DR1 Daily News - Monday, 13 April 2020


May 3, 2000
Dominican Republic – Coronavirus Bulletin updates as of 11 April 2020
Public Health Ministry: Goal is 100,000 rapid tests this month
State of Emergency extended through 30 April
Health care workers infected with Covid-19 infection
Face masks needed to enter bank branches
Sanitizing tunnels installed at entrance to large stores
Dozens of persons were arrested on the Easter weekend
Church uses Holy Friday sermons to blast corruption and inefficiency
More on overpricing in government procurement for medical supplies
Public Health receives 11,300 more coronavirus testing kits from Helidosa
Pension fund companies donate RD$50 million in medical equipment and supplies
India donates 200,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets to DR
OPD-Funglode: tourism, remittances and foreign investment hard hit by Covid-19
DR stands to lose upwards of US$28 billion in hard currency to coronavirus
World Bank Coronavirus report calls for transparency in government actions
Cops nab M-13 gang member in Bonao
Dominican Republic loses one of its best: Federico Cuevas, Ph.D.
The Zoo is safe and the animals are well
Moonshine kills over a dozen in a week
Edesur alerts against flying kites

Dominican Republic – Coronavirus Bulletin updates as of 11 April 2020
Over the Easter weekend, the Ministry of Public Health released statistical bulletins with PCR test results:

Bulletin #24 – Saturday, 11 April 2020 as of 6pm
Confirmed cases 2,967, New cases 208, Deaths 173, PCR tests 9,275
San José de Ocoa gets its first case. Elías Piña is the only province without a positive-tested case.

Bulletin #23 – Friday, 10 April 2020 as of 6pm.
Confirmed cases 2,759, New cases 138, Deaths 135, PCR tests 8,469,

Bulletin #22– Thursday, 9 April 2020 as of 6pm.
Confirmed cases 2,620, New cases 271, Deaths 126, PCR tests 7,936,

Bulletin #21 – Wednesday, 8 April 2020 as of 6pm.
Confirmed cases 2,349, New cases 238, Deaths 118, PCR tests 7,151,

Haiti as of 11 April 2020: 33 cases, three deaths
New York as of 11 April 2020: 98,308 cases, 6,367 deaths


Public Health Ministry: Goal is 100,000 rapid tests this month
The Public Health Minister, Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, announced that next week coronavirus testing will be stepped up in the Dominican Republic. During the press conference on Sunday, 12 April 2020, he said that the jump in cases will give a more accurate reading of where the Dominican Republic is in its war on the epidemic. "The number of rapid response blood tests we hope in the next 10 days will increase to 80,000-100,000," he said. He highlighted that the increase in tests will provide a much better statistical indicator to measure the evolution of the country's epidemic. There are around 10 million people living in the Dominican Republic.

He said once the rapid tests are readily available in large numbers, statistics on these will be provided separately from the PCR tests. He explained the numbers in the coronavirus statistical bulletins so far only cover PCR tests. As of Saturday, 11 April at 6pm, the Ministry of Public Health statistics reveal there have been 9,275 confirmed PCR tests, with 2,967 persons testing positive. He said around 5,000 of the rapid response serological tests have already been carried out so far.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas said rapid response tests will be carried out in the coronavirus hot spots in the country. These are the National District and Santo Domingo province, Santiago, San Francisco de Macorís, Bonao, and Cotuí, which together account for 80% of the cases in the country detected using the PCR tests.

He said this week the installation will be completed for labs to have the capacity to carry out 192 tests every three hours. "This will multiply by four the present capacity of PCR tests for the coronavirus," said Dr. Sánchez. He mentioned the private labs Amadita, Referencia and Patria Rivas with new test capacity, and another at the governmental Centro Sanitario on Calle Galván in Santo Domingo. This is in addition to the main testing facility at the Laboratorio Nacional Dr. Defilló in Santo Domingo.

Referring to Santiago, he said that hospitals there are still not at capacity yet. He said the city has been receiving patients from all around the Cibao region. He made the comment after Union Medica, a large private center, said it could not receive more coronavirus patients. "We know the limitations of the hospitals in Santiago, and that is why we are developing isolation areas outside the hospitals," he explained. He explained the new isolation centers are being used to send patients that do not have conditions to self-isolate at home.

"With the expansion of the rapid response tests, we will be able to introduce new measures after having a better approximation of the spread of the disease in the region," he said, responding to a question as to what stage the country is in the fight against the virus.

