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Daily News - Wednesday, 09 December 2009

US Southern Command visits
President Leonel Fernandez has held a meeting at the Presidential Palace with US Air Force General Douglas M. Fraser, commander of the US Southern Command (SC). Fraser was in the Dominican Republic for an official visit that included attending the annual Caribbean Nations Security Conference.
Fraser assured Fernandez that the Southern Command and the US would continue to support the DR's fight against drug trafficking and efforts aimed at strengthening security. The US Southern Command will also make contributions towards health and infrastructure.
Fraser mentioned that some 70,000 Dominicans have benefited from the New Horizons program, a US Southern Command-sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance exercise that began in the Central and South American region this summer. The exercise is designed to strengthen ties with partner nations in the region through combined quality-of-life improvement projects.

Is Lobo coming?
After initial reports that newly elected President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras would be visiting the DR tomorrow, it now transpires that his visit, which included a meeting with President Leonel Fernandez, has been called off, as reported in the Listin Diario. Lobo is on a regional tour seeking support from Latin American leaders following his 29 November election.
In his first visit of the tour on Tuesday to Costa Rica, he received the support of President Oscar Arias. After the visit, Arias said he was proud to be the first head of state to officially accept Lobo as president-elect, as reported in the Tico Times. "The Honduran people have been punished enough. They have suffered much," said Arias, who acted as mediator during the initial months of the Honduran crisis. "They can't be punished more." Arias said he hoped other heads of states would follow their lead: "It's still early for them to change their opinion," he said. "But I think their position will change (in time)."
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was also present to offer Lobo his support on Tuesday.
But in the DR, Julio Cesar Valentin said that given the choice, he would not meet with recently elected Honduran president Porfirio Lobo. Valentin, president of the Chamber of Deputies, made his comments in advance of Lobo's announced visit to the DR, which had been scheduled for tomorrow. Valentin's stance is that by receiving Lobo, the country would be turning its back on deposed president Manuel Zelaya. Fellow legislator, APD party member Carlos Sanchez said that by receiving Lobo the DR would be "legitimizing" the 1963 coup that ousted then President Juan Bosch from office.
Hoy quotes an unnamed source as saying that Lobo was scheduled to meet with President Leonel Fernandez at the Presidential Palace on Thursday. Yesterday Lobo was given the cold shoulder by the heads of state of Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. The leaders of these neighboring South American nations are calling for Zelaya to be reinstated.

Port charges debate gets critical
The director of the Dominican Port Authority, politician Jose Francisco Pena Guaba is demanding payment of port charges that power generation companies and shippers are rejecting. This is affecting operations at Caucedo and Haina Oriental ports, which handle the largest cargo volumes in the country. Listin Diario, quoting Customs Director Rafael Camilo, says that the ports collect US$220 million on average daily. Due to the shutdown, collections were less than US$200 million. Pena Guaba ordered the closing of the ports to pressure for debts for upwards of US$991 million he says energy generators and shippers owe the ports department.
Camilo called for both sides to come to the negotiation table, considering that international trade can't be stopped, and the government needs the revenue from this in order to fulfill its holiday season responsibilities.
Manuel Diez Cabral, president of the Dominican Association of Industries, rejects the Port Authority's new charges. He said that only the Executive Branch could approve changes in port rates.

Taiwan will help with census
Taiwan will help the DR to conduct its national census in 2010. As part of the aid Taiwan is providing, the country's ambassador Isaac Tsai gave Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas the first installment of the funds, which totaled US$1,750,000. The next disbursement of funds will take place in March 2010. As part of the ongoing financial support from Taiwan to the DR, structured under the Distribution of Assistance to the Dominican Republic (2009-2012) once the series of development projects funded by Taiwan is completed, full reports will be released.

Andeans lend money
The Andean Development Corporation (CAF) has approved a US$80 million loan for the DR. The funds are assigned to the Urban Development and Habitat Program. Hoy reports that the CAF's funds represent 64% of the total program funding, which is US$124.2 million. The National Housing Institute (INVI) program is building homes and social infrastructure in 61 communities, benefiting more than 18,500 people, according to CAF. The funds are earmarked to aid low-income families and communities that have been or are vulnerable to tropical storms.
CAF members comprise 18 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. Its shareholders include 14 private banks in the Andean region.

