Foreign Minister backs building hospitals in Haiti
Merengue and the arts to be part of NYC Dominican Book Fair 2018
Dominican passport gets praise at High Security Printers Conference
Dozens in government called to testify in Odebrecht bribes case
Tommy Galán accused of undervaluing his fortune
Alburquerque says Bautista and Díaz Rua are innocent until proven guilty
Leonel Fernández campaigns in Los Alcarrizos
Citizens strongly in favor of anti-abortion law with three exceptions
Zorzal Private Reserve receives Atabey Award and visit by world’s best chocolate maker
Hardware stores say there is a construction boom
Blaze affects traffic on Hato Mayor to San Pedro de Macorís road
Parking space suspect murder sent to pre-trial custody
Police arrest suspected murderer of jewelry store employee
Social Media Week in Santo Domingo
DR to play Canada for berth in FIBA Basketball World Cup
Cardi B plays up her Dominican heritage in top Billboard track

Foreign Minister backs building hospitals in Haiti
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas announced that Dominican authorities are seeking participation from international organizations and countries such as France, Canada, the United States and the European Union for the construction of four hospitals in Haiti on the border with the Dominican Republic. He made the announcement when speaking at an event organized as part of the Global Initiative based on the Laredo Initiative between the US and Mexico that groups the offices for economic and international cooperation and that of Haitian affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Relations and entities in Haiti for cross-border cooperation. He said the construction of the hospitals in Haiti would alleviate the burden of Dominican hospitals on the border where now seven of ten women giving birth in these hospitals are Haitians.

The Global Initiative in the Dominican Republic has the backing of the Texas A&M University’s Office of Global Initiatives. The agreement was signed on 6 December 2016 between the DR and Haiti, with the backing of the US government and technical advisory of the Texas A&M University.

Vargas said, “In the Ministry of Foreign Relations we have the firm conviction that this successful model of Laredo Initiative will contribute to improve the current conditions of border crossings, to increase bilateral trade, support industrial development by establishing more bi-national companies and promote improvements in the infrastructure of the area and nearby places. The goal is to implement a joint program directed to stimulate the economic growth and social progress through the development of industry, commerce, infrastructures, energy and business in general”.

Public Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas, nevertheless, told Diario Libre, his ministry has not been contacted about the construction of the four hospitals in Haiti. He said he has proposed to the international community and the Dominican government the donation of maternal-pediatric clinics on the border on the Haitian side to offer services to the Haitians.

Chanel Rosa Chupany, director of the National Health Service (SNS) that consolidates all Dominican hospitals, said he learned about the offer for the construction of the for hospitals from what he read in the press. Former SNS director, Nelson Rodriguez Montero, had said those centers would mean RD$3 billion in savings for services rendered to Haitians in Dominican public hospitals.

According to Ministry of Public Health statistics, in 2017, public hospitals offered assistance to 54,607 foreign pregnant women, including 23,260 births.

Haitians in large numbers cross the border to seek Dominican hospital services since these services in Haiti are fee-based. In contrast, the maternal-pediatric services in the Dominican Republic are free and of better quality.

Merengue and the arts to be part of NYC Dominican Book Fair 2018
Culture Minister Eduardo Selman announced the celebration of the 11th Dominican Book Fair in New York City in October 2018. He said artistic and cultural presentations will be included this year. The exact dates and venues will be announced at a later date.

On the program is an exhibition of visual arts, with awards for paintings and sculpture, and film. There will also be a festival of short films as part of the event. He also announced the New York Dominican Book Fair Award to the best work launched during the event.
Selman said also on the program is a tribute to merengue that in 2017 was declared intangible heritage of the world. A concert, “Seis decadas de merengue”, directed by Miguel Andres Tejada is also on the program.

Dominican passport gets praise at High Security Printers Conference
The Dominican passport was recognized as the best in Latin America during the 7th High Security Printers Conference held 11-13 June 2018 at Secrets Cap Cana in Punta Cana.

The latest technologies and techniques for the production and issue of banknotes, e-passports, ID cards, visas and other documents across Latin America and the Caribbean were presented at the conference. The conference looked into regional developments in document security, currency features, travel documentation technologies and features, printing and production technologies, anti-counterfeiting, document verification and enforcement, new developments in ID cards, driver documents, licenses and vehicle registration.

During the event, Ramon (Monchi) Rodríguez presented the new Dominican Republic passport. He received a certificate for the Dominican passport being the best in the Latin American region.

Dozens in government called to testify in Odebrecht bribes case
The Supreme Court of Justice witness citations in the Odebrecht bribes case could be over 200, as reported in Diario Libre. As of Friday, 15 June 2018, the Supreme Court had received citations for 186 from the lawyers of the seven accused – Angel Rondon Rijo, Victor Diaz Rua, Andres Bautista García, Conrado Pittaluga Arzeno, Tomy Galán Grullón, Juan Roberto Rodríguez and Jesus (Chu) Vasquez.

The case is focusing on bribes that were channeled through Odebrecht commercial representative in the Dominican Republic, Angel Rondon. Rondon alone, through his lawyer Carlos Salcedo, is calling 106 persons to testify, including members of the commissions of Hacienda and Finances of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Hacienda ministers, Banco de Reservas managers, Odebrecht local construction partners, supervisors of the works built by Odebrecht, as well as other persons against which the Attorney General has not presented accusations for the bribes.

Jose Miguel Minier, Rondon’s defense lawyer, said: “We are calling as witnesses all who had to do with the 16 contracts that appear in the accusation… they have to come to explain if our client offered a bribe or if any of these accepted bribes,” he said.

Miguel Valerio in representation of Victor Diaz Rua said that one by one they would discredit the accusations made by the Attorney General and prove the innocence of their clients. Valerio said he is citing eight witnesses to demonstrate that all was carried out in accordance with the law. He said he had filed defense arguments in a 1,500 page document that demonstrates to the court the innocence of his client.

Carlos Salcedo in representation of former senator Andres Bautista said he has cited 20 witnesses, including the present president of the Senate, Reinaldo Pared Perez, the former president of the senate, senator Cristina Lizardo, and Agriculture Minister Osmar Benítez, among others.

Tommy Galán accused of undervaluing his fortune
Senator Tommy Galán (PLD-San Cristóbal) presided for eight consecutive years the Hacienda Commission of the Senate (2006-2014), and was later reappointed in 2016. He is one of seven in the Odebrecht bribery case file submitted by the Attorney General to the Supreme Court of Justice.

Diario Libre on Friday, 15 June 2018, shared details from the file on that accuses the senator of hiding information on his true worth. The file indicates that Galan did not disclose RD$63 million purchased in real estate with earnings from his favorable opinions on the Odebrecht contract for the Pinalito hydroelectric dam, Samana and Hermanas Mirabal aqueducts, El Coral highway, Duarte I & II road solutions in Santo Domingo, the El Río-Jarabacoa road, the Casabito road in Constanza, the Bavaro-Miches-Sabana de la Mar road in the East.

He is accused of undervaluing his assets, among other charges. Diario Libre mentions a plantation house he has in San Cristóbal that he declared for RD$10 million and is worth upwards of RD$44 million.

The Attorney General established that Galán was the main contact in the Senate of commercial representative of Odebrecht, Angel Rondón. Rondón is also accused in the Odebrecht file. The file explains several alleged schemes that the senator had used to hide his increased wealth.

A media note speculates that the senator is also a US citizen.

Alburquerque says Bautista and Díaz Rua are innocent until proven guilty
Former Vice President Rafael Alburquerque says that the requests for the removal of former president of the Senate Andrés Bautista and former Public Works minister Víctor Diaz Rua from the ruling PLD party made based on the case of corruption accusations against these PLD officers are biased. Bautista serves as secretary of the organization and former public works minister and Diaz Rua, who serves as secretary of finances of the party. Alburquerque, served two terms as Vice President under the Leonel Fernandez administration (from 2004 to 2012).

Alburquerque remarked that other high-ranking directors of the party are also included in administrative corruption cases and there have not been petitions levied against them, only against Felix Bautista and Victor Diaz Rua. Diaz Rua was minister of public works during the Fernandez administration. Bautista was director of the Office of Supervision Engineers of Public Works until 2010, when he was elected senator for San Juan de la Maguana.

The former vice president and renowned jurist and university professor said that the PLD cannot punish any leader accused of violating a legal provision, until a final judgment is pronounced against him in a court of law.

He explained that there is a universal principle, confirmed in the Constitution of the Republic and the Code of Criminal Procedures that protects the presumption of innocence of the accused, and that every person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Regarding Bautista, he recalled that he was cleared by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) in a case that the then Attorney General of the Republic Francisco Domínguez Brito, did not appeal. He said it would be necessary to see if it is the Haitian government brings charging against Bautista. Albuquerque said that nothing definitive has come to light thus far, as reported in Hoy.

Alburquerque made his remarks when interviewed by Héctor Herrera Cabral for “D’Agenda” of Channel 11, on Sunday, 17 June 2018.

Leonel Fernández campaigns in Los Alcarrizos
Previously neglected, the popular satellite city of Los Alcarrizos is now coveted terrain by the two leading politicians of the ruling PLD party, President Danilo Medina and former President Leonel Fernández.

Former President Leonel Fernández lead a political caravan through several sectors in the Los Alcarrizos municipality as he prepares to announce his aspirations to return to the presidency in 2020. A press release prepared by the Leonel 2020 Project gave details on the meetings of the PLD pre-candidate in los Alcarrizos. Fernández said he seeks to gather two million signatures by December 2018 to guarantee his candidacy for the ruling party in the 2020 election.

Citizens strongly in favor of anti-abortion law with three exceptions
Polls show most Dominicans are in favor of allowing exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest, or saving the pregnant woman's life. A report in Diario Libre reveals that a recent poll carried out by Untold Research says that 79% of Dominicans eligible to vote are in favor, with only 9% against instating what is the standard trinity in anti-abortion lawmaking around the world. President Danilo Medina has twice vetoed the Penal Code when legislators have not included the exceptions for the three specific cases.

The Untold Research results show an upward trend in support for the exceptions. As reported in Diario Libre, the CID Gallup Latinoamerica poll in 2015 revealed that 77% were in favor of the exception to save the mother’s life or if her life were at risk.

By age group, the poll showed the most support to the exceptions is in the 18-29 years age group, with 81%.

Those who identified themselves as Catholics, backed the exceptions with 75%, compared to 70% for those who identified themselves as of a non-Catholic Christian faith.

Zorzal Private Reserve receives Atabey Award and visit by world’s best chocolate maker
On Sunday, 10 June 2018, the El Zorzal Private Reserve in Duarte province was awarded the coveted Atabey Award in the category conservation. The award was received by brothers Jaime, Jesus and Ana Angelica Moreno and El Zorzal director, Sesar Rodríguez during the awards ceremony held at the National Theater.

The Atabey award recognized the efforts of foreign and Dominican investors to develop the country’s first private reserve with a business focus. The Moreno family of Helados Bon-fame had already created the structure for the public Quita Espuela scientific reserve nearby. Taking advantage of the knowledge acquired in reserve management, the family took the step to purchase a large tract of land from the Ortega family to implement a model that allowed for conservation and farm production at the same time. The objective is that the pilot program can be replicated elsewhere in the country.

On Monday, 11 June 2018, El Zorzal cacao buyer, Erica Gilmour from Canada, visited to meet with the small-scale farmers that make all the difference in her award winning chocolate. Gilmour, owner together with her spouse Drew of the Hummingbird Chocolate of Canada, came to see for herself how cacao is farmed, harvested and processed at El Zorzal.

The taste of the El Zorzal organic cacao convinced jurors at the London Academy of Chocolate to award her the silver medal in 2016 and the coveted Golden Bean for the Hispaniola bar in 2017. “The idea of combining conservation with production is wonderful,” the chocolate maker told Diario Libre when interviewed during her visit. On both occasions, Hummingbird was competing with 15 global prestige chocolates, including Akesson's from England, Amedei from Italy and Michel Cluizel from France.

"I do not know another model of this nature. This is the kind of initiative that we must replicate around the world," said Gilmour, fascinated by the work carried out by the farmers and organizations operating in the reserve.

El Zorzal Private Reserve is a 1,019-acre bird sanctuary that belongs to the National System of Protected Areas of the Dominican Republic. It is located in the Cordillera Septentrional and has an extension of 7,000 tareas (1 tarea = 629 square meters). 30% of its entire territory is dedicated to the production of organic cacao.

The project also generates revenue through the sale of carbon bonds through the Plan Vivo program - funded by the Scottish capital foundation Plan Vivo - a financial mechanism that seeks to take advantage of the carbon produced in areas adjacent to the reserve legally owned by small scale producers.

The reserve is named for El Zorzal, the tiny Bicknell Thrush bird (Catharus bicknelli) that every year migrates from northeastern USA. The Moreno family convinced Jamie Phillips, president of the Eddy Foundation, to invest in the project and create the public-private reserve. Phillips continues actively involved.

The project is developed on findings from the doctoral thesis of Charles Kerchner that sought to create a better wintering habitat for the Bicknell thrush while creating a sustainable market for farmers. Kerchner is now a cacao buyer himself and active in bringing business deals from abroad to the reserve.

Sesar Rodríguez, director of the Dominican Environmental Consortium (CAD, is the private reserve director, bringing to the project the vast connections and experience in environmental works in the country.

Hardware stores say there is a construction boom
The president of the Association of Hardware Stores, Arcenio García, highlights that the sector is seeing strong sales this year. He said this is evidenced by the 33.7% growth that the Central Bank has highlighted in its April 2018 economic report. Construction is driving the economy since the last quarter of 2017, says the Central Bank.

García says that sales are up despite the recent increases in construction supplies, driven by recent devaluation of the Dominican peso.

Blaze affects traffic on Hato Mayor to San Pedro de Macorís road
A fire that was apparently set to burn sugar cane fields to facilitate their cutting has gotten out of control on the road that leads north from San Pedro de Macorís to Hato Mayor. Diario Libre reports that the fire has affected the visibility for those using the road.

As reported in Diario Libre, the fire was not initiated by the owners of the crop. Instead, the burning of the "sweet stick" is attributed to unscrupulous people, who now supposedly "use cats to which they tie strips sprinkled with gasoline, which turn on and let the animal run among the cane fields to spread the fire”.

The communities most affected were Consuelito, Alejandro Bass, Vasca, Chicarrones, among others.

Firefighters of the municipality of Consuelo had to extinguish fires that spread to several points of the road.

Parking space suspect murder sent to pre-trial custody
National District prosecutors have served a one year pre-trial preventive custody sentence to 57-year old Sonari Labrada Amor, accused of murdering 60-year old Johnny Pérez Cepeda in a row over a parking lot last week. The murder occurred in Ensanche Lugo in Gazcue on Thursday, 14 June 2018.

The pre-trial custody will be served at Najayo Men’s Jail in San Cristóbal.

The deceased was the president of the neighborhood board of Ensanche Lugo.

Sonari Labrada Amor turned himself into the Police on the evening of Thursday, 14 June 2018. He delivered the gun with which he carried out the murder.

As reported, Perez and Labrada had had repeated discussions over the parking space.

Police arrest suspected murderer of jewelry store employee
The National Police arrested Henry Daniel Lorenzo Ortiz (aka Jeovanny El Caminante) on Sunday, 17 June 2018 after the later was identified as the lead suspect in the murder of the El Conde Súarez jewelry store employee. He was arrested in a pension in the eastern city of Higuey.

At the time he was in possession of the knife that is suspect of having been the same he used to kill 36-year old Annery Peña Pérez around 1pm on Thursday, 14 June 2018. The victim was stabbed to death by the suspect while at the store located at Calle José Reyes corner El Conde in the Edificio Saviñón. Peña Pérez had three children.

The assailant was identified by surveillance video. A post on social media he made of himself shopping for shoes and clothing, shortly after the media, also helped. The Police confirmed Lorenzo Ortiz was the same person that posted a photo showing what he bought with the stolen money. Listin Diario had posted the information online.

The surveillance video showed how the victim was held up at knifepoint and obliged to open the safe, which she did without opposition. The surveillance video showed how despite her compliance, her killer stabbed her to death.

Listin Diario and social media circulated videos showing the individual went shopping just hours after the murder and that the shopper is believed to be the murderer.

The Police says Lorenzo Ortiz admitted to having killed the woman so she could not tell on him because he had visited the jewelry frequently to sell silver jewelry to the store and the woman could recognize him. The Police recovered the weapon, part of the cash stolen and stolen jewelry. Lorenzo Ortiz did not have a police record.

Social Media Week in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo was chosen to be one of 25 cities around the world that will host Social Media Week (SMW) in 2018. The event is one of the world’s premier conferences and industry news platforms for professionals in media, marketing and technology. The mission is to give professionals at the intersection of media, marketing and technology the insights, ideas and opportunities they need to advance themselves and their organizations in a globally connected world.

The event is set for 10-14 September 2018.

Speakers on the program for the Santo Domingo conference are:
Ana María Lazareff, associate digital and marketing manager Taco Bell Latam & Caribbean
Alejandro Reyes, coach and former general manager Leo Burnett RD
Food bloggers from Bocao
Ducktape video content creators
Julissa Calderon, Buzzfeed producer Pero Like
Malena Velasco, partner manager, Facebook
Michael Baron, digital director, Pages BBDO
Rodolfo Borrell, president & CCO, Pagés BBDO
Alexis GArcía, social media strategist
Gadiel del Orbe, Buzzfeed producer Pero Like
Martin Cordova, director Centro America & Caribbean, Provokers
Vero Ruiz, chief creative officr, social media strategist, Mashup Interactive Agency

DR to play Canada for berth in FIBA Basketball World Cup
Tickets are on sale online to watch the Dominican Republic national team play Canada in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier in Toronto. Canada is hosting the Dominican Republic at Ricoh Coliseum at 7:30pm ET on Friday, 29 June 2018.

Both teams seek a berth in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. Canada and the Dominican Republic are in Group D of the qualifying rounds with the Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands. The DR leads the group with a record (4-0) that enabled it to qualify for the second round.

Each team faces the other three teams on a home and away basis with the top three teams from each group advancing to the second round.

In a previous match against Canada, the DR defeated the Canadians 88-76.

As preparatory for the Toronto matches, the Dominican team will play exhibition games against the US team in Houston, Texas traveling there on 22 June 2018, coach Melvin Lopez told Diario Libre.

After the Toronto game, the Dominican Republic will match Bahamas on 2 July 2018 in Santiago.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China (31 August-15 September 2019) is the biggest edition of FIBA's flagship event with a record 32 participating teams playing 92 games over 16 days. For the first time, the FIBA Basketball World Cup will qualify 7 teams directly for the following year's Olympic Games.

Cardi B plays up her Dominican heritage in top Billboard track
US born of a Dominican father and Trinidadian mother, New York rap queen Cardi B’s single, “I Like It” has reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. The track is from her debut album, “Invasion of Privacy. ”Entertainment media Inside Edition highlights how the track that features Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny and Colombian artist J Balvin pays homage to her Dominican culture. The video has had more than 91 million views on YouTube.

Inside Edition interviewed Ramona Hernández, director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute in New York City who pointed out that in addition to shots of the Dominican flag flashed in the video, there are other subtle touches.

"I think this is what is fascinating about Cardi B [is] that her identity, her pride of her ethnicity, her culture, it’s intertwined with what she does," Hernandez told Inside Edition.

“The rhythm, the beats, the color, the dancing, all simultaneously representing a culture that is alive," Hernandez said. "A culture that emphasizes color, rhythm."

Inside Edition reports that Cardi has become a beacon of hope for Dominican girls. Earlier this year, she was nominated for an award at the Dominican Republic’s Premios Sobreanos 2018 ceremony.