Ministry of Education joins with Infotep to offer more vocational training
DR + Morocco for more trade with Africa
Eastern beach coastline is now protected area
Presidency inertia
City Mayor announces entrepreneurship program
Senate passes National Budget
New Dominican Medical Association president says more jobs for medics is tops on his agenda
UN Human Rights Committee urges decriminalizing abortion
Family requests Yuniol Ramirez be heard by National District court
Dominican Christmas traditions
Toño Rosario at Hard Rock Live
Over the Rainbow with Cecilia García
Guitarist Simon Schembri at Regina Angelorum Church
DR wins gold in wrestling in Bolivarian Games
Dominican Winter League Professional Baseball

Ministry of Education joins with Infotep to offer more vocational training
The Ministry of Education has begun a pilot program to turn high schools into polytechnic schools. The program calls for the technical training facilities of the National Institute for Technical Professional Training (Infotep) so the new graduates can achieve skills that will help them find jobs upon graduation.

The 35,000 students in southwestern San Juan de la Maguana and Elias Piña provinces will be part of the pilot program “Strategy to Transform High Schools into Polytechnics.“ The first phase of the project will cost RD$86 million and seeks to increase the number of students graduating with technical skills by 50%. At present it is estimated that only 19% of students graduate with marketable technical skills.

The program was announced last week by Education Minister Andres Navarro and the director of the National Institute for Technical Professional Training (Infotep), Rafael Ovalles. Ovalles called the alliance “a landmark for the educational system.”

The first phase of the program will take three years for the improvement of the facilities at the chosen schools. Some 10 buses will be purchased to transport the students to the Infotep training center in each location.

The Ministry of Education announced that the southwestern region high schools that are being converted into polytechnic schools are: San Francisco de Asís, in Elias Piña; Mercedes María Mateo, in Las Matas de Farfán; San Andrés and liceo Secundario Vallejuelo, in Vallejuelo, Thomas F. Reilly, San Juan; Pedro Corto and Jinova in the school districts of the same name.

Rafael Ovalles of Infotep explained that the programs to be offered match the characteristics of each center, the teachers and the social economic environment.
The Infotep centers have capacity for 1,000 students per shift, 10 workshops and 18 classrooms.

Students will be able to choose from IT studies, marketing, sports training, nursing, health promoters, food industry studies, farm studies, refrigeration and air conditioning specialist, renewable energy, electromechanical studies and woodworking, among others.

DR + Morocco for more trade with Africa
A Dominican private-public mission visited Rabat, Morocco for talks that will lead to a customs agreement, according to a press release from the Ministry of Industry & Commerce and Small Business (MICM). The agreement would be signed in Egypt in December 2017.

As per the agreement, Morocco would share its best practices and experiences in the areas of security, duties, intelligence, land borders, airports, transshipment of air cargo, digitalized systems, among others. 35 ports operate in Morocco moving more than three million containers a year that reach five continents.

The Dominican mission was head by Industry & Commerce Minister Nelson Toca Simó. Other participants were Enrique Ramírez, Customs Agency (DGA) director; Luisa Fernandez, executive director of the National Council of Export Free Zones (CNZFE); Alma Fernandez, executive director of ProIndustria; Jose Manuel Torres, executive director of the Dominican Association of Free Zones (Adozona) and several executives of export free zone parks in the Dominican Republic.

Nabyl Lakhdar, director of Customs Agency in Morocco said that the customs cooperation agreement will enable Morocco to be the door that opens for the Dominican Republic to trade with the African continent. He said he also expects the Dominican Republic to become the door for Moroccan exports to enter South American and the United States markets.

Eastern beach coastline is now protected area
The Ministry of Environment announced the signing of an agreement with the Puntacana Group Foundation and the La Altagracia Tourism Cluster to expand the Southeast Marine Reefs Sanctuary with the inclusion of the Bavaro-Macao coastline. As per the agreement, a management plan will be drafted for the tourism area in order to regulate fishing and sports activities in the area, including the operation of boats. The goal is to protect and restore the coral reefs. The health of the coral reefs is essential for the maintenance of the white sand beaches in the area.

