President calls meeting of Council of Magistrates of the Nation
President Medina flies to Barahona to meet with victims of flooding
Heavy rains cause damage 
Thousands stranded by heavy rains in San Cristóbal
Rains affect potable water supply in Greater Santo Domingo
Prior to implementing minimum wage increase, Labor looks into new categories for companies
Brazilian auditor to be contracted by Audit Chamber mentioned as receiving bribes in Brazil
Brazil shares information on Odebrecht bribes case
Gratuities cannot be charged for take-out service
Fernandez meets Maduro in Caracas 
Santiago chooses its best athletes
Jose Joaquin Puello vies to head Pan American Sports Organization
Comedy and merengue show for Mother’s Day

President calls meeting of Council of Magistrates of the Nation
President Danilo Medina has called for a meeting of the Council of Magistrates of the Nation (CNM) for Monday 15 May 2017, legal advisor Flavio Darío Espinal announced in a press conference on Tuesday, 25 April. This is in compliance with CNM Law 138-11. It is the first time that President Medina has convened the council. 

The objectives of the council meeting are to choose five new members of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) at the expiration of the term of the present judges, and to appoint two judges of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). 

The CNM needs to replace Julio César Castaños Guzmán, the Supreme Court of Justice judge who was appointed to preside over the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and judge Martha Olga García Santamaría, given that she has reached the retirement age for judges (75 years).

The members of the Council of Magistrates of the Nation are: President Danilo Medina, Attorney General Jean-Alain Rodríguez, Supreme Court of Justice president Mariano Germán Mejía; Supreme Court of Justice judge Frank Euclides Soto Sánchez; the president of the Senate Reinaldo Pared Pérez and the president of the Chamber of Deputies Lucía Medina, both of the ruling PLD party, and opposition senator José Paliza and deputy Josefa Castillo, as representatives of the party with the second largest representation in Congress, both of the PRM.

President Medina flies to Barahona to meet with victims of flooding
On Tuesday 25 April 2017, President Danilo Medina flew to the Maria Montez International Airport in Barahona with government officials to meet the local authorities and to see for himself damages caused by heavy rains in the southwestern provinces. 

Three people are reported to have died due to flooding in the Enriquillo area in Barahona. The authorities announced they have found the body of 72-year old Esmeraldo Pérez Turbí, along with his wife, 51-year old Griselda Cuevas, as well as a person yet to be identified. It is assumed that the victims drowned when the house they lived in, located in El Naranjal de Enriquillo, Barahona, was washed into the San Jimuri River. 

Barahona governor, Pedro Peña Rubio said that the rains have been tragic for the area, both to agriculture and the local population. Peña Rubio has asked the government to declare a state of emergency in the area that would trigger special assistance from the government and facilitate expedited procurement contracting. 

The President was expected to visit several parts of the province including Polo, Tamayo, Enriquillo, Paraíso, Habanero, Pescadería, Jaquimeyes, El Peñón, Cabral, among others.

Heavy rains cause damage 
On Monday, 24 April 2017, the emergency assistance organizations rescued 19 people, including a pregnant woman, whose lives were in danger due to flooding caused by the rains.

The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) reported that 28 aqueducts are out of service, 22 closed as a precaution and another six due to the volume of water in the provinces under alert.

The number of people who had to evacuate their homes has risen to 17,000 with 61 communities cut off and 2,939 homes affected. There are 101 people in official shelters, and nine highways and 10 bridges have been affected, as of 6pm on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 (Bulletin 14). 

There are still 25 provinces under a flood alert, and are susceptible to the effects of overflowing rivers and streams and mudslides.

Under red alert are María Trinidad Sánchez; Duarte, especially Bajo Yuna; Sánchez  Ramírez and San Cristóbal, especially Villa Altagracia. 

Under yellow alert are  Espaillat, San José de Ocoa, Hermanas Mirabal, Peravia, Monseñor Nouel, La Vega, Azua, Barahona, Monte Plata, San Pedro de Macorís and Greater Santo Domingo.

Under green alert are La Romana, San Juan de la Maguana, La Altagracia, Elías Piña, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Hato Mayor, Samaná, El Seibo and Dajabón.

