DR1 Daily News next update on 28 February 2018
President Medina set for 27 February state of the nation address
Puerto Rico and DR move forward with trade agreement
Most Dominicans are now affiliated with a health plan
January 2018: Government spends more on servicing debt than on wages
Grades don’t matter at the UASD
Changing the Constitution is normal in the DR
Antonio Taveras of AEIH: Onapi is right in rum decision
Military complicity facilitates illegal Haitian immigration
Police commander: prosecutors are into drug trafficking
DREAM Project benefit in New York City
Rains cause suspension of Santo Domingo Carnival parade
Lows of 17°C reported for Santo Domingo
Cibao FC loses 2-0 to legendary Chivas de Guadalajara of Mexico
DR advances in FIBA qualifier

DR1 Daily News next update on 28 February 2018
The next DR1 Daily News update will be published on Wednesday, 28 February 2018. The Wednesday issue will compile headline news for the Independence Day, 27 February 2018 national holiday on Tuesday. Breaking news can be followed 24/7 in the Forums. See the DR1 Forum at http://www.dr1.com

President Medina set for 27 February state of the nation address
President Danilo Medina is scheduled to give the annual state of the nation address on Tuesday, 27 February 2018, the 174th Independence Day. The speech is an opportunity for the President to highlight achievements of his government and address the challenges ahead. Social media have been focusing on major issues such as wasteful government spending, security, lack of decent-paying work and increasing government debt, while the government can point to 5.1% GDP growth forecast for this 2018.

This will be the 6th account rendering of a Medina administration since his first term began in 2012. President Medina will be speaking at a time when polls are considering him a possible candidate for the 2020 general election, even when the 2015 Constitution rules against this. It will also take place at a time when differences among factions in the ruling PLD party have impeded the passing of the political parties and electoral bills. The bills were resubmitted to Congress. The Central Electoral Board says that if they are not passed in the next legislature, there will be no time to apply new measures in the 2020 general elections.

The civic group, Marcha Verde, is asking President Danilo Medina to answer 10 questions regarding corruption and impunity in his government as part of the address. Servio Tulio Castaños Guzmán, of the Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (Finjus) urged that President Medina take advantage of the speech to move to more sustainable government policies, El Dia points out on the front page of its 26 February 2018 issue.

The Dominican Constitution establishes in Art. 128 that it is responsibility of the President to present before Congress, at the opening of the first regular legislative session on 27 February of every year, the annual reports by the government ministries, and to render account of the administration during the previous year.


Puerto Rico and DR move forward with trade agreement
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado was in San Juan, Puerto Rico to meet with Puerto Rican Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín and sign a Joint Statement at the Puerto Rican government seat, the Fortaleza, in the presence of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Roselló.

Vargas explained the recent meeting sought “to promote joint strategies between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic that will allow us to create spur the sustainable economic development to improve the lives Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans."

The Ministry of Foreign Relations reports this is a step to revise the previously signed strategic alliance. Both parties agreed to form a work committee to move forward the 11 bilateral agreements that have been signed over the past nine years and to take better advantage of the DR-CAFTA to increase exports.

Vargas and Rivera will co-chair the working committee. In addition an action plan will be drafted with the US federal authorities. In the near future, a Puerto Rican business mission will visit the Dominican Republic to seek investment and business opportunities. Moreover, the committee is entrusted with organizing the First Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico Business Policies Summit in Santo Domingo. Governor Roselló is expected to attend the event.

The Ministry of Foreign Relations also reported that on Friday, 23 February 2018, during his visit to Puerto Rico, Minister Vargas witnessed the signing at La Fortaleza of an executive order of Governor Roselló that establishes as a public policy of the Government of Puerto Rico the collaboration between all the public institutions there and the Office of Liaison with the Foreign Community of the Department of State, to facilitate the resolution of cases submitted by migrants who request assistance. The Ministry of Foreign Relations said that the measure would benefit some 200,000 Dominicans living in Puerto Rico.

