Easter Week death toll to be released today
Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas on European tour
Farm exports up 14% in 2016
Coffee crisis in the DR
Small boats ordered to stay in port over Easter holiday
Santo Domingo was base for Odebrecht bribe-paying
Major fire at Almacenes Iberia in San Pedro
Dominican fishermen accused of poaching in Jamaican waters
Blas Peralta murder trial set to start on 18 May 2017
Christophe Naudin to pay RD$1.5 million to Dominican state
Europol arrests killer of Dominican lawyer
Rita Indiana wins Caribbean literary award
Juan Sebastian El Cano tall ship docks in Santo Domingo
JLopez sings for an hour
Next: Santo Domingo Book Fair
Modern version of Bonnie and Clyde at Naco Teatro X

Easter Week death toll to be released today
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) said that it would reveal the assistance, traffic accidents, drownings, and death toll of the Easter Week operations on Monday, 17 April 2017 in a press conference scheduled for 11am. Around 41,000 staff and volunteers participated in actions to prevent crime and accidents from Easter Thursday to Easter Sunday. 

Reporters shared the good news that the seasonal demand for Easter Week services at major trauma hospitals was much reduced. Meanwhile, Diario Libre gave a preliminary report of 28 deaths nationwide, including six persons who drowned. 


Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas on European tour
Minister of Foreign Relations Miguel Vargas Maldonado left Tuesday, 12 April, on an 11-day European tour. He is holding meetings with Dominican diplomatic missions and government and business people in France, Italy, Spain and Turkey on matters of business, trade, investment and cooperation. 

The Ministry has reported that in Spain he met with Dominican ambassador Anibal de Castro and Dominican consuls in Spain Rafael Acosta (Madrid), Jorge Cordero (Valencia), Adriano de los Santos (Barcelona) and Juan Borg (Sevilla).  In Madrid, he participated in the Padre Billini 2016 award ceremony at the residence of Dominican ambassador Anibal de Castro. 

During the tour, Vargas is accompanied by Deputy Minister for Foreign Policy Cesar Medina, Deputy Minister for Economic and International Cooperation Hugo Rivera, Deputy Minister for Consular and Migratory Affairs Marjorie Espinosa and Ministry director of communications Hugo Beras.

On Vargas’ agenda for the trip are scheduled meetings with French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean Marc Ayrault, and a luncheon with Minister of State for Development and Francophonie Jean Marie Le Guen. 

The Ministry announced in France he is also meeting with Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, a French politician who is the first Secretary of the French Socialist Party since April 2014. He will also participate in an event at the French National Assembly together with of the inter-parliamentary France-Dominican Republic Friendship Group. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Relations says that several meetings at the Dominican Embassy are confirmed with French businessmen to discuss renewable energy and initiatives that seek to improve public transport in the Dominican Republic. 

From France, Vargas will travel to Ankara, Turkey where on his agenda is a meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlute Cavusoglu. In Turkey, he will visit the Sincan industrial zone and also participate at a conference organized by the University of Ankara at its Center for Latin American Studies. 

In Istanbul he will meet with colleagues of the Interamerican System of Central America (SICA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to discuss matters of culture, investment and international cooperation. 


Farm exports up 14% in 2016
A report by the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD) focuses on increases in banana (29.5%), avocado (72.7%), bell peppers (71.9%) exports in 2016. Overall farm exports showed a 14% increase for the year. 

Export data shows that four crops generated US$1.44 billion in revenues in 2016. Tobacco exports were US$696 million, banana exports were US$398 million in revenues, cacao exports were US$225 million and raw sugar exports were US$124 million, for 84% of all farm exports. 

The difference in farm exports was filled in by exports of avocados, mangos, boniato, eggplants, pineapples, melons, oranges, oregano, papaya, ginger root, and carrots. 


Coffee crisis in the DR
In a surprising development, the Dominican Coffee Confederation (Concafed) has announced that most of the coffee currently sold in the Dominican Republic is now imported, due to the collapse of domestic coffee production. 

The secretary general of Concafed, Carlos Ramirez said that 70% of the 30,000 families that make a living off coffee growing are living in poverty, and of those, 24% in extreme poverty. From a peak production of 1,300,000 quintals or hundred weight (cwt), production is down to 250,000 cwt a year, with an estimated average yield of 10 to 15 lbs per tarea (1 tarea = 629 square meters). 

He attributed the collapse of the coffee farms to the coffee rust virus and the lack of attention from the governmental agriculture authorities. He said coffee plantations need to be renovated, but the sector does not have funding or access to technical assistance.  As a result, in recent years coffee production has significantly declined. 

"To make matters worse, there is a bill in congress that proposes that producers not participate in the drafting of coffee policies,” alerted Ramírez. He said this bill would only make a bad situation worse. Ramirez said the producers have been requesting a meeting with President Medina for months so that small and medium-sized producers can explain the factors that have created this crisis in the coffee sector. He warned that if the President refuses to meet with the growers, Concafed will be obligated to organize protests in front of the Presidential Palace. 


