Medina inaugurates Padre Las Casas mountain roads
The Ozama and Isabela will be clean in 2018
15,000 new English speakers
A Safe Christmas 2017 begins on 4 December
Automated inspections coming in 2018
Jiménez Bichara says CDEEE adheres to the Odebrecht contract
Deputies pass a bill banning hookahs
Coffee producers protest new Indocafe
PAWA Dominicana continues to operate from AI LA
Illegal car dealerships undermine formal sector in DR
Authorities seize US$449,000 at AILA
San Cristóbal judge removed for bribes
Luguelin Santos, Ana Lucia Jose and Maria Dimitrova win gold in Bolivarian Games

Medina inaugurates Padre Las Casas mountain roads
President Danilo Medina attended the inauguration of the 10 km of paved road connecting Padre Las Casas in Azua and Bohechio, in his province of birth, San Juan de la Maguana. The road will benefit 160,000 inhabitants, most in rural areas. The road has two bridges, one in Padre Las Casas crossing Las Cuevas River, and the other in Bohechió, over the El Medio River. President Medina spoke of the government paying back a 35-year debt to the inhabitants. He recalled the damages caused to the local population when the government built the Sabaneta and Sabana Yegua dams.

During the event, President Medina highlighted the three government-supported agroforestry projects being developed in the area. These are Las Cañitas, with a reported investment of RD$1 billion, another in Los Montacitos, an investment of RD$200 million, and a third in Cuenca de Sabaneta, an investment of RD$900 million. Medina said these projects in five years time would generate revenues of more than RD$1 billion for the different communities. “We are planting over 150,000 tareas (1 tarea = 629 square meters) of agroforestry projects at the basins of the rivers that feed the Sabana Yegua and Sabaneta dams, so these do not dry out. Above all, we are doing this for the poor people that live in these mountains,” said President Medina.

Also present for the inaugurations were Agriculture Minister Angel Estevez and Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo.

In the area, the Medina government has also built the Padre Las Casas-Monte Bonito and Cigual roads. Medina announced that the Padre Las Casas-Guayabal road with a big bridge would soon be opened. He said these communities in the past have been isolated in heavy rains. This problem would be resolved. Medina also highlighted the completion of the Arroyo Cano-Los Montacitos road with just a 4.5 km section under construction. Next would be the Los Frios-Las Cañitas road to fully communicate these farming communities.

The Ozama and Isabela will be clean in 2018
The Ministry of Environment has announced the development of two important projects – a water treatment plant and solid waste collection nets -- that are expected to free the Ozama and Isabela rivers of contamination by 2018.

Environment Minister Francisco Domínguez explained that a water treatment plant is being installed that will process effluents from a geographical area that encompasses 400,000 people. He said that this water treatment plant would go into service next year and put an end to the dumping of raw sewage into these rivers.

The cleanup plan is part of a public-private inter-institutional process in coordination with the city governments of the National District and Santo Domingo province.

Dominguez made the announcement during a meeting of environmental management corporations that was organized by the Center for Farm Development (FEDA) at the Barna Business School. Also participating in the activity were the vice president of the Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD) Circe Almanzar; the director of the Japanese International Agency for Cooperation (JICA), Akihito Yamata, and Ginny Heinsen from the 3Rs Project for Sustainability (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).

Also contributing to the cleanup of the rivers is the Castor Operation, carried out by the Fundación Farach, the Ministry of Environment, the Dominican Armada (Navy) and the Waste Free Oceans Foundation (WFO). This project seeks to collect solid wastes that float on the Ozama and Isabela rivers. Large collection nets are being used, and separate efforts for the separation and categorization of final disposal of the wastes are part of the pilot program.

Metales Antillanos has facilitated their installations as the operation’s base and Air Caraibes has donated the transfer of the nets and the instructors from Europe to Santo Domingo. ET Heinsen has contributed warehousing.

Others participating in the project are the city government of Santo Domingo North that is collaborating with the management of the recovered wastes and the Pedro Henríquez National University (Unphu) that will be carrying out scientific research as part of their academic programs.

The key officers of this project are the Minister of Environment Francisco Domínguez Brito; Armada commander, Miguel Enrique Peña Acosta; the president of the Fundación Farach, Matilde Argentina Cruz; the president of the Waste Free Oceans foundation, Ingeborg Suzanna Demyttenaere, commodore of the Dominican Naval Auxiliaries, Armando D’Alessandro.

15,000 new English speakers
Accompanied by First Lady Candida Montilla, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Alejandrina German presided over the graduation of 15,000 students who had completed the English Immersion Program sponsored by the government. The students came from 92 different centers around the country. The event took place at the Palacio de los Deportes in the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center.

The ten-month program included 20 class hours per week. This English language program, which began in 2005, has graduated more than 97,000 students.

