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Daily News - Thursday, 12 January 2012

Crusade against cholera is launched
In a ceremony at the Presidential Palace yesterday, officials of the Ministry of Public Health and foreign health organizations launched a crusade against cholera in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The announcement of the event coincided with the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. It killed around 300,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.

The plan is coordinated by the Ministry with the support of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and UNICEF. It is to be known as "A Call to Action: Hispaniola Without Cholera."

Since the beginning of this outbreak in 2010, according to the WHO, Haiti has registered more than half a million cases, with 7,000 deaths and in the Dominican Republic 21,432 cases have been registered and 363 deaths, 149 in 2011. Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said that the disease was the worst threat in the last few years. He said that essential investments in the infrastructure for the provision of potable water, sanitation and hygiene were needed to eliminate cholera. US$500 million will be invested to make the improvements needed over the long term. Bautista was speaking during an event held at the Presidential Palace and said the plan is to request these funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank.

Bautista says this is a long-term, 5-year investment, but work would begin immediately on water and sanitation at 342 rural aqueducts that require the installation of automatic chlorine feeders. He said feeders have already been installed in 188 aqueducts in six provinces.

PAHO representative Lilian Reneau-Vernon said during the meeting that the Ministry of Health had made great strides, but that the eradication of cholera was complex. "Only by improving public access to safe water will there be an impact on reducing diarrhea in general and mortality," she stressed, as reported in El Dia. She estimated Haiti needs around US$1 billion to eradicate cholera.

During the ceremony, Leonel Fernandez spoke by videoconference, stating that he was confident that both the Dominican Republic and Haiti would continue the fight against cholera during 2012. Fernandez hailed the plan and confirmed that Latin America and the Caribbean saw the campaign as praiseworthy, and that in his judgment it should receive the backing of the Dominican and Haitian governments. He committed to continue working to help Haiti deal with cholera and other adversities. "We believe that we can join greater efforts in 2012 with the objective of combating cholera, and in this way help relieve the suffering of our peoples," Fernandez said.

Marcus Espinal, representing both the WHO and the PAHO in Washington, congratulated the Dominican Republic for both the effort and efficiency with which they had combated the disease, and in addition for the support which they had shown to Haiti in the fight against cholera.

Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas, National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo, Corporation for Aqueducts and Water Supply (CAASD) director Freddy Perez, National Institute for Potable Water and Water Supply (INAPA) director Mariano German and Armed Forces Minister Lieutenant General Joaquin Virgilio Perez Feliz, attended the ceremony, as well as members of the diplomatic corps and Haitian Ambassador Fritz Cineas, among others.

Inflation was 7.76% in 2011
The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic reported yesterday that the annual rate of inflation from December 2010-December 2011, measured by the change in the Consumer Price Index (IPC), was 7.76 percent, with the underlying rate for the same period at 5.19%. The report states that annualized inflation of 7.76% was due basically to the international rise in oil prices together with price increases for major agricultural commodities, which affected increases in the prices of transport, fuel, electricity and food and beverages, which together contributed 5.55 percentage points to the level of inflation, accounting for 71.52% of the total.

In its report, the Central Bank specifies that inflation in December alone was 0.11% compared to November 2011. This low level was mainly due to the fall of -0.69% in the Transport group index, which because it has such a heavy weighting, affects the overall inflation figure. This decrease of -0.69% in the Transport group index was due to the reduction in the prices of premium gasoline (-2.49%), regular (-2.57%), diesel (-0.61%) and LPG (-1.01%). On the other hand the prices of air transport services increased by 9.84 % and shared taxis by 0.87%. Food and soft drinks grew by 0.57% compared to November, with the main increases being fresh chicken (6.04%), eggs (6.22%), plantains (2.09%), onions (6.74%), pork, (2.40%), potatoes (5.82%), limes (17.46%) and avocado (4.49%). However, other foodstuffs experienced reductions in prices, such as peas (-14.82%), yucca (-5.25%), peppers (-12.43%), tomatoes (-18.66%), rice (-0.23%), brown sugar (-1.32%) and garlic (-2.60%).

