Presidency honors 13 women on International Women’s Day
Re-election in the air
Sanitary registrations now to automatically be renewed
Barrick appoints Juana Barcelo to preside Pueblo Viejo board
Senator proposes a wall of industries for Haitians to find work on the border
Controversy surrounds Robin Bernstein ambassador confirmation hearing
Interpol arrests brother of Marlin Martínez at Las Americas International
Italian convicted to 15 years in jail for child pornography
Gray is the most popular vehicle color in the DR, white is next
Krispy Kreme introduces Nutella doughnuts in DR before Europe
University of Hamburg Orchestra set for two concerts in March

Presidency honors 13 women on International Women’s Day
President Danilo Medina, First Lady Candida Montilla and Vice President Margarita Cedeño honored 13 women on the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018. Those honored were singer Fefita la Grande; Superior Education Minister Alejandrina Germán; judge Miriam Germán; Michelin star-winning chef María Marte; geriatrician Rosa Elvira Pereyra Ariza; Partido de Acción Liberal (PAL) political party, Maritza López; judo athlete Leidi Germán; rice producer Bernardina Hernández; theater actress Carmen Elvira Taveras; Central Electoral Board (JCE) officer Lesbia María Castillo; illicit trafficking of migrants prosecutor Roxanna Reyes; community leader Cristina Altagracia Sánchez; and Petra Rodríguez, founder of the Fundación Madre Teresa in Montecristi.

Re-election in the air
The sister of President Danilo Medina, former president of the Chamber of Deputies, Lucia Medina said on Saturday, 11 March 2018, that in her understanding the 2015 Constitution does not ban the President from seeking another term. She said to seek reelection or not is a personal decision to be made by the President.

Constitutional scholars would note that this is her interpretation of the 2015 Constitution that amended the 2010 Constitution. The 2015 Constitution allowed President Medina to seek reelection in 2016.

Lucia Medina says the 2015 Constitution includes language that authorizes the president to run for two consecutive terms and then never again. She noted that under the current Constitution, Danilo Medina has only been in office one election cycle. She feels the 2012-2016 cycle does not count.

She insisted that only President Medina would make the decision to seek reelection and that his political part, Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), would abide by his decision. Lucia Medina noted that, of course, the final vote of approval would be granted by the Dominican people in the 2020 election itself.

The legislator made the statement after the official spokesman for the Presidency, Roberto Rodríguez Marchena, said on a television program that a part of the population is in favor of the reelection of Medina. This was earlier responded to via Twitter by Franklin Almeyda, former Minister of Interior, and member of the PLD political committee, who said that Rodríguez Marchena should limit himself to his role as spokesman for the Executive Branch. Almeyda is said to be close to former President Leonel Fernández who has the highest ratings in the PLD of those authorized by the 2015 Constitution to take part in the 2020 election.

Chapter II of the 13 June 2015 Constitution includes temporary clauses that establish: “In the case of the President of the Republic, corresponding to the constitutional period 2012-2016, if candidate to the same position for the constitutional period 2016-2020, not being able to run for the next period or any other period, and neither for the position of Vice President of the Republic.”

Meanwhile, Listin Diario reported that lawyers and politicians are seeking a legal pathway that would re-interpret the clause that prohibits a president to be reelected. The alternative interpretation of key clauses in the Constitution could provide a framework for a legal argument to be made to the Constitutional Court that would essentially permit Medina to run for reelection. This appeal to the Constitutional Court was made by attorney Fredermido Ferreras Díaz on 15 February 2018, and has been assigned the case number TC-01-2018-003.

El Caribe newspaper recalls that on 17 June 2015, President Danilo Medina, in an address from the Presidential Palace on the constitutional amendment Art. 124 that allowed him to run for office in 2016, explained this would mark the end of his political career. “Also, by backing this reelection amendment, I was also taking the decision to end my political career, because it is understood that after these four more years, if the people vote for me in May 2016, I will not be able to be a candidate for President of the Republic again.”

The possibility of President Medina seeking reelection has divided the party, primarily between followers of Medina and those of former President Leonel Fernández who had sought to run again for President in 2016.

Sanitary registrations now to automatically be renewed
President Danilo Medina issued decree 117-18 that instates automatic renewals for sanitary registrations. The Ministry of Public Health is given 30 days to upload the online platform for producers and national exporters to register online.

The president of the National Business Council (Conep) Pedro Brache said: “For the business sector this is a landmark decision because before the renewal of the registrations could last up to 18 months.” He said this is a big step ahead for local competitiveness.

Barrick appoints Juana Barcelo to preside Barrick Pueblo Viejo
The legal director of Barrick Pueblo Viejo, Juana Barceló was promoted to be president of the northeastern gold mining operation in Sánchez Ramírez province. This makes her the first woman to direct a mining company in the Dominican Republic and the first for the Canadian mining company.