For the time being, the Minister explained that the high mortality rate in the Dominican Republic of 5% is due to the low number of tests carried out.

The Minister, nevertheless, said that testing is not for everyone. "There is no better medicine or treatment than social distancing," he urged.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas says that the rapid response tests will continue to be used selectively. He said to get a rapid response test, a person needs to have at least five days after being in contact with an infected person, or have symptoms of the disease that indicates it is in an active phase. He said the blood test will show a false negative if it is applied too early. "These tests are useful, if they are used correctly," he explained. He said that physicians can also diagnose the disease using x-rays and by their symptoms with a high degree of certainty.

During the interview, Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas said that the Ministry of Public Health has yet to purchase tests. He said the Ministry has depended on the tests supplied by the Pan American Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and private donations. "We are working using donations," he said.

Responding to an inquiry from journalist Pablo McKinney about a proposal for the People's Republic of China to donate ventilators used in Wuhan, and other equipment, now that the disease is under control in China, he said the proposal has not been received at the Ministry. Recent supplies and equipment orders for RD$2.7 billion were canceled after major irregularities and corruption in the order were revealed in the press and social media.

McKinney had said during the press conference that the Dominican-Chinese Chamber of Commerce has said that 170,000 used ventilators are available in Wuhan. Normal transportation to get the medical supplies and equipment to the Dominican Republic is nine to 15 days, but an air bridge could be worked out to get the supplies here in 24 hours. McKinney suggested that the Dominican state should negotiate directly with the Chinese government, bypassing intermediates, to get lower costs.


State of Emergency extended through 30 April
The ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) majority Senate had voted on Monday, 3 April 2020 to extend for another 25 days the State of Emergency in the country, established by Decree 134-20, that expires on 13 April 2020. Dissident senators of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) requested that this be kept until 30 April and that new controls on government procurement be installed.

When the bill was heard in the Chamber of Deputies on Thursday, 9 April, the deputies voted to modify the Senate resolution only through 30 April. The bill then returned to the Senate, which passed it on Saturday, 11 April with the State of Emergency now extended through 30 April. According to the resolution, as long as the conditions exist, President Danilo Medina can continue to request further extensions.

The government is now given another 17 days. The State of Emergency curtails the right of transit in the country, but also enables the government to circumvent normal controls on procurement. This past week two major scandals revealed widespread irregularities and corruption in government purchases centered at purchases signed on to by the National Institute of Comprehensive Care for Early Childhood (Inaipi) and the National Health Service (SNS). In the first case, the director of Inaipi resigned and her staff was fired. In the second case, the SNS announced the cancelation of over RD$2 billion in government procurement for medical equipment and supplies.


Health care workers infected with Covid-19 infection
The numbers of local health care workers at public hospitals that have been sent home with symptoms of the new coronavirus continues on the rise. This is affecting the public hospitals at a time when demand for their services is at a maximum due to the epidemic.

Dr. Manuel Elpidio Gil of the Morillo King Regional Hospital in La Vega confirmed that several of his staff is infected, but he did not provide numbers.

In Santo Domingo, the nurses at the Francisco Moscoso Puello Hospital complained that at least 15 of their personnel have the coronavirus. They attribute this to a notable lack of protective and disposable medical clothing, needed when treating patients with contagious diseases. The nurses' representative told reporters from the Diario Libre that they were only given three kits of protective clothing for the ten nurses on duty each shift. She called for goggles, medical masks, and gowns, for everyone. The nurse also noted that in the triage area of incoming patients with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, the hospital is not applying the rapid response test to determine whether or not the patient being admitted has the virus.

The Ministry of Defense is installing sanitizing tunnels at the entrance to several hospitals as a way to prevent further spread of the disease through contact. The tunnels will use Bardac 22 in atomizers for the 3-5 seconds it takes to walk through the 10 feet of tunnel length.


Face masks needed to enter bank branches
Banks are requiring customers to cover their faces to receive face-to-face services in branches and offices throughout the country, as part of the stepping up of protection measures for workers and clients against Covid-19.

The Association of Commercial Banks of the Dominican Republic (ABA) and the Dominican League of Savings and Loan Associations (LIDAAPI) reported that the initiative is effective as of Monday, 13 April 2020, in all branches and service offices in the country.

