DR1 Daily News - Monday, 24 June 2019



Tourism Minister: "We have nothing to hide"
Authorities now suspect mistaken identity in case of David Ortiz shooting, Ortiz out of ICU
Six to stand trial in US$92 million Odebrecht bribery case
Vargas Maldonado highlights efforts to turn DR into a Maritime Nation
Seaweed affects the operation of coastal power plants
Used tire sales down 70% after new regulation by Intrant
Commission inspects nine sites for new landfill for Puerto Plata
Bishops blast politicians at Corpus Cristi celebration
Blas Olivo murderers get 30 and 20-year sentences
After 20-year absence, will MLB matches be played in the DR?
Summer has arrived and it is very hot!
DR loses close match to Japan in women's volleyball

Tourism Minister: "We have nothing to hide"
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García, in a press conference called on Friday, 21 June 2019, says that the safety of tourists is the top priority of the Ministry of Tourism. He said this is beyond efforts for tourists to have a good time during their stay in the country. García addressed local and international journalists at a time when media abroad is tracking tourist deaths in the country.

García understands that the Dominican Republic has been a victim of a fake news campaign in the US media. García says that counting of the deaths and the debate on the deaths of tourists in a country had never occurred in the history of tourism around the world.

In the press conference, García sought to dispute the two theories he said have been the essence of the US media coverage. He cited that the US Department of State has already argued that there had not been an exaggerated number of deaths of US tourists. García said there have been no mysterious deaths since autopsies have been carried out and the reasons for these deaths shared.

García called for the public to await the results of a toxicology study before reaching conclusions. He said in the rare case of three US citizens that died in two weeks at a single complex, the Dominican government requested the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations to carry out toxicology tests of these persons, including the couple that died together in the last week of May 2019. He asked patience until the results are known to close these rare cases. The US Embassy has said the tests take about a month.

He says the US Embassy has been in close communication with Dominican authorities (Ministry of Public Health, Attorney General, Police and Ministry of Tourism) regarding the deaths and US ambassador Robin Bernstein has called these unfortunate yet isolated incidents and the US Embassy has also called for the public to await the results of the toxicology tests.

García said that the US State Department rates the Dominican Republic as a level 2 destination, the same awarded to popular destinations Spain, France, Denmark and Belgium.

He spoke of preventive actions that continuously improve security for tourists, in the destinations, ports of arrival, regarding food and beverage standards, emergency protocols and assistance to tourists. He said that the 911 Emergency Safety Program is in place in all tourist destinations. Tourists suffering health problems can call this hotline and a medical unit will be sent to take them to a nearby hospital emergency room free of charge. This service is also available to all who reside in the Dominican Republic in the 911 area of service.

Also, the 911 system monitors over 3,000 surveillance cameras and 4,000 police agents are assigned to tourist areas. He said the country has a safety and security plan that is assessed every year.

"We want the truth to prevail," said García. "We do not want any privileges, we want fair treatment. We know in all the discussions, the truth will come out."

García said that hard work is behind the country being the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, with the highest investment, a model for the World Tourism Organization. He said the local standards of security and hygiene are the highest in the Caribbean and Central America.

Over the past 5 years, the Dominican Republic has received more than 30 million visitors, including 3.2 million US tourists that arrived in 2018.

The Tourism Minister later was available for one-on-one interviews with international media in his office.


Authorities now suspect mistaken identity in case of David Ortiz shooting, Ortiz out of ICU
Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez Sánchez and the director of the National Police, Ney Aldrin Bautista, shared their preliminary conclusion that the shooting that injured David Ortiz at the Dial Bar & Lounge of Av. Venezuela on Sunday, 9 June 2019, was a case of mistaken identity. They made the statement during a press conference on 5:30pm on Wednesday, 19 June 2019, before the Corpus Christi holiday in the Dominican Republic.

The Attorney General and the Police director say the target of the hired killer was David Ortiz's close friend, Sixto David Fernández Vásquez, who was seated at the same bar table with him on the evening of the shooting. Fernández had arrived early to prepare for the get-together with Ortiz at the bar. David Ortiz was a frequent visitor at the bar.

At the time of the shooting, Sixto David Fernandez shared a table with David Ortiz, TV commentator Jhoel Lopez, urban singer Secreto El Famoso Biberón, and María Yeribel Santiago García.

According to the hypothesis of the Attorney General and Police, a 25-year old hitman was hired to shoot Fernández. The accused hitman Rolfy Ferreras Cruz (who has also been referred to as Ramon Martinez Perez, Bayan, Sandy) has a criminal record in the United States and had just arrived a month before from the US.