During the visit, the government of Puerto Rico recognized Minister Vargas for heading the Dominican government help initiative following hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.


Most Dominicans are now affiliated with a health plan
75% of Dominicans are affiliated to a family health plan under the Dominican Social Security System (SDSS), according to the most recent statistical bulletin of the National Social Security Council (CNSS). That means 7,639,632 persons have family plan coverage as of December 2017. The Medina administration seeks to increase this number to 90% of the population by 2020.

Of these, 3,545,383 are under the governmental subsidized plan that benefits low-income families. Another 4,094,249 individuals receive health care through automatic deductions from their paychecks. In 2017, an additional including 150,955 people joined the healthcare system through this program.

"The increase in the number of people covered by health insurance is evident in of the central government’s investment in protecting the health of the country’s most vulnerable population," said the general manager of the CNSS, Rafael Pérez Modesto.

The total population is estimated at 10.5 million people.


January 2018: Government spends more on servicing debt than on wages
The government is now spending more money to pay its debt than on government wages, according to a report in Diario Libre. The report says that until January of 2017 the government had been spending the same amount on government wages than on the domestic and foreign debt, or around RD$12 billion. But the situation has now changed. The report alerts that as of January 2018, the servicing of the non-financial public sector debt for the first time has surpassed wage level spending. This is even with the government cutting public spending in January by 3.7%.

The Budget Agency (Digepres) data indicates the government spent RD$12.69 billion on public sector wages, while disbursing RD$14.26 billion for debt payments on principal and interest in January 2018.

The report in Diario Libre highlights that the government spends most of the budget on wages and servicing the government debt. The servicing of the debt and wages account for 45.6% of government spending of RD$59.11 billion for January 2018.

Government spending is estimated to be RD$816.56 billion, according to the 2018 National Budget. That is 14.8% more than the 2017 National Budget that was RD$711.39 billion.


Grades don’t matter at the UASD
A repeatedly low average at the state university means nothing. While at private universities, students performing poorly academically would have been declared ineligible to continue their studies, the UASD students are allowed to continue to enroll in courses at the university.

As reported in Diario Libre, more than 50,000 UASD students have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) below 60, which should make them academically ineligible. But UASD administrators apparently have not applied academic standards rules over the past 15 years for students failing to meet the minimum required GPA.

Magdalena Tiburcio and Fiordaliza Tejada, deputy director and employee of the Orientations Department at the central campus of the UASD, respectively, said that the university conducts 10 seminars each semester to help students who are academically underperforming. However, few take advantage of the seminars.

At the state university, UASD, where most students study free, the dropout rate among undergraduates is a staggering 47.6%, according to the National Statistics Office (ONE).


Changing the Constitution is normal in the DR
The Dominican Republic is the Latin American country with the most constitutional changes, according to the Coloquio Constitucional del Programa de Estudios del Desarrollo Dominicano (PED), a program under the Centro de Estudios Económicos y Sociales Padre José Luis Alemán, with the backing of the Law School at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Pucmm).

There have been 39 constitutions, over the 174 years history of the Dominican Republic, the first in 1844. The PUCMM researchers sought to find the underlying causes of the modifications. The researchers confirmed Dominican constitutions have been modified to allow or disallow presidential re-election and the constitutional amendments have regularly been ratified to favor the particular interest of a politician in continuing in the post rather than the collective interest.

The study indicates there were constitutional changes on average every 5.9 years, far more frequently than the international average of 19 years between constitutional reforms.

The study analyzed the constitutional changes beginning in 1961, at the end of the Trujillo Dictatorship to 2017, a period of 56 years and 18 government periods.

The most recent constitutional change was passed in 2015 to accommodate the re-election interest of incumbent President Danilo Medina. His predecessors Leonel Fernandez (2010) and Hipólito Mejía (2002) had also backed constitutional amendments to allow their continuing in power.

