Minister of Foreign Relations Miguel Vargas in France 
Miguel Vargas on official visit in Turkey
Forum on innovative funding for small business held in Santo Domingo
MLB and Ministry of Education agreements
European Union continues to back small business 
Relationships now covered by Civil Code
Lots still missing from new Traffic Codes
DR teenagers happy, do poorly in school
Odebrecht agreement gets blessing of judge
Greens not convinced by Moura’s statements
We tell them. They don’t listen. Now HBO tells it all
More rains to come and warnings issued
CTN set for 19-21 May 2017
Santo Domingo International Book Fair - 20 April to 1 May 2017

Minister of Foreign Relations Miguel Vargas in France 
The Ministry of Foreign Relations reports that Minister Miguel Vargas met in Paris with his French counterpart, Jean Marc Ayrault, and requested an increase in the line of credit from the France Development Agency for the Dominican Republic. Vargas said the credit vouchers would back companies doing business in energy and water, as well as micro and small business. 

The Ministry reported that the ministers discussed the possibility of France cooperating with Haiti through a three-party agreement that would include the Dominican Republic. Also discussed was the signing of a cooperation agreement for economic matters with the French Antilles. Talks also focused on the negotiations of the Cotonu agreement that includes the Dominican Republic, as part of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific block of nations that fosters cooperation between these countries and the European Union. 

French and Dominican cooperation programs were discussed and included a request by Vargas to implement programs to increase the sale of Dominican exports into France.  

Other topics discussed included an agreement in which the spouses of diplomats would be authorized to work in both countries. 

The Ministry says that at the end of the meeting with Ayrault, Vargas met with French entrepreneurs of companies doing business in the Dominican Republic.  Vargas offered his full support to these businesses, including Akuo Energy that presented a project for the construction of a generation plant with capacity for 100MW. Akuo has a concession for wind energy in Montecristi for US$140 million.

Marc de Lataillade of the Total Group expressed interest in his company continuing to diversity its investments into solar and other renewable energies. 
Julien Rayssiguier, of the hydraulic division of Vinci Construction expressed interest in developing projects in the construction of hydraulic civil energy constructions.

Miguel Vargas on official visit in Turkey
The Dominican Republic plans to open an embassy in Turkey, the country's foreign minister confirmed on Wednesday, 19 April 2017, as reported in the Turkish press. Ankara opened its embassy in the Dominican Republic in 2013.

"We would like to open an embassy in your country within four or five months," Miguel Vargas told reporters after meeting his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara.

Turkey and the Dominican Republic signed a joint declaration of intent concerning cooperation on many areas including economy and defense, Çavuşoğlu said.

The pair discussed bilateral ties, regional issues and trade during the first official foreign ministerial visit from the Dominican Republic to Turkey.

Miguel Vargas became the first Dominican foreign minister on an official visit to Turkey. In Ankara, he met with his colleague Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and spoke on strengthening relations in bilateral areas of investment, trade, cultural and academic cooperation programs. The ministers agreed to an extensive work program that seeks advances in cooperation, investment and exports. There will also be emphasis on developing scholarships for students in undergraduate and graduate studies. The ministers signed a statement of intent to promote common democratic and cultural values and strengthen ties between both countries. 

Minister Çavuşoğlu agreed to prepare a mission of Turkish businessmen to meet with Dominican business leaders to discuss possible investments and Dominican exports to Turkey. 

Minister Çavuşoğlu had visited the Dominican Republic in February, when a cooperation agreement for the strengthening of tourism between both countries was signed. 

In Turkey, Vargas will participate in the meeting of foreign ministers members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Turkish authorities in Istanbul. 

Turkey already cooperates with the Dominican Republic in responding to natural disasters. The HOPEFOR initiative -- which aims to improve the effectiveness and coordination of military and civil defense assets in case of natural disaster -- was formed in 2011 as a joint initiative of Turkey, Qatar and the Dominican Republic.

Forum on innovative funding for small business held in Santo Domingo
Speaking at the opening of the Regional Forum for Innovation in Financing for Small Business, Minister of Industry and Commerce and Small Business in the Dominican Republic Temístocles Montas addressed the importance of facilitating credit to micro, small and medium-sized businesses to assist in their growth and productive capacity. He spoke to representatives of 14 countries that are in Santo Domingo to participate in the congress being held on 19-21 April 2017 at the Jaragua Renaissance. 

The event is coordinated by Deputy Minister for the Promotion of Small Business of the MICM, Ignacio Mendez. Among the visiting participants is Javier Gordon, representative of Latin American and the Caribbean Economic System (SELA). Participating in the Forum were the Asociación Latinoamericana de instituciones de Garantía (ALIGA), Banco Centroamericano de integración Económica (BCIE), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Comunidad Andina (CAN), Caribbean Association of SMEs (CASME), Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina (CAF), Centro para la Promoción de la Micro y Pequeña Empresa (CENPROMYPE), the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB) and Visa International.

MLB and Ministry of Education agreements
Minister of Education Andres Navarro met yesterday with representatives of the Major League Baseball Players Union and came to an agreement to create a mixed working commission with the object of promoting academic development of those training to be professional athletes so that these players can have a career options beyond baseball. 

Omar Minaya, a former major league general manager and the executive vice president of the Players Union, together with former Major League pitcher Miguel Batista, spoke with Minister Navarro and said that many young players in the Major Leagues have shown interest in such a project and some former players who live outside the country are willing to receive training in order to serve as physical education instructors in the country. 

Minaya stressed through a documentary presented to the minister that there is an awareness of the need for these young men who aspire to play professional baseball not to abandon their education in case they do not realize their dreams.  With an education these young athletes will have something to fall back on. 

Batista argued that a large number of young men under the age of 30 who do not make it to the Major Leagues have little possibility for developing life skills because of their poor academic achievements. 

Batista noted that only 4% of Dominican ballplayers who sign with an MLB club make it in the majors. He said that more than 20,000 have fallen by the wayside since the 1950s when Osvaldo Virgil became the first Dominican to walk onto a Major League diamond as player. Batista said that “studies should be plan A and baseball should be plan B.”

European Union continues to back small business 
The European Union is backing a Program for Strengthening of Quality for Development of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). The European Union is providing EUR11 million of the EUR12.1 million budget for the program that is to be carried out by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Small Business (MICM). 

Industry & Commerce Minister Temístocles Montás said the plan is to improve competitiveness of small business in domestic and foreign markets, especially for exports to Europe and the Caribbean. 

The program seeks to support companies that process agricultural products for export and other high value markets.

Relationships as covered by revised Civil Code
The Chamber of Deputies declared a modification of the Civil Code to be urgent and approved it after one reading. The modification recognizes what are called “free unions” to have the same legal rights as marriages carried out by a judge or by the churches. The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Lucia Medina Sanchez, explained that the legislation also establishes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. 

As reported in 7, the chairman of the Justice Commission, Henry Meran, said the new Civil Code stipulates that children who are born outside of marriage have the right to inheritance and also includes protection against conjugal violence. Some 379 pages containing 2498 articles are all part of the Civil Code revisions.

Lots still missing from new Traffic Codes
The director of Ground Transportation, Luis Estrella, told the Diario Libre that before the new traffic law can go into effect, legislators need to work out at least 30 sets of rules. 

Estrella explained that they also need to create offices where the National Transportation Institute (INTRANS) will be housed. The headquarters would bring together the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (AMET); the Fondet; the National Office of Ground Transportation (OTTT) and the Metropolitan Office of Bus Services (OMSA). 

Estrella told the reporters that once these documents are prepared they have to be sent to the Executive Branch who will be in charge of implementing them. 

He explained that for before Transportation Law 63-17 can fully go into effect, the regulations need to be first presented and approved by the Presidency. He estimated this process could take at least nine months.  

Social media has been circulating versions that the law would begin to be applied this week.

DR teenagers happy, do poorly in school
Most teenagers in the Dominican Republic are happy with their lives but schoolwork anxiety is an issue, according to the first Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) PISA assessment of student’ well-being. The study looked into students’ attitudes towards academics, their relationships with peers and teachers, their home life and extracurricular activities. 

The findings are based on a survey of 540,000 students in 72 participating countries and economies who also completed the main OECD PISA 2015 test on science, mathematics and reading.
Dominican students fared poorly in science, mathematics, and reading.

Odebrecht agreement gets blessing of judge
Judge Danilo Quevedo of the Third Instruction Court of the National District approved the agreement signed by the Attorney General and the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht regarding bribes that the company admitted paying in the Dominican Republic during testimony in a New York court. The agreement, whose details have not yet been revealed in full, establishes the Brazilian firm would compensate the Dominican government with US$184 million for the US$92 million in bribes it has admitted to. As reported, the Brazilian company had already issued a US$30 million check to the Dominican government as an advance payment. 

Locally jurists had said the Penal Procedures Code does not allow for the homologation sought by the Attorney General for the agreement, but rather called for a standard procedure that would have been redacted, but disclosed in a public hearing. 

Diario Libre reported that the press was banned from attending the hearing. 
Lawyer for Odebrecht, Robert Valdez expressed his satisfaction with the court decision. 

Green Movement (Marcha Verde) spokespeople said that the agreement strengthens impunity for government officials in the Dominican Republic. They dubbed the decision, “an agreement for impunity.” 

Carlos Pimentel, the spokesman for the Green Movement, told reporters during a demonstration in front of the offices of the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, that the authorities should not become complacent or satisfied with the information uncovered in Brazil.  Pimentel insisted that the authorities must investigate the three areas most discussed about Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic: bribery, overpricing of projects and the financing of election campaigns.

He said the agreement just announced violates the Penal Procedures Code and circumvents the carrying out of an in depth investigation into Odebrecht operations in the Dominican Republic.

Greens not convinced by Moura’s statements
The wife of Joao Santana, the former campaign adviser for President Danilo Medina, issued statements distancing her husband and the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht from campaign financing for Medina. However, leaders of the Green Movement (Marcha Verde), a civic interest group that has sprung up over the last several months and received immense popular support in its fight against impunity and corruption, say the statements lack credibility and veracity. The Greens say that a statement that simply claims  (without proof) that Odebrecht did not finance the campaign is not sufficient, when in the Dominican Republic there is no transparency in how political campaigns are financed.  

The Green Movement has requested the publication of all commercial documents and transactions related to the publicist Joao Santana. The Movement said: “… We expect to see published…. all of the documentation relating to the commercial transactions of President Danilo Medina and Joao Santana. Until we have all of these supporting documents -- the contracts, checks, money transfers, etc. -- we will not be convinced that there was no illegal and illegitimate financing of a costly election campaign in the Dominican Republic.” 

We tell them. They don’t listen. Now HBO tells it to the world
For years local residents have advised newcomers and visiting foreigners to be extremely careful on the streets, roads and highways of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Diario Libre reported that the HBO cable service is broadcasting a short documentary entitled “Valley of Death: Driving in the DR”, a story about the lenience to drinking and driving, application of the law and the carelessness of drivers on the roadways. Apparently the documentary became more poignant with the deaths of Major League players such as Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals and Yordano Ventura, a star for the Kansas City Royals. Both men were killed in traffic accidents. 

HBO reporter Jon Frankel traveled throughout the Dominican Republic and reported on what he called “the epidemic of highway deaths.”

Following the deaths of several Dominican MLB players in violent car accidents, Real Sports shared with its viewers the Presidency campaign that warns about violating traffic laws and drinking under the influence of alcohol.

More rains to come and warnings issued
The Center of Emergency Operations (COE) has continued its alert in 15 provinces for possible flooding. At the same time COE reports that nearly 600 persons were evacuated from their homes and taken to the residences of friends and families. Some 47 communities were also said to be cut off and isolated by floodwaters or damaged bridges. 

In the first report yesterday afternoon the COE said that they expected the rains to continue throughout today and tomorrow, and that three bridges and 116 houses have already been affected. 

Of the 15 provinces under an alert, five are yellow and the remaining 10 are green alerts. A yellow alert means that the continued development of the atmospheric event implies imminent situations of risk. A green alert on the other hand, is issued when there are expectations that the atmospheric event allows authorities to forecast possible dangers for the population. 

The rains are expected to be more frequent during the afternoon and evenings as a result of a massive humid air covering the national territory. 

The COE says that it expects that throughout today, Thursday, there will be rains and wind gusts throughout the Northeast, the Southeast, the North and the central mountains.

CTN set for 19-21 May 2017
Deals promoting local tourism are available at the Caribbean Traveling Network Fair that will take place 19 to 21 May 2017 at Sambil Mall. This is a good opportunity to learn about family vacations in the Dominican Republic. 

The event is in its 16th year and is organized by Puro Turismo travel magazine and CTN tourism TV channel. Admission is RD$100 adults and RD$50 children. 

Santo Domingo International Book Fair - 20 April to 1 May 2017
Paraguay is the guest country for the 20th International Santo Domingo Book Fair that will take place at the grounds of the Plaza de la Cultura from Thursday, 20 April to Monday, 1 May 2017. Monday is a holiday in the Dominican Republic that celebrates Labor Day. 

The Embassy of Paraguay is organizing a mission of 20 Paraguay authors, 700 titles and 2,500 books will be available for sale, coordinated by the Ministry of Culture of Paraguay. The Ministry of Culture of Paraguay is also sending a representation of Paraguay artists, folklorists and musicians.