Small boats are being advised to stay in port along the Caribbean coast and to stay close to shore along the Atlantic coast.

The rains have been due to a weather front over Haiti and are expected to continue over the next 24 hours as it moves across the country.

The intense rains even caused the suspension of the work session at the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, 25 April 2017. The session was postponed until Tuesday, 2 May after many deputies sent in apologies for not attending reporting they were helping people in their provinces that had been affected by the heavy rains. 

More rains are forecast for later in the week by the National Weather Office (Onamet). Onamet says another trough will be crossing the country.

Thousands stranded by heavy rains in San Cristóbal
The road between southern San Cristóbal provinces and its municipalities of Los Cacaos and Cambita Garabito has collapsed due to the floods, leaving more than 80,000 people stranded. By noon yesterday, Tuesday 25 April 2017, there were lines of dozens of vehicles stopped on both sides of the road in the hope that the road would be repaired and cleared for traffic to begin again.

Businesses have basically stopped working in the two municipalities and students and workers who needed to get to San Cristóbal and Santo Domingo were unable to cross bridges. Some individuals crossed the waterways on foot and then took motorcycle taxis on the other side.

The problem was that Barrio Nuevo in Cambita has practically been buried by mud as the Yubazo River flooded covering the homes in tons of debris, and people are trying to clean their homes but have no clean water with which to do so. Many were unable to cook as their stoves and cooking utensils had been washed away by the river.

In Los Molinas in San Cristóbal, there are dozens of families with homes that are full of mud and have been without electricity since last Friday, 21 April, when a transformer exploded.

Rains affect potable water supply in Greater Santo Domingo
Four aqueduct systems in Greater Santo Domingo are out of service, affecting more than 70 different areas in the capital city. 

According to the Corporation of Aqueducts and Sewers of Santo Domingo (CAASD), the city is feeling the effects of a reduction of 90 million gallons of drinking water per day due to the floods that have shut down the Haina-Manoguayabo, Isa-Mana, Duey and Isabela aqueduct systems. The systems were taken out of service after pipes were broken by the strong currents of water caused by the heavy rains, and the accumulation of mud that was being deposited into the water supply systems by the flooding waters. 

Alejandro Montás, director general of CAASD, said that the Duey aqueduct shutdown has affected Villa Morada, La Redención, Pantoja I, San Miguel de Pantoja, Obras Públicas, INVI-Los Alcarrizos, Barrio Landia, Paraíso, Libertador, Savica II, Pueblo Nuevo, Girasoles I and II, Arroyo Hondo II and III, Nazareno, Nuevo Horizonte, Los Peralejos, Brisas del Norte, and Residenciales República de Colombia.

The areas affected by the shutdown of the Isa-Mana aqueduct are Los Alcarrizos Viejo, Los Americanos I and II, Savica I, El Chucho, Las Mercedes, La Piña, Chavón, Canaán, Juana Saltitopa, San Felipe, Las Gloria, from km 32 to km 15 (Guayiga, Pedro Brand), Barrio Landia, Gran Poder de Dios and Carretera Hato Nuevo.

The loss of service of the Haina-Manoguayabo aqueduct has affected Miraflores, San Juan Bosco, Plaza de la Cultura, Respaldo Aguedita, Gazcue, Ensanche Lugo, La Primavera, Ciudad Nueva, San Carlos, Villa Francisca (some), Borojol, Atarazana, San Miguel, San Lázaro, Ciudad Colonial, Santa Bárbara, San Antón, El Vergel, government offices in Huacal and National Police area, the Padre Billini Hospital, and El Vergel, among others.

The CAASD explained that Valdesia, Acueducto Oriental and systems that use well water are operating as normal, such as La Joya, Los Marenos, Sabana Perdida, Mata Mamón, San Felipe. 
Montás said the CAASD is working to clean up the systems currently out of service and will be offering water to residents in the affected areas using water tanker trucks.

