PLD swears in winners of the 6 October primary
Fernández announces he is leaving the PLD
Dominican ambassador to Cuba resigns
JCE issues notice of compliance with legal deadlines and other election procedures
PRM announces an alliance with PRSD
PRM allies with Antonio Taveras and Eduardo Estrella
Madera Arias: JCE president was careless, irresponsible and stubborn
Members of the National Business Council visited the Central Electoral Board
Santo Domingo skylift will not operate 2, 3, 4 November
The Santo Domingo Beltway is "almost" finished
US$400 M loan for electricity sector
DR establishes diplomatic relations with Congo
Dominican Navy stops 144 from illegal voyage to Puerto Rico
Technicalities keep insurers from paying for gunshot wounds
Insurers deny payments to 57% of requests
Immigrant pressure builds along border and commerce suffers
José Lois Malkun: Haiti needs more of our attention
Security company held up in Puerto Plata
International Poetry Week
Anthony Santos to perform at Hard Rock Live

PLD swears in winners of the 6 October primary
On Friday, 18 October 2019, 12 days after the celebration of the primary, the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) held the swearing-in ceremony for the candidates of the party in the municipal, congressional and presidential elections of 2020. The PLD president, former President Leonel Fernández was absent. Fernández challenged has claimed his apparent loss to Gonzalo Castillo was due to widespread electoral fraud.

The activity took place at the Gran Salón Ambar of the Dominican Fiesta Hotel in Santo Domingo with the presence of party members, Senator Reinaldo Pared Perez, secretary general of the party, Alejandrina German, Lidio Cadet and Ruben Jiménez Bichara of the National Electoral Commission (CNE). Cadet, coordinator of the CNE, took the oath to the candidates, including the winning candidates that represented those loyal to former President Fernández. Senators Felix Bautista, Amarilis Santana and Dionis Sánchez, who won the PLD candidacies in their provinces, and had backed the presidential aspirations of former President Leonel Fernández, were present.

In his speech during the swearing-in of the elected candidates, Lidio Cadet called for putting selfish attitudes aside and strengthening the PLDista candidacies. He said: "A hell shared with the rest of our brothers is better than a humiliating salvation." "Let's march with firm steps towards electoral victory 2020. We are writing a glorious page in the PLD, let's turn any opportunity presented to us into an opportunity to advance in the conquest of the Dominican people and thus honor the memory of so many people who have offered the best of themselves to build an integral welfare society without distinction of political colors, races or religion and we will be happy."

In his acceptance speech, the candidate elected to the presidency for the PLD, Gonzalo Castillo, thanked God and the people for the victory and called for the exercise of political campaigning without confrontations. He insisted the PLD has the best men and women to continue the progress in the Dominican Republic. He said he would travel the nation to learn more about the Dominican Republic.

The ballot list is of more than 3,000 candidates. The finalized list, though, has yet to be announced. It needs to be completed after the 20% of reserved candidacies are filed and the list has been adjusted to comply with the gender and youth quotas.

Fernandez announces he is leaving the PLD
Former President Leonel Fernández announced he will seek the presidency for the Partido La Fuerza del Pueblo in the May 2020 election. In his speech on Sunday, 20 October 2019 in the evening, Fernández said he is leaving the party because the government has become spiteful and vengeful. "It is a government that harasses, that silences the voices that oppose it, that presses and that does not blush to run over," said Fernandez.

Fernández is a three-term former President and at the time of his announcement was president of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). In the 6 October 2019 PLD primary, Fernandez lost to former Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo who had the backing of President Danilo Medina. Fernandez cited major fraud and widespread use of government resources to stick the Castillo candidacy. The civic watchdog movement, Participación Ciudadana reported that more than 30% of the vote was fraudulent.

On Sunday, 20 October 2019, the Partido de los Trabajadores Dominicanos approved changing their name to La Fuerza del Pueblo and presenting Leonel Fernandez as their presidential candidate.

