IFES clears the automated voting system
JCE says voting will not be extended for municipal elections
Ito Bisonó campaigns with Carolina Mejía
Vice President Margarita Cedeño campaigns for herself
First Greater Santo Domingo mayor debate set for 9pm on 27 January
Gallup-Hoy poll says second round vote is likely
Judge restricts press coverage of the hearing against journalist Marino Zapete
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 shows no improvements for the Dominican Republic
N Digital municipal poll has 457,711 votes
Fresenius Kabi inaugurates expanded high-quality medical devices production center
Dominican Republic places US$2.5 billion in capital market
New more secure passports for Dominican citizens
Chamber of Deputies passes bank guarantees bill
Globalia hotel construction in protected area met with widespread opposition
Overview of vehicle ownership in the Dominican Republic
DR signs bilateral agreement to promote trade with Jamaica
China interested in investing in developments on the border with Haiti
16 points to deposit used plastic bottles in Santo Domingo
Rock slides affect traffic on Jarabacoa mountain road
Police continues the quest to find the murderers of Julissa Campos
Alex Rodríguez to market Presidente Beer
Santo Domingo POP at the Botanical Gardens
Licey vs. Toros playoffs tied to three games each

IFES clears the automated voting system
The preliminary report issued by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in coordination with Pro V&V says the automated voting system in the Dominican Republic is highly efficient. Nevertheless, IFES says it will be making recommendations for the Central Electoral Board (JCE). Sophie Lagueny, chief of the IFES mission, said the recommendations will be made to the judges of the JCE in their final report.

The IFES audit covered the functionality, auditability, security and transmission mechanisms of the automated voting system, the chain of custody and source code, and no anomalies were found in any of them. IFES technicians also reviewed the app that will be used to transmit the results of the complementary manual voting for the municipal election.

In a written statement, IFES observed:
“The evaluation team has generally been impressed with the system. IFES did not identify any deficiencies that would cause concern about the use of this system in the upcoming elections. IFES did identify some short-term recommendations that have already been shared verbally with the Central Election Board (JCE) and will be formally presented in a summary of results before the end of next week. IFES is currently conducting a data consolidation to publish the full report in the first week of February. The report will be structured with recommendations to improve the system in the short, medium and long term. Both the summary of results and the full report will be made public to ensure maximum transparency in the process.”


JCE says voting will not be extended for municipal elections
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) says that they will be adhering to the electoral law that establishes voting starts at 7 am and closes at 5 pm. Mario Núñez, JCE national director of elections, explained that only those who are already in line at their assigned polling station at the 5 pm deadline will be allowed to vote.

He explained that in the recently held primaries, which served as a test run for the actual elections, at the last minute the JCE authorized an extension for people to vote after the 4 pm closing time. The vote was then extended due to large voter turnout. There was voting until around 11 pm. The extension in voting time allowed for thousands who arrived after closing time to vote in time to convert the vote tally that had former President Leonel Fernández leading to a win by President Medina's favored candidate, Gonzalo Castillo.

Núñez spoke when interviewed on the TV program “Verdades al Aire” with host Adolfo Salomón.


Ito Bisonó campaigns with Carolina Mejía
Reformist Social Christian Party (PRSC) deputy Victor (Ito) Bisonó is backing the aspirations of Carolina Mejía for mayor of Santo Domingo. Mejía is secretary-general of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM).

Mejía began her campaign late, after National District Mayor David Collado announced he would not seek reelection. Polls had shown he was likely to win a reelection bid. Mejía is campaigning based on being a continuation of the Collado city government.

Bisonó campaigned with Mejía in Cristo Rey, a large low-income district of the National District. He highlighted that Carolina Mejía is running with city councilor Félix Perdomo, who is part of his political team. He thanked the Priest of Cristo Rey Francisco Cordero for his support.

Mejía said during the campaign activity that she would give priority to policies that develop skills in women. She announced funds for integrating women to productive activities would be available under the Municipal Development Fund (Fondo Concursable de Desarrollo Municipal).

Bisonó has been a deputy for the PRSC since he was elected in 2002. He represents the 2nd district of the National District.