Environment Minister Francisco Dominguez Brito highlighted the importance of healthy coral reefs as one of the most valuable ecosystems. They provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services to the Punta Cana beach resort area. “The coral reefs provide key environmental services to tourism in the Dominican Republic. They protect the hotel and tourism investment in the eastern zone and job opportunities for the country,” he stated.

Frank Rainieri, signed for the Grupo Puntacana Foundation and highlighted that the measure guarantees that the extended Punta Cana coastline and tourism zone is now located in a protected area.

Ernesto Veloz of the Tourism Clsuter said that a new entity would be created to manage the marine reef sanctuary.

Presidency inertia
An editorial in Diario Libre today focuses on the reticence of President Danilo Medina in attacking difficult issues that are key challenges for the organization of Dominican society and development. “This is a government of lots of advertising and public relations and little substance,” writes executive editor Adriano Miguel Tejada in the editorial. He says this can be appreciated in the postponing of the needed changes in labor rules, pension plans, the Police, Criminal Code and the Political Parties and Electoral bills. “Is the country condemned to see its social boiler explode every so often due to the inertia of its political class to lead the changes demanded by the country?” asks the editorial.

Tejada says what is clear is that President Medina will not go down in history for what he spends in propaganda, but for what he does in favor of Dominican institutions and lasting development.

City Mayor announces entrepreneurship program
Santo Domingo Mayor David Collado announced RD$50 million have been included in the 2018 city government budget to back small business in the three circumscriptions of the capital city. On Sunday, 13 November 2017, Collado said the Santo Domingo Emprende Foundation also has the backing of businesses and universities.

As part of the program for starters an entrepreneurship center will be built in Cristo Rey, a low-income large city barrio. More than 15 inspirational talks will be held in other city barrios.

Senate passes National Budget
The Senate approved the 2018 National Budget as sent by the Presidency. The budget was approved in two consecutive readings. It is for RD$814.8 billion.

The budget passed in the Senate includes an amendment to a first bill that was submitted by the Presidency. The amendment increases the budget allotments for ProConsumidor, the Chamber of Accounts and the Ombudsman Office.

It also authorizes a US$80 million loan with the World Bank and another for US$50 with the European Investment Bank. The first is for the Yaque del Norte and Ozama-Isabela River Basin Natural Resources and Farming Management Project, the second is for disaster risk management to be implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and the National Housing Institute (INVI). The budget had already authorized contracting financing for risk mitigation for US$200 million.

Only senator Jose Ignacio Paliza (PRM-Puerto Plata) did not vote yes for the bill. He criticized the continuing taking on of debt by the government and the increase in the public payroll.

The bill now moves to the Chamber of Deputies for approval.

New Dominican Medical Association president says more jobs for medics is tops on his agenda
The president-elect of the Dominican Medical Association (CMD), Wilson Roa, is requesting the government resume talks on issues that affect the medical system. Roa is the vice president of the organization. He is scheduled to assume the post in December 2017. He is a gynecologist and a professor of medicine at the state university, UASD.

He said tops on his agenda are efforts to place more medical graduates at public hospitals. He estimated at 10,000 the number of unemployed graduates. He said he will also lobby for an increase in the pensions and instatement of their health plans of the public hospital doctors. He also said he will lobby for rehabilitating public hospitals and providing of supplies so that these can offer better service to patients.

UN Human Rights Committee urges decriminalizing abortion
The UN Human Rights Committee urges the Dominican Republic to decriminalize abortion in pregnancies that pose a risk to the life of the woman, are the result of rape or incest, and where the fetus will not survive outside the womb.

The abortion issue has become a major obstacle for the passing of the revised Criminal Code. It is strongly opposed by the Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches in the country. Legislators have delayed voting, fearing the wrath of the influential religious sectors.

President Danilo Medina has on two occasions vetoed the bill asking that abortion be decriminalized in the three circumstances.

The UN Human Rights Committee observations are made in the concluding observations on the civil and political rights record of the country by the Committee. In its recommendations to the country adopted after the evaluation of the sixth periodic report of the Dominican Republic on 16-17 October 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about the criminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, with jail penalties. The UN Committee insists that "there should be no criminal sanctions against women and girls who undergo an abortion or the medical service providers who assist them, since such measures force them to resort to unsafe abortions."

The experts of the Committee specifically ask the Dominican state to "modify its legislation to guarantee legal, safe and effective access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy when the life or health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk".

Also in the event that "carrying out the pregnancy may cause substantial harm or suffering to the pregnant woman or girl, especially if it is the result of rape or incest or when pregnancy is unviable."

The Committee further affirms that the Dominican Republic should not regulate pregnancy or abortion in all other cases if it is contrary to its obligation to ensure that women and girls do not have to resort to unsafe abortions.

The recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee comes after defenders of women's rights in the Dominican Republic affirmed last week that the decriminalization of abortion in extreme situations "cannot wait any longer".

The proposed text of the Criminal Code establishes that women who induce the termination of their pregnancy will be liable to two to three year-imprisonment sentences. Health professionals who perform abortions under any circumstances other than risk to the pregnant woman or girl's life will be liable to four to 10 years in jail. Under the proposed amendment, terminating a pregnancy is only available in one case: when there is a risk for the life of the pregnant woman or girl.

Experts on woman rights say that in comparison with the text of the Criminal Code adopted in 2014, the new proposal to amend the Dominican Criminal Code constitutes a clear regression in women's and girls' rights, especially to access safe healthcare services.

As of 14 October 2017, 153 women had died of causes related to pregnancy, according to the Magaly Pineda Feminist Forum, which also stated that the Dominican Republic ranks fifth in pregnancies of girls and adolescents in the region, something that also worries the UN Committee. According to the country's Ministry of Public Health, unsafe abortions cause 10% of maternal deaths in the Dominican Republic.

The divergent position of the Dominican legislators on abortion has delayed the passing of the Criminal Code for years.

Family requests the case of Yuniol Ramirez be heard by National District court
The family of murdered lawyer Yuniol Ramírez Ferreras have again requested that the case be heard in the National District and not in the Santo Domingo West municipality. Santo Domingo West municipality was chosen because the corpse of the lawyer was found in a stream located there.

But the Ramirez Ferreras lawyers say that new evidence from the autopsy and a video showing the vehicle in which the victim was kidnapped leaving the UASD university premises with a shot in the window. The lawyer and brother of Ramirez, Ramón Ramirez told journalists that the request has been placed to the Sixth Court of Instruction of the Santo Domingo West municipality. The family says they are completely sure that Yuniol Ramirez was murdered by a gunshot to the head in the parking lot of the UASD.

The lawyer says they have also requested that assets of the accused be taken into custody by the state prosecutors.

In the murder case, the accused are the former director of the OMSA bus service; police colonel Faustino Rosario Diaz who was the financial director of the OMSA, and Jose Antonio Mercado Blanco (El Grande). Fugitive of justice and accused as the person who fired the shots that killed Ramirez is Argenis Contreras Gonzalez, who at the time was an assistant to Rivas at the government bus entity.

The prosecutors have shared the theory that Ramirez was killed because he was extorting Rivas with releasing information on corruption at the OMSA. Ramirez was carrying a legal case against Rivas.

Diario Libre two years ago had published a report on major corruption going on at the OMSA but this did not motivate the Medina administration to investigate or take action. Following the murder, now the Chamber of Accounts, in charge of auditing government entities, is taking a look into the finances of the organization.

Dominican Christmas traditions
Christmas decorations have become part of Dominican culture with most households borrowing inspiration from international decorations while others express local creativity in preparing their homes for the holidays. Many of the decorating is so elaborate that in order to enjoy it for several weeks, decorations start to go up as early as October.

December, indeed, is to Dominicans what August is to Europeans. This means, it’s a time for friends’ gatherings and to enjoy traditional Christmas fare. El Dia reports on the tastes that traditionally mean Christmas for Dominicans.

Attend a Christmas gathering and expect to find roasted chicken or pork, paddies of cassava or plantain packed in plantain leaf or pasteles en hojas. There will be paddies of all kinds be they catibias or pastelitos filled with beef, chicken or cheese, sometimes combined with raisins. You can expect what Dominicans call “Russian Salad”, a salad that is a combination of potatoes, carrots, and beets in a cream or mayonnaise sauce.

