Dominican Republic declared free of Med Fly pest
Tax collections up 12.3% in first half year
Santo Domingo East changes zoning regulations
Judge Miriam German says prosecution has presented a weak Odebrecht bribes case
Angel Rondon and Victor Díaz Rua only to stay in Najayo
CIPLA plastic surgery clinic shut down for violations
Haitians take over city intersections
Bahoruco forest fire controlled, vandalism suspected
Dominicans defeat Japan, lose to Netherlands in Grand Prix
DR leads in Softball World Championship
Dominican Film Festival in New York

Dominican Republic declared free of Med Fly pest
The Dominican Republic was declared on Friday, 7 July 2017, free of the Mediterranean Fly, two years after an outbreak that led to considerable damage to the agricultural industry. To accomplish the difficult task, the country was assisted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that used the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), an environmentally-friendly nuclear technique. IAEA implemented insect birth control using radiation to sterilize a large number of male flies that were then released to mate with wild females. Since these do not produce any offspring, the insect population is suppressed, or eliminated, over time.

Speaking at the event in Santo Domingo to declare the country free of the insect pest, Agriculture Minister Angel Estevez explained that the country has benefited from the transfer of knowledge that has prepared it to quickly respond to any possible future pest or disease outbreaks.

The effort to help the Dominican Republic was carried out together with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health (OIRSA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the joint Guatemala-Mexico-USA Moscamed Programme.

The outbreak of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the Dominican Republic was first reported in March 2015 near the popular tourist city of Punta Cana, and rapidly spread to a 2,000 square kilometers-area in the east of the country.

Although 200 kilometers away from producing areas, an immediate import ban was placed on several agricultural products, including avocado, citrus fruits, papaya and peppers by major trading partners, including the United States, Haiti and Japan. The ban resulted in an estimated loss of US$42 million in fruit and vegetable exports in 2015 alone, putting thousands of jobs at risk. As a result of the eradication efforts, the import bans of Dominican fresh fruits and vegetables have since been gradually lifted.

Tax collections up 12.3% in first half year
Engineer Magin Díaz Domínguez, director general of the Tax Agency (DGII) is optimistic that for the first time tax collections will be more than what was budgeted. Díaz said tax collections have reached RD$201 billion in the first six months of the year, that is RD$22 billion more than last year when collections were RD$179 billion. He said for the first half of the year, the DGII had budgeted RD$197 billion. “We have collected RD$4.6 billion more than budgeted”, he told Diario Libre in an interview.

Díaz said the closing of delinquent businesses has been effective. He also said that fuel tax collections were up 18%. Upon being named to the position, Diaz stated a new tax reform was not necessary and what was needed was more efficient tax collections and a reduction in evasion.

During the interview with Diario Libre, he expressed his opposition to raising taxes. He explained that already the ITBIS tax (value added, sales tax) in the Dominican Republic is above the average for Latin America, that is 15-16. In the Dominican Republic, the ITBIS is 18%. The Latin American average income tax rate in 25 and in the DR it is 27%. The rate of taxes on fuel, alcohol and cigarettes are already higher than the regional average. “There is no margin to increase rates, that is the reality,” he said. Nevertheless, Congress recently tagged on an increase in the telecom bills to pay for the 911 Emergency System.

Magin Diaz advocated for simplifying the taxation system. He favors the reduction or elimination of tax exemptions. “The evidence is that in countries where there are lower levels of evasion, there are less exemptions. He said in countries where the level of evasion is low, the value added tax is applied to all products. He argued that the large number and variety of exemptions create difficulties for the tax administration. “It is a challenge to collect in a country with so many exemptions,” he said during the interview. Díaz says this is an issue to be discussed for the drafting of the Fiscal Pact ordered by the National Development Strategy Law.

Díaz estimated tax evasion at 43% and wants to reduce it to 33%. He favors the connecting of all cashiers at businesses to the central system of the DGII. He said the initial focus has just been on big business. He estimated another 100,000 will be required in the next two years.

Santo Domingo East changes zoning regulations
The city council of Santo Domingo East municipality changed zoning land laws for eastern Santo Domingo. Now, 50 floor buildings will be allowed on the Caribbean-sea fronting Avenida España. The change in the zoning law was announced by Mayor Alfredo Martínez on Friday, 7 July 2017.

The measure will benefit the Sans Souci residential and commercial development that has been announced by the Vicini Group for the Avenida España.

The changes to the zoning plan for eastern Santo Domingo also establish that 25 story buildings can be constructed in the sector of Alma Rosa. This is up from 12 stories. For Alma Rosa II, where high rises are a maximum of eight floors, the city council approved heights of up to 12 stories.

For Ensanche Ozama, buildings can now be 15 stories tall, up from six stories, with mixed residential and commercial use.

The city government also authorized constructions of up to 20 story buildings for Avenida Ecológica and the San Isidro highway.

Judge Miriam German says prosecution has presented a weak Odebrecht bribes case
While the case has yet to be heard, Supreme Court of Justice Judge Miriam Germán Brito alerted early on her concern that the Attorney General has not prepared well the cases for those accused of taking bribes in the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht scandal. The presiding judge of the second penal hall of the Supreme Court said that there is evidence that the Public Ministry has had difficulties in proving the accusations and warned that if this is not improved they will have difficulties in securing convictions when the cases go to the final hearing.

The Public Ministry responded saying they had eight months to prepare the case.

As reported in Listín Diario, the judge said that going by what the Public Ministry has submitted as the basis for the arrests and pre-trial measures “one could argue that there will be difficulties to prove the accusations. If prosecutors do not strengthen these cases during pre-trail discovery and investigation, it is possible that there will not be sufficient evidence to convict the accused.

Germán warned the prosecutors initially have based the bulk of their case on testimony given in Brazil by witnesses who reached deals with Brazilian prosecutors, but that these statements lack firm or precise information on the specific activities of wrongdoing supposedly committed by the accused. She said there is an abundance of imprecise testimony that begins with, “I believe… or it appears that…”, and in some cases, there are even denials of wrongdoing.

She noted that in the case of a person who served as the middleman for the allegedly illegal transactions, that there is no record of transfer of funds from that intermediary to an individual who is accused of accepting a bribe.

German stressed she had made similar comments in the past during news conferences, interviews and through her dissenting opinion that the hypothesis of the Public Ministry is not in itself evidence and that evidence that is presented must be supported by facts.

The judge spoke after announcing changes to pre-trial conditions for those accused in the Odebrecht bribes case.

Germán in a previous case had pointed to errors in the preparation by state prosecutors of the Felix Bautista corruption case that also fell apart despite a mountain of evidence against the Senator.

Angel Rondon and Victor Díaz Rua only to stay in Najayo
The Second Penal Hall of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), acting as appeals court in the Odebrecht bribes case, ordered that businessman Ángel Rondón and former minister of Public Works Víctor Díaz Rúa remain in pre-trial detention in Najayo jail while domiciliary arrest was authorized to several others accused in the Odebrecht bribes scandal.

Those that will be released on bail are: Lawyer Conrad Pittaluga (who was allowed in lieu of jail met bail of RD$15 million for nine months); the former Minister of Industry and Commerce, Temístocles Montás; former executive vice president of the Dominican Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE), Radhamés Segura; president of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) Andrés Bautista and former deputy Ruddy González.

The judge also changed the pre-trial custody conditions for former CDEEE vice president César Sánchez. He was allowed to make bail for RD$10 million for a nine month period. The former director of the state Hydroelectric Generation Corporation (EgeHID) Máximo D’Oleo and Alfredo Pacheco were authorized to pay bail of RD$5 million for nine months.

The decision had the partial dissenting vote of judges Hirohíto Reyes and Esther Agelán Casasnovas and the dissenting vote of presiding judge Miriam Germán Brito.

CIPLA plastic surgery clinic shut down for violations
The Ministry of Public Health announced the temporary shutdown of the Centro Internacional de Cirugías Plásticas Avanzadas (CIPLA) located on Av. Pedro Henríquez Ureña near Alma Mater. The clinic was recently served mal practice lawsuits presented by several resident and foreign women for invasive procedures at the center. The closure is for violation of the General Health Law.

The Ministry acted after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States reported the detection of nine cases of bacterial infection at the center in women resident in the United States that had procedures at the clinic from March to June 2017.

The Ministry reported that in the center several factors leading to infections of surgery wounds were detected in the instrument sterilization procedures, risk of contamination of products and materials used in the surgeries. Also cited were unsatisfactory environmental conditions and risky practices, especially in surgery.

The center is also closed for failure to apply biosafety protocols and for offering services beyond their own capacity.

The Dominican Society of Plastic Surgeons urges that potential patients review the credentials of plastic surgeons, prior to contracting these services.

Haitian vendors take over city intersections
The Listin Diario reported how Haitian vendors have turned several city streets into marketplaces. Mentioned for Greater Santo Domingo in particular is the area of Villa Mella, located in northern Santo Domingo. Also mentioned is “Little Haiti” located in San Carlos, Los Guandules, Guachupita, La Ciénaga, Villa Juana, Mejoramiento Social, and Barrio 27 de Febrero where large groups of Haitians have installed their small businesses.

In addition, the practice of Haitian women begging with newborns in arms continues although with less frequency than in the past.

