President Danilo Medina to Guatemala presidential inaugural
Ministry of Environment: DR is not ready to rule out single-use plastic
RD$89 in taxes paid for every gallon of premium gasoline
President Danilo Medina says PLD has the cash to win the elections
Participacion Ciudadana on Medina's statement that cash talks in the elections
What’s with the IFES audit?
Mark Penn/Stagwell poll results: 83% will vote in municipal elections
David Collado is included in the Mark Penn poll
Dominican and Venezuelan rescued in Bahoruco mountain range
Funglode Film Festival opens 27 January in Santo Domingo
Juan Luis Guerra: "Literal Tour Best Hits show in Santo Domingo on 12 December 2020

President Danilo Medina attends Guatemala presidential inaugural
President Danilo Medina left at noon, 14 January 2020 for Guatemala City, where he participated in the inauguration of President-elect Alejandro Giammattei. Medina left on a private flight from San Isidro Air Base. He traveled with Foreign Relations Minister Miguel Vargas, Administrative Minister José Ramón Peralta, Interior & Police Minister José Ramón Fadul, Banco de Reservas administrator Simón Lizardo Mézquita, and his staff. He returned on a private flight arriving to San Isidro Air Base shortly before midnight on the same day.

63-year old Giammattei is a medical doctor who was elected in November 2019. He visited President Medina at the Presidential Palace to invite him to the inauguration. Giammattei had sought to be elected in the presidential elections of 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In the 2019 elections, he triumphed by reaching 1,907,801 votes in the second round (57.95%), proclaiming himself president-elect of Guatemala.

The Dominican Republic is part of the Central American trade and economic block of nations, the Central American Integration System (SICA), and the Central American Trade Agreement.

Guatemalan exports to the Dominican Republic as of January 2019, according to data from the Center for Export and Investment of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), amounted to US$13,206,966.02. The Dominican Republic exports US$1,277,334.50 to Guatemala and thus has a trade deficit of around US$11 million.

In Guatemala, President Medina held a bilateral meeting with Giammattei to discuss customs integration. The Presidency reports, Medina held bilateral meetings with President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, and the Secretary General of the Central American Integration System (SICA), Vinicio Cerezo. With Hernandez he would witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding and a cooperation agreement on housing and the implementation of dams between the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

Ministry of Environment: DR is not ready to rule out single-use plastic
A dozen Caribbean countries recently announced their adhesion to the United Nations initiative for the elimination of single-use plastic and polystyrene foam products to prevent further environmental degradation. The DR was not one of them.

On the contrary, the director of the Solid Waste Department of the Ministry of Environment, Francisco Flores Chan, said he does not agree. He argues the countries that have announced the elimination of single-use plastic do not manufacture plastics. “We have 500,000 jobs in the plastics chain alone, because we have plastic bottles for soft drinks, medicines, food, kitchen utensils and almost everything is made from plastic," Flores Chan said during an interview at his offices at the Duquesa garbage dump.

When asked if he defends plastics, he said "to the letter" and said that almost all the things people use are made of plastic. "What isn't plastic? The plane you get on that you're on, and the clothes you're wearing, everything is plastic, there would be no electricity if there was no plastic,” he said.

He downplayed the importance of the small recycling programs that are carried out in the country indicating that "with that nothing is done, do you know why? Because 5,000 billion plastic bags are produced worldwide and there is no substitute for them at the moment.”

Flores Chan said that the government sector must be attentive to the global technological movements and adapt the regulations to the development of new technology that is increasingly more in line with the environment. He also advocated for the establishment of rules for the entry of materials that are in line with the environment through customs and to encourage public and private companies and traders to use eco-friendly materials.

He concludes that the inadequate handling of plastics must be changed by creating the necessary regulations, educating people so that they become aware of the need to make better use and handling of plastics and garbage in general, getting city councils to take responsibility to offer a good garbage collection service, and getting companies to act with greater responsibility towards the containers they introduce into the market.

Meanwhile, Rafael Encarnación, in charge of environmental management at the Santo Domingo East municipality, says that the country has an obligation to comply with international obligations, especially Agenda 2030. He said that the Solid Wastes Bill has not been approved in Congress because it affects private interests. Encarnación said that 508 million pounds of plastics enter the country each year, not adding single-use plastics such as foam.

A World Bank reports indicates that litter found in coastal cleanups in the Dominican Republic is second only to Jamaica in the Caribbean. The litter concentration (items/km) in Jamaica is 4,684 compared to 3,966 in Dominican Republic, 3,904 in Guyana and 2,435 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Caribbean average is 2,014. Jamaica has enacted the ban. Yet the DR, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago are increasingly looking alone on single-use plastics in the Caribbean.

The report indicates that about 85% of wastewater in the wider Caribbean region goes untreated into the ocean, and 52% of households in the insular Caribbean—comprising The Bahamas, the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico); and the small islands of the Lesser Antilles—lack sewer connections. More than 320,000 tons of plastic waste remains uncollected each year. Some 22% of households dispose of waste in waterways or on land where it can be washed into waterways.