Also at this time of the year, people consume “pan telera”, a kind of bread that while airy and delightfully chewy is texture, is practically tasteless.

There will be creamy eggnog (ponche), with a touch of rum and spice. For desert, you will find on the table nougat and dry fruits, and lots of imported apples, pears and grapes.

Toño Rosario at Hard Rock Live
Merengue legend, Toño Rosario will be taking the stage of the Hard Rock Live at Blue Mall for the live concert “Mi vida” (My Life) on Saturday, 25 November 2017. The occasion also marks the National Merengue Day that is celebrated on 26 November every year.

Rosario promises an evening of his best hits throughout his career with “María”, “Vengo acabando”, “Adolescente”, “Me tiene amarrao”, “Mi tonto amor”, “Si te vas”, “Jenny”, “No me pregunten”, “Es mi vida”, “Dame”, “Atado a ti”, “Hasta que no pueda más”, among others.

The show is a repeat of the 30 September 2017 show that was a sellout.

Over the Rainbow with Cecilia García
Singer-actress Cecilia García will be performing the musical "Al final del arcoiris" (Over the Rainbow", made famous by Judy Garland) at the Carlos Piantini main hall of the National Theater in Santo Domingo. The performance marks her 50 years in the arts.

The musical opens 22 November 2017, and will be staged throughout the weekend until Sunday, 26 November. Wednesday to Saturday shows are at 8:30pm, on Sunday, at 6:30pm.

Tickets are for sale at the National Theater box office and online at Uepa Ticket. Prices are: RD$2,000, RD$2,500, RD$1,000.

Guitarist Simon Schembri at Regina Angelorum Church
Classic guitarist Simon Schembri will be performing on Thursday, 30 November 2017 at 8:30pm, at the Regina Angelorum Church in the Colonial City. His presentation is sponsored by the Commonwealth Round Table in the Dominican Republic, the Fundacion Sinfonia and the British Chamber of Commerce. It celebrates the 30th anniversary of the British Chamber of Commerce.

Schembri is regarded as a master guitarist with profound musical technique, coupled with excellent virtuosity and an impressive versatility in his performances. Tickets: RD$2,000 per person includes a toast at the end of the concert.

Given the limited capacity of the church, those interested should reserve their tickets by calling (809) 532-6600 and (809) 535-8690/91 or writing to boleterí[email protected] or visiting the Fundacion Sinfonia Monday to Friday from 9am to 1pm and 3 to 5pm.

DR wins gold in wrestling in Bolivarian Games
The Dominican Republic won its first medals in wrestling and judo in the 18th Bolivarian Games taking place in Santa Marta, Colombia. The games are taking place 11-25 November 2017.

José Antonio Arias, 98 kilos, won gold; Luis de Leon, 66 kilos, silver. Bronze medal winners were Jancel Pimentel, 59 kilos, Johan Batista, 75 kilos and Carlos Adames, 85 kilos. For Arias it was a comeback. He had been away from the sport for two years and underwent three months of intense training to make the team. He credited the confidence his coaches instilled in him.

Judo competitions began on Sunday, 12 November, with Jose Acosta winning the bronze medal in the 100 kilos event.

In volleyball, the Dominican women’s volleyball team, represented by the under 23 years selection, won their first match, defeating Venezuela 25-15, 25-21 and 25-17.

The Dominican Republic is participating for the first time in the Bolivarian Games. Other countries are Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Panama, Bolivia and Peru.

Dominican Winter League Professional Baseball
The Aguilas Cibaeñas are threatening to change the month-long leadership of the Estrellas Orientales and the Gigantes del Cibao in the annual baseball season.

On Sunday, 12 November 2017, with their win at the Julian Javier ballpark in San Francisco de Macorís, 6-3, the Aguilas moved up to be only one game from the Estrellas Orientales and Gigantes del Cibao that are tied 14-9 games in the league. The Aguilas are now 13-10, followed by the Leones del Escogido are 10-13, and Tigres del Licey with 9-14 and Toros del Este with 9-14.

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See the next games schedule at: