President Medina congratulates new King of Spain|
In a letter dated 20 June 2014, President Medina sent his congratulations to the new king and queen, Felipe and Letizia. His father, King Juan Carlos abdicated on Thursday, 18 June after a 39-year reign. The new King of Spain, Felipe VI had last visited the Dominican Republic in August 2012 for President Danilo Medina's inauguration ceremony.
"We are confident that your outstanding training for such an important task, the vigor of your youth and the high values that distinguish you as a human being will be decisive factors in ensuring the success of your new role, as the continuation of the democratic principles held in Spain by His Majesty Don Juan Carlos I," reads President Medina's message to the new Spanish King.
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Regularization plan expands to new areas|
National Foreigner Legalization Plan director Samir Santos has announced that the services now being offered by 14 offices across the country will be expanded to new offices and mobile units in areas with large populations of undocumented foreigners, as reported in Diario Libre. As of Friday, 19 June 2014, the offices had been visited by 54,020 foreigners seeking to legalize their status, and had registered 10,387. The nationwide plan began on 2 June. Foreigners can apply in the National District and at governor's offices in 12 leading provinces. Press reports indicate that there are long lines, consisting mainly of Haitians who want to regularize their status. The free and expited process will continue until 15 May 2015. The main obstacle to the regularization is that thousands of foreigners have immigrated without birth certificates or passports issued by their native Haiti, and that these are costly are difficult to obtain through the Haitian authorities.
Diario Libre reports that the plan has the support of the Red de Encuentro Dominico-Haitiano Jacques Viau, Mesa Nacional para las Migraciones and the International Organization for Migration.
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JCE pleased with pace of cedula renovations|
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) reports that 854,781 citizens had renewed their identification cards (cedula) as of Wednesday, 17 June 2014. JCE president Roberto Rosario said that a further 26,000 cards are ready for collection. He announced that the millionth citizen who applies for renovation would receive a free computer and tuition payment for a year. The process has been underway for two months. Rosario said that more than a million people have visited the JCE offices to get the new card.
Trade, energy, security and mutual respect key issues covered in Biden visit|
Speaking to the press following a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden at the Presidential Palace on Friday, 19 June, President Danilo Medina listed the key areas on the US and Dominican bilateral agenda and called for strengthening the relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation n reviewing regional security, drug trafficking, energy and trade.
With the Central American and Caribbean region a victim of the high demand for drugs in the United States, President Medina urged the US to continue to work with the region through the Central American Integration System (SICA) for security and called for joint initiatives, saying that this was crucial in order to fight drug trafficking. He also called for joint efforts to fight people smuggling and contain illegal immigration. He thanked the US for its support for the new 911 emergency system and for their continued support.
Medina highlighted the fact that the US is the Dominican Republic's main trading partner. He raised the issue of the rising trade deficit with the United States following the signing of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. The US sells more than US$7 billion to the DR, and the DR exports are at around US$4 billion. "We are aware that DR-CAFTA presents great challenges because of the asymmetrical nature of our economies and called for fairness for local producers," said Medina. He also addressed the threats to the economy presented by the US participation in the TransPacific Agreement (TPP) now being discussed. "We trust that the US will take our concerns into account and that we will not be forced to compete at a disadvantage in the US market".
President Medina highlighted the ambitious projects underway for diversifying the energy generation matrix with an emphasis on increasing investment in renewable energy sources. He said the country values the US support for strengthening our self-sufficiency, and for finding a balance between clean energy and energy costs.
President Medina said that the Dominican Republic wants to be first in line when the US begins to export natural gas. Natural gas imports from OPEC-member countries are artificially high because they are pegged to crude oil prices. The DR sources most of its petrol from Venezuela and most of its natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago, both OPEC members. The US is not a member of OPEC and thus if authorized by the US Congress could sell LNG for much lower prices. The DR is increasing its power generation capacity based on LNG.
President Medina also spoke of the ties of friendship given that more than a million Dominicans live in the US, the same amount of tourists from the US visiting, and the estimated 250,000 US citizens who live in the DR. "These strong links lead to a responsibility for creating the best conditions for our citizens and expatriates," he said.
He spoke about the 911 emergency system and said that it is working and wants to spread the project to other areas outside Greater Santo Domingo, calling for continued support from the United States.
President Medina commented that the country's relationship with the US is and will continue to be excellent. "Our purpose, our objective has been for them to reflect the maturity of both democracies manifested as a partnership with a common purpose of moving forward for the development of our people. As in all partnerships, mutual respect must be an inviolable rule. Understanding that always amongst partners, there can be disagreements. What is important, however, is dialogue, and that the dignity of one country goes beyond its borders. In summary, our conversation has been frank, open, respectful, as it should be between two friends."
