DR1 Daily News - Tuesday, 26 March 2019


May 3, 2000
Meeting with Trump in Florida on Friday; meeting with Chinese VP on Monday
Medina inaugurates renovated Maternidad Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia
City government presents the new Malecón
IMF report is favourable
National Salaries Committee meets, no agreements
World Tuberculosis Day
UASD students do poorly on standardized test to practice medicine
Tunnels and elevated sections to close
Environment will charge Imbert, Puerto Plata, mayor for irregular gravel extraction
PRM requests separate senate and deputy election ballots
Illegal journey to Puerto Rico frustrated
Canadian shot and killed in Sosua
Dominican woman arrested for murder
Dump truck rides into the Caribbean Sea

Meeting with Trump in Florida on Friday; meeting with Chinese VP on Monday
President Danilo Medina returned on Saturday, 23 March 2019, from participating in an unofficial meeting with US President Donald Trump and four other Caribbean heads of government at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. He brought back promises of increased collaboration in business from the United States. It was later reported that the US government Overseas Private Investment Corporation will be lending to big American companies to do business in the Dominican Republic.

Then on the evening of Sunday, 24 March 2019, People’s Republic of China Vice Premier Hu Chunhua flew in from Uruguay. He came accompanied by 35 members of the Chinese government. The Dominican Presidency said the meeting had been on the President’s agenda before the Trump invitation to Mar-a-Lago.

The Presidency announced that the meeting with the President held Monday, 25 March, from 10am to 1:30pm was to discuss the strengthening of business and diplomatic ties between the two countries and other matters of interest. Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado said this and subsequent meetings with the Chinese government officers is to follow up with the 19 agreements signed by the Medina government in November 2018.

Present for the meeting with President Danilo Medina and Vice Premier Hu Chunhua at the Presidency were Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas, Administrative Minister of the Presidency José Ramón Peralta, and the Deputy Minister for Policy and Development of the Presidency, Juan Ariel Jiménez. Also present was the Dominican Ambassador in China, Bruni Garabito. Also present were: Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García; Industry & Commerce Minister Nelson Toca; Agriculture Minister Osmar Benítez; Economy Minister Isidoro Santana; and the director of the National Free Zone Council, Luisa Fernández, among others.

The Chinese mission was accompanied by Chinese Ambassador Zhang Run in the meeting at the Presidency. Participating for China in addition to the vice premier and the ambassador were: Zhao Bentham, director general for Latin America of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Relations; Liu Xianfa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations; and Zhou Liujum, vice president of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, among others.

Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas said the mission members will visit manufacturing export free zones and the Colonial City, and will hold meetings with the Chinese community in the country.

"At present, the trade balance between the Dominican Republic and China exceeds US$2.5 billion, of which Dominican exports to China represent just over US$150 million, so we must make every effort to balance these amounts through higher Dominican exports," remarked Administrative Minister of the Presidency, José Ramón Peralta, who is the head of the China affairs office at the Presidency. He said the Chinese mission also discussed the next steps to promote the Dominican Republic as a tourist destination for Chinese travellers now that the Chinese government granted the country “Approved Tourist Destination" status.

The Dominican Republic has had diplomatic relations with China since April 2018 after breaking relations with Taiwan.

Hu Chunhua is one of four vice premiers of China that are high ranking executive assistants to the Premier.

Diario Libre executive editor, Adriano Miguel Tejada writes about the importance of the Dominican government fine-tuning its relations with both China and the United States for the benefit of the country.


Medina inaugurates renovated Maternidad Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia
The Medina government says that remodelling works have turned the Maternidad Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia into one of the most modern maternity hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Medina administration invested RD$1.07 billion in the remodelling that took over six years. The director of the National Health System (SNS) Chanel Rosa Chupany said that the center is part of government efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality indicators.

The Maternidad Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia has 159 beds for birthing mothers and 73 for newborns. The hospital registers on average 16,000 births and more than 100,000 emergencies.

The works were carried out by the Office of Supervisory Works of the State (OISOE) under the Presidency of the Republic.


City government presents the new Malecón
On Monday, 25 March 2019, National District Mayor David Collado inaugurated the Paseo Marítimo, the 3.5 km eastern stretch of the Av. George Washington (Malecón) from Calle Huascar Tejeda to the Fray Antón de Montesinos Monument, adjacent to the Colonial City. He said the renovations were financed by the private sector at a cost of US$2.8 million.

