Local fruit only for school breakfasts
Dominican senator Felix Bautista and family lose their US visas
Few extra details in Odebrecht accused coercive measures file and formal accusations file
Why were some left out of final charges in Odebrecht bribe case?
Domínguez Brito: time to remove Díaz Rúa and Félix Bautista from key PLD posts
Rondon received 2% of the value of works
Andrés Bautista received thousands of millions of pesos
PLD to hand over their financial accounts
Dominican Republic backs off from support to Venezuela
Strike in San Francisco de Macoris
Former Santiago mayor sentenced to jail
DNCD seizes 351 packages of cocaine from damaged speed boat
New trial for accused drug dealer
Green alert for rains, Sahara dust cloud
Fête de la Musique in the Dominican Republic

Local fruit only for school breakfasts
Agriculture Minister Osmar Benítez backs the proposal by producers for only serving locally produced fruit breakfast juices at public schools. He sees as feasible the proposal made in May by small fruit producers and processing companies who say they are able to supply the fruit for the public school breakfast but also for other government social programs the low cost mess halls (comedores economicos), social plans, and public hospitals.

The fresh fruit companies want a share of a market that moves around RD$23 billion a year. In making the announcement, Benítez said: "This is part of the decision that President Danilo Medina has taken to promote business in this value chain that integrates all segments of the chain and that allows everyone to participate in a market that the government has created”

"If the small, medium and large farmers have access to the local markets, the farmers will earn money to invest and expand their farms, and that is creating wealth in the rural area, and in the countryside, creating consumers who will generate resources, who will receive income and will move the economy," he added.

The president of the Committee of the Fruit Clusters of the country, César Aybar, said that the initiative approved by the government would improve the quality of life of small producers, which will increase the number of jobs in rural areas. Aybar, who is general manager of the agribusiness Nikay Bio Proceso, a company that processes fruit pulp, believes that the initiative would generate a movement of more than RD$1.2 billion to RD$1.4 billion each year among pulp producers and processors, in addition to creating a lot of direct jobs.

The proposal seeks to guarantee that by 2020 100% of the foreign fruit pulps that are used in the school breakfast programs be replaced by locally-produced pineapple, strawberry, mango, and other juices made from locally-grown fruits.

Osmar Benítez met with the fruit producers, the administrator of the Agricultural Bank, Carlos Segura Foster, and the director of the Student Welfare Institute, (Inabie) René Jáquez.

Dominican senator Felix Bautista and family lose their US visas
On 12 June 2018, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it has sanctioned Dominican Republic Senator Felix Ramón Bautista Rosario for engaging in corrupt acts, including in relation to reconstruction efforts in Haiti. OFAC also implicated five entities owned or controlled by Bautista. The US Treasury office explained the actions are an effort to isolate corrupt actors from the US financial system.

According to OFAC:
“These actions are part of our continuing campaign to hold accountable government officials and other actors involved in human rights abuse and corrupt activities. Senator Bautista used his position to engage in corruption, including profiting off of humanitarian efforts related to rebuilding Haiti,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “The United States will continue to use Global Magnitsky and our other authorities to ensure that corrupt actors and human rights violators cannot use our financial system to enable and support their abhorrent activities and exploit the innocent.”

The office established that Bautista engaged in significant acts of corruption in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and that he has been publicly accused of money laundering and embezzlement. “Bautista has reportedly engaged in bribery in relation to his position as a Senator, and is alleged to have engaged in corruption in Haiti, where he used his connections to win public works contracts to help rebuild Haiti following several natural disasters, including one case where his company was paid over $10 million for work it had not completed,” reported the US Treasury.

In a related action, OFAC designated five entities in the Dominican Republic that are owned or controlled by Bautista: Constructora Hadom SA, Soluciones Electricas Y Mecanicas Hadom S.R.L., Seymeh Ingenieria SRL, Inmobiliaria Rofi SA, and Constructora Rofi SA. This means that US persons or companies are banned from carrying out transactions with the companies.