"We are linked to the United States by geography, democratic values and love of freedom. Our interest is that the close relationship that we enjoy today may be even closer in the future. I trust that this will be the case after this memorable visit," he concluded.
Biden is the first US Vice President to visit the country since 1980. He was accompanied by his 13-year old granddaughter and a teenage nephew. He stopped over on a Latin American tour that began in Brazil, followed by Colombia and due to end in Guatemala. He also visited the new US embassy compound in Santo Domingo.
In his own remarks after the meeting with the President, Biden expressed his regret that he was not able to travel with his wife. The Vice President of the United States expressed a firm belief in the importance of the two countries' relationship. "And I said to you and I've said throughout the hemisphere that it is no longer the United States, this administration looking to the hemisphere, looking to the Dominican Republic and concluding what can we do for you. It's not about doing anything for anybody. It's about doing with you," said Biden.
He assured President Medina: "And as you point out, we mostly agree on almost everything. Where we disagree, we have an opportunity to tell each other where and when we disagree. We're not there yet so far. But the truth of the matter is this is the relationship that is based on mutual respect. And they're not just words. That is what our policy is about. It's mutual respect".
Biden praised the Medina government's education budget allocation increase and offered US support in this area.
In his comments on security he said: "As you know, Mr. President, I spent the bulk of my professional life on the security side of this arrangement when I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has control over our criminal justice system. And I know we share a common sense of what need be done, and we're prepared to be of help". He specifically announced: "We're prepared to work with you to expand the 911 system. And we hope your government is -- shares our view that it should be expanded to your entire country. But that's for you to decide, not for us to decide".
Vice President Biden added that he would talk about regional issues. "And we'll talk more at lunch about this, at least I will ask to talk more about it, about Venezuela and our mutual interest in bringing greater political inclusion, stability, and protection of basic human rights beyond the issue of energy production and availability."
On immigration, he commented on US efforts to bring 11 million illegal immigrants in the US out of the shadows of American life, indicating there was an economic interest in doing so and said the US had gained from a consistent flow of immigration and integration in the population.
He acknowledged the DR faces "its own challenge of improving the conditions of Haitian migrants and descendants who were born here in the Dominican Republic." He congratulated the President and Dominican congress on passing a new naturalization law, and commented that "implementation will be equally as important."
In his closing words he said:
"And rest assured, rest assured, we -- the United States, our government values this relationship. We value it very highly. And make no mistake about it. We view you with -- and your country with great respect, and view you as a sovereign nation that is equal in every discussion that takes place between us. And notwithstanding the asymmetries you referred to, it is born out of genuine respect. I look forward to continuing our conversation".
Vice President Biden says energy regime must change|
During his visit to the Maritima Dominican solar energy facility, the largest in the country, consisting of 1,460 panels with a generation capacity of 510 kilowatts per hour, US Vice President Joe Biden called for major reforms to the energy sector in the Caribbean as a way of attracting private investment in alternative energy and reducing dependence on high-cost fuel imports. The DR is dependent on crude imports from Venezuela and natural gas from Trinidad & Tobago, both OPEC members.
In his remarks after the visit to the solar facility, Biden commented that energy costs in the Caribbean are the highest in the hemisphere and drain government budgets, holding back economic growth.
He said each country needed to come up with its own combination of solar, wind, geothermal, natural gas initiatives to move away from expensive and dirty fuel as a source of energy.
But he stressed that to succeed, open, transparent, market-based, clear set of rules that applies equally all the time need to be secured to provide the incentive for the private sector to make the investments in the required infrastructure for a more secure energy future. He estimated that the Caribbean needs US$12 billion in energy investments to provide for the region's needs into 2035.
He acknowledged there are ingrained vested interests and the defense of the status quo holding back the needed energy sector reforms. He said that the US is willing to provide direct technical assistance and expertise to help create the environments that attract investments. He said "private investors have to be convinced first that there's a regulatory climate that is predictable, that is transparent, that is fair, and one that allows them to make a fair return on their investment."
Biden said that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) would dedicate resources to the Caribbean to provide deals that match US government financing with strong energy projects. "We'll match the two: strong energy projects and US government financing through targeted loans, through guarantees and other credit enhancements. US development financing can help unlock the supply of private sector capital for the new projects that are badly needed here in the Caribbean," he said.
He also announced that the US would enable working with regional partners to align and coordinate energy initiatives of the international financial institutions in an effort to eliminate waste and duplication and to increase diversity of financial instruments that support energy projects.
He announced the US has plans to select one Caribbean country as a pilot project.
The project would help address energy sector reforms from A to Z, the entire panorama of needs from developing a new regulatory framework that is efficient and free of corruption, and would help identifying the appropriate energy solutions for the needs of the country, as well as promoting effective financial model to attract investment.
"The people on these islands [Caribbean] deserve a future with affordable, reliable, clean energy, where the electric bill doesn't bankrupt a family or quite frankly bankrupt a nation's budget; where leadership now lays the groundwork for energy security for generations to come", he said.