Speaking at the graduation, Minister German said that the students’ lives have been transformed and each graduate has a bright future in the workplace and in their communities.

Minister German stressed the commitment by the government to assist all students, in particular the young ones, to allow them to become productive citizens and improve their individual circumstances, together with those of their families. She stressed besides the graduates’ gains in personal growth and self-esteem, the English by Immersion Program improves competitiveness of the workforce, providing much needed English language skills in 31 provinces across the country.

A Safe Christmas 2017 begins on 4 December
The director of the National Police, Ney Aldrin Bautista, said that they would begin this year’s Safe Christmas Operation on Monday, 4 December 2017, to coincide with the payment of the 13th wage to government employees.

Major General Aldrin Bautista said that they would use part of the administrative personnel on the police force for the extra preventive patrol services. He told reporters from the Diario Libre that they would also be using cadets from the Police Academy, officers from the Superior Academy, and even students who are attending the Public Safety School in this operation.

The Police director spoke as he presided over the graduation of police agents who were trained in a program focused on improving the performance of police officers from Colombia, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

Automated inspections coming in 2018
More than half of the almost two million vehicles in circulation in the Dominican Republic would not pass a rigorous technical revision to determine if the vehicle is adequate for circulation, according to Luis Molina, coordinator of the Dominican Alliance for Safety and Road Mobility (Avial). He estimates that 1,230,503, or 70% of the 1,757,862 vehicles in circulation, including 100% of the public transport vehicles, would not pass real inspections.

The National Institute for Transit and Land Transport (Intrant) recently announced that real inspections would begin in 2018. But Luis Alba doubts the Intrant will have sufficient workshops to carry out the inspections, as reported in Diario Libre. He also speculated the Intrant would have inherited the old tricks from its predecessor, the OTTT that consistently has allowed inadequate vehicles to continue to circulate.

The director of the Intrant, Claudia Franchesca de los Santos has said preparations are underway so that in the second half of 2018 the first Annual Technical Vehicular Revision be started. All vehicles would be subject to the reviews. Workshops fitted with automated inspection equipment will be certified to carry out the inspections all year round. She announced that the public transport vehicles that do not pass the test will be scrapped.

Raising awareness for the need for the inspections is the recent death of a 28-year old, her 14-year old sister and 3-year old niece, in a vehicle that had been imported with the driver’s wheel on the opposite side and reassembled here incorrectly causing the driver and passengers to die from inhaling poisonous gases. De los Santos has said these deaths could have been avoided with the inspection that would have caught the serious defect.

The new inspections will be available all year round and drivers will have 30 days to comply with the recommendations of the workshops. Failure to carry out the inspection and post the passed ticket is a public employee minimum wage.

Intrant has also announced that the plan is to inspect the used vehicles upon arrival to the three authorized Dominican ports.

Jiménez Bichara says CDEEE adheres to the Odebrecht contract
The executive vice president of the Dominican Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE), Ruben Jiménez Bichara, told reporters on Tuesday, 21 November 2017, that the Dominican state is adhering to the contract in the case of the differences with Odebrecht regarding the construction costs of the Punta Catalina power plant.

Jiménez Bichara said: “We are adhering to the terms of our contract and taking seriously our responsibility to defend every cent and peso of the public funds. Be assured that is what we are doing.” He added that at the present time they are in the process of preparing their arguments that will be used to defend the position of the state during the discussions over the project’s costs. He said that the contract defines how to resolve disputes and differences.

Jiménez Bichara said that construction has not stopped at the power plant. He noted that their goal is to finish this installation by the end of 2018. He said the construction is 83% completed.

Deputies pass a bill banning hookahs
The Chamber of Deputies declared the legislation urgent and approved it after two readings. The legislation bans hookahs, or water pipes in colmados, bars, discotheques and other public and private places.

The initiative, authored by deputy Miladys del Rosario Nuñez, moves now to the Senate for approval. The bill was drafted after several children and teenagers had contracted pulmonary illnesses linked to the use of the hookahs.

The legislator said more than 10 deaths of youths have been attributed to the use of the hookah. She said in her province of Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris), children are using it to drink beer.
Manuel Orlando Espinosa, president of the Commission of Interior and Police of the Chamber of Deputies presented a documentary where youths demonstrated how narcotics are consumed using the hookah.

The Society of Cardiology has confirmed evidence that the use of hookah has increased incidences of bronchitis, arterial hypertension, lung cancer, mouth cancer, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Coffee producers protest new Indocafe
Coffee producers from around the country protested the approval by Congress of the Dominican Coffee Institute (Indocafé) at the foot of the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. The coffee producers called for President Medina to veto the bill.

