Daily News

Daily News - Tuesday, 03 March 2015 (Archived Daily News)

Santo Domingo Music Festival
(Image courtesy of sinfonia.org.do)

President Medina returns from Florida

As he left the country on Sunday, 1 March 2015 for dermatitis treatment in Florida, President Danilo Medina returned discreetly and without any information being released to the media.

The press had no idea when, where or how he arrived back in the country, and they waited at the Presidential Palace all yesterday afternoon, Monday 2 March, hoping for information.

Shortly after 9pm they were told that the President was back home and at work. According to Presidential spokesman Robert Rodriguez Marchena, Medina returned after being seen by a doctor in Florida who had been treating him online followed up with a face-to-face consultation.

President Medina left on a private flight from San Isidro Air Force base for Florida on Sunday afternoon for his appointment at 8am on Monday, but no more details were shared, not even the name of the doctor or the clinic.


Oil exploration tender next year

Energy and Mines Minister Pelegrin Castillo has disclosed that by next year the right conditions will be in place for the country to issue a tender for major companies to come and look for oil.

He said that in the meantime, all oil or natural gas exploration concessions have been suspended. As reported in El Dinero newspaper, Castillo said that companies that had been granted concessions had requested extensions, which were not granted. He said that no serious exploration work was underway in the country.

Castillo said that in the past the government awarded many concessions with nothing to show for, and which were not duly monitored by the government. He said the government decision to put all concessions on hold was taken in July 2014.

The plan is to re-launch the hydrocarbons policy once the National Hydrocarbons Database (BNDH) is compiled. The firm Schlumberger is responsible for implementing this task through its Latin American affiliate Schlumberger-Surenco.

The data is being compiled with a view to negotiating better terms with major companies interested in searching for oil in the DR. Castillo said that new contract models would be prepared to sign new contracts.


Second natural gas plant should be built on north coast

Minister of Energy and Mines Pelegrin Castillo says if a second natural gas refinery is built in the country, it should be located on the north coast. He has turned down proposals to build a second refinery 30 km away from the existing AES refinery on the south coast. He pointed out that the Dominican Republic is on the hurricane route and putting all its natural gas capacity on one coast would increase the risk vulnerability.

He said that the construction of infrastructure including natural gas plants and electricity generation plans needs to respond to a national energy security plan that has yet to be drafted.

He admitted that natural gas reserves are currently below the 90 days recommended by the International Energy Organization (IEO). "Given the weakness of the state and the lack of energy security policy and given the weight of individual interests is that the matter has not yet been resolved," he said.

He said anywhere in the world, even if made by the private sector, investments are subject to regulation, including the provision for their strategic geographical positioning.

He said that the energy sector is strategic and the Constitution orders the government to guarantee the country's sustainable and equitable development. For that reason, he believes the next natural gas plant should be built in Manzanillo, in the northwest province of Montecristi. He said it would be good to install a natural gas terminal and an energy park that could even sell power to northern Haiti, adding that the Cibao region could also be better served from there.

Castillo said that they were in the process of drafting a Ruling for Third Party Access to Natural Gas Installations. The ruling will establish the general criteria for the technical operation of the system, payment, tariffs system, tolls and other matters. The ruling also seeks to guarantee the continuity, quality and security of the natural gas system, by coordinating the work of the market players, and respecting the principles of objectivity, transparency and non-discrimination. He said that at present, the AES terminal, the only one in the country, is only using 31% of its installed capacity that is 160,000 cubic meters of liquid natural gas. AES says that the use of natural gas has represented US$1.8 billion in savings for the Dominican Republic in the past eight years.


Debt to power generators piles up to US$749 million

The Dominican government has again allowed the debt owed to the private power generation companies to climb. It is now at US$756.6 million as of 8 February 2015, and included US$20.7 million of frozen debt, most of it owed to AES Dominicana, as reported in eldinero.com.do

Arrears account for US$615.4 million, or more than 60% of the total.

The largest debt is owed to Empresa Generadora Haina (EgeHaina), or US$278.4 million.

Preparing for the boom in Pedernales

The Empresa Generadora de Electricidad Haina (EgeHaina) has announced the installation of a new Hyundai power generation plant in the southwestern province of Pedernales. As reported by the company, US$3 million was invested to expand the capacity of the Pedernales generation plant from 3.8 megawatts to 5.1 megawatts. Current peak demand is only at 2.8 megawatts. The Hyundai power plant operates using an efficiently packaged power generating system with a 1,700-kilowatt capacity.

The announcement comes at a time when other plans for new investments in Pedernales are on the agenda. In his 27 February 2015 state of the nation speech, President Danilo Medina announced that the Bahia de las Aguilas beach area would be developed.

Committee against contraband meets

The Committee against Contraband, Fraud and Forgery of goods, chaired by the Minister of the Presidency met yesterday, Monday 2 March 2015 to follow up on the work begun when the committee was created in October 2013. Smuggling, fraud and forgery costs the country millions each year.

Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo said that the state institutions, especially Customs, the Tax Office, Public Prosecution Service and the state security agencies are continuing to improve controls over economic activities known to fly under the tax radar.

During the meeting, Dominican business representatives reported that they were concentrating on several sectors including rum, cigarettes, medicines and clothing affected by illegal trade.

The president and vice president of the Dominican Association of Industries, Campos de Moya and Circe Almanzar, attended the meeting, along with Jaime Aristy Escuder and Patricia Mena, president and executive director of the Dominican Pharmaceutical Industries, and Luis Concepcion and Nassim Alemany from the Dominican Rum Producers' Association. Kai Schoenhals from the National Association of Non-Regulated Users, Liliana Cabeza and Manuel Cabral, president and executive director of Phillip Morris, Federation of Industrial Associations president Ramon Porfirio Baez, Antonio Ramos of the National Organization of Commercial Businesses and Ana Isabel Acosta, executive director of the Association of Brewers were also present.

The Minister of the Presidency was accompanied by Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito, National Police chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Vinicio Mella, Tax Office director Guarocuya Felix, General Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase, Head of the Intelligence and Contraband Section at the Ministry of Defense and Gregorio Lora Arias from the Customs Agency.

Dominican Quality Institute President Manuel Guerrero, Drugs and Pharmacies director at the Health Ministry Karina Mena, and Lieutenant Colonel Vargas Munoz from the Specialized Corp of Border Security (CESFRONT) were also present.


Savers can get their money back from bankrupt bank

The Banking Superintendence has announced that savers who had accounts in Banco Peravia with less than RD$500,000 can now retrieve their money from the bankrupt bank.

Almost RD$45 million is available belonging to 6,721 account holders at the bank, which is just over 95% of the total number of customers.

The remaining 320 account holders with sums over the insured RD$500,000 will have to wait, with no date given by Banking Superintendent Luis Armando Asuncion.

In order to withdraw their money the account holders are being asked to go to any branch of Banco de Reservas with their identity documentation and receipts for their deposits. They do not have to withdraw their money as they have the option of leaving it in BanReservas by opening a new account there.


Advances in Civil Registry checks

The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has announced that the Civil Registry has now checked 21,300 cases of the 60,850 foreigners who have been registered since 1929.

Of those, 132 people will be charged with having false identities.

According to JCE president Roberto Rosario, a meeting to discuss the audit will be held with representatives of international agencies and diplomats.

United Nations representative in the country, Lorenzo Jimenes de Luis is hoping that the meeting will clear up any doubts about the auditing process.


Learn about the success, failures and challenges of EPA in the DR

The Eurochamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic, with the backing of the European Union Delegation in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, is hosting its first breakfast-conference titled "Five Years of EPA" on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at the Garden Tent meeting area of the Hotel Embajador in Santo Domingo. The chamber seeks to strengthen trade links between the DR and the European Union through its European chambers of commerce, as well as stimulating, developing and facilitating export and attracting investment.

There will be presentations and panel discussions to analyze the results of the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) over its first five years. The event seeks to serve as a platform to design a strategy to stimulate and activate trade and cooperation links between the European Union and the Caribbean, unfolding benefits under the EPA.

Eurochamber president Hans Witsenboer says that the event seeks to strengthen economic synergies and provide continuity to commitments taken on in the framework of the EPA, aimed at strengthening the Dominican Republic's positioning in the European market.

"We want to concentrate on the opportunities that EPA offers, both for improving existing businesses, as well as for creating new business in the agro-industrial sector, services, manufacturing, among others," stated Witsenboer.

