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Daily News - Thursday, 21 May 2009

Fernandez at the U of Salamanca
President Leonel Fernandez was at the University of Salamanca in Spain yesterday for the award of 209 scholarships to students from 20 Latin American countries. Twenty-three Dominicans will carry out Masters studies, benefiting from the program. The program is the International Scholarships of the Universidad de Salamanca-Banco Santander, and is regarded as the most important in the world implemented by a university for the academic, scientific, technological and cultural development of Latin America. At the event, President Leonel Fernandez spoke on the importance of higher learning in Latin America. The program started in 2008 with 165 scholarships.
At the University of Salamanca, President Fernandez was awarded the title of "Consiliario de Honor" by Rector Jose Ramon Alonso in a ceremony at the Casa Museo Unamuno on 20 May. In a ceremony officiated in Latin, Alonso honored President Fernandez with the "centenarian symbol of those who came before us through eight centuries of work in favor of science and wisdom".

Public Health: flu tests negative
The more than 20 tests carried out on employees, drivers and other people who had been in contact with the two Chilean women who were diagnosed with A(H1N1) influenza after they had been in the country have all proved negative. According to the Deputy Minister for Collective Health, Nelson Rodriguez Monegro, a woman who was hospitalized in the Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital was diagnosed as having an asthmatic condition, not the influenza virus. Hospital director Luisa Lafontaine said that the woman was admitted because she arrived in a nervous state after the private clinic she went to first told her that she could have the A(H1N1) virus. Tests found that the patient did not have the virus. Samples were taken from people who had been in contact with the affected tourists, including the housekeeper who cleaned their room and both drivers who drove the buses carrying personnel to Bavaro. The examinations are part of a follow-up process by the Ministry of Public Health on possible direct or indirect contacts, which could end up involving more than 1,000 people.

Mourning Miguel Cocco
Diario Libre reports that the medical team that treated Customs director, Miguel Cocco, who had been battling for survival during the last two weeks in the Center for Diagnostics and Advanced Medicine (Cedimat), say that his death on Wednesday was caused by cardiac arrest, probably the result of a pulmonary embolism or a cardio-cerebral event. Cocco, 62, was pronounced dead at around 9:15 yesterday morning after doctors tried to resuscitate him for nearly an hour. They said, according to Listin Diario, that Cocco died peacefully. The Customs director was admitted to Cedimat on 6 May with kidney problems. Nonetheless his clinical history was quite extensive: he had had a kidney removed, he had undergone two bone marrow transplants, a pacemaker and a hip replacement. Despite all this, his chief doctor Dr Guillermo Alvarez described him as "a strong man". He is survived by his wife, Minerva Gonzalez, and his daughters, Patricia, Maurin, Yarusca and Catherine.
The government has declared this Friday a Day of Official Mourning for the death of Miguel Cocco. By means of Decree Number 405-09, signed by Vice-President Rafael Alburquerque in the absence of the President, military honors will be given to the deceased and flags will be flown at half-mast at all military installations and public buildings.
The passing of Miguel Cocco has caused sadness within Dominican society due to his human and professional valor. He has been described as an honest man, a conciliator who was passionate about his job. President Fernandez, who is on an official visit to Spain, sent his condolences in a message from Salamanca. "In the name of the Dominican government and my own, I want to express my condolences for the death of Miguel Cocco, one of the most dedicated and efficient officials we have ever had in the public administration."

Red Alert for six provinces
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) is warning of imminent risk of flooding in six provinces as rains continue and the ground is saturated. It has been raining in the DR since the weekend. The COE has upgraded its yellow alert to red.
According to Hoy newspaper, the Dams Committee is monitoring the situation, and the eastern towns of El Seibo and Hato Mayor have been cut off by rising creeks and streams.
The provinces under Red Alert are Pedernales, Barahona, Independencia, Elias Pina, Dajabon and Monte Cristi.
Meanwhile a yellow alert is still in place for San Juan de la Maguana, San Jose de Ocoa, La Vega, Monsignor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua), Monte Plata, Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), Samana, San Cristobal and Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris).
The COE warned that residents should take all precautionary measures due to the high risk of flooding and landslides.
According to forecasts, heavy rains will continue falling for the next 48 to 72 hours, mainly over the southwest, northwest, the border with Haiti and the central mountains, sometimes extending over the rest of the country, as a low-pressure area makes its way to the east.
There are also small craft warnings for the Caribbean coast and the east as far as Samana.

