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Daily News - Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Marranzini gets support
The business sector has thrown its support behind Celso Marranzini, the former president of the National Council of Business, who was named head of the State-Owned Electric Companies (CDEEE) on Sunday, 16 August. Marranzini replaced Radhames Segura who has been criticized for his markedly inefficient work at the helm of the CDEEE. Segura was also part of a corruption and nepotism scandal aired by TV journalist Nuria Piera. Listin Diario recalls that Segura multiplied by four since 2005 the then already bloated payroll at the CDEEE that today has 8,500 employees.
Marranzini had been president of the Board of Directors of the CDEEE in the second half of the 90s, during the first term of President Fernandez.
Leading business organizations, from the National Council of Business (Conep), the Association of Industries of the DR (AIRD), the Dominican Association of Electricity Industries (ADIE), and the National Organization of Shopping Malls (ONEC) issued press releases in support.
The Dominican Alliance Against Corruption also supported the appointment announced by President Fernandez.
Lisandro Macarrulla, president of Conep, said that there are now expectations a definite solution to the electricity problems can be found. He said the country can no longer postpone developing an efficient and competitive electricity system.
Manuel Diez Cabral, president of AIRD, stressed this is an opportunity to remove politics from the solution of the electricity crisis.
Economy and Planning Minister Temistocles Montas said the government would support Marranzini in his efforts. As reported in the Listin Diario, Montas said that the government last year disbursed US$1.3 billion in electricity subsidies, funds that should have gone to education and health services. He said so far this year, subsidies are at US$700 million, which he says is "irrational". Montas said the message Fernandez sends with the appointment is that the government is committed to a solution of the energy problem. "I definitely think the appointment of Marranzini is going to restore credibility to the energy sector."
PRD deputy Cristian Paredes nevertheless criticized the appointment on grounds Marranzini has always spoken of privatizing the CDEEE.
President Leonel Fernandez had appointed Segura his advisor on energy matters to the President, but Segura declined the position. As reported in El Dia, Segura in a letter to the President said that his efforts would be directed to cleaning up his name. Segura complained in the letter that the way he was removed leads to a perception it was for corruption in office.
El Dia reports that a great majority of high-ranking technical and administrative officers at the CDEEE have chosen to resign, while others await receiving their severance payments.

New DNCD director
President Leonel Fernandez appointed General Rolando Mateo Rosado to head the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), as reported on El Gobierno de la Manana morning radio show. Mateo replaces Major General Gilberto Delgado Valdez, who held the post for a year.
Prior to his appointment to the DNCD, Mateo Rosado had been director of the prevention department at the National Police. Delgado Valez was appointed deputy minister of the Armed Forces, replacing Major General Hugo Rafael Hernandez Borrell.

Quarter million government vehicles
252,112 vehicles are exempt from paying for the vehicular stickers now being renewed by the Department of Taxes (DGII). Diario Libre reports that 252,112 vehicles owned by government ministers, legislators, mayors, diplomats are exempt from the taxation. Generous vehicular purchase plans for individuals is one of the leading perks to working in government.
The renewal period begins this week and extends through November.
Reportedly, there are 1,303,820 vehicles in circulation, but only 1,051,708 units need to renew their stickers. Vehicles up to 2004 pay RD$1,200 for the renewal and those from year 2005 pay RD$2,200.

Pinalito Dam cost RD$7 billion more
Investigative reporter Nuria Piera disclosed that the recently inaugurated Pinalito Dam cost RD$7 billion more than it should have. Nuria bases the claim on an interview with Cesar Sanchez, general manager of the CDEEE under President Hipolito Mejia (2000-2004) who says that the contract he signed with the Brazilian firm Odebrecht was for US$110 million, which later became US$119 million. Nevertheless, he says he has reports the government has invested US$340 million in the recently inaugurated Pinalito Dam. This is far more than the US$300 million the government announced in the inauguration propaganda.
See http://www.nuria.com.do/casos.php

Slow start at public schools
Yesterday was the first day of the 2009-2010 school year, but as has been the case for decades in the DR, few students showed up at public schools for the first day of class. This cultural phenomenon flies in the face of a new Education initiative that looks to guarantee 1,000 hours of classroom work for each student. This cultural phenomenon is so widespread that in January, at the start of the second half of the 2008-2009 school year, Education Minister Melanio Paredes said on average Dominican public school students only attended school for five days during January.