"The security and protection of people is the priority of the entities that make up the financial system given the need to guarantee continuity of service to customers," states the financial sector's press release.

Banks are encouraging clients to use ATMs and electronic banking. A select number of branches are open from 8:30 am to 12:30pm Monday to Friday. Banks are all now closed on Saturdays and Sundays.


Sanitizing tunnels installed at entrances to markets
The city government of the National District (ADN) announced it is implementing a novel system of disinfecting tunnels to try to counteract the spread of the coronavirus and bacteria. People have to walk through the tunnel before entering the market.

City Mayor David Collado, whose term ends on 24 April 2020, was present for the installation of the first tunnel at the Villa Consuelo fresh produce market on Sunday, 12 April. Collado said that this is the first of 10 tunnels that will be installed in markets and points of great confluence of people in the capital. Mayor Collado says that the procedure does not exclude the obligatory use of masks, gloves and social distancing, and washing of hands, and other preventive measures.

The system is certified by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The effort is funded by several companies, including Grupo SID, Grupo Rizek, United Capital and the private office Juan Vicini Lluberes.

Another 10 tunnels will be installed from 13 to 18 April. To enter the markets and stores, people need to remain 10-20 seconds inside. The disinfection gives protection for up to 12 hours from any type of virus.

The city government has been cleaning and disinfecting food markets with special brigades.


Dozens of persons were arrested on the Easter weekend
Authorities arrested dozens of persons and towed many vehicles for violation of the regulations regarding public gatherings during this National State of Emergency. The arrests were made at swimming places along streams and rivers in Bonao, San Jose de las Matas, Arroyo Hondo and Las Charcas in Santiago, as well as in La Vega, Jarabacoa, Yásica, Mao and other places. These folks will be cited for violations of the current decrees closing all swimming places and beaches during this emergency.

Reports are that in Santiago many people were out shopping for food on Good Friday and Saturday. The media reported that for the most part, Dominicans did adhere to the call to stay at home during the leading national vacation week. In Boca Chica, the media reports that at the major beach for the metropolitan area of the National District, there was not a soul to be seen. All the chaise-lounges were stacked and the jet-skis were parked in a corner. All the commercial establishments of the town were closed up tight.

On a more positive note, the Center for Emergency Operations has not issued a traffic fatality report this year. Last year there were 33 traffic and drowning deaths. Of course, there are police and armed forces units posted at each toll station on the highways in and out of Santo Domingo and only medical personnel and certain supply trucks are going through.

Overall, the Police continue to wage an uphill battle against youths that are not taking the coronavirus curfew seriously. The Police say arrests continue upwards of 1,100 regardless of the day. Last week, a urban singer "El Sujeto" was arrested, after video had circulated online showing how the Police had let him go despite being in violation of the curfew.


Church uses Holy Friday sermons to blast corruption and inefficiency
During the celebrations of the Holy Friday services throughout the network of Catholic churches in the Dominican Republic, special attention is always given to the famous "Seven Words", an allusion to the words spoken by Jesus Christ on the cross. Traditionally, the messages are focused on the spiritual needs of the community, however, this year the priests used the presence of the coronavirus pandemic to stress just how "precarious" life is for many of the people living here.

Vicar Abraham Apolinario established the tenor of the homily: the pandemic of the coronavirus has "taken the sheet off the sick." he said, in reference to the obviously deficient public health system in the Dominican Republic. He went on to talk about the lack of primary care. He said this in reference to the third of the seven words spoken by Christ: "Mother, there is your son; son, there is your mother."

The Vicar of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo called for priority for the weak and poor. But he did not stop there. In the sermon, he called attention to the politicians who exhibit an inordinate amount of recently acquired wealth. He noted any improper accumulation of wealth is immoral since it is an open contradiction of the Lord's use of worldly goods. Fray José Hernando told the television and virtual audience that "we are living like true pagans." And he went on to declare that corruption and political patronage are part of an old tradition, a chronic malady (….) a disease that renews itself every day and especially at moments of national emergencies."


More on overpricing in government procurement for medical supplies
Dr. Roque Espaillat denounces that the local health authorities have purchased 180,000 medical waterproof coveralls for RD$3,211 pesos per unit. He said he had a quote from a top quality Chinese manufacturer that offers these for RD$750 per unit as of a quote dated 8 March 2020. Dr. Espaillat says the overpricing means the government is paying RD$400 million more than it should be. Espaillat says he has been doing business buying medical supplies in China and South Korea for more than 20 years.