The present electoral regime bans Fernández from running for another political party. Electoral experts say that the electoral laws have already been challenged successfully in the Constitutional Court and it is not unlikely another ruling could be obtained to favor Fernández running for the Presidency.

The Central Electoral Board reported 3 March 2020 is the deadline for presidential candidacies registration. Technically there is time for Fernández to become a third major contender for the 2020 presidential election, besides Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) candidate Luis Abinader and Gonzalo Castillo, named by the ruling Dominican Liberation Party as its presidential candidate.

The move to seek the candidacy for La Fuerza del Pueblo formalizes several months of major differences between those who back Fernández and those who back President Danilo Medina in the PLD. In the past, the differences had been harmonized. Not so this time.

The announcement made on Sunday evening, follows weeks of diatribes primarily communicated online on social networks.

In the Dominican Republic, an election is won by 50+1% of the vote. The largest segment of the vote is the independent vote, estimated at 42% of the vote.

Dominican ambassador to Cuba resigns
As part of the political division within the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Dominican ambassador to Cuba Joaquín Gerónimo Berroa presented his resignation to President Danilo Medina. The outcome of the 6 October 2019 primary aggravated the divide in the PLD.

As reported, the diplomat resigned in a letter to the President on Thursday, 17 October 2019. He wrote that "for reasons of principle and personal honor" he could not continue to accompany the President "in the validation of a practice, for me unacceptable, against the unity of our party and the very essence of democracy in its content of popular will."

The ambassador leaves his post amid the worst crisis in the ruling PLD. The party is divided between the supporters of President Danilo Medina and those of former President Leonel Fernández. Fernández disputed the outcome of the primary, highlighting several instances of fraud.

JCE issues notice of compliance with legal deadlines and other election procedures
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) explained that Saturday, 19 October 2019 was the deadline for the closing of registrations on the voters' list, as well as the closing of services offered in foreign offices, both for electoral purposes.

The electoral agency said that 25 October is the deadline for the registration at the JCE of the lists of all candidates selected in the 6 October primaries of the PRM and the PLD. Those lists, nevertheless, do not include the 20% reserve of candidates allowed by law that need to be registered on 3 December 2019 (at the municipal level) and 3 March 2020 for presidential and congressional candidacies.

The JCE says that the quota for gender and youth, established in Law 33-18 and ratified in Law -15-19, will be strictly enforced at the time of the deposit of candidacies.

27 October is the deadline for the selection of candidates to be elected by popular vote through assemblies, conventions or surveys. The lists of candidates elected through these procedures must be registered no later than 15 November 2019.

Political parties have until 5 November to submit the proposed schedules for presentations in government-owned radio and television media.

The JCE says that 8 November 2019 is the deadline for the municipal level candidacies proclamations.

18 November is the deadline for the delivery of the Electoral Registry Database to political parties. That same date is also the deadline for the filing of applications for alliances, mergers or coalitions. The hearings for these needs to be no later than 20 November and the decision on these must be made no later than 23 November 2019.

PRM announces alliance with PRSD
The presidential candidate of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Luis Abinader announced over the weekend alliances with the Social Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRSD) for the presidential election in 2020.

On Sunday, 20 October 2019, he met with Luis Miguel de Camps of the PRSD. The PRSD was founded when PRD party member, the late Hatuey de Camps opposed reelection in the party in 2005.

"This comes from my heart, Luis Miguel (De Camps)," Abinader said, referring to the president of the PRSD, "that I am going to be a bull defending the principles against corruption and against impunity," he said. The bull is the symbol of the PRSD.

Abinader highlighted the importance of the alliances to ensure that every vote cast at the polls is counted and counts towards making change a reality. He said the votes of the PRSD are essential to defend the vote because the ruling party will not have moral considerations to try to snatch the triumph.

According to Abinader, the governments of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) have made the Dominican Republic the most corrupt country. He said only the political leadership enjoys abundant wealth and access to security to prevent robberies and murders and appoint their own judges to ensure impunity.

