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Daily News - Thursday, 03 September 2009

The President is back
President Leonel Fernandez returned after a week abroad. He had traveled to attend the 13th African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Libya. Fernandez also attended commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Following talks in Tripoli, the Presidency announced Libya could be interested in installing an oil refinery in Monte Cristi. This refinery has been announced on several occasions by different Dominican governments.
News reports say that First Lady Margarita Cedeno did not return with the President.

Metro: taxpayer nightmare
It took 2 months and legal action, but journalist Edwin Ruiz of Clave finally got the figures to write his story on how the reality of the first year of the Santo Domingo metro compares to projections made for justifying the construction of the first line. The metro promoters had estimated 200,000 passengers and RD$4 million a day in revenues per day. But the reality of the first six months is that on average 50,643 (including both routes) passengers have rode the metro paying RD$1,012,856 in fares (at RD$20 the fare). The at least RD$3 million daily deficit needs to be picked up by taxpayers. Thus the "dream" of President Leonel Fernandez seems to have turned into a nightmare, at least for taxpayers.
The metro cuts the time to get from Villa Mella to La Feria from 2 hours to 20 minutes. The service is world class. But where are the users? It is not that they would not like to take the modern metro, it is that the feeder routes are not there, and passengers have to pay other fares anyway to take the metro. Hamlet Hermann, former director of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, explains the government did not heed advice to create the feeder routes first.
The stats on the Metro show that the least used stations are those at the Maximo Gomez Cemetery (63 users per hour), the Mirador del Norte (60 users per hour) and La Isabela (54 users per hour). The most used stations are at the two extremes. The Mama Tingo at Av. Charles de Gaulle in Villa Mella shows 636 users per hour, and the La Firia receives 456 users per hour.
Moneywise, the metro is a big loser. With a fare of RD$20, it generates barely RD$1,02,856 daily, or approximately RD$370 million a year, equivalent to about US$10.3 million. Traditional motoconcho, guagua and concho transport favorably compete in price with the comfort of the metro.
According to the OPRET the metro cost US$674.6 million. But the IDB says the investment was US$54 milion per kilometer, or US$756 million.
OPRET has reported the government is subsidizing the metro with RD$22.5 million a month, or about RD$270 million a year. But Edwin Ruiz reports that in the 2009 National Budget RD$2.41 billion or US$64.8 million have been allotted for the operation of the metro. 86% of those funds would have come from abroad.
Opret says that the present cost per passenger is RD$35. The report indicates this means a RD$1.09 billion deficit needs to be assumed by taxpayers that most probably are not using the metro. The report concludes that around 25,000 persons a day benefit greatly from being able to use the US$750 million-metro.
The authorities of the Metro refused to sit for an interview with Edwin Ruiz after delivering the data.

And nobody knew anything
Ines Aizpun, editor at Diario Libre, comments today on the reported "ignorance" of government officers on matters of corruption in their departments. "It is very difficult to believe that the president of the Senate did not know that a good number of senators had many family members on their payrolls, " she writes.
She also makes the point that it is hard to believe that the president of the Senate was not aware either that Williams lived in the US [the Senator from San Pedro de Macoris who rarely attends sessions] or that deputy Radhames Fermin has not attended a session in two years.
"It is not ignorance; it is class solidarity," she writes.
She says it is essential to dismount clientelism, and that this can only happen with political will. "Only the political parties themselves can dismount clientelism, because they are who legislate and allow this pseudo-charity that they use to win elections, while all, poor or not poor, see this happening at the expense of the development of the country," she writes.
In a back page editorial, the same newspaper also calls for the elimination of the so-called "barrilito", the extra fund legislators have ruled for themselves, in addition to their wages and already padded perks. "The problem is not the nepotism that originates with the barrilito, it is the barrilito itself," writes the editorialist. "He concludes: "Will the naming instead of non- family members resolve this spendthrift mechanism of public funds?"

70% of patients are Haitians
Health Region 6 has spent RD$9 million this year to assist Haitians at public hospitals in the southwestern provinces of San Juan de la Maguana, Azua and Elias Pina. According to regional director Bolivar Matos Perez, 70% of the births at those public hospitals are to Haitians, most who arrive to the hospitals suffering from serious health complications. He said that the number of patients especially increase on market day, when entry to the DR is relaxed. He said local physicians see more than a million Haitians, and that these receive the same attention as Dominicans, as reported in the Listin Diario.
He said they mostly see pregnant women, that come with many complications, hypertension and toxemia, making for difficult births.
He was interviewed when he accompanied Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez who visited the region to oversee the opening of primary health centers in San Juan and Azua.

Blackout blankets the nation
An extended blackout covered the city of Santo Domingo, and the DR last night. Power had been consistent throughout the day. But then at around 6:03pm power went out simultaneously in several neighborhoods throughout the city, including neighborhoods where power rarely is out. The situation was so bad that it affected the operation of the Santo Domingo Metro. Some neighborhoods began receiving power by around 8:30pm. Hoy reports that the blackout also affected other parts of the country.
Energy Superintendent Francisco Mendez attributed the blackout to outages at the energy generators of AES-Andres and San Felipe, in Puerto Plata, which put increased pressure on the other generators.
Though investigations are ongoing, Diario Libre says 10 persons have been arrested for allegedly opening an interruptor a few kilometers from the AES Andres station.
Diario Libre reports that the blackout began at the same time as when President Leonel Fernandez returned to the DR, which has some hypothesizing it could be a matter of sabotage.
By 8:40pm 380 MW had been restored of an estimated 1,600 MW which had been online.