The authorities say the motive was a long-time grudge carried by fugitive Victor Hugo Gomez Vásquez, a cousin of Sixto David Fernández Vásquez. Fernández Vásquez is the owner of an autopaint shop in the National District. Gómez Vásquez blamed his cousin for telling on him to the National Drug Control Agency in 2011. This led him to serve time in La Victoria jail. The authorities presented Gómez Vásquez as the intellectual author of the crime. Gómez Vásquez is at present a fugitive of US justice sought for drug trafficking.

Surveillance camera footage was presented to back the hypothesis the authorities reached after the arrest of around a dozen people.

The Police identified Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota as the crime coordinator. He was at the scene of the crime hours before Sixto David Fernandez and then David Ortiz arrived.

The Police presented a video and the blurred smartphone photo sent to the hitman two hours before the crime to justify how the accused hitman, Rolfy Ferreras Cruz, had confused Ortiz with Fernández. When the picture was sent, David Ortiz had not arrived to the bar.

The surveillance video presented by the Police also shows how Rodríguez Mota is the only person at the scene of the crime who did not run for cover after the shot was fired, and instead watched over how Ortiz collapsed and even picked up his beer for another drink.
The Police explained that Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota and Victor Hugo Gómez Vásquez met in the La Victoria jail when they both served time.

As reported in El Dia, the Dominican authorities have not been able to locate the whereabouts of the three identified as the masterminds in the case: Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase (El Cirujano), Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota and Víctor Hugo Gómez Vásquez. Police director Bautista said during the Wednesday press conference that they are in contact with the US Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to locate the fugitives.

The hypothesis presented on 19 June 2019 by the Police and Attorney General has been met with generalized local and international skepticism. TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera in her investigative show on Saturday, 22 June 2019, presents many questions the Police and Attorney General version leave unanswered. Piera asks why the hitman would wait for Dial Bar to fill up with patrons when his alleged target, Sixto David Fernández was hanging out there for two hours before the crowds and the arrival of David Ortiz?

CNN journalist Patrick Oppmann was shut up by Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez when he referred to a clause in a Monday, 17 June 2019 prosecutor request for pretrial custody against Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaino (El Hueso), one of the 11 under arrest in the case, that referred to David Ortiz being followed by the criminals. Radio talk show host Marino Zapete airs the incident. After that question, Rodriguez would practically close the floor to more questions. Subsequently, the Attorney General would send an explanatory letter to Oppman citing the pretrial custody document was written before the new evidence that convinced the authority Ortiz was not the target.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Tiffany Ortiz, wife of David Ortiz shared that her husband was moved out of the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Tiffany Ortiz said in a statement released by his former team, the Boston Red Sox: "He remains in good condition and continues to recover under the care of Drs. David King and Larry Ronan."


Six to stand trial in US$92 million Odebrecht bribery case
Supreme Court Judge Francisco Ortega Polanco sent six of the seven implicated in the Odebrecht case to trial on Friday, 22 June 2019. These are Víctor Díaz Rúa, former minister of Public Works; Ángel Rondón, commercial representative of Odebrecht in the DR; lawyer Conrado Pittaluga; PLD senator Tommy Galán; former Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) senator Andrés Bautista García and Roberto Rodríguez, former director of the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewerage (Inapa). The seventh accused by the Attorney General prosecutors, former president of the Senate Jesús (Chu) Vásquez then of the PRD, was excluded from the group.

Commenting on the decision by the judge, accused Victor Diaz Rua observed "everyone's missing here ("aquí falta to' el mundo").

The case dates back to when the US Department of Justice revealed on 21 December 2016 that Odebrecht officials admitted to paying US$92 million in bribes in the Dominican Republic to obtain public work contracts from 2001 to 2014. Odebrecht would carry out 17 major public infrastructure works.

In his ruling, Judge Francisco Ortega Polanco stated that corruption cases do not expire.


Vargas Maldonado highlights efforts to turn DR into a Maritime Nation
On Tuesday, 18 June 2019, Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado explained that the promoting of maritime resources is an integral part of the nation's foreign policy agenda. He said he is following instructions from President Danilo Medina to take steps to turn the Dominican Republic into a maritime nation.

Vargas Maldonado and the president of the National Authority of Maritime Affairs (Anamar), Pascual Prota Henriquez, headed the panel for the conference "From the First Fish Boats to the Integrated Management of the Marine Ecosystem, 125 Years of Adaptive Assessment" presented by the director of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), Eduardo Balguerías Guerra.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Anamar and held at the Ministry of Foreign Relations convention center.

Vargas chairs the National Commission for the Delimitation of Maritime Borders, created by Decree 237-18. Other members are the Ministry of Defense, the Dominican Republic Navy (ARD), the Legal Consultancy of the Executive Branch, and Anamar. This commission is responsible for evaluating the state of the country's maritime borders and presenting recommendations to the President of the Republic.

Vargas mentioned the efforts of the Ministry to attract investment in infrastructure, such as tourist and cargo ports, energy parks, shipyards and marinas, among others. These efforts seek to take advantage of the excellent geographical position of the Dominican Republic and fall within a clear national maritime strategy, he said.

Anamar President Pascual Prota Henríquez indicated that the effort also seeks to raise the living standards of fishermen, prepare them to practice sustainable fishing that respects the environment and move away from past practices that kept the fishing sector backward and exposed to being detained for illegally fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) determined by other Caribbean region nations.

Among the special guests at the conference were: Spanish Ambassador Alejandro Abellán García de Diego; Vice Admiral Miguel Peña Acosta who is Vice Minister of Defense for Naval and Coastal Affairs; Ydalia Acevedo, Vice Minister of Environment; Milton Ginebra Morales, executive director of the Dominican Council of Fishing and Aquaculture (Codopesca); and Rear Admiral Héctor Martínez, Sub-Commander General of the Dominican Republic Navy.


Seaweed affects the operation of coastal power plants
Energy companies that use seawater to cool their systems are now confronted by problems created by floating seaweed. There are several such major generating stations along the coastline.

Claudio Irish, superintendent for operations for Ege Haina, told Diario Libre that sargassum affected the service of Itabo 1 and 2 in Santo Domingo last week. The units supply some 260 MW to the national electricity grid.

Likewise, in southwestern Barahona, Ramon Then, plant manager at the Ege Haina Barahona plant that provides 45MW to the system, said that since 2014 the volume and frequency of sargassum has increased progressively.

Another primary electricity generation plant, Punta Catalina, which has yet to go online full-time, also uses seawater to cool the coal-fired boilers that move the generators. According to sources at the National Interconnected Electricity System (SENI), when Punta Catalina goes online, more than 50% of all the electricity produced for the system will depend on seawater to cool down their motors.

Journalist Marvin Cid of Diario Libre reports that several actions are being taken to reduce the impact of the seaweed on the generation systems. Drones are watching for sargassum out in the ocean, a vessel will be purchased to collect vegetation offshore before it reaches the intakes, and research is being carried out on uses for the collected seaweed.


Used tire sales down 70% after new regulation by Intrant
The recent prohibition on the use and installation of used, remodeled or out-of-date tires has reduced the sale of these tires by 70% in the local market. Francisco Ramirez, who owns a used tire store in Villa Juana, told El Dia that this decree by the National Institute for Ground Transportation and Transit (Intrant) is affecting both the seller and the clients, since new tires cost upwards of RD$3,000 and more, and not everyone is willing to pay that price.

Ramirez asks: "If they allow the import of tires made in 2015, what are they going to do with them in January of 2020? With five or six million tires imported, what are they going to do?

Moises Vidal says that used tires are affordable since prices vary with the size of the tire. A "concho" can buy tires that cost betweenRD$500 and RD$700, and tires for the hundreds, maybe thousands of Hyundais on the road cost between RD$1,200 and RD$1,400. The cost of these tires to the wholesalers varies with the size and the year of manufacture.

According to the Customs office, there were nearly 1.4 million used, light vehicle tires imported in 2018. Only a little over 11,000 truck tires were imported. Most of the tires come from South Korea, China, Spain and Germany. Fines for the use of unsafe tires can be over RD$5,000.


Commission inspects nine sites for new landfill for Puerto Plata
The commission that was appointed to find a new place for a garbage landfill for Puerto Plata checked nine sites last week. The commission will send a report on their efforts to the Ministry of the Environment and the City Council. Jose Natalio Redondo, the president of the Hotel Association of the North (Ashonorte), told reporters that the nine sites were evaluated by the technical expert Pilar Tello, from Mexico.

Jose Ramon Duran, the president of the City Council and coordinator of the commission, noted at the press conference held at the Catholic Church Bishop's office in Puerto Plata that the site decision will be taken by a consensus of the interested parties.

Puerto Plata City Mayor Walter Musa has told the commission that they have 30 days to take a decision, or otherwise, the new landfill will be at the 140,000 square meter location off Cofresi that the city government had acquired for RD$52 million.


Bishops blast politicians at Corpus Cristi celebration
The Archbishop of Santiago, Freddy Breton, and the former Archbishop, Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, openly decried the nearly complete loss of trust in the nation's politicians. Breton expressed regret that many see politics as a great business and that to enter the political arena is to become rich. He said that it was imperative to reverse this sort of thinking, acting with honesty. He added that this sort of understanding will cease when politicians do not show off new wealth and luxuries that cannot be explained.

The archbishop said that the country has been overcome with politics. He said that "the only people that can talk are those that can show signs of suffering for their people, like Juan Pablo Duarte."

He asked: "If we apply this criterion, what politician will be left standing?" Referring to the recent introduction of gender studies into the school curriculum, he noted that after centuries, we "now need courses to know when a man is a man and a woman is a woman? As if all the centuries of humanity were not enough."


Blas Olivo murderers get 30 and 20-year sentences
The Collegiate Court of Monsignor Nouel (Bonao) sentenced José Radhamés Lorenzo to the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the murder of journalist Blas Olivo on 12 April 2015. In the same case, Joel Peña Rodríguez, Iván Eliceo de León Ramón, José Manuel Vargas Rodríguez, Draily Francisco Vásquez and Wilmer de Jesús Camacho were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The group was found guilty of criminal association, voluntary homicide, aggravated robbery, crime followed by another crime, and illegal carrying and possession of weapons.

Olivo was shot several times after being intercepted by the accused. His body was found in the community of Piedra Blanca, in the province of Monseñor Nouel, after being reported missing. The vehicle was found later abandoned on a farm off the road to La Vega.


After 20-year absence, will MLB matches be played in the DR?
Diario Libre reports that after a 20-year absence, Dominican fans could soon be able to watch a Major League Baseball game in the Dominican Republic.

While the announcement was made, there are not yet many details on the 2020 games. On Thursday, 20 June 2019 in New York City, at the end of one of three meetings that the baseball owners hold each year, Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporter James Wagner of The New York Times that next year there would be some pre-season games in the Dominican Republic.

One of the issues, as always, is money. Lots of money. In the United States, players are not paid during the pre-season. However, if they play overseas, each player gets US$5,000, and managers and clubhouse personnel get US$20,000. And this is for pre-season games.

If there were to be a regular season game, the pay scale goes up to US$15,000 per player in the Caribbean or Mexico or US$60,000 in Japan. Technical personnel get US$40,000. In pre-season, the overall cost would be US$700,000 but in the regular season, the cost would skyrocket to US$1,550,000.


Summer has arrived and it is very hot!
The summer solstice on Friday, June 21, the longest day of 2019, and the start of the summer season brought with it an increase in actual and perceived temperatures. Over the weekend temperatures were way over 33° C and in some cases these reached 36° C (96.8°F).

According to the National Meteorological Office (Onamet), the forecast for the next days is for little rain and lots of heat. From now until 23 September 2019, the weather will be hot, and it will feel even hotter because of dust coming from the Sahara Desert, carried by tradewinds.

This phenomenon can be noted on your newly washed car after a brief rain shower: as the drops dry out, you can observe a small ring of dirt where the water dried up. That dirt is from the Sahara Desert.

The UV Index is also at its peak, and for that reason, Onamet suggests that everyone avoid direct sunlight from 11am until 4pm.

Meteorologist Henry Agramonte told reporters that the tropical waves that pass over the island also bring the dust, which contributes to these high temperatures. He recommended persons with respiratory ailments should use surgical masks when outdoors because the sand contains pathogens that can be harmful to such persons.


DR loses close match to Japan in women's volleyball
The Dominican Republic's women volleyball team (Queens of the Caribbean) almost defeated Japan in the FIVB Nations League volleyball championship in Korea. In a final game on Thursday, 20 June 2019, the 9th ranked DR lost to 6th ranked Japan 3-2 ((25-17, 25-23, 24-26, 26-28, 15-10).

When the two teams clashed on the closing day of this year's pool play at Boryeong, Korea, the Dominican Republic's Bethania de la Cruz scored 35 points and Japan's Ai Kurogo 30 for the first ever double 30+ in an FIVB Volleyball Nations League match. The FIVB reported that 32-year-old De La Cruz scored off just 20 attacks (20/55 for a 36% efficiency), but added as many as 8 blocks and 7 aces to her tally.

The outside hitter is the second Dominican player to make the list of players who have scored 30 points or more in a single VNL match. Brayelin Martinez has entries from both earlier this year (36 points against Thailand) and last year (31 against Korea).