Loans and donations for schools
The Fernandez administration is saying that the construction and remodeling of public schools depends on whether the government manages to secure international loans and donations, according to the 2010 National Budget bill sent by President Leonel Fernandez to be approved by Congress. The budget includes a chapter of RD$4.64 billion, of which the government revenues allocated RD$334 million. The Ministry of Education plans to build 2,377 classrooms in 34 new schools. The president of the Dominican Teachers Association, Radhames Camacho told Hoy that it is shameful that the government needs to depend on foreign donations and loans when it comes to education. "The ideal scenario would be not to borrow a penny for education," said Camacho. He said that the 2010 budget should be changed so that the education sector is guaranteed its budget.
The 2010 budget bill allocates RD$37.43 billion to Education. This year the Ministry of Education has spent RD$33.36 billion.

Tucanos to police DR airspace
Armed Forces Minister Lieutenant General Rafael Pena Antonio predicts that the Brazilian Super Tucano jets purchased by the Dominican government will reduce drug drops by 75%. The first two planes of the US$75 million purchase are scheduled to arrive today. "With these we are going to reduce, by at least 75% the entry of illegal airplanes into Dominican airspace," he said, as reported in Hoy.

Police executions?
More cases of suspected police executions are coming to light. The latest example of fatal police brutality comes from the El Valiente sector of Santo Domingo where police reportedly killed a man while he was sleeping. Details are still being collected, but Listin Diario reports that two officers arrived on a motorcycle and walked into Wilton Alvarez Delgadillo's house at 7am. Without a warrant and for no apparent reason, they shot the man seven times as he slept. Diario Libre reports that the Police had injured him in the leg a month earlier.
Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said an investigation was under way and the officers would be put on trial should it be established that the killing was unlawful.

DR among most affected by storms
The DR is among the top ten nations in the world to be affected by tropical storms and natural disasters in the last 18 years. This information is included in Germanwatch's Global Climate Risk Index 2010, which lists the most severely affected countries.
Saleemul Huq, adaptation expert from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) who is originally from Bangladesh, says: "The Germanwatch Climate Risk Index clearly shows the devastating impacts of extreme weather events on many poor countries, including my own".
Other countries from the region on the list are Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti.

A dangerous highway
Panoramic, fun to drive, but the Santo Domingo to Samana toll road is very dangerous. The toll is RD$694 for a round-trip that cuts driving time to around half. As reported in Hoy, more than 20 people have been killed in tragic accidents since it opened in June 2008.
The highway, which was named in memory of Pope John Paul II, officially opened on 15 December 2008. The 120-km highway takes drivers through the Los Haitises National Park. The report attributes the accidents to speeding by drivers, animals crossing and construction failures, especially curves without slopes. For safe driving, prudence and special care to avoid distractions is advised.

Martha's night
Tonight will be the most exciting night for Martha Heredia and her millions of fans in the DR. This night could change her life forever. On tonight's show, airing at 10pm on Telesistema 11 and on Sony TV Entertainment cable channel, Heredia goes up against rival finalist Costa Rican singer Eduardo Aguirre.
Diario Libre reports that each contestant selected a song from the repertoire that they used during the show and the production company selected the other two.
For the final concert, set for Thursday, Heredia and Aguirre will perform two songs, and it is expected that they will sing a duo with a special invited international star.
On Thursday a recap of the entire season will be presented to viewers.
On the strength of her talent and strong following in the DR, Martha Heredia is the favorite to win. Votes can be cast using a cell phone, by texting "Martha" to 43675.
The fourth season of Latin American Idol has kept the country on edge after Martha Heredia, an 18-year old from Santiago, won the highest praise from jury members Mimi, Jon Secada and Oscar Mediavilla, galvanizing her young Dominican following, which used its virtual and well-connected skills to push her through to the finals.

The baseball scores
The heat is rising as the Dominican baseball season enters its final stretch. During last night's match-up the Toros beat the league-leading Escogido, 3-2, and the Aguilas took care of the Estrellas 2-0. What a change to the Aguilas since Tony Pena took over the reins of the team, but the hole might be too deep for them. In the night's final game the Tigres beat the Gigantes 5-4. Escogido has continued to be the surprise of the baseball season and we could have a second surprise team in the finals with the Toros. There are still plenty of games left, but if the Aguilas want a spot in the round robin, they need to start playing quality ball, ASAP.
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 25 - 16 .610 --
LICEY 24 - 17 .585 1.0
AZUCAREROS 24 - 17 .585 1.0
GIGANTES 20 - 21 .488 5.0
AGUILAS 19 - 22 .463 6.0
ESTRELLAS 14 - 27 .341 11.0
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