Vice President Margarita Cedeño campaigns for herself
Vice President Margarita Cedeño is back on the campaign trail. She is a two-term Vice President under the Medina administration. On several occasions, she has aspired to be the presidential candidate for the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

As reported she was in Guerra to express her support for the municipal candidate, Deny Reyes. But the media focused on the Vice President herself. Usually seen in formal attire at the Presidential Palace, this time around the Vice President was in jeans, attired with a purple shirt with her own name “Margarita” and distributing propaganda for her own cause.

Cedeño, who is the wife of former President Leonel Fernández, served three terms as First Lady. During the campaign to choose the presidential candidate for the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) she endorsed the campaign of her husband, Leonel Fernández. After he claimed there was fraud in the PLD primary and split the party in two, forming La Fuerza del Pueblo, Cedeño chose to remain in the PLD.


First Greater Santo Domingo mayor debate set for 9pm on 27 January
Candidates running for Santo Domingo North will participate in the debate organized by the Santo Domingo Economic and Social Council (Codessd).

Santo Domingo North is first starting at 9pm on Monday, 27 January 2020. The debate will be between Carlos Guzmán (PLD), Francisco Fernández (PRM), Indhira Filomena (Alpais), Joselin Sanchez (PRSC) and Julio Encarnación (PRD).

The debates will be transmitted on the digital channel of El Nuevo Diario (El Nuevo Diario TV), Radio Cadena Comercial, Telefuturo, Canal 16, Teleradio America (TRA), Canal del Sol, Zol-FM, La Bakana and Neón.

Next to follow are Santo Domingo West (30 January), with the debate among Amerfi Cáceres (PRSC), Jose Andújar (PRM), Francisco Luciano (FP). Franklin Morrison (Pais Posible) and Francisco Peña (PRD) declined participating.

The National District debate is set for 3 February, with the participation of Hubo Beras (PRD), Bartolomé Pujals (Alianza Pais), Carolina Mejía (PRM), Domingo Contreras (PLD), and Johnny Ventura (FP).

The Santo Domingo East debate will be on 6 February with the participation of Joaquín Hilario (FP), Luis Tejada (PLD), Manuel Jiménez (PRM), Salvador de los Santos (PDI).

The debates will enable Greater Santo Domingo voters to learn more about the proposals of who would be their next mayor.


Gallup-Hoy poll says second round vote is likely
Despite Luis Abinader running for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) consistently gaining following, the January 2020 Gallup-Hoy poll says that he still does not have the 50%+1 of the vote needed to win in the election on Sunday, 17 May 2020. The second round poll is scheduled for Sunday, 28 June 2020.

Businessman Abinader still needs more votes to defeat the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) that has been in power for 16 consecutive years and has chosen former Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo for presidential candidate.

Gallup-Hoy says if the presidential elections were held on the day the person was polled, 42% would vote for the PRM’s Abinader 31.4% for the PLD’s Gonzalo Castillo and 15.5% for former President Leonel Fernández of the People’s Force, the new organization that was created after the split within the PLD following the 6 October 2019 party primary.

To the question, “Who do you think will win?,” 44.8% answered Abinader; 31.7% Castillo; and 11.9% former President Fernández.

The poll was from 16-21 January 2020. It has a 95% confidence level.


Judge restricts press coverage of the hearing against journalist Marino Zapete
Elsa Gutiérrez, the defense lawyer for journalist Marino Zapete, says that the restrictions against the press coverage of the defamation and libel suit against her defendant are illegal. Only Noticias SIN was allowed to cover the case. Gutiérrez says the law establishes the trial is a public one and judges should only in very specific cases restrict media access, for example, in cases of rape.

"This case is diametrically opposite, on the contrary, we are dealing with a case of public interest, where a public denunciation made by a journalist is going to be debated," she added. Gutiérrez spoke when interviewed on El Sol de los Sábados on Zol 106.5FM.

Meanwhile, journalist Edith Febles said during the same program that the suit needs to be followed by all the media because it is a situation that could affect any journalist. "In this process, it is about the documentation presented by a journalist on a public contract for more than RD$1 billion, signed by a former Minister of Public Works and the sister of the Attorney General,” said Febles. She made the point that the fact that the woman is the sister of the Attorney General would not be a relevant distinction, if it were not for the fact that it was up to the Attorney General, once the complaint was made, to investigate the case. The Attorney General Office has not shown any interest in investigating the case.

