DR1 breaks for the 2017 Easter Week holidays
Easter activities in the National District
Restriction on alcohol and noise for Easter Week
Nearly 2,000 die from drowning
Copardom and Codopyme object 20% minimum wage increase
Making life easier for Dominicans living abroad
Opposition parties want revised Political Parties and Electoral Reform bills
New ambassador for Chile
New executives sworn in for CEA
Pedro Brand not allowed to dump garbage
Trump-connected firm gets Dominican government account
Carol Morgan School wins regional, will compete in robotics championship
Fears for missing American
Air Cocaine case’s Henri Christophe Naudin reaches deal with Dominican judiciary
Weather agency forecasts winds and rains for Easter

DR1 breaks for the 2017 Easter Week holidays
DR1 Daily News will not be updated on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of Easter Week. The headline news will be compiled for the Monday, 17 April 2017 issue. Breaking news may be shared in the DR1 Forums. 

Easter Week is the leading domestic travel holiday in the Dominican Republic. Thousands of vacationers leave the cities for mountain and beach destinations where major shows are presented for the enjoyment of those on vacation. Easter Week is also a great time to enjoy the big cities sans the traffic jams. 

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Easter activities in the National District
National District Mayor David Collado has announced domino, volleyball, basketball and chess games will take place on Guibia Beach Park during Easter Week. He confirmed the artificial beach his predecessor Roberto Salcedo had set up at the park would not happen this year. He explained that the health of the users of the swimming pools was always at risk. As reported, the weeklong pool set ups had cost RD$8 million. This year the city government would be investing RD$2 million in the alternate recreational activities. 

Mayor Collado announced that the Máximo Gómez Avenue eastside of the Malecón will be closed to car traffic from Thursday, 13 April 2017 at 5pm through Sunday, 16 April.  The recreational activities will begin on Friday, 14 April from 9am and close on Sunday, 16 April with a free concert by urban singer Mozart La Para.


Restriction on alcohol and noise for Easter Week
The Ministry of Interior and Police announced the prohibition of the sale of alcohol near and on beaches, rivers and public places from noon on Easter Friday, 14 April 2017 to noon on Easter Saturday at 12 noon. The ban is imposed as part of a religious tradition and primarily to prevent accidents. 

Also banned over the Friday-Saturday period is the placement of inflatable pools near places where alcoholic beverages are sold. Likewise loud music blaring out of vehicles or public places is prohibited. 

Interior and Police Minister Carlos Amarante said that Easter Week is a religious time and Good Friday is a day for reflection and fellowship with family in churches, the countryside and towns. He said that Easter Week was not a time for excesses.

He said Easter Week preventive brigade will pay particular attention to prohibiting minors from entering shops where alcohol is sold. In addition, units of the Control of Alcoholic Beverages (COBA) will be on the lookout for drunken drivers on our nation’s highways. Any motorist who is intoxicated will have their vehicle impounded until the authorities determine that the driver of the vehicle is sober. 

Amarante said that on Easter Friday and Easter Saturday there are to be no inflatable pools near businesses that sell alcohol and that loud music is not permitted in vehicles or in public establishments.

The Ministry of Tourism also announced that as of Easter Thursday, 13 April, the use of jet skis, wave runners, motorboats, horses and motorcycles on beaches and bathing spots around the country is prohibited. He said that only maritime transport at Laguna Gri-Gri, Saona Island, Catalina Island and Cayo Levantado is authorized to boats that usually cover these routes.

The Specialized Corps for Touristic Security (Cestur), the National Police, the Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense, and Committee for Emergency Operations (COE) are responsible for enforcing the bans. 


Nearly 2,000 die from drowning
The National Statistics’ Office (ONE) has revealed that in the Dominican Republic over the five years from 2010 to 2015, 1,921 people have drowned. Of these, 32% (610) were under 15 years of age. 

Alexandra Izquierdo, director of ONE, said that 84% of those who died were males, and 16% females. The province with the highest number of drownings was Santo Domingo with 350, followed by Santiago with 158 and La Altagracia with 144. 

The ONE press release indicates that 2011 was the worst year for drowning with 349 victims. ONE explains that while number of drownings is declining, there is a particular need to be aware of the risk of drowning, especially during Easter Week, when thousands of non-swimmers head to the beaches and rivers.


Copardom and Codopyme object 20% minimum wage increase
The 20% increase in minimum wage will not go into effect this 15 April 2017. 
The Dominican Republic Management Confederation (Copardom) and the Confederación Dominicana de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa (Codopyme) have objected Resolution 05/2017 by the National Salary Committee (CNS) that ordered a 20% minimum wage increase. 

The document objecting to the resolution was deposited on Monday, 10 April at the Ministry of Labor. It is signed by Fermín Acosta, president of Copardom and Luis Miura Ramírez, president of Codopyme). The business organizations call for new talks at the National Committee of Salaries and that any decision incorporate the reclassification of companies ordered by Law 488-08 on the Regulatory Regime for the Development and Competitiveness of Micro, Small and Medium Sized Companies (MSMEs) so as not to affect small enterprises that make up most of the businesses in the Dominican Republic. 

Law 488-08 establishes that micro businesses are those that have 1 to 15 employees and assets up to RD$3 million and billing of up to RD$6 million a year. A small company is classified as having 16 to 60 employees and assets of RD$3 million to RD$12 million and billings for RD$6 million to RD$40 million. A medium-sized company is described as one with 61 to 200 employees, assets of RD$12 million to RD$40 million and billings for RD$40 million to RD$150 million. 

Instead, the National Committee of Salaries, with the backing of labor unions and Ministry of Labor officers, voted in favor of the 20% for companies with assets of RD$4 million or more to be increase to RD$15,447.60. Those companies with assets of RD$2-$4 million will be subject to a minimum wage rate of RD$10,620 per month. And those companies with assets of less than RD$2 million will have the minimum wage set at RD$9,411.60. 


Making life easier for Dominicans living abroad
12% of the Dominican population lives abroad. On Monday, 10 April 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Central Electoral Board (JCE) announced they have renewed the interdepartment ongoing agreement for the issuing IDs (cedulas) and other civil registry documents at Dominican embassies and consulates abroad. 

The agreement was signed by incumbents Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado and Julio César Castaños Guzmán, president of the JCE.  

The agreements calls for the services to be offered in the future also at the missions in Montreal and Toronto in Canada; New Orleans, San Francisco, California in the United States; Marseilles and London in Europe; and San Salvador in El Salvador, among others. 


Opposition parties want revised Political Parties and Electoral Reform bills
The block of opposition parties, consisting of 10 parties that fielded candidates against the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) in the last elections, has announced that they will take to the streets to urge the passing of the Political Parties and Electoral Reform bills. The minority parties and the PRM had been requesting a consensus for the revision of the 2011 bills, but instead the Central Electoral Board dispatched these same bills to Congress. 

One of the goals of the block of opposition parties is to propose legislation that would prohibit funds that have been acquired illegally to be used in electoral campaigns, in reference to the supposed money from Odebrecht that financed the electoral campaign of President Danilo Medina. Brazilian Joao Santana, who was sentenced in Brazil for illicit use of funds in the elections of Brazilian p residents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, was also the campaign strategist for President Danilo Medina during his two winning campaigns. 

Signing the agreement of the political parties are the Partido Revolucionario Moderno (PRM), Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC), Partido Alianza País (AlPaís), Partido Humanista Dominicano (PHD), Partido Dominicanos por el Cambio (DxC), Frente Amplio (FA), Partido Quisqueyano Demócrata Cristiano (PQDC), Fuerza Nacional Progresista (FNP), Alianza por la Democracia (APD), Partido Revolucionario Social Demócrata (PRSD). Also signing are Opción Democrática (OD) and  Partido Socialista Cristiano (PSC), two political organizations that seek to be recognized to participate in the 2020 general elections. 

The political parties say that the mere approval of the bills is not enough if the laws against illicit and covert financing are not enforced. They seek a reform that guarantees transparency and that parties should suspend members involved in corruption.

The platform proposed by the opposition parties would promote equity across political parties, in terms of access to communication media, fiscal controls and oversight of donations. 

In a press release, the block said that they have a plan to mobilize Dominican society to achieve electoral reform and a Political Parties’ Law to guarantee transparent, free and fair elections. 

The opposition parties want a consensus to be reached. The PLD has said that a dialog can only take place in the National Congress, where the PLD has a clear majority in both houses of Congress. 

The PLD Political Committee political party bill coordinator Rafael Alburquerque said that the commission in charge of the review of the bills is inviting all of society to present their views on the 2011 bill. He says the consensus needs to be reached during the discussions of the bill in Congress. 


New ambassador for Chile
President Danilo Medina has appointed Rubén Silié to be the new Dominican ambassador in Chile, by means of Decree 101-07. Silié was the Dominican ambassador to Haiti for many years.

The decree does not mention who will replace Silié in Haiti.


New executives sworn in for CEA
The executive director of the State Sugar Council (CEA), Pedro Cesar Mota Pacheco has sworn in a new group of executives and urged them to work ethically and with transparency.

He said that each one of the directors has the necessary experience and responsibility to implement the transformations the institution needs. 

The new executives are Rubén Calcaño, administration director, Ramón Emilio Todd Astwood, technical director, Juan Manuel Stapleton, finance director, and Julio César Peguero, legal director.

The new appoints followed the murder of two broadcast journalists in San Pedro de Macorís was traced to a CEA transaction gone wrong for a disgruntled would-be CEA land buyer. 


Pedro Brand not allowed to dump garbage
The community of Greater Santo Domingo has asked the Ministry of Environment to intervene in the administration of the Duquesa garbage dump after the municipality of Pedro Brand was banned from using the dump until they pay the new fee of US$14.50 per ton of garbage. Previously, they had been paying less than US$3 per ton. 