Barceló is a native of eastern province Hato Mayor. She joined the company in 2009 as legal director after working as a legal advisor for the company since its start in 2003. Barrick reports she had been also involved in the implementation of key plants with transversal impact in all the operation.

Barrick reports that her predecessor, Méjico Ángeles- Lithgow had resigned his position as president of Barrick Pueblo Viejo and executive director for Barrick Dominican Republic to develop other professional interests. He had been appointed in June 2017.

Senator proposes a wall of industries for Haitians to find work on the border
Senator for Pedernales, Dioni Sánchez, is concerned about the ever-increasing migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic. According to Sanchez, the lack of opportunities in Haiti and the lure of free education and health services as well as better paid work are behind the increasing flow of illegal immigration of undocumented Haitians to the Dominican Republic.

The border is 391 km long and crossings are relatively easy. The military have been accused of complicity in allowing transportation through the road checkpoints.

Senator Sánchez said creating jobs in the border region would deter mass immigration. Another deterrent to unchecked immigration would be rigorously enforcing laws that penalize employers who hire undocumented workers, he says.

The Dominican Labor Law clearly states that companies are only authorized to hire 20% foreigners for their work force. But over the years the Ministry of Labor has not enforced this regulation.

“To resolve the border issues it is necessary to create a wall made up of industries on all the border. You know that the needs of the Haitians, because of all the problems in that country, mean that immigration will not be stopped in the same way the United States have not been able to stop Mexican immigration.”

He said the situation can be tackled by making more jobs available at the border so that Haitians do not have to cross into the Dominican Republic to seek a living wage.

“And if we [the Dominican government] have to build hospitals and schools on the Haitian side of the border, that this should be done to stabilize the border region, then so be it. These investments, Sanchez argued, would be cheaper in the long run. That is what has to be done to resolve the problem of the undocumented people arriving to our country,” said the senator.

Controversy surrounds Robin Bernstein ambassador confirmation hearing
The Trump Organization, Haitian immigration and the Dominican vote in the UN and OAS were topics raised during the US Senate confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for appointed ambassador Robin Bernstein on 7 March 2018.

During the hearing, the Florida businesswoman committed to use her skills honed in the private, public and non-profit sectors in the United States to strengthen ties with the Dominican Republic. She spoke with pride of being the second woman US ambassador appointed to the country, after career diplomat Donna Hrinak.

She spoke after remarks by US Senator Ben Cardin who urged her “to understand the sensitivity of maintaining the objectivity of the mission in the Dominican Republic”. Cardin had expressed there is concern in Congress over continuing Trump Organization business activities in the Dominican Republic.

In her remarks during the hearing, Bernstein mentioned her Jewish heritage and expressed her alignment with human rights and her pleasure to come to a country that had welcomed Jewish refugees during World War II.

During the hearing, Bernstein answered a question by US Senator Cardin who spoke of “hundreds of thousands of stateless persons of Haitian descent living in the country”. Bernstein said she would work with US Embassy staff to help these to get passports. She said she would try and work with new ambassador in Haiti, Michele Sison, “if should there by any issues where we could partner together and try to make sure that the restoration of the people that are, quote, stateless have their rights.”

With the statement, the ambassador-to-be seemed to be acknowledging the failure of the Haitian government to provide its citizens with official documents, including passports. This delay is one of the main reasons for the lack of completion of the Haitian status regularization procedures begun by the Dominican Republic in 2014. The process, which should have lasted 18 months, has been delayed year after year as the Dominican government continues to extend the temporary permits to those waiting to secure Haitian documentation.

Most of the people living in Haiti are technically stateless because of the difficulties in obtaining an official Haitian government-issued identity document. The lack of documentation creates major problems for many Haitian who migrate to the Dominican Republic through illegal crossing points to find work, receive health and enroll in educational institutions.

The ambassadorial nominee also pledged to work to better align the Dominican Republic to US vote in international forums such as the United Nations and OAS, responding to concerns expressed by Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio criticized the Dominican Republic for not supporting recent US positions on Israel and Venezuela.

Responding to the statements, Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas told Diario Libre: "We will have to properly inform the ambassador when at the proper time, but we understand that the Dominican Republic is a sovereign country." He made the statement prior to traveling to Chile for the inaugural ceremony of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.

See the full video of the statements by Bernstein and the legislators at the hearing.

Interpol arrests brother of Marlin Martínez at Las Americas International
Henry Martínez, brother of Marlin Martínez, in pre-trial custody as a lead suspect in the murder of 16 year old Emely Peguero in Cevicos, Duarte province was arrested at the Las Americas International Airport by Interpol agents after returning from Florida. He had left the country shortly after the murder.

An international arrest warrant had been issued against him. Also in jail in the case is Marlin Martínez’s son, Marlon. Peguero was five months pregnant with Marlon’s child. The autopsy showed she died from blows received after undergoing a clandestine abortion.

In statements to the police, Martínez said he was made aware of the involvement of his nephew in the death of Peguero on 23 August 2017 but didn’t tell the authorities because he was scared and felt that it was not up to him to do so. He said his nephew Marlon told him he had a discussion with the girl and she knocked herself on a table causing her death.

Martínez said he left the country to take his 70 year old mother for medical care abroad because she was very affected by all the negative press that came after the murder was known. He said they left on 11 September 2017. He returned after he was made aware there was an Interpol arrest order against him.

In the case, the judicial authorities reached a deal with Simon Bolivar Ureña, who had been accused of hiding the remains of the Peguero.

Italian convicted to 15 years in jail for child pornography
A Puerto Plata court issued a 15-year jail sentence to Giuseppe Sgarbi, an Italian citizen for operating a child pornography network from the Dominican Republic. Sgarbi will serve his sentence at the San Felipe prison. The network had been operating in the Caribbean since the 80s.

The case against Sgarbi was based on evidence in the case of two teenagers, ages 16 and 17 years old. When arrested in his residence, digital evidence of pornographic images of children ages 11 to 16 years was collected. Also investigators interviewed multiple other victims who said they were encouraged to visit Sgarbi at his home where he prepared the pornographic material. He was sentenced for violating Arts 1, 3 and 7 of the Illicit Trafficking in Persons Law 137-03 and Arts 396, 410 and 411 of the Child Protection Code Law 136-03 and Art. 24 of the High Tech Crimes Law 53-07.

Judge Osvaldo Bonilla said the ruling seeks to send a message to other foreigners who use the country for these atrocities against vulnerable children.

Gray is the most popular vehicle color in the DR, white is next
The most popular vehicle color in the Dominican Republic is gray, according to a report in El Nacional based on Tax Agency (DGII) data.

The most popular vehicle category here is the SUV, with 386,706 units registered in 2017. Of these, 23.7% are white (91,469 units). The second most popular color for SUVs is gray, with 18.6% (71,809). Black SUVs make up 15.4% of the total (59,569), followed by red cars with 11.3% (43,691), blue 10.7% (41,492) and green 8% (31,116).

As for the 816,470 cars in circulation, the most popular color is gray, with 19.8% (161,614 cars). This is followed by white with 19.5% (159,601). Blue is in third place with 15.3% (125,188 units), followed by red with 14.3% (116,985). There are 7.2% black cars (58,645) and green cars have 7.1% market share (57,952). The market share of gold colored cars is 6.2% (51,025).

The report in El Nacional says that research shows that white vehicles are the safest, and black cars the most accident-prone.

Krispy Kreme introduces Nutella doughnuts in DR before Europe?
Krispy Kreme is selling doughnuts full of Nutella in the Dominican Republic. The brand that has its flagship store in the country on Winston Churchill Avenue chose the Dominican Republic to launch the doughnut before taking it to the United Kingdom, as reported on the official Facebook page of Krispy Kreme Dominican Republic. As reported, the doughnut was introduced in the United States in December 2016.

A website in the United Kingdom complains that Brits would have to pay £700 to get on a flight to taste the new doughnuts.

University of Hamburg Orchestra set for two concerts in March
The University of Hamburg Orchestra (Germany) will be visiting the Dominican Republic this month to perform several concerts as part of the cultural exchanges with Germany organized by the National System of Children and Youth Symphony Orchestras. The National Youth Symphony, the Children’s Symphony Orchestra of Santiago and the Appassionato Philarmonic and Juan Pablo Duarte Symphony Orchestra will also perform. In addition, guest classic guitarist, Dominican Excier RodrΩíguez, who lives in the United States will join the musical celebration.

The orchestras will play works by Dvorak, Sibelius, Brahms, Moncayo, Márquez, among others. The first concert is programmed for Sunday, 18 March 2018, at the Gran Teatro del Cibao in Santiago. This is a free concert set for 6:30pm.

The second concert will be on Monday, 26 March at 8:30pm at the National Theater. This is also an open doors concert with no assigned seating or admission fee.

Also planned are master classes from 20-23 March. These will be:
Tuesday, 20 March at the Palacio de Bellas Artes at 8pm.
Wednesday, 21 March. Strings chamber group and winds chamber group at Mamey Libreria Café 7:30pm.
Thursday, 22 March at the Capilla de los Remedios in the Colonial City with the chamber groups as of 7pm
Friday, 23 March at the Biblioteca Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña at 7pm.
The Ministry of Culture also says there are two presentations of the Concierto de Aranjuez with guitarist Excier Rodriguez and the University of Hamburg Symphony.