DR1 Daily News - Tuesday, 13 August 2019



President Medina meets with Chinese delegation
Constitutional Court confirms carry-over vote was overruled
Leonel Fernández campaigns nationwide, Domínguez Brito challenges him to debate
Gonzalo Castillo begins his campaign in Barahona
City water utility says the drought is severe
Concern over slow down in the economy
Wheelchairs for Metro users
Dengue deaths being covered up
Senasa health plan has 4.7 million affiliates in 17 years
50 years of free zone exports
European Union celebrates 30 years of ties with the DR
Fares up from Santo Domingo to Barahona
Strike affects activities in the Cibao
Friday, 16 August is a national holiday
Spain honors Chicho Sibilio
Indy Jazz Fest & Jazz en Dominicana presents: the Dominican Republic

President Medina meets with Chinese delegation
President Danilo Medina met with a delegation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Friday, 9 August 2019 in Santo Domingo. They spoke highly of bilateral relations, according to a note published by the Chinese government Xinhuanet news service. The Presidency news service has not mentioned the visit.

Li Jun, deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPC, presided the visiting delegation.

The Chinese press release says that during the meeting President Medina had positively evaluated the fruitful achievements of the first year of Dominican and Chinese relations. The DR and China signed diplomatic ties in May 2018.

Xinhuanet says that Medina stated during the meeting that “the Dominican Republic firmly adheres to the one-China policy and will consolidate the political foundation of the bilateral relations.”

For his part, Li states in the press release: "China is willing to work with the Dominican Republic to implement the important consensus of the two heads of state, strengthen pragmatic cooperation and promote the steady and healthy development of bilateral relations."

During the visit, Li also met with the leaders of major political parties in the country. There have not been reports on the meeting with the other political parties in the Dominican press.


Constitutional Court confirms carry-over vote was overruled
Constitutional Court Milton Ray Guevara had complained on Monday, 12 August 2019 about the leak late last week on the elimination of the allocating of deputy votes to senators. Ray Guevara said the information was not official until published by the secretary of the court.

But on the same Monday, the Constitutional Court finalized the procedure, and the secretary of the court confirmed the stories that circulated in the media over the weekend.

The measure that will enable voters in all provinces and the National District to vote for the congressional candidate of their choice has met with widespread praise. All political parties, minus the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) have expressed their support to the measure.

Late last week, it was leaked that the Constitutional Court had approved the elimination of the carry-over vote. The court had accepted an appeal filed against the provisions of Law 157-13 on the preferential vote. The judges of the high court had eliminated a paragraph that establishes that "when the voter decides to mark the photograph of the candidate or candidate for deputy of his preference is favoring with his vote the party of this and therefore the candidate for senator of that party."

When asked, the president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Julio César Castaños Guzmán said that the elimination of the carry-over vote would not affect the organization of the 2020 election. There is no additional cost because the 2020 vote is automated, he said.

The JCE in May 2019 had ruled that votes cast for deputies would be carried over to the senator of the same political party only in five provinces (Santo Domingo, La Vega, Puerto Plata, San Cristóbal and Santiago) and the National District. This is where most of the population of the country is located.


Leonel Fernández campaigns nationwide, Domínguez Brito challenges him to debate
Former President Leonel Fernández said on Sunday, 11 August 2019 that he has 55 days to convince Dominicans to vote for him in the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) primary set for 6 October 2019. This time, the primary is open to the vote by any eligible voter, regardless of party affiliation. He announced he would be campaigning in 32 provinces and 158 municipalities.

He is optimistic he will be successful in the convincing. "Our goal is not only to win on 6 October, but also to become the first party to obtain more than here million votes for the Dominican Liberation Party," he said.

Fernández spoke at a congregation of his followers on Sunday, 11 August at the Sans Souci events center.

"Seeing the crowds today (Sunday), we don't need the 6th of October because this case is won. I sincerely believe we can repeat in the Presidency, he said, speaking in Dominican slang using words such as "ganao and embullao," in an apparent effort to reach out to the younger generations.

His strongest contender according to polls, Francisco Domínguez Brito challenged Fernández to a debate. He called the former statesman "arrogant" for his words that the 6 October primary was not necessary to choose the PLD presidential candidate.


Gonzalo Castillo begins his campaign in Barahona
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) pre-candidate Gonzalo Castillo campaigned in Barahona on Sunday, 11 August 2019. He used the opportunity to celebrate with Pan Am Games gold medal winner, fellow Barahona native, Audrys Nin Reyes.

Castillo met with his followers at the Techado de la Villa Olímpica in his hometown city, Barahona. In his campaign speech, he praised President Danilo Medina as the best President the country has had. He promised to continue "the road to progress" begun by Medina.

Castillo was the last aspirant to the PLD presidential campaign to resign from his cabinet position. He was Minister of Public Works since 2012. He resigned as of 5 August 2019 after President Danilo Medina announced in July that he would not seek the presidential nomination for the party. To do so, Medina had to back a constitutional reform. Political analysts say that Medina was not able to ensure enough votes to pass the constitutional reform.

After the event in Barahona, Castillo participated in activities with his followers in the southern provinces of Azua and Peravia.

There is speculation that Castillo is the favorite of President Danilo Medina.

City water utility says drought is severe
Architect Alejandro Montás, director of the Santo Domingo Water Aqueduct and Sewage Corporation (CAASD) urged people to conserve water. He announced on Monday, 12 August 2019 that there is a 70-million gallon a day deficit for Greater Santo Domingo. He said the levels of the rivers that supply water to the city are down considerably. Production of water has declined from 420 million gallons to 350 million gallons. Aqueducts that are affected are those in Valdesia, Duey and Isa-Mana.

"This alarming situation causes that the service to be deficient. Areas that will be affected are mainly in the municipalities of Santo Domingo East and West. Also in areas located on the south part of the city, such as Invi Sur, Dominicanos Ausentes, Urbanización Tropical, El Cacique, Colonial City, Ciudad Nueva Miramar, Solimar and Costa Brava. Other areas where there will be water scarcities are Herrera, tales como Buenos Aires, Las Palmas, El Abanico, Las Caobas, Libertador, Enriquillo and Barrio Duarte.

Concern over slow down in economy
According to Leonel Castellanos Duarte, president of the Herrera National Association of Business and Industry (ANEIH), the 4.7% economic growth in the first half of 2019, as announced by Héctor Valdez Albizu, governor of the Central Bank, confirms that the economy of the Dominican Republic is slowing down.

The economy had grown 5.7% in the first three months of the year. Growth in the second quarter was 3.7%. In June, growth was scarcely 2.6% that is half of the 5.25% the authorities had forecast.

Castellanos said that the results from the Central Bank measure that lowered interest rates are below expectations.

He spoke with concern on the increasing level of debt in the country. The public debt is now equal to payments on the debt of US$3.37 billion during the first half of the year, an increase of 34.4% over the same period last year when it was US$2.51 billion. This was over half of the state income, thus limiting the money available for other programs.


Wheelchairs for Metro users
Wheelchairs and stretchers are now at the service of Santo Domingo Metro users with disabilities. The Metro Office (OPRET) reported 48 wheelchairs and 20 stretchers are now available to passengers on the Santo Domingo Metro and Santo Domingo Skylift (Teleférico) who need assistance.

It is expected that most of the wheelchairs will be used at stations such as the Juan Pablo Duarte, where many commuters connect between the two lines of the Metro. This station is located at Av. John F. Kennedy corner Av. Máximo Gómez near the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center.

Wheelchairs and stretchers are now available for those that use the Colonel Rafael Tomás Fernández station to get to Dominican Rehabilitation Association that is located at the nearby Av. Leopoldo Navarro.

Pregnant women headed to the La Altagracia Maternity Hospital and who use the Casandra Damirón station at Av. César Nicolás Penson adjacent to the National Theater will benefit from the new equipment.


Dengue deaths being covered up
According to pediatrician Jesús Feris Iglesias more than 20 children have died of dengue in the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital over the last few days.

He said that the public hospital has attended at least 900 children with the disease. He criticized that doctors, concerned they may lose their jobs, are not telling the truth about the number of deaths.

Speaking on the Channel 11 TV program D'Agenda, Dr. Feris said that if a child is admitted with dengue, then the death is probably due to dengue unless proved otherwise, but that there has to be a definite diagnosis. However, he said that when there is a dengue epidemic, which there is at the moment, and children die due to dengue, then it is definitely dengue and there is no need to cover up the cause of death.


Senasa health plan has 4.7 million affiliates in 17 years
Dr. Mercedes Rodríguez Silver says that the government-owned health plan, Senasa has affiliated 4,762,161 million people in 17 years. The plan was begun for government employees, but also affiliates millions who do not pay into the health plan and receive its benefits.

Rodríguez said that from January to June 2019, the health provider had authorized procedures and consultations for RD$11.55 billion to 1,742,011 affiliates that requested RD$38 million in health services. She says this is 14.5% more than for the same period in 2018. Of this total, RD$5.84 billion were to affiliates that pay for the service.


50 years of free zone exports
The export duty free manufacturing scheme began in the Dominican Republic some 50 years ago with the opening of the Central Romana free zone. For the occasion, the director of the National Export Free Zone Council (CNZFE), Luisa Fernández spoke of how the sector is at an all-time high in jobs and hard currency receipts for the country.

For the occasion, President Danilo Medina delivered a message highlighting that the free zones have become a platform for the competitive insertion of the Dominican Republic in international commerce. Through the free zones, the country has become one of the leading international suppliers of world class quality goods in areas of medical devices, electronic devices, apparel, textiles, cigars, jewelry, footwear among others.

A report in Diario Libre highlights the sector has benefited from generous tax incentives and a special wage regime, well below the standard minimum wage. Nevertheless, most companies add on benefits such as free lunch, transport, educational programs and health plans.

Today there are 673 duty free export companies located in 74 industrial parks. The sector contributes 3.3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Exports are 60% of total exports of the country. The sector provides around 172,000 direct jobs and another 300,000 indirect jobs.


European Union celebrates 30 years of ties with the DR
The Ambassador of the European Union in the Dominican Republic, Gianluca Grippa announced the anniversary of the diplomatic ties wit the Dominican Republic. In 1989, the then European Economic Community sent its first cooperation mission to establish itself in the country. Since there, cooperation over the past three decades has been of more than EUR1 billion in donations. Another RD$8 billion has been invested in 14 programs to improve local skills, infrastructure equipping in schools.

The strong ties led to the Dominican Republic signing of the European Union-Caribbean Partnership Agreement (EPA), the comprehensive free trade agreement in 2008.


Fares up from Santo Domingo to Barahona
Fares on the Barahona to Santo Domingo route by Transporte de Barahona (Emtraba) were up RD$25 since 5am on Monday, 12 August 2019. A representative from the Union of Drivers and Minibus Owners of Barahona (Sinchomiba) affiliated to the National Confederation of Transport Organizations (Conatra) detailed the new fares. He said that the express bus route is now RD$375.00; the normal bus fare would be RD$350.00. The express bus to Baní was increased to RD$275.00; and RD$250.00 on the normal bus. The fare from Barahona to Azua is now RD$150.00 in both cases.

As reported, transport prices are up due to the increase in the costs of fuel, lubricants and repairs and wages.


Strike affects activities in the Cibao
A group of social organizations, unions, and others called a 24-hour strike from 6 am on Monday, 12 August 2019, in the 14 provinces of the central Cibao. The protestors have a long list of demands.

According to Defense Minister Lieutenant General Rubén Paulino Sem, military and police patrolled city streets to ensure order was kept, avoid road blocks, especially in Bonao, Salcedo, San Francisco de Macorís, Licey al Medio, Navarrete, Esperanza and other towns in the Cibao.

According to Osvaldo Brito, general coordinator of the United and Progressive Front, they would also be calling for an end to impunity and corruption, crime and social and citizen insecurity.

Brito said that they would also be asking for a reduction in fuel prices. He guaranteed that the protests would be peaceful, it did not take long for things to turn violent in some parts of the north of Santiago.

In Los Ciruelitos, demonstrators, some of whom were masked, lit tires and threw stones at vehicles, including those carrying members of the press.

It was reported that stores and businesses that stayed open, were forced to close following threats from some of the demonstrators.

In the Gustavito area, in the lower part of Santiago, there were standoffs between demonstrators and the police.

In Navarette there were explosions, leading to panic among the residents.

Reports are that businesses closed in Bonao. Not so in Samana, where reports are that it was almost business as usual in the northeastern province.

Media reports also say that traffic on Sunday night on roads connecting from the Cibao to Santo Domingo was intense. Thousands that commute to the city on Monday, decided to get in on Sunday evening and avoid any protestor activities.


Friday, 16 August is a national holiday
The Ministry of Labor announced that this coming Friday, 16 August 2019 is a national holiday. The day celebrates Restoration Day, when independence of the Dominican Republic was reinstated from Spain. The day coincides with the start of school on the following Monday. Nevertheless, because it falls on a Friday, it creates a long weekend, a time to enjoy that last outing to the beach before school.


Spain honors Chicho Sibilio
Dominicans and Spaniards are mourning 60-year old Chicho Sibilio, who died on Saturday, 10 August 2019 in his farm in Haina, Santo Domingo province. He was nationalized as a Spaniard and became the first black man to compete for Spain in the Olympics (1980 Moscow Olympics).

He played for Barca in Barcelona in the Spanish basketball league, being part of the team that won five championships (1981, 1983, 1987, 1988 and 1989) and several other important Spanish tournament cups. He played 13 seasons for the Barcelona team. He retired at 34 years. He died of complications from diabetes.


Indy Jazz Fest & Jazz en Dominicana present: the Dominican Republic
Jazz en Dominicana will represent the Dominican Republic at the Indy Jazz Festival in the United States. Jazz en Dominicana will be taking local jazz performers to participate in the festival. The Dominican day will be Sunday, 15 September.

Representing the Dominican Republic will be Pavel and Direct Contact (with Dominican pianist resident in Indianapolis, Pavel Polanco Safadit). Also participating will be Dominican musicians Javier Vargas, Miguel Montás and Luis Mojica.

The event is free. It takes place at the Indianapolis Public Library's 500-seat auditorium at 40 East Saint Clair Street. There will be time to present a brief explanation on Dominican music – merengue, pambiche, bachata, son, palos, gaga, pri-pri and guloya beats.

The Jazz Kitchen Group will follow the Dominicana performances.