Listín Diario reported that after a complaint published in the newspaper by residents of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in Montecristi province about the illegal trafficking of undocumented Haitians through the region. Migration authorities carried out sweeps in Santo Domingo and arrested several illegals, including Haitians and Venezuelans, confirmed an agent of the Dirección General de Seguridad de Tránsito y Transporte Terrestre (Digesett). “They were on the streets at 8am and picked up a couple of Haitians they found around, and I believe some Venezuelans also,” said the unnamed agent.

A report in El Dia, says that motorists charge RD$2,000-RD$3,000 to transport undocumented Haitians from the border to Santiago. The reporters say RD$1 million a day is paid in fares for the illegal crossings.

Meanwhile, Noticias SIN reported that following the complaints of the increases in illegal immigration from Haiti, on Saturday, 8 July 2017, the Ministry of Defense and border security (CESFRONT) arrested and deported several Haitians in Dajabón on the border with Haiti.

Bahoruco forest fire controlled, vandalism suspected
An intense fire fighting effort was deployed in Bahoruco after on Friday, 7 July 2017 a fire broke out in Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in the southwest. The Ministry of Environment reported the fire was controlled but had destroyed thousands of tareas (1 tarea = 629 sq. meters) of pine forest. The fire began at Km 28 of the Aceitillar mountain road and spread through an area of around 2,000 tareas of the protected biosphere reserve.

On Saturday, Minister Francisco Domínguez Brito and deputy minister Manuel Serrano inspected the area to back the hundreds of forest fire fighting crews working to put out the fire.

“If Haiti does not have guaconejo (big cuaba) trees anymore, then it is not possible that they continue to export the wood taken from our forests, where it is trafficked by bad Dominicans who want to earn a buck without thinking of the immense damage they cause,” said Domínguez.

The Ministry of Environment reported that to control the fire, forest fighting crews came to the area from Pedernales, Puerto Escondido, San Juan de la Maguana and La Vega province. The Air Force helped locate key points of the fire, and many volunteers also participated.

The cause of the fire is investigated, but the Ministry suspects the fire was caused by those who traffic in charcoal and guaconejo wood from Dominican forests and illegally transported to Haiti where it is then exported to be used for the preparation of perfumes. Cesar Peralta, administrator of the reserve, said that last week hundreds of bags of guaconejo were confiscated from traffickers.

Dominicans defeat Japan, lose to Netherlands in Volleyball Grand Prix
Playing in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, the Dominican Republic women’s volleyball team (ranked 9th in the world) finished the first round of Group 1 (C1) of the World Grand Prix trailing the Netherlands (ranked 7th) by one point. The Dominican Republic lost its game to Netherlands. But the Netherlands would lose to Japan (ranked 6th). As a result, Netherlands and the Dominican Republic both ended the round with two wins and one loss.

On 7 July 2017, the Dominican women’s team upset Japan 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 24-26 and 29-27), then lost to Netherlands in 3-0 (25-21, 25-19 and 25-21) on 8 July. But on 9 July, the team defeated Thailand 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 22-25, 18-25)

The Dominican Republic senior women’s volleyball is playing along with the 32 best teams in the world in the 2017 World Grand Prix that is taking place between 7 July and 6 August, at different venues around the world with the finals scheduled for Nanjing, China. The 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix is in its 25th edition.

The Dominican Republic played in Pool C1 against Japan, Netherlands and Thailand in the Holland on week 1, and plays next in Pool E1 against Belgium, Netherlands and Russia on week 2 in Russia. On week 3, the team will travel to Thailand to play in Group H1 against Italy, Thailand and Turkey.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) rankings of the teams as of August 2016 are:
Russia is ranked 5th, Japan 6th, the Netherlands 7th, Italy 8th, Dominican Republic 9th, Turkey 12th, Thailand 14th, Belgium 16th.

Read more at:
See the replay of the game against Japan:

Read about the tournament:

DR leads in Softball World Championship
The Dominican Republic plays Austria today, 10 July 2017, as the XV Men’s Softball World Championship takes place in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. The Dominican team is tied with Canada for the first place in the tournament after winning its first three games.

The DR is playing in Pool A and has defeated India (15-0), China-Hong Kong (21-0) and South Africa (8-6) in three innings of play. Next the country will play the United States and Argentina.

The president of the Dominican Softball Federation says that the DR is ranked 11th in the WBSC.

Dominican Film Festival in New York
Dominican films have diversified from the days when comedy prevailed. The wide range of the contemporary Dominican cinema will be on full display at the Dominican Film Festival in New York from the 25-30 July 2017. The films will be shown at the United Palace Theater, the Columbia University Medical Center, the Armory Foundation, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Comisionado Dominicano de Cultura en USA and AMC Empire 25 theaters.