As reported in N Digital, according to a breakdown of recent procurement for coronavirus supplies, the state acquired two lots of waterproof coveralls with 89,775 units, one for $279,931,000 pesos, and another for $280,000,87,000 pesos.

He also says that the government has purchased masks that were originally available for 60 cents to the US dollar and increased to US$2.50 for US$9 each.


Public Health receives 11,300 more coronavirus testing kits from Helidosa
The presidential candidate for the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Gonzalo Castillo, donated this Sunday, 12 April a block of 11,300 Covid-19 test kits to the Ministry of Public Health. The donation was announced in the name of his aviation company, Helidosa.

As reported in N Digital, Castillo sent out a press release explaining that of the 15,000 test kits promised, on 31 March 31 delivered the first 9,500 to the High Commission for the Prevention and Control of the Coronavirus that is coordinated by the Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo. In addition, in early April, the campaign office announced that another 4,000 kits had been delivered to the Ministry of Public Health, according to a press release. The kits were delivered to the Ministry of Public Health.

The leading opposition party, the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), has announced it also is phasing the delivery of 40,000 rapid response kits for tests. The first shipment of 10,000 kits is reportedly undergoing Customs procedures.


Pension fund companies donate RD$50 million in medical equipment and supplies
The members of the Dominican Association of Pension Fund Administrators (ADAFP) announced its donation of RD$50 million in medical equipment and supplies. According to a press release, the majority of the ADAFP donation will be given to the Ramon de Lara Military Hospital, a health center located in the San Isidro Air Base near Santo Domingo that was designated to exclusively attend patients affected by the virus.

The donation includes ventilators and protection kits for doctors, nurses and other medical staff.


India donates 200,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets to DR
The Ministry of Foreign Relations announced it has received a note from India's government on the donation of 200,000 hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets to the country, in response to a request for cooperation made a few days ago. In a press release, Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado says he thanked his colleague S. Jaishankar for the donation. The drug is being used experimentally for the treatment of Covid-19. The drug has not yet arrived to the country.

The Dominican Republic and Brazil are the only Latin American countries on a restricted list of 13 countries to which India has authorized the export of hydroxychloroquine. "We are grateful for the solidarity of the Republic of India, a friendly country with which we have excellent bilateral relations," Vargas said. Vargas said Dominican Ambassador Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, who is the dean of the diplomatic corps accredited in India, informed him of the nation and the coordination underway to ship the drug to the Dominican Republic. He also thanked Dammu Ravi and Gloria Gangte, in charge of Indian affairs related to Covid-19 and the Department of Latin America and the Caribbean, respectively, as well as Madhu Sethi, Indian Ambassador to the Dominican Republic for their assistance.


OPD-Funglode: tourism, remittances and foreign investment hard hit by Covid-19
The Dominican Political Observatory of the Foundation for Democracy & Development (OPD-Funglode) has prepared a report that says that the three sectors that generate the bulk of foreign exchange for the Dominican Republic have taken a humongous hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These are tourism, remittances and foreign investment.

"Economic impact of Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic and actions to alleviate the crisis," a recent report prepared by OPC-Funglode looks into the collapse in the tourism sector, with the halt to airline and cruise ship travel and shutdown of hotels nationwide. The pandemic situation in source markets bodes that tourism is unlikely to begin to recover until at earliest by winter 2020. International experts abroad say that many countries hope domestic travel will fill the void once social distancing restrictions are lifted.

The United States, Spain and Italy are where most Dominicans live abroad and hundreds of thousands of Dominicans have lost their jobs in those countries, too. Thus the Dominican Republic needs to prepare for a significant drop in remittances, another mainstay of the Dominican economy. OPC says foreign investment will also take a big hit.

In the report, six OPD-Funglode specialists coordinated by Greidys Roa Chalas highlight that the significant reduction in foreign currency income is likely to cause a major imbalance in the balance of payments, international reserves and the capacity to pay in foreign currencies, that is, in the payment of the foreign debt.

According to the analysis of the OPD-Funglode, the international reserves of the country are around US$9.3 billion, equivalent to 4.9 months of imports and 10.1% of the GDP, which means that the foreign currency market has sufficient resources to satisfy the exchange needs.