Small boats ordered to stay in port over Easter holiday
On Sunday, the Center for Emergency Operations (COE) called off the ban on small boats leaving port that affected the north coast over the Easter Week holiday. A front crossing over from the Atlantic brought with it high surf and intense winds that while excellent for kite flying, were not for water sports and boating. 

To prevent tragedies, the Center for Emergency Operations (COE) prohibited small boats from leaving ports all along the Atlantic Coast from Montecristi to Samana. A green alert was issued from Thursday through Saturday, over the Easter holidays. The Armada was entrusted with ensuring the maritime restrictions were complied with. 


Santo Domingo was base for Odebrecht bribe-paying
In a new development on the Odebrecht corruption scandal, Brazil media report that bribe-paying operations were carried out mostly from the Dominican Republic. As reported, leaked documents from the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil reveal that company CEO Marcelo Bahía Odebrecht stated that all the illicit and bribe-paying operations of the company were moved to the Dominican Republic given the security the country offered on matters of impunity and corruption.

The document states that Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht was concerned with the business security to carry out the bribe-paying operations in the United States. For that reason the so-called bribes department was moved to the DR in the second semester of 2014. Company executives Luiz Eduardo Soares and Fernando Migliaccio, based in Miami, USA, traveled weekly to Santo Domingo to work on these operations from the Dominican office.

Major fire at Hiper Tienda Iberia in San Pedro
Lack of sufficient water caused delays in extinguishing the fire that broke out at the Iberia megastore in San Pedro de Macoris, in the southeast. 

The firefighters of San Pedro were assisted by firefighters from La Romana, Hato Mayor and Higuey. However, the lack of water was the major obstacle in bringing the blaze under control.  

Also, the San Pedro de Macoris fire department’s equipment was shown to be inadequate.  The firefighters apparently did not have sufficiently tall ladders and hoses to reach into the second floor of the building where the fire originated on Easter Saturday, 15 April. The fire started at around 4am on Saturday and burned through midnight of Sunday leaving losses preliminary estimated at RD$500 million and at least 350 employees without jobs.  


Dominican fishermen accused of poaching in Jamaican waters
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard interdicted 59 Dominican fishermen, accusing these of illegal fishing on Wednesday, 12 April 2017. The JDF reported intercepting the “Alma Rosa” carrying the 59 men from the Dominican Republic on board and more 7,675 pounds of fish in storage. The men were detained and the vessel seized and towed to the JDF Coast Guard Base at Cagway in Port Royal.    

The JDF said that none of the men were in possession of a required fishing license and, as a result, the individuals were detained and their boat seized. The fishermen were escorted back to the Coast Guard base in Jamaica where they were formally arrested and processed.  

The JDF noted that this week’s interdiction brings to 114, the number of illegal fishermen caught in Jamaican waters in just over a week. On Sunday, March 26, 32 fishermen from the Dominican Republic were reportedly caught about 120 miles south of Jamaica and close to the Pedro Cays. 

Jarrett also pointed to the presence of the newly acquired JDF boats as a significant factor in the Force’s ability to track and interdict illegal fishermen. 

The Dominican fishermen need to pay fines of US$125,000 each for fishing without a license, and US$2.5 million for the captain, and US$750,000 for each of the second in command or face time in jail. 


Blas Peralta murder trial set to start on 18 May 2017
The First Collegiate Court of the National District set 18 May 2017 as the date for the start of the trial against Fenatrado trucker union president Blas Peralta, who is accused of the murder of former rector of the state university UASD Mateo Aquino Febrillet on 11 March 2016. The defendant’s lawyers had filed a series of motions that delayed the start of the trial for over a year. Judge Rigoberto Sena said that the process of discovery is complete and he ordered the start of the trial. 

Accused as accomplices in the case are Geraldo Félix Bautista Mena, former Police colonel Rafael Herrera Peña and Franklin Venegas. 


Christophe Naudin to pay RD$1.5 million to Dominican state
The Public Ministry says that French citizen Christophe Rene Henri Naudin, who  has declared guilty of assisting in the escape of two convicted French pilots, will pay a fine of RD$1.5 million for violation of the corresponding human smuggling statutes and penal code of the Dominican Republic. 

Naudin admitted to having assisted in the escape of French pilots Jean Fauret and Bruno Armand Odos, who had been sentenced to 20 years in jail for drug trafficking in the so-called Air Cocaine international case.

The Public Ministry said that Naudin would be allowed to return to France where he will serve a five-year sentence in a French prison.

Europol arrests killer of Dominican lawyer
The European Police announced the arrest in Germany of Ambiorix Nepomuceno Rodríguez, who is accused in the murder of 37-year old Dominican lawyer Paola Languasco on 24 April 2015 in Santiago. 

Rodriguez has a pending warrant for extradition to the Dominican Republic, where is scheduled to be tried for the murder.  The extradition reportedly will be carried out after Rodriguez completes his sentence in Spain. He was in Germany where he was a fugitive of justice after failing to return to jail in Spain for drug trafficking after being allowed out of prison to visit a relative. 

