DR1 Daily News next update on 23 April 2018
Santo Domingo Book Fair opens at Plaza de la Cultura
The Central Bank at the Book Fair
Just what are these primaries?
UTESA to open Convention and Culture Center
OMSA scandal borders the absurd
Garlic and torchwood seized on the border in Dajabon and Pedernales
Santiago district attorney files appeal in fraud case
Police say RD$36 million security guard heist was planned from jail
Young man lost on Saona island rescued
Cigar lovers invited to Cigar Country Benefit
Amaury Sánchez and Friends at the National Theater

DR1 Daily News next update on 23 April 2018
The next DR1 Daily News update will be published on Monday, 23 April 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

Santo Domingo Book Fair opens at Plaza de la Cultura
Culture Minister Pedro Vergés opens the 21st Santo Domingo International Book Fair (FILSD 2018) on Thursday, 19 April 2018, on the grounds of the Plaza de la Cultura Juan Pablo Duarte, between avenues Máximo Gómez, Pedro Henríquez Ureña and César Nicolás Penson.

The fair is organized by Ruth Herrera of the Ministry of Culture and will be open from 19 to 30 April 2018. This year, the fair is dedicated to labor law specialist, poet and essayist, the late Lupo Hernandez Rueda, and late poet Juan Antonio Alix.

Guatemala is the special guest country and important authors from Guatemala will be presen. Participations of the Guatemala folklore ballet are on the program in addition to seminars and workshops on Guatemalan cuisine by Guatemalan specialists during the Santo Domingo book fair.

Ruth Herrera says that participating in FILSD 2018 are 30 writers from eight countries, 283 bookstores and publishing houses. Some 300 activities have been organized and most are free.

The Central Bank at the Book Fair
The Central Bank announced that it would present talks on economic and financial themes for the general public at their stand at the XXI International Book Fair that opens on 19 April 2018 and continues until the end of the month. The talks will be given at 10:30 in the morning, and will focus on inflation, paper money and change, the financial system, systems of payment, monetary policy, and personal finances.

The Central Bank will be promoting a wide range of books covering art, literature, essays, economy, social sciences, coin collecting and stamp collecting at good prices at their stand.

The Central Bank is one of dozens of government entities that traditionally have opened stands at the book fair to promote their services.

Just what are these primaries?
All the local newspapers carry headlines regarding ‘open’ or ‘closed’ primaries for the upcoming, 2020, elections.

The Internet website 7 Dias.com helps understand the issues in a feature. The first question that is answered is “Just what are primaries?” This answer is relatively simple: this is the voting process to select a party’s candidates for the presidency, Congress, and city governments. This is a different process from the election of a party president or general secretary.

Many years ago primaries were unheard of in the Dominican Republic and it was not until the rise of politician José Francisco Peña Gomez who helped establish the primary system as a way of dealing with the major problems within his party, the PRD.

Too often, the selection process for presidential candidates as well as other candidates has sparked major violence including death. As a result of the struggles people change parties when they are not selected as a candidate for office. Years ago, Peña Gomez felt that primaries would help to resolve a lot of the back-room deals and reduce conflicts between potential candidates while promoting a democratic process within party loyalists.

So, just what are open and closed primaries? An open primary is a voting process whereby any person can vote for the candidates of any party, as they so choose. This is regardless to intention to vote for that candidate in the actual election. A closed primary is that in which only registered members of the party’s voting list or a voter who can show his or her party membership through registration records are allowed to vote for candidates of that party.

The primaries held in the Dominican Republic have, so far, been “semi-open”, whereby the political parties use the voting rolls of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and allow only those members registered to their particular party to vote.

Just recently Citizen Participation, a local civic society group, has come out in favor of “closed” primaries together with the legislators who are aligned with Leonel Fernandez. The Senate, nevertheless, passed on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 the Political Parties Bill that enables open primaries. These are backed by legislators that are aligned with President Danilo Medina.

Likewise, an interview in El Dia on 18 April 2018 with Ramón Tejada Holguín, a member of the communications team of the Medina administration, defends the “simultaneous open primaries” mode chosen by the Senate to become law. He says that by making them simultaneous each person can only vote once and for one candidate. He says that it is unlikely that a political party would send people to vote for other candidates, because it would reduce the number of votes their own candidates get.

Detractors say that political parties with big budgets would be able to decide who their opponents in other political parties will be by sending voters to vote for the weaker candidates of the opposition parties. PLD legislator Juan Carlos Quiñones, a backer of former President Leonel Fernández, says the open primaries contributes to an increase in political patronage and the use of illegal funding for the campaigns. He said if passed, the country would be subject to four intense national electoral processes to elect the party candidates, the municipal elections, the legislative election and the presidential election.

