DR1 Daily News next update on 7 May 2018
Dominican economy grows by 6.4%
Tax collections up 16%
Jose Ramón Peralta leads negotiations with China
Abinader approves ties with China over Taiwan
Adriano Espaillat warns of potential pitfalls in Chinese relations
Losers with the switch from Taiwan to China
Cabarete appeals to President Medina to stop Encuentro Beach privatization
DR named regional headquarters for WFZO in the Americas
DR to Montréal Protocol executive committee
No soil studies done for RD$3 billion government housing development
Most government agencies do not comply with Freedom of Press Law 200-04
Melanio Paredes says open primaries will split party
Toño Leña captured in Colombia
Two women arrested in US$1.5 million cash contraband case
Armada seizes shipment of lobsters in Samaná
Man throws himself from fourth level of Agora Mall
Security alert at Las Americas after robbery in parking area
30 years sentence for man killed janitor
Police accuses German of prostituting children
Rains forecast
First Collegiate Golf Tournament to start 6 May 2018 at Guavaberry Golf

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

Dominican economy grows by 6.4%
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu told reporters at a press conference that the Dominican economy showed a growth of 6.4% in the first quarter of 2018. This growth was favored by the push given by the monetary decisions that have been in place since the middle of last year, said Valdez Albizu.

Valdez Albizu said that the performance was better than expected and that the cyclical tendency “shows that the economy is expanding at about 6.3%, which lets the government think that we will finish this year better than we had programmed.” International agencies such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had all calculated that the Dominican economy would grow at about 5.5% in 2018.

The sectors that registered the best growth during the first quarter were farming at 6.1%, mining at 4.2%, local manufacturing at 6.9%, construction up by 9.3% and commerce up by 8.2% during this period.

The Central Bank also reported that from January to March 2018, accumulated inflation was 0.55%, and year-on-year inflation (March 2018 / March 2017) was 3.91%, within the target range of the Central Bank Monetary Program. The Current Account showed a surplus of US$183.7 million. International Reserves are at a historic high, reaching US$7.57 at the end of the first quarter of the year, equivalent to 4.6 months of imports.

An editorial in Diario Libre on 3 May 2018, nevertheless, wonders where the high growth is going. Editor writer Ines Aizpun observes that the jobs in the formal sector are not being created.

“How can the economy grow so much if the number of formal jobs does not? Young people who graduate from universities do not find work neither do those older than 40 or 45 and who have had the misfortune of being disengaged, one of those neologisms of personnel departments with which they try to disguise life. Those who do not have training do not find work, but neither those who return from abroad with a master's degree and two or three languages. And if they find it, the job does not come with the salary they expected after the effort,” writes Aizpun.


Tax collections up 16%
Tax Agency (DGII) director Magín Díaz is proud of the increase in tax collections his department is generating for the Medina administration. Díaz, upon taking the job in June 2016, had said that adding new taxes was not necessary if a reduction of tax evasion could be secured. He has delivered on his promise.

Díaz says RD$152.5 billion has been collected from January to April 2018. That is RD$5 billion more than what had been budgeted and around 16% more than the revenues for 2017. He said tax collections were up 26% in January 2018 because of the windfall of the taxes on the change of ownership of the Presidente brewery.

Diaz spoke upon inaugurating a new DGII office at Av. Abraham Lincoln almost corner Av. Gustavo Mejía Ricart. He said the new office is to make it easier for taxpayers to meet their obligations. The new office will serve taxpayers that previously were served by the San Carlos office that are located in Evaristo Morales, Piantini, Fernández, Serallés, Paraiso and Julieta Morales city areas.

The DGII says it has recently remodeled or opened new offices in Bonao, San Cristóbal, San Juan de la Maguana, La Vega, Santiago, La Romana, Las Terrenas (Samaná) and Neyba (Bahoruco).