In that sense, he said he will fight together with the "Partido del Toro" against crime, corruption and to reverse the bad economic situation, by creating jobs and strengthening Dominican institutions.

For his part, Luis Miguel de Camps, said the convention of that organization approved Abinader's candidacy "to remove the corrupt plague of power, under a programmatic agreement for institutional strengthening, to combat crime and corruption, to raise the quality of education and promote employment and agriculture in order to improve the quality of life of Dominicans."

PRM allies with Antonio Taveras and Eduardo Estrella
The largest opposition party Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) announced alliances with Frente Amplio for the candidacy of businessman Antonio Taveras Guzman for senator for the Santo Domingo province. The PRM also announced an alliance to register engineer Eduardo Estrella of Dominicans for Change (DxC) political party as senator to the province of Santiago.

Taveras was running for the position on the Frente Amplio ticket and also has the support of Alianza Pais and Coalición Democrática. Taveras was president of the Herrera Industrial Association. His criticism about irregularities in government caused a halt to the signing of the Electricity Pact. He will compete against Cristina Lizardo Mezquita, who seeks to repeat in the position for the PLD. He was the first candidate announced by the PRM in advance of the conformation of the candidacies of the party in November.

Eduardo Estrella will run for the PRM coalition. This would be his second time as senator for Santiago.

Madera Arias: JCE president was careless, irresponsible and stubborn
Judge Ramón Arístides Madera Arias of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) blasted the performance of the president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) in the organization and follow up of the 6 October 2019 primaries. In a dissident vote to the TSE decision to publish the results of the primary, Madera Arias affirmed that "carelessness, irresponsibility, stubbornness, lack of prudence, non-compliance with the law and lack of transparency" in the actions of the JCE president was the cause for the disruptions in the order of the primary held on Sunday, 6 October 2019. His dissident vote came in response to the request filed by former President Leonel Fernández of a motion to prevent the JCE from making the results official and declaring Gonzalo Castillo the winner of the PLD primary.

Arias stated the actions of JCE president Julio César Castaños Guzmán caused all sectors to lose out". "Therefore, there are irreparable damages due to the lack of transparency, lack of balance and equanimity on the part of the president of the JCE, which could have been avoided if the organization had complied with its legal and moral obligation to the country," said the TSE judge. He criticized the lack of timely auditing of the automated voting system, the refusal to do a back up manual count of all votes, the refusal to respond to the proposals made by the civic watchdog group Citizen Participation, among other actions that could have avoided critical situations beforehand.

"It is not our intention to affect particular or group interests, or offend anyone, we are only moved by the desire that all things be done correctly, regardless of the consequences, because it is necessary to place national interests over individual ones," concluded magistrate Madera Arias.

Conep visits Central Electoral Board
Members of the National Business Council visited the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and met with the judges. The business representatives expressed their interest and concern with what is happening, primarily declarations of widespread fraud in the primary.

As reported in Diario Libre, the business people met for around two hours with the board. At the end of the meeting, Cesar Dargam, executive vice president said that efforts need to be concentrated on ensuring the 2020 election come out well. "The most important thing is that this process of organizing February and May elections can take place in an appropriate way. We must generate trust and for that all actors must do their part to generate that trust, act transparently, give explanations. We must concentrate now so that the elections go very well," he said.

Santo Domingo skylift will not operate 2, 3, 4 November
The Metro Office announced the Santo Domingo skylift that crosses over the Ozama River to connect with the Metro will shut down for maintenance works over the Constitution Day long weekend. Constitution Day runs on 6 November. This year the holiday will be celebrated on Monday, 4 November. The maintenance will be carried out Saturday, 2 November to Monday, 4 November 2019.

The Santo Domingo Beltway is "almost" finished
Anyone trying to visit the eastern end of the Dominican Republic is faced with the task of having to drive through Greater Santo Domingo. The city of some two or three million presents colossal traffic jams, nearing gridlock at peak hours, and can temper any desire to travel to the East. Even farmers fear the traffic in the city. Their products wilt in the heat of the day as trucks and containers are held up in traffic. This is the overwhelming reason for the construction of the Santo Domingo Beltway (called "Circunvalación" in Spanish). Currently, some 67,000 vehicles drive into Greater Santo Domingo each day.

Reporters from the Listín Diario inspected the work on the new beltway that will enable drivers to avoid city traffic. According to one of the constructors, about US$163 million is being spent on Section 2B of the roadway, from the road to Villa Mella east to the northeastern toll road that leads to Samaná. A good portion of the beltway is already finished from Haina to the Duarte Highway and then further around the north to the Villa Mella road. The roadway construction is part of the DR Highway Trust.

According to the Public Works Minister Ramón Antonio Pepín, the entire 70 kilometers will be covered in about 30 minutes. Other expected benefits of the new road are easier transport of petroleum products from the Haina refinery; faster transportation of food products to and from the east; the streets of Santo Domingo and the National District will no longer need to be repaved so frequently because of the abuse to them by heavy trucks. He said that supermarket chains can locate their distribution centers nearby, with greater ease of receiving and dispatching merchandise. The beltway is expected to generate new real estate values as these areas benefit from better connectivity.

US$400 M loan for electricity sector
The Executive Branch submitted to the National Congress a draft loan with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for US$400 million to finance the Program for Sustainability and Efficiency of the Electrical Sector II. According to the "Technical Cooperation Abstract" of loan contract number 4649-OC-DR, the beneficiary entity of this loan would be the Dominican Corporation of State Electric Enterprises (CDEEE).

In the request for loan approval to the IDB, Finance Minister Donald Guerrero spoke of improvements in the operational efficiency of the government-owned Electricity Distribution Companies (EDE). He also mentioned the loan would assist in bringing about a reduction in central government subsidies, address institutional weaknesses and adjust tariffs that do not cover costs.

Proposed actions call for supervising the accounts to increase transparency, improving supervision, implementing a system to monitor commitments and goals to reduce losses and operating costs of the EDE, increasing efficiency in the management of electricity demand, significantly improving operational and financial efficiency in electricity distribution and corporate management of distributors, among others. Electricity distributors in the Dominican Republic are mostly operated by the central government. The exception is the power distribution in most of La Altagracia province.

At the time of the signing of the IDB contract, the electricity generation matrix in the Dominican Republic is 13% coal, 32% natural gas, 40% fossil fuels, 13% hydropower, and 2% wind and solar renewable energy.

Nuria Piera in her investigative reports has unveiled widespread wasteful spending at the EdeNorte power distribution company. News reports have indicated the high wages and excessive number of employees at the EdeSur, EdeNorte, and EdeEste power distributors.

DR establishes diplomatic relations with Congo
Congo became the 9th African nation with which the Dominican Republic now has diplomatic relations. Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas met with the Congo ambassador of Cuba in the Dominican Republic, Rosalie Kama-Niamayoua for the signing of the agreement. Vargas spoke of the mutual benefit to explore cooperation in trade, investment, culture and sport.

He expressed his appreciation for Congo for its vote that enabled the Dominican Republic to become a member of the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Dominican Navy stops 144 from illegal voyage to Puerto Rico
While it might sound cruel to report that the Dominican Armada has successfully stopped the attempted voyage of 144 persons looking for a better life in Puerto Rico, the truth is that the horrific consequences of a capsized boat in the waters off of these islands far outweigh this dashing of some person's dreams.

The Dominican Navy arrested the 144 persons in Miches when already some had boarded the three artisan-built dinghies with outboard motors. The persons in the boats were intercepted in coordination with the United States Coast Guard and brought back to the Dominican Republic. Others were arrested in Cañitas and Sabana de la Mar as they readied for their trip. Just last week, the authorities of Puerto Rico returned 45 of 49 persons that had reached Puerto Rico on 12 October 2019. This time, the Dominican authorities did not reveal the nationalities of the illegal travelers.

