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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending August 18th, 2006

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will visit Jamaica next week to finalize the signing of a US $260 million loan to the government for the next phase of Highway 2000. Chavez also will sign the acquisition agreement for a 49 percent stake in Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery, as well as the adjustment to the PetroCaribe Initiative, which currently supplies Air Jamaica with 2,500 barrels of oil per day. The visit has been postponed several times recently, but reports are that Chavez will finally arrive next week. While the visit is not confirmed, an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is imminent. The visit has taken on more significance due to Venezuela’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, which the United States opposes. The US would like the Caribbean to support Guatemala instead, an event unlikely to happen.

Support for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and the People’s National Party has sagged in recent days, with previous supporters moving to the ranks of those who say they will not vote or who are undecided. A new poll finds that 36 percent of people interviewed did not express an intention to vote, compared to the 38 percent support rating for the PNP and 26 percent in favor of the Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party. Support for the JLP has not improved, leaving the ruling party with a 12-percentage point lead. Despite ambivalence toward the PNP, 55 percent approve of the Prime Minister’s performance, while 16 percent disapprove and 29 percent have no opinion.

Prime Minister of the Bahamas Perry Christie addressed the graduating class of the Northern Caribbean University yesterday, and told the students his government is looking to the Caribbean to fill positions in nursing, information science and technology. In recent years there have been increasing concerns that Jamaica has been losing students to other countries, with the country losing approximately US $20 million in potential earnings each year because of the number of tertiary professionals who migrate. Opposition Leader Bruce Golding also spoke, saying that Jamaica must expand its economy in order to absorb and use the college graduates that matriculate each year.

Jamaica and Venezuela signed numerous development loans yesterday, including a deal that will see Jamaica receive US $130 million to construct a new leg of Highway 2000. The multilane, toll road project will run from Spanish Town, St. Catherine, to Ocho Rios, St. Ann and will see additional infusions of cash US $65 million each in March and May of next year. Another US $290 million will arrive to expand the Petrojam Oil Refinery to raise production from 35,000 barrels of oil per day to 50,000 barrels. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was in Jamaica for a one-day visit to sign the loan agreements and the amendment to the PetroCaribe Initiative. Other initiatives were signed as well, including a Petrojam commercial sales contract and a joint venture agreement with PetroCaribe Jamaica Limited in which Jamaica will have a 51 percent stake.

The start of the new school year is less than three weeks away, and the National Water Commission is warning that several Corporate Area schools can expect major disruptions in their daily water supply. The advisory, issued yesterday, urged schools to put sufficient water storage facilities in place. Limited rainfall and low storage levels were blamed for the inevitable disruptions, according to the NWC. Schools in Kingston and St. Andrew are expected to be affected and are asked to put adequate water-storage facilities in place so that they can store water for use during the disruptions. Disruptions are expected between 10 am and 5 pm and 8 pm and 4 am daily, with no sure idea of when regularity would return.

A large multi-unit operation in St. Catherine, Clarendon, and Trelawny over the past two days has resulted in the seizure of more than $205 million worth of compressed marijuana and the arrest of five people, including a Bahamian national. Monday night scores of law enforcement agents swept into Old Harbour Bay searching for a shipment of marijuana that was to be shipped overseas. The search resulted in 1,868 pounds of marijuana being seized from an old fishing boat, along with a 40-foot boat and a truck that was used to transport the drugs. Two men were later taken into custody. Police say it is a major breakthrough in a smuggling ring that involves Jamaica and Haiti. Local police are still seeking several people they say are involved in the drug ring either directly or indirectly.

Two people were arrested and eleven luxury vehicles were seized during an international counter-narcotics operation conducted in the Corporate Area and Manchester. The vehicles carry a street value of more than $40 million and were taken to the Narcotics Headquarters on Spanish Town Road in Kingston. Law enforcement agencies from five other countries participated in the operation, including agencies from North and South America. Unofficial reports indicate that the operation took officers to eight locations and yielded several items including passports, computers, documents, financial records and assorted foreign currencies.

A large bootlegging factory was discovered and rooted out yesterday by police. The ring was operating out of a house in St. Andrew. Police said the effort was proof of their increased clamp down on copyright theft, which has led to 42 convictions in the past 18 months. One man was taken into custody at the house while police left the house with 35,000 CDs, DVDs and audio cassettes that were stuffed in barrels, suitcases, filing cabinets, boxes and bags. Police estimated the value of the goods totals more than $1 million. They also seized computer equipment, CD burners, software and labels. Police say the investigation is in its early stage, but that it was similar to other organized crime gangs in how it operates.


The 2006 bird shooting season opens next Saturday and runs through September 24, 2006. The season will be open for six weekends, with hunting allowed Saturdays from sunrise to 9:00 am and 2:30 pm to sunset, and on Sundays from sunrise to 9:00 am. The bag limit is a total of 20 birds at each shoot, with the exception of the Baldpate, of which no more than 15 may be taken in any one shoot. Only four birds may be hunted: the Pea Dove; the white-winged dove; Baldpate; and mourning dove. An increase in cost for a hunting license has been approved in the amount of $1000, raising the license cost to $8000. Each hunter must be in possession of a valid firearm license as well as the hunting license from the National Environment and Planning Agency.

The women of Bank of Jamaica celebrated openly and loudly after they beat Jamaica Urban Transit Company 30-27 in the Business House Netball Association’s Intermediate A match on Saturday at the Leila Robinson courts. Manager Claudine Harriott-Smith commented that, “It was a well-fought game and our victory was only achieved through team work, dedication and drive.” At the beginning of the game, BoJ’s opponent looked to be the stronger team, with more aggressive players and taller players. The second half showed BoJ to be more confident and showed more assertively with shorter passes.

Jamaica’s team began its hunt for medals at the 11th IAAF World Junior Championships, at the Chaoyang Sports Centre in Beijing, China. More countries than ever are participating, with 182 represented at the meet. Ten Jamaicans were set to compete in the opening day events, including Sonita Sutherland in the quarter-mile. Sutherland is the leader in the event, with a personal best of 51.13. Others scheduled to appear include sprinter Remaldo Rose and 400m hurdler Yohan Blake. In the men’s 400 meter, Edino Steele and Allodin Fothergill are the Jamaican hopefuls for medals.

The completion of the Montego Bay sports complex in St. James seems to be back on track after the signing of a US $9,264,940 loan agreement between Jamaica and Venezuela that was signed Monday night. The signing of the loan was part of a large loan package signed by Jamaica’s prime minister and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez during his one-day visit to the island. The Montego Bay facility was started over a decade ago and has been in limbo for several years. A full-length international football field was constructed as well as a 400m mundo track. No timetable has yet to be outlined for the start of work. When completed, the facility will feature 15,000 spectator seats, fencing, parking and floodlights as well as roadways and court facilities for other sports.

The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.

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Written by Staff Writer