The bill that authorizes open and simultaneous primaries and that passed on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 in the Senate now goes before the Chamber of Deputies, where President Medina reportedly has 72 loyal deputies, former President Fernandez 34. A vote of two-thirds of those present for the session is required to pass the motion. But a minimum of 50% + 1 deputy, or 96 deputies of the 190 total need to be present. Medina has most of the cards, because for the bill to be rejected all the Fernandez loyal deputies plus all the opposition deputies would need to be present, as explained today in El Dia. Already, Victor Bisono of the PRSC has said he will give his vote for the open primaries, despite the party position being to vote against the mechanism.


UTESA to open Convention and Culture Center
The grand chancellor of the Technological University of Santiago (UTESA), Priamo Rodriguez Castillo, announced the opening of the Dominican Convention and Culture Center in Santiago, an investment of more than RD$600 million. The convention center took 10 years to be built.

President Danilo Medina is scheduled to inaugurate the center on 23 April 2018. The center has four floors and includes conference rooms, workshops, television and radio studios, a gift shop, and a conference room with seating for 1,200 persons.

The Cultural Center is also designed to be a tourist attraction for Santiago. The somewhat controversial structure is located on the north side of the Monument in Santiago. It has been certified, according to Rodriguez Castillo, by international seismic engineers as capable of withstanding very strong earthquakes. The city of Santiago is built on a prominent seismic fault line.


Omsa scandal borders the absurd
The details flowing from the leaked versions of the Chamber of Accounts audit of the Metropolitan Office of Bus Service (Omsa) present a Dominican government where people with influence seem to have been able to spend as they have pleased. The most recent revelations regarding the huge scandal at the Metropolitan Office of Bus Service (Omsa) carried out by the Chamber of Accounts regarding the administration of Manuel Rivas has not only confirmed the complaints regarding corruption in the agency but also the lack of any controls in the way public officials at Omsa and the Controller General Office, together with private individuals, handled some RD$9 billion between 2012 and 2017.

For instance, auditors were able to establish the fact that 25 of the 43 suppliers to Omsa, to which over RD$10 billion had been paid, were not located at the addresses on their contracts. The audit reads: “It will be noted that of the 43 service providers visited, who received payment for RD$1.8 billion, of these 25 were not able to be located. These had received from OMSA RD$1.05 billion that represents 50% of the amount paid to service providers.

Among the companies that were not located are Tech Solution and Martisdom Group that belong to Eddie Santana Zorrilla, who together with Rivas, Faustino Rosario, the former financial manager for Omsa, Argenis Contreras, Rivas’ assistant, and José Antonio Mercado Blanco are accused of being the persons responsible for the murder of lawyer and university professor Yuniol Ramirez Ferreiras.

One example of the irregularities found by the auditors is that of the company Climosa Enterprises that received payment for RD$244,061,004 for services dispatched, but it could not be located at its address of John F. Kennedy at the corner of Lope de Vega, where no such business exists. The businesses associated with Santana Zorrilla, who had offered the lawyer RD$4.0 million to drop his complaint on corruption at the Omsa, received payment from OMSA for the amount of RD$332 million between 2012 and 2017.

The Controller General Office defended the purchases saying Resolution 15-08 from the Procurement Agency (Contrataciones Públicas) allows direct purchases for airline tickets, fuel and vehicle repairs).

Manuel Rivas, the former director of Omsa, told the press: "I acted according to established regulations. I hope truth and justice will prevail.” His former financial director, colonel Faustino Rosario Díaz has also argued that all the purchases carried out at the Omsa were covered by Procurement Law 340-06 and Resolution 15-08 that authorized purchases by direct contracting.

An editorial in El Dia asks out loud “Where were the controls?” The editorialist writes: “The Omsa case calls out load for a total revision of the state control mechanisms, since the disasters that the audit describes happened before the eyes of all.”

An editorial in Diario Libre says that the Omsa affair has exposed one of the greatest fallacies of Dominican institutional development: the advances in corruption checks and controls. Writes the editorialist: “After the scandal it has been possible to verify that the controllers do not control, that the Chamber of Accounts does not do the accounts well and that Procurement Agency does not really seem to pay much attention to purchases or contracts.”


Garlic and torchwood seized on the border in Dajabon and Pedernales
Authorities seized 130 bags of garlic weighing over 1 ton in Dajabon, on the border with Haiti. Members of Cesfront (the Specialized Corps of Frontier Security) and civilian authorities confiscated the shipment in a house on Maximo Gomez Street in the border city.

