DR1 Daily News next update on 26 February 2018
PAHO director Carissa Etienne’s visit coincides with public health direction changes
What Nelson Rodríguez Monegro wrote in his resignation letter
ANJE says government misses the boat with new appointments
Marisol Vicens: Electricity sector continues to be refuge for political appointees
Media focuses on audit on Enrique Martinez at CEA
DR is 135th of 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index
All PAWA passengers sent on their way
Architect Doy Gautier receives Literary Award
Teachers show their muscles
Supreme Court confirms Odebrecht deal with Attorney General
Financial problems at the Port Authority?
Haiti ranks better than DR in Reuters press freedom index
Judge sentences Faña to pay RD$500,000 for defamation
Samana toll road has the most critical points
Keep your umbrella handy
Sergio Vargas talks about Merengue
Story of wrestler Jack Veneno told in the movies
Vuelta Independencia set for 22-27 February 2018
World class football to be played in Santiago
Sunday classic music concert is tribute to independence

DR1 Daily News next update on 26 February 2018
The next DR1 Daily News update will be published on Monday, 26 February 2018. The Monday issue will compile headline news for the previous Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Breaking news can be followed 24/7 in the Forums. See the DR1 Forum at http://www.dr1.com

PAHO director Carissa Etienne’s visit coincides with public health direction changes
President Danilo Medina received the visit of Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Panamerican Health Organization, at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday, 21 February 2018. Etienne is on a weeklong visit from 19-23 February to hold meetings with authorities in the country to analyze achievements and challenges in health.

PAHO has said that one of the objectives of the trip is to discuss the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA) that the Dominican Republic is holding during the first six months of 2018. Other topics on the PAHO agenda are road safety, maternal and neonatal mortality.

Etienne held meetings with Public Health Minister Altagracia Guzmán Marcelino and the new director of the National Health Service Chanel Rosa Chupani as well as the Superintendent of Health and Labor Risks, Pedro Luis Castellanos, and the director of the governmental health provider Senasa, also under the new leadership of Mercedes Rodriguez Silver.

The PAHO has said topics of interest include the status of general public health in the Dominican Republic and to strengthen opportunities the organization's technical cooperation with the country. Finally, the mission proposes to assess advances and challenges of the National Health Service (SNS) in terms of broad access to universal health care.

Also on Etienne’s agenda are meetings with the Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, and the Deputy Minister of Consular and Migratory Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, among other officials.

The Dominican Presidency reported that Etienne committed PAHO support for the Ciudad Sanitaria Luis Eduardo Aybar, with 152,000 square meters of construction in 12 buildings with 800 beds, under construction by the Medina government to strengthen public health service.

Etienne is also scheduled to visit the facilities of the National Emergency and Safety System 911 and the Operations Center in Objectively Systematized Medical Simulation (COSMOS), at the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University.

The visit is part of a meeting of managers of the PAHO sub-region of Central America, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

This will be Dr. Etienne’s third visit to the DR. In 2013, she participated in the XII Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in 2016 she led a meeting with the directors of the international cooperation offices of the ministries of health of the region of the Americas.


What Nelson Rodríguez Monegro wrote in his resignation letter
Hoy newspaper has published in full the letter sent by resigning director of the National Health Service (SNS) Dr. Nelson Rodríguez Monegro to President Danilo Medina. The pediatrician says he tried but couldn’t beat the system. The letter is dated 18 February 2018. President Danilo Medina announced on 20 February that he would be replaced by Dr. Chanel Rosa Chupani, formerly at the government health provider Senasa.

In his letter, Dr. Rodríguez said that structural transformations are needed in the public health sector to be able to combat undue outside interests. He provided a short list of changes that need to continue to be implemented.

Rodriguez said he resigned because he could not make progress in eliminating political patronage and entrenched influence from outside organizations or special interest groups.

He did not accept a position as an advisor to the President on public health.

Rodriguez recommended an increase in government investment in health sector, removing party politics from the sector, professionalizing the management, transparent and reassessment of the use of public funds and strategic of resources according to priorities established by public and private health stakeholders. He called for policies that reward health care workers for excellence in service, including a system of incentives that are tied to performance indicators. He called for the revision and consolidation of health and social security laws as well as the rulings related to labor unions.

Rodriguez called for further development of a healthcare model that gives priority to the primary care and that each suite of healthcare services can effectively and efficiently resolve healthcare issues across the sector. He called for improvements in the quality of standardized care continue by applying existing protocols and procedures manuals. Finally, Rodriguez urged that a more patient-centered care be implemented that guarantees all citizens the right to effective and affordable healthcare.

The replacement of Dr. Nelson Rodríguez Monegro at the helm of the National Health Service (SNS) was for political reasons, according to a commentary by Eli Heiliger published in Diario Libre. Rodríguez was replaced on 19 February 2018, together with several other appointments. As reported, Rodríguez refused to keep on the payroll (nominillas) persons whose appointments were deemed to be based on political partisanship, rather than merit.

“He [President Danilo Medina] is a very kind person who said to me: ‘well, Nelson, try to find a way around this because in one way or another you will understand that they are people who have done a political job," said Rodríguez Monegro explaining his resignation.


ANJE says government misses the boat with new appointments
The National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) expressed concern regarding the new appointments made by President Danilo Medina and their impact on institutional development in the country.

"For ANJE it is vital that the selection of public servants be made based on merit, meaning that the government should appoint professionals with the highest qualifications, and where possible, the integration of young professionals to perform public service," says an ANJE official statement.
"Our country needs officials capable of carrying, in a responsible and innovative manner, to guide the social and economic transformations demanded by the nation " said Raúl Hoyo, president of the association.

He called for the President, when making appointments, to take into account new professionals who will contribute to sustainable development of future generations.

“This is the perfect opportunity to design the future by taking concrete actions. It is time to take advantage of new talent that is maturing and could contribute to modernize the public administration to ensure the sustainability of our country,” said Hoyo.


Marisol Vicens: Electricity sector continues to be refuge for political appointees
The well-known business lawyer Marisol Vicens issued a statement yesterday that the electricity sector continues to be used as a depository for political nominations or appointments. She said, “once again they are using the electricity sector for appointments of a political nature, and this is sending a bad signal to the public and above all during the period just before the signing of the Electricity Pact.

Vicens criticized the number of decrees and positions created together with the number of institutions created when these have absolutely no role in the nation’s efficiency.

She said that there was some shuffling going on in the health sector and that she expected or rather she hoped that they would be able to comply with the objectives that have been laid out and which should be complied with by that sector.

She made the statement after President Danilo Medina appointed 75-year old PRD politician Rafael Subervi Bonilla to preside the board of directors of the Dominican Hydroelectric Generation Enterprise (EgeHID). Subervi Bonilla is a member of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), a government ally. He is also a lawyer with no experience in the energy or electricity sector.


Media focuses on audit on Enrique Martinez at CEA
The appointment of Enrique Martinez as Advisor on Territorial Development to the President has caused some major stirrings. The media has dug up stories that revealed accusations of irregularities when he was in charge of the State Sugar Council (CEA) from where he was removed in 2013.

Martinez actually is under indictment by the Chamber of Accounts for issuing checks with no supporting documents whatsoever, using Special Assistance payrolls, of salaries that varied between RD$3,000 and RD$20,000 between January and August 2012 for some RD$12,000,000.

The report says that during the period mentioned the existence of payrolls for work that was never carried out, assistance given to persons but without any supporting documents such as receipts, and payments for non-existent projects were issued for RD$132 million plus.

The Chamber of Accounts says that Martinez paid payrolls in agricultural projects such as Quisqueya Sin Miseria, and other areas in the eastern region, for RD$10.3 million, and which were never even started and much less completed. Another “irregularity” discovered was a project to improve the pastures in Hainamosa, in East Santo Domingo, but investigators found that the project had been completely abandoned and work had not been performed at the site for over five years, in spite of the more than RD$5 million paid out.


DR is 135th of 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index
The Dominican Republic is on the bottom ranking of the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. The index is developed by the global coalition against corruption, Transparency International. The DR scored 135th of 180 countries. In the Americas, only Honduras (135), Mexico (135), Paraguay (135), Guatemala (143), Nicaragua (151), Haiti (157), Venezuela (169) were perceived to be equally or more corrupt than the Dominican Republic.

The even worse news is that the Dominican Republic is not alone in its acquiescence in corruption. The index establishes that overall the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while further analysis shows journalists and activists in corrupt countries risking their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new.