Technicalities keep insurers from paying for gunshot wounds
In the face of growing and ever more serious concerns about public safety, the newspapers are publishing stories about just how the insurance companies are denying coverage for gunshot wounds. The El Día newspaper cited the case of Francisco Perroa Pérez, 19, who was assaulted in Sabana Perdida by criminals who shot him when he tried to escape the assault, and then stole his cell phone. The young man was hospitalized in the Ney Areas Lora Trauma Hospital.

After a week of hospital care, Berroa discovered that his insurer, the government's SeNaSa would not cover any medical fees derived from gunshot injuries. Berroa was forced to borrow a lot of money to pay his hospital bills. Even the hospital administration is at odds with the situation since it frequently finds itself fighting with SeNaSa over patient care issues.

The SeNaSa spokesman, Santiago Benjamin, explained that the lack of coverage is because a gunshot wound is not included in the catalogue of illnesses covered by the Basic Family Health Insurance Plan. He added: "It does not matter what the cause is, coverage depends on the procedures needed by the patient have to be in the catalogue of services approved…." He said this is the same for all health plans in the DR.

However, the director for trauma care at the Ney Arias Lora Hospital told the reporters that this denial of service only seems to come into play when the victim has a gunshot wound, since victims of traffic accidents are routinely covered without incident. At the same time, the Superintendent of Labor Health and Risks (Silsaril) has stated that the coverage of the Basic Plan does not contemplate any exceptions for cases of gunshot wounds.

Insurers deny payments to 57% of requests
Insurance companies are keeping most of what the law has set aside for would be survivor beneficiaries. According to the Superintendent of Pensions (Sipen), as of 30 June 2019, families of some 18,000 pensioners had requested survivor benefits. Of these, 7,800 of these requests had been accepted and another 267 are pending. This means that over 10,000 families have been denied any benefits as survivors of an insured and pensioned individual.

Are these all of the cases, asks the Diario Libre? No, there are more, many more, according to the number of persons who have not even filed a request for survivors' benefits. There are, according to the Sipen, 3.7 million persons affiliated in the system, and the June report says that there have been a bit over 63,000 deaths of insured persons. This means that more than 45,000 families have not even filed for benefits. This means that just 13% have received benefits and 87% have either been denied or have not filed a claim.

The Social Security Programs Customers Defense Agency (DIDA) notes some of the roadblocks. They said that the deadline for filing a claim should be without limit. Until 2015 there was a two-year limit for filing, and because of public outcry, this has been extended to seven years. If no claims are filed, all of the accrued benefits remain with the insurer.

Another stumbling block, according to the DIDA, is the age of the person covered: 60 was the minimum up until 2015 and it is now 65. Perhaps the greatest obstacle, notwithstanding, is red tape. Survivors must present an Act of Known Heirs that implies the payment of inheritance taxes at the DGII. There are also Notary Acts that require strict formats and more money. This is a stamped act that is signed by an authorized authority that validates the documents presented. These are the birth and death certificates and the marriage certificate required to file a claim.

The head of the DIDA, Nélsida Marmolejos told reporters that the lack of information and orientation is the reason for the low number of requests for these benefits.

The system as is works in favor of the insurance companies. Rafael Pepe Abreu, the head of the National Confederation of Syndicate Unity (CNUS), added that in the early days of the pension programs, the worker was not told that he must write the names of his beneficiaries on his pension fund inscription form. He said: "They didn't register their family members. The people just filled in their personal data. Then, when they die, the AFPs, since there are no known survivors, just wait out the deadline of five years, and after that it is difficult for the family to go through all of the bureaucratic hassles to receive the survivor benefits."

The Dominican Association of Pension Fund Administrators (ADAFP) told Diario Libre that the rights of the relatives of deceased insured persons do not expire.

