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Daily News - Thursday, 29 October 2009

Fernandez speaks out for Zelaya
President Leonel Fernandez has been relatively quiet about the Dominican Republic's current economic, political and social issues. In contrast, he has been very vocal in expressing his opinion about the situation of deposed President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.
Last night at Funglode, the President's think-tank and now also a university, he used the forum for the event "Santo Domingo 30 Years of Democracy: Democracy, Growth with Equality and Social Cohesion in Latin America" as a chance to speak out for Zelaya.
According to Fernandez, the reaction to the coup d'etat in Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations has been inconceivable. Fernandez believes that these organizations should have done more to restore Zelaya to power. Fernandez has been an ardent defender of Zelaya, speaking on behalf of the deposed president at many of his recent international engagements.
Fernandez criticized the fact that despite all the condemnation from international organizations, Roberto Micheletti is still in power, adding "what is the point of international organizations, if their decisions don't have practical application."
Fernandez said that these organizations should be of a "compulsory nature" so that standards are followed.

Changes needed at DNCD
The cycle is simple. Buy and sell drugs. Get more money, buy more guns and get more power. Created in 1988, the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) did not fight back and its structure remained the same. The doors were left wide open to unprecedented infiltration from traffickers and dealers over the last two decades. In an interview with Hoy newspaper, Major General Rolando Mateo Rosado said that for the DNCD to compete with the drug cartels, it needs equipment and better quality workers.
He said that an average DNCD employee is paid RD$7,500 per month, plus any other remuneration they might receive as an army member. For example, spokesman Roberto Lebron is paid RD$41,000 per month. Other officers accompanying Major Rosado to the interview all earned less than Roberto Lebron.
Rosado said that the DNCD grew to replace the Anti- Narcotics Department at the Police that had been created in 1975 to monitor drugs that were headed towards the United States.
Drug trafficking stepped up, especially after 1992, when the US began deporting its first wave of Dominicans for drug-related crimes, he explained. The DNCD did not adapt to the new situation when drug dealers using the DR as a transshipment point began paying in drugs, and local drug consumption became an additional problem. Rosado estimated that the volume of drug micro-trafficking has risen to 60 to 80 kilos a month. He said that drug dealers who were deported from the US head these locally-based operations.
Rosado told Hoy that in his first two months on the job he has purged the agency. The DNCD has 2,200 active men. Rosado confirmed that since his arrival, 27 men have been removed from the institution.
He said the DNCD has stepped up efforts to fight drug exports, also focusing on micro and medium-sized local traffickers. He also reported that the DNCD would present a proposal for a new anti-drug law adapted to the present circumstances.

Bank customers protected
Dominican bank customers receive one of the highest levels of protection in Central America and Panama, according to Haivanjoe Ng Cortinas, the DR's Banking Superintendent. Ng quotes information from a report by the Ranking Latino Americano. Ng says that in the light of the recent financial crisis, this achievement can be appreciated even more. Ng said that out of 157,777 customer complaints, 74% were settled in the client's favor, with 16% in favor of the bank. He said that 10% of complaints were still pending.

Political parties enjoy their privacy
The DR's political parties have received RD$1.06 billion in taxpayer money to fund their activities, but they have yet to install the free information access offices as established in Law on Free Access to Public Information 200-04. Hoy reported that none of the three leading political parties have done so, keeping to themselves what they did with the funding.
The situation was exposed after the PRD was called to a hearing at the Disputes Court to respond to a request made on 10 September by citizen Allan de Jesus Tiburcio Andrikson, after the organization refused to provide a list of donors who had contributed to the party, the amount of money it receives and how it uses the money.
Hoy reports that in March 2008, 24 political parties received more than RD$1.06 billion of taxpayer money. According to Electoral Law, in electoral years the political parties will receive 0.5% of the budgeted funds. In 2008, 80% of those funds were allocated to the PLD, the PRD and the PRSC.

Haiti-style deforestation this side
A study by consultant Humberto Checo reports on the burgeoning illegal business of charcoal production and smuggling to Haiti, where it is estimated that 86% of charcoal used for cooking now comes in from the DR. Haiti has deserts where it once had forests, and now these deserts are moving eastwards, taking over the once lush virgin forests of Bahoruco, on the Dominican side of the border.
The study by the Independencia Province Department of the Ministry of Environment identified 23 communities in Bahoruco and Independencia provinces where 200 producers make 37,000 sacks of charcoal a month. Hoy newspaper reports that the business is displacing farming in the border provinces.
The report says that all the charcoal then is sent to Tierra Nueva, Boca de Cachon and Puerto Escondido from where it is sent to Haiti, mainly by crossing the Azuei Lake in Haiti. The report says that most of the producers are Haitian, assisted by 12 Dominican truckers. The report found that police and military officials are bribed for their cooperation and that five Haitian traders are known to purchase the charcoal for resale in Port-au-Prince.
The Ministry of Environment study says that production is equivalent to 445,78 sacks a year, sold at RD$200 a sack, generating the RD$89 million market. The RD$200 price for a sack of charcoal is much less than the RD$1,500 that the Listin Diario recently reported a sack of charcoal could fetch across the border.
A breakdown is provided of the revenue split. The producers receive RD$44.6 million (50%), the truckers and boat runners receive RD$22.3 million (25%), the local middlemen receive RD$11.6 million (13%) and the "tips and bribes" amount to RD$10.7 million (12%) of the sales.
The production covers 33,728 tareas (21,211,202 square meters) and some 83,431 farm workers are involved.
Checo warns that this profit center, with a strong demand for the product, has caused a serious deterioration of forestry resources in the border area, with large areas already suffering from desertification, severe biodiversity losses, poverty and blatant corruption.
It concludes with a grim picture. Given the growing demand and the lack of alternatives for cooking and economic opportunities in the region, he expects that charcoal production will continue despite control efforts that may be implemented.

Teachers flunk
The deficiencies in the country's educational standards are now becoming even more apparent. A recent recruitment drive for new public school staff held 19 to 21 October showed that of 2,534 teachers who applied for 2,584 academic posts, only 594 qualified, most with scores of 50 and 60%. Deputy Minister Nelsa Chavez said that of those tested only 23.4% scored the minimum 60 points on tests. The Ministry needed to find school principals, but of 319 who applied for the posts, only 35 were qualified. For assistant principal, only 19 of 219 passed the tests. Of 852 teachers who applied to teach in pre-school, only 187 passed the test, in elementary school of 169 who applied, only 57 passed. For physical education teachers, of 384 applicants, only 132 made the minimum scores. Of 514 applicants for school counselor posts, only 160 were accepted. Education Minister Melanio Paredes says the Ministry will be providing special training to the applicants who scored 50 or 60 points.

Enriquillo Matos campaigns for CMD
Campaigning for the presidency of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD) in 2010, Dr. Enriquillo Matos promised that public hospital doctors would receive wage increases in 2010. During a press conference, the candidate said that if elected, doctors would receive a wage increase. He said this was a promise he received from President Leonel Fernandez.
The elections are set for 11 November. The CMD under current leader Dr Waldo Ariel Suero has staged several strikes and other actions, but has so far failed to obtain the across-the-board wage increase it is campaigning for. Matos, a former president of the CMD, is known as a moderate negotiator. In contrast with Suero, he did not resort to strikes as his main tool for pressuring the government for wage increases.

Name and shame
Power distribution company EdeSur says that all electricity users found stealing power will have their names published in newspapers and online. The company says this will happen if these users do not pay up within the next few days. EdeSur said they would begin dismantling illegal connections beginning on 2 November. Public shaming is the latest ploy used by some companies to get customers to pay and reducing the burden placed on the customers who do pay. EdeSur has a hotline, 809 683-9292 where they can be contacted.

Crime down
Crimes went down by 8% during the first 9 months of the year, with residents reporting 29,604 crimes from January through September. This is 2,868 fewer than during the same period in 2008. Car theft is also down 17%. 4,505 units were reported stolen, down 931 cars from 2008. General theft is also down by 12%, with 20,612 thefts, 2,855 less than last year.
Reports of injuries are also down with 2,802 people hurt in violent crimes. This is a decrease of 1,091 or 28%. Homicides dropped 4.3%, with 1,680 during the first 9 months of the year.
Crime in the eastern part of the DR decreased 28%. A total of 2,244 crimes were reported, that is 885 reports less than last year. In the Central Cibao region, 3,527 crimes were reported, down by 18% or 823 cases. The southeast experienced 1,128 crimes, 183 less than last year, or 13%. The National District experienced a drop of 22% in crimes with 5,411 crimes reported.

Colombian organ transplants
One hundred and thirty Dominicans have received kidney, liver, lung and bone marrow transplants at Colombian hospitals. The patients underwent surgery at the San Vicente de Paul, Pablo Tobom Uribe and Somer Clinics in Medellin. Dominican Ambassador to Colombia Angel Lockward said that, "Colombia and its authorities have been very generous to Dominicans." He added that it was time an agreement was signed with Colombia so that Dominican patients have less trouble when they travel there for medical attention. Lockward highlighted the cost and quality of doing the operations in Colombia compared to the US, where a kidney transplant could cost as much as US$250,000, but costs US$35,000 in Colombia.

Ikea is hiring
Sarton Dominicana, which owns the DR Ikea franchise, was seeking to fill 72 jobs at a recent Ministry of Labor job fair. As reported in Diario Libre, 500 jobs will be available at the mega retailer. Ikea, located on Santo Domingo's Av. John F Kennedy, plans to open in February 2010.

New car sales slow
New vehicle sales have been the lowest in recent years and don't appear to be picking up, according to ACOFAVE president Enrique Fernandez. Fernandez says that car sales have dropped around 60% so far this year. He says September was the second worst month of the year, with only 948 units sold. In February only 895 vehicles were sold, 936 were sold in April.
It is projected that 13,069 cars will have been sold by the end of 2009. This compares to 30,636 new cars that were sold in 2007 and 21,894 in 2008.
A change of government usually brings a wave of new purchases as the government has very beneficial programs to help its employees to buy vehicles.

Horford off to great start
This is an important year for Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. The forward is going into his third year with the Hawks, and the once rebuilding franchise now has heavy expectations to make it to the next level. The season will be long for Horford, but if his first games are an indication of what's to come, then it should be a fun season. Horford scored a double double last night, with 24 points and 16 boards as the Hawks pounced on the Pacers. Horford's Dominican counterparts, Charlie Villanueva and Francisco Garcia also have much to prove this year. Villanueva signed with a new team, the Detroit Pistons, while Garcia signed a hefty contract extension. But Garcia will be out for a large part of the season after breaking his wrist in a freak gym accident.

It's Pedro's turn
There is an admitted air of excitement in baseball tonight as the improbable is now a reality. What was almost unthinkable less than six months ago is now the talk of the town, as Pedro Martinez is facing the Goliath of pro sports, the New York Yankees. Shakespeare couldn't write a better play.
The storyline behind Martinez's performance tonight has written itself and fans, both Yankee haters and lovers, will tune in to see, what could be the last chapter in Martinez's storied career. Martinez has been a Yankee nemesis since his days in Boston, having had highly publicized run-ins with the bombers. Martinez exercised all Yankee demons in 2004 when his Red Sox team pounced on the Yankees in the ALCS series and made it to the World Series.
Martinez left Boston and headed for greener pastures with the New York Mets. But it wasn't to be, as lingering injuries put Martinez's career in doubt. Would he ever pitch again? Martinez returned to the baseball as a project for the Philadelphia Phillies and won five of his last six appearances of the season.
With plenty of rest and the energy of Yankee Stadium, it will be must-see game for all fans. There is less pressure on Martinez tonight after the pounding the Yankees received at the hands of Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee struck out 2 of the first 3 batters he faced, and 7 of the first 14. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. Neither hit a ball out of the infield. Martinez kept the Yankees on their heels the entire night, and his command silenced the Yankee lineup and their 10th player, the fans. Two homeruns by Chase Utley and great defense were also Yankee killers on this night.
But Yankee fans should not worry. Game 2 is tonight, and fans are expecting the Bombers to bring their A-game tonight.

The Scores
Despite what Aguilas fans are saying and despite the glee with which Escogido fans are waking up to today, the world is not ending, the universe is not about to collapse. With a Yankee loss in the World Series and the Escogido taking first place in this year's winter league standings, some baseball fans are confused as to the alignment of the sun, moon and stars. Yes, Escogido is in first place in the standings, but with two and a half months still left in the season, a lot of changes could still take place. Regardless, the Escogido looked mighty strong last night, led by the bat of Alex Valdez. The Escogido pounced on the Aguilas 7-6, while the Tigres del Licey took advantage of the Toros with a 5-2 victory. The win pushed Licey into a two-way tie with Toros for second place in the standings. The Gigantes continued what has been an ultimately disappointing season, losing out to the Estrellas 9-3. Last year the Gigantes challenged for baseball supremacy, this year it looks like they won't be able to beat the Bad News Bears.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 7 - 3 .700 --
AZUCAREROS 6 - 4 .600 1.0
LICEY 6 - 4 .600 1.0
AGUILAS 4 - 6 .400 3.0
ESTRELLAS 4 - 6 .400 3.0
GIGANTES 3 - 7 .300 4.0

Halloween parties
Halloween parties are planned for this weekend in Santo Domingo and all over the country. The focus is primarily on parties in discotheques, but there are also other venues that will be hosting costume parties, with prizes for the best disguises.
Halloween parties are being posted at www.dr1.com/calendar that covers the nationwide agenda.
Also see http://www.dr1guide.com for a selection of activities in Santo Domingo.
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