The US Embassy reported on its website on 12 June 2018 that senator Félix Bautista, his wife, and children can no longer travel to the United States. The decision is the result of applying the Trump administration Magnitsky Act that penalizes foreigners for corruption or human rights abuses. Bautista becomes the second Dominican to be affected by the act. The first was Angel Rondon, commercial representative of Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic, who was penalized with similar measure.

The Magnitsky Act calls for the publishing of the list of the names of those that are affected. The US Embassy, on its website, names Bautista’s wife, Sarah Haydee Rojas Peña, his minor children, and other children including Félix Ramón Bautista Abreu, Félix José Bautista Abreu, Félix Miguel Bautista Soler, Félix Fidel Bautista Grullón, and Yanilssa Bautista Bencosme, whose visas were cancelled.

Senator Bautista in the past had maneuvered to escape any local penalization from extensive list of acts of corruption that had been presented in the judiciary. His lawyers on several occasions pushed through legal actions that resulted in the filing away of his case. Transparency International had included Bautista in its list of the most corrupt people in the world.

Over the years, despite major accusations made in the Dominican judiciary, accusations made onto Bautista for corruption have never been able to advance through the Dominican justice system.

Bautista was director of the Supervisory Office of Public Works of the Presidency under President Leonel Fernández. He later became a senator where he has privileged jurisdiction.

Former prosecutor Francisco Domínguez Brito called for his removal from his role as secretary of organization of the ruling PLD party. Domínguez Brito aspires to be chosen presidential candidate for the PLD party. Domínguez Brito had prosecuted Bautista from 2014-2015, but the case was eventually filed for procedural issues when the case was heard in the Court of Appeals.

At the time, the file against the senator for alleged acts of corruption was definitively shelved. Felix Bautista was accused, along with several people, of illicit enrichment with state resources, influence peddling, tax evasion, washing and falsification of public and private documents, in a case quantified in more than 25 billion pesos in his condition Director General of the Office of Supervisory Engineers of State Works (OISOE). Bautista, who is secretary of the PLD Organization, is the second highest leader of the party linked to acts of corruption. Víctor Díaz Rúa requested a license as finance secretary after being charged in the Odebrecht case.


Few extra details in Odebrecht accused coercive measures file and formal accusations file
A report in Listin Diario on 13 June 2018 says that there is little difference from the case file presented by the Attorney General Office on 30 May 2017 against 14 accused and that presented on 7 June 2018 against seven accused in the Odebrecht bribery scandal. On 7 June, the Attorney General filed a case that has 518 pages documenting accusations against Ángel Rondón, Andrés Bautista, Víctor Díaz Rúa, Conrado Pittaluga, Tommy Galán, Roberto Rodríguez y Jesús Vásquez (Chu). The case presented to judge Francisco Ortega Polanco of the Supreme Court in May 2017 had 336 pages. The only additional person included was former president of the Senate, Jesus Vasquez.

Andres Bautista defending lawyer, Carlos Salcedo, said that the formal accusation against his client is a repeat of the request for pre-trial measures. He described this as lacking in base and marred by incoherences. The new element in the file against Bautista is that the later deposited RD$1.8 billion in the local financial system from 2002 to 2017.

Miguel Valerio, defending lawyer of Victor Díaz Rua, had the same opinion. He said the accusations against his client have incoherences and are almost a repeat of the pre-trial coercive request. He said the only addition is the purchase of a yacht valued at US$5 million that reportedly was carried out with funds received from Odebrecht.


Why were some left out of final charges in Odebrecht bribe case?
Participación Ciudadana, a civic watchdog group, has questioned the lack of indictments of eight of 14 individuals initially accused in the Odebrecht bribe case, including three well-known members of the Dominican Liberation Party.

On Thursday, 7 June 2018, Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez, confirmed the accusations for bribery and money laundering against Senator Tommy Galán, former Minister of Public Works Víctor Díaz Rúa, both members of the PLD, and former president of the Senate and president of the main opposition party, the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Andrés Bautista.