In the hearing on Friday, 24 January 2020, it was known that the judge considered irrelevant to the case the request for Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez and former Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo to stand for questioning by the defense. Castillo, who signed the contract for the Ministry of Public Works, is now running for President of the Republic for the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). The judge also ruled as irrelevant the testimony of others cited by the Zapete defense lawyer. Zapete presented evidence to the court of the irregularities in the contracting by the Ministry of Public Works for around US$14 million.

Zapete called for the recusal and disqualification of the judge Franny Gonzalez Castillo, arguing the refusal to hear the testimony of Jean Alain Rodriguez and Gonzalo Castillo meant he was not being subject to a fair trial. The case was sent to the Court of Appeals.

Journalist Huchi Lora said that for the evidence presented by journalist Marino Zapete in any other country, the government cabinet would have resigned.


Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 shows no improvements for the Dominican Republic
The recently released Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 (CPI) reveals that there has been no improvement in tackling corruption in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is embarrassingly ranked 137th among 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people. The Dominican Republic obtained a score of 28, well below the Latin American and Caribbean region average score of 43.

In analyzing the CPI, Citizen Participation found that of 110 countries with per capita incomes equal to or less than the DR, 62% are better positioned. Citizen Participation says that the analysis of the CPI ranking since 2006 shows a persistent deterioration in corruption, including impunity and lack of transparency, while many countries have achieved improvements.

In 2006, the Dominican Republic also scored 28 out of 100, but was ranked 99th in the world. That is, 38 steps upwards than the 137th ranking of 2019. Citizen Participation says the decline is more visible during the Medina administration. At the beginning of President Danilo Medina’s first term in 2012, the country scored 32 points and was ranked 118th in the world.


N Digital municipal poll has 457,711 votes
Almost half a million voters have cast their vote for mayor in the National Mayors Survey sponsored by N Digital. The poll shows the mayor candidates of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) leading in 26 positions of the 36 main city governments in the country. In the National District, the poll has Carolina Mejía leading with 56%.


Fresenius Kabi inaugurates expanded high-quality medical devices production center
President Danilo Medina attended the formal inauguration of the major expansion of Fresenius Kabi production site for medical devices in Haina, San Cristóbal. The 7,400-square-meter expansion adds new plasma kit assembly lines, injection molding equipment, sterilization units and dedicated warehouse space. The expansion is a total investment of more than US$25 million and is a third expansion of the company location in the Parque Industrial Itabo (PIISA) free zone park.


Dominican Republic places US$2.5 billion in capital market
The Ministry of Hacienda (Treasury) announced it has placed a bond for US$1 billion at 4.0% and maturity of 10 years, and another for US$1.5 billion at 5.875% and maturity of 40 years. The Ministry says that the placement was authorized in the National Budget (Law 506-19) for 2020 and the Public Debt Securities Law.

Diario Libre points out that the US$2.5 billion placement adds up to 83.7% of the debt-taking approved in the general state budget for the year. The foreign debt is now at US$38.5 billion, or 43% of the GDP. As of 31 December 2019, the Non-Financial Public Sector debt was at US$35.94 billion.

The Ministry says the funds will allow compliance with the state’s investment plan and to meet government obligations.

The Ministry says that the 10-year issue for US$1 billion with an interest rate of 4.50% is a milestone as it is the lowest interest rate obtained for a Dominican bond placement. More so, he says this is the first time a Dominican bond is issued for 40 years.


New more secure passports for Dominican citizens
The Passport Agency (DGP) is now issuing a new passport booklet with 3D fluorescence for increased security and duration. The new passport is resistant to folding, moisture and high temperatures.

The new Dominican passport incorporates technology that is part of the most secure passports in the world. Its pages contain images of the fathers of the country (Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez), the flag and shield, the Monument to the Restorers, merengue, the national bird and the flower of Bayahibe.

The passports are sourced from Thales Group (Gemalto), a global leader in digital identity and security.


Chamber of Deputies passes lending guarantees bill
The Chamber of Deputies has approved the second reading on the bill that establishes a new legal framework for asset guarantees for bank borrowing in the country.

