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Daily News - Monday, 08 June 2009

El Seibo gets promises
During a meeting with local officials at the Gianadiana neighborhood in El Seibo, an eastern province, President Leonel Fernandez seemed to promise everything short of the skies to residents of this eastern Dominican town. Fernandez promised new roads, a water treatment plant, aqueducts, bridges and a sports complex. The President commented that in order to attract investment to the municipality of El Seibo the image of extreme poverty needed to be changed. The total budget for all these public works projects is estimated at RD$300 million.

No more PRA
President Leonel Fernandez closed the Blackout Reduction Program (PRA), which sought to reduce non-paying consumption of power, and has ordered its assets to be transferred to the State-Run Electricity Companies (CDEEE). This move was authorized in Decree 421-09. The move comes two months after TV journalist Nuria Piera exposed the way in which a large part of the funds allocated to the office were being distributed at the director's discretion for the benefit of his friends and relatives.

Bengoa is defiant
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa was defiant in his rejection of a potential agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). "Why should we sign with the IMF?" Bengoa said that unfortunately there has been a re-emergence of the Guacanagarix complex (the belief that all things foreign are superior), "because some people think that we need foreigners to tell us what to do." Hoy writes that Bengoa's comments fall in line with recent statements by President Fernandez who said that an IMF agreement would be a Plan B, but that the government wasn't planning to sign a new agreement with the IMF.
"They are wrong, people who think that the IMF is coming to the DR to solve Dominican problems. They are coming here to make sure we take the proper measures in order for us to pay our debt to them," said Bengoa on the IMF presence.
Nevertheless, he said that neither he nor President Leonel Fernandez had completely dismissed the idea of signing an agreement.
Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu and Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas have recently made statements in favor of signing another agreement with the IMF.

Free hand for spending?
The president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE), Ricardo Bonetti speculates that the reason the government is resisting calls to sign an agreement with the International Monetary Fund is because it wants to have a free hand for spending into the 2010 congressional and municipal elections. Legislators and city government officials who are elected in 2010 will stay in the job for six years, according to a constitutional amendment that is being promoted in Congress.
Bonetti says that while high-ranking economic government officials (Governor of the Central Bank Hector Valdez Albizu and Economy Minister Temistocles Montas) favor an agreement, the President has dismissed it, as reported in Hoy. Bonetti made his comments on the D'Agenda TV program hosted by Hector Herrera Cabral on Telesistema, Channel 11.

Tax collections down
The Tax Department (DGII) says that collections are down RD$7.6 billion for the first five months of the year, compared to the first five months in 2008. The government was able to compensate the decline in income and show a 1.2% growth in revenues only due to the taxes on the sale of the Brugal rum company.
The DGII reports that government revenues totaled RD$65.95 billion this year, compared to RD$65.14 billion. DGII director Juan Hernandez attributed the decline in revenues to external and internal factors. He says government revenues dropped when consumers started spending less. For instance, Dominicans are even drinking less beer, as reflected in luxury tax collections.
In May 2008, revenues were RD$12.02 billion, compared to RD$13.22 billion in May 2009. The government had forecast collections of RD$13.04 billion.

Officials defend cement factory
The Ministry of Environment continues to defend the proposed construction of a cement factory outside the Los Haitises National Park. Deputy Environment Minister Eleuterio Martinez says that the permits for building a factory were granted only after the proper studies were completed. The contract to build the factory was awarded to the Estrella Group's Dominican Mining Consortium.

Impartial audit on cement factory
In a statement last week, the Catholic Church's environmental commission called on the Dominican Mining Consortium to suspend plans for construction of the controversial cement plant on the edge of Los Haitises National Park until recommendations can be obtained from "an impartial world recognized international entity" that can study the company's findings and the position of local environmental groups and other specialists on the impact of the construction of a cement plant, especially on all the water sources in the area that feed several main rivers and provide much of the country's drinking water.
The document from the Church says that they are aware that the company has considered two other possible locations for the cement plant, and that these should be made public. It adds that this type of industrial installation is known for damaging the environment, no matter where it is located. The document was signed by the Bishop of Barahona, Monsignor Fabio A. Mamerto Rivas, president of the commission.

AH1N1 update
The number of AH1N1 cases is steadily rising in the DR. In the last week 750 samples have been tested and six new cases were confirmed. This brings the total amount of cases in the DR to 66. However, only one of the cases of AH1N1 has resulted in the death of a patient. This was the case of a 17-year old pregnant woman from Bani who suffered complications because she already had tuberculosis and a heart condition. Officials reiterate that most cases have been benign, and have not required hospitalization. Most of the new cases, 44, were confirmed in the National District and the province of Santo Domingo, and most have affected schoolchildren.