Also remaining as accused are former senator and PRM member Roberto Rodríguez, lawyer Conrado Pittaluga and businesman Ángel Rondón. The Attorney General added to the case former Senate president and current secretary general of the PRM, Jesus Vásquez.

He announced the temporary suspension of the cases against former Minister of Industry and Commerce Temístocles Montás (of the PLD), PRM deputy Alfredo Pacheco, PLD senator Julio César Valentín and former directors of the Public Electricity Corporation, César Sánchez (PRM) and Radhamés Segura (PLD). The cases of former deputy Ruddy Gonzalez (PRD) and technicians Bernardo Castellanos and Máximo De Óleo were also deferred for lack of evidence.

PC says that now the indignation of the population is increasing due to the suspicion that the Public Prosecution Service is acting as a political instrument, excluding those in the PLD. The civic group highlights the cases of Bautista and Vásquez who presided over the Senate which the PRD was in government and who are accused of managing the first contracts awarded to Odebrecht. However, since then when 15 of 17 contracts were awarded, many with inflated costs, none of the senate presidents have been accused.


Domínguez Brito: time to remove Díaz Rúa and Félix Bautista from key PLD posts
PLD presidential pre-candidate Francisco Domínguez Brito went on record requesting that the ruling PLD party remove San Juan de la Maguana senator Félix Bautista from his position as secretary of organization of the party. Domínguez Brito is also requesting that former Public Works Minister Víctor Díaz Rúa be removed from his post as secretary of finances of the party. Díaz Rúa had requested a license from the responsibility.

Domínguez Brito made the request after the US Treasury announced sanctions to the senator. He said the Political Committee of the PLD should be convened to replace the two men from the key positions in the party.

"It is not possible that engineer Víctor Díaz, who has been accused on multiple occasions with sufficient evidence, continue to administer the funds contributed by the state to the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Díaz cannot be the secretary of finance of the PLD, as of this date, given even the funds of the Central Electoral Board are frozen. It really is a shame the situation we are in".

In regards to Senator Bautista, Domínguez said: "He cannot continue to be secretary of organization, one of the most important positions that our party has, because it is the one that must recruit young people to our organization. How can a person involved in so many scandals and in this case pursued internationally, with immobilization of funds and other measures, be responsible for managing all the political structures within our party? Enough is enough, there must be consequences. The change begins in us, and in the courage to make decisions that are clearly unpostponable¨.


Rondon received 2% of the value of works
According to the formal accusation filed by the Public Prosecution Service to the Supreme Court, Odebrecht paid 2% of the value of each of the works obtained by means of bribes to Angel Rondón. Odebrecht executive, Marcos Vasconcelos Cruz, said that Rondón was paid by means of bank transfer to the Meinl Bank of Antigua, by the companies Lashan Corp. and Conamsa International, both owned by Rondón Rijo and with the support of the Structured Operations’ Division of Odebrecht that was located in the Dominican Republic.

Rondón Rijo is accused of managing the money handed over by Odebrecht in the form of bribes to be given to politicians and legislators to ensure the construction of important works in the country.

The Attorney General’s Office has said that these bribes were paid to the accused Víctor Díaz Rúa, Andrés Bautista, Jesús Vásquez, Tommy Galán and Roberto Rodríguez. The other accused in the case is the lawyer of Diaz Rúa, Conrado Pittaluga.

The United States included Angel Rondón and his family in the list of the first persons abroad affected by the Magnitsky Act, removing his visa and that of his family to travel to the United States.


Andrés Bautista received thousands of millions of pesos
According to the formal accusation deposited by the Public Prosecution Service in the Odebrecht bribe scandal, Andrés Bautista García deposited RD$1.8 billion into national financial system accounts between the years of 2002 and 2017.

The accusatory files indicate that Bautista García was involved in money laundering to convert, transfer, hide and cover up the money gained by means of the illegal acts of receiving bribes to the detriment of the Dominican state.

The accusation indicates that Porfirio Andrés Bautista García proceeded to acquire 32 real estate properties and his wife, Nuris del Carmen Taveras Taveras, knowing that the money was illegal, allowed her name to be placed on 19 real estate properties.