Government gives victims funds
The Presidency, through the Plan Social, is helping families affected by the flooding at the Lago Enriquillo with RD$4.4 million in food. Families in Bahoruco received 1,776 quintals of food. A total of 14,800 families will benefit from the funds and food, which were given to the families at 27 different distribution points. Towns chosen for food and aid distribution were Cristobal, Batey 8, La Colonia, Mella, Duverge, Puerto Escondido, Las Baitoas, Jimani, El Limon, Boca de Cachon, Bartolome, La Descubierta, Poster Rio, Batey 2, Los Salados, Galvan, El Estero, Neyba, Villa Jaragua, Las Clavellinas and Los Rios.

Microsoft invests in small business
Microsoft Dominicana will invest an estimated US$4 million in small and medium sized Dominican businesses (pymes) between June 2009 and June 2010. The funds are being used to provide the small companies with IT solutions. Microsoft's general manager in the DR, Juan Lora, says the funds should generate a positive impact beyond the bounds of the large businesses. He said that the pymes need to maintain their competitiveness with the larger firms who are constantly investing in IT advances.

CB suspends certificates
The Central Bank has announced that it is temporarily suspending the placement of investment certificates for the general public and non financial businesses. The CB also announced a reduction in the interest rates for re-financing of current investments. The Overnight interest was reduced to 4.0% and the Lombarda interest rate was also reduced by 1%. The Bank seeks to increase its liquidity level, potentially putting an added RD$10 billion in circulation during the last four months of the year.

Conflicts at the UASD
Once again conflict and violence engulfed the UASD University. Hoy reports that dozens of masked persons tried to cause distractions in and around the state university campus. This is suspect to be a preparation for the proposed national work stoppage tomorrow. The strike was suspended due to the imminent passing of rainstorm Erika.
The conflicts are blamed on the university group Felabel held responsible for burning tires at the entrance doors to the UASD as well as throwing rocks and other debris. Hoy reports that the conflicts began at around 11:30am and ended at 2:30pm. Two students were hurt as a result of the aggressive acts. Classes were called off for the day.

AA emergency landing
American Airlines flight 680, carrying 100 passengers, made an emergency landing yesterday at the International Airport of the Americas. The flight was on its way to Miami, Florida, when it began experiencing technical failures. The flight left Las Americas at 10:23 pm, and made an emergency landing 30 minutes later. No one was hurt in the landing.

Kaisha's killer to stay in jail
The 15-year old accused of killing bank executive Kaisha Patricia Requena Grullon will stay in custody until his trial. The youth was sentenced to 30 days preventive custody. The 30 days will end on 11 September, but the Tribunal de Ninas, Ninos y Adolescentes (Child Court) is clarifying that the the 30 initial days are meant so that state prosecutors can complete the investigation. She said the child was never going to be freed in the days leading up to his trial. Requena was murdered a month ago in an attempted robbery when she had returned home at night. The killing has caused national outrage and a debate on penalties for child criminals. In the DR the maximum penalty for a youth under 18 years is 5 years in jail.

12-year old tragedy
Lourdes Belen worked as an illegal maid in Puerto Rico to save up to build her home in the DR. Her dreams were cut short when her 12-year old daughter, Jennifer Manuela Estefan Belen died the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Belen gave herself up to Migration in Puerto Rico, asking to be deported so she could return to attend her daughter's funeral. She arrived at 2pm.
34-year old Navy man Ignacio Rafael Marmolejos (Chino Yaya) is blamed for the death of the child. San Luis neighbors say he fired several bullets in a dispute over some land near the child's home and one killed the little girl. The sailor was sent to civilian justice.
He argued that the bullet strayed when several unknown intended to take his gun away from him.
Family and neighbors reject this version. El Caribe reports that neighbors say that Chino was part of a neighborhood gang that spread terror in the area, controlling everything in complicity with the authorities.
Jennifer Manuela Estefan Belen was an outstanding student at the Liceo Carlixta Reyes Paulino. She was buried at the Cristo Salvador cemetery. in 7th grade. She lived with her father.

Police catches two
An employee of Multimedios del Caribe was assaulted by two youths after bordering a minibus near John F Kennedy and Dr. Defillo, a block from her work place. Maria Batista said she was taken at pistol to Ensanche Serralle where the thieves stole her money, cell phone, and personal documents. She was unharmed. She visited the Naco police station to denounce what had happened to her. The commander arrested youths Miguel Angel Fernandez and Jeudy de la Cruz who she identified. The commander said the police was on their trail for several other assaults in the John F. Kennedy avenue area.

Puerto Rico too strong
Hopes high, the point total was low. In one of the most anticipated games in recent basketball memory. the DR succumbed to the vaunted Puerto Rican national squad, 85-76. Though the DR team has been playing better in recent games, the talent and experience of the Puerto Rican team was too much to handle for the DR. Though Caribbean bragging rights were on hand the bigger prize was a spot in the World Championships in Turkey 2010. Puerto Rico assured its place, but now the DR must win its games against Mexico and Canada to guarantee itself the last spot in the tournament. The DR game against Mexico is scheduled for 3:15pm. Other games are Canada vs. Panama (1pm), Uruguay vs. Brazil (5:30pm) and Puerto Rico vs. Argentina (7:45pm).
See http://puertorico2009.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/09/facm/p/index.html

Erika's progress
Officials have issued early warnings as a result of the projected path of tropical storm Erika. The storm is about 500 kilometers southeast of Puerto Rico, moving at a speed of 17 kh/h. It is expected to reach Puerto Rico today and then the DR by Friday. Rains, wind gusts and high surf are forecast, even if the storm passes well to the north.

Rock at Quintana Bar
Tonight at Quintana Bar, off Plaza de Espana in the Colonial City, Sociedad Anonima rock group presents its first CD. This is a quartet of traditional rock. Members are Leo Deambrosi, Tony Almont, Guilermo Perez and Luis Diaz. 9pm.
For more upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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