In terms of tourism, the report shows that given the total closure of the country's tourism activity, all direct jobs generated by this sector are affected, totaling more than 350,000 jobs. In addition, as part of the domino effect of the collapse of the tourism industry, the agricultural sector is feeling the effects of measures to curb the new coronavirus. It is estimated that the local tourism industry buys around US$870 million a year in local farm produce. This 2020, farmers were hard-pressed to find local channels for the produce that would have supplied the hundreds of resorts, hotels and restaurants around the country.

OPD-Funglode makes a series of recommendations to relieve the situation of those hardest hit by the crisis during the quarantine period. These include: extending the cash contributions being paid to formal workers to include informal workers; coverage of energy, water and telecom bills; expansion of services by the government pharmaceutical network (Promese); a freeze on prices of foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals; the renegotiation of the debt service for 2020; and an increase in the health sector budget, moving allotments from other sectors to properly equip hospitals and health care workers.

OPD-Funglode also suggests granting a three-month grace period for the payment of capital and interest on loans from the Agricultural Bank and Promypime loans, redirecting savings caused by the fall in oil prices to subsidize informal workers through the Solidarity Card, and extending financial and fiscal facilities to national and international tourism companies that have been hard hit by the mass cancellations.


DR stands to lose upwards of US$28 billion in hard currency to coronavirus
Economist and professor Pavel Isa Contreras, a researcher at the Santo Domingo Technical Institute (Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo - INTEC), estimates a third of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is at risk from the Covid-19 pandemic. Isa Contreras said the economy stands to lose US$28 billion in losses from international trade in goods and services. Isa Contreras spoke during a webinar on "Economic Implications the Coronavirus Covid-19 will have in the Dominican Republic" organized by INTEC.

Others participating in the webinar included Rafael Espinal, dean of Economics at INTEC; Juan Manuel Sontag, director-general of Economic and Social Development at the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development (Mepyd); Richard Medina, director of the ministerial cabinet and financial advisor to the Ministry of Hacienda; and Magdalena Lizardo, executive director of Grupo de Consultoría Pareto and Professor of Economics and Business at INTEC. The activity was moderated by Armando Barrios, dean of the Economics and Business Area of INTEC.

The Dominican economy is linked to international trade with national exports (US$4.4 billion), for 17% of current income; export free zones (US$5.7 billion) for gross exports, 23% of balance of payments income; approximately US$8.5 billion in services, of which US$7.5 billion come from tourism, for 33% of current income; and remittances US$6.4 billion, 25% of current income, he explained.

Isa Contreras said that clearly the greatest impacts of the pandemic around the world will be in economies, such as the Dominican economy, that are more dependent on trade, tourism and services, compared to economies that are inserted in international trade through the production and placement in the markets of goods.

Rafael Espinal, coordinator of the university's School of Economics, pointed out that the sacrifices need to be shared by all. He remarked that at present private sector employees are suspended, while public employees are not. For the same reason, he said the Dominican government has to consider decreasing salaries for public employees that make high wages.

"The government does not have the capacity to maintain a social assistance program and keep the public payroll intact. There are employees who have a certain level of salary that could be cut temporarily to make public spending more flexible, in those workers who earn salaries over 200,000 pesos, make proportional cuts to be used to boost health and social program spending," Espinal said.

In addition, he highlighted as challenges for the government food security, plans to support agricultural production, programs to include informal sector workers in the governmental Employee Solidarity Assistance Fund (FASE) program and social assistance programs.

Economist Magdalena Lizardo warned that the Dominican population is vulnerable. She explained that by 2019 about 2.1 million people were living in a state of poverty, and approximately 248,000 people were living in extreme poverty. The INTEC professor pointed out that so far around 60,000 companies have furloughed workers. Around 37,000 of these companies, or 40%, have applied for the FASE program that is open to companies paying into the Social Security Treasury. Workers with suspended contracts amounted to over 655,000. She wondered what will happen when the two months of unemployment support ends at the end of May.

Richard Medina, director of the ministerial cabinet and financial advisor to the Ministry of Hacienda, explained the focus of the government was on containing the disease, preventing a collapse of the health system, and mitigating damage to the economy with measures targeting companies and individuals. "At the level of companies we have three main areas: fiscal, credit and monetary. At the individual level, the Stay at Home and FASE programs were launched," explained the official.

On the individual level, the government is increasing welfare funds from RD$1,500 to RD$5,000 a month to those who have the Comer es Primero card. The government announced it is increasing the number of the welfare cardholders from 850,000 to 1.5 million households. "I understand that what the government is seeking is to be as prudent and austere as possible, while trying to maximize the number of people receiving some kind of support," he said, while clarifying that it is working within the limits established in the National Budget.

In addition, Juan Manuel Sontag, director general of Economic and Social Development at the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development (Mepyd), said the measures taken by the government seek to ensure that people can keep their jobs, that households have minimum income levels for basic expenses and that companies, especially MSMEs, have liquidity to pay for basic services and try to ensure that the crisis does not go from economic to financial.


World Bank Coronavirus report calls for transparency in government actions
"Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean face the enormous challenge of both protecting lives and limiting the impact of the economic fallout," said Martín Rama, World Bank Chief Economist for the Latin America and the Caribbean region. "This will require coherent, targeted policies on a scale rarely seen before."

To help the vulnerable face the loss of earnings from the lockdown, existing social protection and social assistance programs should be rapidly scaled up and their coverage extended, according to "The Economy in the Time of Covid-19," the latest semiannual report from the World Bank's Chief Economist Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the report issued on 12 April 2020, the World Bank calls for governments to take on the burden of much of the losses due to the impact of the coronavirus on the Latin American and Caribbean region. Socializing the losses may require taking ownership stakes in financial sector institutions and strategic employers through recapitalization. This support will be key to preserving jobs and allowing for a recovery, states the report.

The global financial institution warns: "However, these processes need to be transparent and strong arrangements need to be put in place to manage the newly acquired assets, building on the best examples of sovereign wealth funds and asset management companies,"

The World Bank highlights that the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is seeing a sharp decline in growth due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis, which requires several policy responses to support the most vulnerable, avert a financial crisis, and protect jobs.

The coronavirus pandemic is fueling a major supply shock. Demand from China and G7 countries is falling dramatically, affecting commodity exporters in South America and exporters of manufactured goods and services in Central America and the Caribbean. A collapse in tourism is severely impacting some countries in the Caribbean.

Many countries in LAC are confronting the crisis with a constrained fiscal space. Large informal sectors in their economies make it difficult to reach out to all households and protect all sources of employment. Many households live from hand to mouth and do not have the resources to cope with the lockdowns and quarantines needed to contain the spread of the pandemic. Many also depend on collapsing remittances. To help the vulnerable face this economic challenge, existing social protection and social assistance programs should be rapidly scaled up and their coverage extended.

At the same time, governments may need to support financial sector institutions and key sources of employment. "We need to help people face these enormous challenges and make sure that financial markets and employers can weather the storm," said Humberto López, World Bank Acting Vice President for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region. "That means limiting the damage and laying the groundwork for recovery as fast as possible."

The World Bank forecasts that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Latin America and Caribbean region (excluding Venezuela) will decline -4.6% in 2020.* A return to growth of 2.6% is expected by 2021.

Specifically on the Dominican Republic, the World Bank writes:
"Following a period of sustained economic growth in the Dominican Republic, the Covid-19 is projected to trigger a slowdown and disrupt fiscal consolidation. The financial sector is well capitalized, and the current account deficit is projected to narrow as sharp contraction in imports offsets falls in remittances, tourism and other exports. Poverty is projected to increase in the wake of declining tourism and remittances. The main short-term risk is sustained slowdown while long-term climate change risks remain. "

Moreover, the World Bank estimates that the Dominican Republic will end 2020 with a 0% GDP growth, down from 5.1% in 2019. The country is expected to recover in a year, with 2.5% in 2021 and 4% by 2022.


Cops nab M-13 gang member in Bonao
Members of the South Cibao Regional Command of the National Police have apprehended one of the most wanted criminals in Central America, a man wanted since 2014 in El Salvador. He is Mario Ernesto Peña Colocho, a noted member of the Salvadorian gang Mara Salvatrucha or M-13. Peña Colocho is among the "Most Wanted," and there is a heavy reward for his capture.

The authorities are investigating how Peña managed to get into the country, and under what name. They are also interested in just what he was doing here.

The MS-13 (Mara) is a transnational criminal gang, with more than 10,000 members regularly operating in the United States, and tens of thousands more in Latin America, according to US Justice Department estimates. It is well known among law enforcement agencies in Central America, the United States and Western Europe (Italy, Spain and Portugal), where they operate gangs under the motto: "You live by the Mara and you die by the Mara." Membership in the gang is not limited to Salvadorians, and have people from Guatemala and Honduras, as well. Generally speaking, they can be identified by the tattoos that mark their bodies and faces, as well as the violence of their actions.


