DR1 Daily News - Wednesday, 17 July 2019



Francisco Domínguez Brito launches his campaign for the PLD presidential nomination
Senate session set for 4pm, Fernández summons his followers to Congress at 3pm
Police cordon returns to National Congress
ABC Marketing: 81% reject constitutional reform
Licenses for oil to be issued
Exports slowing down
Banco de Reservas authorizes longer paternity leave
Regional city governments to meet in Santo Domingo
Deputy Elías Báez calls to irregularities in construction of new jails
Water sources soon to be a problem in Punta Cana
Medical devices technical career at ITLA
Date set for Odebrecht trial
Traffic injuries and deaths decline slightly
Survey on American tourists to the DR
Kanqui the clown to stay in jail
Bocao Food Festival: 20-21 July 2019

Francisco Domínguez Brito launches his campaign for the PLD presidential nomination
The presidential pre-candidate of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), 53-year old Francisco Domínguez Brito, inaugurated his 2020 presidential campaign on the evening of 16 July 2019. The event was held at the auditorium of the Pavilion of Fame at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center.

Domínguez Brito wants to be the alternative to the rumored division within the ruling PLD party due to differences between party giants President Danilo Medina and party president, former President Leonel Fernández. He says he will continue the good works and programs of the present government. He says he represents the new generation of PLD leaders and says the time of President Leonel Fernández has passed. He called to "turn the page."

"That the Dominican Liberation Party put behind it the internal clashes so we can focus on continuing to govern, in making a new government with the best of the PLD, a government that leaves no one out, a government without winners or losers, without divisions or confrontations," he stated.

His announcement comes as the impasse between President Danilo Medina and former President Leonel Fernández worsens. President Medina wants to seek a third term, but to do so, he needs to push through constitutional reform. Fernández says that the 2015 Constitution was already changed to allow Medina to seek his second and final term.

That evening, Domínguez Brito highlighted the achievements of the PLD governments and criticized the administrations of the political opposition. "The opposition party cannot mention a single advance in education or health, nor a single work of infrastructure of importance as legacy of their governments," said the former Attorney General of the Republic.

Domínguez Brito said that clumsy management of the economy characterized the past governments of those who lead the PRM. He criticized the opposition party candidates for not presenting proposals or programs.

On the contrary, he maintained that the PLD has brought stability to the country.

Domínguez Brito is a lawyer and politician with extensive experience in government. He was National District prosecutor (1997-2000), Attorney General (2004-2006) senator for Santiago (2006-2010), Minister of Labor (2011-2012), Attorney General (2012-2016), and Minister of Environment (2016-2018). He resigned his position at the Ministry of Environment to campaign for the presidency.


Senate session set for 4pm, Fernández summons his followers to Congress at 3pm
Former President Leonel Fernández is expected to lead a large protest after he called his followers to meet before the National Congress on Wednesday afternoon, 17 July 2019. Fernández will be heading the movement to protest a possible convening of the National Assembly for Constitutional Revision.

Fernández argues the Constitution was just amended in 2015 and explicitly bans President Danilo Medina (2012-2016, 2016-2020) from seeking a third term in the 2020 general election. The 2015 amendment also enabled former President Leonel Fernández to seek his fourth and fifth terms in government (1996-2000, 2004-2008, 2008-2012, 2020-2024?, 2024-2028?).

If the National Assembly for Constitution Revision is approved by the Senate on Wednesday, there is time to send it to the Chamber of Deputies. An extraordinary session would need to be called for Friday, 19 July. There is speculation that this was the intention last week, when the Chamber of Deputies was called to session on Friday. The bill, nevertheless, was never submitted to the Senate.

Instead, on the past Wednesday afternoon (10 July), PRM pre-candidate Luis Abinader held a large protest outside the Congress. On that same day, the US Embassy made known that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken on the telephone with President Danilo Medina urging adherence to rule of law and the constitution. Medina would respond that he would adhere to the constitution.

Fernández has now called his followers to meet in the area as of 3pm to sign the symbolic protest book. His followers have been gathering signatures to protest the possible constitutional reform.

