Low turnout for back to school
Education Minister Andres Navarro aspires to the Presidency
AMET checking for marbetes
Ministry of Culture publishes Dominican author classics
Congress fails to pass political parties and electoral bill, amended penal and civil codes
Chamber of Deputies web page hacked
New hydroelectric plant to be built
ICAO president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu visits
Hotels Association withdraws complaint about high rises
University scholarships offered to study in Taiwan
Pet cemetery open at Parque del Prado
People burned by gas tank explosion
Body of missing teenager found
One year in preventive custody for drug smugglers
Kaluba tanker had made seven successful shipments of “fuel” to the DR in 2017
Fire causes delays at Dominican Consulate
Escuela Serrania gets a boost by Michelin Star chef Maria Marte
Spanish dances moves persons with special needs
Bonao carnival kicks off 4 February 2018
Nothing decided yet in baseball championship

Low turnout for back to school
Students returned to schools this week after the Christmas break and despite the call from Education Minister Andrés Navarro urging parents to send their children back to school, there was low student attendance reported in Santo Domingo and throughout the country on the first day of classes, 8 January 2018. The attendance was on average 40% to 50% in Santo Domingo although in some cases, it was down to 12%, as reported in Hoy. Attendance, nevertheless, was up to 90% by the second day of the return to classes, as reported by the Ministry of Education.

According to the director of Education District 15-02, which includes Villa Consuelo, Villa Juana, Villas Agrícolas, among others, Altagracia Julia Javier, the low attendance was due to the bad weather. She said that many parents usually did not send their children to school when it was raining, concerned their children could catch a cold.


Education Minister Andres Navarro aspires to the Presidency
Education Minister Andrés Navarro for the first time has openly admitted he would consider being a candidate to the Presidency for the ruling PLD party. Navarro has been mentioned, along with Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo, as two politicians that would possibly have the support of incumbent President Danilo Medina. According to the 2015 Constitution, President Danilo Medina cannot run for President again. In order for Medina to run for President, the Constitution would need to be changed. Medina had already pushed for a change in the 2010 Constitution so he could opt for re-election in the 2016 general election.

Navarro told the 106.5FM Sol de la Mañana talk show hosts that his aspirations to serve the public is for the long term, but he will not be rushed into making a decision, and that he has hit feet firmly on the ground.

“I am a full time politician,” he said. But he clarified he was not desperate and would wait for when the time was right. He said he could also aspire to become a legislator (either a deputy or senator), or city mayor or city councilor.

He said, “I have aspirations.” But clarified that he believes in the modern institutionalism movement and that the best way to earn the favor of the population is with ethical and responsible work while in office.

Navarro spoke after the president of the public school teachers association (ADP), Eduardo Hidalgo protested the Ministry of Education’s decision to convene a public tender for the choosing of regional and district education directors, so these appointments could be conferred for merit. A pre-selection would be chosen by Educa, a local pro-education non-governmental organization. ADP says that Navarro wants to make changes for political convenience.

The announcement of the choosing of the directors with outside counsel has the backing of former ADP president Maria Teresa Cabrera (a leading participant in the anti-corruption Green March movement) who said the method chosen for the school district directors would not violate laws and regulations and has all the characteristics of an opposition contest. She said that the procedures should be clear and rigorously followed.


AMET checking for marbetes
Starting Tuesday, 9 January 2018, agents from the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) began to impound vehicles circulating without this year’s taxation sticker, known here as the “marbete”.

AMET spokesman, Colonel Rafael Tejada Baldera, said that all agents had been instructed to stop and fine drivers of vehicles without the sticker, and that the vehicle would be taken to a holding center until the sticker had been bought.

Car owners were given three months to renew the stickers either online or at many loans and savings banks nationwide. Those renewing as of 9 January 2018 have to pay a fine of RD$1,000 in addition to the RD$1,000-RD$3,000 cost of the sticker.

Among the most notable cases resulting from the inspections is that of a Caribe Tours intra-city bus that would have transported passengers to Puerto Plata. The bus was stopped for an hour after AMET agents determined it was not showing on its front window the corresponding sticker.

In some cases, drivers that had obtained the sticker but had forgotten to post it on their window, were penalized with the RD$1,000 fine.

In other cases, AMET reported seizing 277 vehicles when their owners were circulating but had failed to secure the permission to circulate sticker.


Ministry of Culture publishes Dominican author classics
The Ministry of Culture is opening bookstore kiosks nationwide and the pilot plan was launched during the Regional Azua Book Fair and also at Calle El Conde (between Hostos and Meriño) during the Christmas holidays. The book kiosk is now permanently open at the Ministry of Culture headquarters on the Malecón for sales to the general public.

Culture Minister Pedro Vergés said the new book distribution outlets seek to bring books closer to readers. The outlets showcase the books by Dominican authors published by the Editora Nacional of the Ministry of Culture.

“There is little to gain in publishing impeccable editions and important publications if the books are just warehoused. As part of our new strategy, the kiosk network, in addition to the placement in already operating bookstores, will guarantee that the books that are part of the national editorial fund can reach all Dominicans,” he explained. Among the established bookstores where the books are available in Santo Domingo are Centro Cuesta del Libro on Av. 27 de Febrero and Mamey on Calle Mercedes in the Colonial City.

Working with the book distribution effort is Ruth Herrera, director of the Book Fair; Jose Enrique Garcia, editor of the Editora Nacional, and communications director Patricia Mora.

Among the titles of the books that are part of the Biblioteca Dominicana Básica, or Colección Homenaje, are: “Materia del amor,” poetry by Manuel Rueda; “La sangre’’, by Tulio Manuel Cestero; and “Yerbas bajo las piedras’’, poetry by Héctor Incháustegui Cabral. Also: “Textos escogidos”, short stories by Virgilio Díaz Grullón; and “Palabras sin tiempo,” poetry by Domingo Moreno Jimenes, among others. Prices for the books range from RD$75 to RD$200.


Congress fails to pass political parties and electoral bill, amended penal and civil codes
Political considerations seem to have again prevailed to impede legislators from passing the key political and electoral bills that have languished in the National Congress for dozens of years. Political differences among leading politicians, and this time around primarily between dissident groups of the ruling PLD party, have stagnated these bills that would better organize and control the political party and electoral systems in the Dominican Republic that receive a big chunk of the national budget.

A report today in Diario Libre also highlights the failure of legislators to pass the penal and civil code revisions also languishing in Congress due to differences. In the case of the penal code, the main obstacle has been the reticence of legislators to act against the strong anti-abortion stand of religious groups in the Dominican Republic.

The bills expired with the present legislature on 12 January 2018 and will need to be presented again in the new legislature that reopens after the 27 February National Independence Day.

Opposition deputy Victor D’Aza (PRM-Santiago) told Diario Libre reporters that the time is right for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to present a new bill including its recommendations for the financing of political campaigns, the carrying out of open or closed primaries, women’s vote, among other issues for which there has not been consensus.

Chamber of Deputies web page hacked
The web page for the Chamber of Deputies was hacked on Tuesday, 9 January 2018, by unknown “pirates” who invited readers to take part in the next activity of the Green March movement that is scheduled for 28 March 2018. The movement protests corruption and impunity in government. The hackers left behind the video of the urban Singer N-fasis titled Odebrecht.

When readers tried to access the page, a message came up which said “Hello Chamber of Rats, we are pleased to invite you to the march on 28 January 2018 by the Green March movement in front of the Presidential Palace. You are all welcome, because this march is also for you – make sure you are there”.


New hydroelectric plant to be built
Senator Adriano Sánchez Roa (PLD-Elías Piña) has informed that the funds for feasibility studies and the subsequent construction of the Artibonite hydroelectric plant in Pedro Santana, a border town in Elías Piña province on the border with Haiti, have been included in the 2018 general budget at the initiative of President Danilo Medina.

Senator Sánchez Roa says that the project will also benefit nearby Bánica. The area will be transformed when hundreds of thousands of hectares of land get access to irrigation water from the Joca and Tocino rivers.

In a statement, the senator explained that the Artibonito hydroelectric plant will produce energy for an estimated value of RD$280 million per month and reduce the sediment of the tributaries.

The Artibonito is the longest river in Haiti and the island of Hispaniola. It rises in the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic at an altitude of 1,000 meters west of of Burende (province of La Vega) and travels 320 km, before flowing into the Gulf of Gonâve at the village of Grande-Saline in Haiti.


ICAO president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu visits
Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the president of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the specialized agency of the United Nations that fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth is visiting the Dominican Republic, visited the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, 9 January 2018.

A press release from the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) says that Aliu had praise for the efforts made by the Dominican government in favor of aviation in the country. “The Dominican authorities have implemented the adequate policies to develop the sector and liberalize aviation services,” said during a meeting with IDAC officers. Participating in the meeting were Alejandro Herrera, and Melvin Cintron, director of the ICAO office for North America, Central America and the Caribbean; Specialized Corps for Airport and Civil Aviation Security (CESAC) director, General Aracenis Castillo, and ambassador Carlos Veras, Dominican representative at ICAO.

Aliu said: “The Dominican Republic is an example of what can be achieved when there is political will in government to foster such an important sector,” said Aliu. He stressed that the country meets the norms and international requirements at a 96% level.

During his visit, he promoted the “No Country Left Behind initiative” of ICAO. The ICAO message is “to make it clear to our member states that we are their partners on this journey, and that we can all be more effective by working together”.

The aim is to provide travellers, regardless of the reasons for their travel or their origin or destination, the complete and trustworthy assurance of safe, secure, efficient and reliable air transport.


Hotels Association move to technical discussions table high-rise complaint
The Association of Hotels and Tourism in the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES) will be meeting with the experts at the Ministry of Tourism (MITUR) to look for solutions to assure the continuation of what they call the “successful model of tourism development”. Asonahores had protested a recent resolution of the Ministry of Tourism that authorized high-rise buildings in tourist areas, namely Cap Cana and Macao Beach.

The organization protested the authorizations that would essentially change the Dominican tourism low density and low rise development model. Asonahores was especially critical about the high rises authorized for the Macao beach area.

Asonahores said that talks with Mitur should result in steps to allow for the successful tourism model to continue where low density, protection of the coastline and other important sustainability criteria can prevail.

The announcement was made after a meeting of the executive committee of Asonahores with Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García on Monday, 8 January 2018. The Ministry of Tourism as of 9 January 2018 had not issued a written statement for the press and general public on their decision to allow high rises of up to 22 floors in tourism areas.


University scholarships offered to study in Taiwan
The Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is promoting that Dominicans apply for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies in Taiwan. The scholarships are granted by the International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF 2018).

The scholarships are open to Dominican nationals older than 18 years with a minimum high school education. They range from four years for undergraduate studies to two years for masters studies. The scholarships are for seven undergraduate titles, 21 masters titles and two doctoral titles in 20 universities. Studies are in English. See the programs offered at: http://www.icdf.org.tw/public/Attach...2917337100.pdf

Scholarships cover airfare, tuition and books, dorm stay, medical and accident insurance, and maintenance allotment of US$400 for undergraduate studies, US$500 for masters studies and US$57- fr doctoral studies.

Those interested should visit the website and apply before 15 March 2018:

Pet cemetery open at Parque del Prado
The private cemetery, Parque del Prado, that is located in Santo Domingo East, is promoting its pet cemetery area that has been open since 2011. To date, around 200 pets have been buried there and another 500 pets have been cremated by the cemetery. These are mostly dogs, cats, birds and turtles.

Gina Victoriano Collado, administrative director of the cemetery, says the pets are from families that live in the National District, Punta Cana, La Romana, Jarabacoa and Puerto Plata.


People burned by gas tank explosion
Several people received burns yesterday, Tuesday 9 January 2018, when a gas cylinder exploded on the third floor of a guest house in Moca Street, in the Villas Agricolas sector of the National District.

Preliminary reports said that three people, all Haitian, were injured and taken to the Francisco Gregorio Billini Hospital. Their conditions are unknown.

The explosion happened as they were preparing lunch and the flames spread rapidly. The first floor of the building is home to a colmado and a café and the second and third floors are occupied by dozens of families, mostly of Haitian descent.


Body of missing teenager found
Authorities in Puerto Plata province have recovered the body of the 16-year old teenager who drowned in the ocean off Cabarete beach on Sunday, 7 January 2018.

The remains of Michael Mathis Polanco were found near a hotel. Apparently, strong waves and currents washed his body ashore.

Members of Civil defense, the Red Cross, Ambar Rescue and the Air Force base in Puerto Plata had been looking for Polanco since Sunday.

It appears that he had gone swimming in an area where bathing was prohibited due to the strong waves.

Cabarete Beach is internationally renowned for windsurfing and kiteboarding, but sections of the long beach can be dangerous for swimming due to the waves. Several times there have been calls for at least three lifeguard posts, to ensure the safety of those visiting the beach, but so far nothing has happened, even though there are more drownings on that beach compared to others in the area, as reported in the Listin Diario.


One year in preventive custody for drug smugglers
A court in La Romana has imposed one year in preventive custody for three Venezuelans and a Dominican who are implicated in the case of the apparent smuggling of 878 kilos of cocaine that were discovered on a boat near Catalina Island on 28 December 2017.

Dominican Miguel Santillán Mejía and Venezuelans Kendri Ramón Vargas Amundarain, Oswaldo José Martínez Ramos and Leonardo Lugo were intercepted by the National Drug Control Authority (DNCD), the Dominican Armada and other intelligence organizations.


Kaluba tanker had made seven successful shipments of “fuel” to the DR in 2017
The confiscated diesel tanker Kaluba had carried out eight trips to the country “to bring fuel” in 2017. Of these trips, four were to Puerto Plata, three to Santo Domingo and one to Barahona. On its last trip, the ship was inspected on 31 December 2017 and 1,570 kilos of cocaine were found hidden in its hull. The ship had capacity to transport 100,000 gallons of fuel. The ship was consigned to the Compañía Dominicana de Navegación (Codonave).

Under arrest in the case are the 12 crew members and days after Bienvenido Guevara Díaz (Maconi), Dante Meraldo Medina and Dante Wilfredo Medina Ozuna (Dantico) were arrested for their ties to the shipment. Mobile phones of the three had been legally tapped.

The Public Ministry had authorized the tapping of at least 50 telephone calls as part of electronic surveillance of the men.

The drugs were found as the result of a joint effort of the Dominican Armada, the US Coast Guard Service and the DNCD. The investigations showed the drugs were shipped from Colombia to Aruba from where they were sent to the Dominican Republic for transshipment to the United States.

The Attorney General Office announced it has begun to impound assets in the Dominican Republic of those accused in the case.


Fire causes delays at Dominican Consulate
The Dominican Consulate in New York has had to cease work due to a fire at the Hard Rock Café restaurant, located on the first floor of the building 1501 Broadway with 43rd Street, where the consulate is also located.

The fire caused the downing of the telephone and Internet lines. Work at the New York office of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) that is located at the Consulate as well was affected.

Around 150 people that solicited services that day were turned away.


Escuela Serrania gets a boost by Michelin Star chef Maria Marte
Dominican chef Maria Marte and the owner of the Club Allard where she won the stars, Luisa Orlando, will be using the funds from the Eckart Innovation 2017 Award they received in September 2017 to fund scholarships for training young women Jarabacoa cooking school. Marte is from Jarabacoa and will supervise the program.

The goal is to give the opportunity to more women to become chefs that may achieve success as in the case of Marte. The funds will also go to protect Dominican edible plants that are becoming extinct.

Maria Marte will be at the head of the project to train more worldclass chefs and that of the edible plants. José Carlos Fuentes, who had worked at the three star Sant Pau de Sant Pol de Mar (Barelona) and at the San Pau Tokyo, will take her position at Club Allard.


Spanish dances moves persons with special needs
The Escuela de Danzas Especiales Fiordaliza Abreu presents Sentirem on 20 January 2018 at 5pm at the Palacio de Bellas Artes with performances by its students, many with Down Syndrome. The music is by Los Gypsy Kings, Lolita Flores, Rosario Flores, El Librijano, Faical Kourrich, Raya Real, Jiga-Pandeirada, Bill Whelan, Juan Luis Guerra, Banda Taurina and Joaquín Cortés.


Bonao carnival kicks off 4 February 2018
Every weekend in February, carnival characters of Bonao will be parading on the city’s main streets. Bonao is located about an hour’s drive from Santo Domingo. There will be parades on Sunday, 4, 11, 18, 26 and 27 February.

This year, the Bonao carnival is extended with a Sunday, 9 March floats and carnival character parade and a Sunday, 11 March parade of 20 guest carnival delegations from around the country. The Bonao carnival has the backing of the Bonao municipality.


Nothing decided yet in baseball championship
While defending champions, the Tigres del Licey continue to lead, with a standing of 7-3, the four teams participating in the round robin to decide the playoff teams continue to battle for the top two positions. There are games scheduled for every evening until 18 January 2018. The Aguilas Cibaeñas and the Leones del Escogido are now tied with five wins and five losses. But the Gigantes del Cibao could still win a playoff berth as it is 3-7 after on Tuesday, 9 January 2018 defeating the Escogido in Santo Domingo 4-0.