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Daily News - Thursday, 20 February 2014

Severance pay not part of Labor Code reform, says Minister
Minister of Labor Maritza Hernandez has told Listin Diario reporters that the severance pay package is not part of the discussions underway aimed at revising the country's Labor Code. She said that any reform of the code must be made by consensus and "any law must improve, not go backwards." Nonetheless she also stressed the need for public policies that can generate jobs and increase business competitiveness. Sectors seeking to make changes to the Labor Code argue that small business is discouraged from creating formal jobs under the present conditions.

Only 22% have computers, even fewer have Internet access
The director of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) Gedeon Santos says that the country needs new fiber optic connections. He commented that only 22% of Dominican families have computers. Speaking during a wreath laying ceremony at the Altar de la Patria in Parque Independencia in Santo Domingo yesterday Wednesday 19 February, Santos added that only 14% of Dominicans are connected to the Internet. He said that the country requires a big push from the state and the private sector in order to implement projects that spread Internet connectivity. The Indotel director said that he looked forward to the day when every Dominican family had a computer to be connected to the Internet and the world.

DGII proposes talks for tax increases
Tax Department (DGII) director Guarocuya Felix is advocating for a series of talks towards a tax pact. Felix believes there is room for an increase in taxation. Speaking yesterday, Wednesday 19 February, he mentioned that the Dominican Republic is one of the countries with the lightest tax burden, due to the fact that its structure is very difficult to administer. Felix said that they were working on increasing state income and one sign of this is the improvement in tax administration, as established in the National Development Strategy. He recalled that authority over fiscal policy rests in the Ministry of Hacienda.

Felix was speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace during a presentation of a report on tax statistics. Three international agencies presented a report in which they establish that the tax income of the Dominican Republic and another 17 countries are inferior to that of other countries, despite their increase in relation to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Higher earnings and fewer complaints from banana growers
Banana producers in the northwest of the country have good prospects for 2014. Production is stable, the internal and foreign markets are growing and the prices are going up. The government is backing producers with RD$400 million in low-cost financing from the Banco de Reservas as part of a banana sector support project sponsored by the European Union and the Fair Trade program at an international level. According to Banana Growers Association (Adobanano) president Eleo Jaques, resources from the BanReservas loan are flowing and the growers are able to obtain their materials on time. Together with the European Union, the banana growers are trying to improve their technology as well as working conditions for their labor force. All this is part of a RD$900 million program with the EU.

Beauty industry prepares for more exports
Eleven cosmetic companies have received a quality seal as part of a program funded by the National Competitiveness Council and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) aimed at helping beauty industry companies reach export quality level. The program was organized through the Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD). The exporters are looking into markets in the United States, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Panama, Spain, Aruba, Cuba, Switzerland, St. Martin, the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and Venezuela where buyers have been located. An editorial in El Dia says that this is a pilot program that can be applied to other non-traditional exports in the country.

The cosmetics companies work together under the Dominican Beauty Products Cluster. The AIRD project, "Design, development and implementation of a global quality control strategy for the Dominican Beauty Products Cluster" led to the drafting of standards to regulate guarantees of quality of Dominican beauty products. The two-year initiative is also in response to the cosmetics manufacturers need to certify their products within a framework established by the regulatory body, to position them for export markets.

AIRD executive vice president Julio Brache said that each of the companies was subject to a rigorous evaluation of their entire operation, from best practices in managing human resources, to the manufacturing process, packaging, validation of quality of raw materials and checks on the strategic plans of each of the certified companies.

Companies certified for export quality are: Boe Cosmetics, Laboratorio Capilo Espanol, Laboratorio Carolina, Laboratorios Dr. Collado, Halka Industrial, Inversiones y Negocios (INESA), Laboratorios JM Rodriguez, Laboratorio MK, Laboratorio Rivas, Laboratorios Royster and Laboratorios Union.

BanReservas lending more to the private sector
Under the new administration of Enrique Ramirez Paniagua, the government commercial bank has reduced the share of government loans of its portfolio to 40.8% of the total loans. BanReservas loans to the private sector reached RD$116 billion (59.2%), while the government has loans for RD$79.9 billion.

Last year was a record year for the state bank that accumulated earnings of RD$5.04 billion in 2013, which was 112.5% compared to the previous year when it was RD$2.37 billion.

Writing in Diario Libre, banking analyst Alejandro Fernandez Whipple says that the increased yield is not due to a more efficient operation. He said rather it is due to treasury operations carried out by the bank. He points out that the bank has a large portfolio of investments in Central Bank and Ministry of Hacienda bonds. Some have an interest rate that if cashed in a market with significantly lower rates generates an extraordinary yield for the bank. He said this kind of operation is common in the private banking world, but was not a general practice under Ramirez Paniagua's predecessor Vicente Bengoa's administration. Fernandez Whipple writes that while in the first half of 2013, earnings for this chapter were under RD$220 million, in the second half of the year, with the start of the new administration they reached RD$1.7 billion, or 53% of the earnings for the period.

The banking expert comments that the Banreservas is not spending less, and instead increased its payroll by 32%, while private banks reported a 16% increase last year. Furthermore, he said that while there are 47 bankers at a Banco de Reservas branch, there are on average 30 bankers at a private bank, indicating lower operational efficiency.

He ended by commenting that government borrowing through the bank is still very high. In 2013 it closed at RD$79 billion, which is more than the RD$71 billion in 2012, a record for banking.

www.diariolibre.com/destacada/2014/02/20/i490811_bjele-algo-don-enrique.html

Outgoing rector of UASD orders audit of his term
In a session yesterday, Wednesday 19 February, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) Council gave the go-ahead for the Chamber of Accounts to audit the university at the request of outgoing rector Mateo Aquino Febrillet. The resolution says that for the audit, they are sending the official agency the financial balance sheets and the budgetary performance of the state university up to 31 December 2013.

In a press release they added that this measure guarantees the transparency with which the finances have been handled during the three years of the Aquino Febrillet administration. Aquino Febrillet will hand over the reins to newly elected rector Ivan Grullon Fernandez on 28 February.

Yesterday, Grullon Fernandez announced that the payroll at the state university had nearly doubled over the last year, and promised to clean up the financial situation. When asked for his reaction to the statement, Aquino Febrillet responded by saying that he would deal with this after he hands over the administration.

Everyone will need to have photo taken for new ID card
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has announced that the 18-month campaign to renew ID cards (cedulas) in the Dominican Republic will reach seven million people. A promotional campaign is starting this month to provide details on the new ID card that reportedly includes 20 security mechanisms, a non-visual chip and a barcode. The card is scheduled to begin to be issued at the end of the first quarter of the year, said JCE president Roberto Rosario. The first ID card will be free but everyone will have to have a photo taken and supply data at 146 centers and mobile units that will be installed nationwide. The cards will be issued to citizens, legally resident foreigners and minors.

Avenida Espana cleaned up after newspaper report
Diario Libre published photos of cruise ship tourists walking amidst piles of garbage in yesterday's issue, Wednesday 19 February. Immediately, Santo Domingo East (ASDE) municipal officials admitted there were problems and said that they would follow up on the situation so that it does not repeat itself. ASDE urban cleansing coordinator Rafael Hilario Medina said: "We understand the importance of tourism for the country and the economy and know this affects us. We are coordinating improved surveillance around the garbage containers in the area to ensure that garbage is dumped inside and not outside. He said that they would work with the municipal environmental police to prevent the garbage from being spilled.

Medina said that the surveillance would cover the areas of the Columbus Lighthouse, the Los Tres Ojos Park, Avenida Espana and environs, and that it was due to start yesterday.

www.diariolibre.com/noticias/2014/02/20/i491111_reforzarn-limpieza-zona-turstica-santo-domingo-este.html

Bishops favor Loma Miranda being declared a protected area
The Dominican bishops have expressed their support for Loma Miranda, located between the provinces of La Vega and Monsignor Nouel, being declared a national park by law. In their message, "The Value of the Political Life", to mark the 170th anniversary of National Independence (that will be celebrated next Thursday, 27 February), the Dominican Conference of Bishops established their position on the area, which remains in the public debate given the possibility that Falcondo Xstrata might obtain mining permits from the Ministry of the Environment.

The bill aimed at creating a national park in Loma Miranda has already been passed in the Chamber of Deputies, but the Senate is studying the bill.

Now the Catholic Church bishops say that it is "very important to have the involvement and the support of all citizens in the social movements and demands, creating flows of solidarity to demand that the administrators of the state handle the negotiations of the people's assets cleanly and for the benefit of the nation."

They recalled that there have already been positive experiences with popular struggles in the country, such as the case of the 4% of GDP for education campaign, the campaign against the construction of a cement factory near Los Haitises, the revision of the Barrick Gold contract and the Loma Miranda defense campaign itself. It is not the first time that the bishops have called for the nation's assets to be handled with transparency. In their statement this time last year, they called on government officials to act "with sufficient political will in order to defend the national heritage."

http://www.diariolibre.com/noticias/2014/02/20/i491511_obispos-dominicanos-esperan-declaren-loma-miranda-como-parque-nacional.html

Young people in fear of crime
Of a total of 1,215 young people interviewed about the risks that they deal with, 50% said that their worries about being a crime victim prevents them from carrying out their daily activities. And 86% said that crime is on the increase. The study was conducted by Research Triangle International (RTI) and Gallup Dominicana with sponsorship from the Youth Alert Project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). According to the results, 73.9% believe that juvenile delinquency has increased, while 42% feel that the same is happening with adult crime. The study is part of the "Proyecto Alerta Joven" (Youth Alert Project), which seeks to promote opportunities for young Dominicans in at-risk situations.

The director of the Unit for Attention to Adolescents in Conflict with the Law, part of the Justice Department, Carlos Manuel Guerrero said that young people in conflict with the law must be reintegrated into society. Businesswoman and president of the Action for Education (Educa) campaign, Elena Villeya de Paliza said that the priority was to guarantee jobs for young people, so that they can join the formal sector with dignity, as a way of reducing violence. She went on to say that the government should include tax incentives for the private sector so that they can cover the cost of training and health insurance when they hire this segment of young people.

DNCD: agents protected capos in San Cristobal
The head of the National Drug Control Agency, Major General Julio Cesar Souffront, delivered a report to the Chief of the National Police, Major General Manuel Castro Castillo yesterday, Wednesday 19 February, in which the DNCD reveals that a large number of police officers assigned to the province of San Cristobal were providing protection for the recently arrested gang of drug dealers led by Cristian Pozo (El Matatan). Souffront thanked the Chief of Police for his help with the investigation that revealed that members of the National Police and the DNCD were in complicity in protecting the drug dealers. The officers involved are under arrest as the investigations continue, according to El Nuevo Diario.

Police Chief refutes Attorney General's claims
Speaking yesterday, Wednesday 19 February, National Police Chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo declared that the police investigative unit is effective and that the Dominican Republic's Investigative Police is one of the most efficient in the region. Castro Castillo was responding to comments by the Attorney General of the Republic, Francisco Dominguez Brito, who described the investigation process by police officers at a crime scene as "inefficient and rudimentary."

The Chief of Police said that in a high percentage of complex cases, "we solve them in record time and this is with a rudimentary police force... we know that we have to improve their living conditions... we have to professionalize, an investigative area that we have to improve."

He said that President Danilo Medina himself was providing resources for the Police in all areas, but specifically for investigations, and to acquire the technological equipment to strengthen it. He added that the Police have properly trained personnel as well as using modern equipment in the area of investigation. He pointed out that after his appointment to the post they began to identify capable officers and academics with higher levels of education, and they have already trained more than 40 officers in the area of criminal investigation. "For us this is an improvement in the profile of the members of the investigative area," he said.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Dominguez Brito was quoted as saying that it was laughable to see Scientific Police officers dusting for fingerprints. Diario Libre reporters were given access to the Police criminal investigation area where they were shown the equipment used to obtain fingerprints as well as a modern ballistic laboratory. "It is not true that the investigative area of the Police does not do its job, it is very efficient and there is the evidence, the cases that are solved and handed over to the justice system," he said. He warned that other areas of the system have to be revised, "as the Police is reviewed and its weaknesses corrected."

http://www.diariolibre.com/noticias/2014/02/20/i491911_castro-castillo-defiende-capacidad-tcnica-polica-nacional.html

Suspected Colombian scammer arrested in San Pedro
The Police says it has seized 36 forged passports from a 38-year old Colombian, Gorge Duvan Garcia Botero who is under arrest, accused of defrauding the state and individuals to the tune of millions of pesos. As reported in Diario Libre, he was arrested with 36 Dominican passports with several different identities of people who had reported the fraud to the Police. The alleged scammer charged RD$15,000 to RD$20,000 for using the city government of San Pedro de Macoris as a channel for requesting US visas. He acted as a city government employee.

