Martha's victory brings joy to all|
Euphoria engulfed the country last night as Dominicans of all ages celebrated 18-year old Martha Heredia's victory as the new Latin American Idol. Hand-made signs, whistles, and trumpets accompanied the massive show of spontaneous celebration that spilled out on to the main avenues of the capital, filling up with thousands of people celebrating the "Baby's" triumph. Similar scenes took place across the whole country.
"Thanks", was the first word that came out of the mouth of the happy winner, who was supported by millions of text messages sent from the Dominican Republic and from all over Latin America.
The winner will record her first album with Sony International. The young Dominican songstress was competing against Costa Rican Eduardo Aguirre who repeated last year's performance when the Costa Rican representative, Maria Jose Castillo, finished in second place to Panamanian Margarita Henriquez.
The last night of the reality show, which was transmitted live from Argentina by Telesistema, Channel 11, was followed closely by the entire population, pushing the normal attention-getter for this time of the year, the Winter League Baseball Tournament, to a distant second place.
Martha Heredia's hometown Santiago celebrated her victory with exuberance. The area around the Monument was packed with a huge convoy of cars and trucks carrying people celebrating the victory with trumpets, fireworks, and other noisemakers. Over in Ensanche Ramos, where Martha's family lives, most streets were closed for the celebrations.
A billion in baskets|
The government says that it will spend a billion pesos on Christmas baskets this year, or more precisely, on the Christmas gifts that it distributes primarily to the poor. They said that nearly 5 million boxes would be prepared and distributed through the Presidential Social Plan. Hoy newspaper says that this has been an ongoing tradition, but never on this scale. All 1,400 Plan offices will take part in the distribution of the boxes. In keeping with tradition, President Fernandez will travel around the country to take part in public distributions.
Shopping and crime prevention|
Employees of the larger government ministries and other institutions such as the Ministry of Education, Public Health and the Pensioners began receiving their Christmas checks today and on the 20th, 21st, and 23rd they will receive the normal salary for December, totaling approximately RD$5.5 billion.
Speaking yesterday, National Treasurer Guaroa Guzman reported that the government has been paying wages and salaries to government employees by electronic means in 99.5% of cases and only pensioners receive paper checks.
Meanwhile in Santiago, the country's second largest city, sales began to pick up and many businesses were crowded with customers, after the government and many private companies started paying out the Christmas salary.
The National Treasurer told reporters that most electronic transfers to government employees go through the Banco de Reservas (Banreservas).
Since yesterday, the government has put around RD$6.0 billion into circulation for the Christmas bonus (also called the 13th salary) for all state institutions that have made their payment instructions.
In Santiago, the main commercial arteries in the historic town center were filled with people shopping for all the usual items that are in demand during the Christmas season, including shoes, handbags and other personal items, many of which were purchased in department stores and other commercial outlets.
National Police chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin has ordered his officers to be especially alert in commercial centers and banks in order to protect these places and the people who are beginning to collect their Christmas money. Guzman Fermin said that he had ordered an increase in patrols and direct supervision by high-ranking officers, including generals, for the surveillance of key areas.
President receives Super Tucanos|
Hailed by the government as a great historical event, after a 17-hour flight with several stops, the first two Super Tucano aircraft arrived in the DR yesterday. The government has purchased 8 Super Tucanos at a cost of more than US$75 million to reinforce surveillance and prevent penetration of Dominican airspace by planes flying drug trafficking missions. The Super Tucanos landed at the San Isidro airbase late yesterday afternoon, after President Fernandez received the military presentation of the national colors. As the planes landed, there was applause from the crowd, made up of personnel from all the branches of the armed forces, government officials, diplomats and guests.
On the occasion, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Pedro Rafael Pena Antonio, said that the acquisition of the Super Tucanos showed countries that classify the Dominican Republic as a transfer point for drug trafficking "that the Dominican Republic has a genuine will to fight the drug trade." The head of the Air Force, Carlos Rafael Altuna Tezanos, said that the purchase of the Super Tucanos is a frontal attack on the new threats that act against the best interests of the nation, with drug trafficking being the biggest.
ECLAC forecasts 3.5% growth for DR|
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) forecasts that the Dominican Republic's economy will grow by 3.5% in 2010. This compares to the 3% the Central Bank has forecast for the year's end. The 3.5% is higher than the average 1.8% economic growth projected for the Caribbean.
ECLAC says that economic recovery from the international crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean will be quicker than was expected a few months ago, with growth in the region projected at 4.1% next year, according to the latest ECLAC estimates released on 10 December. The most notable recovery will take place in South and Central America (with the exception of Mexico), which next year will have growth rates of 4.7% and 3.0% respectively.