In his closing remarks he commented that the changes are "already beginning to happen here in the DR... And together, we can make it happen all over the Caribbean, to give this country and this region a more secure, more sustainable and more prosperous future," he said.
The Medina administration is about to start discussions for the Energy Pact and recently appointed the country's first Minister of Energy and Mines that is working on restructuring the energy and mining sectors precisely to create the framework to attract world-class companies.
Dominican Republic prepares to host Central American Presidents|
Heads of state and government from Central America and the Dominican Republic will be meeting in Punta Cana this Friday, 27 June 2014. Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso says that all heads of state of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic will be attending the Paradisus Palma Real Punta Cana Hotel for the event. Key officials from the European Union and the United States, as well as ministers of foreign relations of Turkey and New Zealand will be attending.
A Council of Foreign Relations Ministers will chair the meeting of the heads of state.
The SICA focuses on democratic security, prevention and mitigation of natural disasters and the effects of climate change, social integration, economic integration and institutional capacity building.
The Dominican Republic has held the Presidency Pro Tempore of SICA in the first half of 2014 and will pass it on to Belize at the June meeting.
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The most popular university degrees|
Graduating from the UASD medical school is no guarantee for practicing the profession, according to a report in Diario Libre. First, recent graduates find it very difficult to get one of the limited openings for the public hospital internship that is required to get official authorization to practice.
The latest statistical report (2010-2011) on degrees chosen by Dominican graduates indicates that 34,051 students are enrolled in medicine, 7.83% of all university students. The degree's popularity is second only to accounting, in which 43,996 students are enrolled, for 10.11% of all university students. Ironically, a study on the demand for professionals by the National Association of Young Professionals says that 27% of companies find it difficult to recruit qualified people in the areas of accounting and finance. But in contrast with doctors, Higher Education Minister Ligia Melo says graduates will not have a hard time finding work given the demands of the Tax Agency (DGII) for organized book keeping. Herrera Industries Association president Victor Castro says that companies are looking for a more rounded professional, who is also proficient in English and computer skills, which not all accountancy graduates possess.
Other popular degrees are psychology, with 30,255 for 6.95%, law with 28,122 students for 6.45%, business with 26,675 or 6.13%, and marketing with 25,142 for 5.78%.
The Higher Education Ministry says that a study has been commissioned to assess the needs for trained people in 10 provinces. When the results are in, Minister Melo says that she will meet with the rectors so they can restructure their academic offers. She says that for several years now she has been encouraging universities to offer degree courses that are in line with labor market needs.
She commented that law is a degree that is already saturated. She said the Ministry does not grant any scholarships for law, only for postgraduates. She says that marketing and business places should also be limited.
The Minister says that she wants to see more students in farming-related areas that currently total only 4,570 students. She says they offered scholarships to study farming in the United Kingdom and had plans to send ten students, but only four applied.
A total of 13,917 students are studying for tourism degrees, or 3.20%. She said students are discouraged by the low wages at hotels that demand long working hours.
Victor Castro says the country needs more specialists who are now being paid more than professionals. Minister Melo agrees and says the universities should offer short two-year vocational courses and students should have the option of continuing their studies once they are employed. She suggested that the UASD regional branch in Higuey, for instance, could offer training in refrigeration, mechanics and electricity. She also would like to see more students studying engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.
DR has most expensive broadband Internet|
The former president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel), now senator Jose Rafael Vargas (PLD-Espaillat /Moca) has denounced the fact that Dominican consumers have to pay the highest broadband rates in Latin America due what he says is a lack of investment and expansion of the service. He said that when he left Indotel there was a RD$953 million fund for investment in expanding the service, but it has not been implemented. "With that investment, people in rural areas could have access to the Internet," he said. He stressed the importance of having access to the Internet.
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DR to host Third World Cocoa Conference|
The Third World Cocoa Conference will be held in the Dominican Republic in March 2016, announced Federico Cuello, the Dominican ambassador to the United Kingdom. More than 1,000 delegates from 30 countries voted unanimously for hosting the event in Punta Cana. The board and executive director Jean-Marc Anga of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) has approved the celebration of the leading chocolate industry event in the Dominican Republic. In Amsterdam, where the decision was taken at the World Cocoa Conference this year, Jose Antonio Martinez Rojas, representing the Dominican Republic, received the traditional cacao bud, symbol of the next site of the congress. Expert speakers from governments, chocolate companies and farms come together to attend the four-day event that tackles the most important issues in cocoa production to date; fair trade for farmers, eradicating child labor and empowering cocoa producers.