Immigrant pressure builds along border and commerce suffers
In the areas of Elias Piña, not the normal "hotspot" for immigration issues, the authorities are facing an ever-increasing pressure from Haitians migrants. According to the El Nacional newspaper, authorities there have detained and repatriated over 6,000 persons over the past eight months. With the growing protests and violence in Haiti, along with scarcities of very basic items, the Dominican military high command has been obliged to reinforce patrols and vigilance along the border.

A recent report prepared by the military does say that the bi-national markets that take place regularly in Banica, Pedro Santana. Comendador and Hondo Valle have continued to operate normally. Sources say that the flow of merchandise has been steady. One military officer said that they have doubled the number of troops as a way of dealing with the immigration pressure, which he says is growing every day.

Persons interviewed by the reporters, nevertheless, said that in spite of the increased vigilance by the Migration Agency (DGM) and the Dominican military, lots of persons who participate in the markets in the six cities along the border in this province of Elías Piña, manage to make their way into the major cities after market day is over.

While this is the scenario along the border, in places like Santiago de los Caballeros, wholesalers and retailers are complaining about a drop in sales. Julio Cesar Pérez, the president of the Wholesaler Association, told the Listín Diario that the international community needs to pay attention to what was happening in Haiti. As a result of the violence in the neighboring country, the flow of commerce has been reduced in Santiago and other cities.

José Lois Malkun: Haiti needs more of our attention
Former Central Bank governor José Lois Malkún calls for more attention to the impact the worsening of the chaos in Haiti is having on the Dominican Republic. "As Haiti sinks into chaos, we continue to be entertained by contested elections that have brought the official party to the brink of division," he alerts. He urges the government to focus on pressuring the UN to keep troops in Haiti, or demand that European and North American countries do something to stop the chaos and misgovernment in that nation.

"Our economy is in recession, and the weight of uncontrolled immigration will cause everything to get complicated and out of control," he warns.

The other side of the coin is the statement of blue helmet representative Jean-Pierre Lacrox who has said that when the UN troops leave, no one will be able to control the situation in Haiti.

Malkun forecast that the economic impact of increased immigration would create a humanitarian crisis.

"We must mobilize our ambassadors and representatives in multilateral financial organizations (IDB, WB, IMF, EEC), and politicians (UN and OAS), to compensate the country for the cost to the economy of this new wave of immigrants and efforts to stop the chaos in Haiti," he wrote in an op-ed feature in Acento news portal.

Security company held up in Puerto Plata
Masked gunmen assaulted the offices of the Dominican Watchman company at Plaza Turisol during the very early hours of Thursday, 17 October 2019. According to sources, three masked, helmeted and well-armed men took over the office and made off with five 9 mm pistols that the company used for its armed guards, along with what was widely rumored to be some RD$9 million in cash. The company said the cash was insured.

Dominican Watchman has been offering services ranging from internal courier for mail and documents to bank deposits and protective services. Both the National Police as well as the company authorities are investigating the robbery. There were no personal injuries to the people working at the office at the time of the assault.

International Poetry Week
The 8th International Poetry Week (VIII Semana Internacional de la Poesía) is taking place 20 October through 27 October 2019. It is dedicated this time to the Generation of '48 and its poets Carmen Natalia, Juan Sánchez Lamouth and Ramón Francisco.

A vast program of activities are programmed for schools, universities, cultural centers, public squares, parks and cities of the interior. Guest poets from Mexico, Spain, Peru, China, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Honduras, United States and France are on the program, joining over 50 local poets.

Tributes will be paid to figures of letters such as Walt Whitman, on the 200 years of his birth; Jorge Luis Borges, for celebrating 120 years of his birth and Roberto Fernández Retamar, on his death anniversary, among others.

Anthony Santos to perform at Hard Rock Live
Blue Mall's Hard Rock Live presents bachata singer Anthony Santos on 4 December 2019. Tickets are for sale at the nightclub, at Jumbo and Supermercados Nacional ticket booths and online at Uepa Tickets. Prices range from RD$3,790 general seated to RD$2,710 general standing.