Jose Ramón Peralta leads negotiations with China
Administrative Minister of the Presidency José Ramón Peralta is heading meetings with the People’s Republic of China after the start of diplomatic relations was announced on 30 April 2018. Peralta is knowledgeable of doing business in China. He is a long time importer of farm produce from China, long before taking the ministerial position in the Medina administration.

As reported in Listin Diario, the vice minister of Commerce of China, Wang Shouwen has said that China will promote travel of its citizens to the country. Peralta says that talks are being held for tourism agreements, to expedite procedures to export farm produce to China and for Chinese investment in infrastructure.

A press release from the Administrative Ministry of the Presidency says that Peralta has met with Chinese government officers in trade, foreign investment and international development offices. The conversations also envision how the DR could participate in the Chinese initiatives -- Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Described as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy vision, it aims to bind China with the rest of the world through more than US$1 trillion of new infrastructure, scores of trade agreements and countless other connections.


Abinader approves ties with China over Taiwan
Remarking on the severing of diplomatic relations with Taiwan after more than 70 years, PRM presidential hopeful Luis Abinader says that in general terms establishing diplomatic relations with China is the correct decision. He mentioned that China is a major trading partner, with DR imports at approximately US$2.4 billion and exports US$120 million.

The presidential candidate for the PRM in the 2016 presidential election says he would like to see a better balance of trade to favor the Dominican Republic. Citing reports that China has promised US$3 billion in investments in the DR, Abinader says it is up to the government to follow-up with China to assure that this comes to pass.


Adriano Espaillat warns of potential pitfalls in Chinese relations
New York congressman Adriano Espaillat, a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, was critical of the breaking of diplomatic relations with Taiwan to sign on with the People’s Republic of China. He considered the decision of the Medina administration as regrettable and warned that promised investments in trade and development in the Dominican Republic made by China may not benefit the Dominican economy. “I think it’s unfortunate, because China imposes a business model characterized by currency manipulation and fraud,” he told the Diario Libre reporter.

He emphasized that the United States continues to be the main business partner of the Dominican Republic, noting that the US sends more investments, tourism and remittances to the country. "The three most important items of the Dominican economy are nourished by the United States," he added.

He regretted that the DR has negotiated with China, a country, he says, has become an economic pariah throughout the world and out of step with modern trade and development models.

Republican legislator Marcos Rubio has also remarked against the Dominican Republic signing on with China versus Taiwan. “I'm disappointed that the Dominican Republic has become the latest country in Latin American to bow to Chinese government pressure and sever ties with Taiwan. The United States stands with Taiwan, our ally and a fellow democracy. Congress must do more to counter China's influence in the Western Hemisphere.”


Losers with the switch from Taiwan to China
The Ministry of Industry & Commerce and Small Business (MICM), Police and bamboo-related sectors stand to lose big with the severing of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Several projects were under way with Taiwan cooperation.

Taiwan was financing a US$4 million program for small business. The agreement had been signed by the Ministry of Industry & Commerce and the Fund for Agricultural Development (Feda) and the Embassy of Taiwan in July 2017. The program was being implemented from 2017-2021. Taiwan was contributing US$3 million and the Dominican government US$1 million.

Taiwan also had underway an important project to foster bamboo plantations and industrialization in the country through the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF). A technical mission from Taiwan had visited the recently completed manufacturing center in San Isidro, Bonao (ProBambu). The center was part of efforts to plant, process, design and market bamboo projects.

The National Police under director general Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte also had benefited from police cooperation project to fight transnational crime and improve citizen safety.

The 911 Emergency Program also received major financial boost from Taiwan.

News reports estimated that Taiwan assistance had reached US$169 million, as of August 2017, and helped create 3,000 jobs. The Dominican Republic was the country with the most investment in the Caribbean and Central American region.

An editorial in El Dia observes that the ambassador of Taiwan was told about the ending of relations only one hour before the official announcement. And the notification was made in a city restaurant and not formally by the Ministry of Foreign Relations.