According to ECLAC, Brazil will top the list of countries with higher growth in 2010, with expansion estimated at 5.5%, followed by Peru and Uruguay (5%), Bolivia, Chile and Panama (4.5%) and Argentina and Suriname (4%). Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic will grow 3.5%.
In its annual report Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean 2009, the United Nations regional commission projects positive growth rates for most countries, while pointing out that there are still doubts about whether this recovery will be sustainable over time, given that the external scenario remains uncertain, which may affect growth expectations in the region.
ECLAC says that overcoming the external turbulence has been swifter in the region thanks to a set of counter-cyclical policies that were implemented. These policies included reducing interest rates, increasing State-owned bank loans, expanding public expenditure and implementing a broad array of social programs, such as consumer subsidies and support for low-income households.
For the full report, see: www.eclac.org/cgi-bin/getProd.asp?...
Nothing will stop the Metro 2|
Preliminary works on the second 21 km Metro line are going ahead at full speed. Yesterday, machinery from the Malespin Construction Co. was excavating in the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center on John F. Kennedy Avenue as Transport Reorganization Office (Opret) director Diandino Pena toured the area.
"The Metro is going ahead. Nobody will stop this," Pena said yesterday, stressing that the project is not a secret and that President Fernandez has already told the country. "We have to be coherent with the President," he said. "What we are doing is the preliminary work. The real work gets under way in January," he stated, while directing the engineer who accompanied him in his tour around the Olympic Center where topographical studies are being conducted.
Yesterday, employees from Opret and the private construction company prepared the ground for the building of a parking area for the equipment to be used in the multi-billion peso project. The ETS Company has already parked their office trailer, and the groundwork is being made ready for January.
So far, two places have been identified as locations where digging will start: The Olympic Center and Luperon Avenue, underneath John F. Kennedy Ave. where it becomes the Duarte Highway, where work began in September.
The Opret director said that in other places along John F. Kennedy Ave. and the Duarte Highway, parking areas for heavy equipment need to be established.
Along Luperon Avenue, several mounds have to be leveled off in order to uncover water pipes and telephone cables, as well as to clear a space for the new train station.
Celso wants to privatize the EDEs|
Celso Marranzini, the executive vice-president of the State-owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE), is adamant that the electricity distributors should be returned to private ownership as the way for the electricity service to recover.
Marranzini, in a speech to the Herrera Industrial Association (AEIH) that is certain to make waves, said that he would also like to see more private investment in generation facilities because this would help eliminate the perception that investment in the electric sector is risky. The CDEEE has paid the generators US$488 million since August. Marranzini, a former business sector leader, spoke openly about the government policy of subsidizing electricity to the tune of US$1 billion each year, which he described as "a large sum".
He also said that the system's inefficiency was equivalent to the amount of money that comes into the country as remittances. He added that the state paid US$1.2 billion to subsidize electricity for some 200,000 poor families, equal to US$130 dollars per family per month.
The CDEEE head said that his aims included taking stricter measures against electricity theft and reducing the bureaucracy in the process of fraud detection and certification.
He pointed out that ironically the telephone companies collect US$164 million a month and the energy sector, the largest entity in the country, collects just US$118 a month when it should be collecting US$160 or US$170 million a month.
US wants Fernandez to mediate|
President Leonel Fernandez has met with the US Deputy Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs, Craig A. Kelly, in order to discuss the need for a regional initiative aimed at tackling the political situation in Honduras that resulted from the coup d'etat that removed Manuel Zelaya from power.
After yesterday's meeting, the diplomat told reporters how much the US appreciated President Fernandez's efforts and the need for a regional initiative on the issue. Despite the fact that the visit from the high-ranking State Department official coincided with the planned visit by Honduran President-elect Porfirio Lobo (Pepe), the US official said that they did not discuss the suspension of Lobo's visit.
2,500 tons of sugar for Chavez|
As part of the Dominican payment for Venezuelan oil, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa has signed a deal whereby the Dominican Republic would sent 2,500 tons of liquid sugar to Venezuela in payment for oil and oil products received under the PetroCaribe Agreement. Bengoa signed with Bariven, a branch of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). El Nuevo Diario also reported that Bengoa would be signing a similar agreement to ship 10,000 metric tons of black beans, called 'caraotas' in Venezuela, as part of the same payment package.
The liquid sugar is worth US$2,921,820, and the beans are worth US$12.5 million. During the signing, Bengoa thanked Venezuela for its PetroCaribe Plan that he said benefited the Dominican Republic's productive sectors, since the fuel bills were being paid for with goods and services.
