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Daily News - Thursday, 12 November 2009

The President on Sobeida
President Leonel Fernandez has ordered the redoubling of efforts to locate fugitives from justice Jose Figueroa Agosto and Sobeida Feliz Morel, who are being sought on drug-trafficking charges. Fernandez says that their disappearance is "a mockery of Dominican society".
Yesterday President Fernandez discussed the issue with Armed Forces Minister Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio, General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez, District Prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, National Drug Control Department head General Rolando Rosado Mateo, National Investigations Department director Major General Ramon Aquino Garcia and Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin. Also present were presidential drug advisor Marino Vinicio Castillo and legal advisor Abel Rodriguez del Orbe.
Following the meeting, Secretary of the Presidency Cesar Pina Toribio said: "The President stresses that what has happened is a mockery of Dominican society and as a consequence demands attention". Likewise, he said the President strongly criticized "such blatant deficiencies in the handling of justice that have given way to this bitter experience."

Sobeida left by jet?
Senator Wilton Guerrero, who has become the de-facto voice of the anti-drug movement, is claiming that Sobeida Feliz, the alleged lover of drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto, left the DR on a private jet, accompanied by Dominican military personnel in the pay of Figueroa.
Guerrero also criticized judge Rosanna Vasquez, who granted Feliz's bail request. Guerrero says the judge has been left morally bankrupt because of her decision and that she no longer has any credibility.
Figueroa Agosto lived in the DR for over 7 years after escaping from jail in Puerto Rico, where he had been sentenced to 209 years in prison. Sobeida Feliz was arrested after a luxury SUV with US$4.6 million in cash was found in her possession. Senator Wilton Guerrero said that complicity with drug trafficking takes place at the highest levels of the Judicial Branch, the Armed Forces and the state's intelligence bodies, as reported in Hoy.

City council promises action
Mayor Roberto Salcedo and secretary general of the Santo Domingo City Council told Hoy newspaper that in two weeks a tender would be held for the implementation of the Malecon renovation project, a RD$300 million investment, as reported in Hoy. They were responding to a call by Hotels and Restaurants Association (Asonahores) president Haydee Kuret de Rainieri for progress in the recovery of the Malecon, regarded as a leading attraction, but now in state of neglect and disrepair. The Santo Domingo Tourism Cluster also has plans for contributing to the city's once magnificent seafront boulevard.

More commercial loans
The Chamber of Deputies has approved six commercial loans totaling US$339.4 million for the construction of public works projects. Of the funds, US$111.2 million and US$14.5 million will be allocated for the constructing, equipping and operating the eastern Santo Domingo Ciudad de la Salud pediatric, maternity and general specialties hospital center in eastern Santo Domingo, a non-tendered contract. A further US$79.6 million and US$10.4 million were allocated for constructing and equipping hospitals in Higuey, Monte Cristi and 18 primary health care centers across the country.
The deputies voted in favor of the government taking on an additional US$45 million for the MercaSanto Domingo wholesalers market. Another US$78.7 million is allocated to finance the Las Placetas hydroelectric project. This project has the backing of Norwegian export financing agency Eksportfinans.
The Senate also approved US$70 million loan to be used for Solidarity welfare programs run by the Vice Presidency. This will be disbursed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Borrowing for the baseball complex
If all the T's are crossed and the I's dotted, the DR may see the proposed yet controversial mega baseball complex become a reality before 2013. Its promoters say this would ensure that the 2013 World Baseball Classic could be played in the DR.
Architect Joaquin Geronimo, general manager of the National Housing Bank (BNV) that is in charge of the property where the entertainment and residential complex would be built, said the Dominican government is fully supporting the project. He said that President Leonel Fernandez would take advantage of his visit to Portugal to attend a heads of state meeting to sign commercial bank loans with Portuguese bank Caiza Geral de Deposito. These would include US$75 million that would be used to build the Juan Marichal Sports Complex, estimated to cost US$150 million. The groundbreaking ceremony would then take place in the first week of December.
Listin Diario reports that Ingenieros y Arquitectos Rodriguez, Sandoval & Asociados would be responsible for the construction, working with a Portuguese partner, Visabeira. The Quisqueya Ball Park remodeling alone would cost US$20 million. Stadium works would be completed by 2012, deadline for being considered for the WBC program.
The complex calls for major renovations to the Quisqueya Ball Park, the construction of a 175-room four-star hotel and a Dominican baseball museum. Six high rises (14 to 19 floors each) with 288 apartments would also be built, in addition to a shopping center, office buildings, and two buildings for parking. The project has been criticized for lack of transparency and furthermore on the grounds that the government's real estate contribution is being undervalued, tenders have not been held, and there are doubts about the viability of a hotel in the area. The priority of government investment in this primarily a real estate project is also questioned. This is the first announcement suggesting the government will take on responsibility for funding the complex.
Geronimo said the government would take on US$224 million in loans with the Portuguese commercial bank.