Cabarete appeals to President Medina to stop Encuentro Beach privatization
The Association for the Protection of Encuentro Beach and Somos Pueblo, a civic community organization, are leading an appeal to President Danilo Medina to stop actions that are leading to the privatization of the Camino Viejo access to Playa Encuentro on the western side of Cabarete in Puerto Plata on the north coast. For decades, the beach has been a popular meeting point for surfers, kite surfers, wind surfers and beach goers in general.

“We publicly denounce that this natural jewel of our country known as Playa Encuentro has been for years the place of repeated threats of closure by ambitious investors who have gone above Dominican laws supported by influence traffic and abuse of power, prohibiting the public step to this vital artery that contributes enormously to the economy of the tourism sub-pillar and pillar of the self-sustainability of the area,” states the open letter to the President.

In the full page advertisement published in Diario Libre, the association calls for President Medina to intercede with the ministries of Tourism and Environment for the satisfactory resolution of the conflicts for the good of the community, domestic and foreign tourism, sports and the safety and protection of citizens and compliance with Dominican laws.

The signees are requesting that the authorities provide immediate and permanent guarantees for the free access of vehicles to Playa Encuentro by the present Camino Viejo. They also request that the authorities provide safety to the visitors to the Playa Encuentro, ending threats that have put people in danger and affected the wellbeing of the services there offered. They also request that the pertinent authorizes make use of studies that are available so that congress can declare Playa Encentro as a Eco Sports and Touristic Park of the Community of Cabarete and that this be managed by a committee. This would be the spread from the Camino Viejo and the coastal area of 60 square meters.

DR named regional headquarters for WFZO in the Americas
The Dominican Republic was named the regional headquarters for the Americas for the World Free Zone Organization during the 4th annual meeting held 30 April to 1 May 2018 in Dubai, the Ministry of Industry & Commerce and Small Business (MICM) reported. The DR competed with 17 other countries. Minister Nelson Toca Simó said that free zone businessman José Tomás Contreras was named member of the board of directors of the global organization. He said that the next meeting of the board of directors of the WFZO will be held in Santo Domingo in October 2018.

700 representatives of 71 countries participated in the 4th World Free Zone Conference. Statistics indicate there are 2,050 free zones located in 155 countries, generating upwards of 80 million direct jobs and 40% of the global exports.

The Dominican Republic free zone exports are at US$5.49 billion in 2016 and represent 56% of total exports. There are 68 industrial parks in 25 of the 32 provinces and National District in the Dominican Republic with around 645 companies. These are responsible for upwards of 163,000 jobs.


DR to Montréal Protocol executive committee
The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montréal Protocol has selected the Dominican Republic to form part of its executive committee, as reported on 2 May 2018 by the Ministry of Environment.

The decision was announced during the celebration of the 29th Meeting of the Parties in the Montréal Protocol that was held in Montréal, Canada. According to the press release, the Dominican Republic will participate in the executive committee for one year. The Montréal Protocol was signed on 16 December 1987. The fund is dedicated to reversing the deterioration of the Earth's ozone layer. It was established in 1991 to assist developing countries meet their Montreal Protocol commitments. It is managed by an executive committee with equal membership from developed and developing countries.


No soil studies done for RD$3 billion government housing development
Apparently neither soil nor environmental impact studies were carried out prior to the government investing millions in a major housing project in the environs of Camú River in La Vega, investigative journalists from acento.com.do report. The area chosen has proven to not be appropriate for the government housing development, as several experts had warned. Flooding has already affected the development, even though the country has not been affected by a major storm since its construction. To enable the viability of the project, flooding control structures have been built at an additional cost to taxpayers. The Camú River has a decades-long history of flooding.

As reported, there is no record at the Ministry of Environment of the soil or environmental impact studies prior to the construction of the Proyecto El Riito, a housing development said to cost RD$3 billion in taxpayer money in a slum area around the Camú River.

The development project was coordinated by Administrative Minister of the Presidency José Ramón Peralta. The official position of the Administrative Ministry of the Presidency department is that the apartments were affected because the flood control structures were not all in place. As of April 2018, only 30 % of the flood control structures have been completed.

