President Danilo Medina favors open primaries for 2020 elections
COE: Authority, self-assessment and education for disaster mitigation
Improving quality of vegetable exports
Problems with garbage dumps in Santiago
High suicide figures in the Cibao
Man stabs four in Mao
Dominicans return from Dominica
Cocaine discovered at Port of Haina
Electrical fire affects Evaristo Morales condominium
Cocaine shipment detected at Puerto Plata airport
Ervin Santana vs. Luis Severino for the AL wild card game
Dominican men’s volleyball qualifies for World Championships

President Danilo Medina favors open primaries for 2020 elections
Following a meeting of the Political Committee of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the committee that is known to draw party lines, the ruling political party agreed to appoint at most five constitutional experts who would determine the legality of the open primaries. The experts would verify that the open primary rule not clash with the 2015 Constitution. Present at the meeting were the two main PLD party leaders: President Danilo Medina and PLD president, former President Leonel Fernández.

Open primaries are favored by the dominant faction within the party that is loyal to President Danilo Medina. Provisions for the open primaries would need to be included in the political parties and electoral systems bill under study in the PLD-majority National Congress. In 2004, prior to the existence of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice had annulled a law passed that year in Congress that had authorized open primaries.

The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Julio César Castaños Guzmán, said on Monday, 2 October 2017, that the government body in charge of the elections would apply the electoral system approved by the National Congress regarding rules for the political party primaries. The PLD dominates in Congress, and the Medina faction is also a majority.

Nevertheless, so far opposition parties, and the Leonel Fernandez faction within the PLD are in favor of the parties using only lists with their own registered party members to elect the candidates. This is backed by previous decisions by the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) and the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

Now the dominant faction loyal to President Danilo Medina within the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) is defying these decisions. This group insists on pushing for allowing open primaries in the Political Parties’ Bill under study in the PLD-majority Congress. Spokesman for the PLD deputies, Gustavo Sánchez, has revealed that Danilo Medina told the bi-chamber commission that he prefers open primaries.

The provision would allow that any citizen eligible to vote in the May 2020 presidential election be also eligible to vote during the internal process of electing candidates, whether or not they belong to the political party.

The opposition block, lead by the Revolutionary Modern Party (PRM), is against open primaries and accuses a sector of the PLD of intending to use the yet to be passed Political Parties and Electoral bills for their own particular interests.

The president of the PRD, a PLD-ally in the 2016 general election, visited the Central Electoral Board on Monday, 2 October 2017, to express their vote was for including in the Political Parties Bill a provision that establishes simultaneous primaries with open voting lists but only for the four majority political parties – the PLD, PRM, PRD and PRSC.

The president of the JCE has also warned of the cost of the process.

On Monday evening, PLD party secretary general Reinaldo Pared Pérez said the president of the PLD, former President Leonel Fernández and President Danilo Medina had agreed to respect the opinion of the constitutional experts commission. He said the two party leaders need yet to agree on the experts and the timeline.

Present for the PLD meeting were 31 of the 35 members of the Political Committee. Absent were Lucia Medina, José Joaquín Bidó Medina, César Pina Toribio and Abel Martínez.

COE: Authority, self-assessment and education for disaster mitigation
The director of the Emergency Operations Center (COE), General Juan Manuel Méndez, called for city governments and national and municipal authorities to crack down on individuals who build structures in vulnerable places, as reported in Diario Libre. Most of the property damage caused in the country by hurricanes Irma and Maria were houses built too close to rivers and streams and on vulnerable areas, such as natural depressions. General Mendez highlighted the Dominican Republic is on the Atlantic hurricane path and there are 14 active seismic faults running through national territory.

He said the limitations of the suitability of land for buildings have to be respected, and construction should not happen near rivers, springs or gullies. Mendez said building on low-lying areas is not wise, given the extreme susceptibility to flooding. “We as authorities, whether local or national, must exercise our responsibilities. For example, mayors cannot be flexible when it comes to enforcing land use regulations,” he stated.

Mendez said that municipal authorities in some regions are responsible for allowing housing settlements to be built in inadequate locations, as these government officials bend to public pressure to permit the construction of dwellings in danger zones. He called for the federal government to pressure local authorities to not allow settlements in flood prone areas.

Méndez said that to mitigate disasters effective communication and planning between the general population and authorities are needed. General Méndez highlighted the importance of land use definition in the country when participating in a Diario Libre Diálogo Libre interview.

Mendez also called for a widespread educational campaign to create awareness of risk management, reaching out to people in schools and universities. “I understand education can have an influence; it is about people making a self-assessment, not when there is a disaster alert, but well ahead of time,” he said. “The population still does not understand these events cannot be controlled, over nature there is no control,” he said.

Improving quality of vegetable exports
During the summer of 2017 detentions of fresh produce at European and US borders spiked because of the presence of thrips, a small, fast-moving insect, found in Dominican exports of Asian vegetables. In the La Vega region of country there are approximately 40 produce packing facilities that export more than 20 different types Asian vegetables. More than 60 metric tons of specialty eggplants a week are exported to the US alone.

Fresh Plaza news portal reports that Dominican exporters were at wits end because they were convinced they were sending clean product after individually pressure washing each vegetable. For the product going to Europe they were also employing a mandatory hot water treatment designed to eliminate thrips. But when the shipments arrived, there were unpleasant surprises.

The cost of exporting produce with thrips is prohibitive. A US government program is helping In the case of US detentions, exporters have the option of paying to have the shipment treated, destroyed, or returned back to them. In the case of Europe treatment is not an option.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded Exporta Calidad Program arranged to have a USDA APHIS team from Miami, Florida visit the La Vega region and train packing house technicians on how to identify thrips in the field before the product comes to the packing house and to separate out product with problems from product that is clean.

In every “clean” shipment ready for export, the USDA APHIS inspectors were able to find at least one thrip or thrip larvae that helped convince exporters for the need to take action themselves to resolve the problem.

The USDA supported program is now in the process of helping packing houses install special pest inspection stations with appropriate lighting and equipment to detect and identify even the smallest pests such as thrips that are particularly adept at hiding on fruits and vegetables with uneven surfaces such as bitter melon and under the stem caps of eggplants.

The USDA APHIS team also recommended greater protection for the container loading area to avoid the entrance of opportunistic insects into the containers, particularly during preferred night time loading times when lights attract insects.

Detentions because of thrips have dropped over the last month. The Exporta Calidad Program is also working jointly with packing houses to help their associated farmers adopt integrated pest management measures to keep thrips levels down on the farm before they become a problem at the packing house.

Problems with garbage dumps in Santiago
Environment Minister Francisco Domínguez Brito says that the garbage dumps of Guazumal, in Tamboril and Rafey, in Santiago province have become a national problem.

He said that there have been several meetings with the mayor of Tamboril, Anyolino Germosén, to look for a solution to the problem. Fumes generated by the dumps are a major health problem for the nearby populations. The smoke from blazes in the dumps is causing respiratory problems. Recently there was a standoff in Rafey between the municipal authorities and the Association of Recyclers, better known as dumpster divers, as the authorities wanted them out.

During August 2017, Mayor Abel Martínez announced that the problems at Rafey would be a thing of the past. The Santiago municipality contracted Cilpen Global to be in charge and eliminate the smoke. This has not happened. Diario Libre reports the smoke situation has reportedly worsened.

High suicide figures in the Cibao
According to official figures, at least 192 personas have committed suicide in Santiago and other provinces in the Cibao region so far this year.

Over the last 48 hours those who have committed suicide in the area were all professional women. According to the police, lawyer María Castillo Lemoine, aged 29, sister of the assistant public prosecutor of the judicial department of Montecristi, Ibelka Castillo Lemoine, killed herself on Sunday, 1 October 2017, by drinking a mixture of a fumigation liquid, rat poison and hair dye.

On 28 September, Ana Raquel Rosario aged 44, strangled her 4-year old son in Santiago and then hanged herself, supposedly as her ex partner wanted custody of the child.

On 12 September, teacher María Rosalba Ureña Arias, killed herself by shooting herself in the chest in Licey Al Medio as supposedly she was depressed as the Ministry of Education had stopped paying her.

The police state that most of the causes of suicide are due to debts, terminal illnesses, homicide, dissatisfaction with physical appearance, reasons of passion and, especially in the case of children and minors, mistreatment in the family surroundings.

In the case of homicide, at least 17 men have killed themselves in the Cibao this year having murdered their partners and ex-partners.

Man stabs four in Mao
A man who appears to have mental problems has stabbed a prosecutor, two policemen and a woman in the La Sibilia sector of Mao.

Those injured are the prosecutor for the Domestic Violence Unit, Félix Otoniel Estévez Almengó, police officers Roberto Carlos Guzmán Bernard and Elizaul Ureña Almonte, and architect Inmaculada González Espinal, sister of the attacker, Julio Francisco González Espinal, who ended up being shot in both legs.

According to the police, Inmaculada González complained that her brother had assaulted her 16 year old son so a police patrol went to arrest Gionzalez Espinal, a 43 year old doctor and he resisted, armed himself with a knife and attacked everyone there. The police officers then drew their weapons and shot him in the legs. All of the injured were taken to the public hospital, Luis L. Bogaert and a private clinic in Mao. Estévez Almengó had injuries to his head and neck, one of the police officers was bitten and stabbed in the arm and the other cut on the hand. The architect González Espinal suffered cuts on her head.

