Happy New Year 2018!
Play ball again at Quisqueya Ball Park
President Medina attends ordination of new bishop
Last surprise visit of the year by President Medina
New automated immigration system
Property tax exemption ceiling raised
Border security reinforced
Rejection of ruling to increase number of floors of buildings in Punta Cana
New fines and other Intrant rules ready to go into effect
Leptospirosis on the rise
Police app to report crimes now available
More illegal alcohol factories closed
San Cristobal judge suspended for releasing convicts
Glyn Thomas Bailey returns to England
US citizen sent to La Victoria for child prostitution
Oncologist raided in the case of Quirinito
Major drug haul in La Romana
Camino a Belen at Studio Theater
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince in Santo Domingo

Happy New Year 2018!
Many Dominicans welcomed in the New Year in the decades old custom of dancing merengue, bachata, salsa and urban music in parties in the streets outside and in hotels in Santo Domingo and Santiago.

Merengue was the most popular music and there was a show put on by Group Telemicro on the Malecon in Santo Domingo with dozens of artists including Miriam Cruz, Mozart La Para, Toño Rosario, Revolución Salsera and Yiyo Sarante. At midnight there was a firework show to welcome in the New Year, in what was called the biggest discotheque in the world that finally ended at 7:15 in the morning.

In barrios throughout the capital there was drinking and dancing in colmados and in the street and in the hotels there were performances by artists such as Johnny Ventura, Wilfrido Vargas, Fernando Villalona, Rubby Pérez and Eddy Herrera.

In Santiago there was a party at the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration that included performances by the salsa artist Alex Matos, typical meringue singer Fefita la Grande, bachata artist Joe Veras, and urban singer Shadow Blow.

In other cities throughout the country people danced in the streets until the sun rose.


Play ball again at Quisqueya Ball Park
The Dominican Baseball League (Lidom) announced that the Licey Tigers vs. Escogido Lions game will go as scheduled on 7:30pm on Tuesday, 2 January 2018 at the Quisqueya Ball Park. Games had been suspended at the stadium after on Wednesday, 27 December 2017, a fire destroyed much of the press and radio and TV transmission area (Séptimo Cielo) located atop the stadium. A dozen fire trucks also damaged the playing field.

After the fire, President Danilo Medina had instructed Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo and the Acero Estrella steel works company to immediately begin repairs to the press suit (seventh sky) of the Quisqueya Ball Park that was totaled by a fire on Wednesday, 27 December 2017. The Ministry of Public Works and the steelworks company carried out an assessment of the work to be done. Deputy Minister of Public Works Ramón Pepín said that since 6am on Thursday, 28 December 2017, an assessment team from the Ministry of Public Works was at the site. He said the Ministry would take the necessary steps for ball games to be able to continue at the stadium.

The Ministry of Public Works thus took to the restoration task night and day so the round robin games could continue at the city stadium. Damaged areas were removed so that the stadium could continue to be used. The Ministry of Public Works estimated the damages at RD$20 million.

Staff of the ballpark was also working to condition the playing field that was affected by the invasion of the 15 fire trucks that were on the grounds to fight the fire and prevent it from spreading.

Meanwhile, the games continued as scheduled at the stadiums in San Francisco de Macoris and Santiago. To make up for the lost days, Lidom announced that on 4 and 6 January 2018, there will be two games at the Quisqueya Ball Park, one at 2 pm and the other at 7pm. The round robin was extended two days to 18 January 2018, by when the playoff teams will be decided.

The team standings are now: Licey (3-0), Aguilas (2-1), Escogido (1-2), Gigantes (0-3).


President Medina attends ordination of new bishop
On Saturday, 30 December 2017, President Danilo Medina attended the ordination of the new bishop of the diocese of San Pedro de Macorís, Monsignor Santiago Rodríguez Rodríguez. The ceremony was headed by Monsignor Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, bishop of the diocese La Altagracia.

The mass began at 10am in the sports center of the Central University of the East in San Pedro. The ceremony was also attended by members of the Dominican Episcopalian Conference, priests and deacons as well as members of the military and lay people.


Last surprise visit of the year by President Medina
On Sunday, 31 December 2017, President Danilo Medina carried out his last surprise visit of the year and went to supervise the construction of the new religious sanctuary of Santo Cristo de los Milagros de Bayaguana. During the visit he checked on the progress of the work which is a tribute to the faith of the Dominican people.

The President was accompanied by Senator Charlie Mariotti, members of the Patrons of the Santuario al Cristo de los Milagros de Bayaguana, who gave details about the new construction.


New automated immigration system
The director of the Migration Agency (DGM) Maximo Muñoz Delgado said the country is working on a new security project, Dominican Republic Immigration Information Management System (DRIIMS) to reinforce the migratory controls. The DOM-02 system will automate services in airports, seaports and border control points.

In an interview with Diario Libre, Muñoz said that Haitians and Venezuelans are the two leading group of immigrants in the country with irregular status. He said that as of the National Status Legalization Plan (PNRE) 288,467 foreigners registered to legalize their status, and 260,241 received temporary residence permits.

Border security reinforced
The Ministry of Defense has ordered the reinforcement of security measures and border controls in an attempt to prevent the flow of contraband and the entry of illegal foreigners to the country from Haiti. The measure was announced by Defense Minister Lieutenant General Rubén D. Paulino Sem, following a meeting between the state security authorities and the Migration agency (DGM).

There will now be more members of the military at the different outposts along the border and a reinforcement of the numbers of Air Force officers together with an increase in air patrols. There will be more military vehicles on patrol as well as an increase in naval patrols in the northern and southern coasts of the Dominican Republic.

In addition, security measures and manpower will be increased at the four formal border crossings of Dajabón, Pedernales, Jimaní and Elías Piña, the roads along the border, the international highway and more than 85 informal crossings which have been identified by army intelligence. New mobile and fixed checkpoints were established to allow for the rapid detection of illegal immigrants.


Property tax exemption ceiling raised
The Tax Agency (DGII) reported that the personal property exemption for 2018 is RD$7,138,384.80. The exemption responds to Art. 14 of the Law 253-12. The difference over that amount is taxable.

Rejection of ruling to increase number of floors of buildings in Punta Cana
The Dominican Association of Hotels and Tourism (Asonahores) has asked the Ministry of the Environment to reject the construction of buildings over five floors on the beach in the eastern part of the country.

The written request was received at the Ministry of 14 December 2017, addressed to Environment Minister Francisco Domínguez Brito, from the president of Asonahores, Joel Santos Echavarría.

Asonahores stated that they opposed the order to allow taller buildings as it was against the area planning code that had established a maximum number of floors of five. The organization went on the say it would also affect the aesthetics of the area, which is a protected area, and would endanger the integrity of fragile ecosystems. In addition Asonahores requested the government convene public hearings as part of the permitting process.

Diario Libre published that the Ministry of Tourism issued a resolution, back in October 2017, to increase the floor limit to 22 floors from five on the El Macao coastline in Punta Cana. Previously, the Ministry had authorized high rises in the Cap Cana Juanillo beach area. Earlier, the Ministry had authorized a higher level then established in the land plan for a resort in the area.

Diario Libre reporters interviewed Environment Minister Francisco Dominguez Brito who said that the Ministry of Environment has not yet received paperwork for the environmental permission for construction of high rises in the Macao beach area in northern Punta Cana. Nevertheless, he said the role of the Ministry of Environment is to determine that the buildings do not pose a threat to the environment. He said it is responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism to set the construction parameters and not the Ministry of Environment.

The high-rise model failed in Juan Dolio after it was authorized years ago by former Minister of Tourism Felix Jimenez with high rise shells as evidence. Now under Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, high rises are also being authorized, this time for the Punta Cana beaches.

The National Hotel & Tourism Association (Asonahores) argues that the Dominican low rise and low density model has been successful and should not be changed. The new heights authorized for Macao and Cap Cana are also rejected by the Association of Hotels and Tourism Projects of the Eastern Zone (Asoleste). The Association issued a legal summons to the municipality of Higuey opposing the granting of land use permits in regards to projects with heights of more than five floors (17.50 meters), the height contemplated in the Plan Sectorial de Ordenamiento Territorial Turistico Punta Cana, Bavaro Macao issued by the Ministry of Tourism on 26 March 2012. The law allows four floors for Macao and five floors for the Cap Cana area.

Diario Libre reports that executives of the hotel associations had held several meetings with officers of the Ministry of Tourism to discourage the change in legal height for the area, but were surprised when the Ministry ruled in favor of the high-rises for Cap Cana and Macao. Diario Libre reports that behind the authorization could be that Hard Rock Hotel developers established this is a pre-condition for their investing in the abandoned Roco Ki resort site. The newspaper speculates that behind the high-rise development in Cap Cana could be the Trump Organization and Venezuelan investors from the Mendoza family owner of Polar beer in Venezuela.


New fines and other Intrant rules ready to go into effect
The National Institute of Land Transit and Transport (Intrant) is ready to start 2018 with the new system of fines, vehicle technical inspection and the new driving license based on points.

In this year too, the Greater Santo Domingo Movement Plan will commence that is implemented by the Ministry of the Presidency and will set up psycho- physical studies on people to see if they capable of driving different types of vehicles.

Claudia Franchesca de los Santos, director of Intrant, has said that this year is important for this institution and that the equipment is all ready to implement the new rules. Drivers will have to undergo more than a simple visual study, as they will enter into a cabin that simulates driving in the city, and depending on how they perform they will keep their license or it will be taken away from them.

She explained that to start the process they have identified the 10 provinces where the most vehicle accidents occur, to begin the operations of Intrant. In January, February and March they will start the increased fines and other processes. By the last quarter of 2018, the first vehicle technical inspections will begin.

She warned that for Intrant to be effective along with the General Department of Security of Terrestrial Transit and Transport (Digeset) there will need to be many more agents than at present.

The new rulings will start first with the Greater Santo Domingo Urban Movement and next will be rolled out to Santiago.


Leptospirosis on the rise
During 2017, the increase in the number of cases of leptospirosos continued with 76 deaths and 776 suspected cases during the year which is a 7% increase over 2016, when there were 72 deaths and 707 cases.

In the last week the epidemiology system reported 16 suspected cases throughout the country, of which three were in Santo Domingo, three in San Pedro de Macorís and two in Barahona. The other eight cases were scattered throughout other provinces.
According to bulletin number 50 that was for the week ending 16 December, in the last four weeks there have been 81 suspected cases reported to authorities with the Metropolitan region having the highest number.

The General Epidemiology Department (DIGEPI) at the Health Ministry attributes the increase in cases and deaths due to leptospirosis this year to the floods following hurricanes which led to prolonged periods of standing water in many low-lying areas.

Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans by contact with animal urine, including rats. The symptoms are fever, weakness, headache, bleeding, muscular pain and chills among others.


Police app to report crimes now available
The National Police announced the availability for Android mobile phone users of the Tu PoliciApp RD for reporting traffic accidents, crimes or crime-related events anonymously. The reporting of evidence of crimes will be able to be sent through this platform as well.

Police director, Major General Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, made the announcement on 27 December 2017. He said the app will also serve as a communication channel with citizens who will now have direct contact with the Police. The chief of the Police says the app guarantees anonymity for those reporting crimes. Photographs, videos and notes can be sent with the messages

The app will permit the geo-referencing of the reports for easier access to a site of a crime by the police. In select cases of gender violence, a panic button will be activated for quick assistance to vulnerable people. The app also allows for direct contact with the 911 Emergency System.

While Tu PoliciAPP RD is only so far available for Android platforms, later it will be available on the Apple platform.


More illegal alcohol factories closed
The National Police has announced that they have dismantled more illegal operations for producing alcohol in Azua and Santiago Rodriguez provinces, which were making rum and whisky as well as cleren, the latter responsible for several deaths over the Christmas period.

The laboratories were found in the Los Parceleros sector in Azua, and in Las Carreras street in Azua they found several demijohns of Triculi, another alcoholic drink which were being sold by Nuris and Victor who are now fugitives from justice. In Santiago Rodriguez province, illegal factories were raided in Villas Los Almacigos, Moncion and San Ignacio de Sabaneta.


San Cristobal judge suspended for releasing convicts
The Attorney General’s Office has asked for the suspension of a ruling issued by a San Cristobal judge on Friday 29 December 2017, which now added up to more than 50 convicted felons she has released, many of whom accused of murder for hire, drug related offences, aggravated homicide and rape. All of the crimes are classified as serious offences in the Dominican Penal Code.

Judge Katherine A. Rubio Matos, whose granting special permissions to inmates from different jails across the country raised the attention of the authorities, has now been suspended for not observing the established rules for allowing these special permissions.

The regulations state that in order to be allowed to leave prison early, the prisoners need to have an evaluation and a certificate from the evaluation committee, psychological evaluation and legal, educational, social assistance, medical and security evaluations. There also needs to be a drug test, a pregnancy test, a field study for security and social assistance and the prisoner needs to have been allowed out of jail a minimum of six times under guard.

The Attorney General’s office has announced that those who the suspended judge released will now be returned to prison. The Attorney General Office reported that the Christmas holidays authorized for the judge to the inmates was cut short for 42, including 20 Najayo Hombres inmates, 14 Sabana Toro jail inmates and 8 Najayo Mujeres inmates, among others.


Glyn Thomas Bailey returns to England
In a follow up story on the saga of English citizen Glyn Thomas Bailey, Listin Diario reports Bailey has returned to England, thanks to efforts of the United Kingdom Embassy in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, his Facebook friend in the Dominican Republic Wilfa Soto says she has gotten closer to God after this experience. Soto had hoped her UK man would help her raise her daughters and have an easier life here when she accepted to host him at her home in Cotuí. As it turned out Bailey was practically penniless and even came with just a one-way ticket. Soto even had to travel to Punta Cana to pick him up because he did not have for the fare to get to her hometown of Hato del Castillo, Cotuí.

Listin Diario reporters who spoke to him in England said he is depressed, disillusioned and is living alone after his Dominican adventure. He says now he always told Soto he had no job or money. Bailey spent two weeks hospitalized at the mental health unit of a public hospital in Greater Santo Domingo. He said had no issues with the treatment received by the physicians there.

The case hit social media when Soto asked for help online to send Bailey back to England because she could not afford his upkeep in the country.


US citizen sent to La Victoria for child prostitution
The First Collegiate Court of the National District sentenced 62-year old Loveall James Willis to eight years in La Victoria Jail, the most overcrowded and notorious prison in the country. Two 13 and 16 year old boys testified against him. State prosecutors said the US citizen preyed on the children at the Plaza Juan Baron in Santo Domingo.

The Public Prosecutor's Office had granted the case the legal classification of commercial sexual exploitation and psychological and sexual abuse, crimes foreseen and sanctioned in articles 410 and 396 of Law 136-06, as well as articles 83 and 86 of Law 631- 16 on Control and Regulation of Weapons, since the convicted person was seized with a knife, according to a press release from the National District Prosecutor's Office.

The US citizen was arrested in October 2016 and held pre-trial custody in Najayo jail. He was arrested by a Tourist Police agent (Cestur) in the Colonial City when found physically and verbally mistreating a 16-year old teenager boy who accused him of having oral sex with him but not paying him the promised RD$3,500.


Oncologist raided in the case of Quirinito
Prosecutors and members of the Criminal Investigation Division (Dicrim) have raided the examining rooms of the oncologist César Augusto Rojas Núñez who has been interviewed several times in connection with Pedro Alejandro Castillo Paniagua “Quirinito”, who has an international arrest warrant out in his name. Qurinito was sentenced to 30 years in jail for murder, but maneuvered his way through the justice system until being authorized to domiciliary arrest after medics testifying he had terminal mouth cancer. His wife and lawyer presented a medical certificate of his death, but his body or proof of incineration has not been presented, nor are his whereabouts known.

The office on the sixth floor of the Unión Médica Clinic in Santiago was raided to obtain information about “Quirinito”.

It is said that he went to the clinic three times where he was diagnosed with tongue cancer in an advanced stage.


Major drug haul in La Romana
The spokesman for the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD), Carlos Devers, has said they have confiscated 850 packages of what is presumably cocaine, off the coast of La Romana province.

He explained that the DNCD were working with other agencies in a wide operation near to Catalina Island and they intercepted a speedboat that was trying to land the merchandise in the country, as a result of which three Venezuelans and a Dominican were arrested.

In the month of December alone, more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine was confiscated, which is considerably more than the previous year.


Camino a Belen at Studio Theater
Studio Theater presents the concert "Camino a Belén" to close the Christmas-New Year-Three Kings holiday season and welcome in the New Year. Studio Theater is located at the second floor of Acrópolis Center. 5 January 2018 at 7pm. Tickets are RD$400.00, plus RD$50 service charge.

Anthony Santos show in Baní
Bachata singer Anthony Santos is performing at D’Boca Canasta Sport Bar in Baní on Saturday, 6 January 2018. From 9pm. Tickets are RD$2,000 and available online for RD$1,000 general admission and RD$2,000 VIP at Ticketexpress.com.do

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince in Santo Domingo
Studio Theater presents the children’s classic, “The Little Prince” on 6 January 2018. The theater located on the second floor of Acropolis Center. The production is directed by Solanvi Gómez with starring roles played by Jared Gómez, Mavel Paulino, Alejandro Espino and Ambar Castillo.
Show days: Saturday, 6 January, Sunday, 7 January, Saturday, 13 January and Sunday, 14 January at 6:30pm. Tickest for sale online at Ticketexpress and at the Studio Theater box office for RD$650 and online service charge of RD$50.