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    Default DR1 Daily News - Monday, 15 April 2019

    Good news on coffee is good news for all
    Government not eliminating severance package regulations
    Students poisoned by a crop duster spraying rice fields
    Will Radhames Camacho be wooed by the Chinese?
    Avocado dilemma: Will Bahoruco become the next Petorca, Chile?
    Reforestation ordered in Sierra Bahoruco.
    Santiago limits access to swimming areas
    Public safety highway program underway for Easter Week
    Digesett closes intersections with Bávaro-Punta Cana
    Digesett closes intersections with Bávaro-Punta Cana
    Court begins investigations into Kanqui the clown sexual abuse case
    Wreckage recovered from sea in New York tourist tragedy
    5th Dominican Swimming Open winners
    Recent rains not enough to end drought

    Good news on coffee is good news for all
    The Dominican coffee sector is on the rebound, according to the latest information from the Dominican Coffee Institute (Indocafé). Coffee farmers are recovering from the onslaught of the Coffee Leaf Rust by planting of varieties that are resistant to the Hemileia vastarix fungus.

    The Coffee Leaf Rust had effectively wiped out most of Dominican coffee production. There is no cure for the fungus, and preventive methods require heavy investments in labor and time. In the Dominican case, many farms were replanted with hybrid coffee trees, but a seedling takes between three and five years to come into full production, explains Indocafé head, Marino Suarez Joran.

    Súarez announced that this year the coffee crop should reach 400,000 quintals (100lbs). However, within two more years, coffee production is expected to reach 700,000 quintals.

    Local consumption is estimated at between 600,000 and 700,000 quintals per year. Suarez also noted that there was a distinct possibility that there would be a surplus for export. There is good demand for Dominican coffee beans in other places such as Spain and the United States.

    Indocafé is currently working on the creation of a National Registry of Coffee Growers.

    Government not eliminating severance package regulations
    By announcing that the Executive Branch will be modifying its proposal to eliminate the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) and replace the decades-old institution with a National Institute for the Prevention and Administration of Labor Risks (Inaril), government officials hope to calm down the labor unions threatening broad actions to save the sacred severance regulations. The proposed modification is so that Article 4 of the legislative proposal does not make mention of the creation of the Labor Protection Fund, and so provide assurances to the labor sector that severance pay will remain intact.

    Legal Advisor to the President Flavio Dario Espinal and the Labor Minister Winston Santos made the announcement during a press conference late last week. They were emphatic in saying that the government does not intend to eliminate severance pay as established. They also said that the issue of severance should be taken up during the ongoing tripartite (labor-employer-government) talks with regard to the Labor Code. Labor representatives recently marched to the Presidential Palace to demand the continuance of the current severance pay legislation.

    Advocates of changes say that the present system creates a major burden on companies that are mandated by law to pay upwards of 50% in benefits to employees. Likewise, the situation has spurred a legal mafia with lawyers irregularly taking companies to court to demand large severance payments even for persons that never were employed. Small companies many times find themselves having to borrow to pay employee severance.
    Likewise, many observers say that wages in the country are kept low to accommodate the hefty burden of benefits created by the law. This is also leading to fewer jobs, with major companies in areas such as the Santiago free zones now installing robots to replace human jobs.

    Students poisoned by a crop duster spraying rice fields
    The Ministry of Education and the National Institute for Student Welfare (INABIE) have identified the cause of the sudden illness of 12 students in the Claudino Sanches school in La Lomota in Jima Abajo. The culprit was identified to be fumigation of nearby rice fields.

    The director of School District 06-10 of the Jima municipality, Yajaira Rincon, said that on other occasions similar occurrences have happened, affecting both teachers and school staff.

    She noted, in addition, that they have met with the rice farmers on several occasions who have agreed to carry out crop spraying outside of school hours.

    Will Radhames Camacho be wooed by the Chinese?
    The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Radhamés Camacho (PLD), traveled to China on an official visit at the invitation of the People’s Republic of China. Camacho is a strong supporter of President Danilo Medina.

    He is accompanied on the official visit by several other Dominican legislators, including the spokesman for the ruling PLD party, Gustavo Sánchez; fellow PLD deputies Hamlet Melo, Jesús Alberti and Víctor Fadul; Radhamés González, spokesman for the PRD, a PLD ally; and Fausto Ruiz, PRSC deputy.

    The vote of legislators is needed to pass important loans and contracts with the Chinese government named contractors and companies.

    Learn more about Radhames Camacho, one of the most wealthy Dominican legislators, at:

    Avocado dilemma: Will Bahoruco become the next Petorca, Chile?
    Environmentalists the world over warn that the increasing demand for avocados is harmful to the environment because of the large water demands of the fruit that grows best in mountainous terrain. The Dominican Republic exported US$$57.6 million of avocados in 2017, or 1% of total global exports. The largest avocado plantations have taken over areas located in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, where the fertile soils and abundance of water make this a very profitable crop for the owner of the plantation.

    Environmentalists have warned the plantation is contributing to deforestation of the land and depletion of vital water sources. The trees are planted at a height of 800m in the protected area of the mountains.

    But the avocado plantations have found their main defender in Environment Minister Angel Estevez. Estevez insists avocados grow on trees and trees are good for the environment.

    In a recent TV interview with Huchi Lora and Amelia Deschamps of El Dia, Estevez stated: “I will not topple a single avocado tree. What damage do avocado trees cause the high parts of the mountain?” he asked the interviewers. “

    “Why is it damaging, why one tree does damages and another not?,” he insisted. A former minister of Agriculture, Estevez’s private company is involved in vending agrochemicals – fertilizers and pesticides -- to farm companies.

    Estevez argued during the TV interview that the government had not reimbursed the landowners, as established in the Dominican Republic’s general environment law, Law 64-00. He insists that under his term at the Ministry of Environment not a single avocado tree will be tumbled.

    On the contrary, the Grupo Jaragua has complained that during the term of Estevez roads have been built within the Bahoruco National Park to facilitate the operations of the avocado plantations, one of the larger of which is owned by a brother of President Danilo Medina, Ángel Milcíades Medina Sánchez.

    In Chile, in the province of Petorca, avocado farmers learned the hard way the damages the crop causes to the area, given that the plantations require large amounts of water. It takes up to 1000 liters of water to grow one kilo (about three avocados), a lot more than for other crops. In Petorca, the riverbeds have dried up.

    Furthermore, it is now known that the intense farming of avocados leaves the soils more vulnerable to diseases, leading to the need of using pesticides. The pesticides can contaminate not only the soil (together with chemical fertilizers) but also the surrounding biodiversity (human lives included) if they get carried by the water. Moreover, over long periods of time, monoculture crops such as avocados also deplete the soil, taking away most of its mineral properties.

    Reforestation ordered in Sierra Bahoruco
    Minister of the Environment Angel Estevez reported that after a recent visit to Pedernales and the highlands of the Sierra de Bahoruco, he issued an order to end slash-and-burn and short-cycle farming in the area and ordered the reforestation of the area. The Ministry did not detail the kind of trees that would be planted as part of the restoration effort. The minister is a strong supporter of avocado tree plantations in the area.

    Last week, the Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco has been under the effects of a blazing forest fire that had not been controlled at the end of the week. The provincial director for the Ministry of Environment in Pedernales, Ramon Espinal, told Z101 radio and digital news service reporters that the causes of the fire in the protected mountainous area were not known.

    Santiago limits access to swimming areas
    Civil Defense (CD) authorities in Santiago de los Caballeros, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health and other institutions, have prohibited bathing in several traditional swimming areas in the area, for the purpose of protecting lives and the health of people looking to beat the heat during this coming Easter Week holidays. Easter Week began with schools off on Friday, 12 April and continue through Sunday, 21 April 2019.

    Francisco Arias, the CD boss in Santiago, says that bathing in the reservoirs behind the Tavera, Bao and Lopez Angostura dams is prohibited, as is swimming in the area of the small dam of La Otra Banda. He noted that the areas where local creeks and streams feed into the Yaque River are off limits between Arroyo Hondo and Rafey. The area behind the dam at La Otra Banda is closed because of a high degree of contamination, and the irrigation canal Ulises Francisco Espaillat is closed because of the inherent dangers.

    Nevertheless, swimming continues open to the general public in traditional places such as Las Charcas, Timbeque, and Arroyo Hondo. Bathers can enjoy the Siete Charcos, and El Tablon up in Pedro Garcia; La Ganga, El Pozo, Bao and the Pozo II in Janico, and there are five places to swim in the municipality of San Jose de las Matas.

    Public safety highway program underway for Easter Week
    Late last week the Ministry of Public Works initiated its program for highway safety during the Easter Week vacations. More than 400 vehicles, and 4,500 men and women will take part in the long weekend operation from 18 to 21 April 2019 to help prevent accidents and assist motorists with problems or involved in accidents. This effort is combined with actions undertaken by the Center for Emergency Operations (COE), which include tens of thousands of volunteers and even more vehicles and equipment.

    The Public Works program will make available 24 ambulances, 24 tow trucks, three semis, 24 tire repair mobile workshops, 20 mobile mechanical workshops and other equipment. Members of the Highway Maintenance Program, together with members of the military and police commission of the Ministry of Public Works, will supply the manpower.

    Some 12 temporary medical stations will be posted around the country and manned by doctors and medical staff.

    The minister of Public Works, Gonzalo Castillo, as well as the different department heads, are calling for prudence on the highways during this year’s Easter Week.

    Digesett closes intersections with Bávaro-Punta Cana
    The head of the Traffic and Transportation Safety Agency (Digesett) for the Punta Cana area, Colonel Minoru Matsunaga says that the intersections feeding the Bávaro-Punta Cana highway will be closed for Easter Week. Matsunaga says this measure has proven effective at reducing traffic accidents in the area. He said the accidents are primarily caused by imprudent drivers.

    Digesett hands out 22,000 tickets to truckers
    The recently imposed regulations on truckers using the nation’s highways have provided material for the Traffic and Transportation Safety Agency (Digesett) to issue some 22,000 tickets to truckers breaking these new rules. As any driver knows well, the “I did not know that” does not work well in traffic violations.

    General Ernesto Rafael Rodriguez Garcia, the head of Digesett, said that 12,259 violations were issued for a lack of proper lights; another 2,759 fines were issued for carrying people on top of the freight, and over 1,000 were issued for having very poor/bald tires. Over 4,000 were cited for traveling in the left lane, something now prohibited by the new regulations. These regulations, which went into effect in January, indicate that all heavy trucking must stay in the right lane and comply with the ruling that sets the maximum speed at 70 km/hr.

    Court begins investigations into clown Kanqui sexual abuse case
    Judge Irka Méndez Sosa of a Santiago court ordered three months preventive custody to famous Santiago clown Kelvin Francisco Núñez Morel (“Kanqui”). Four aged 22 to 27 years accuse the clown of sexual abuse against them when they were minors. The clown will serve the term at the Centro de Corrección y Rehabilitación Rafey Hombres in Santiago.

    Teleuniverso, Channel 29 in Santiago, suspended the Kanquimania TV show after the court order for a pre-trial jail term was known.

    The case broke into the open after CDN TV Channel 37 news broke a story by investigative TV journalist Addis Burgos . While Burgos would shield the identities of the victims, Santiago prosecutors would not, publicizing the names.

    The clown would not respond to the accusations when interviewed by the journalist on the phone for the news program and instead traveled to the United States. He would return and be arrested shortly thereafter.

    Wreckage recovered from sea in New York tourist tragedy
    The ingenuity and brevity of a native fisherman Alison de los Santos made possible that the wreckage of a small car sunken in the Caribbean Sea off Km 19 Las Americas Expressway be lifted to land by crane. The vehicle is suspected to be the rented Kia Rio that two US tourists from Mount Vernon, New York had rented for their vacation here.

    Tourists 41-year old Orlando Moore and 52-year old Portia Ravenelle had vacationed in Samaná from 23 to 27 March 2019. They had set out to return on the Samaná-Santo Domingo toll road that leads to the Las Americas International Airport, just 6 km east. They left late from Samaná that is about a two-hour drive from the airport.

    Investigations showed that the last time they were seen was when they crossed the Marbella tollbooth at 1:41am on 27 March. This is the last tollbooth of the north-south road that connects to the eastern Las Americas Expressway that would take them to the airport, some 6 km away. They had scheduled to take a 1:30am Spirit flight to Newark International Airport.

    The Police now believe that alcohol and fast driving may have led to the crash and the unexpected plunge into the sea. Tourists friends of Moore said he had been drinking before leaving for the drive to the Santo Domingo airport.

    The Police suspect Moore, in his rush to make the flight, could have made a wrong turn prior to driving into the sea. The Police suspect that Ravenelle, who was in the passenger seat, was able to get out of the car as it slid on the rocks before the actual plunge into the sea off the highway.

    Local investigators began a search after NBC New York said they were missing in the Dominican Republic. It is now known that an unnamed woman interned at the Dario Contreras Trauma Hospital on 27 March was Ravenelle, who would die on 4 April from her injuries. The corpse of Moore was recovered on 31 March at Sans Souci, where apparently it had drifted west. The corpse was identified by Moore’s brother by a tattoo on his arm.

    The recovered vehicle was taken to the Criminal Investigations Agency (Dicrim) of the Police for examination by forensic investigators. The National Police is assisted by FBI agents in drafting a possible scenario of what could have happened leading to the tragic ending of the vacation week.

    5th Dominican Swimming Open winners
    Local swimmer Mariel Mencía was the best female competitor in the 5th Dominican International Swim Open and the National 2019 Championship at the remodeled Santo Domingo Olympic Aquatic Center at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. Mencía, competing for the National District, made 724 points, followed up by Krystal Lara with 704 and Dorian McMenemy, who competed for the Province of Santo Domingo. Both Lara and McMenemy have competed internationally for the Dominican Republic, but both are products of the US swimming system.

    Josué Domínguez, of Santiago, was the leading in the men. He won with 800 points followed by Fausto David Huerta of the National District, with 769 and Marc Rojas of the Province of Santo Domingo with 746 points.

    Teams came from Costa Rica and Bolivia given that the event is a qualifier for the Pan Am Lima Games and the Gwangju World Masters Championship in Korea and the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

    Around 260 competitors participated in the competition that was held 11 to 14 April 2019 in Santo Domingo.

    Recent rains not enough to end drought
    The recent rain showers have not been sufficient to put an end to the drought that is affecting large areas of the Dominican Republic, hurting cattle, farm and poultry production very hard. The National Meteorological Office (Onamet) is forecasting few rains for Easter Week.

    The director of the National Institute for Water Resources (INDRHI), Olgo Fernandez, noted that most of the nation’s reservoirs are currently at minimum levels. However, he notes that the showers that fell along the Línea Noroeste (Santiago Rodríguez, Montecristi, Dajabón and Valverde) did serve to fill some lagoons, providing some relief for cattle. A low-pressure trough that covered the island over the past weekend was not expected to provide much water, and temperatures are expected to hit 90F in many areas.
    Last edited by Dolores; 04-15-2019 at 11:21 AM.


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