The only presidents during whose government constitutional changes were not passed to enable re-election were President Antonio Guzman (1978-1982) and President Salvador Jorge Blanco (1982-1986). President Salvador Jorge Blanco had submitted to Congress a change to the Constitution to ban re-election. His political party was majority in Congress, but the legislators did not pass the bill.

The longest standing constitution was that of 1966 that lasted until 1994. While the 1963 constitution submitted by short-term President Juan Bosch banned re-election, in the 1966 constitution this was reinstated.


Antonio Taveras of AEIH: Onapi is right in rum decision
The president of the Association of Industries of Herrera (AEIH) Antonio Taveras agrees with the recent decision of the National Office of Industrial Property (Onapi) that turned down the application for registration of the Denomination of Origin for Dominican Rum presented by the Dominican Association of Rum Producers (Adopron). Taveras said that the Denomination of Origin for Dominican Rum needs to be made within legal parameters but also allowing fair competition in the Dominican market.

Onapi has requested corrections in the documentation presented by Adopron for the denomination registration.

“We understand that the decision by Onapi seeks to establish a fair scheme so that, when approved, the Denomination of Origin for Dominican Rum does not serve to validate the oligopoly that exists, acting against small and medium-sized producers that represent 10% of the market,” said Taveras. He called for considering the interests of small producers grouped under the Association of Dominican Rum-makers (Ardo).

Taveras explained that in the rejected certification registration, the large rum companies had sought that the Denomination of Origin Regulator Council excludes all companies that are not Adopron members.

Taveras motivated that the mediation of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce continue to find a satisfactory solution to the impasse. He says he adheres to the position of the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD) on the need for companies to meet requirements such as climate and land use, exclusive use of Dominican sugar cane and the integration of a regulator council to issue the Denomination of Origin certificates.

The Dominican Association of Rum Producers (Adopron) has rejected the recent decision of the National Office of Industrial Property (Onapi) turning down the application for registration of the Denomination of Origin for Dominican Rum. The entity stated that it is studying Onapi's ruling and that it will defend its request in the necessary scenarios, as well as the reputation and quality of Dominican rum, a "country-brand" product with well-earned international prestige as a result of the effort made since decades ago by the traditional exporters of the item, that as a whole represent over 90% of Dominican rum exports.

Adopron was incidental in securing the Denomination of Origin that establishes that Dominican rum is only that produced with sugar cane.

Police commander: prosecutors are into drug trafficking
San Juan de la Maguana prosecutor Pedro Antonio Mateo Ibert has ordered an investigation into accusations of involvement in drug trafficking of his underlings in Las Matas de Farfán, in the southwestern province. The accusations were made by Police General Aquino Radhamés Reynoso Robles.

Mateo said that prior to making his incriminatory statements, Reynoso should have presented the evidence. Reynoso has said that prosecutors and police in Las Matas de Farfán are allegedly the owners of drug points, actively competing for market share. Reynoso made the remark during a meeting at the city government in the presence of Las Matas de Farfán city mayor Jose Valenzuela.
Las Matas de Farfán prosecutor Juan Bautista Rosario Díaz speculated the general made the remarks to defend the police force in Las Matas de Farfán by accusing the prosecutors, too.

Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez and chief of the Police Major General Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte called General Reynoso to meetings in Santo Domingo.


Military complicity facilitates illegal Haitian immigration
A commentary in El Nacional on Sunday, 25 February 2018, says that there would not be so much undocumented migration to the Dominican Republic without the complicity of the authorities. Jorge González pinpoints the complicity of the Dominican army and the Cesfront security force in the immigration.

The lure is that Haitians readily find work and free public services such as education and public health for themselves and their family in the Dominican Republic. Haitians accept to work for less and the undocumented workers have displaced Dominicans in jobs such as house painters, gardeners, delivery, maids, janitors and house and apartment securities, multi-fare car taxis and street vendors. Work in these areas is greater than the original jobs sought in sugar cane cutting or other farm jobs of decades past. Hundreds and thousands are employed in construction work, with a large number undocumented.

The author writes that on market days it is simple to cross over to Dajabón or Jimaní. González writes that there are no less than six or seven military checkpoints on the roads from Dajabón or Montecristi on the border with Haiti to Santiago or Santo Domingo. He mentions Cañongo, Carbonera, Cruce de Pepillo Salcedo, Jaibón and near the Yaque del Norte river bridge.

González explains that four military groups are entrusted with carrying out the inspections. But he describes as “useless” the presence on the border of the four government departments in charge of checking immigration. These are: Department for Operations and Border Investigations (DOIF), the Dominican Army and its intelligence branches, the J2 and G2, the Migration Agency (DGM), the Specialized Corps for Border Security (CESFRONT).

“The mass entry of Haitians, drug and weapon trafficking, contraband in garlic, from one of these two provinces to Santo Domingo, would be impossible if there were no military structure to support it,” he writes.

He mentions reports that Haitians buy forged ID cards to make the crossing. When they are discovered, the IDs are seized and the undocumented Haitians are deported. But then the IDs are sold to others for the illegal entry. He writes the mafia moves millions of pesos every day.

“Although there are five “controlled” border access points (Montecristi, Dajabón, Elías Piña, Independencia and Pedernales) to the Dominican Republic from Haiti, the truth is that along the entire border (382.8 kilometers) there is no type of real control, and those that are undocumented can enter and leave whenever they want,” he concludes.

Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Rubén Darío Paulino Sem defended the Army. He said the army and Cesfront members had tripled the number of deported undocumented Haitians so far this year. He said the increased presence of Haitians in urban areas is because the 284,000 Haitian nationals that were issued National Foreign Legalization Plan (PNRE) ID cards are being renewed. Most of the Haitian nationals who applied under the plan have been issued temporary permits because the Haitian government has not issued the documentation to complete the procedures.

The mayors from Santiago and Puerto Plata city have expressed their concern over the increasing immigration of undocumented nationals. The mayors complain about the constant city law violations by the Haitian undocumented immigrants.


DREAM Project benefit in New York City
The DREAM Project is hosting their annual fund raising benefit to raise funds to continue their education programs. While DREAM was first launched in Puerto Plata, it now reaches into several other areas of the Dominican Republic, benefiting thousands of children and young adults.

The DREAM Project's Sixth Annual NYC Benefit, Sueños 2018, will be held on 5 March, at the The Italian Academy at Columbia University in New York City, USA. The program includes a reading by Junot Diáz, followed by the main event, an awards ceremony recognizing the achievements and service of DREAM members and contributors over the past year. The evening will finish with the first US performance by the DREAM Bachata Academy Band, followed by a performance of bachata diva Andre Veloz.

Confirmed guests include DREAMer of the Year, Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz who will be joined by the Principal of The American Ballet Theatre Misty Copeland, actress Dascha Polanco, Educators of the Year Actor and Head Start Ambassador Taye Diggs with artist and writer Shane Evans and many more. In addition, Beachwold Residential will be awarded Corporate DREAMer of the Year for the contribution and emphasis they have placed on education in the Dominican Republic.

All proceeds from the event will go directly towards DREAM's early childhood development, at-risk youth and workforce development programs, impacting more than 8,000 Dominican youth in 27 different communities.

To be part of the fundraiser, visit: http://www.dominicandream.org/suenos.

Rains cause suspension of Santo Domingo Carnival parade
Intense on and off rains falling in Santo Domingo on the afternoon of Sunday, 25 February 2018, caused the suspending of the Santo Domingo Carnival. Many of the scheduled 86 parade groups from all around the country danced and paraded in the rain, but the National District city government carnival organizer, Dagoberto Tejeda said the weather conditions just were not there for the parading.

The parade had already waited two hours in case the rains would let. Several floats – Altice, Leche Rica, Los Indios de San Carlos, Los Hurones, Roba la gallina, among others paraded to umbrella-covered crowds, reported the city government spokesperson. A future date could be announced for the parade.