In the Dominican Republic, Paola Lenguasco went missing for 19 days after leaving her residence in Puerto Plata to meet with Rodriguez in Santiago. Rodriguez was arrested in the country, but the Police and the Public Ministry authorized his release and he eventually departed the Dominican Republic. 


Rita Indiana wins Caribbean literary award
She is best known for her innovative song compositions that reinvented merengue, but last week Dominican Rita Indiana Hernandez’s novel “La Mucama de Omicunle” (Periférica publishers) was awarded the Grand Prix Littéraire Région Guadeloupe on Saturday, 8 April 2017 at the fifth Caribbean Writers Congress (6-9 April 2017). The Congress was hosted by the Guadeloupe Regional Authority. 

The 40-year old year author and singer-songwriter’s novel, “The Maid of Omicunle’s Room”, leads the reader to the frightening and seemingly inevitable conclusion of the impending destruction of our world, portraying a stark and troubling picture of the consequences in our society if we do not stop the process of dehumanization and violence. The Guadeloupe literary award establishes that while the novel retains the Dominican rhythm that characterizes the author, especially through geography, history and linguistic codes, it is also deeply Caribbean and Latin American, as reported in Caribbean News Now. 

The international jury members were: Andrès Bansart (Venezuela); Earl Lovelace, president of the Caribbean Writers Association (Trinidad and Tobago); Camila Valdés (Cuba); Patricia Donatien (Martinique); Lyonel Trouillot (French language area); Prof. Funso Aiyejina (English language area); and Ariel Camejo (Spanish language area).

This is the first time that a Spanish-language novel wins an award at the Caribbean Writers Congress. 


Juan Sebastian El Cano tall ship docks in Santo Domingo
The Spanish Armada tall ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano is docked at the Port of Santo Domingo after the 25-day trip across the Atlantic Ocean from Cadiz, Spain. The training ship was received by the new Spanish ambassador Alejandro Abellan. On board is a crew of more than 200, including 26 women. 

The ship is at port through 20 April 2017, and is open to the general public from 10 to 1pm and 3 to 6pm. The captain of the ship is Victoriano Gilabert Agote. This is the 20th time the ship has been in Santo Domingo. On Thursday, it will continue on to New York. 


JLopez sings for an hour
Diario Libre reported that those who had paid admission fees of RD$8,900 (with VIP seats ranging from RD$17,900 to RD$47,000) and more to watch the Jennifer Lopez performance at Altos de Chavon on Easter Saturday, 15 April 2017 were disappointed. The show began at 9:45pm and would end by 10:53pm. 

This was her first show in the Dominican Republic. Diario Libre reported that her fans left with long faces, disappointed because while excellent, the show was too short. 

JLo received a big round of applause for singing “Olvídame y Pega la Vuelta,” the classic by Duo Pimpinela of Argentina, with her former husband Marc Anthony. Another highlight of the show was her salsa tribute to Celia Cruz. 

The show started with her best hit “I’m Not your Mama.” She also sang: “Waiting for Tonight,” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” “Ain't It Funny, “All I Have,” “Jenny from the Block,” among others. Lopez came with her twins and boyfriend Alex Rodríguez and is scheduled to vacation for several days in a villa in Casa de Campo. 


Next: Santo Domingo Book Fair
The Santo Domingo Book Fair, the most important annual cultural event organized by the Ministry of Culture, opens on 20 April 2017 and run through 1 May at the Playa de la Cultura grounds. The book fair this year honors poet and publicist Rene del Risco, with a pavilion dedicated to share his life’s works with visitors to the fair. Del Risco would have been 80 years old in 2017. In charge of the activities to honor Del Risco are Santiago’s Centro Leon’s president, Maria Amalia Leon, and Sara Hermann. The director of the book fair this year is Ruth Herrera. The guest country of the book fair is Paraguay. 

Minister of Culture Pedro Vergés says this year books have the stellar role in the fair, not artistic presentations as in the past. He said 17 books will be presented. He said a new Dominican-government sponsored book collection, the Biblioteca Dominicana Básica, will be launched. In an interview with Diario Libre Vergés estimated the cost of the 2017 book fair at RD$78 million, down from RD$146 million it cost in 2014. 


Modern version of Bonnie and Clyde at Naco Teatro X
A modern theatrical version of Bonnie and Clyde has been turned into comedy and will be performed on weekends at the Teatro X in Naco neighborhood from 16 to 25 June 2017. The shows will be on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm. 

The show tells the story of two eccentric bank robbers with big egos and a liking for social media. The comedy, which is a work by Puerto Rican playwright Carlos Canales, is produced by Benny Ferreiras and directed by Ramon Santana. The lead roles are played by Anny Rosario (Bony) and Hector Matias (Kin). 

Naco Teatro X is located at Roberto Pastoriza 111 corner General Cambiazo, in front of Andres Carnes. Tickets are for sale at the theater box office or online at Uepa Tickets.