Fernández is challenged to make a showing of more followers than those that responded to PRM presidential pre-candidate Luis Abinader protest walk on Wednesday, 10 July.

Time is running out for the passing of constitutional reform. The deadline for submitting party pre-candidates to the Central Electoral Board is 22 August 2019. Likewise, the regular legislature closes on 26 July. President Medina could convene an extraordinary legislature through 14 August.


Police cordon returns to National Congress
Protests continued Tuesday, 16 July 2019 on the outside of the National Congress. The rally is against a possible constitutional reform to prepare the way for the reelection of President Danilo Medina.

The protestors arrived on motorcycles and were confronted by the police barricade that had been dismantled last week, but reintroduced following an announcement by former President Leonel Fernandez calling on people to protest in the area today.

Only police, people who work in Congress and the press were allowed to cross the police lines and enter the congressional building.


ABC Marketing: 81% reject constitutional reform
ABC Marketing, a Peruvian consulting firm, reports findings that 81.2% of Dominicans eligible to vote in the 2020 general elections are against amending the Constitution. The amendment would enable President Danilo Medina to seek a third term in office. Only 12.1% of those polled said they agreed with constitutional reform. 6.7% did not respond to the pollsters.

The same poll says that the rejection to the amendment had been 73% in November 2018, increasing to 77% in February 2019 and 81.2% in July 2019.

The research was carried out from 1 to 10 July 2019 and the results presented on Sunday, 14 July 2019, by company director Juan Carlos Maldonado, in a press conference in Santo Domingo. 1,000 members of the voting public across the country were polled.

Leading polls have regularly shown strong opposition to constitutional reform. A March 2019 Asisa Research poll showed 73% of those polled were against constitutional reform. A May 2019 Gallup-Hoy poll revealed that 68.3% of Dominicans eligible to vote in 2020 oppose constitutional reform.


Licenses for oil to be issued
The Dominican Republic is promoting its first licensing round for oil in decades. Deputy Minister of Energy & Mines Alberto Reyes is on record saying that the country has not issued exploration rights in the last 30 years. He says the new technologies can make the difference and there is renewed exploration interest in the region.

The Ministry of Energy & Mines launched its licensing round in Houston, Texas this month. It is offering 14 blocks across both onshore and offshore basins and other basins could be proposed. The bids will be opened on 27 November 2019.

As explained in Petroleum Economist, Reyes said that the Dominican Republic has the most gas demand in the region and is currently dependent on imported LNG. These requirements are soon going to double, as a 700MW gas-fired plant is under construction in southeastern San Pedro de Macorís.


Exports slowing down
The Dominican International Commerce Observatory (ODCI) has highlighted that the pace of export increase has slowed down this year over last, having increased 4.2% in the first three months of this year. This is around half the increase over the same period last year.

Nevertheless, economist Pavel Isa Conde, who presented the report, said that everything was normal. He explained that exports were up in 2018 due to the effect of the economic growth experienced by the United States, the country's primary export market.

Between January and March 2019, the country exported US$4,051 million in goods and services compared to US$3,888 million last year over the same timeframe. Imports were US$8,470 million this year in the first quarter compared to US$8,057 million last year.

The problem, according to Isa Conde is that the pace of growth of exports this year is not sufficient to cover the faster-rising needs for foreign currency to pay the public debt. Isa Conde forecast a decline in tourist receipts reflecting the effects of the negative press on US tourist deaths in the country.


Banco de Reservas authorizes longer paternity leave
The government commercial bank, the Banco de Reservas announced it is now allowing longer parental leave for fathers. The bank is following a trend for local companies to recognize that fathers, too, want to spend time with their newborns.

The BanReservas announced that pre and post-natal leave has increased to 112 days for the mothers and 12 calendar days for the fathers. The Dominican Labor Code establishes 98 days for mothers and seven days for fathers when their babies are born.

The measures seek to facilitate that mother and father be present for these important moments for the family, and to contribute to the physical, psychological and emotional balance of newborns, says the note.

