DR1 Daily News - Wednesday, 12 June 2019



President Medina breaks ground for low-cost housing project in Punta Cana
Possible new shipyard to be built in Azua
Energy & Mines submits bill for “win-win” conditions in mining developments
IMF says outlook is favorable but urges tax increases
Caribbean countries discuss ways to combat drug trafficking and cross-border crimes
US senator Marco Rubio against a second reelection in the Dominican Republic
President Medina following the progress of David Ortiz
Ortiz recovering in Boston
Police shares nothing further on the Ortiz shooting case
Supposed drug lord says he is not involved in Ortiz’ shooting
Time Magazine looks into recent tourist deaths in Dominican Republic
US Embassy confirms FBI investigates deaths
Germany defeats Dominican Republic in Nations League
Cocaine haul in Haina
Two illegal journeys to Puerto Rico intercepted
Cuban poems, music and dance at the Gran Teatro del Cibao

President Medina breaks ground for low-cost housing project in Punta Cana
President Danilo Medina, accompanied by the Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo, attended the ground-breaking for a low-cost housing project named Crisfer in Punta Cana. Some 1,296 homes for single and multi-family are part of the new housing development, an investment of RD$4 billion. During the ceremony, Gustavo Montalvo highlighted the different economic measures the government has launched to facilitate the construction of low-cost housing.


Possible new shipyard to be built in Azua
Spanish investors met with President Danilo Medina on Monday, 10 June 2019, to present their project to build a shipyard for the repair of boats in southwestern Azua. Naval engineer Francisco Lage, from the Sym Naval company, met with President Danilo Medina at the Presidential Palace. The Presidency said the initial investment would be of US$40 million. Some 600 direct and indirect jobs would be created by the venture.

Lago was accompanied by the director of the National Council of Free Zones, Luisa Fernández; the director of the Dominican Port Authority, Víctor Gómez Casanova, and the senator for Azua, Rafael Calderón.

Upon leaving the meeting, Fernandez explained that part of the project is a free zone for companies linked to the shipping sector.

Gómez Casanova highlighted that Sym Naval is one of the leading shipyard companies in Europe and that the project would convert the Dominican Republic into a naval construction center.

The company already has shipyards in Miami and Santo Domingo that serve the Caribbean area.

The installation of the shipyard, nevertheless, is protested by the Asociación para la Defensa de la Bahía that complain the shipyard does not meet requirements of the Environmental Law and would be damaging to the touristic potential of the beach area. Representatives of the association made the complaint on the "Matutino Alternativo" Fidelity FM radio talk show on 12 June 2019.


Energy & Mines submits bill for “win-win” conditions in mining developments
Energy & Mines Minister Antonio Isa Conde sent a bill for amendments to the 48-year old National Mining Law. The bill seeks to expand the participation of the state and communities in the profits from the exploitation of mining resources while not affecting the profitability of the mining companies. Isa Conde said the amendments seek to create “win-win” conditions in mining.

Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez received the bill. As reported, the bill establishes a minimum participation of 40% in mining yield and lowers from 75 years to 40 years the maximum span of an exploitation concession. Pared Perez said that the bill would be put on the Senate agenda for the Wednesday, 12 June 2019 session and a joint Senate-Chamber of Deputies committee would be created to study the bill, chaired by Juan Orlando Mercedes, who is the president of the Senate mining committee.


IMF says outlook is favorable but urges tax increases
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the summary of the findings of the periodic economic review carried out with Dominican monetary authorities. The report highlights the high growth of 7% in 2018 and the strong private investment and consumption response to timely monetary impulse after a slowdown in 2017. The summary points out that the acceleration in economic activity has not put pressures on either internal or external balances. It states that inflation has remained subdued and the external position is strong.

The summary states: “The very strong economic performance over the past several years, aided by the authorities’ policies, led to substantial reduction in poverty, inequality and continued income convergence to advanced economy levels.”

The IMF forecasts growth will be moderate to around 5½% in 2019 and 5% over the medium-term, both within the estimated potential range. The moderation will be driven by a slowdown in credit expansion, a less supportive external environment and higher oil prices.