Famous drug capo's lover Sobeida gets a job and release|
With state prosecutors no longer opposing her early release, Sobeida Felix Morel, known for being the lover of Puerto Rican drug capo Jose David Figueroa Agosto was released from the Najayo Women jail in San Cristobal on Friday, 19 June. As part of the agreement, she is to be employed at the law firm of her defense lawyer, Felix Portes Nunez.
The office is located at Calle Felix Maria Ruiz 12 in Mejoramiento Social neighborhood in Santo Domingo. Her lawyer lives on the top floor of the building. He has defended her since she was arrested on 3 September 2009.
This is the second time she has been released. The first time, she was released after a RD$5 million bail payment and exit ban but she was taken to Puerto Rico where she was rearrested on 17 July 2010 together with her lover Figueroa Agosto and deported to the DR. On 26 September 2011 she was sentenced to five years in jail for money laundering. The sentence was later negotiated with the district attorney to half of the sentence that was already served. Her lawyer said she would be in charge of the real estate division of the company, Portes-Nunez y Asociados and would also work in collecting past due accounts. Judge Willys de Jesus Nunez Mejia said her term would expire in June 2015 with the completion of the five years in jail since her initial arrest in 2010. She is limited in frequenting nightspots and needs to pay a fine of RD$255,850.
The lawyer denied rumors that he and Sobeida were lovers.
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DR smashes US to win Pan American Volleyball Cup|
The Dominican Republic's women's team (FIVB ranking 8th in the world) defeated the United States women's team (ranked 2nd) for the title of the Women's Pan American Volleyball Cup on Thursday, 18 June 2014 in Mexico. The Dominican women won 3-1 (25-18, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21). Last year the US defeated the Dominican Republic in the finals.
During the event, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico won slots to play in the 2015 Grand Prix World Championships. The Dominican team's next most important commitments are the 2014 Grand Prix played by 28 countries starting 25 July 2014. This tournament will take the national team to play in Italy, Turkey and Thailand. Next is the World Championships in Italy, 23 September to 12 October 2014.
The United States volleyball team is ranked second in the world and was the strong favorite to win the tournament, which would have been their third in succession. Prior to their matches with the Dominican team, the US women had not lost a set.
Dominican team captain, Brenda Castillo took home the most valuable player, best receiver, best digger and best libero awards.
In its report, the Norceca league website highlighted the Dominican women's team's consistency. This is the third crown for the Dominicans in the history of the event with the previous two in 2008 and 2010, snapping the two-year reign of the Americans. The team has also won six silver and three medal bronzes.
Dominican team coach Marcos Kwiek said: "I am very happy with this important victory for us. Today the team played with a lot of discipline, served and blocked very well. We studied the opponents and our players perfectly followed the game plan. We came here with the purpose of winning the cup, because we have the tools for it."
Dominican Republic Captain Bethania de la Cruz: "I am super happy with this crown. We made our best efforts to achieve our goal and we trained and worked hard for it. The United States always has very good teams, and any team shows why they are one of the super powers in the world."
Victory was especially sweep for the Dominican team. In a preparatory match on 30 May in Switzerland, the US team had swept the Dominican team during the Montreux Volley Masters -- 25-19, 25-15, 25-14.
DR defeats Brazil in 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Men's Championship|
The Dominican team competing in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men taking place 20-24 June 2014 at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado defeated Brazil 72-69 to gain the right to compete in the U19 World Championship to take place in Crete, Greece in 2015. The match was decided in the final seconds. The best scorer for the Dominicans was Jeromy Rodriguez with 16 points.
The team is coached by Jose Mercedes, who was on the only other Dominican team that had advanced to the next level, back in 1983.
The countries taking part in the U18 Championship are Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, USA and the Dominican Republic.
The top four finishing teams will qualify for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men.
New Off-Broadway play tells about Dominican ways|
Stage Door: Barcelo con hielo written by Marco Antonio Rodriguez is an Off-Broadway play in Spanish staged by Repertorio Espanol in New York. The play, which combines public history and private pain, is getting good reviews in the US press. Barcelo con hielo is a family drama in which two sons, the responsible Sergio, a young painter, (Ivan Camilo) and irresponsible Dennis (Javier Fano), cope with their cancer-stricken father. Set in Washington Heights, the main character is haunted by visions of life under former President Joaquin Balaguer.
With new technology permitting for back-of-the-seat Met Opera-style subtitles for the non-Spanish speaker, the play can reach out to larger audiences.
Ruben Gonzalez at the National Theater|
Guitarist Ruben Gonzalez is booked for a concert at the Aida Bonelly hall of the National Theater in Santo Domingo on 27 June at 8:30pm. He will be playing music by Albeniz, Mangore, Brower, Piazzola, Ildefonso Acosta, Francis Kleynjans and The Beatles. Ruben Gonzalez has also invited fellow guitarists Blades Pena, Joel Rosario, Jose Ricardo Rojas and Diego Mendez to the concert. Tickets are RD$500.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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