Vincho on young people and drugs
Presidential advisor on narcotics, lawyer Marino Vincho Castillo says that between 250,000 and 300,000 young people under the age of 25 are involved in the DR's illegal drug trade. Castillo said that the estimate is horrible and worrisome. Speaking in Santiago, Castillo admitted that support for fighting drugs in the country has been inadequate. He called for a new policy that combines penalties, jail time and special jurisdiction that would allow for improved prosecution of drug traffickers.
Castillo also accepts that fighting drugs is costly, but says that not enough attention has been paid to the problem. He also called for increased drug prevention programs and more help for existing drug users.

MVM new PRD president
The PRD political committee has fast-tracked Miguel Vargas Maldonado into the post of new PRD president, strengthening his role as the main opposition party's leader. The decision was made during a three-hour meeting at the Hotel Embajador yesterday. Vargas will officially take up his new post on 19 July and will replace Ramon Alburquerque. Of the 312 members of the Political Committee, 204 attended.

Reasons for deportation
The US Consul General in the DR says that sociologist Lourdes Contreras, director of the Gender Studies Center at Santo Domingo's INTEC University, was deported when in transit in Miami on 13 May on the way to a conference in Jamaica because her husband Narciso Isa Conde "has links with terrorism." El Dia reported that Narciso Isa Conde's links to the FARC in Colombia are the main reason the US State Department revoked his wife's visa and deported her to Santo Domingo.
Contreras told Hoy newspaper that US General Consul Michael Schimmel told her that the State Department's decision was based on the US Anti-Terrorist Law. The law establishes that spouses and children of people considered inadmissible because of terrorist activities may also be excluded from the US. One of the couple's sons is economist Pavel Isa, who heads the local representation of the United Nations World Food Program.
"I understand that with that statement, the consul general of the US is saying a whole family is condemned," she told Hoy. She said that Schimmel handed her the reasons for her deportation in writing, in response to a diplomatic note to the US authorities from the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

US Officials rescind request
US officials have rescinded extradition requests for Edwin Pimentel Tejada and Marcos Abad de la Cruz, suspected of plotting to murder one of the DAs who worked on the Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo drug trafficking case in New York City. US officials say they dropped the case because of lack of evidence. A letter to the DR's Prosecutor General Office, released by the Ministry of Foreign Relations explained that initial investigations were unable to prove criminal intent. However, Pimentel and Abad's problems are by no means over as US officials will still be applying for their extradition on unrelated drug trafficking charges.

US pedophile found in DR
US Marshals have arrested accused child molester Joseph Christian Fontana in the DR. Fontana had been on the run from US officials since 2006 when an arrest warrant was issued. Fontana fled Santa Rosa County in California after police began investigating alleged sexual misconduct with minors. He was profiled on the television series "America's Most Wanted" in 2009 and the show was also aired in the DR because he was suspected of being in the country.
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office submitted the case to the US Marshals' Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force and requested their assistance in tracking down and apprehending Fontana. The information was passed on to the US Marshals' Foreign Field Office in Santo Domingo, in an attempt to locate and apprehend Fontana.
With the assistance of law enforcement in the Dominican Republic, they took Fontana, who had been living in the north coast town of Cabrera, into custody. Listin Diario quoted local resident Antonia Eusebio as saying that Fontana was often seen riding around with children on his motorcycle and that he was known for bathing naked at a local beach.
www.fox10tv.com/dpp/mobile_news/man_arrested_on_76_counds_of_sex_crimes

Cleanup at Caleta Park
The Vida Azul Foundation has cleaned up La Caleta's seabed with the participation of 60 scuba divers. The event was part of the celebration of World Oceans Day, a United Nations initiative. The Vida Azul organization seeks to encourage local fishermen to work with scuba diving shops and give up fishing, which has affected the coral reef formations in the area. The organization is also planning to create an underwater museum with large statues, under an co-management agreement with the Ministry of Environment.
Vida Azul Foundation president Oscar Oviedo said that the event was aimed at "creating an awareness that the garbage that falls out of our own hands pollutes the sea." He called on the public to join the effort to clean up the coasts and protect marine systems.
Vida Azul Foundation's initiative complements work being done by Reef Check, which is awaiting clearance from the Ministry of Environment for the co-management of the La Caleta National Park.
See: www.vidaazul.org

Diaz makes comeback
Dominican long-distance swimmer Marcos Diaz is back in the spotlight with a victory at the 33rd annual Swim Around Key West. Diaz cruised to a 53-minute overall victory in the race. A total of 46 swimmers took part in the race and a last-minute change in the course made it a bit tougher than expected. "This year I think the change of the course made it tougher," said Diaz, who finished with a time of 4:23:19, nearly an hour over the course record. "It left the side that was exposed to the wind for the finish. I was saving energy for the finish because I knew the end was going to be tough."
http://keysnews.com/node/14099
 
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