The highest concentration of beach litter was found in on the shores of Jamaica, where 36% of households do not have waste-collection services. The second highest concentration was in the Dominican Republic, where 25% of households don’t enjoy those services, according to the Marine Pollution report. The World Bank report data is sourced from Ocean Conservancy 2017.

RD$89 in taxes paid for every gallon of premium gasoline
A report in Diario Libre on Tuesday, 14 January 2020, addresses the large amount of taxes levied on fuel sales in the Dominican Republic. The breakdown for a gallon of premium unleaded gasoline sold in the Dominican Republic for RD$237.89 per gallon this week is:
Freight, marine insurance, bank charges: RD$107.30 (RD$71.85 Law 112-00 + RD$17.16 Law 495-06)
Marketing margins: RD$41.59 (RD$13.92 for the distributor, RD$21.99 for the retailer and RD$5.68 for the transportation commission).
From January to November 2019, the Dominican government collected RD$54.62 billion on fuel products, an increase of RD$2.12 billion compared 2018, according to statistics from the Tax Agency (DGII).

Diario Libre reports that Dominicans pay the most expensive premium gasoline in the Central American region.

President Danilo Medina says PLD has the cash to win the elections
President Danilo Medina urged Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) members to campaign aggressively for the ruling party candidates. President Medina stressed that the party that has the greatest capacity to mobilize people on election day will win.

During an assembly of the party on Monday, 13 January 2020, President Medina, PLD presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo, and the PLD’s Political Committee, announced their backing to all PLD municipal candidates in the 16 February 2020 election. Castillo has says that funds collected for his Gonzalo 2020 campaign will be used for the municipal campaigns of party members.

The head of state was emphatic in explaining that statistics indicate 50% of the people vote in presidential elections. He said the municipal election will then be decided by the militant vote of the political parties. He said that because of this situation "everyone" will have sufficient resources "from now on.”

The plan is that a big win by the party in the municipal elections pave the way for the presidential election set for 17 May 2020.

The meeting took place at the Volleyball Pavilion at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. It gathered around 4,000 PLD candidates to mayors, vice-mayors, directors of municipal districts, deputy directors, city councilors and other elective officers at the municipal level.

As reported the event was organized by Sports Minister Danilo Diaz, electoral director of the National Campaign Committee.

Participacion Ciudadana on Medina's statement that cash talks in the elections
Citizen Participation civic watchdog group executive director, Carlos Pimentel, criticized the recent remarks on funding to win the elections.

President Danilo Medina, during the National Assembly of Municipal Candidates of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) on Monday, 13 January, stated: "… that is why, when the presidential candidate, Gonzalo Castillo, says that the resources will reach everyone, it is everyone. From now on, the resources are going to reach directly the (candidates) members, the aldermen, the directors and the mayors".

Medina also told his followers that the political party that had the resources to take the most people to vote would win the election.

"This is unacceptable and we must prevent this because we cannot have a President on the campaign trail using public resources as is clearly evidenced in this statement," said Pimentel on Tuesday, 14 January 2020.

Pimentel instead called for state institutions, including the General Comptroller of the Republic, the Chamber of Accounts, the Public Procurement Office and the Central Electoral Board to prevent public resources from serving to benefit particular political campaigns.

"The state must not serve to finance any campaign and the public budget must have limitations to its use in the electoral processes," he added.

What’s with the IFES audit?
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) is asked to explain the situation of the audit of the automated voting system with the firm that would be selected in coordination with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES).

The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) and Force of the People (Fuerza del Pueblo) formally requested the JCE to explain the status of the audit. Orlando Jorge Mera and Manuel Crespo sign the request to the JCE.

The audit would evaluate the functionality of the voting system and the ability of the voting system to maintain voter anonymity. It would also analyze the auditability of the system; evaluate the security features of the voting system; analyze the source code and stored procedures; and evaluate the ability of the voting system to accurately capture voter intent.

The two major opposition parties recalled that the JCE had reported in December 2019 that it had contacted the IFES to request their support in arranging with the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for a technical collaboration to audit the software and automated voting system for the 16 February 2020 municipal elections.

They mentioned that on 19 December 2019 there was a positive response from IFES, announcing that the firm Pro V&V, based in the state of Alabama, had been selected for the purpose indicated by the JCE.

Instead, the JCE went on to announce the hiring of Alhambra Eidos at a cost of half a million dollars to carry out the audit of the automated system.

Mark Penn/Stagwell poll results: 83% will vote in municipal elections
It would seem that Dominicans have marked 16 February for voting. The results of a 8 to 10 January 2020 poll carried out by Mark Penn/Stagwell for Noticias SIN indicate that a record 83% of eligible voters plan to vote in the election. Just on Monday, President Danilo Medina had said during an assembly of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) that traditionally there was a 50% turnout to vote in municipal elections. Medina had said the party that would win the election was the one that could mobilize the voters and that the party had the cash to make this happen.

Other findings are:
The leading political parties are: Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) with 37%, Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) with 31% and La Fuerza del Pueblo (Leonel Fernández) 11%.