The renovations have taken place in the area where the main city hotels are located on the sea-fronting boulevard. The changes integrate the lovely sea panoramas to people-friendly spaces.
Managing editor of Diario Libre, Ines Aizpún writes that the project is about giving the people of Santo Domingo new excuses to go down to the Malecón.


IMF report is favorable
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), economic growth for the Dominican Republic will slow down to 5.5% in 2019, after having had the highest growth in Latin America last year. On average, Latin America economic growth is expected to be only 2%.

The IMF report has been issued following the recent IMF mission visit to the country. It highlights the growth in the country in 2018 of 7% with only 1.2% inflation, leading to an increase in employment and a reduction in poverty.

The report states that the economic perspectives are favorable, but inflation has increased due to the rising prices of petroleum and food. In the Dominican Republic domestic demand could be stronger than expected due to the solid increase in income and the availability of credit.

However, the report stresses the need for critical structural reform, improvement in the business climate and ease of doing business, and increased investment in infrastructure and human capital.

In the report, the IMF states that the robust economic performance had benefitted from a strengthening of policy frameworks, competitiveness, and the banking system over the past decade. To sustain this performance, however, reforms need a fresh push to address the remaining structural bottlenecks and propel the country towards faster income convergence to advanced country levels.

The IMF praised efforts to improve the business environment. Policy bottlenecks in trade and doing business are also being removed by the strong collaboration between the government and the private sector under the auspices of the National Competitiveness Council, states the document.


National Salaries Committee meets, no agreements
On Monday 25 March, 2019, the National Salaries Committee (CNS) that brings together representatives of the employees, employers and government, met to analyze and seek consensus about what percentage and under what conditions minimum salaries should be increased in the private sector. No agreements were reached.

Employers are demanding a reclassification of business prior to any increase and the approval of different minimum wage conditions for small business.

In 2007, the Ministry of Labor showed that the highest minimum salary in the Dominican Republic was RD$7,360; by 2017 it was RD$15,447.60, which is over double.
However, the average cost of the consumer basket of goods has also increased and studies show the minimum wage does not cover this.

According to data from the Central Bank, in 2011, the average cost of the consumer basket of goods was RD$25,214.30; by February 2019 it was RD$30,394.75.

Over the years, minimum salaries have increased by 14% to 20% every two years.


World Tuberculosis Day
“It’s time to put an end to tuberculosis,” was the name of the activity coordinated for the government by Aurora Rodríguez on occasion of World Tuberculosis Day. Speaking at the activity, she remarked that in 2018 some 4,026 people had contracted the disease in the Dominican Republic. Of these 21.7% also had HIV.

Rodríguez said that 67.7% of the patients were men and the rest women, with a mortality rate during the year of 1.8%, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

There are 1,609 government centers for treating tuberculosis. Rodríguez said that the early detection and treatment of the disease remains a challenge. She says the awareness campaign is a way to promote early detection.


UASD students do poorly on standardized test to practice medicine
Medicine school students from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) scored the best on the standardized test required by those who seek residencies at public hospitals. The residencies are required of those that will do internships prior to graduating. Students of the state university, the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), the largest medicine school in the country, only surpassed those of the Universidad Central del Este (UCE) in San Pedro de Macorís. The UASD is the public university where most students do not pay tuition and there are few if any admission barriers.

The ranking was:
Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), 78.8%
Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) 68%
Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) 66.6%
Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) 62%,
Universidad Católica Tecnológica del Cibao (UCATECI) 49.8%
Universidad Católica Nordestana (UNCNE) 46.3%
Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago (UTESA) 36.8%
Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) 31.8%
Universidad Central del Este (UCE) 23.7%


Tunnels and elevated sections to close
The Ministry of Public Works has announced maintenance work for four elevated sections on John F. Kennedy Avenue from Monday 25 to Friday 29 March. Other elevated sections and tunnels will also be closed from 10.30 at night to 5 in the morning.

The elevated section on Kennedy with Ortega and Gasset avenue will be closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the elevated section at Kennedy with Lope de Vega and Tiradentes will be closed on Monday night.

The tunnels on Núñez de Cáceres and Ortega and Gasset-UASD will be closed Tuesday, and likewise on Wednesday the elevated sections on John F. Kennedy with Núñez de Cáceres and Kennedy with Doctor Defilló will be closed for maintenance work.