Dominicans return from Dominica
Nine Dominicans, seven women, a man and a child were brought back to the country yesterday, Monday 2 October 2017, from the island of Dominica that was badly hit by Hurricane Maria.

They were brought back on board a Dominican Armada coastguard ship, Canopus (GC-107 ARD). The ship had capacity to evacuate 15 Dominicans, but only nine fulfilled the requirements for the evacuation.

The ship had traveled to Dominica to bring humanitarian aid, including bottled water, milk, mosquito nets, canvases, and food.

Ramón Darío Puello who had been living in Dominica for eight years, working as a mechanic, said that he was emotionally devastated, with 90% of the island flattened. He also said a Dominican couple he knew had died during the hurricane, and several people were still in shelters as their homes had been destroyed. He said when he left there was no water, no food or no electricity and that they did not have access to food relief.

Isabel Rojas, who had been in Dominica for four years working in a beauty parlor and a bar, said that all she had was destroyed.

Diario Libre reported the Dominicans that were evacuated were: Adelina de los Santos Valdez, Marcia Melina Matos Cabral, Jahisen Bocio Solis, Ysabel Rojas, Ramón Darío Cueto Evangelista, Maria Stephany Garcia Batista, Miguel Antonio Fernández and Yosimarlin Concepción Rivera. These said they had lost all their belongings in Hurricane Maria.

Cocaine discovered at Port of Haina
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) has confiscated 249 packages of a white powder, presumably cocaine, in operations carried out at the Port of Haina in Santo Domingo West.
The operations began last Friday, 29 September 2017, when the agents confiscated 52 packages of cocaine at the port.

They then found another 25 kilograms and yesterday, Monday 2 October, they confiscated 170 packages having inspected a number of containers.

The drugs were sent to the National Institute of Forensic Science for testing and weighing.
Investigations are ongoing to discover those responsible.

Electrical fire affects Evaristo Morales condominium
A major fire affecting the electricity systems of the first floor of a residential building in the Evaristo Morales neighborhood in Santo Domingo caused serious smoke damage to the building. Residents quickly evacuated the structure due to the intense blaze, El Nacional reported.

The president of the condominium Gil Roma XX located on Calle Max Henríquez Ureña 103, Eduardo Morales said that the fire broke out at around 6am in the transformer just after the power was restored in the building. A spike in electrical voltage is believed to have caused the fire.

As reported, in the evening there was a blackout and they were not able to turn on the power plant. They called a technician and resolved the problem late in the evening. But, unfortunately, when the street power was restored, the fire was sparked, forcing the evacuation of all people who were in the building.

The good news was that a fire brigade quickly arrived and controlled the blaze. Luckily the fire did not spread to the vehicles parked in the garage of the building. The development of the fire was reported on social media.

Cocaine shipment detected at Puerto Plata airport
A US citizen, Leonel Rodríguez, was arrested on 2 October 2017, when attempting to export 29 packages of cocaine (2.36 kilos) in double-bottom suitcases through Puerto Plata International Airport. She was arrested by the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) agents and sent to judiciary for prosecution. The drugs were detected when a security agent noticed the image of suspicious packages shown by the scanner x-ray. The first suitcase had 12 packages, a second had 15 packages.

Ervin Santana vs. Luis Severino for the AL wild card game
Dominican pitchers 34-year old Ervin Santana for the Minnesota Twins and 23-year old Luis Severino for the New York Yankees clash at the start of the game to decide the teams for the American League Division Series. Severino had a 2.98 ERA for the season, the more experienced Ervin Santana ended with a 3.28 ERA.

The American League Wild Card Game is scheduled to start at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Tuesday, 3 October 2017 at 8pm ET. The game will be televised by ESPN.

Another major attraction of the game is New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who set a new record for a rookie of 52 home runs.

Dominican men’s volleyball qualifies for World Championships
The Dominican Republic qualified last week to participate in the 2018 FIVB World Championships after finishing second in the Norceca Men’s Continental Championship that ended on 1 October 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The USA ended the Continental Championship with a record of 5-0, and the DR 3-2.

The DR team lost to the USA team in the finals (25-17, 25-10, 25-12), but already on 30 September had defeated Mexico (25-20, 25-23, 25-23) to win silver in the tournament and the spot in the world championships for the first time for the Dominican men’s volleyball team since 1979. The USA and Canada also secured their spots in the most important world volleyball championship.

The world’s best 24 teams will compete in the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship set to take place from 10-30 September 2018 in locations in Italy and Bulgaria.