63% of Dominican eligible voters described themselves as independent, 36% say they are partisan to a political party. Of those that associate with a political party, the PLD has 45% of the vote, the PRM 39%, La Fuerza del Pueblo 9%, PRD 3%, and the PRSC 1%.

The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus of 3%.

David Collado is included in the Mark Penn poll
Political analyst Altagracia Salazar points out that National District Mayor David Collado “is not a candidate to anything” but was included in the January Mark Penn/Stagwell poll. Salazar speculates that those interested in knowing more about how David Collado stands would have funded the poll. Noticias SIN is the sponsor of the poll that it carried out for its readership and clients.

Collado declined running for reelection for National District mayor, despite polls showing he was the candidate to beat. In 2016, Collado, a former deputy and entrepreneurship promoter, won the election defeating three-term mayor Roberto Salcedo. He was said to have had the covert sponsorship of President Danilo Medina and the Vicini business group to carry out his last minute sprint to win the city government. Collado ran on the PRM ticket. Political analysts explain that Collado captured those who voted against Salcedo continuing in the position.

Salazar points out that despite speculation that Collado could be the vice presidential candidate with Luis Abinader of the PRM, he has not been seen campaigning with Abinader. She says he has appeared in photographs with Administrative Minister of the Presidency, José Ramón Peralta, the right hand of President Danilo Medina. He has also publicly backed the aspirations of Carolina Mejía, now the PRM candidate to Mayor for the National District. Mejía is the daughter of former President Hipólito Mejía, who was Abinader’s contender for the presidential candidacy of the PRM. Hipólito Mejía on several occasions has sided with President Danilo Medina.

The Mark Penn poll reveals that 46% of persons responded Collado should run for President. Collado is also listed with 26% favorability rating, only second to the 33% of Luis Abinader, the presidential candidate for the PRM. Vice President Margarita Cedeño is listed with a favorability rating of 18%. The poll indicates that in the Mark Penn poll prior to the 6 October primary in which Abinader was elected the PRM candidate, he had received a 19% favorability rating.

The poll says that 33% say they would vote for Domingo Contreras, who is running for Mayor for the National District for the ruling PLD, compared to 28% that would vote for Carolina Mejía, running for the PRM. Nevertheless, the poll also points out that Contreras has a negative favorability rate of 24%, compared to the negative favorability rate of 9% of his contender Mejía.

The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus of 3%. It was carried out from 8 to 10 January 2020, with 1,030 persons eligible to vote surveyed.

Dominican and Venezuelan rescued in Bahoruco mountain range
34-year old Dominican Rosanna Briceño and 24-year old Venezuelan Anyolis García were located after a search in the Pelempito Hole area of Pedernales. The woman got lost after straying from their group to locate a drone they were flying. They were following the signal of a GPS but then they lost the signal and could not return to their group.

The two women were reported lost on Monday, 13 January 2020 around 1 pm in the El Aceitillar and Hoyo de Pelempito area. Volunteers and rescue crews from the Ministry of Public Works Military and Police Commission, Civil Defense, Ministry of Environment inspectors, Police and Specialized Tourism Security Corps crews helped locate the two women. The women were rescued around dawn on Tuesday, 14 January.

Funglode Film Festival opens 27 January in Santo Domingo
The Dominican Global Film Festival will take place 27 January to 2 February 2020. This year Spain is the guest country. In its 13th edition, the festival is an initiative of the Democracy and Development Global Foundation (Funglode), the organization founded by former President Leonel Fernández.

A line-up of 104 films, including 55 feature films, 18 short films and 15 documentaries will be shown. There is a full schedule of activities, including workshops, conferences and talks, with more than 50 guests including exhibitors, producers and directors who will be giving master classes and workshops.

The Festival opens on 27 January with the screening at the National Theater of "Mis 500 Locos" by Dominican filmmaker Leticia Tonos, a drama that takes us back to 1953 and the story of a group of psychiatric patients in the Trujillo Era.

The Festival will again have three categories in competition: Opera Prima Fiction, Opera Prima Documental Fernando Baez and Global Short Film. Forty-three films will be competing in the competition, 14 of which are Dominican films.

Parasite, the South Korean film that won the best foreign film Golden Globe Award, will be shown.

Juan Luis Guerra: "Literal Tour Best Hits show in Santo Domingo on 12 December 2020
Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra is including a Santo Domingo stop in his 2020 year of touring. He will perform on 12 December 2020 at the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo. The concert is promoted by SD Concerts. The Santo Domingo concert is the closing concert for the 2020 world tour. The last time Juan Luis Guerra performed on that stage was three years ago during the Festival Presidente.

"Literal" was named one of the best albums of 2019 according to the All Music list, has won two Latin Grammy Awards and currently has a nomination for the American GRAMMY® 2020, in the category "Best Tropical Latin Album."

In addition to tracks from his new album "Literal", Juan Luis Guerra promises to sing several of his classic hits, such as "La Bilirrubina," "Ojalá Que Llueva Café," "Visa Para Un Sueño," "Niagara en Bicicleta," "Las Avispas," plus new hits such as "Kitipun," "Corazón Enamorado," "I Love You More" and "Lámpara Pa' Mis Pies," among many others.