The measure is implemented after the entry into force of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 183 on "Protection of Motherhood" in the Dominican Republic. The Convention had been ratified by the Dominican Republic on 9 February 2016, according to a press release from BanReservas.

The board of directors of Banreservas also approved to extend the breastfeeding period to one year. In this regard, the Labor Code only provides for six months.


Regional city governments to meet in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo (National District) will host the 27th meeting of mayors of the Central American, Mexican and Caribbean region of the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities (UCCI). The event will take place 19-20 July 2019. The UCCI is an international, non-governmental organization that groups 29 major Ibero-American cities and fosters ties and friendly relations between the members.

Mayors of the cities of Managua, Mexico City, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, Panama City and San José (Costa Rica) have confirmed their participation. National District Mayor David Collado will be the host for the event.

During the plenary meeting, the general report of activities of the UCCI covering the period 2018-2019 will be presented, including financials and activities. The general objective of the meeting is to present initiatives that promote UCCI's strategy towards 2030. Participants will address the relations with other municipal networks and federations, specifically with the networks of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and Municipal Associations (FLACMA) and the Latin American Coordination of Local Authorities (CORDIAL) that is made up of UCCI, FLACMA, AL-LAS and Mercociudades.

In addition, a workshop will be held on "Innovation to Generate Opportunities in Local Governments" for UCCI coordinators and directors of the Santo Domingo Mayor's Office. Florida International University professors are coordinating this workshop.

The mayor of the National District, David Collado said he is proud to be part of the Union of Iberoamerican Capital Cities, as well as to host this important delegation.

He reaffirmed his commitment to interact with exemplary cities to learn about the improvements and opportunities that apply to Santo Domingo.

The meeting is scheduled when normal activities at the city government have been affected by the political impasse in Congress. The City Government of the National District headquarter is located across from the congressional building.


Deputy Elías Báez calls out irregularities in construction of new jails
The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) deputy Elías Báez denounced on Tuesday, 16 July 2019 that Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez had ordered the imprisoning of a businessman friend of his so that he could not participate in the bidding process for the construction of a prison.

During an intervention in the Chamber of Deputies, Baez explained that the businessman called him saying that he was being held after an alleged anonymous call ordered by the Attorney General office, so that he would desist from his participation in the construction of the prison project.

He deplored that the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) is building prisons, powers that according to him are proper to the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC).

"In the only country that you see a prosecutor building prisons, but why, because he is going to handle that large amount," he added. The jail construction program is carried out with Odebrecht funds received after the Attorney General Office signed a deal to not prosecute the Brazilian construction company.


Water sources soon to be a problem in Punta Cana
The success of the Punta Cana beach resort and residential area has spurred many developers to want to join in the bonanza. The Ministry of Tourism has followed the trend, authorizing new developments, including many high rises in the area. Population in the area has doubled in recent years. More people are relocating to Punta Cana attracted by the employment and opportunities generated by the tourism boom in the eastern coastline strip.

Now, a report in Diario Libre by investigative journalist Mariela Mejía takes a look into a reality few people are addressing. The Punta Cana area does not have abundant water sources. The report highlights that saltwater is mixing with drinking water as underground wells are overexploited.

"The increase in population in the eastern part of the country and the high demand for water by resort complexes have led to an increase in saline intrusion in the underground currents of that region," writes Mejia. She says the presence of brackish water has increased to more than six kilometers away from the coastline, signifying an advance of three kilometers compared to what was measured in 2002, according to studies.


Medical devices technical career at ITLA
The Technological Institute of the Americas (ITLA) announced the opening of careers in Medical Device Manufacturing to train professionals in this area.

ITLA Rector José Armando Tavárez; José Manuel Torres, executive vice-president of the Dominican Association of Free Zones (Adozona); Geraldo Martínez, director of human resources of the German company Fresenius and Pedro Pablo Castro, coordinator of the Mechatronics and Manufacturing Center at ITLA, presided over the opening event.

Tavárez stressed that academy must respond quickly and timely to the needs of the productive sector. With this new educational proposal, ITLA aims to respond to those demands.

Torres of Adozona gave the opening conference entitled "Manufacturing of Medical Devices: Dominican Present and Future Industry Actors." He said that the medical devices subsector has grown in jobs and exports. He explained there is great potential to generate more jobs because this is the main line of Dominican export manufacturing.

Students will be trained in the manufacture of medical devices. They will be prepared to occupy positions such as product developers, mechanical designers, computerized numerical control (CNC) programmers, engineering assistants in the area of design, supervisors, production specialists, manufacturing specialists, quality supervisors, technicians in development departments, automation technicians, validation technicians, among others.


Date set for Odebrecht trial
Supreme Court judges have announced that the trial of the six people accused of having received US$92 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, will begin on 12 September 2019.

The Supreme Court president, Luis Henry Molina announced the date. The accused are Ángel Rondón, Víctor Díaz Rúa, Conrad Pittaluga, Roberto Rodríguez, Andrés Bautista and senator Tommy Galán. The Specialized Prosecutor's Office for the Persecution of Administrative Corruption (Pepca) accuses the six sent to trial for criminal association, bribes, illicit enrichment, prevarication, falsehood, money laundering, falsifying their sworn statement of assets and other crimes.

Also, the court gave the parties five working days to present any problems with the date to the court secretary and the same timeframe for the lawyers of the accused to deposit their evidence.

As of 18 July, the six accused are expected to submit their appeals to the court.


Traffic injuries and deaths decline slightly
According to records, this year almost 400 people have been involved in traffic accidents, have died or been injured. There have been 286 accidents with 169 deaths and 208 injured, according to a report in Listin Diario. Neither the National Institute for Ground Transit and Transport (Intrant) nor the Ground Transit and Transport (Digesett) have consolidated available data.

Most accidents have occurred on highways, with impacted vehicles, skidding off the road.

Trucks were involved in 176 of the accidents, or around 59% of the total. Cars and SUVs were involved in 24.7% of the accidents, motorcycles 46% and buses 0.013%.

The southwestern Azua-Bani highway has the highest incidence of accidents followed by roads in Santo Domingo, Santiago, Puerto Plata and La Altagracia.

In 2018 according to the National Statistics' Office (ONE), there were 1,418 deaths on the road, 1,585 in 2017 and 1,989 in 2016.

Sunday is the day on which most accidents occur in the Dominican Republic.


Survey on American tourists to the DR
A survey conducted by ConsumerAffairs reports that 9% of respondents have changed accommodations or destinations because of the publishing of recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, and 78% were concerned about the news. Consumer media has been highlighting tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, and the industry has been feeling the ripple effects.

Of those concerned about the news, 59% said they are likely to purchase travel insurance that has medical coverage, ConsumerAffairs said.

According to the survey, older respondents were more likely to be concerned about the tourist deaths. In total, 86% of those 65 or older are concerned, compared with 63% of respondents ages 25-39.

ConsumerAffairs sent its survey to its 150,000-consumer user base and received 650 responses.


Kanqui the clown to stay in jail
Santiago judge Ilka Pérez has confirmed the coercive measure of three months in preventive custody against Kelvin Núñez, better known as Kanqui, the clown. The judge considers Núñez to be a flight risk. He will complete the sentence in Rafey jail in Santiago, accused of sexual abuse of minors.

As reported, Kanqui left the court in tears and with his head held down, saying nothing, while his family and friends yelled, "We are with you."

Pablo Santos, lawyer for the accused, said he would appeal, as Kanqui is not a flight risk.


Bocao Food Festival: 20-21 July 2019
Bocao Food Festival this year will be held Saturday, 20 and Sunday, 21 July on the Malecon. The promoters of the Bocao online portal, José Miguel Guerrero and Jean Carlos Nuñez announced this year musical presentations are included in their annual gastronomic extravaganza. Letón Pé, Selektor Siete, Chris Romero, Impar, Incoherente, Conuko Band Roots, Dj. Zayas, Snenie, and Pororó, are on the list of booked entertainers.

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