IDB disaster contingency loan
The Inter-American Development Bank has announced the approval of a US$100 million credit for the DR to meet extraordinary expenditures that arise during emergencies caused by hurricanes and earthquakes.
Funds will be managed under the IDB's Contingent Credit Facility for Natural Disaster Emergencies. Resources from the contingency loan will be rapidly disbursed in the event of the occurrence of a hurricane or earthquake of severe or catastrophic intensity.
Such expenditures may include emergency medical equipment, vaccines and medication, facilities and equipment for temporary shelters, food for displaced people and feed for livestock, emergency workers to assist victims or short-term leasing of energy, transportation and communications equipment and facilities.
In parallel to this contingent loan, the IDB has worked with the Dominican government to help it establish a national reserve fund for emergencies and to develop a catastrophic insurance facility.
The loan is for a 20-year term, including a 5-year grace period and a LIBOR-based interest rate.

Sectors demand $ for education
18 institutions that promote quality education for all have petitioned the Presidency, Congress and political parties to support increasing budgeted allotments for education. They request an increase in the allotment for education to RD$44.8 billion, up from RD$31.3 billion for 2009. They press the point government investment in education is at present one of the lowest in Latin America. "Investing in education is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty, social exclusion and contribute to the sustainable economic growth of the country," they state.
Institutions making the petition include: Educa, Asociacion Doinicana de Profesores (ADP), Intec, Fe y Alegria, Foro Socioeducativo, Flacso, Centro Cultural Poveda, Plan Internacional, Foro Ciudadano, Participacion Ciudadana, Mision Educativa Lasallista, among others.

Power outages
Businesses belonging to the Retailers Federation (Fenacodep) are warning that they are on the verge of bankruptcy because they cannot bear the burden of the additional cost of running alternative power sources. Rene Japa, president of the retailers for the National District complained bitterly about their exorbitant energy costs. He complained that as well as the already very high cost of electricity they have to operate very costly back-up power sources as a result of the prolonged blackouts. The blackouts are caused by the government's debt with the power generators. Fenacodep say that their members' sales are down an estimated 25%.

Power generation improves
Power generation reportedly improved yesterday with the entry of AES Andres and Los Mina 5. The Superintendence of Electricity said that the deficit in generation has declined, after having been at 34% of demand. As of yesterday at peak time 8pm, demand was estimated at 2,070 MW, with a supply of 1,617MW, according to a Superintendence spokesperson, as reported in Hoy.

Government official credit cards
A new bill in Congress exposes a little-known fact. Government officials enjoy credit cards paid by taxpayer money. A new bill drafted by the new Ministry of Public Administration (SEAP) has been sent to Congress by the Executive Branch. It seeks to ban the issue of credit cards to government officials.
The bill establishes that with the approval of the bill, all credit cards would be cancelled. It also establishes that no government official can have an expense account of more than 10% of their salary, with the exception of the President and Vice President. Furthermore, it establishes that expense accounts cannot be treated as wages. While it establishes that no official can be paid a higher salary than the President, it does leave the loophole open for the President to authorize these higher wages.
The bill requires government officials to submit their personal asset statements within 30 days of taking office.
And it establishes an allocation of 5% of salary for gasoline or diesel expenses.
The President and Vice President are exempt from most of the provisions that apply to other government officers.
The bill also prohibits government officials from receiving additional wages, incentives, or expense accounts and bans them from holding other jobs outside of teaching, sports, cultural or research activities. It also bans them from involvement in companies that have agreements or contracts with the government.
It is a common practice in the Fernandez administration for leading government officials to have stake in companies closely related to their field. Notable cases of former officials are that of chief executive at the State-owned Electricity Companies CDEEE, Radhames Segura and former Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez.

New RD$700,000 jobs
Clave newspaper reports that the yet-to-be-hired judges for the Constitutional Court, authorized in the new Constitution would be paid RD$700,000 a month in salary. Thirteen jurists will be chosen. The court would be in charge of reviewing cases of violation to the new Constitution. Clave reports there is a line up for the positions.