All PAWA passengers sent on their way
The Civil Aviation Board (JAC) has reported all passengers who were stranded by the cancelling of the PAWA Dominicana flights have been able to reach their final destinations. JAC reported the authorities assisted in organizing nine special flights with the hundreds of stranded passengers, most headed to Curacao, Aruba and Cuba. The JAC says PAWA has reimbursed 1,636 passengers through 15 February for flights that had been paid for only to be subsequently cancelled.

The JAC cancelled the flights reporting the airline was in arrears with the authorities and airport. Other reports focused on the difficulties the airline was experiencing that affected its capacity to ensure safe flying for the passengers.

One of the main losers of the Pawa suspension are exporters, that had taken advantage of the flights to send fresh produce regularly to Caribbean destinations on the non-stop flights.

Architect Doy Gautier receives Literary Award
Architect Manuel Salvador (Doy) Gautier received on the evening of 20 February 2018 the National Literary Award 2018 that comes with a cash prize of RD$2 million. Culture Minister Pedro Verges delivered the award to the architect at the Sala Carlos Piantini of the National Theater. Also participating was award sponsor, Luis Corripio Estrada of the Fundación Corripio. Gautier dedicated the work to his parents, brothers and nieces. He thanked the intellectuals that helped make his work merit the award. He said he began writing fiction in 1986, when he turned 56 motivated by an impulse to do so for his own fulfillment. He has a production of 16 published novels, four essay books and one short story book.

In the presentation, he said that writing is his real vocation. In 1993, his four book series Tiempo de Héroes, was awarded the National Novel Manuel de Jesús Galván Award.


Teachers show their muscles
During a speech where the media was constantly accused of favoring the authorities and not fighting for the nation’s public school teachers, the president of the Dominican Teachers Association (ADP), Eduardo Hidalgo, said that only an invitation to talks with the Education Minister Andres Navarro, will stop their demonstrations in demand of new benefits.

Hidalgo warned that they would not retreat from their opposition to Ordinance 24-17, that calls for a short list of three for important regional and district managerial positions in the public school system.

Speaking before hundreds of teachers from Greater Santo Domingo who gathered at Independence Park, Hidalgo advised them to be prepared for the start of a more radical approach in the opposition to the ordinance. He insisted that the fixed ballots with three candidates is not the same as an open competition for some of the important posts. Hidalgo said that political connections and not qualifications would prevail in the appointments.

Supreme Court confirms Odebrecht deal with Attorney General
The judges of the Second Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court confirmed the definitive validity of the agreement signed between the Attorney General of the Republic and the Brazilian firm, Odebrecht, in which the company commits to paying US$184 million to the Dominican state over an eight year period in compensation for bribes paid in order to obtain government projects.

The court proceedings were presided over by judge Miriam German Brito who rejected an appeal for annulment filed by former deputy Manuel Jimenez. The court says that in accordance with article 425 of the Penal Process Code, the annulment of an agreement is admissible against decisions coming from appeals courts if they have issued sentences that would put an end to the procedure or when they refuse the suspension of the penalty.

The sentence by the Supreme Court indicates in addition that according to article 426 of the Penal Code, the appeal for annulment is only valid if there has been an error in the application of legal orders, or constitutional issues or issues contained in international agreements regarding human rights.
In May 2017 the Third Penal Chamber of the Appeals Court of the National District declared the appeal against the decision by a lower court judge that validated the Odebrecht deal.


Financial problems at the Port Authority?
The Port Authority, already in arrears with many of its obligations, has now compromised the credit standing of its own employees. The entity automatically discounts loan payments to the BanReservas, the governmental bank, from the employees’ salaries, but does not send this money to BanReservas in a timely fashion.

The employees of the Port Authority delivered a document to the El Nacional newspaper and state: “(The Port Authority) is not up to date with its remittances to the BanReservas of the monies it discounts from our paychecks, within the program called “Happy Employee Loans” which al public institutions do with the BanReservas. As a result, many of the employees in danger of receiving a poor credit rating with the credit rating companies such as Cicla. They also revealed that the Port Authority retains 5% of the payments to suppliers but does not send this money to the Tax Agency (DGII), as established by law.

They say that the cash flow at the PA is the same as in previous administrations, some RD$80 million a month, and that just last December the Port Authority received additional income of some RD$220 million.

The document, held at the editorial offices of El Nacional newspaper, goes on to say that the fundamental reason for all of these financial problems are the series of new employees that have been added over the past six months. Before September of 2017, the payroll was about RD$30 million a month, but from September onward, the payroll reached RD$60 million due to the hundreds of new employees.

The document goes on to refute claims by Port Authority director, Victor Gomez Casanova that this is a normal situation. They point out that the Port Authority owes suppliers of their cafeteria some RD$9 million, and that the so-called “subsidized meal” was upped in price by RD$75 pesos, going from RD$150 to RD$225.


Haiti ranks better than DR in Reuters’ press freedom index
Haiti has ranked better than the Dominican Republic in the recent Reporters without Borders Index published by Reuters. Haiti is ranked 53rd, and the Dominican Republic 59th in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The DR improved three positions after being ranked 62nd in 2016. The index says that self-censorship is widely practiced by the Dominican media.

In its observation on the Dominican Republic, the ranking states: “The concentration of media ownership in very few hands and a high level of impunity undermines freedom of information and encourage self-censorship in the Dominican Republic. Journalists who dare to tackle sensitive subjects such as corruption and drug trafficking are exposed to the possibility of threats and violent reprisals, or even murder by government officials or criminal cartel members. The repeal in 2016 of legislation under which journalists could be imprisoned for defamation was a major step forward for the media and democracy.”

Despite the better ranking, the Reuters observations on neighboring Haiti are also grim. Says Reporters without Borders: “Despite recent changes in Haiti’s media freedom laws, journalists suffer from a cruel lack of financial resources, an absence of institutional support, and difficulty in accessing information. Journalists continue to be the victims of intimidation or physical violence. A devastating earthquake in 2010 and, more recently, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 inflicted a great deal of damage on Haiti’s already limited infrastructure. The privately-owned media, which are heavily influenced by the interests of their shareholders, tend to censor themselves. Journalists will be exposed to heavy sanctions under a proposed defamation law that was approved by the senate in 2017.”


Judge sentences Faña to pay RD$500,000 for defamation
Judge Vladimir Rosario of the Ninth Penal Court of the National District ordered the president of the agricultural front of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRM) Leonardo Faña to pay Administrative Minister of the Presidency RD$500,000 for defamation in charges. He said the defense lawyers could not prove that Peralta had a “Mafiosi” conduct regarding imports. Peralta is a major farm produce importer. Faña had accused Peralta of taking advantage of his high government position to increase his business deals through permits auctioned by the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD). Peralta said the funds would be donated to agriculture science education.

Faña has announced he will appeal on grounds that “one cannot be innocent and guilty at the same time.”


Samana toll road has the most critical points
Stats handled by the Transit and Ground Transport Agency (Digesett) indicate that the Autopista del Nordeste (officially known as the Autopista Juan Pablo II), the toll road that starts near Las Americas International Airport and goes north to Samana, is the most dangerous of major roads in the country.

The Digesett has identified 13 critical points on the road. These are at kilometers 1-6, 8, 11 to 21, 28 to 30, 35 to 36, 43 to 45, 50, 55, 63, 68 and 75 to 76 and 80 to 83 and 89. These road points are more risky when it is raining or at night. There is signage that indicates speed limits of 50kph and 80kph. The road is also by far the most expensive toll road in the country.


Keep your umbrella handy
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) reported yesterday that a weak frontal system was going to continue the rains that have marked the beginning of this year. Rains are expected in the Northeast, the Southeast, as well as the Central and Northern mountain ranges. By today, the frontal system will have left the immediate vicinity but behind it there are plenty of clouds that will continue to bring rains to the North and the East as well as the northern mountainous areas.

And, just to keep things in order, the Onamet says that tomorrow another high level frontal system will cross the country and bring with it substantial clouds and rains. Onamet also issued small craft warning for the entire Atlantic Coast, from Manzanillo to La Altagracia. Caution is advised for Samana Bay and the Caribbean Sea navigating.


Sergio Vargas talks about Merengue
One of the best merengue performers in the Dominican Republic, Sergio Vargas, will be addressing students and the general public at the Universidad Católica Santo Domingo on Thursday, 1 March at 5:30pm on the History of Merengue. The talk is organized by the journalism school of the university. It will take place at the auditorium of the Biblioteca Cardenal Beras Roja of the UCSD that is located on Av. Bolívar in Santo Domingo. Admission is free.