According to the accusation, Bautista García used several companies including Productores Asociados de Huevos, S. A., Productores Agrícolas, S.A.S., Productores Agropecuarios Unidos, S. A., Agropecuaria Bautista, S.R.L., Industria Cárnica Nacional, INCARNA, S.A.S, Incubadora Cibao, C. por A., Biogenetik, S.R.L., and Comercializadora Nacional Agropecuaria, CONAGRO to hide the money he had obtained in bribes.


PLD to hand over their financial accounts
Former President Leonel Fernández, who is the president of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), has said the party is not exempt from complying with the law and that he has ordered the 2017 financial report of the use of the party’s funds to be submitted to the Central Electoral Board (JCE), following the suspension of the disbursement of funds to the PLD along with another seven political parties that had not filed the required financial reports.

He said that the financial controller of the party, Francisco Liranzo, was working hard with the secretary general and presidency of the party to complete all of the information as to the expenditure of public funds by the party so that the document could be submitted. He had been waiting for bank statements that had now arrived.

On Monday of this week, 11 June 2018, the JCE had suspended the issue of funds to eight parties due to the fact they had not submitted their accounts.

The other parties involved are the Popular Front (FA), Provincial Movement of Current Youth (MJP), Democratic Alliance (ADP), Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI), Independent United and Progress Movement (MIUP), Alliance for the Rescue of Barahona Movement (ARBA) and the National Citizen Volunteer Party (PNVC).


Dominican Republic backs off from support to Venezuela
A feature in Panam Post says that the Dominican government yielded to pressure from the United States, and after six years of unconditional support for the late President Chavez in Venezuela and his successor Nicolas Maduro, has ended its support of their Venezuelan regime. The feature remarks on the Dominican Republic voting in favor of the resolution proposed by the United States at the Organization of American States (OAS) assembly in Washington, D.C.

The passed resolution was promoted by the United States and the 14 countries of the Lima Group, a block that accounts for more than 90% of the population in the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and St. Lucia. This group was joined by the Dominican Republic (a traditional ally of Venezuela), as well as the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Barbados, three Caribbean countries that had already voted in favor of pronouncements against the Venezuelan regime in the OAS.

Meanwhile, eleven other countries abstained: Suriname, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Haiti, Ecuador, and Nicaragua have maintained a close relationship with the Nicolás Maduro regime, but since February have decided not to support Venezuela anymore and have opted to abstain.

The Panam Post feature points out that the Dominican Republic had been a recent mediator in the fruitless dialogue between Chavez and the opposition and then that of Maduro likewise.

Mariano De Alba, a specialist in international law, said that the change of position in the Dominican Republic suggests that after the dialogue, Danilo Medina witnessed that “the Maduro government has no real will to seek solutions to the crisis and what he did was make them waste their time.”
“The Dominican Republic, thanks to the pressure of the United States, decided to support the resolution that is quite sharply critical of Venezuela, and states that in Venezuela there is a serious break with the constitutional order,” she said.


Strike in San Francisco de Macoris
A strike in San Francisco de Macorís that began yesterday, Tuesday 12 June 2018, has paralyzed businesses, closed schools and stopped transport.

Leaders of the 48-hour strike, which was called by the Popular Front (Falpo), demand the completion of several public works and justice in the case of the death of one of their officials, Vladimir Lantigua Baldera.

Strikers are also asking for the dismissal of the local prosecutor, Regis Victorio Reyes, who they accuse of protecting those responsible for the death of Lantigua Baldera in August last year, who died from a gunshot wound during a protest.

They are also demanding the construction of a hospital, a cultural plaza and the Río San Juan-San Francisco road.

Falpo have complained about what they see to be the disproportionate numbers of military and police at the demonstrations for what they say is a peaceful protest.


Former Santiago mayor sentenced to jail
On Monday, 11 June 2018, a Santiago court convicted former mayor, Gilberto Serulle, to six months in jail and the payment of a fine and compensation for supposedly having issued checks without sufficient funds to a contractor at the end of his term in office.