Los Haitises opinion soon?
The United Nations team of experts is promising to deliver their conclusion on the viability of installing a cement plant in the buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park by "late November". The publication of the UN report had originally been promised for late September, but the team says that the wealth of information and the work with multiple UN agency teams increased the complexity, causing the delay.
The good news is that the UN teams say that all the documentation that has been studied and the documents they produce will be available to the general public once the evaluation is concluded.
The multi-sectorial UN teams were called in after local environmental campaigners and representatives from other national sectors rejected the installation of the cement plant on the site. The proposed site had the personal support of President Leonel Fernandez, despite initial rejection by Ministry of Environment officials.

Beggars and child abuse
Ayacx Mercedes, a social policy specialist for Unicef, has called on local authorities to increase their efforts to combat the trafficking of Haitian children. He said that people smugglers recruit children aged 4 to 12 years in Dajabon and bring them to the DR to be used in domestic service, child prostitution and begging. Mercedes said the abuse needed to be tackled by the authorities because it is a crime of lesa humanity, or a crime against humanity. "The authorities should arrest the people who are profiting from child abuse," he said. He said that the child beggars on Dominican streets are accompanied by adults, who in most of the cases are not their parents, but are also being exploited by the people smugglers.
In an interview with Hoy, Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, Unicef representative in the country, said that the Dominican and Haitian authorities are aware of the situation. She offered Unicef's support to the Police, the Migration Department, Ministry of Foreign Relations and the National Children's Council (Conani) and similar entities in Haiti to combat the situation. "We are currently trying to get all the parties together to study the problem and see how it can be resolved". She said a bi-national meeting would shortly be held to discuss the matter.

Caba wins CMD presidency
It is now up to Dr. Senen Caba to continue the fight for better working conditions for public hospital doctors. According to the preliminary count, Caba, a cardiologist, beat Dr. Enriquillo Matos for the post of Dominican Medical Association (CMD) president. A moderate, Matos has already served as CMD present president once. Of 12,000 registered physicians, less than half (4,689) turned out to vote. As of last night when the count was suspended, and with votes from 66 of the 90 ballot boxes counted, Caba had received 54% of the vote. Matos has claimed voter fraud and is asking for measures to be taken. He said that army doctors and medical residents were not allowed to vote, and that he would challenge the results. "The division of the Dominican Medical College has been decreed. A disservice has been done to democracy," said Matos before the first bulletin was issued.
Meanwhile, Caba called for unity among doctors. The next CMD presidential term is due to start on 13 December. Caba had the support of his predecessor, Waldo Ariel Suero, who during his two-year term achieved very few of his objectives while subjecting the country to dozens of strikes.

Pediatrician Hugo Mendoza dies
Eminent pediatrician 79-year old Hugo Mendoza has passed away. He was best known for his dedication, high medical standards and commitment to research. He was professor of several generations of Dominican pediatricians while serving as the director of the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital.

Horford & Villanueva score big
Dominican basketball players Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva are playing up to the potential they've always had. It's still early in the NBA season, but Villanueva is fitting in nicely with his new team, the Detroit Pistons. Last night, Villanueva dropped 30 points on the Charlotte Bobcats and outscored the Bobcats by himself in the third quarter scoring 18 while the Bobcats only scored 12 points. Villanueva helped give the Pistons a 98-75 victory. This season Villanueva is averaging 16PPG, with 5 boards per game. His Dominican counterpart Al Horford also had an explosive night, dropping 25 points on the lowly New York Knicks. Horford's play has been a reason why the Hawks have a winning record and are among the strongest in the Atlantic Conference. Horford's 25 helped the Hawks to a 114 - 101 victory. On the season Horford is averaging 13 points with 10 boards and 2 assists per game.

The baseball scores
There were no changes in the standings yesterday but the Azucareros have seemed to hit a bit of a wall. They had many chances to win, but shoddy play led to their 2-1 loss against the Tigres. The Escogido easily took care of the Aguilas by a score of 7-2, while the Estrellas game against the Gigantes was postponed till Monday 16 November due to rain.
Standings:
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
AZUCAREROS 13 - 8 .619 --
LICEY 12 - 9 .571 1.0
ESCOGIDO 12 - 9 .571 1.0
GIGANTES 9 - 11 .450 4.5
AGUILAS 9 - 12 .429 4.0
ESTRELLAS 7 - 13 .350 5.5
 
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