Lows of 17°C reported for Santo Domingo
The National Metereological Service (Onamet) reports early morning temperatures will drop to a “freezing” 17°C in the capital city. A high of 25°C for noontime is forecast. For Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, the lows will be of around 20°C, says Onamet.

The explanation is that a passing trough will bring more on and off rain showers nationwide for the next two days.
Meanwhile, the cold temperatures resulting in hail falling in southern province of Peravia as reported in the Listin Diario.


Cibao FC loses 2-0 to legendary Chivas de Guadalajara of Mexico
Sports media covered the 2-0 loss by the Cibao Football Club to the Mexican giant Chivas de Guadalajara. The Cibao FC won the Caribbean Clubs Championship after only three years participating in the tournament, earning the right to match the Mexicans in the CONCACAF Champions League elimination rounds held on Thursday, 22 February 2018, in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Sports media called the match an “historic occasion for the soccer club in a region in which baseball dominates.” The Cibao FC is coached by Albert Benaiges, from Barcelona, who for a short time was in charge of Chivas’ youth system.

The Round of 16 CCL series is a battle between two teams at opposite ends of the CONCACAF spectrum: Chivas' stadium is 10 times bigger than Cibao's 5,000-capacity ground; the Dominican club was founded in 2015, 109 years after Chivas and the Mexican giant boasts 3.74 million Twitter followers compared to Cibao's 6,000.

Next the DR will travel to Guadalajara to play their Mexican opponent on their home turf. Few give the Dominican squad much of a chance against the superior Mexican team. A much higher score is expected for the game to be played at the home stadium of the Mexicans.


DR advances in FIBA qualifier
The Dominican basketball team defeated Bahamas and US Virgin Islands in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier that took place in Nassau, Bahamas on 23 February and 25 February 2018. The DR is the Group D leader followed by US Virgin Islands, Canada, and Bahamas, undefeated with a record of 4-0.

It took the Dominican basketball team the first half to warm up, but then there was no stopping the team led by Víctor Liz, Rigoberto Mendoza and Luis Montero as they forged forward for a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers. While the DR led at halftime by the thinnest of margins (35-34), the Dominican Republic overwhelmed the Bahamas team in the second half, cruising to a 96-63 win. A solid 15-5 advance at the beginning of the third quarter gave the Dominican team a double-digit advantage, 50-39 in the middle of the quarter, and that was pretty much it for the Bahamas home team.

Liz led the Dominican offensive with 19 points and three steals, followed by Rigoberto Mendoza's 18 points and six steals. And then it was Luis Montero who scored 17 points in his first time wearing the Dominican national team shirt. He said it was “a dream come true” to play on the team. Montero is a 6’7” shooter who has played for NBA teams Portland Trailblazers, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons.

The same team then matched the US Virgin Islands on Sunday, 25 February, winning 113-85. Dominican Republic had six double-digit players on their side, headed by Edward Santana, with 20 points. Víctor Liz and Sadiel Rojas added 16 points, while Gelvis Solano made 13, Eloy Vargas did 12, and Dagoberto Peña achieved 11. Luis Montero played a complete game, with 12 rebounds, seven assists, seven points and two blocks.

As reported by FIBA, the US Virgin Islands team had a good start but as of the second quarter, the Dominican team showcased a better game in both sides of the court, and once the team achieved a double-digit advantage, this was never let go. The winners were very effective in field goals, with a 55.5% average and 72% in 2-pointers in the first 20 minutes of the game; thus, leaving for the locker rooms with an advantage, 54-41.

In the second half, the Dominicans gave no options to their rivals, and with a fast game in the transitions, dominated the floor. With a good defense, the Dominican team overpowered the Virgin Islanders, who FIBA says gave no resistance contrary to the better game they played in Santiago in November 2017.

The DR team is now one of 12 teams from across Americas, Asia and Europe that have secured their passage through to the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers. The other teams are Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Serbia and Venezuela. The World Cup Qualifiers Second Round consists of three windows that will take place in September and November 2018 and end in February 2019.