European Union delegation head Ambassador Alberto Navarro, Industry and Commerce Minister Jose del Castillo, Center for Exports and Investment director Jean Alain Rodriguez, DR Association of Industries president Campos de Moya, and the executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Escipion Oliveira Gomez will be attending the event, as well as representatives of leading Dominican companies that have used the EPA as a platform for successfully expanding their business.

To attend, write to info@eurocamarard.org or call Tel 809 985-8595

Dominicans are smoking less, but drinking more

Dominicans may have caught on to the serious damage that smoking does to their health, based on declining cigarette sales declared by local companies. However, the statistics do not take into account cigarettes smuggled in from Haiti, which do not carry the ISC luxury tax.

The official statistics do show that from the 2,475.8 million cigarettes that formal vendors report having sold here in 2008, the number is now 1,517.8 million, a 39% decline.

The tax agency ISC stats, nevertheless, show that alcohol drinking is up. Dominicans are drinking more beer, Presidente being the leading brand, as well as whisky, wine and vodka. Rum sales, meanwhile, are down. Again, these figures do not include rum or other liquor smuggled in from Haiti.

As reported, 57.6% of all alcohol sold in the Dominican Republic was in the form of beer. Rum sales made up 36%, followed by the less popular wine and vodka. The official stats are not based on the total liters of beverages consumed, but on their pure alcohol content. The government reported alcohol consumed in the form of wine was up 147% in 2014.

Taxes on beer reaped 12.6% more for the government, with RD$9.3 billion in revenue in 2013 to RD$10.5 billion in 2014. Beer collected 3.8% less in 2014, with taxes on beer down from RD$5.1 billion in 2013 to RD$4.9 billion in 2014.


Violence in Haiti is to distract from issues in DR?

Sociologist Melvin Manon speculates that supporters of former President Leonel Fernandez could be behind the protests in Haiti to divert attention from the senator Felix Bautista case and convicted drug dealer Quirino Ernesto Castillo's recent statements. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will open a case against close Fernandez aide Felix Bautista, accused by the Attorney General of asset laundering and other charges.

"The more we have of the Haitian issue, the less we will have on the issue of Felix Bautista, Leonel Fernandez and Quirino Paulino because, as I have said from the start, even though they appear to be three cases, they are one and the same," he writes.

In his opinion, opening a case against Felix Bautista is or should be the critical path to a trial of Leonel Fernandez.

Manon says that PLD supporters of Leonel Fernandez are heating up the situation in Haiti with the aim of provoking an incident on an international scale. "They are going to incite with words and events, as far as they can go, with one or several incidents, so that people forget about Loenel and the accusations against him," he comments.

He describes Martelly as one of Leonel's business partners, saying that he is a protege who will play his part in the farce. "To some extent Martelly has to thank Leonel for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Leonel, through Felix Bautista, invested in his political campaign," he writes. He comments that Martelly was a nobody, who did not even live in Haiti but for whom dirty money, foreign intervention and the errors of the Haitian political opposition, paved the way to the presidency.

He said that the Haitian elite, which he says benefits from the extreme poverty of their fellow Haitians, gain nothing by provoking this kind of incident or by awakening the demands of nationalism. "And they do not care and have never cared about their own country. Poor Haitians are too hungry and too poor to think in terms of flags, nationalism, attacks against consulates or offenses," he writes.

"If you see a Haitian burning a Dominican flag, look for whoever has paid him to do so. Poor Haitians are not anti-Dominican and do not care or think about unifying the island. That is a fantasy created for the benefit of those who profit," he writes. He adds that today's profiteers are smugglers and traffickers, who are not interested in merging the two countries. He said in Haiti "the poor are too poor to think and the middle class does not exist."

"If anyone cannot see the connection between the claims by Quirino, the Felix Bautista case and the 'incidents' and Haitian 'provocation,' this is really because they don't want to see it, it does not suit them or they do not dare acknowledge so much perversity in the upper echelons of the PLD," he concludes.

He speculates that the decision to be taken by Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moscoso Segarra on whether or not to open the case against senator Felix Bautista for asset laundering will have nothing to do with the judiciary. "It is political and in the present circumstances will reflect the balance of forces and the power struggle within the ruling PLD," he writes. "One outcome or another will be product of the prevalence of one sector and their specific interests, even if this is subject to the main objective of that community, which is to stay in power."