Story of wrestler Jack Veneno told in the movies
76-year old Jack Veneno showed up personally for premiere of Veneno, the movie.
A legend in his own right, the story inspired on the life of wrestler Jack Veneno aired on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 at the Downtown Center Caribbean Cinemas. It is open at cinemas nationwide starting Thursday, 22 February.

The film tells the story of the origin and rise of the most famous Dominican wrestler of all time, Rafael Sánchez (Jack Veneno). The role of Jack Veneno is by Manny Pérez who matches Vampiro Cao (Richard Douglas) and others.

As reported in El Dia, when attending the premiere of “Veneno, primera caida: El relampago de Jack”, Veneno expressed his satisfaction with how Manny Pérez personified him. The film is directed by Tabaré Blanchard who also collaborated on the script.


Vuelta Independencia set for 22-27 February 2018
The Vuelta Independencia will take place 22-27 February 2018 covering a distance of 884 kilometers in six stages. The event takes cyclists on routes all throughout the nation. The competition this year six stages, instead of the eight last year. The race stages take bike racers around the outskirts of the city of Santo Domingo, to the mountainous central areas, to the eastern coastline, southwestern plains and the city park area.

17 teams from around the world are participating and 102 competitors. There are two teams from the DR -- Inteja DCT and Aero Cycling Team.

The stages are:
22 February: Santo Domingo-Santo Domingo Bypass Circuit (180 km)
23 February: Santo Domingo-Bonao-Piedra Blanca-Rancho Arriba (129 km)
24 February: Santo Domingo-Cumayasa (La Romana)-Santo Domingo (162 km)
25 February: Villa Altagracia Circuit (138 km)
26 February: Santo Domingo-Baní-Azua-Santo Domingo (145 km)
27 February: (Santo Domingo) Mirador del Sur Circuit (130 km)

World class football to be played in Santiago
Chivas de Guadalajara is playing the Caribbean winning club team Cibao FC on 9pm at the new football court built at the PUCMM university in Santiago de los Caballeros. The only three-year old Dominican club team matches a team that has more than 47 million followers in Mexico. The payroll of the local team is US$600,000 that of the Mexicans is US$50 million.

The football stadium capacity was increased to 10,000 for the game and modern lighting has been installed to allow for high definition television cameras to catch the action for fans. The stadium was designed by Albert Benaiges.

The game is the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16, the North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation. It will only be televised internationally on Univisión and Fox Sports. The second leg will be played on 27 February to 1 March 2018 in the Chivas Rayadas de Guadalaja stadium in Mexico.
The Mexican team is staying in a Puerto Plata hotel and commuting to Santiago for the game.

There are a large number of foreigners on the Dominican team. For one, 27-year old Haitian football player Charles Herold Jr. is the highest ranking international player that Cibao FC has in its roster when playing Chivas Rayadas de Guadalajara on Thursday, in the final round of the Concacaf Scotiabank 2018 Champions League. In the 2017 Caribbean Clubs Championship won by the Santiago team, Herold was named the most valuable player and won the golden ball trophy of the Concacaf event.

Other team members are: Luis Alexander Rodríguez, Juan Pablo Domínguez, Fernando Madera, Wilguens Aristilde, Jose Tafarel Ferreira, Oscar Florencio, Carlos Espinal, Richard Dabas, Rhonard García, Spencer Desir, Guillermo La Hoz, Gerard Lavergne, Jesús Meza and Charles Herold. The Cibao FC has a training agreement with the Real Madrid of Spain.

The Dominican Republic is ranked 160th in the world by the International Football Federation (FIFA).


Sunday classic music concert is tribute to independence
Maestro Darío Estrella will be conducting the Orquesta Filarmónica La Trinitaria with 100 musicians that will play at the Plaza de la Bandera in Santo Domingo on Sunday, 25 February 2018 on occasion of the coming Independence Day on Tuesday, 27 February 2018.

Also taking the stage will be a big band and a choir.

Estrella says the event seeks to render tribute to the nation’s founding fathers, and celebrate the birthday of founding father Matías Ramón Mella. The event has the backing of the Desarrollo de la Comunidad (DGDC), the governmental community organization entity under Luis Acosta Moreta. The 7pm concert will be televised on Digital 15.