Increased rates to end blackouts?
Superintendent of Electricity Francisco Mendez said on Wednesday that the choice was between tariff rate increases and blackouts. According to El Nuevo Diario, Mendez did not specify by what percentage the government will be increasing the rates and when this would go into effect. "We are faced with a dilemma of either increasing the blackouts, or the government spending more money on the electricity sector, money it does not have, or readjusting the electricity rates which have been frozen for three years and five months," said Mendez in an interview with Claudia Fernandez for CDN2 television. The official said that over the last three years the government has paid out over US$550 million in electricity subsidies, US$487 million in 2008 alone. The official said that two power barges would be installed to serve the Cibao region, one in Samana and the other in Manzanillo. They are set to provide 240 megawatts for the region. As a result of the financial crisis in the electricity sector, energy supplies have fallen by 5%, now providing just 80% of demand.

The least efficient operation
A report in Monday's Hoy newspaper shows that the operational costs of the two government power distributors are double those set out by international efficiency standards. The operation costs of the two distributors (Edenorte and Edesur) went from 1.2 US cents in 2003 to 3.2 US cents in 2008, for a 163% increase. The international reference is 1 to 1.5 US cents. Their total operational costs went from RD$21.6 million in 2003 to almost RD$5 billion in 2008, for a 205% increase, with no improvement in the service. The CDEEE recently published that collections are only for 36% of the power supplied in the case of Edenorte.
One of the reasons behind the inefficient operation is the bloated payroll of government electricity departments. Former president of the National Business Council, Celso Marranzini has said that the CDEEE has over 4,000 people on the payroll when it could do its job with 300 or 400 employees.

Most Public Health doctors are poor
Of the nearly 23,000 doctors affiliated to the Dominican Medical Association (CMD), only 5,700 work in the private sector. The rest are employed by the Ministry of Public Health or the Dominican Institute of Social Security. Of these, most live in poverty due to their low salaries, according to CMD spokesmen, Drs Waldo Ariel Suero and Senen Caba.
Suero and Caba provided these figures in response to comments by government officials on the low productivity of workers in the health sector during an interview with the Corripio Communications Group. The position of the Ministry of Public Health is that wage increases should be pegged to productivity, arguing that many physicians hold more than one job at the same time.
Suero and Caba instead make the point that doctors' salaries in the public health system range from RD$14,000 for recent medical graduates fulfilling their national service duty required by law, up to RD$35,000 which is paid to the head of hospital services. The CMD wants an over the board wage increase to be carried out.
The Ministry of Public Health has 12,000 doctors on its payrolls, and the IDSS has 2,300, according to Caba who complained that the Ministry spends most of its money in six big hospitals. Of 1,300 buildings run by Public Health, the ministry only pays attention to six or seven. These are the Marcelino Velez Santana hospital, the Juan Bosch hospital, the Vinicio Calventi hospital, the Center for Transplants (CECANOT) and the hospitals located in the Plaza de la Salud.
The doctors said that the health system is clearly headed towards privatization.

Transport impasse at border continues
Freight distribution across the border with Haiti is still on hold, after the Dominican and Haitian authorities failed in two attempts to settle a conflict between the National Federation of Dominican Transportation (Fenatrado) and the Haitian Federation of Workers and Transporters (Fenatrath) that has lasted for several weeks. The Haitian transporters are demanding the right to 50% of the cargo coming over from the DR or that Dominican truckers pay a RD$4,000 fee for the right to transport the cargo into Haiti. Using violent methods similar to those Fenatrado has used to monopolize cargo in the DR, the Haitian truckers have impeded Fenatrado truckers from carrying their cargo in Haiti.
Yesterday, the Dominican ambassador in Haiti, Ruben Silie, told Diario Libre by telephone from Port-au-Prince that steps are being taken towards a solution and that talks would continue in the frontier town of Jimani at noon today. In this little town, the most important gateway for commercial transport between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a meeting between the Dominican ambassador and his Haitian counterpart in the Dominican Republic, Fritz Cineas, took place.
In yesterday's meeting, as well as the freight transportation representatives, Blas Peralta and Jean Fritz Constant, Minister of Commerce and Industry Jose Ramon Fadul and the Sub Minister of Foreign Relations, Alejandra Liriano were also in attendance.
Twenty-five trailers and trucks loaded with construction materials, flour, vegetables, poultry and other merchandise entered Haiti daily prior to the impasse. Each trailer that entered Haiti with a load from Dominican territory charges RD$40,000 to RD$50,000.
The president of the Dajabon Traders Federation, Freddy Morillo, told Diario Libre that in normal times perhaps RD$100 million a week moves through Dajabon, where cargo is estimated to be down by half. According to the DR Center for Exports and Investments (CEI-RD), Haiti imported US$569 million from the DR last year, as reported in Listin Diario. Most entered Haiti by land.