Rafael Paz, director of the National Competitiveness Council, stressed the importance of the Bill of Guarantees for Movable Property (Ley de Garantías Mobiliarias) for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized business. The bill authorizes the creation of an electronic and automated registry in real time of businesses. This will guarantee transparency in the market and banks will be able to check if a client has already placed a movable asset as guarantee in another financial institution.

The system will make it possible for machinery, equipment and even accounts receivable to be used as collateral by small and medium-sized businesses, serving as a boost to credit for these companies. The bill was drafted with the collaboration of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and sent to Congress via the Executive Branch.


Globalia hotel construction in protected area met with widespread opposition
The Ministry of Tourism and Grupo Globalia presented Leaf Bayahibe during the Fitur travel show in Madrid. Globalia says it is an ecologic and sustainable development of 96 cabañas to be built on 244,000 square meter property acquired by the company in 2000. But environmentalist groups, and the Academy of Science, say that the construction of accommodations in the area is banned and the environmental impact permission was irregularly issued.

Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García defended the project, saying that all ecologic projects that are built in harmony with nature are welcome in the Dominican Republic.

The Ministry of Environment under Angel Estevez has a track record for being lax regarding the use of protected areas. Among other controversial projects authorized by the Ministry under Estevez are the avocado plantations in the Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco and the use of the parking area of the Parque Mirador del Este to build a bus terminal in eastern Santo Domingo.



Overview of vehicle ownership in the Dominican Republic
Traffic jams in Santo Domingo are easily explained. In 2004, the Tax Agency (DGII) says there were only 1.7 million registered vehicles. By 2018, the figure had risen to 4.3 million. These stats do not include motorcycles.

Most vehicles in the Dominican Republic are Japanese brands (66.3%), followed by US brands with 10.6%. Korean brands account for 9.9%, and European brands 7.1%. Toyota is the most sold brand with 33.8% market share.

The DGII stats reveal that 95.9% of the vehicles in circulation are from 2013 onwards. 94.5% of SUVs are from 2016 onwards.

Dominicans prefer to buy their cars white, gray and black.


DR signs bilateral agreement to promote trade with Jamaica
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado took advantage of his visit to Jamaica for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a bilateral agreement with Jamaica to promote economic relations. The memorandum on cooperation, investment and trade was signed by Vargas Maldonado and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Kamina Johnson Smith.

The governments of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic expressed their interest in exploring and developing activities to strengthen economic cooperation. A joint working group has been created that will seek to promote the exchange of information and strategic cooperation in areas that are complementary between the two countries.

Vargas Maldonado said that agreements on air services and the elimination of visas for passports are still pending between the two countries.

According to the Customs Agency (DGA) Dominican exports to Jamaica were US$70.9 million while imports were US$1.2 million.


China interested in investing in developments on the border with Haiti
The executive director of the Center for Export and Investment of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), Marius de León, reports that the Dominican government is meeting with Chinese investors for the integral development of the border with Haiti. De León says the initiative goes beyond the installation of free zones in that area. "This will be a differentiated concept, more integral," he said.

He said in addition to investing in a manufacturing free zone, the Chinese could also develop logistics, tourism and cigar making ventures. He said meetings to this end are ongoing.

De Leon said that exports to China grew by 300% in 2019, and now are at US$300 million.

De León said that overall foreign direct investment in 2020 could reach US$3.2 billion. He said the main investors come from the United States. He said Spanish investors are reinvesting 47% of what they make in the country. He said this is the most convincing demonstration of the confidence investors have in the economic stability of the country.

He said Mexican investors are also increasingly showing interest in investing in the Dominican Republic.


16 points to deposit used plastic bottles in Santo Domingo
As part of the NUVI recycling initiative, “Nuvi Points” have been identified for the deposit of plastic bottles by the general public. The Nuvi initiative was launched last week by the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The purpose is to mitigate the contamination by plastics. Nuvi is described as the country’s " largest private alliance that seeks to create a culture of reduction, reuse, recycling and use of waste."

The program is sponsored by at least 27 organizations and private companies that seek to recover small plastic bottles and then convert them into raw material for new products.