The project calls for the diversion of a gully that is said to cause the flooding. The project is projected to benefit around 60,000 persons.


Most government agencies do not comply with Freedom of Press Law 200-04
An astounding 86% of government institutions do not comply with Freedom of Information Law 200-04, according to a report published yesterday by the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra (PUCMM).

The research showed that only 13.6% of state institutions comply with the Free Access to Public Information Law, by delivering the information requested in a timely fashion to those who request it.

The report ranks access to public information in state ministries was carried out by the Vice Directory for Research and Innovation, under the supervision of the lead investigator Catalina Santana. The presentation of the research was made at the PUCMM and was attended by the former rector of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), Roberto Santana. Also present at the presentation were David Alvarez, the vice rector for the PUCMM campus in Santo Domingo, Juan Faxas, the director of Research and Innovation, and Kiero Guerrero, the vice rector for Research and Innovation for the university.


Melanio Paredes says open primaries will split party
Ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) politician Melanio Paredes understands the imposing of open primaries as included in the Political Parties Bill that passed in the Senate will cause “serious problems” for the country.

The former director of Infotep and former Minister of Education said that the primary process methodology should be left up to each political party to decide. He said the methodology to choose their political candidates is already established by polices outlined in the internal statutes of the political parties.

Paredes warned that if the legislative bill fails to pass the Chamber of Deputies it could return to the Senate and become a sort of political ping pong match, much like what has occurred with the Penal Code. If so, Paredes said, the country would end up with little to show for so much effort.

Opposition leader Luis Abinader of the PRM has said that the law as passed by the Senate would not make it through the Chamber of Deputies. He explained that he felt that there were enough deputies prefer that each party decide how to compose its voting rolls for the primaries and that these deputies will block the Danilo Medina administration from securing the needed majority to pass the legislative proposal.

Other political analysts agree that there is sufficient opposition in the lower chamber to the bill that would prevent its passage. Debates on this type of bill have been ongoing for more than 20 years in congress. Analysts say that the political parties stand to continue to benefit if the controls and checks on campaign spending included in several articles in the bill does not pass.


Toño Leña captured in Colombia
The alleged narcotics kingpin, Ramon Del Rosario Puente (Toño Leña) is currently being held in Bogotá, Colombia where he arrived from Santo Domingo, according to international intelligence sources. The reports indicate that Toño Leña, his wife and daughter, arrived in Bogotá, Colombia and were arrested by officers from different security agencies. According to the information, the arrest of Rosario Puente came about after authorities in Colombia were alerted from the Dominican Republic.

The alleged drug trafficking boss is requested for extradition by the United States on charges of money laundering and conspiracy. Sources told El Nacional newspaper that Toño Leña could be sent to the United States to face these charges.

The accused, according to Dominican, Puerto Rican and United States authorities, is tied to shipments of more than 20,000 kg of cocaine and heroin. He served five years of a reduced sentence in Puerto Rico. He was deported to the Dominican Republic in August 2015.


Two women arrested in US$1.5 million cash contraband case
The local justice department has requested that the Judicial Office for Permanent Attention in Santiago remit to custody two women who are tied to the almost US$1.5 million in cash that were seized last week in the Port of Haina, in western Santo Domingo. They are suspect of being part of an international network of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Dominicans Luisa Amelia Fermin Hernandez and Miguelina Franco were caught “red-handed” according to the District Attorney on 30 April 2018 afternoon in Santiago. They are the mother and wife of one of the suspect chiefs of the organization, Dominican Fernando José Esteffani Fermin, who is being sought on an international arrest warrant obtained by the justice department this week. State prosecutors reported yesterday that in addition to Estaffani Fermin, they have also issued arrest warrants for Josuan Enmanuel Fernandez Fernandez, Marcos F Peña and Francisco Vargas, all three Dominicans. Diego Fernando Gutierrez Delgado, a Venezuelan and Luis Carlos Gutierrez Morales, a Colombian, are also being sought.

