Danilo Medina addresses election suspension
JCE: Manual vote and physical ballots for new municipal elections this 15 March, opposition says they were not consulted
PRM requests OAS observer mission stay until elections are completed
OAS considers extending its electoral observation in the Dominican Republic
IFES backs JCE decision to suspend municipal election and offers assistance
Copppal says auditing of automated equipment was flawed, calls for transparency
DR in the news for the suspension of the municipal election
Everyone is asking the JCE what happened?
Opposition candidate chief of security apprehended, linked to JCE hacking
PLD says it has a system whereby the party can know the vote hour by hour
Applying online for a birth certificate
Informal sector of economy is down slightly
Dominican national debt hits historic highs
Geological issues delay completion of remodeled highway to Puerto Plata
Why the blackout?
A sad note: the passing of Tony Fernandez
Dominican Republic wins in IKA/Culinary

Danilo Medina addresses election suspension
President Danilo Medina called on the population to maintain peace and good coexistence in a message to the nation transmitted through radio and television. "There is much to lose if we let ourselves be led down the path of fanaticism. This is not the time to sow chaos, nor to act impulsively," said Medina. It was the first time the President addressed the political crisis the country caused by the cancellation of the municipal elections on Sunday, 16 February.

Medina called for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to take the necessary corrective measures and to respond to the questions raised, to the very end, to preserve the legitimacy of the institution.

Medina said the situation presented must be resolved per the laws and the Constitution of the Republic. "Therefore, I urge all public and private institutions to continue their good functioning, just as I invite the entire population to maintain tranquility and peaceful coexistence," he said.

He considered that it is time to rectify errors and bring out the best in each citizen. He called on all the country's political players and opinion leaders to maintain sanity and responsibility in the face of the current situation.

"It is in situations like this that we must demonstrate the extent of our leadership, acting with due prudence and putting the interests of the country above partisan interests at all times.


JCE: Manual vote and physical ballots for new municipal elections this 15 March, opposition says they were not consulted
The Plenary of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), headed by its president, Julio César Castaños Guzmán called the Extraordinary Municipal Elections to be held on Sunday, 15 March 2020. This time around, physical ballots will be used in all the polling places. For the election, the candidates and their proposals will be the same.

The election is again scheduled for the 157 municipal districts and the National District. The same 3,849 municipal officers will be elected.

The plenary of the JCE is made up by its president, Julio César Castaños Guzman, and members Roberto Saladin Selin, Carmen Imbert Brugal, Rosario Graciano de los Santos and Henry Mejia Oviedo, assisted by the secretary general of the JCE, Ramon Hilario Espiñeira Ceballos.

The announcement comes after an unexplained electronic glitch caused the collapse of most of the automated voting systems that had been installed for the 2020 election. The president of the JCE told political party delegates before the suspension of the election that the system collapse was due to the failure to implement quality controls.

The largest opposition party, the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) protested the party was not consulted before the JCE made the announcement. PRM president José Ignacio Paliza said the decision for a new date and manual vote was taken unilaterally by the JCE. The last time the JCE had met with the political parties was on Sunday morning when the automated voting system had collapsed.

Paliza said the decision took the party by surprise and that they had found out about the new date when in the middle of a meeting with the observer mission of the Organization of American States (OAS).

"We believe that behind these severe events there was a sinister, planned action, whose perpetrators must be identified and punished in an exemplary manner," Paliza said in a statement read to the media after leaving the meeting with the OAS. In making the announcement, the JCE did not address actions to deliver an explanation on the collapse of the costly automated voting system.

According to the statement, the PRM is requesting the creation of an OAS-EOM (OAS Electoral Observation Mission) with a series of conditions to be taken into account for the upcoming elections. The PRM requests that the OAS-EOM remain in the Dominican Republic until the conclusion of the Dominican electoral period in 2020. The conditions include a remake of the JCE's election and counting departments and the creation of a follow-up commission to the CEB composed of personalities of recognized integrity and renown.

All sectors and politicians have demanded from the Central Electoral Board (JCE) an exhaustive investigation to determine the reasons for the failure in the system.

Journalist Altagracia Salazar said the decision of the announcement of the 15 March 2020 and the lack of announcement of an investigation into the reasons for the electronic glitch is evidence that the "JCE don't have an idea of the political crisis the nation is going through."


PRM requests OAS observer mission stay until elections are completed
The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) requested today the mediation of the observer mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) to contribute "to the only way out of the institutional crisis in the country, which is the holding of elections with manual voting, as soon as possible, and in ideal conditions of credibility. The PRM is the leading opposition party. Polls show its presidential candidate, Luis Abinader is the man to beat in the election.

"We appeal to your understanding and democratic convictions to contribute the mediation to establish conditions so that the process can continue on a democratic and institutional course," said presidential candidate Luis Abinader after a meeting with the OAS mission at the JW Marriott in Santo Domingo.

The PRM is proposing these conditions:
1. Recomposing of the Elections and information technology (IT) departments of the Central Electoral Board (JCE).

2. More equality in the composition of the municipal electoral boards, polling station officials and technicians involved in the process.

3, That an institution such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), or another qualified organization, accompany the operations management of the JCE during the electoral period.

4.-Creation of a follow-up commission to the JCE, with personalities of recognized integrity and reputation.

5.-A ban on works inaugurations by the Executive Branch as well as unscheduled hiring and investments not indispensable for the functioning of the government or the society.

6. Rigorous application of advertising and propaganda spending limits.

7.- A consensus for the election of electoral prosecutors throughout the country.

8.- A permanent presence of the OAS until the conclusion of the Dominican general elections in 2020.

During a meeting held at the JW Marriott Santo Domingo hotel, PRM presidential candidate Luis Abinader and the president of the PRM, José Ignacio Paliza, delivered a letter with the requests to the head of the mission, Eduardo Frei. At the meeting, the PRM presented their version of the events related to the interrupted municipal elections.


OAS considers extending its electoral observation in the Dominican Republic
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) said it has been asked by several political sectors to remain in the country until the municipal elections, now set for 15 March 2020.

In a formal statement, the OAS mission backed the decision to hold the new election. The OAS says that the mission head by former President Eduardo Frei of Chile has met with the plenary of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), President Danilo Medina, politicians of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the People's Force (FP) and Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) and is considering the request.

In a statement, the mission says it urges that the JCE perfect the procedures for the organization of the election to guarantee the right of every citizen to elect and be elected. The mission recommended activating a continuing open dialogue with politicians and that the electoral authorities hear and respond to petitions and complaints in a timely manner to restore the trust in the electoral process.

The OAS mission said it would continue to seek out information and listen to other political and social sectors during the next coming days.


IFES backs JCE decision to suspend municipal election and offers assistance
In a statement on Monday, 17 February 2020 after the suspension of the 16 February 2020 municipal election, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) said it would continue to provide assistance as requested.

The IFES explained that on the evening of 15 February 2020, political party representatives informed IFES that some automated voting ballots were missing candidates and, in response, the JCE had begun to make changes to the affected automated voting ballots.

The JCE met with political parties and international observers to provide an explanation and to convey its intent to update individualized content of the voting machines in the presence of political party representatives and international observers, beginning at 5am on Election Day. It soon became apparent, however, that the scope of the problem could not be addressed in time for the 16 February elections to proceed in an orderly fashion.

It is important to note that the pre-electoral assessment that IFES undertook from January 20-29, 2020, at the request of the JCE and the urging of political parties focused on the auditability of the automated voting system and its ability to capture voter intent. IFES' analysis did not involve an evaluation of the customization of the voting equipment, which includes the loading of the voter list and ballots on individual voting machines.

IFES will continue to accompany the 2020 election cycle and participate in the review as has been requested by the JCE and several political parties. Our focus remains improving the transparency and integrity of the Dominican Republic's electoral process.


Copppal says auditing of automated equipment was flawed, calls for transparency
The Electoral Observatory of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (Copppal) is offering their cooperation to ensure the transparency of elections in the Dominican Republic. The Latin American organization expressed its concern about the electoral crisis in the Dominican Republic, following the suspension of the municipal electoral process on 16 February.

Copppal director, Argentinean Dolores Gandulfo said the collapse of the electronic voting raises great doubts about the auditing carried out before the election, said the regional electoral body. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) handpicked Alhambra Eidos to carry out the audit at a high cost of around half a million dollars. Political parties say the company has yet to publish its recommendations and has only made available a one-page summary.

The Electoral Observatory reiterated its availability to cooperate with its technical teams to work for the legitimacy and transparency of the process, while calling for the consensus of the political forces to ensure the full exercise of democracy.


DR in the news for the suspension of the municipal election
The world press has carried the story of the suspension of the municipal elections in the Dominican Republic. The news stories report the cause as an electronic glitch. In a meeting with the political delegates of the participating political parties, the president of the Central Electoral Board, Julio Castaños Guzmán had attributed the collapse of the system to the failure of timely checks by JCE technicians that lead to the ballot to not complete load in the automated voting system.


Everyone is asking the JCE what happened?
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), in a closed door meeting with the delegates of political parties participating in the municipal elections attributed the collapse of the automated voting system to not implementing quality controls. The statement was made on Sunday, 16 February 2020, before the suspension of the municipal election.

Civic society, politicians and practically all sectors are demanding an exhaustive explanation of what happened and why. On Monday, 17 February 2020, upon announcing the resuming of classes at the state university on 18 February, the rector of the UASD stressed the nation has "the need" to know what exactly happened.

One of the candidates for mayor of the National District, Carolina Mejía, in a statement on 16 February after the suspension of the municipal election, captured the generalized citizen concern in her statement: "The Central Electoral Board must restore our trust. The image of the country and the rule of law are at stake." She said the country was ashamed and saddened when the municipal elections were suspended.

"What happened, who wanted it to happen, who had the power to do it? Or was it just negligence. We all deserve an answer. If we get used to believing that nothing is wrong, we'll get used to crossing lines that history will not forgive us for crossing," she stated.

Meanwhile, hundreds of young people have been protesting in front of the Central Electoral Board (JCE).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvMwyGcVw8o - minute 6:15

Opposition candidate police officer security apprehended, linked to JCE hacking
The National Police announced Colonel Ramon A. Guzmán Peralta, the high ranking police officer assigned to the security of presidential candidate Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) was arrested on charges of alleged money laundering, association of criminals and arms trafficking, among other charges brought by the prosecutors investigating the case.

The newspaper speculates the arrest is related to the charge of "sabotage" of the voting process in Sunday's municipal elections. This is in contradiction to the explanation of "lack of quality controls", the president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Julio Cesar Castaños Guzmán, had given to political party delegates as the reason for the suspension of the municipal vote on Sunday, 16 February 2020.

A telecom technician from whom the 34-year old colonel Guzmán had allegedly received information about the problems that led to the suspension of the municipal elections is also being held.

Guzmán was handed over to the police authorities at 5pm by PRM lawyers
Antoliano Peralta and Luis Soto, who are asking for guarantees for his physical integrity.

In a press release, PRM reported that the colonel had been assigned by the competent authorities to the security of presidential candidate Luis Abinader a month and a half ago. Until then he had been the police commander in Juan Dolio.

The PRM says Guzmán is investigated for "having received information from a technician from a telecommunications company that officers from the state security agencies were maneuvering to breach the JCE's server through ports to damage the electoral process."

PRM stated that it received this information and acted with due caution until it had confirmation of the information.

Colonel Guzmán said that at 3:12am his former residence, where his former wife and daughters live, was raided by alleged police and Public Prosecutor's Office agents who would have tried to force his daughters to lead them to his whereabouts.

The National Police announced a press conference for 8am on 18 February to give more details on the arrest.


PLD says it has a system whereby the party can know the vote hour by hour
Speaking on the Gobierno de la Mañana radio talk show on Z101FM, Juan Temístocles Montás, acting president of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), said that the ruling political party has the capacity to closely monitor all voting stations. "We have a system in the PLD that allows us to know what is happening at each voting table hour by hour. We know who votes there, those who have voted, and those who have not voted, and so that allows us to know at every moment how the vote is going," he boasted.

According to the leader, thanks to this, they are aware of how the different candidates are doing, which he said is why he could affirm that the party was sweeping the municipal election when it was suspended. He said that because of this, the party was not in favor of the suspension of the manual voting stations.

In a statement to the nation on Sunday, 16 February 2020 after the suspension of the vote, Montas said that the PLD and allies had been winning in 126 of the 158 voting districts.

Journalist Altagracia Salazar says that what the PLD has is an intelligent voting list, where they have determined the political sympathies of voters in each district. But she says it is not true the party can determine for whom each voter actually votes.


Applying online for a birth certificate
Dominicans in Madrid can now request documents online. As part of the República Digital program, the Medina administration announced birth certificates and other documents can be requested by accessing the Madrid Consulate or the República Digital government website. Online payment is now allowed for the documents.

Likewise, European citizens can apply online for visas to travel to the Dominican Republic.


Informal sector of economy is down slightly
The numbers for the last quarter of 2019 have shown a slight reduction in the informal sector of the Dominican labor market. Diario Libre reports that workers employed in businesses who are not formally organized are 54.8% of the total labor force. This is down from 55.2% for the same period in 2018, according to the Labor Force Survey carried out by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic. According to this survey, 2.58 million persons are employed in the informal sector, most of them in commerce and service areas.

In the Dominican Republic five and six of every ten persons that are employed do not pay wage taxes and are not covered by insurance, pension plans or any of the other benefits of organized, formal labor.


Dominican national debt hits historic highs
In 2019, the national debt of the Dominican Republic reached US$35.9 billion, up US$3.78 billion in 2019 alone. According to the data from the Public Credit Agency, the Non-Financial Public Sector debt was US$35.94 billion. The year-to-year matchup shows that in 2018, the number was US$34.15 billion. This means that the DR owes at least 40.4% of every dollar accounted for in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is up from 37.6% of GDP in 2019. The numbers do not include the debt contracted by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic.

The latest numbers for the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic are from September 2019, and they show that the Central Bank owed US$12.06 billion, at that moment equal to 13.6% of GDP. The part of the national debt owed to overseas entities is set at US$23.37 billion, and the remaining US$12.55 billion is owed to local financial institutions.

In the 2020 budget, the National Congress authorized a total debt increase of US$2.98 billion in foreign currency, while bond issues in local currency was set at RD$86.3 billion.
In January 2020 already, the government placed sovereign bonds worth US$2.5 billion, which means it has already used 83.7% of the amount authorized in the budget for foreign debt for this year.


Geological issues delay completion of remodeled highway to Puerto Plata
There is a place on the highway between Navarette and Puerto Plata called Llano de Pérez, where the roadway is never perfect, or even very good, for any period of time. This is a reality that every driver that uses the highway on even a semi-regular basis knows well and is prepared for the short, rough stretch of road.

Coming down from the crossroad to Palmar Grande, the road levels out and there it is: a 100-meter stretch of roadway that seemingly is never in good shape. Geologists say that there is a major geological fault line right there and this is what impedes the completion of the work on the new highway. The 48.8 km road has been resurfaced, widened, painted and the guardrail placed, however, this short piece is still giving problems.

Up until now, the problem has been dealt with by road fill, but this does not last very long. As a result of this unwinnable battle against the geology of the area, the construction companies are now considering a bridge as a final solution to the problem. The remodeling of this roadway has been going on in fits and spurts for over three years.

Originally, the highway was to have four lanes, but now it has just been widened to three lanes in most places, with the tunnel and the bridges being the exceptions. Ecocisa, MAR and Hormicondo are the companies involved in the work. The road is important for the business, farm and tourism communities of Puerto Plata and Santiago, and the Cibao region in general.

The Council for the Strategic Development of Santiago (CDES) has also called for the finishing of works on the Tourist Highway between Santiago and the Gran Parada in Puerto Plata. The Gregorio Luperón Tourist Highway dates back over 100 years.


Why the blackout?
The Dominican Association of the Electrical Industry (ADIE) reported that the blackout that left several areas of the country without power as of the afternoon and into the evening of Monday, 17 February 2020 is under investigation. The power outage affected half of the national power grid supply.

"This event led to the opening (disconnection) of multiple electricity transmission lines, which in turn led to the shutdown of several generation plants," the entity explained in a press release.

In the early evening, Manuel Cabral, president of ADIE, said the system was returning to normalcy. Cabral said the problem was caused by "an incident" that led the new Punta Catalina I to disconnect from the system, which then triggered the disconnection of several electricity transmission lines and the shutdown of other power generators.

The blackout occurred at about 3:46 pm, according to a report by the Energy Control Center of the Dominican Electric Transmission Company (ETED)

The statement said the situation mainly affected the eastern and central areas of the country, including Greater Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macorís, among others.

The unexpected power outage affected the operations of the Santo Domingo Metro and Skylift.

The executive director of the Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE) Rubén Jiménez Bichara explained that a spike in the high-tension lines was what caused the blackout. He says Itabo and Punta Catalina units were shut down for security reasons. He said service was being gradually restored.

"It's a failure that has nothing to do with a generation deficit," he told N Digital.

The official explained that technicians are investigating the reasons for the situation that originated in the Julio Sauri and Palamara substations.


A sad note: the passing of Tony Fernandez
Tony "Cabeza" Fernandez passed away at the Cleveland Clinic in Miami, Florida late last week, and he is mourned by every baseball fan in the Dominican Republic. He was a major league star for 17 seasons, most of them with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was in 5 All Star Games and won 4 Golden Gloves, as he played the shortstop position at the very highest level of perfection. In combination with the also-Dominican Damaso Garcia, the pair compose one of the most outstanding double-play combinations in baseball. Fernandez still holds several batting records for Toronto.

In one of those ironies so frequent in baseball, Fernandez was traded to the New York Yankees where he was slotted to play second base and be there in case the new rookie, one Derek Jeter, did not pan out. However, Fernandez broke his elbow diving for a ball in Spring Training, and Jeter went on to become Rookie of the Year and win the first of five World Series.

The Yankees did award Fernandez with a World Series Ring for his hard work. Fernandez also holds a very rare distinction in Yankee history: He is the only Yankee to bat for the cycle (homerun, triple, double and single in one game) at a home game in the 100 plus year history of the New York Yankees.

In his illness, he suffered from autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), a genetic malady. He was in an induced coma for treatment of pneumonia when he suffered a major stroke that took is life.


Dominican Republic wins in IKA/Culinary
Dominican Republic won first place in the IKA / Culinary Olympics, held in Germany and where 1500 international guests participated.

The award was obtained thanks to the work of chefs Ana Lebrón, Patricia De Marchena and Laura Rizek.

"We are happy with the great news that the Dominican Republic has won the gold medal in the IKA Olympics culinary competition in Germany. We congratulate chef Ana Lebron and the support team," they reported via their Twitter account.

The Inter-American Academy of Gastronomy brings together 14 countries to promote research, dissemination and protection of their gastronomic heritage. The country's representation is part of the Dominican Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism.