectors that are "at the forefront, such as renewable energy".
During toasts made at an official dinner held in honor of the Dominican President and hosted by the Spanish King and Queen in Madrid, the monarch stressed that Spaniards feel "much appreciation" for the "efforts, work and ability to integrate" shown by Dominicans who live and work in Spain.
He also referred to Queen Sofia's recent visit to the Dominican Republic, where she "was a witness to the efforts" by the Leonel Fernandez government, with "the support of Spanish cooperation", and he was especially appreciative of the efforts of the authorities "to handle Spanish cooperation adequately and efficiently."
The King also touched on the fact that nearly half a million Spanish tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year, and the "evident potential for cooperation" between Spanish universities and the Caribbean nation.
King Juan Carlos also mentioned his trip to the Dominican Republic in 1976, which marked the first visit to the New World by a Spanish king. He added that in little more than three decades since that visit, both nations "have grown closer than ever and have undergone profound changes."
He praised the changes in infrastructure, the dynamic activity of the business community, the country's "great consolidation as a tourist destination" and the "efforts to preserve the extraordinary natural environment."
Economic crisis will last 5 years|
Speaking in Madrid yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez said that the global economic crisis would last for five more years, but would also give rise to a new economic era based on environmental conservation and technological advances.
The Dominican President, who is on an official visit to Spain, commented that the worst of the crisis has passed, although he observed that recent statistics indicate that the immediate situation is not promising, especially in the so-called Euro Zone and in the United States. According to Diario Libre, he referred to the issue during a speech at a luncheon organized by the New Economy Forum, which was attended by businesspeople, mainly in the areas of tourism, infrastructure and renewable energy. He said that once the world financial crisis was over, the industrialized nations should look for a better economic model characterized by the application of a scientific revolution, according to a press release from the Presidential Press Office yesterday.
Party system is threatened|
Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman said yesterday that lack of institutionalism in the country is threatening the political party system, and warned that this could seriously affect Dominican democracy. He said that even though the system still works, it is constantly keeping Dominican society "on the edge" because if it breaks down, nobody can guarantee that what will happen is better than what we have today. He said: "This is because leadership is efficiency, it is management, it is an ethical commitment to the country."
The JCE president spoke at the opening of the "Democracy, governance and political leadership" program that is being run by the National School for Electoral and Civil Service Training (EFEC). He said that the JCE helps prevent the breakdown of the political party system each time it organizes an election process "according to respect and the rule of law in the Dominican Republic." Castanos Guzman emphasized: "The EFEC has to fill the institutional void that Dominican democracy and the party system needs in this country, and for this we sponsor this type of event in order to spread democratic values." JCE judge Aura Celeste Fernandez, who also serves as the coordinator of EFEC, also spoke during the opening ceremony.
PRSC legislators join Miguel Vargas|
The latest agreement that the former PRD presidential candidate, Miguel Vargas Maldonado has signed with key PRSC figures, supposedly promising them elective posts has exacerbated the Dominican political scene. The negotiations that will be announced later this week reportedly involve the secretary general of the PRSC, Victor Gomez Casanova, who, together with legislators Agny Berenice Contreras, Remberto Cruz, Sergio Cedeno and German Castro, will most likely close ranks with the PRD.
Both the presidents of the PRD and the PRSC, Ramon Alburquerque and Federico Antun Batlle, say that they have heard "a rumor" about the party switch. Alburquerque assured reporters that if this were true, the legislators would be very welcome, but he said he did not have any official information about this possibility.
Meanwhile, Antun Batlle said that everybody was free to go in and out when they please and a political party does not have anyone chained up. "You have to wait for them to act, I have heard about meetings that they have held, but we have to wait for them to act," stressed the PRSC president. Fellow party member Humberto Salazar leaked the names of the PRSC legislators who are reportedly planning to cross over to the PRD this week. Deputy Agny Contreras (Elias Pina) was offered the senator's post for the province, while the post of mayor of Moca was offered to Deputy Remberto Cruz. Salazar also mentioned Higuey deputy Sergio Cedeno, who was offered a senator's chair for his native San Pedro de Macoris and the Senator from La Altagracia, German Castro, was offered the mayor's post in Higuey.
No A(H1N1) in the east|
As of yesterday, the Dominican Republic was still free of the A(H1N1) influenza virus after tests carried out in the east, where three citizens from Chile who now have the illness stayed, were negative. At a press conference, Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that a higher degree of watchfulness was placed on around 200 people in Punta Cana, including employees at the hotel where the women had stayed and the driver who took them to the airport.
Everyone who had been in contact with the Chilean tourists filled out an epidemiological information card, but some, such as the driver and the receptionists were tested for the illness.
"As of now, this is what we have. We have taken a great many samples, and up until now we have not had a positive result. I hope things continue like this," said Rojas Gomez who visited Punta Cana where the Chilean women had vacationed.
Despite the favorable diagnosis, the authorities reinforced their watchfulness. They left a team of doctors to carry out a survey, person-to-person, room-by-room, in the hotel where the women stayed.
In all the hotels in the area, television is transmitting short information spots on prevention and what to do if anyone experiences any symptoms. At the airports, preventive measures are carefully monitored. Health ministry officials in the region said that each passenger is being given instructions in English and Spanish with two telephone numbers to call in case of symptoms.
Some Chilean media outlets have reported that the two women were infected in the DR. Questioned on the matter, Rojas Gomez assured reporters that if it was here it will be proven, "because we are going to find out."
Before arriving in the Dominican Republic on 8 May, the Chilean women made a stopover in Panama and then again when they returned. Two presented symptoms on Sunday and a third yesterday. The DR health authorities have ordered tests to be carried out on anyone reporting serious respiratory problems, whether or not they were at risk.
Safe Internet for children|
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) has presented the country's first social awareness campaign on safe use of the Internet. The campaign, launched yesterday, primarily focuses on creating awareness among children on safe use of Internet now that government-sponsored centers are bringing the service to public schools all around the country. The campaign reminds children, parents and the general public that the virtual environment of the Internet is a public place where personal information should not be revealed to strangers.
The campaign seeks to encourage users to make the most of the global network technologies and its many opportunities for learning, while understanding the risks.
The Dominican awareness campaign is modeled on initiatives in Spain and Colombia, with the cooperation of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Daniel Medina, Colombia's deputy minister of Communications spoke at the event stressing that the initiative is even more valid now that technologies will soon be available whereby cell phone users will have an Internet connection.
"With one cell phone per inhabitant soon becoming a reality, and cell phones in every young person's pocket, this is a tremendous challenge for teachers and families", he stressed. He equated the current risks to those predicted hundreds of years ago when the Gutenberg Press made books available to the general public for the first time. The campaign includes three TV spots and a website for more information www.internetsano.do as well as a telephone hotline 1-809-200-7393. The campaign launch coincides with the 2009 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day that this year has been themed "Protecting children in cyberspace".
Metro feeder routes in limbo|
The absence of feeder bus routes for the Santo Domingo Metro is causing frustration for users of the new system. Many do not take the metro because they have to pay two other fares to get to their final destination.
Since the Metro began service, to the delight of many, the Transport Reorganization Office (Opret) has been promising that feeder lines would begin operating "soon". Several months ago, according to El Caribe, shortly after the Metro began running, the paper reported that hundreds of passengers, while enjoying the Metro, complained of the expense of paying buses and motoconchos just to get to the Metro station. Nearly four months later, residents of Santo Domingo North are still waiting for the "soon" promised by the Opret. The newspaper tried to contact Opret assistant director Leonel Carrasco, to ask him when the feeder lines would finally begin to operate, but he was not available for comment.
Price wars benefit shoppers|
Consumers are the big winners of the mega-investments in the Jumbo, La Sirena and Plaza Lama malls. The new branches of these leading chains are waging sales and price wars as they try to capture customers with offers that include free transportation and new cheap store brands. Consumers have benefited with lower prices for basic foodstuffs and lots of goods on clearance in time for Mother's Day shopping.
Jumbo opened on Santo Domingo's Luperon Avenue on 30 April, followed shortly after by the La Sirena on 15 May. Jumbo, with 900 employees, is pushing its 30-item "Basic Food Staples" product line.
On the same avenue, La Sirena opened with 482 employees and announced a novel plan of free transport in coordination with the Metropolitan Transport Office (OMSA) running buses directly to the store from Los Alcarrizos and Los Rios-Feria. Meanwhile, Plaza Lama opened a new store on Nicolas de Ovando, employing 900 people. The three groups that opened stores have created more than 16,000 new jobs.
After Easter, several products like rice, beans, poultry, powdered milk, spaghetti, sardines and most farm products increased in price, but over the last week prices have gone down again in supermarkets and corner stores (colmados).
Diario Libre reporters found that rice can be purchased for RD$17 a pound, when before the cheapest price was RD$23. Red beans and pinto beans were available for RD$25 and before they were RD$30. Small sardines were sold at RD$20 and RD$21 and now are RD$19. Jumbo brand powdered milk in bags now costs RD$730 to RD$750, and before, it cost RD$800. Spaghetti that was sold at RD$20 a pound, is now available for RD$17. You can also get a pound of tomato paste for RD$40.
In the markets, farm produce such as plantains, yuca (cassava), bananas and yautia (taro) were all lower. Plantains were selling at between RD$3 and RD$7 each, yuca was at RD$10 and yautia was at RD$25.
Offers on special items increase further this month with the approach of Mother's Day and lower prices on dining tables, rugs and curtains, appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, blenders, air conditioners, and items such as sports equipment, clothing, T-shirts, pants, women and men's shoes, perfumes, wines, gin, and rum.
Ode to a drug trafficker|
In the southwestern city of Barahona, they buried him as a "saint" who will be resurrected with the Second Coming of Christ. During the eulogy, the crowd called out "Crime! Crime!" And so, at 6:20 yesterday afternoon the limestone soil of a humble grave in the Don Americo Melo Cemetery in Barahona fell upon the casket that is now the final resting place for one of the most violent of men to live in the DR, former capo Rolando Florian Feliz.
Mothers, brothers, children (he had 15), mistresses, cousins, neighbors and onlookers called for justice and for the death of Captain Lino Oscar Jimenez, who killed the notorious drug trafficker during an incident at Najayo Prison on Saturday night. "He died like a brave man. His great sin was to fight for his dignity," said pastor Ronny Florian, a nephew of the deceased. In his eulogy, he considered his death to be "a vile act, cruel and probably planned."
Although at all times they refused to talk to the press, the few family members who did speak reiterated that they were "peaceful and forgiving people and not a family to hold a grudge." Florian, 43, had served 14 years of his 20-year sentence for cocaine trafficking. He had been transferred from several prisons and it is said that he kept up his business from the jail.
His bravado was what, according to officers at Najayo, caused his death, after he was ordered to end the visit of two women, including a minor, who had been there since 4pm. Dominica Florian, a cousin, accepted that he may have behaved badly when it came to jailhouse rules, "but they didn't have to kill him for that."
During the wake, Florian's children and several of his "wives" appeared, and did not leave the side of the casket. One of them, a young woman apparently under the age 25, cried throughout the ceremony. People were heard to comment: "15 years (in jail) for nothing."
The women in Florian's prison cell|
A 17-year old who accompanied a woman to Florian Feliz's cell spoke to Alicia Ortega of SIN News last night, saying that they had been in the cell since 2pm. Diario Libre reports that both women had had sex with the prisoner. She said that her 18-year old friend invited her to the jail, supposed to make some money. She said that when the jailer demanded that they leave the cell, Florian shouted, "Hold on, (expletive)" In the confusion, she said, she saw Florian "with something in his hands", and she heard three shots.
Visibly nervous, the teenager confirmed that the cell (which she called a room) had air conditioning and a big television.
At the end of the interview, the other woman came to the television studio, and confirmed that when she saw Florian wounded she started to cry, and when she went to get help she realized that the door was locked from the outside and 25 minutes later an officer and two men came in and asked them to leave and called them a taxi.
She corroborated the version given by the minor that they heard only three shots. She said that Florian was like a father to her because he helped her raise a daughter.
Regarding the alleged sexual relations, she limited herself to saying that she went out to the bathroom and did not know what happened with her companion.
She said that she had not been contacted by the Police, but that she was willing to tell her version of the facts, although she insisted that she saw nothing and that she was surprised when Florian entered the cell wounded. She said that Florian made two phone calls from his cell, one of them to his wife. She also said that she was scared.
The women with Florian at the time of his death were later identified as Daneris Mejia and a minor whose name is not published for legal reasons.
Major drug trafficker caught|
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has reported the capture of the suspected head of operations of a drug trafficking network led by former convict Ramon Antonio del Rosario Puente (Tono Lena), the owner of a load of 90 packages of cocaine seized in September of 2008 from a Lieutenant Colonel and a former Air Force sergeant.
Felix Servio Nolasco Tavarez (Quirico), who was on the run from the law, is linked to the case involving former officer Jorge Luis Pena Segura and former sergeant Eduardo Hernandez Garcia, captured by the DNCD with three bundles of cocaine, each with 30 packages, in the Sabana Tosa batey in San Jose de los Llanos after a drug drop from an airplane.
DNCD head Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez said that Nolasco Tavarez is implicated in another case involving 10 kilos of cocaine seized on 30 October 2008 from Elias Jimenez and a Haitian, Andres Yila, who are both linked to del Rosario Puente.
According to the DNCD, the arrested man is also connected with a 600kg drug drop, which took place last January near Saona Island, and with another near Batey Lechuga, where former National Army sergeant Genis Jose Santana Mendez was killed in a shootout with DNCD agents.
General Delgado Valdez said, "We have evidence that this individual is one of Tono Lena's principal collaborators".
Rains to continue|
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) reported last night that the rains that have been affecting much of the country would continue during the next 24-48 hours. The rains that occasionally intensify into gusty thunderstorms are part of a broad area of rain and electrical storms located over the central part of Cuba and the far west of Haiti.
The phenomenon may develop into a tropical cyclone, said ONAMET. Nevertheless, the forecast is that the air mass will move to the northwest, and, thus, move away from the country and its only effects will be the rains caused by the cloud masses pulled by the easterly wind flows. Rains will be more frequent towards the southwest, northwest, Cibao Valley, the frontier and the central mountains. Meanwhile, due to the recent rains and the saturated condition of the ground, the Emergency Operations Center (COE) reported that it was keeping a Yellow Alert in place for the provinces of La Vega, Monsignor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua), Monte Plata, Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), Samana, San Cristobal, especially Villa Altagracia, and Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), mainly the area of the Lower Yuna Basin. Onamet is advising people living near rivers, streams and creeks to take precautions against flash flooding and landslides. Onamet director Gloria Ceballos told radio and television journalist Huchi Lora that all public safety organizations are on alert for possible emergencies.
Landslides threaten highway|
More landslides are affecting the northbound Gregorio Luperon Tourist Highway, and it is feared that if this keep happening, traffic between the provinces of Puerto Plata and Santiago will be cut off. Heavy rainfall over the last few days has led to landslides in Palo Quemado, La Cumbre de Juan Veras and other communities along this key highway. Damage to houses was also reported due to the strong current of the San Marco River in Puerto Plata where dozens of houses were flooded. Added to the problems of the landslides, more subsidence and cracks have been reported in several houses in the area, while residents call on the government to move them out. Since mid-February, according to El Caribe, at least 200 families in La Cumbre de Juan Veras are waiting to be relocated. Reporters from El Caribe toured the area and saw several points where mountainsides were sliding down as a result of last week's rains. According to the paper, the rains have also caused landslides in areas around Constanza and Jarabacoa, leading to fear among the inhabitants.
Grupo Puntacana wins award|
Grupo Puntacana, parent company of the Puntacana Resort & Club in the east of the DR, has won one of the four prestigious "World Tourism & Travel Council Tourism for Tomorrow" awards. These are presented annually to organizations pioneering responsible tourism management and helping to improve the livelihoods of communities in host destinations through sustainable tourism development. Grupo Puntacana received the award in the Destination Stewardship category. Grupo Puntacana is the first Caribbean organization to be recognized in this category. According to Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President & CEO of WTTC, Puntacana Resort & Club successfully demonstrates sustainable tourism practices on a daily basis. "We are delighted to present the 2009 Destination Stewardship Award to the Grupo Puntacana as a tourism enterprise that has over the years developed exceptional programs in sustainable development. These programs have not only helped the local community by providing jobs but also educational and health resources unmatched by other destinations. Sustainability has been in the Grupo Puntacana's DNA since its inception, setting the bar high for other companies conducting business in the region."
"We are honored to receive the 2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Stewardship Award. Grupo Puntacana strives to be an example of successful regional environmental and social responsibility development for the world's tourism industry," said Frank Rainieri, founder and CEO of Grupo Puntacana. He added, "Our commitment to the Punta Cana region has always been defined by a deep and humble respect for its breathtaking natural treasures and warm, friendly people."
Founded in 1994, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation brings together thought leaders from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Cornell and the University of Miami to develop and implement new ecological programs, such as residential, hotel and resort environmental management practices, coral reef conservation projects, a cutting-edge water treatment facility and an aggressive waste management initiative. Led by the Foundation's Director, Jake Kheel, a Cornell University graduate, the organization also oversees the programming and development of several schools and a hospital serving the local community. The Foundation represents the heart of the deep commitment to environmental protection, sustainable tourism business practices and education for the Punta Cana region and abroad. The award was accepted by Grupo Puntacana CEO Frank Rainieri during a special session of the 9th Global Travel & Tourism Summit on 16 May 2009.
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