The Justice Ministry has also requested the court declare this case complex, in part, because the authorities found an important amount of drugs while they were executing a search warrant of the apartment in Santiago belonging to Fernando José Esteffani Fermin. The search also discovered 31 packages of cocaine inside a vehicle belonging to the accused.

According to the Diario Libre, besides the US $1,458,570 that was seized last week in Haina, the group is also tied to another US$745,180 that were seized in the same place on 1 May 2018 in a joint operation by the Justice Department, the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) and the Customs Agency. The investigation has also brought about the seizure of some 20 vehicles as well as other properties that are being investigated by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (Inacif).


Armada seizes shipment of lobsters in Samaná
The Dominican Armada reported on 2 May 2018 the seizure on the high seas off Samana of more than 412 quintals of lobsters (90,830.5 pounds), whose seasonal capture and fishing is prohibited, by Environment Law 307-04, on the protection of the environment, natural resources, fishing and aquaculture resources. The lobsters were being transported on the vessel Digna Rosa Primera that was intercepted by three naval units at 3.5 nautical miles south of Punta Balandra, Samaná. Navy spokesman, Captain Augusto Lizardo said fishermen from the areas of Samaná, Nagua, Sánchez and Puerto Plata were arrested and would be shortly remanded to justice.

The seized vessel was captained by Ariel Hernández González, who is under investigation by officers of the Naval Intelligence M-2 and other agencies of the Dominican Armada.

Man throws himself from fourth level of Agora Mall
A 30-year old man identified as Juan Aneury Ramírez reportedly threw himself from the fourth floor of Agora Mall at around 10:28pm on Wednesday, 2 May 2018. The mall is the most popular in the city. It is located at Av. Abraham Lincoln with Av. John F. Kennedy. 911 Emergency units immediately were called in to assist the man, who survived the fall that was broken by the canvas of Circus shop and was taken to a medical center.
This is the second time a man throws himself from the fourth floor. In October 2015, Rafael Mejía did so, but fell on the canvas roof of a coffee shop. At the time, it was said he had had a discussion with his wife


Security upped at Las Americas after robbery in parking area
Assailants robbed four persons, including two recent arrivals and the two persons that had gone to pick them up, at Las Americas International Airport. The robbery took place in the parking area. The victims were identified as Tirso Mota, Alberto Peralta, Elena Miguelina Castillo and Nicole Perez. The robbery took place at around 4pm on Saturday, 29 April 2018. The assailants traveled in a white Toyota Corolla. The authorities have the details of the vehicle. The victims turned in their belongings. The assailants then sped out of the airport, breaking the security barrier.

Aerodom announced the reinforcing of security at the airport with motorized units of the Police now patrolling the parking area. As reported, the assailants had driven around the parking area for around half an hour to identify their would be victims. The parking area is monitored by private security. The case is investigated by the Criminal Investigations Central Division of the Police (Dicrim).


30 years sentence for man killed janitor
The Fourth Collegiate Court of the National District sentenced Francisco Alberto Durán Rosario to 30 years at the 15 de Azua Jail. The man was sentenced for the murder of Cuban national María del Carmen Revalderia and her husband Spaniard Carlos Carrera Amil who lived in a Gascue apartment where Durán was employed. The couple was found murdered inside their apartment in June 2017.

Durán Rosario confessed he first attacked the woman who was alone at home, mortally injuring her with a knife, and then killed her husband when he got home. Durán then stole the couple’s vehicle and cash in the house.

Police accuses German of prostituting children
The Justice Department accuses German citizen Alfred Michael Buttner of trafficking and exploitation of minors. He lured his victims via Facebook and then together with others persons provided these with drugs for sexual exploitation, as reported in El Dia. The German was arrested on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 in Santiago as a suspect in the case of three teenagers, 15, 13 and 12 year olds, from La Unión, in Sosúa, Puerto Plata whose parents had reported missing.

The girls were promised RD$1,000 and the fare to Santiago. Afterwards, the girls were taken to a shopping mall where reportedly they offered their sexual services. According to the case file, Buttner had coordinated with one of the teenagers, of 15 years, so that the other two would visit him at his residence at Calle 4, in Residencial El Doral, Puerto Plata.

The girls had been reported missing on 22 April 2018. After 11 days of leaving their homes in Puerto Plata, the girls were able to escape from a house under construction in Hoyo de Gurabito where they were kept under the watch of Lenny José Cabrera García, who is sought by the Police. The girls then contacted their parents who alerted the Police.

Puerto Plata judge Pascuala Valenzuela ordered three months preventive custody to Buttner. The authorities suspect Buttner heads a ring for trafficking in children. Buttner will serve the sentence at the Centro Correccional de Rehabilitación de San Felipe in Puerto Plata. He faces a ruling for 20 years in jail.

The Justice Department says that after a search of Buttner’s house in Puerto Plata, they occupied computers, mobile phones with evidence of chats with the children. They also verified he used the identity of Michael Sanchez on Facebook.


Rains forecast
The National Meteorological Office (Onamet is forecasting showers for a large part of the country for today, and the Center for Emergency Operations (COE) has placed a green alert on eight provinces. The rains are due to a low pressure system currently located to the north of the Dominican Republic. Rains are expected for the next 24 to 48 hours, in the East, Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, the central mountains and along the frontier according to the Onamet bulletin. There are alerts in place for Santiago, La Vega, Monsignor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez, Monte Plata, Hato Mayor, Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís) and Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Cabrera).

Basically, this green alert considers the possibility of sudden flooding of rivers and creeks because of the heavy rains. According to satellite imaging, the low level frontal system is producing rains along the border region and the central mountains and bringing clouds too much of the rest of the area.


First Collegiate Golf Tournament to start 6 May 2018 at Guavaberry Golf
The Ministry of Sports (Miderec) signed an agreement with the Dominican Golf Federation (Fedogolf) for the promotion of the golf nationwide. The event has the backing of Minister of Sports Danilo Díaz who is helping fund the First Intercollegiate National Golf Tournament in several provinces nationwide. The Dominican Republic has the largest number of golf courses of a Caribbean or Central American country, with 27.

12 private schools have signed on for the tournament that will have the participation of 68 youth golfers. The organizing committee members are Enrique Valverde, Rosa Nidia Vicente, Carlos Heinsen, Alfredo Ríos, Lorenzo Caimari, Robert Guerra, Rafael Octavio Castillos, Jaime Herrera and Juan Delgado.

The event will start at the Guavaberry Golf & Country Club on Sunday, 6 May 2018 as of 9am. The categories are boys and girls 7-8 years, 9-10 years, sub-13, sub-15 and sub-18. The plan is to attract students of public schools in provinces where there are golf courses to the sport. The athletes that show prowess will be protected by Fedogolf.

Schools that will be competing in the first intercollegiate golf tournament are: Lux Mundi, Carol Morgan School, American School, Colegio Kids' n Tas, Colegio Dominicano La Salle, MC School, St. Michael's School, Primaria Montessori (Santo Domingo), Punta Cana International School (Punta Cana), Abraham Lincoln School (La Romana) and Santiago Christian School and Instituto Iberia (Santiago).

There are golf courses in Puerto Plata (Los Mangos, Playa Dorada), Espaillat (Playa Grande), Santiago (Las Aromas), Jarabacoa (Jarabacoa), Bonao (Bella Vista), Greater Santo Domingo (Country Club, Isabel Villa, Cayacoa), San Pedro de Macorís (Guavaberry, Metro), La Romana (La Romana Golf Club, Teeth of the Dog, The Links, Dye Fore, La Romana Country Club), and La Altagracia – Punta Cana (Hard Rock, Punta Blanca, Iberostate Bávaro, Cocotal, The Lakes Barceló, Catalonia Cabeza de Toro, Catalonia Caribe, Corales, La Cana, Punta Espada).