Taking part in the raid were the District Attorney for Dajabon, Carmen Julia Medrano Gonell and the Cesfront officers, they arrested Laura Hernandez, Gregory Jimenez and José Raul Martinez who were sent to the police station and Dajabon on instructions from the Cesfront commander Brigadier GeneralSugar Puttzi Frugis Martinez.

At the same time in the Cesfront officials together with inspectors from the Ministry of Environment seized 100 bags filled with torchwood (myrisbalsamifera), a very dense hardwood rich in resin and a very high value for its essential oils, beautiful wood and its multiple uses in perfumes, medicine, cosmetics and even incense.

The Daihatsu truck carrying the wood (called “guaconejo”) on the highway near the Bahia de las Aguilas, in the province of Pedernales. The people involved are under indictment for violating the Environmental Law that prohibits wood cutting in protected areas.


Santiago district attorney files appeal in fraud case
Prosecutors from the office of the District Attorney in Santiago de los Caballeros have filed an appeal against the decision by the judge for permanent attention to grant the former director of human resources at the Santiago City Government his freedom on bail.

Luisa Liranzo, the District Attorney, said that the judge for Permanent Attention did not fully weigh the behavior of the accused who since the beginning of the investigation gave evidence of being a flight risk. Liranzo also said that allowing René Guzmán Corporan to be free on bail would affect the progress of their investigations and he might distract and hide evidence that is important to the case.

The judge, Cirilo Salomon, had allowed the former municipal official to post bail for RD$10 million. Guzman Corporan was arrested last March at the Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo after evading capture in Spain and returning to the country. At that time he told authorities that he was in Europe pursuing academic affairs and he had returned voluntarily to face the accusations that had been filed against him.


Police say RD$36 million security guard heist was planned from jail
Investigators of the robbery of RD$36 million of a G4S armored cash truck suspect Darbinson Volquez Espinosa, who is in jail in Barahona, organized via his mobile phone the logistics for the theft of 14 money bags full of cash that were to be delivered to several bank branches in the southwest. Investigating agents of the Dicrim division of the Police, determined that the last calls received by the suspected guards that were transporting the cash were from the mobile of the jail inmate.

Spokesman for the Police, Frank Felix Duran Mejia said that in the case they have arrested Darlin Volquez Feliz (Wassa) with RD$2,888,000 and EUR8800, while Ysrael Garcia voluntarily returned RD$831,500 and US$19,700. The Police reported they have recovered RD$5,789,429 from accomplices of those suspect of the robbery.

The Police say that Volquez Felix and Garcia Garcia transported the money in a white Hyundai after removing it from the truck in complicity with the guards 36-year old Manuel Ysaia Perez Santos and 50 year old Ruddy Serano and 51 year old Nelcido Feliz Fernandez. These individuals are under arrest pending receiving pre-trial custody orders.

On Monday, 9 April 2018, the security guards had alerted the authorities that they had been held up when transporting the cash through La Curva de Billeya in Azua. But the Police could not find evidence to back their claim.


Young man lost on Saona island rescued
Irvine Martinez Vasquez, 28, was found alive on Saona island after going missing for five days during an excursion. He is the son of a former governor of La Romana province, Abel Martinez Cedeño. The young man was transferred to the Armed Forces Hospital in Santo Domingo by helicopter in a state of severe dehydration.

Civil defense brigades together with members of the Dominican Navy and the Dominican Air Force took part in the search.

So far the authorities have not given out many details regarding the search of the island where the young man was taking part in an adventure excursion.

Family members reported young Martinez missing on Monday, 16 April 2018, after they had received his location through a Whatsapp message. On Tuesday five relatives, who together with members of the Navy, also got lost and had to be rescued by the Air Force on Palmilla Beach.


Cigar lovers invited to Cigar Country Benefit
The Cigar Country Benefit will take place Thursday, 3 May 2018, from 7pm to 11pm at the JW Marriott Hotel at Blue Mall in Santo Domingo. In its 4th year, the Top Dominican Cigar event is a benefit for the Dream Project. During the event, Cigar Aficionado recognizes the manufacturers of the best Dominican cigar for 2017, the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark, voted the No. 1 cigar in the world.

Participants in the event will be able to share with some of the leading cigar manufacturers and most knowledgeable in the cigar industry. There will e raffles and auctions of exclusive products. The money collected will be donated 100% to the Montessori early education programs.

For more information, call 809 550-3000 Ext 32 or see http://222.dominicandream.org

Amaury Sánchez and Friends at the National Theater
On Mondays in June, musicals producer Amaury Sánchez will be inviting his friends for stellar evenings of song at the Bar Juan Lockward at the National Theater. On the list of guests so far are Frank Ceara, Diomary La Mala, and Carolina Rivas. Showtime is 8:30pm. Tickets are for sale in advance at 809 333-1950 or at the National Theater on the night of the show.