Garcia Botero is also accused by Jose Cano Soriano, who is the father of Seattle Mariners ballplayer Robinson Cano. Cano senior accuses him of using his Yahoo account to ask for donations to the Fundacion Robinson Cano at local hotels. According to the Police, he succeeded in obtaining RD$700,000 from the Hotel Talanquera, US$4,000 from Barcelo, US$3,000 from the Ministry of Tourism, US$1,900 from the Hamaca and US$20,000 from George Nader.

www.diariolibre.com/noticias/2014/02/20/i491451_apresan-colombiano-que-estaf-decenas-san-pedro-macors.html

Priest accused of pedophilia sent to jail in Poland
36-year old Polish priest Wojciech Gil (Padre Alberto) has been charged with four counts of sex offenses against children under 15 years in Poland and in the Dominican Republic, where he lead the parish of Juncalito in the central province of Santiago. The priest was detained by the Polish police near the southern city of Cracow on Monday, 17 February. He had been under investigation by the Polish prosecutors since September. The Polish prosecutors are following up on initial investigations into the case by Dominican prosecutors. Dominican prosecutors provided documents to substantiate the sexual abuse claims. The priest was ordered to serve three months preventive custody as the case investigations continue.

What is new is that Wojciech Gil is being charged for sexual offenses in Poland also.

"Two of the charges concern acts that took place in the Dominican Republic, to the harm of citizens of the Dominican Republic, and two concern acts that took place in Poland and concern Polish citizens," Przemyslaw Nowak, spokesman for the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Wars, told a news conference, as reported in The Voice of Warsaw. A Dominican TV investigative report first revealed the wrongdoings, after which the priest left the country. The priest has denied the wrongdoings and has said he was being set up by the local drug gangs he had opposed.

As reported, Wojciech Gil faces up to 12 years in prison if he is convicted.

The investigative video on the Juncalito parish priest also revealed the close ties of Wojciech to former Vatican nuncio in the Dominican Republic, Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski who was recalled in August by the Vatican and is being investigated there on child sexual abuse charges.

http://www.warsawvoice.pl/WVpage/pages/article.php/27387/news

Winter storm and rising dollar increase fuel prices
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Jose del Castillo Savinon, said on Wednesday, 19 February that the winter storms in North America and the increase in the cost of a dollar on the local markets are some of the reasons for the increase in the cost of fuel in the country. Del Castillo Savinon said that the price of oil has gone up due to increased demand in the United States because of the recent severe winter storms, reaching US$101 while the dollar on the local exchange market went to RD$43.12. According to El Nuevo Diario, discussions with the representatives of the National Gasoline Retailers Association (Anadegas) are heading towards a solution.

Independence Cycling Tour starts today
Fourteen local cycling teams and several from abroad, including Canada, Colombia, Guadeloupe and the United States took off today, Thursday 20 February on the first stretch of the 1,010 km cycling tour around the country.

The 35th Independence Cycling Tour, the leading event of its kind in the Caribbean, is divided into eight stages from 20 to 28 February. The first leg of the competition took off at 9:30am from Independence Park in Santo Domingo's Colonial City to cover the 146km stretch to San Pedro de Macoris in the southeast.

The second leg departs at 9am on 21 February from Santo Domingo to Samana (140 km). The third stretch is from Samana to Sanchez and San Francisco de Macoris (136 km). The fourth is a turnaround the Avenida Monumental in Santiago. The fifth takes cyclists to Moca, La Vega, Jarabacoa and Constanza (95 km). The sixth takes cyclists on tour from La Vega to Villa Altagracia and then to Santo Domingo (79 km) in the morning, to compete against the clock in the Mirador del Sur Park in the afternoon (20 km). The seventh stretch is San Cristobal-Bani-Azua-San Juan, a distance of 162 km. The eighth is along the Quinto Centenario expressway (96 km).

Rosario Dynasty Concert at Teatro la Fiesta
A memorable concert by the Rosario merengue-making family is booked for the Hotel Jaragua's Teatro La Fiesta in Santo Domingo this evening, Thursday, 20 February at 8:30pm. Rafa and Tono Rosario, and their brothers Luis and Tony will appear on stage together as part of the Rosario Dynasty Concert. This is a Cesar Suarez Jr. production. Ticket sales of the first concert have been so successful, a second concert has been programmed for Friday, 21 February also at La Fiesta.

Tickets for sale at ticketexpress.com.do

For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
 

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