Prior to implementing minimum wage increase, Labor looks into new categories for companies
Labor Minister José Ramón Fadul now says that it is urgent to change the classification of companies in order to comply with Law 488-08 that dates back to 2008 and regulates small business. The government has failed to prepare the rulings that would serve to implement that law. Now, a new bill in Congress also focuses on the changing of categories of companies. The scales for increase in minimum salaries would apply differently to the business categories. 

As reported in Diario Libre, the minister said that “the law is the law.” Employer representatives had argued for the reclassification when the National Salaries Committee met. But this was downplayed by the representatives of the Ministry of Labor and the labor unions and instead a 20% minimum wage increase across the board was ordered in Resolution 5/2017. This increase, however, was challenged legally by employers. 

In response to this challenge, Labor Minister Fadul says that new meetings are being held to discuss the change of categories of companies. He said that the ministry is working quickly to address the classification issue. As reported in Diario Libre, the ministry predicts that in less than 10 days, the matter will be resolved. 

Fadul has assured the labor and business sectors that there will not be difficulties in implementing the new classification once the categories are decided upon. 

“Some have argued that sales volume should determine the category of the companies, but those are topics that are under discussion. We all have the will to reach an agreement on the reclassification as soon as possible because the goal is to create jobs not to erect barriers to growth that lead to with less jobs being created,” he said. 

Fadul had just met with Circe Almánzar, executive vice president of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD); Fermín Acosta, president of the Dominican Bosses Confederation (Copardom); Ignacio Mendez, deputy minister for Promotion of Micro, Small Business and Medium-sized Enterprises at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Small Business (MICM); Jacobo Ramos, resident of the National Confederation of Dominican Workers (CNTD); Gabriel del Río, president of the Classist Autonomous Union Confederation (CASC), among others representatives of business and labor entities. 

As reported in Diario Libre, Gabriel del Río of CASC said an agreement has not yet been reached, but proposals are still being actively reviewed and evaluated. He insisted that the 20% minimum salary increase is not negotiable. 

Meanwhile, the president of Copardom, Fermín Acosta, reiterated that what businesses expect the law be implemented.

Brazilian auditor to be contracted by Audit Chamber mentioned as receiving bribes in Brazil
Diario Libre reports that the Brazilian expert the Audit Chamber would hire to assist them in auditing the Odebrecht papers in the Dominican Republic, Augusto Nardes, has a tainted image. Brazilian news reports have reported he allegedly received bribes related to the Petrobras corruption case in Brazil. Nardes is the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Organization for Superior Auditing Entities (Olacefs) and is a minister of the Accounts Court of the Brazil Union (TCU). 

The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that during the Lava Jato (Car Wash) hearing, it was stated that Nardes had received around US$316,000 from 2011 and 2012 to facilitate the contractual proceedings of a project. It was reported that Renato Duque, former director of Petrobras, had met with Nardes at his home to establish the payment and that the money would be paid to a person related to him, who would be responsible to deliver the money to Nardes. Nardes denied the accusation. 
Folha also mentions that in 2016 former Brazilian deputy Pedro Correa, of the PP party, had declared that the name Nardes was among those receiving Petrobras bribes. At the time, 2003 to 2005, Nardes was a legislator. 

The president of the Audit Chamber, Hugo Alvarez Perez had announced the chamber had requested the cooperation of two Brazilian experts, the president of Olacefs, Augusto Nardes, and Mauricio Alburquerque, director of the Superior School of Accounts for the auditing of public works built by Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic from 2001 to 2014 and for which the company has admitted to paying US$92 million in bribes to Dominican government officers. 

The president of the Audit Chamber Alvarez Perez minimized Nardes Brazilian ties. “What happens is that they are who have the most experience in engineering in Brazil, and what they are going to do is counsel the local technicians, such as a professor in a course. They are not going to participate in the work that will be carried out here,” he explained.

Brazil shares information on Odebrecht bribes case
The Brazilian Attorney General’s Office has announced that they sent information on the Odebrecht case to the Dominican Republic on 20 April 2017, and that it was the first country to receive official information from Brazilian prosecutors. 

The office said that once the DR had signed an agreement with Odebrecht with regards to the bribes paid to secure contract work, they proceeded to send the information as stipulated in the international legal cooperation agreement that had been signed in February 2017. 