Looking at the level of inflation geographically, in the National District and Santo Domingo province, inflation rose by 0.13%, the north 0.12%, and 0.14% in the eastern region. The southern region had the lowest rate of variation 0.06%, largely explained by the low level of growth of foodstuffs with a high relative weight in the monthly shopping basket.


More pesos to buy dollars
The New Year began with two increases, one in the price of dollars and the other the interest rate in the market, which affects the pockets of most Dominicans, but is good news for visiting tourists. Since the beginning of the month, the exchange rate for purchasing dollars went over RD$39 to one, while people with bank loans began to complain of receiving increases in their payments of RD$500 and even RD$650 on their mortgage and consumer loans.

According to a survey, the banks were buying the dollar at around RD$38.60, and they were selling it at RD$39 and RD$39.10, while the euro was stable with an average purchase price of RD$48.50 and a sales price of RD$51.60.

The financial entities average purchase price on Tuesday was RD$38.62 for cash, and for checks it was RD$38.68 and transfers were at RD$38.70, according to the Central Bank. The sale of cash, checks and transfers was at RD$38.98. At the exchange houses and remittance centers the dollars were sold at RD$38.99.

When customers went to pay their mortgage installment at the start of the year, they found that they had to pay more. So, for example, one customer with a mortgage loan of RD$500,000 paid in December RD$9,910 but on 15 January will have to pay RD$10,570.10, an increase of RD$660.10. Other customers paid in one bank, for a personal loan, RD$8,215 in November, RD$8400 in December and this year they have to pay RD$8755.

Nevertheless, interest rates have been nearly stable, although high, since 30 June 2011, when the new tax reform went into effect. Increases in the interest rates over the last months have been small. In June, the average mortgage loan was at 14.07%, in December it was 15.04% and the average for 2011 was 13.99%. In the first four days of 2012 the interest rate is at 14.85%.

In the case of consumer loans, 2011 closed with an average of 21.66% and in the last four days of 2011 the rate was 21.03%.

Starting in June, the tax package included a 1% tax on bank's assets and an increase from 27% to 29% in the Income Tax, among other measures. The weighted average interest rate was 15.10% and closed December at 17.22% and for 2011, it was 15.69%, but in the first four days of 2012, it was 16.64%.

Duarte Highway lighting
Safety for drivers on the Duarte Highway at night has been greatly improved by the new lighting. EdeSur, the state-owned power distribution company with jurisdiction for Santo Domingo, has announced that lighting is being installed on an 18-km stretch from Km. 9 at the intersection of Luperon and John F. Kennedy avenues to Km. 28 in the municipality of Pedro Brand. EdeSur says 830 lights are being installed on poles with a budget of RD$6 million, as reported in El Dia.

Senate approves RD$1.4 billion for rice crop
The Senate has passed a bill that authorizes the Ministry of Hacienda to issue bonds for RD$1.440 million to be used for a rice-pledging scheme. The bill modifies Art. 4 of Law 353-11 that allocated RD$5 billion for the farming sector, of which RD$1 billion were assigned to the rice sector. A yield of 5 to 10% is established for the bonds.

On Tuesday, PRD presidential candidate Hipolito Mejia had said on TV that the Dominican farm sector was going through difficult times, and specifically mentioned the case of rice growers.

Senate approves Dominican Naval Auxiliary
Established by presidential decree 887-09 in December 2009, the Dominican Republic Naval Auxiliary (Auxiliares Navales Dominicanos) is moving towards becoming a full-fledged legal entity. Yesterday the Senate approved a bill that establishes the civilian and volunteer corps that works closely with the Dominican Navy to ensure safety at sea. The force groups more than 200 members that have spontaneously participated in rescue operations over the years. It operates with private boats, barges and aircraft that are made available to the Navy to assist with non-military activities, public order and safety at sea. The AND has a presence in the north, northeast, east, south where search and rescue operations and recreational boating safety training is conducted in support of the Dominican Navy. Jose Antonio Najri is the national commodore.

In August last year, at the US Coast Guard Auxiliary's national conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, US Coast Guard Auxiliary Commodore James Vass and Dominican Naval Auxiliary Commodore Jose Antonio Najri signed a joint statement of intent recognizing the advantages to be obtained from continued bilateral cooperation in fostering on-water safety education for citizens of both nations.