Quirino's return still shrouded in mystery

Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito has confirmed that no legal process is underway requiring the presence of recently returned drug dealer Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo. Dominiguez told the press that Paulino Castillo will not get any of his confiscated goods or properties back as they have all gone through the standard confiscation process, including sale, both here and in the United States.

Dominguez Brito confirmed that Quirino's lawyers had gone to his office and met with his assistant, Alejandro Jaquez, saying that Castillo was available if required.

The Attorney General confirmed that the US authorities had not informed the Dominican authorities that Quirino was returning to the country, adding that as he had signed a protection agreement with the US, Quirino had not come here as a deportee, but was currently living in the US.

He went on to say that if Quirino has a US visa he could return there but that it depended on the US authorities, which are managing his case. However his deal included plenty of secret information so there was speculation and a lot of things that were as yet unknown. He said that if a US judge ordered the information to be made public, then and only then would he know all of the information.

He said that he did not know if Quirino had given up being in the witness protection scheme or if he could return to the US.


Czech fugitive detained in Dominican Republic

The DR appears to have become a hideout for Czech criminals, but law enforcement authorities are catching on. In early February 2015, Jiri Exner, who was hiding from authorities for more than two years, was arrested in the Dominican Republic and has been extradited. The Prague police are dealing with his case now.

One year ago, Petr Masopust, charged with fraud and wanted for four years, was also brought from the Dominican Republic back to the Czech Republic.

A 64-year-old man convicted of serious economic crime in the Czech Republic was detained in November 2013 in the Dominican Republic and then extradited to the Czech Republic.

In October 2012, the police detained seven other Czechs in the Dominican Republic, who were wanted for fraud and money laundering. A total of 20 Czechs suspected of criminal activities were then found in the country, but in some cases their detention was marred by hurricane Sandy that prevented the police from getting to the flooded areas in time. Prague media reports that Czechs then allegedly created their community in the DR and helped each another create false identities.

In July 2012, Frantisek Hajn was extradited to the Czech Republic. Shortly before, he was sentenced to ten years in prison in absentia for the robbery of 154 million crowns.

According to foreign news agencies, Czech Viliam Nikoden, who had an arrest warrant issued in 2009, was detained in Montecristi on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as reported in the Czech media.



Cropduster vanishes

A Piper Pawnee aircraft used for fumigation has been missing since noon yesterday, Monday 2 March 2015. It had taken off from Azua in the southwest at 10:30am, headed for Mao, Valverde in the northwest. The plane belongs to Fumca and the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) says it is now searching for the plane.

The cropduster was reported missing by its owner when it failed to arrive at its destination.

The pilot was named as Arraldo Amaro Joa and unusually, according to IDAC, there was no form of Mayday message.



Four arrested for drug trafficking

The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) has arrested four people linked to an international drug-dealing network that recruited couriers known as "mules" to smuggle drugs to the United States and Europe in their stomachs. Two of those arrested had swallowed over 100 packages of cocaine and heroin between them.

Three were arrested at Las Americas International Airport (AILA), two of whom were taking a mule to travel to Madrid with 86 packages in their stomach. The fourth one arrested was a US citizen, a minor who was taking drugs to New York.

The first mule was a 27-year-old Spanish national of Dominican descent, who was taken to the Armed Forces hospital in Santo Domingo where he passed 86 packages, while the minor passed 51.

The DNCD also said that they were also working with the French police, which had confiscated 26 packages of cocaine at Marseilles International airport, said to have come from Punta Cana.


Santo Domingo Music Festival

The DR's leading classical music event opens tomorrow, Wednesday, 4 March 2015 at the National Theater in Santo Domingo. The opening concert will feature violinist Vadim Repin and the National Symphony Orchestra and guest musicians will be directed by Ramon Tebar.

The Festival continues through 14 March 2015, with concerts at the National Theater and the Capilla de los Remedios and Iglesia Regina Angelorum in the Colonial City.

See http://www.sinfonia.org.do/festival/festival-musical-2015/

To read more news, see the DR1 News Archives at: http://dr1.com/premium/news/2015/index.shtml