The agreement was signed by the Attorney General Offices of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The Brazilian authorities have received 19 separate requests for international cooperation from seven countries who are investigating cases related to Odebrecht.

Meanwhile, Acento news portal published an in depth report with details on the Odebrecht case in the Dominican Republic.

Gratuities cannot be charged for take-out service
The Superior Administrative Court (TSA) ruled against Kentucky Foods Group Limited that had objected a resolution of Pro Consumidor, the government consumer protection agency, that had ordered the company to return a charge for gratuities on a take-out order. 

The director of Pro Consumidor, Anina del Castillo says they are reviewing several claims in other businesses such as the Kentucky Fried Chicken case claimed by Jack Sánchez Bonetti on 30 October 2016. Sánchez Bonetti said he purchased a combo for take out at Kentucky Fried Chicken for RD$1,480.01 and was charged the legal gratuity for RD$115.63. He complained and Pro Consumidor ordered that Kentucky Fried Chicken return the money. 

Pro Consumidor press release says that the ruling by the TSA was made public on 12 April 2017. 
Pro Consumidor had ruled that the 10% gratuity only applies when the food and drink are consumed inside hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes as gratuities need to be distributed to all the staff that provides the service.

Fernandez meets Maduro in Caracas 
Former Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez was in Caracas, Venezuela on Monday, 24 April 2017, to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Fernández had been a proponent of last year's negotiations between political sectors in Venezuela that collapsed over the government's refusal to meet opposition demands for elections and the release of political prisoners. 

The meeting of Fernández and Maduro comes right after Maduro had requested that the former statesmen who had participated in dialogue talks (Martín Torrijos, Panama; José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain and Leonel, Fernández, Dominican Republic) meet with him. 

The talks with the Maduro government are taking place even as opposition leaders reject Maduro’s invitation for talks. Major protests are taking place in cities throughout Venezuela as citizens are demanding the immediate scheduling of elections. Demonstrations have sometimes turned violent and have led to the deaths of 20 protestors. Presidential elections are not scheduled until 2018.

Santiago chooses its best athletes
Sports Writers Association of Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, voted on who were their best athletes in 2016. Tennis player Víctor Estrella and basketball player Víctor Liz tied and shared the Best Athlete of the Year Award. Taekwondo athlete, Ketherine Rodríguez was named the Best Women Athlete of the Year. Each won a cash prize of RD$25,000.

Jose Joaquin Puello vies to head Pan American Sports Organization
Long time president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, Jose Joaquin Puello, is seeking the position of president of the Pan American Sports Organization (Paso - Odepa). News reports say his chances for being named president of the organization are good. His competition includes the Brazilian, Carlos Nuzman and the Chilean, Neven Ilic.

The general assembly during which the election of the president and members of the executive committee will occur begins on 26 April 2017 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. As reported in Diario Libre, Puello has the strategic support of long-time Dominican president of the Olympic Committee, Luisin Mejia. Mejía is counting on the vote of the numerous fellow presidents of Caribbean countries to secure the victory for Puello. The winner of the vote will be named the sixth president of the Pan American Sports Organization since it was founded in 1948. 

Delegates from 41 National Olympic Committees are participating in the assembly.

During the meeting, the organizing committees of the “Lima 2019” Pan American Games, the “Buenos Aires 2018” Youth Olympic Games and the “Tokyo 2020” Olympic Games are presenting updated information on the progress achieved in preparation for these events. Applicant cities to host the 2023 Pan American Games Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile are making presentations on their projects to the PASO delegates. 

Meanwhile, on 25 April 2017, Uruguay's Julio Maglione was appointed as the first Honorary President of the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) following a statute change that was approved by the General Assembly that allowed for the creation of this position.

Comedy and merengue show for Mother’s Day
Hard Rock Live at Blue Mall announces the performances of merengue orchestra Los Hermanos Rosario and comedian Juan Carlos Pichardo Jr for Saturday, 27 May 2017. The concert celebrates Dominican mothers, on occasion of Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in the country on 28 May 2017.