The agreement calls for both organizations to continue working toward development of common training and operations standards, achieving international best practices and delivering fully accredited computer-based training competencies to their respective members. It also calls for both organizations to be alert for opportunities to partner and share in the development and application of educational materials.

"The Dominican Republic and the US traditionally have had very close cooperation," Commodore Najri said at the time. "For our Auxiliary, the recently signed agreement is further proof of our two countries' close ties that we must continually strengthen to not only save lives, but to protect our countries in these difficult times."

Vargas and Mejia still at it
PRD presidential candidate Hipolito Mejia and PRD party president Miguel Vargas Maldonado continue to air their differences through the media. The two party leaders have yet to align their efforts for a better chance at winning the 20 May 2012 presidential election.

Following on from yesterday's DR1 news, where Hipolito Mejia stated on the 1+1 TV show on Channel 2 TeleAntillas that he had been waiting for Miguel Vargas to join his campaign for the last 10 months, Miguel Vargas issued a press release in response to Mejia's comments.

After saying how regrettable it was for him to have to make corrections, Vargas Maldonado said that he would be satisfied when God and history judged his more than 35 years in the party and his services to the country. He said that from his positions he has always delivered support, both political and economical, to all the candidates.

Vargas pointed out that he had sent the last communication on 19th September delivered by the PRD General Secretary, Orlando Jorge Mera. The letter stated that he was ready to meet as soon as Hipolito Mejia considered the time to be right. He continued, "Since that time, almost four months has passed, during which time, fellow party member Mejia has continued to tell the press that he will meet with me each time he returns from his next foreign visit, whilst at the same time saying in public that he attaches no importance to meeting with me, that I am not a member of his campaign team and he finishes by saying our relationship is fine, him there, me here, but he has never responded to my letter".

He said that the reality has been, "while leaders of his campaign team have taken every opportunity, via third parties, to slander myself, my colleagues and my family, all of which I have endured whilst saying nothing so as not to prejudice the party's presidential campaign. I have had to endure this disrespect to myself and my family."

When interviewed on Teleantillas, Mejia stated that he had not received a single cent of the resources allocated to the party by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) for financing the campaign. Vargas responded in his press release that on May 8 last year another RD$4 million were handed over to Mejia's campaign team. Vargas then reiterated that he would continue in his role as president of the party, always conducting himself with respect and prudence, and at a level that the people expect from their leaders, conscious that everyone would be judged by their behavior.

Vargas Maldonado made the point that despite documenting what he deems were serious irregularities in the PRD primaries, he preferred to sacrifice himself before dividing the party and for that reason declined and presided the assembly where Mejia was named the PRD presidential candidate, calling for party unity and integration, as reported in Hoy.

Insight Poll: Danilo 47.9% and Hipolito 41.8%
The results of a poll carried out by Insight S.A. amongst 1,200 respondents from January 3-8 were presented at the Santo Domingo Holiday Inn yesterday. The poll was contracted by a group of Dominican businesses.

The data showed that if the vote was held today 47.9% would vote for Danilo Medina, the PLD candidate and 41.8% for Hipolito Mejia, the PRD candidate. The other candidates were far behind with Guillermo Moreno with 1.7% of the votes, Eduardo Estrella 1.0%, Julian Serulle 0.4% and Hatuey de Camps 0.1%.

3.3% of the sample said they would not vote and 1.9% were undecided.

39.4% of the electorate stated they would definitely vote for Medina compared to 37.9% for Hipolito. The most respected of the candidates was Margarita Cedeno, current First Lady and Vice Presidential candidate, followed by Medina and then Mejia.

53% of the electorate thought that the current President, Leonel Fernandez has carried out a better job than Mejia would if he were President.

As far as the country is concerned, 79.5% felt that the situation in the country had improved compared to a year ago, and 36.8% felt that it would improve again in the coming year. 36.4% thought that the situation in the country would worsen and 18.8% felt it would stay the same.

The most serious problem facing Dominicans was felt to be the economy followed by crime and security, unemployment and education. 53.8% believed that Medina would represent a major change for the country.

The company is described as a Spanish polling company, but a search on Google did not show a website for the company.