UN technicians to Los Haitises
The technicians that are studying the feasibility of the construction of the cement factory near the Los Haitises National Park are here to visit the area. They will visit the community of Gonzalo and the National Park as they evaluate the installation of the factory in a buffer zone of the protected area. According to the Hoy, the exercise will cost the DR government US$100,000.
Valerie Julliand, United Nations Development Program representative in the country, presented the international experts team to the press yesterday. Team members are Juan Mayr Maldonado, the coordinator; Leslie Molerio, Luis Rodriguez, Elias Mujica, Pierre Auger, Eduarto Vadillo, Hernan Mora Corrales and Julio Calderon.
For their background, see http://www.dr1.com/news/2009/dnews081709.shtml#5
Julliand explained that experts hail from several United Nations agencies. Foreigners were chosen for greater objectivity and to avoid the pressures that would fall on local experts. Nevertheless, she pointed out that the studies that would serve as reference for the study, were all done by Dominicans.
She added that the definitive report with conclusions would be presented from 20-30 September, but she stressed that the mission was not serving as an arbitrer in the process. She said the final decision on the continuation of the installation of the cement plant in the buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park will be made by the Dominican government and the local judiciary.
A team of experts at the Ministry of Environment initially rejected the construction, but Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez said the environmental permission was approved after President Leonel Fernandez favored the location. A judge would later order a halt to construction, until further studies could be made into the potential environmental damages the cement plant could cause.

Doctors will attend talks
The president of the Dominican Medical College (CMD), Waldo Ariel Suero said that the CMD would attend today's meeting with the Public Health officials at the PUCMM university. The talks are mediated by Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, rector of the university.
Suero had expressed his concerns after receiving the letters of the cancellations of union leader, Rufino Senen Caba Plasencia and two medical residents on paper with the presidential seal and dated after last week's meeting. He reminded the reporters that until the doctors that were fired are reinstated, the CMD would not allow the talks to go forward on the initial points that would be discussed. He called for President Leonel Fernandez to grant the wage increase the CMD has been asking for public hospital staff to commemorate the Day of the Doctor.

Azua is calm but fearful
Calm has returned to the municipality with the arrival of new policemen after the previous cops were transferred to Santo Domingo for investigations. They are suspect of complicity with drug operations in the province.
But fear continues to dominate in many barrios. Father Alberto Espinal attributes the increase in drug trafficking to a lack of opportunities and employment.
"What does Azua de Compostela mean?" As if it were a history lesson, new police commander, Colonel Ricardo Antonio Done Jaime launched the question to the more or less 10 policemen standing in front of the Police station. It is 8am and the agents are preparing for the first patrol of the day. With the morning chat, besides giving instructions, Done Jaime tries to unify the group, pooled from police corps around the country. He is trying to imbue them with some information on the territory that they have to protect from criminals.
According to the Diario Libre, in the 11 days Done Jaime has been on the job in the municipality, his cops have arrested 15 persons with alleged ties to the drug world, seized 12 kilograms of drugs, and caused a stampede of the people that dedicated themselves to committing drug "heists."
Still remaining is the most important task: Reestablishing the confidence of the citizens who fear to speak even when asked how they are. "I have nothing to say", expressed on resident of La Bombita barrio, giving evidence to the reluctance of the people to speak.
La Bombita is the barrio that was the most affected by the negative publicity after the latest drug "heist" in which three persons died, including a sergeant stationed at the La Bombita police station. After the incident and the complaints that the entire staff of the station was acting in complicity with the drug traffickers, the entire staff was transferred and, according to the neighbors, the new cops are working.
In Azua, as in other provinces of the South and other areas, micro-trafficking of drugs has gained a foothold. But here there is a new fashion: What are being called "tumbes" or heists, which means in the colloquial speech, the sale of false drugs to buyers. This interaction generates more violence than usual because of the trickery involved. According to the commentaries, the fake substances are made with ground fertilizer, lime, and other chemical components.
The exchanges are usually carried out on the outskirts of the city, as occurred in the case that opened the Pandora's Box. But some residents of La Bombita say that the heists have gone on in the very barrio and on one occasion, things went so far as to leave several wounded.
An example of the dimensions of the problem is given by Father Alberto Espinal, the parish priest for the city of Azua, He explains that in November of last year, he revealed the existence of 1,500 drug points spread out among the 10 municipalities and 22 municipal districts that make up the province of Azua.