The protest was coordinated by members of the Confederación Cafetalera Dominicana (Concafed) that said they had four years trying to be received by President Danilo Medina to explain to him the problems affecting coffee producers and present proposals to improve the sector.

The Concafed producers say that Indocafe does not support the interests of the small and medium-sized coffee producers. They urged that a meeting be convened with the President, so that the truth about the coffee sector can be shared with government officials. The leaders also want to make the case that creation of Indocafé will damage the coffee sector.

Carlos Ramírez, secretary of concafed said that the bill seeks to affect the board of directors of Concafed by excluding representatives of coffee grower organizations and projects underway.

Indocafe was created by a bill in September 2017 to establish policies to regulate the coffee sector and improve the competitiveness of coffee production. The bill was drafted by deputy Lucia Medina Sanchez, the sister of President Danilo Medina.

PAWA Dominicana continues to operate from AILA
A spokesperson for Dominican airline PAWA Dominicana told reporters on 21 November 2017, that all of their flights and operations continue to be carried out normally at the Las Americas International Airport, even one day after Aerodom suspended some of their services and facilities because of reported arrears in payment for airport services.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, 21 November 1017, the PAWA spokesperson Elena Rosa Rodriguez, said that the company is currently in conversations with Aerodom that administers the Las Americas International Airport.

In the press release, the airline says it regrets the situation (the arrears) that have occurred and that it is their desire that their airline receives the same treatment that as is offered to other companies in the region.

She also recalled the fact that the airline was seriously affected by dozens of flight cancellations because of 2017 hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that seriously affected several islands in the Eastern Caribbean that are serviced by PAWA. She added that they were returning to normality and the airline expects to continue to expand into new areas. PAWA has announced flights to New York City for 2018.

PAWA has routes to Antigua, Aruba, Curaçao, Havana, Puerto Rico, Miami and Saint Maarten.

Illegal car dealerships undermine formal sector in DR
The proliferation of used car dealers that are operating outside the law in the Dominican Republic has meant losses of up to 30% for car dealers who follow the law and are members of the Used Vehicles Importers Association (ASOCIVU).

Luis Manuel Peña, the president of ASOCIVU, said that the informality in the market works against everyone. He said: “The dealers in the informal sector occupy the streets, green areas, and they carry out transactions without sales records and other vital documents. This affects the environment and the communities that cannot move freely through their streets.”

Peña spoke when announcing the celebration of the XXIII Vehicle Fair called “Christmas in your Car with ASOCIVU from 14-18 December 2017. At the event, some 76 dealers will offer close to 5,000 vehicles to the public. This activity will take place at the Feria Ganadera on the Malecón in Santo Domingo.

Authorities seize US$449,000 at AILA
Authorities seized the sum of US$449,000 in cash found in the baggage of a foreigner who was trying to travel to South Africa through the Las Americas International Airport. The unnamed foreigner was arrested.

National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) agents, accompanied by customs inspectors and members of the Justice Department and officials from other branches stationed in the terminal, also arrested two other persons who may be involved in the case. The DNCD said that the confiscated money was sent through a chain of custody to the office of the Attorney General of the Republic for further investigation.

San Cristóbal judge removed for bribes
The Judicial Branch Council removed San Cristobal judge Regina Carvajal Vizcaino for having received bribes to favor drug traffickers and for attempted extortion of businessman Celso Marranzini and his company Multiquimica Dominicana with RD$300,000 to issue a favorable sentence, as reported in Diario Libre.

Diario Libre reports that this is the same judge who in March 2009 favored Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua (Quirinito) with bail for RD$3 million. He was later arrested for the kidnapping and murder of Victor Mella Terrero. Quirinito is sought by the justice after he was able to obtain documents, including a death certificate, to escape from serving a first 30-year jail sentence.

The Judicial Branch Council inspectors determined that Carvajal Vizcaino had received bribes to lift an embargo to a bank account of Jose Miguel Ceballos Rosario (El Viajero) made by prosecutors. Ceballos was accused of being the head of a drug trafficking network. Some 333.13 kilos were seized of pure cocaine in Nigua, San Cristobal.

Luguelin Santos, Ana Lucia Jose and Maria Dimitrova win gold in Bolivarian Games
London Olympic Games silver medallist Luguelín Santos won a gold medal for the Dominican Republic in the 400 meters dash clocking in 45.44 during the 18th Bolivarian Games taking place in Santa Marta, Colombia. His teammate Ana Lucía José Tima won gold in triple jump (13.04, 13.34, 13.37, 13.39, 13.39).

María Dimitrova won gold in karate with a 5-0 defeat Ingrid Aranda Javes, of Perú, in the finals on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. She had won the same medal in the 17th Games that took place in Peru in 2013.

Overall, the Dominican Republic is in 7th place in the games, with 50 medals (15 gold, 11 silver and 24 bronze).