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Daily News - Tuesday, 09 June 2009

City takes over 27 Feb Boulevard
The abandoned pedestrian boulevard on top of the 27 de Febrero tunnel may get a new lease of life. The city government of Santo Domingo was entrusted with the management of the public space through Decree 408-09 on 27 May. City Mayor Roberto Salcedo announced that the area would be restored. The area is known for its large ironwork city clock (that does not tell time anymore) and for the Presidente Beer freezer that marks the Winston Churchill facade. The park area runs between the two lanes of the 27 de Febrero expressway.

COE warns of more rains
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) is warning of increased flood risks due to a tropical wave that the National Meteorology Department (Onamet) says will affect the DR this week. Onamet is warning that the areas most affected by the heavy rains will be in the southwest, the border region and the central mountains. Between 40 mm and 70 mm of rains are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, and the humidity will make it feel hotter than usual for this time of the year. Onamet says that the tropical wave located over Puerto Rico and moving westwards at 20 kilometers per hour, will bring lots of light to moderate rains, especially to the northeast, southeast and the central mountains. Onamet added that they were watching a large area of low pressure currently located over Central America that is causing strong rains and electrical storms and that could head our way. This low-pressure area could come close to the Dominican Republic over the next 48-72 hours. They called upon the public to be on the alert for more bulletins.

New landslides near Constanza
The Ministry of Public Works says that as a result of recent heavy rainfall in the Casabito on the highway to Constanza, another crack on the right side of the mountain once again forced the closure of the roadway. Public Works crews and the company supervising the highway reconstruction said that this represents a high risk for traffic in the area since rocks and other debris are falling almost constantly. Because of this, Odebrecht, the company in charge of repairs, recommended closing the section to all traffic beginning today. Heavy equipment is being sent up the mountain to move the material that has already come loose. The first major landslide occurred on 18 May, and since then, engineers and heavy equipment operators have been working full time to re-open the road to traffic. The road is essential for the transport of farm produce from Constanza, one of the country's main agricultural production areas.

Workshop on port security
A three-day workshop on port security is being held, sponsored by the United States Embassy and the Specialized Port Security Corps (Cesep). The training event is taking place at the Don Diego Cruise Terminal in Sans Souci and is an initiative by US Embassy Charge d'Affairs Roland Bullen and Lt. General Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio. Cesep director Rear Admiral Juan Soto de la Rosa said that the workshop was part of the International Port Security Program (IPS) sponsored in part by the US Coast Guard.
The IPS program is a provides opportunities for improving the state's port facilities, aiming to reduce the risk of terrorism directed at maritime commerce and focusing on training and creation of resources.
Four USCG members, port security and protection experts, are taking part in the workshop. One of the objectives is to improve port audits in order to meet the standards required in the Code for Protection for Ships and Installations, a comprehensive system of measures aimed at improving the safety of ships and installations against external threats.

No controls at 600 LPG stations
It's the same old story. The regulations exist, but nobody is there to enforce them, according to a column in today's Hoy newspaper. There are more than 1,000 propane gas stations in the DR, but over 60% of them do not comply with the standards that have been established for the safe handling of gas, says Julio Santana, director of the Standards and Quality Systems Department (Digenor).
His statement comes after an explosion at a station in a commercial and residential area, which caused millions of pesos worth of material damage and several injuries.
Santana stressed that without supervision there would be no compliance. He says he will be meeting with his boss, Industry and Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul on a program drawn up by his technicians aimed at obliging LPG station owners to follow the regulations laid out by Digenor.
Interviewed by Hoy reporters Rosa Alcantara and Juan Ramirez, Santana stated the obvious: LPG stations without supervision breaking the rules and stations that do this pose a danger to the entire area surrounding the facility.
He said if the minister approves his plan, his supervisors would close any facility that is not up to standard, either temporarily or permanently.
Last week's explosion at an LPG facility in San Isidro injured 18 people and damaged dozens of buildings.
While Digenor has been in existence for 30 years, it has never really been at the forefront, even though it is the organization responsible for ensuring quality in weights and measures and security in gasoline and LPG stations.
Santana says the department does not have the vehicles, budget and personnel needed to fulfill its task.

Italy-DR deal on grapes and industry
Dominican government departments have signed an agreement with the Board of International Cultural, Tourism and Commercial Services of the Italian region of Le Marche.
Executive assistant director of the Dominican government agency Proindustria, Fausto Araujo, described the agreement signed in Italy as "transcendental and totally innovative." He said that it would give an unprecedented impulse to the sustainable industrialization of the grape and fishing industries.
The agreement was signed by Raimondo Orsetti, director general of the Department of Internationalization of Le Marche Region in Italy, and Jose Pena, national director of the National Grape Institute, together with Araujo, representing Proindustria. The agreement provides for technological transfer as well as cultural exchanges.

New electricity subsidies
Later this month, the government will provide 806,830 homes with electricity subsidies via the Solidarity Card. The so-called Bono Luz will reach 67% of households registered as customers of electricity distributors EdeNorte, EdeEste and EdeSur, which have a total of 1,201,314 customers.
The director of the Unified Beneficiaries System (SIUBEN), Miriam Rodriguez de Simo said yesterday that of the total beneficiaries of the Solidarity Card, a sort of welfare card, 626,301 are destitute or poor and 180,529 are lower middle class.
Rodriguez said that with the new method of channeling this subsidy, traders and businesses that were taking advantage of the fixed rates in poor barrios would no longer benefit.
At the same time she said that homes that did not have the Solidarity Card but did qualify for subsidized electricity would be evaluated for their possible inclusion in the program.
As reported in yesterday's DR1 news, earlier this week the Executive Branch closed down the Blackout Reduction Program (PRA), transferring its assets and accounts to the CDEEE.
The president of the Association of Housewives' Committees (Acacdisna), Rosario Lopez, described the application of this new measure of focusing the electricity subsidy as a "mortal blow" to the economy, quality of life and security of Dominicans, as it comes with an increase in the electricity rates.

Haiti and DR unite against flu
The Haitian and Dominican Ministers of Health have agreed to strengthen controls along the border to prevent spreading of the A(H1N1) flu virus across the island. At a meeting held in the border town of Jimani, Alex Larsen of Haiti and Bautista Rojas Gomez of the DR met for three hours to discuss prevention programs.
According to Diario Libre, Rojas Gomez suggested that Haiti could duplicate some of the measures put in place in the Dominican Republic.
Representatives of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in the DR, Cristina Nogueira and in Haiti, Yazelhi Genay also took part in the meeting.
Local officials, international consultants and specialists from the Ministries of Public Health in the Dominican Republic and Haiti had also met in Pedernales last week, where they agreed to extend coverage against Hepatitis B for health workers, vaccination against the influenza virus for at-risk groups, as well as diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations for construction workers and farmers.

Presidential helicopter fault
The presidential helicopter that took President Leonel Fernandez to his meetings in the eastern town of El Seibo last weekend suffered an electrical failure and had to be repaired by Dominican Air Force (FAD) mechanics. According to FAD spokesperson Colonel Freddy de Jesus Torres Polanco, quoted in Diario Libre, the Belga 430 that the President usually uses suffered electronic problems, while adding that it was nothing extraordinary. He reported that as soon as the pilots detected the problem on Sunday night, they told the President that it was not safe to fly in that helicopter, and made the trip in another one. He said that the defective helicopter was transferred to the San Isidro Air Force Base at noon yesterday where it is undergoing some final checkups.
The spokesman said that the President would continue to use it in his future flights.
About two weeks ago Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal was involved in an accident when an Air Force helicopter he was using to travel along the frontier suffered mechanical failure in the tail rotor and had to make an emergency landing, and, according to the official, was very badly damaged.

'Safe Barrio' residents complain of crime
Residents of neighborhoods covered by the Democratic Safety Program, better known as the Barrio Seguro Program, are complaining that people cannot go out to work because criminals come from other areas and steal their cell phones, wallets, motorcycles and even their cars.
Nonetheless, they accept that drug sales that used to take place on every street corner and in broad daylight have fallen considerably, and have nearly been eradicated. Trader Juan Francisco Rodriguez from the Simon Bolivar neighborhood, believes that Barrio Seguro, "has failed," because only a few policemen are seen patrolling, and while he accepted that violence had decreased, he says that crime is still a problem for residents of these barrios.
In contrast, Lieutenant Colonel Bovanagas Pena stated that the program was active and that the National Police is fulfilling its task of preventive patrols, and has achieved a reduction in violence and crime. Community leader Abel Rojas complained that the media doesn't want to publish anything that happens in the Barrio Seguro sectors. Another local resident reminded reporters that on Friday a young man was killed in the area but nothing was reported in the papers.

Mango Festival
The Mango Cluster, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Dominican Agricultural Research Institute (IDAF) will be hosting Expo Mango 2009 from 18-21 June in the southwestern province of Bani. Participants will have the chance to taste, buy and get to know all the varieties of mango produced in the DR. The event's schedule for this year includes a gastronomic festival, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A business-matching program is also on the agenda, coordinated by the Center for Exports & Investments (CEI-RD). Mango plantations have tripled in the DR in the past five years. There are an estimated 1,500 producers. The president of the Mango Cluster, Rafael Leger said that mango exports in 2008 exceeded US$4.6 million. He said that new export markets are being found, including Japan, Scandinavia, Russia and Poland. At the moment, 90% of Dominican exports go to Europe and 10% to the US.

Summer Jazz at Casa de Teatro
Summer is special in the Colonial City as Casa de Teatro welcomes leading jazz performers for its Annual Summer Jazz Festival. On Thursdays in June and July, local and international jazz performers will be appearing on stage. This year the festival is dedicated to Guillo Carias, who is considered a living legend of jazz in the Dominican Republic.
This year's program is: 18 June Roberto Carcasse and his trio (Cuba), 25 June, Rafael Mirabal and Sistema Temperado (DR), 2 July Patricia Pereyra (DR), 4 July Bryan Lynch (USA), 9 July Ossia Saxophons (France), 16 July, Natalia Calderon Quartet (Spain), 23 July Guillo Carias and his group (DR), and on 30 July, Paula Shokron and trio (Argentina). Tickets are for sale for RD$350 for hall performance and RD$200 for the Cafe Teatro. Casa de Teatro is located at Arz. Merino Street, near the corner of Padre Billini.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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