FINJUS worried about low budget|
The Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) has criticized the size of the budget assigned to the Judicial Branch in the 2010 National Budget proposal. The Foundation points out that such cuts violate the law.
Finjus president Servio Tulio Castanos Guzman asks why the budget is being cut when the Judicial Branch has been given more responsibilities. He pointed to the new Judicial Power Council, which will take on the administrative and disciplinary responsibilities formerly held by the Supreme Court as just one example. Finjus also stated that the new Constitution assigns even more work for the Justice Department, making budget cuts "unthinkable".
1,276 Haitian babies in northwest|
So far this year 1,276 babies have been born to Haitian parents in public hospitals in the four northwest provinces, a total of 31% of all births in these facilities. The information was published in a report by the Public Health Ministry's regional office.
The report also says that between January and November 371 operations were performed on Haitians and 13,191 laboratory tests. The regional office goes on to say that 64,127 outpatient consultations were provided to Haitian citizens, mostly undocumented immigrants who come specifically for treatment or consultation. The report listed clinical analysis, hospitalization, emergency treatments, births, surgeries, blood transfusions, C-sections, vaccinations, and birth control as the services most commonly received by Haitians. Finally, the report says that 9% of consultations, 21% of hospitalizations and 11,667 emergencies were provided to citizens of Haiti.
Police convicted in five deaths|
Several police agents have been convicted of the murders of five people in the Mirador Sur Park in the capital. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to the District Attorney for the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra. The crime was committed on 30 December 2008, and patrolmen Genaro Ventura Vinicio and Ricardo Cuevas Aquino were convicted because the bullets that killed the five matched the weapons assigned to the policemen. The five victims allegedly had long rap sheets.
Another body is found|
Police have found yet another body that is being linked to the execution of 4 men late Wednesday night. They also recovered 2 vehicles that were allegedly used in the slaying. The police said that the circumstances surrounding the killings were "rare", not a term often heard in police circles. The latest discovery was found in Pedro Brand, near km29 of the Duarte Highway, where the killing allegedly took place.
The Police also recovered a 2005 Toyota 4-Runner and a Mitsubishi SUV that were presumed to belong to 2 of the 4 victims. According to the Diario Libre, one of the vehicles was found in Villa Duarte and the other in Los Mameyes. The National Police have reported that 28 people are in detention and under investigation in connection with this case. The newspaper also identified the fourth victim as Franoly Valdez.
Welcome in the Christmas spirit|
Check dr1.com/calendar for Christmas holiday activities nationwide. For instance, there is a concert of Christmas Carols at the Basilica Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia in Higuey on Friday, 11 December. Then also a series of performances of the ballet The Nutcracker at the National Theater in Santo Domingo on 11-13 December. The annual Arts & Crafts Fair is being held in Parque Colon in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone from 9-13 December. On Sunday, the Christmas story staged at the parking lot of the Banco Popular headquarters, also in the capital. And on Monday, 14 December, there is a Christmas music concert with baritone Fausto Cepeda at the Palace of Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) in Santo Domingo.
For more details and other upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
Baseball? Oh yes, there was|
While nearly 100% of the nation was watching Martha Heredia win the Latin American Idol competition, the Gigantes del Cibao were dealing yet another blow to the Aguilas' hopes of making the final 4 teams for the round-robin portion of the Winter League Tournament dedicated to the 3 Alou brothers. The Aguilas ventured into the new "Death Valley" and lost by a 5-0 score. Juan Francisco hit his 10 homer of the season. All the four-baggers have come in the Julian Javier Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Toros del Este eliminated the Estrellas Orientales from the final round of playoffs by a score of 10-4 in La Romana. Although the Estrellas scored first, the Toros came back with 2 runs to take the lead. Then the Estrellas took the lead 3-2, and once again the Toros came back to lead 5-3, and that was pretty much the ballgame.
After 10 innings the Tigres del Licey and the Leones del Escogido were tied 1-1, but in the twelfth inning Willy Mo Pena and Timonel Perez got key hits and led the Tigres to a 4-1 victory.
* Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya, 7:30pm.
Aguilas (f. Carmona) vs Licey (J. McDonald)
* San Francisco de Macoris, Estadio Julian Javier (Death Valley) at 7:30pm.
Toros (F. Abad) vs Gigantes (J. Capellan)
* San Pedro de Macoris, Estadio Tetelo Vargas, 8pm.
Escogido (E Ramirez) vs Estrellas (W. Obispo)
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