Dominican Republic loses one of its best: Federico Cuevas, Ph.D.
With the preponderance of news regarding the coronavirus dominating the headlines, the passing of one of the best professionals in the field of agriculture is easily passed over. However, Federico Cuevas Perez, who suffered a heart attack in Houston, Texas, was an internationally well-noted plant geneticist the results of whose work is probably in the kitchens of those who read this.

Cuevas Pérez was the head of the Dominican Rice Institute in Bonao, and the varieties of rice harvested here are his work. He was the head of Bioarroz, headquartered in the Yin Tieh Hsieh Hsu Experimental Rice Laboratory there in Bonao and the Monseñor Nouel province. This is an institute that for 50 years was run in collaboration with the government of Taiwan and originally led by Dr. Hsieh.

The Dominican Republic became self-sufficient in rice, due in very large part to the efforts of the Institute. Cuevas, in addition to the current rice varieties, has left 10 more in the initial stages of production.

A graduate of the Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA, and now Universidad ISA), he doctored in plant genetics at Oregon State University in 1981, and wrote his dissertation at the world famous Rockefeller Rice Institute in the Philippines, now known as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Speaking Mandarin, French, Italian and German, as well as English, Cuevas oversaw rice production throughout Latin America for seven years at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia. He traveled extensively to China as well as Taiwan and Southeast Asia, compiling a database that is in wide use today.


The Zoo is safe and the animals are well
The National Zoological Park has reported that the animals under their care are well and that there are even a few new arrivals. According to the zoo administrator, they have sufficient food for the next couple of months. The zoo is closed to the public for now. The zookeepers and staff are maintaining safe social distancing.

Among the new arrivals, a pigmy goat gave birth to two new babies. A sugar glider, a nocturnal, tree-dwelling member of the possum family, was also born at the zoo. Patricia Toribio, the park director, said that they were taking special care of the animals, especially after the news of a tiger becoming infected with coronavirus Covid-19 in the Bronx Zoo in New York.

As a part of the Latin American Association of Zoological Parks, the National Zoo receives information regarding the care and protection of its hundreds of animals. With seven tigers, five females, the zoo is especially jealous with the attention they get. Fortunately, with the park closed to the public, there is much less to clean up and therefore a healthier environment for the animals. As the keeper of a thousand animals, including lions, tigers, hippos, monkeys, birds, rhinos, amphibians and reptiles, Zoodom, is a major attraction, and they are working hard to keep it safe.


Moonshine kills over a dozen in a week
The ingestion of locally-made liquor, known as "moonshine" in folklore, has killed 17 persons over the last week. No matter what it is called in the Dominican Republic (clerén, "Tapa Floja", triculí) it is poison and the results are catastrophic. It is produced in the many barrios and countryside, with no controls as to the ingredients or sanitation of the process. Initial reports are that in the barrios of Pantoja and Girasoles, in the western part of Santo Domingo, and Brisas del Este in Santo Domingo East, there are 17 dead, including a father and son. Just last week, 10 persons have died from the intoxication with the illegal beverage. The Ministry of Public Health confirms 15 deaths.

Although the Francisco Moscoso Puello Hospital reported that the deaths were the result of ingesting the adulterated alcohol, in the case of the deaths in the Girasoles and Pantoja, the results of the autopsies have not been released, but anecdotal evidence reports that they had imbibed a product known as "Tapa Floja" which was purchased at a local colmado for RD$100.00.

According to the toxicology information from the Ministry of Public Health, methanol is used in the formula for the illegal beverage. Because of the low cost, consumption among the poor is widespread. Back in December of 2017, the Ministry of Public Health issued a health advisory alerting to hundreds of fatal incidents over the years.


Edesur alerts against flying kites
Greater Santo Domingo power utility companies Edesur and EdeEste say that city sectors have suffered blackouts after kites have become entangled in the electricity lines.

With the hashtag #Quédateencasa, one of the state-owned electricity distribution companies in the Dominican Republic invited those who, because of social isolation, have taken up this activity as a way of entertaining themselves, to do so in an open space, away from the poles and power cables.
Last edited: