Leading cultural event, book fair opens in Santo Domingo|
President Danilo Medina and Vice President Margarita Cedeno were at the National Theater last night, 24 April 2014, for the formal opening of the 17th International Book Fair that will continue through 5 May. The event is regarded as the prime cultural activity organized in the country every year.
This year the fair is dedicated to the Dominican poet Domingo Moreno Jimenez and Panama is the guest country. Deputy Director of the Panamanian Culture Institute, Raul Castro represented Panama at the event and emphasized the close relations between both countries. Videos on Panama were shown during the event.
Participating in the Book Fair this year are 181 publishing companies, 61 international exhibitors, representative from 19 countries and 70 foreign writers, the Presidency reports. Visitors can stroll through the exhibition grounds to see the thirty or so booths that show the cultural diversity of the Dominican Republic.
On the opening night, Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez honored three recently deceased stars of Latino culture: Nobel Prize of Literature Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Puerto Rican salsa singer Cheo Feliciano and Dominican singer Sonia Silvestre.
In his opening remarks, the Minister highlighted the efforts of the Medina administration to eliminate illiteracy by 2015 and said that for many learning to read is like being re-born. One of the graduates of the literacy program, Georgina Vasquez told the audience: "Those who cannot read are blind. But now, I know how to read! Those that learn can make it in life and achieve what they want". She announced that she would continue on her path to a more productive and fulfilling life as she has enrolled in a course to study to become a salonist.
The organizers of the Book Fair used the opening celebration to honor other individuals and institutions that have made important contributions to Latin American culture. Nicaraguan poet, Ernesto Cardenal, the Eduardo Leon Jimenes Foundation, the Dominican academies of Science and Language and arts promoter Veronica Sencion were honored during this special evening
Finally, the Minister of Culture Rodriguez announced the complete remodeling of the National Theater.
See the cultural program of the book fair at http://www.ferilibro.com/2k7/images/programa%202014%20pdf%20final.pdf
RD$18 million+ for Ministry of Education stand at book fair|
An apparent attempt of The Ministry of Education to highlight its achievements and new raised status within the government may have backfired. The Ministry of Education commissioned the construction of the most costly stand ever at the Santo Domingo Book Fair, estimated by stand builders to exceed RD50 million. The high cost of the stand, which includes a two-floor replica of the nearby marble-covered offices of the Ministry of Education, raised some eyebrows in the media. The Ministry claims that the actual cost of the exhibit is around RD$18 million and the process to design and construct the exihibit (won by the architectural firm of Caro Alvarez) was transparent and in compliance with government regulations. The framework of the exhibit is made of steel and Sheetrock was used to fashion the finished details of the exhibit. In all, the structure measures 16 meters wide by 18 meters long.
The exhibit, which will be only in use for the 10-day duration of the Book Fair, occupies an area of around 500 square meters at Plaza de la Cultura.
Diario Libre reports that inside the stand there is nothing innovative, just a pedestrian mock-up of the unremarkable work that actually goes on at the Ministry on a daily basis.
It seems that the government headquarter replication theme at the Book Fair went viral this year, as the National Police has also built a major replica of its own offices.
Not to be outdone, the Diario Libre reports that The Office of the Vice President Margarita Cedeno commissioned the construction of the second largest stand at the fair to impress visitors.
Major vaccination drive in full swing|
The Ministry of Public Health has launched a major campaign to vaccinate 1.3 million children against different preventable diseases. The DR has eradicated many diseases that affect infants and children and the vaccination campaigns are important to maintain the health advances. The children will receive vaccinations for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (DPT). All the vaccinations are free.
Some 181,369 doss of the DPT vaccine will be given to children under 7 years of age who are enrolled in public schools. Another 513,669 doses of diphtheria and tetanus vaccines will be given to public school children seven years of age or older. Likewise, 1.5 million boys and girls up to the age of 14 will receive a dose of Albendazole of 400 milligrams to treat neurocysticercosis, an infection caused by the pork tapeworm.
By 3 May, the Ministry expects to have vaccinated 685,905 children against polio from newborns to the age of three. This delivery of these health services will be through a door-to-door campaign as well as through fixed vaccination stations and mobile health units.
The Ministry says that this year the rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines are available, and that 10-year old girls will receive the vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus that has been linked to increased risk of cancers of the cervix.
President elect of Costa Rica visits|
The president elect of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, met with President Danilo Medina at the Presidential Palace as a final stop of his tour to personally invite regional presidents to his inaugural on 8 May. He had earlier visited Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama.
When receiving President-elect Solis, Medina was accompanied by Vice President Margarita Cedeno and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. Victor Barrantes, an expert on regional integration issues and Costa Rica ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jose Rafael Torres Castro, also attended.
During his brief trip to the Dominican Republic, Solis also visited former President Leonel Fernandez at Funglode. Solis said that he has maintained a friendship over the years with the former President.
Pelegrin Castillo appointed first Minister of Energy and Mines|
President Danilo Medina chose legislator Pelegrin Castillo Seman as the country's first Minister of Energy and Mines. Mining previously fell under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. To take the position, Castillo will need to resign from his elected post as legislator. The Constitution specifically prohibits an active legislator to assume another government position.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines was recently created and President Medina has instructed the new ministry to focus on mining for the next two years. The Medina administration has been seen as pro-mining in its first two years, as a record number of concessions and facilities for exploration have been awarded to several international mining companies.
Castillo is an advocate for petroleum exploration for the country but has stated that a better legal framework is necessary to attract better companies.
President Medina used the Decree 141-14 to appoint several deputy ministers that will serve under Castillo.
The new deputy ministers are Alberto Veloz, Deputy Minister for Energy; Antonio Herrera, Deputy Minister for Energy and Infrastructure and Victoriano Santos, Deputy Minister for Governmental Energy Saving. Also Alberto Radhames Reyes Sanchez was named Deputy Minister for Hydrocarbons and will serve with the newly appointed deputy ministers Edgar Mejia Butten (Mines) and Enrique Peynado (Nuclear Energy).
Castillo had presided over the commissions of industry and commerce and energy and mines in the chamber of deputies. Castillo has been an advocate of opening talks to reach fundamental agreements for the development of mining in the country. He has been very vocal about responsible mining and has said that mining is not the greatest risk to the environment, but rather poverty and exclusion.
The Medina administration has been a strong backer of increased mining in the Dominican Republic through the appointment of director of Mines, Alexander Medina. Alexander Medina has been criticized as acting more on behalf of the mining companies than the interests of the country.
In the DR, in general, with the exception of the Barrick Gold and Loma Miranda (Xstrata Falcondo) cases, mining has been low profile industry. There is little reported locally on the operations of Barrick Gold itself, Unigold, Goldquest, Everton and Marvex, among other companies.
Angel Estevez is new Minister of Agriculture|
The Medina administration appointed Angel Estevez as the new Minister of Agriculture, replacing Luis Ramon Rodriguez who resigned from the cabinet. In addition, Deputy Minister Claudio Jimenez will replace Agnes Cishek, who was Deputy Minister for Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Estevez had been the administrator of the Banco Agricola. Carlos Segura Foster will be the administrator of the Banco Agricola.
Changes at the Ministry of Culture|
President Danilo Medina announced appointing Federico Henriquez Gratereaux as deputy minister for Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture. Also appointed was Juan Tomas Garcia as Deputy Minister for Creativity and Citizen Participation. Others appointed at the Ministry of Culture were Oscar Holguin Veras in the position of Deputy Minister for the Cultural Industries; Ediltrudis Pichardo, Deputy Minister for Cultural Identity and Citizenship; Carlos Santos, Deputy Minister for Institutional Development and Carlos Jose Espinal, Deputy Minister for Decentralization and Land Coordination.
DR issues 30-year securities at record low yield|
The government of the Dominican Republic announced it has sold a record amount of bonds today in its first offering of a 30-year dollar debt at a low interest rate of 7.45%. The Dominican Republic has made history in the capitals market with the placement of US$1.25 billion of securities due in 30 years at a yield of 7.45%. The DR became the first B rated country to place securities to the 30-year term in the past six years, announced the government. The government said that its offer is better than offers to place bonds on the market in countries made by Uruguay (7.625% in 2006), Pakistan (7.875% in 2006), Indonesia (8.5% in 2005) and Jamaica (8.5% in 2006 and 8.0% in 2007). The Minister of Finance, Simon Lizardo said this offer reflects positively on the trust investors have in the Dominican economy.
He said that 118 investors from all around the world purchased the Dominican bonds. There was demand for around US$3 billion, three times the total issue.
According to a government spokesperson there were several reasons why investors were motivated to buy Dominican bonds: the Medina administration has dramatically reduced the fiscal deficit in 2013; the positive impact on the balance of payments of the conversion of the electrical grid to natural gas and coal; and the successful renegotiation of the contract between Barrick Gold and the Dominican state.
The Dominican government leaders feel that the offer will also have a positive impact on future investment projects in the country because the interest rate sets the sovereign risk of the country for 30 years. This enables future investors to evaluate the feasibility of long-term investment projects.
The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JP Morgan Chase & Co. arranged the transaction.
Reuters pointed to the characteristic of the placement as "a new dual-currency, dual-tranche bond offering denominated in both US dollars and Dominican pesos".
The news report says that after raising US$1.5 billion in overseas bond markets last year, the Dominican Republic is taking advantage of its lowest borrowing costs since June. Proceeds would reportedly be used to fund infrastructure projects.
Anibal de Castro on legalization process in the Dominican Republic|
In a recently published opinion piece on CNN.com, Dominican ambassador to the United States, Anibal de Castro responded the Amnesty International opinion piece concerning the Haitian immigration issues in the Dominican Republic.
The ambassador explained that the government seeks to regularize the status of foreign nationals living in the Dominican Republic by implementing an inclusive immigration policy that will help improve the condition of undocumented immigrants in a transparent and fair manner.
"Over the next 18 months, the government will implement measures that will make clear the migratory status of approximately 435,000 people from almost 120 countries. All the while, the government is maintaining its strong commitment to human rights and international standards," wrote Ambassador Castro in a special contribution for CNN.
He clarifies that the Dominican Republic provides basic services, including free access to education and healthcare, to all individuals living in the country. He explains that the DR invests 18% of its healthcare budget to service the immigrant population and 54,000 immigrant students are enrolled in Dominican public schools. "Furthermore, the government ensures the right for all children to have access to a free education, regardless of migratory status or nationality. This strong commitment to guaranteeing basic services will continue, as we strive to improve the quality of life for all individuals living on Dominican soil," the ambassador said, directly addressing the misinformation that immigrants are not allowed access to Dominican public schools.
He expresses that the Constitutional Court ruled that the government of the Dominican Republic was required to launch a proactive process to implement a fair and transparent immigration policy, one that respects each person's contribution to Dominican society and gives clarity to an outdated system. He stresses this will enhance security and prosperity on the island of Hispaniola at large.
Supreme Courts sends Bahia de las Aguilas case back to first court|
Supreme Court of Justice ordered the Santo Domingo First Collegiate Court of the Penal Chamber of the First Instance Court of the National District to rehear the case against former director of the Dominican Agrarian Institute Jaime Rodriguez Guzman, his brother and wife. They are accused of expropriation of thousands of meters of prime beach land in the southwestern province of Pedernales. The Supreme Court was responding to a briefing presented by National District prosecutor Yeni Berenice Reynoso opposing a decision to end the case for expiration that was decided by the president of that same court, Giselle Mendez, on 4 June 2013. Reynoso expressed the need to achieve a collegiate decision of the court's three judges, not a unilateral decision by the presiding judge. The case has been in the judiciary for 17 years, mostly due to dilatory actions taken by the government prosecutors themselves that has favored the defendants.
Diario Libre reports this is the second time that the Supreme Court of Justice has annulled the closing of the case.
Commenting on the decision, prosecutor general Francisco Dominguez Brito said that the judiciary would continue to work to preserve the Jaragua National Park where Bahia de las Aguilas is located. Brito said that ecosystems of the Park are unique in the Caribbean and vowed to vigorously defend the unique ecologies of the Park using the full weight that the law permits.
Barra Payan reopens after shutdown for tax fine|
Thursday morning the iconic Barra Payan on Calle 30 de Marzo was reopened in Santo Domingo. The cafeteria had remained closed for 24 hours after being shut for being in arrears with the Department of Taxes (DGII).
The cafeteria reportedly had to satisfy a debt of RD$85,000 with the DGII.
Two arrested for forging credit cards|
The National Department of Investigations reported the arrest of two men accused of heading electronic fraud operations in the country. Hohan Jose Lopez Jimenez and Johnny Joel Pimentel Santos were arrested in the case. The DNI explained that the two suspects had been operating in tourist areas of the country, and had been using forged national and international bank credit cards to withdraw large sums of money from ATMs. Agents from The National Department of Investigations searched the homes of the suspects located in The National District and Santo Domingo East and dismantled two labs dedicated to the manufacturing of blank credit cards and several types of personal ID documents.
The director of the DNI, Major General Maximo Williams Munoz Delgado, said they had been following Lopez Jimenez for half a year.
Miyamoto International has plans to compete for Dominican constructions|
The global structural engineering firm, Miyamoto International that already has operations in seven nations, announced plans to add offices in the Dominican Republic within a year. The company was active in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and received the ENR engineering industry publication award for Best Global Projects for the renovation and repair work done in Haiti.
The company is also very active in earthquake-prone California.
A top executive of the company, Kit Miyamoto, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that technology exists to give high-rises the kind of superior performance that will maintain their structural integrity even following a major earthquake. Miyamoto estimates that the integration of the improved building materials and practices would only add 2-5% to the cost of the building.
Number of disabled increases in DR|
According to the government survey, ENHOGAR 2013, 708,597 persons living in the Dominican Republic have some kind of disability. Visual disability affects 288,594 persons, mostly men. The study determined that 66% of the persons with disabilities are not working.
Other disabilities are:
Impediments to walk, 228,808 persons
Permanent difficulties to stand, 165,792 persons
Foot difficulties, 103,311 persons
Difficulties with the use of arms, 134,948 persons
Hearing deficiencies, 97,735 persons
Difficult in holding objects, 87,220 persons
Limitations with the use of fingers, 84,259 persons
Limitations with use of hands, 67,559 persons
Difficulties with the use of toes, 611,33 persons.
Pablo Tactuk of the National Office of Statistics (ONE) presented the findings at a press conference. He said the disabled persons represent 7% of the Dominican population. Of the disabled, 51.7% are men and 43.3% women. 74% of the disabled live in cities and 26% reside in rural areas.
Self-kidnap plan flops in Puerto Plata|
The Police reported the arrest of a Dominican woman, Enerolisa Paulino, accused of plotting her own abduction in a bid to extort money from her husband, a German merchant. A ransom of EUR5,000 (about 296,672 pesos) had been demanded. The Police accused Noelia Martinez of being Paulino's accomplice when making the call for the ransom. Martinez admitted to authorities that Paulino needed the money to pay for health care for her father. Agents under the Criminal Investigations department in Cabarete "rescued" the woman in the municipality of Sosua, Puerto Plata. Both continue to be investigated by the Police in Puerto Plata.
The German national had reported on Tuesday that his wife was missing after receiving a telephone call asking for a ransom of EUR5,000 or else they would kill the woman. The worried husband informed the authorities of the "kidnap". But Police investigators quickly determined that there was a strong possibility that the kidnap was a hoax.
First two persons sue TelexFree|
Prosecutor German Miranda Villalona says the department can now proceed against TelexFree after receiving the first two claims of fraud against the company from two yet unnamed persons. Miranda is the director of the Anti- Asset Laundering Division at the Prosecutor General Office. The company is accused of operating a ponzi scheme in the Dominican Republic that reportedly has left 150,000 persons holding an estimated total loss of US$100 million.
In a strange twist, a group of TelexFree supporters have announced a pro-TelexFree march set for this Saturday. The marchers will declare their support of TelexFree operations and tout its benefits.
Vatican ambassador openly against gays?|
His predecessor was accused of child abuse in the Dominican Republic. Now the present representative of the Vatican is apparently openly anti-gay. Acento.com.do leaks that Vatican envoy Jude Thaddeus Okolo refused to allow Vatican facilities to be used for an event in which the US Ambassador James (Wally) Brewster would have participated with his spouse Bob Satawake. All diplomats accredited in the country had been invited to the cocktail that would have been held at the Vatican since it is the seat of the dean of ambassadors, post that is held by the Papal Nuncio. Monsignor Jude Thaddeus Okolo had sent a letter to the secretary of the diplomatic corps in the Dominican Republic, ambassador of Argentina Noemi Maria Gomez, explaining that the representation of the Catholic Church in the country does not lend its facilities to events in which the "consorts" of ambassadors assist. The Envoy wrote that the halls are always available when the meetings are celebrated without the "consorts".
The nuncio asked the Argentinean ambassador to use discretion in communicating the situation to other heads of diplomatic missions.
This is the second time that the Catholic Church has used an excuse to exclude or uninvite the US Ambassador and his partner to events in the venues or purviews of the Catholic Church. The first snub occurred on 22 January, when the Catholic Church hosted a cocktail to honor of President Danilo Medina. All heads of missions and their spouses were invited, with the exception of Bob Satawake, the partner of ambassador Brewster. The entire diplomatic corps, in solidarity with Brewster, refused to attend the cocktail and the event was subsequently cancelled. The nuncio claimed that Satawake was registered at the Ministry of Foreign Relations not as a husband, but as a "dependent." Furthermore Okolo contends that the presence of Satawake would be an insult to President Medina because the Dominican Constitution does not recognize same sex marriages.
Juan Sebastian de Elcano in Santo Domingo|
The Royal Spanish Navy's Juan Sebastian de Elcano tall ship arrived to Santo Domingo yesterday, Thursday, 24 April for its 20th visit. The ship is a four-mast topsail, steel-hulled schooner that measures 113 meters (370 feet) long and is the third largest tall ship in the world. It is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Sebastian Elcano, captain of Ferdinand Magellan's last exploratory fleet.
During her visit, locals will get a chance to learn a bit about Spain's naval history, and Spanish immigrants are welcome abroad for a chance to step onto Spanish "soil" for a few moments. The ship carries the de Elcano coat of arms, granted to the family by Emperor Charles I.
The ship is open to the general public today, Friday, from 10am to 1pm and from 1pm to 2:30pm. On Saturday, it will be open from 10am to 1pm and from 1:30 to 7pm. On Sunday, 27 April, the last day, it will be open from 11am to 1pm and 1:30 to 7pm.
The Spanish Embassy notes that the ship is on its 85th training cruise. The ship leaves Monday, 28 April for New York City, prior to returning to Spain.
The commanding officer of the Juan Sebastian de Elcano is Captain Enrique Torres Pineyro, and her crew consists of 24 officers, 22 NCOs, 139 leading seamen and ratings, and 5 civilians.
Keeper of Promises back by popular acclaim at Bellas Artes|
The National Theater Company is presenting The Keeper of Promises by Brazilian Alfredo Dias Gomes at the Palacio de Bellas Artes this weekend, 25-27 April. Felix German, director of Bellas Artes announced the event will be staged again given the success of the initial presentations of this classic Latin American drama. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8:30pm and on Sunday, at 7pm. Tickets are RD$100 per person.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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