Naco's new supermarket
Supermercados Nacional inaugurated their 12th nationwide store yesterday, the Supermercado Nacional Tiradentes. The supermarket competes with nearby Amigos Supermarket, a non-chain food store that has serviced the upscale Naco sector for many years. The new branch of Nacional is located at Tiradentes No. 12, at the corner with Rafael Augusto Sanchez Street. The 2,200 square meter building will be the largest in the area. A short distance away, Nacional already has another branch on Ave. Lope de Vega, but the Tiradentes store is closer to Naco customers. With the opening, the Naco area is now served by the Pola, Amigo and two Nacional supermarkets. Speaking during the inauguration, marketing manager Carla Gonzalez Vaquero said that the design made the most of natural lighting in order to reduce energy consumption.

Hotels in Puerto Plata reemploying workers
Hotel employees who were fired during the low tourist season are now being reemployed due to an increase in the number of tourists, according to the spokesman for the Association of Hotels, Condominiums and Commercial establishments in Playa Dorada, Julio Almonte.

According to the Central Bank, Puerto Plata, Cofresi, Maimon, Sosua and Cabarete only had an occupation level of 53% during the low season. The fact that Puerto Plata was the Dominican tourist center with the lowest level of hotel occupation during that period was very critical for the hotels, forcing them to fire thousands of employees.

Julio Almonte said that the hotels would concentrate on attracting more tourists in the high season.


Engineers say towers could be risk-prone
The president of the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA), Domingo Tavera Ulloa says buildings built under older seismic standards code may need to be retrofitted. He singled out buildings with tuck-under parking, or open commercial or parking space on the first floor supported by columns. Experts now say that this makes the first story soft and risk-prone in the case of a 7+ earthquake. Tavera Ulloa says that it is possible to upgrade many of the older structures. He also mentioned asymmetric buildings would be vulnerable to major (7+) earthquakes, mentioning places like Chile, Turkey and Mexico as examples of the results of these "construction pathologies." He said the nation's new Seismic Code in effect since March 2011 establishes more earthquake resistant standards especially for high-rise towers.

DNCD update on drug trafficking
National Drug Control Department (DNCD) chief, Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo, says that the organization has a fund for encouraging civilian informants who could help the agency instigate a drug sting. The DNCD says in 2011, the institution disbursed more than RD$60 million of funds under the Program for Compensation and Incentives that also benefits anti-narcotics agents, as reported in El Dia. Rosado was speaking on La Nota Diferente Las Cuentas Claras radio talk show.

Rosado said that the incentives program was created to encourage good behavior and reward agents for good work. He denied that drug trafficking was on the rise in the Dominican Republic. "There is the perception that there is a massive trafficking of narcotics because there have been massive confiscations. Instead, the agency responds to very different ethical criteria compared to those in the past," he said. He said drug agents have been trained by the best of the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Colombian police. He said that the agents have learned to speak the language of the drug traffickers and decipher the code used for transshipment of drugs.

He said that due to the joint and coordinated work with agencies in the Netherlands, UK, France, Spain and the US, drug traffickers have relocated a good part of their operations that were carried out in the Greater Antilles to the Lesser Antilles. He mentioned close surveillance of air and sea operations. But he said that what is most disconcerting is when after the anti-drug agency working for months and even years to make a capture, a judge favors the trafficker with a lenient decision.

USA repatriates 132 Dominican ex-convicts
This year's first group of Dominican ex-convicts arrived at Las Americas airport from the USA on Tuesday. They were met by officials from the National Police (PN) and Immigration together with officers from the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), the Department for National Intelligence (DNI) and Airport Security Corps (CESA).

They had been convicted of a variety of offences including drug trafficking, murder, robbery, forgery, rape, and arson and had all completed sentences of four to ten years in prisons throughout the country.

In the whole of last year, 3,878 Dominican ex convicts were repatriated to their home country by the USA, on between two and four flights a month.


US Marshals capture Dominican murder suspect
For more than three years, Fernando Antonio Burgos-Rojas managed to elude police in the Dominican Republic where he was accused of killing his girlfriend. He allegedly shot his girlfriend dead in in Licey, Santiago December 2008. He fled to the United States after the incident and had been living in Lawrence, Massachussets for at least the past year.

But a team of US Marshals and Essex County Sheriff's deputies captured Burgos-Rojas, 41, yesterday outside the house in the city's Tower Hill section where law enforcement officials said he had been hiding out for at least a year.

"He was arrested without incident at 2pm outside his home at 1075 Essex St.," Paul Fleming, a spokesman for Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. said last night.

"As soon as he was apprehended, the US Marshals brought Mr. Burgos-Rojas to federal court in Boston. He was arrested by a six-man team that includes two members of the Essex County Sheriff's Department," Fleming said.

The Dominican authorities obtained a provisional arrest warrant in the US and are formally requesting his extradition back to their country.

Burgos-Rojas appeared before a Magistrate Judge in Federal Court in Boston and was later taken to an undisclosed detention facility where he will be held pending further extradition proceedings.



Suicide on the increase amongst young people
Alexander Vasquez Vasquez, aged 16, hanged himself in his room at his home in Zambrana, Cotui, bringing the total of minors who have committed suicide within a week to three.

Psychiatrist Luis Berges says that one of the factors that have led to an increase in suicides amongst the young is the increase in technology. He states that when children are 'submerged' in their smartphones and social networks and they are interrupted for some reason it makes them furious and is a contributing factor to suicide. He also believes that the absence of parents in the home and the lack of parental control to also be a factor. He added that the children who are more likely to commit suicide are depressed and isolated from the real world and the desire to commit suicide can come upon them suddenly. He recommends that parents ensure their children are loved from an early age, especially girls and do not allow them to use cell phones or the internet too much, and include them more in the family circle.

Another case of suicide was Dariel Alexander Jimenez, aged 14, who hanged himself with shoelaces from his trainers in the bathroom because his mother reprimanded him as he did not give himself time to eat.

On Thursday in Bonao, another 14-year old committed suicide and her friends think it was because she had been reprimanded before her death.


Sunny skies ahead
According to the National Meteorology Office (Onamet), the country is currently under a high-pressure system and forecasts a low probability of showers on Wednesday and over the next few days until Saturday when a frontal system is expected to arrive.

The forecasters state that most of the country can expect clear skies most of the day, although the prevailing east wind could bring some clouds and widely scattered showers over the northeast, southeast and Central Mountains.

Surf conditions are expected to remain normal.

Baseball update
The Dominican Winter League Baseball Championship is entering its final week and things look bleak for the once high-flying Aguilas Cibaenas, as they lost yet again to the Leones del Escogido. During the regular season the Aguilas were perched atop the standings and the Escogido team needed a tremendous seven-game winning streak to get out of the cellar and into the top positions in the standings. Now it is the Aguilas who last night lost a one-run lead to the Leones, dropped further behind and now have a firm grip on the last place in the standings. After seven great innings behind the pitching of Raul Valdes, the Aguilas enjoyed a 1-0 lead going into the eighth inning. They brought in Jose Diaz who opened the door and the Leones manufactured a seven-run rally with a double by Pablo Ozuna, six singles, two bases on balls and two errors. Game over. The Leones stopped a three-game skid and stayed in first place and the Aguilas stayed in last place.

Over in San Francisco de Macoris, at the Julian Javier Stadium the Gigantes del Cibao received the visiting Tigres del Licey with more than open arms. In fact, if memory serves, this is the first game in a very long time where one team has hit four homeruns. Carlos Trunfel hit two, Anderson Hernandez and Wil Nieves hit another and the Tigres cruised to an 8-0 win, going over .500 for this section of the tournament for the first time. The Gigantes are now in third place.

Team Win-Loss Average Games behind
LEONES 9 - 4 .692 --
TIGRES 7 - 6 .538 2.0
GIGANTES 5 - 7 .417 3.5
AGUILAS 4 - 8 .333 4.5

Tonight's game. This is a make-up game due to a rainout.
Santiago de los Caballeros, Estadio Cibao, 7:35pm. - Gigantes (E. Abreu) vs. Aguilas (J. Delgadillo)

Tomorrow night's games.
* Santo Domingo, Estadio Quisqueya, 7:35pm. - Gigantes (K. Pucetas) vs. Licey (E. Rogers)
* Santiago de los Caballeros, Estadio Cibao, 7:35pm. - Escogido (A. Rodriguez) vs. Aguilas (B. Browning)

For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

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