Hatuey and MVM talk of alliance
The president of the Social Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRSD), Hatuey De Camps, confirmed yesterday that his organization has met with the president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Miguel Vargas Maldonado to discuss a possible political agreement.
Nevertheless, according to Diario Libre, De Camps denied that he or any members of his organization have any interest in returning to the PRD, and he therefore rejected the rumors that were making the rounds.
"This is pure speculation. There have been conversations with the people of the Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI) and meetings with Miguel Vargas Maldonado, about the possibility of reaching an agreement. But not party to party, because I do not have the least interest in returning to the PRD-PPH (Presidential Project Hipolito), nor do my people", specified De Camps.
He said that the PRD and PRSD commissions have met on two occasions already, and there will be more meetings.
In July, the PRSD announced its support for the aspirations of the PRI president, Trajano Santana, to become the senator from Barahona in next May's elections.

Student extradited
The Supreme Court has agreed to extradite, to the US, Dominican student Ruddy Perez Espinal. Espinal is accused of committing bank fraud with cloned credit cards during his stay as an exchange student in the US. As part of the extradition agreement, which was submitted through the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, all assets owned by Perez or under his name will be provisionally seized.

Dominguez Brito to the US
Santiago Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito was flown to New York City early Tuesday morning to receive medical attention. President Leonel Fernandez met the 44-year old legislator yesterday prior to his leaving via Cibao International Airport. Dominguez Brito was hospitalized weeks ago with due to an intestinal obstruction, which required surgery. He was released to be readmitted to the hospital with complications.

Zucchini and cocaine
The National Department for Drug Control (DNCD) seized yesterday 6 boxes containing 407 zucchini that had been filled with cocaine at the Las Americas International Airport (AILA). The total weight of the cocaine was estimated at 25 kilograms. According to the report, the cocaine had been "carefully introduced" into the zucchini in a rural section of La Vega.
Diario Libre says the drugs were packaged for air shipment. They were consigned to the Raising Sun Produce Corp. located at 673 Jerome St., Brooklyn, New York 11207. The boxes of zucchini full of the drugs were sent to the airport by a company called Exportadora CMP, located in the community of La Cabuya, La Vega.
The drugs were discovered yesterday in Warehouse 7 of the cargo area of Customs at the Punta Caucedo terminal at around 3pm prior to disembarkment on a plane to NY.
Upon the discovery, officials of the DNCD investigated the employees in the cargo areas, customs and business that bring merchandise to the deposit. The warehouse where the drugs were found is the same one linked to thefts in delayed luggage.

Ana but a tropical wave
Tropical Storm Ana was degraded to a tropical wave by the time it got near to the DR, but the nation's emergency response units under the Committee for Emergency Operations (COE) activated their contingency plans anyway. The effort served as a warm up now that the Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season is reaching its most active weeks. All hurricanes affecting the DR have hit from 29 August through September.
See http://dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml

Biennial opens at Museum of Modern Art
The Biennial of Visual Arts opened at the Museum of Modern Art at Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo on Sunday, 16 August. The event this year is dedicated to painter Ramon Oviedo, on his 85 years. This is a collective exhibition of some of the best in contemporary painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, multimedia, ceramics, visual plastic arts, performances and installations.
Pascal Mecariello, won the grand prize of the Biennial, RD$500,000 and a permanent presence in the museum for his "Acuario Voraz" exhibit.
The individual category awards for RD$250,000 went to:
Luis E. Reyes Guzman, painting "Golden Years"
Joery Santos Gomez: painting "Multipolaridad"
Miguel Ramirez: installation "Odiseo"
Fausto Ortiz: installation "Laberinto"
Hulda Guzman: "Omega se casa con mi hermana"
Jochy Munoz: video-performance "Diptico"
Ricardo Hernandez: photography "Raw, controversial y espinoso"
Sayuri Guzman: performance "Toda la verdad"
Maria Elena Ditren, director of the MAM, said that conferences, encounters, workshops and concerts are taking place parallel to the exhibits and the contest. "The Biennial seeks to stimulate, show, evaluate, and give value to and project the development of Dominican contemporary visual arts, to as to foster creativity and diversity of styles of the arts to benefit the artists and all sectors of society," she says.
The jurors that preselected the works that competed in the Biennial this year were:
Fernando Rueda Koster, director of the Centro Cultural de Espana, Lucrecia Vega Gramunt, and Dominican artists Mayra Jonson, Luis Alberto Rodriguez and Bismark Victoria.
The jurors that decided on the winners of the prizes were:
Rogelio Polesello from Argentina, Fernando Castro from Espana, Dominican art historian Sara Herman, and university professors Odalis Perez and Alonso Cuevas.
The Museum of Modern Art is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 to 5 pm. Tel. 809 685-2153.
The exhibition will be open through 15 November.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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