US returns 76 more ex-cons
The United States authorities repatriated 76 former convicts who had served their time to the DR yesterday. Most of them had been in jail for drug-related offenses or homicides. With the arrival of these 76 convicts, a total of 1,256 Dominicans have been returned so far this year, according to statistical data at the Las Americas International Airport. The group was received on the south part of the airport ramp by members of the DNCD and members of the Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA). The returnees, who were escorted by a team of four FBI agents and members of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), were immediately handed over to the Dominican immigration authorities at the airport. They were taken to the National Police Headquarters and the Immigration Department and then on to the DNCD where they were turned over to relatives and friends once it was established that they had no issues pending with the Dominican authorities.
According to the files, the deportees had been convicted of counterfeiting, robberies and sex crimes as well as drug offenses and homicides. They had served their time in prisons in San Antonio, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. Over 4,000 Dominicans are currently serving time in United States prison facilities.

Entry of Reformistas stirs PRD
Amidst warnings that it would violate the organization's statutes to offer elective positions in exchange for support, a group of reformist leaders closed ranks with the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) yesterday in a swearing-in ceremony headed by the party's former presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The new PRD members are the former secretary general of the PRSC, Victor Gomez Casanova, deputies Agnes Berenice Contreras from Elias Pina, Remberto Cruz from Moca, Sergio Cedeno from Higuey and Radhames Fermin from Santiago, as well as Senator German Castro from La Altagracia province and community leader Annie Felipe. Even though they were present at the ceremony, deputies Angel Acosta and Carlos Martinez were sworn in as PRD members several months ago. At the event, Vargas Maldonado said that the swearing in of the reformists forms part of the growth registered by the PRD as it looks towards its obligations in the elections for legislative and municipal posts next year and the 2012 presidential elections. He said that the entry of new members strengthens his plan to create a National Agreement for Change.
After welcoming the new PRD members, the secretary general of the party, Orlando Jorge Mera, said that for the party to be able to fulfill its goals, it could not do it alone, "so it is necessary to build agreements, alliances, to open the door of our organization in order to build projects and plans."
PRD president Ramon Alburquerque hailed the arrival of the new party members, but warned that it would be a violation (of party statutes) to promise them a candidacy for an elective post or one within the party in exchange for their support. He said that only the Political Commission and the National Executive Committee could authorize the newly sworn in members for party candidacies.
Meanwhile, former VP Milagros Ortiz Bosch said she felt that Vargas Maldonado should be clear about the conditions that were offered to the group of PRSC leaders who switched parties. She emphasized that if this came about through negotiations, this would block the path of some members of the PRD leadership, "and we would have to see up to what point this would affect the party members and the organization." At the same time as the swearing-in ceremony was taking place, Alburquerque was meeting with former President Hipolito Mejia. Alburquerque defined the meeting as a simple get-together where they talked about the party, the convention process and their candidacies with which Alburquerque hopes to maintain the PRD party presidency.

Judge rejects Moline parole
A petition for parole filed by Juan Manuel Moline Rodriguez has been rejected for a second time. Moline Rodriguez was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the murder of 12-year old Jose Rafael Llenas Aybar in May 1996. The judge in charge of the application of the sentence for San Cristobal, Francisco Mejia Angomas, accepted the arguments from the lawyers opposing Moline's parole. The Prosecutors Office also expressed the opinion that Moline should not be released. The court said that it has not yet seen any examples of social amends for the deeds that led to the conviction. According to El Caribe, the victim's cousin Mario Jose Redondo was sentenced to serve 30 years.
Prosecutor Fernandez Velez told radio journalist Huchi Lora that in the letter that Moline sent to the court, as required by law, instead of saying he was sorry, the inmate claimed that Dominican society has been unjust towards him because he "did not inflict any of the 34 stab wounds that Llenas Aybar received, did not kill anyone and should not have been convicted".

Juan Bosch Prize for social science
The Executive Board of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced the institution of a UNESCO/Juan Bosch Prize for the Promotion of Social Science Research in Latin America and the Caribbean. The award was proposed by the Dominican delegation with the support of the Latin America and the Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and in coordination with the delegations of Cuba, Venezuela and Costa Rica - countries where Professor Juan Bosch lived during his time in exile. It will present an award to the best social science thesis written by young people in Latin America and the Caribbean every two years. A former President of the Dominican Republic, Professor Juan Bosch was also an author, politician, social analyst and advocate of democratic values and a culture of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The prize is sponsored by the Government of the Dominican Republic and the Juan Bosch Foundation. The Dominican government will cover the initial financial cost of three awards, depositing a sum of US$125,000 in a special account with UNESCO.

25th Biennial of the Arts
This year the 25th Biennial of the Arts will be dedicated to painter Ramon Oviedo on the occasion of his 85th birthday. The Biennial opens at the Museum of Modern Art on 16 August. It brings together a collective exhibition of some of the best in painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, multimedia, ceramics, visual plastic arts, performances and installations. Winners will be awarded an overall prize of RD$500,000 and RD$250,000 first prize per category. The event is open to all Dominican artists and foreign artists who have resided in the country for at least five years. The event is being organized by the Ministry of Culture.
For more on upcoming events, see: www.dr1.com/calendar
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