So far the first Nuvi Points are available at:
Apec University campuses on Avenida Máximo Gómez and at 27 de Febrero
Colegio Apec Minetta Roques on Avenida Bolivar 161
Sunix gas station on Av. Kennedy
PUCMM university graduate area on Avenida Simón Bolívar
Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña on Avenida John F. Kennedy
Tropigas fuel station at 27 de Febrero;
Ágora Mall on Kennedy Avenue
Jumbo store at Av. Luperón
Sunix gas station at Av. Tiradentes
Supermercados Nacional on Núñez de Cáceres Avenue and 27 de Febrero with Abraham Lincoln
Sunix 27 de Febrero gas station
Intec university on Los Próceres Avenue
Polyplas Dominicana located on Anibal de Espinosa Street
Sunix gas station at Av. Winston Churchill

The program stresses that by depositing the plastic bottles in these places, each Dominican will be able to be part of this initiative and contribute to transforming the problem of plastics into an opportunity.


Rock slides affect traffic on Jarabacoa mountain road
Ministry of Public Works were prompt to restore traffic on the Jarabacoa-Constanza mountain road after large rocks sliding down the side of the road at the Paso Bajito section on Sunday, 26 January 2020. Brigades of the Ministry of Public Works and Civil Defense were stationed in the area to prevent damages. The Military and Police Commission of the Ministry of Public Works issued a warning on its Twitter account. Landslides have also been reported on the Casabito road in Constanza.


Police continues quest to find the murderers of Julissa Campos
Police spokesman Colonel Frank Felix Duran says that Federico Batista is one of the lead suspects in the murder of banker Julissa Campos Hernandez. Batista turned himself in voluntarily in San Jose de Ocoa on the early morning of 20 January 2020. He argued through his lawyer that he was under the effects of drugs when participating in the attempted robbery.

The Police says three other people are involved in the murder that was part of the attempted robbery in a residential area of Santo Domingo East. The Police is working to find Maiky Terrero, Eric Brito Heredia (Galletica), and Geury Antonio Pascual (Fermín). According to the Police, these individuals have an extensive criminal record that includes homicides and residential robberies. Colonel Durán called on the fugitives to turn themselves in through the appropriate channels.


Alex Rodríguez to market Presidente Beer
Former New York Yankees, Texas Ranger and Seattle Mariner slugger, 44-year old Alex Rodríguez is now going to bat to market Presidente beer at a time when beer sales are dropping.

On Thursday, 23 January 2020, it was announced that he joins Presidente as its chairman and co-owner in charge of positioning the Dominican beer with the masses. The Dominican beer brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Rodríguez is the son of Dominican immigrants. He has played on the national baseball teams of the United States and the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

On his Instagram page he wrote: "But sometimes, it’s a no-brainer. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be able to partner with an industry giant like Anheuser-Busch. And what makes it even more special is that I’m working with a brand that is near and dear to me.
Growing up as a Dominican-American in the U.S., @presidente__usa was not only a beer, it was part of our community. It was at every neighborhood picnic. It brought us all together."

In an interview with Forbes, he said he will seek to spread the love for the brand beyond the large Dominican populations in New York and Miami. The plan is to help grow the brand presence in the United States, according to the company. The plan is to have a national strategy in place by opening day of the next baseball season—starting with a big activation at Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez said he might recruit some of his fellow Presidente-drinking, baseball-playing friends to help out.

"It’s the ripple effect,” Rodriguez said. “The hundreds of Dominican major league players and Latin American players that have played in this country, the first thing they do after a game is have a Presidente.”


Santo Domingo POP at the Botanical Gardens
The National Botanical Gardens in Santo Domingo is hosting Santo Domingo Pop bringing together artists, book lovers, puppets, arts and crafts and even zip line adventures, together with food truck area. There is a large area dedicated to children.

The city event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, 1 and 2 February 2020 and opens at 3pm. Tickets are for sale online at RD$750 per person Uepa Tickets and Tix.do

There are discounts for multiple admission and parents with children.

Licey vs. Toros playoffs tied to three games each
The Tigres del Licey defeated the Toros del Este 5-1 on Sunday, 26 January 2020 at the Quisqueya Ball Park meaning the Dominican Professional Winter Baseball League is tied to three games each. The 9-5 series continues today with a seventh game to be played at 7:30pm at the Francisco Micheli Ball Park in La Romana.