At a community meeting, the mayor explained that Pedro Brand is now affected by the increase in waste handling rates and fees as have been the municipalities of Los Alcarrizos, Santo Domingo East and Pantoja.


Trump-connected firm gets Dominican government account
The Hill, a news portal covering US-government related news, reported on Friday, 7 April 2017, that Ballard Partners, a Trump-connected firm, has signed a one-year US$900,000 contract with the Dominican government. This reportedly is the Florida-based firm's first foreign government as a client. 

Hill reports that the company helped Trump win the state in the presidential election and recently opened a K Street office in Washington D. C. to expand its business. The disclosure reports filed with the US Justice Department lists that the company will provide “various strategic consulting and advocacy services in relation to businesses with the United States”. 

Ballard Partners is owned by longtime Florida lobbyist and fundraiser Brian Ballard. 

The disclosure report reveals: “It shall be the responsibility of [Ballard Partners] to consult with [the client] and to advocate on their behalf the situations and matters that [the client] deems necessary and appropriate before the Federal Government of the United States of America”.

The Hill observes in the article that President Donald Trump has imposed tough restrictions on former administration officials lobbying for foreign governments. Indeed, in his first weeks in the Oval Office, he signed an executive order banning for anyone who worked in his administration from ever registering as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. The Hill, nevertheless, observes that the rules do not apply to those who worked for him during the campaign and the transition.


Carol Morgan School wins regional, will compete in robotics championship
Vice President Margarita Cedeño received the Carol Morgan School robotics team of 19 students that will represent the Dominican Republic in the FIRST Championships to take place 19-22 April 2017 in Houston, Texas, USA. Team Drift 4091 (Dominican Robotics Incredible FIRST Team) has been participating in the competition since 2012, but this is the first time it has made it to the global competition.   

The Drift Team reached the regionals finals at the competition that took place in Hudson Valley, New York in March 2017.   The team, captained by Nicolas Vasquez, built the robot in six weeks to win the Chairman’s Award. Other students traveling to Houston for the competition will be Maxine Vidal, Gregorio Torres, Jaime Ricart, Jean Christian and Bishara Kawas. Angel Duran, in charge of logistics and coordination for the team, received the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award for being an outstanding mentor at the Hudson Valley competition.


Fears for missing American
Prosecutors and agents from the Police Criminal Investigation Division (Dicrim) carried out several raids yesterday, Monday 10 April 2017, looking for the missing American, Kenneth Haugan. He was reported missing five days ago following the sale of a catamaran for US$20,000 in Luperon dock in Puerto Plata.

The search is being conducted by members of the Dominican Armada, Tourist Police, municipal firefighters and Civil Defense among other authorities.

Searches have been carried in the areas where he was last seen, including on the catamaran named San Marlot, anchored in the Bahia de Gracias in Luperon. 

The home of another American, Willie Tannehill, who is being investigated in connection with the disappearance of Haugan was also searched by authorities.


Air Cocaine case’s Henri Christophe Naudin reaches deal with Dominican judiciary
Frenchman Henri Christophe Naudin, under arrest in the Dominican Republic accused of helping two pilots evade a sentence of 20 years in jail for drug trafficking, has reached a deal with the Dominican judiciary on Friday, 6 April 2017 that will enable his rapid return to France. As part of the deal he will serve five years in jail in France. 

The lawyers said that Naudin agreed to plead guilty of the illicit trafficking of immigrants. Naudin had declared in France to the press that he participated in the drafting and implementing of the plan for the escape of French pilots Bruno Odos and Pascal Jean Fauret in October 2015. Odos and Fauret left the Dominican Republic to avoid serving a 20-year jail sentence. 

Odos and Fauret had been accused of piloting a private jet that would have departed from Punta Cana International Airport on 20 March 2013 with 26 suitcases containing 680 kg of cocaine. The flight would have traveled to St. Tropez, France. The case has been dubbed part of the Air Cocaine drugs trafficking network by the media in France. 

Naudin had been extradited to the Dominican Republic from Egypt on 4 March 2016. Odos and Fauret are in France. Meanwhile, Frenchmen Nicolas Pisapia and Alain Castany are still in the Dominican Republic serving their 2016 sentence of 20 years in jail. That case is in the court of appeals.


Weather agency forecasts winds and rains for Easter
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) has announced that the scattered rains will continue for the first few days of Easter Week, due to the presence of a frontal system. The front has also brought temporary relief from hot temperatures in the country. 

Onamet has issued an alert for possible flooding for those residents in low lying areas near to rivers and streams in the provinces of Monseñor Nouel, La Vega, San José de Ocoa, Azua, Santiago, Duarte, Sánchez Ramírez, Puerto Plata, Espaillat and San Juan de la Maguana.

The rains are expected to continue in the northeast, southeast, central mountain area and the border region.