Judge Yasmín de los Santos Ortiz ordered Serullle to serve his sentence at the Rafey male jail in Santiago and also ordered Serulle to pay a fine of RD$250,000 and compensation of RD$354,286 to the plaintiff, Michael Arbaje Pimentel. However, Serulle is still to remain at liberty until 2 July 2018.

The former mayor said that the sentence was a bad precedent for mayors and that the plaintiff should have sued city hall, not him personally. He reminded that in July 2016 the plaintiff’s company received two checks from City Hall that were deposited after 10 August 2016 when the transition phase was coming to an end and new mayor Abel Martínez was taking over and the bank did not honor the checks.

He finished by saying it was the authorities themselves who took on the responsibility for paying for the works carried out by the plaintiff and not him personally.


New trial for accused drug dealer
On Thursday 14 June 2018, a Santo Domingo court will begin a new sentencing trial against Winston Rizik Rodríguez (El Gallero) and his brother Nelson Rizik Delgado, both sentenced to 10 years in jail for money laundering, drug dealing and illegal arms possession as a Monte Plata court annulled the sentence and ordered a new trial.

The new trial is due to take place at 9am in the Palace of Justice and will have judges Elizabeth Rodríguez as president, along with Julio Aybar and Diana Moreno.

Following his arrest, the Public Prosecution service confiscated from Rizik, two farms, a cockfighting training center with more than 500 roosters, vehicles, around 300 heads of cattle, more than three dozen horse and several pieces of real estate.

Rizik was arrested previously in 2011, accused of participating in the murders of two young men whose bodies were found decapitated in September 2010 in Palenque, San Cristobal and in February 2009, the Supreme Court rejected a request for extradition by the United States against Rizik who had escaped from a Florida jail having been condemned for eight years for drug dealing.


DNCD seizes 351 packages of cocaine from damaged speed boat
The National Drug Controls Agency (DNCD) and the Armada announced the seizing of 351 packages that presumably contain cocaine at the coasts of Pedernales in the southwest. The DNCD agents detained a speedboat that would have arrived from South America and that suffered mechanical problems near Beata Island. The crew of the boat escaped. The packages of the white substance were sent to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences for confirmation of their contents.


Green alert for rains, Sahara dust cloud
The Emergency Operations’ Center (COE) has issued a green alert for Santiago and La Vega, where major rains are expected due to the remains of a tropical wave crossing the country.

According to the National Meteorological Office (Onamet) thunderstorms would affect the northwest, north, northeast and southeast and there are expected to continue in the northeast, southeast, northwest, central mountain area and the border zone.

Metereologist Jean Suriel alerts to prepare for high temperatures due to the huge dust cloud being blown westward from desert areas in Africa that is bring hazy skies to the Dominican Republic.


Fête de la Musique in the Dominican Republic
La Fiesta de la Música (Music Festival 2018) organized by the Alliance Francaise in the Dominican Republic is set for 22 and 23 June 2018, with performances by 300 Dominican artists, 52 free concerts at 22 spaces in the Colonial City. The event is a global affair staged simultaneously in 120 countries and more than 700 cities around the world. Christine Torelli, director of the Alliance Francaise in Santo Domingo, said that over 20,000 people are expected to attend the free concerts. The festival includes performances by Riccie Oriach, Concón Quemao, Acentoh, Cerobit, Alex Malajunta, Roberto Bobadilla, Sangre Mulata, Kashmir Jones, la Piñata’Dulce, youth choirs, among others.

The Fiesta de la Musica will also feature performances in Santiago, organized by the Alliance Franciase at the campus of the PUCMM university and the Centro León.

The special guest from France this year is French DJ Saro, world champion of the Beatbox Loopstation in 2017.

On Saturday, 23 June the performances are scheduled for Plaza España from 6:30pm (DJ Koumori), 7:30pm Nikola Santiago (fusion), 8:30pm Cerobit (pop), 9:30pm Acentoh (hip hop), 10:30pm Concón Quemao (fusion), 11:30pm Riccie Oriach (fusion, alternative) and Saro, from France at 0:45am.