The IMF directors, nevertheless, encourage Dominican authorities to take advantage of the current favorable environment to further increase the economy’s resilience to shocks by building fiscal and reserve buffers, while strengthening long term growth and social outcomes through reforms to address structural bottlenecks.

The directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to improve the fiscal position, including through ambitious tax administration reforms to curb evasion, mobilize revenues, and improve governance. Nonetheless, given that public debt is trending up despite strong growth, the directors called for further efforts to improve debt sustainability. They underscore the need for a front-loaded fiscal adjustment aimed at widening the tax base and curtailing the electricity sector’s drag on the budget, while safeguarding fiscal space for growth-enhancing public investment and social spending.

The IMF directors are recommending the adoption of a medium-term fiscal framework, with a clear policy anchor and fiscal responsibility elements, to ensure policy credibility and limit fiscal risks.

Furthermore, in light of the favorable external position, the IMF directors encourage the continued accumulation of international reserves.

The directors welcomed financial system stability and wide-ranging reforms to further enhance financial resilience. They support the ongoing modernization of the institutional framework for systemic risk oversight, strengthening of banking regulation and supervision, and cybersecurity reforms. They encourage the authorities to take further action, including to strengthen the supervisory oversight of non-bank financial institutions.

The directors called for the authorities to build on recent gains, and encouraged further measures to be implemented to improve the business environment, remove trade and investment barriers, and continue reforms to education, health, and the pension system. The IMF called for decisive actions to address the long-standing structural weaknesses that continue to weigh on potential growth, particularly losses in the electricity sector and inefficiencies in the product and labor markets. And noted the need to broaden and strengthen the social security system, which will require additional fiscal space.


Caribbean countries meet to discuss ways to combat drug trafficking and cross-border crimes
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas, US Ambassador Robin Bernstein, and the director of programs for the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Towyne Stephenson, presided over the opening of the Ninth Technical Working Group on Youth, Women and Vulnerable Populations: The Road to Peace and Justice. The event is held within the framework of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative sponsored by the United States government.

The United States and Caribbean countries are working together through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) to combat drug trafficking and other cross-border crimes that threaten regional security. The partnership seeks to deepen regional cooperation, significantly reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and welfare, foster social justice and regional cooperation.

The meeting is being held from 11-12 June 2019 at the convention center of the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Santo Domingo. The meeting provides a forum where Caribbean nations, with the cooperation of the United States government, can exchange experiences around studies, reports and cases related to security problems in their populations, prepared by government agencies.

Heading the Dominican delegation at the opening were Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez, Women Minister Janet Camilo and Youth Minister Robiamny Balcácer.

In his welcoming address, Foreign Minister Vargas stressed the importance of the Dominican Republic as a regional venue for debating and proposing effective solutions for policies and actions against crime, youth and gender violence.

"The Dominican government, once it received the request from the government of the United States, through its Agency for International Development (USAID), to host this important event, gave a quick and enthusiastic response, and on this occasion we will exhaust a broad and well-documented agenda of work over the next two and a half days," said the Foreign Minister.

Miguel Vargas pointed out that the Dominican Republic and its agencies linked to the social development sectors have not been oblivious to the problems, threats and challenges that affect the populations of all the island territories of the Caribbean.

US Ambassador Bernstein pointed out that the United States is committed to Caribbean countries to jointly prevent crime and violence, as the technical working group seeks to strengthen the capacity of governments to achieve effective and integrated security practices for the entire region.

Through the initiative, Caribbean countries have identified priority issues, including the creation of a regional information exchange network, the improvement of maritime coordination for interdiction, and the development of regional training capacity.

Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis are participating in the CBSI Working Group Conference.


US senator Marco Rubio against a second reelection in the Dominican Republic
US senator Marco Rubio has issued a statement stating his position against Dominican President Danilo Medina fostering a second change of the Constitution to seek a third presidential term.

Rubio is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues. He stated:
“President Danilo Medina’s efforts to alter the Constitution of the Dominican Republic in an attempt to run for a third presidential bid should be of grave concern to democracies in the region and worldwide. Circumventing the established presidential term limits in the Dominican Republic threatens democratic norms and would set a terrible precedent in the Dominican Republic and Caribbean Basin.”

His statement follows that of US Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who on 17 May wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to use diplomatic channels to discourage the move for a constitutional amendment.


President Medina following progress of David Ortiz
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas confirmed that President Danilo Medina is following investigations on the shooting of David Ortiz and Jhoel Lopez. He called the event an “isolated incident.”


Ortiz recovering in Boston
43-year old David Ortiz, who was shot outside a bar on Venezuela Avenue on the evening of Sunday, 9 June 2019, was flown to Boston, Massachusetts to continue his recovery on the evening of 10 June. He had been operated on in the Abel Gonzalez Advanced Medicine Clinic in Santo Domingo on Monday, 10 June.

According to Leo Lopez, Ortiz’s assistant and press secretary, Ortiz underwent exploratory surgery upon his arrival at Mass General Hospital in Boston on Monday night. Lopez told the press that Ortiz was talking and conversing coherently and that the follow-up and evaluation procedures would be taking place over the next 48 hours. He said that Ortiz was in good spirits but was not allowed visitors, apart from his closest family members, and that he was still in the intensive care unit.

According to Dr. Horacia Hojman, head of surgery at the Tufts Medical Center in Boston, if there were no hemorrhaging nor infections, Ortiz could recover and he in normal health in a short period, about one or two months. However, infection or any complications could delay his full recovery for several months.

Ortiz’s wife of 17 years, Tiffany, asked for privacy as her husband recovers. She released a statement on her husband’s condition. “David arrived at Massachusetts General Hospital last night and underwent a successful second surgery. He is stable, awake, and resting comfortably this morning in the ICU where he is expected to remain for the next several days.


Police shares nothing further on the Ortiz shooting case
More than 24 hours after the shooting of Major League Baseball player, David Ortiz, the police is still uncertain as to the reason behind the shooting, nor have they identified the actual shooter.

The Dominican authorities have one person under arrest, Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, who was said to be driving the motorcycle on which the shooter arrived. The actual shooter, however, is still a fugitive from the law. Pre-trial custody measures are pending.

On Tuesday, 11 June 2019, the Police revealed the arrest of Oliver Mirabal in northwestern Mao as a suspect in the case.

Ortiz was shot at close range in the back, and the bullet exited from his abdomen and then hit television commentator Jhoel Lopez in the leg.

There are several rumors flying around social media. The three crucial points the public is clamoring for clarification are: why did someone want to kill Ortiz; who is the shooter; and if the police have established whether this was a case of murder for hire, and if so, who contracted the shooter to carry out the deed.

Leo López, David Ortíz’ press secretary, is convinced this was a hitman case, a theory that gathers strength as there is no indication that this was a robbery and in addition, witnesses have said that minutes before the shooting, the two men on the motorcycle were seen talking to two people in a vehicle, prior to carrying out the shooting.


Supposed drug lord says he is not involved in Ortiz’ shooting
Joel Galván, whose photograph has circulated on social media as supposedly being linked with the shooting of David Ortiz, bas denied that he has any type of relationship with those implicated in the attack on the ex-baseball player.

He said that he wanted to clarify that his name was Joel Galván and having seen that people think he is linked to the case, he wanted to disassociate himself from the case.

Speaking on video in his Instagram account, he said that he was currently in New York resolving personal matters, but that he was happy to be interviewed to clarify that he had nothing to do with the case, nor did he know any of those involved.


Time Magazine looks into recent tourist deaths in Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the most popular Caribbean destination for US tourists. Recent deaths and violence reports affecting US tourists have made headlines in the US press, with stories in major publications.

This week, Time Magazine does a wrap up on the recent tragic incidents. “5 US Tourists Have Died in the Dominican Republic Since April. Should You Cancel Your Trip?” asks Time. In the article, it highlights the position of the local police and tourism authorities that ask for the public to wait for conclusions from the investigations before making assumptions. Preliminary autopsy reports indicate the deceased already had potentially life-threatening medical conditions. Officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States are working with local investigators.

Time Magazine interviewed Mathew Bradley, a US law enforcement agent who after a career of 14 years in the CIA now advises tourists on safe travel as regional security director for the Americas for International SOS, a travel security assistance company. “It’s not an overly dangerous place,” former CIA agent and current Regional Security Director of International SOS Matthew Bradley told TIME. “I would still consider the Dominican Republic a safe place to go.”

Time Magazine focuses on around 6.5 million tourists who visited the Dominican Republic in 2018, and how the country is the top destination in the Caribbean. The US State Department ranks the country as level 2, the same as France, the most popular US travel destination.


US Embassy confirms FBI investigates deaths
A statement dated 11 June 2019 from the United States Embassy in the Dominican Republic reaffirms that the embassy “is actively working with the government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that US citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic.”

The Embassy states that the Dominican authorities had asked for Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahía Príncipe cases in Playa Nueva Romana and that FBI colleagues say the results may take up to 30 days. “We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.”

US Ambassador Robin Bernstein has said publicly: “The safety and security of U.S. citizens that live in, work in, and visit the Dominican Republic remains our highest priority. These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted.”

The Dominican Republic received 6.5 million tourists in 2018. Of these 2.3 million were US citizens.


Germany defeats Dominican Republic in Nations League
In a game where team members wore the #34 to express their solidarity with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, the Dominican women’s volleyball team lost 3-1 against Germany. The Dominican Republic (ranked 10th) needed to defeat Germany (ranked 12th) for a chance at being one of the top six that would move to the final round of the VNL championship. The game was played to a home crowd of German fans. The game ended 25-19, 14-25, 25-19, 25- 21.

The Dominican national women’s team will now match Netherlands (ranked 7th) and Belgium (ranked 19th).


Cocaine haul in Haina
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD), in coordination with the Public Prosecution Service and other intelligence agencies, have confiscated 24 kilos of cocaine at the Haina Port in Santo Domingo West.

The authorities checked a container that arrived from Colombia with packets of cocaine hidden inside rolls of carpet.

The manifest showed that the container had as its final destination Houston, Texas, USA. Several people have been interviewed in connection with the find, and the investigation is ongoing.


Two illegal journeys to Puerto Rico intercepted
The Dominican Navy has informed that they have prevented two illegal journeys to Puerto Rico and arrested 27 people, all male, near Los Tumbaos in southcentral Matanzas, Baní. The other boat trip that was stopped would have departed from Playa Cosón between Majagua de Sanchez and Las Terrenas, in northeastern Samaná.

According to the institution, in Matanzas Bani, they intercepted an illegal boat (yola) some 32 feet long and arrested 27 people of a group of 50. The number of persons arrested in Samaná was not disclosed.

Those arrested were taken to Naval Intelligence for questioning.

The Navy added that the provinces in the south of the country were becoming much more active in illegal journeys to Puerto Rico, putting the lives of the passengers in risk as it was a long and a very dangerous journey to the neighboring island.


Cuban poems, music and dance at the Gran Teatro del Cibao
The Ballet Clásico Santiago presents “Cubanías” a dance performance directed by Norma García and produced by Julio Suárez on Saturday, 15 June 2019, at 8pm at the Gran Teatro del Cibao. The performance includes music and poems by José Martí, Cuban national poet Nicolás Guillén, Gonzalo Roig, Ernesto Lecuona, Silvio Rodríguez, Miguel Matamoros, César Portillo de la Luz, Nicolás Guillén, Pablo Milanés, José María Vitier.

Special invited dancers are Cubans Eliosmayker Orozco and Sander Robert, both living in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican dancers are Laura María del Carmen Butler Jacobo, Daniela León Franco, Aimée Lucía Martínez Ripoll, Leslie Mustafá Acosta, Danna Yasbeily Rodríguez Ventura, Franchelle Marie Ulloa Tineo and Laura Natalia Velásquez Angarita.

The producer says that a stellar part of the evening will be the performance of the ballet “Almendra,” with choreography by Norma García and Carlos Veitía, music by Abelardo Valdés.