On Thursday night the elevated section at km 12 of the Autopista 30 de Mayo will be closed, and on Friday, the Las Americas tunnel.


Environment will charge Imbert, Puerto Plata, mayor for irregular gravel extraction
The provincial authorities of the Environment Ministry are taking the mayor of Imbert, Puerto Plata, José Tomás Díaz, to court. A lawyer, Díaz is a member of the opposition party PRM and has increased his popularity and is recognized for paving rural roads and backing sports in his community.

José Tomas Díaz and the public works contractor from Guananico, Engineer Aladino Ulloa Mena, are to be charged with allegedly carrying out illegal extraction of construction materials from the banks of the Bajabonico, Saballo and Obispo Rivers, located in the western area of Puerto Plata province.

Danilo Morrobel, Environmental director for the municipality, confirmed the information, saying that he had overwhelming evidence against both Díaz and municipal public works contractor from Guananico, engineer Aladino Ulloa Mena. Both are charged with irregular extraction of construction materials from the banks of the Bajabonico, Saballo and Obispo rivers. He said the material was used to pave streets in several neighborhoods in the municipality, including La Grúa and Los Cafeses.

The Ministry of Environment is also investigating whether nearby mayor of Guananico, Ramón Alberto Dorrejo (Momi), had given permission for his construction equipment to be used. If this is verified, he also will be charged. He may be accused of having allowed extraction of construction material from the Bajabonico River.

Díaz says the visuals presented as evidence do not correspond to work carried out by his city government contractors.


PRM requests separate senate and deputy election ballots
The opposition party, Revolutionary Modern Party (PRM) is requesting that the Central Electoral Board (JCE) allow for separate elections at the legislative level. This means that the votes of the winning deputy not count for the election of the senator as occurred in the 2016 election. The PRM argues this amendment would be in compliance with Art. 92 of the Electoral Regime Law 15-19.


Illegal journey to Puerto Rico frustrated
The Dominican Armada (Navy) has announced that they have arrested 27 people, including a minor of 12 years old, who were trying to reach Puerto Rico in a boat that left from Las Cañitas beach in the municipality of Sabana de la Mar. In addition, members of M-2, Naval Intelligence, confiscated another two yolas that were ready to take more people to Puerto Rico.

Of the 27 people, 24 were men. They were arrested and the 25-foot-long boat was seized. Another two men were arrested in connection with the other confiscated boats.

All of those arrested were taken to the headquarters of M-2 in Santo Domingo East, but the minor, from Miches, was handed over to family members.

Those arrested said that they had paid between RD$80,000 and RD$100,000 for the journey.

Canadian shot and killed in Sosua
On Saturday, 23 March 2019, a Canadian man was shot and killed in his vehicle in the La Mulata II area of Sosúa, in northern Puerto Plata province. The victim was identified as 43-year-old Mike Di Battista, who was from Montreal, Canada. Interpol was on his trail.

His body was examined by a medical examiner, and 12 shell casings were found, thought to be from different weapons.

Officials of the Central Criminal Investigation Department (DICRIM) are investigating the case.

It is known that Di Battista was being hunted by the Canadian police back in 2015 for drug related crimes and he had been arrested in Sosúa and handed over to Canadian authorities for deportation.


Dominican woman arrested for murder
Agents from the United States Border Patrol (CBP), with the assistance of the Coast Guard, have identified and arrested a woman, being sought in the Dominican Republic, who was part of a group of 12 foreigners who tried to enter Puerto Rico illegally. The Dominican authorities had issued an arrest warrant for murder against 37-year-old Yajaira Mejía-Paulino. She is a suspect in a case in San Pedro de Macoris related to the murder of Luis Miguel Soto.

She was arrested when the yola in which she was travelling was spotted at five nautical miles northwest of Puerto Rico. Following biometric processing for previous criminal offences it was arranged to extradite her to the Dominican Republic.


Dump truck rides into the Caribbean Sea
One person died and two were injured after the driver of a dump truck lost control on Monday, 25 March 2019, at Km 17 of the Las Americas Expressway near the entrance to the Hipódromo V Centenario. The dump truck fell into the Caribbean Sea. Hundreds of bystanders stopped to watch the tragedy. Units of the Ministry of Public Works and the Transit and Ground Transport Agency (Digesett), the Firemen of Santo Domingo East were sent to the scene.