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Daily News - Thursday, 02 January 2014

DR1 breaks for Three Kings holiday
With The Three Kings holiday (6 January) falling on a Monday, the year's end festivities are extended for one more week. Under the premise that no news is good news, the DR1 Daily News takes a break through the next normal working day, Tuesday, 7 January. The DR1 Daily News digest will not be published on Friday, 3 January, or Monday, 6 January. News over the Three Kings Day holiday will be compiled for the Tuesday, 7 January issue. Regardless the DR1 Forums are open 24/7 and readers are welcome to post headline news updates and comments.

See www.dr1.com/forums

Medina attends Catholic and Evangelical ceremonies
President Danilo Medina took part in the traditional New Year's Day Mass at the Cathedral yesterday morning, Wednesday 1 January before attending the National Evangelical Assembly at the Olympic Stadium in the late afternoon. During the Mass, celebrated by Father Nelson Clark, the President and his wife were joined by Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez and many members of the diplomatic corps, including the new Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Jude Thaddeus Okolo. The Cardinal, Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, did not attend, and Father Clark said it was because of a throat infection.

During the early evening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, attended for the first time by a Dominican president, Danilo Medina gave a message to the Dominican people saying that he hoped that God's blessings would be forthcoming this year. He noted that such a massive assembly, estimated at over 50,000 strong, would have cost any political party more than RD$50 million but as the Bible says: "Faith can move mountains and pastor Molina has been moving mountains for 50 years..."



DGII extends vehicular circulation tax deadline
Procrastinators were given a break by the Department of Taxes with the announcement that the 700 extra points of sale at banks nationwide of the "marbetes" or vehicular tax would continue to issue the stickers in January 2014. The original deadline expired on 31 December. Late payers will charged a RD$600 fee. As reported in Diario Libre, 125,697 vehicles will be subject to the additional fine. The DGII has issued 874,303 marbetes, or 87.43% of the million estimated.

Vehicles without the sticker risk being towed away by Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) agents.

The DGII announced that the new stickers have been reinforced with a Datamatrix code that allows for verifying whether the sticker genuinely corresponds to the vehicle.


200,000 vehicles could be taken off the roads
The director of Ground Transport, Luis Estrella says that as a result of inspections carried out for the issuing of the "revista" stickers, around 200,000 vehicles would be removed from circulation starting in January. The vehicles are said to not meet the physical and mechanical conditions established by Transit Law 241-67. Estrella said there are around one million vehicles in circulation, of which 20% will be removed. "We are not delivering the "revista" to vehicles that are in a bad condition. He said that the DGII should do the same and not issue the drivers license stickers, the "marbete" to those that are not in optimal conditions. He said that Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) officers would decide if they could circulate or not. The inspectors are checking for chassis, window glass and indicators in adequate conditions. The inspectors are being lenient with the legal requirements that establish that the mirrors, lights system, muffler, and tires must be in good condition. Likewise, every car needs to have a spare, tire jack, emergency kit, security triangle and fire extinguisher.


Lighting up the Mirador del Sur Park
Ruben Montas, general manager of EdeSur power distribution agency, has announced that RD$5.5 million will be spent on lighting up the Ave. Mirador del Sur as part of the Comprehensive National Security Plan.

The park is eight kilometers long and fronts the Ave. Anacaona luxury high rise apartment buildings. The government has also announced plans to extend the pedestrian hours for the Avenida de la Salud on the south side of the park.

Yvette Marichal to head DGCine
President Danilo Medina has appointed Yvette Altagracia Marichal Carvajal to be the new director of DGCine, the local film office. Resigning former director Ellis Perez will stay on as honorary advisor to the President on film matters, according to Decree 390-13. The office has overseen the process of promoting film production in the DR.

In her first interview after the appointment, Marichal told Diario Libre that she would provide continuity to DGCine's work and is bringing her own ideas. "One of the things that I will do from day one is to prove what each movie, whether national or foreign, contributes to the country, whether in direct jobs created, taxes paid and collateral work it creates," she said. She told Diario Libre that "there is a lack of awareness of the Movie Law. Sometimes one sees things that are written that instead of contributing, detract from the necessary social understanding of the topic," she said. Marichal says: "The movie industry contributes to the GDP and I will do everything possible, because we will soon be able to see in figures what it contributes to the national economy... This law makes a great contribution to socio-cultural and economic development in the Dominican Republic."

The DR incentives law, which grants up to 25% income tax credits, has served to stimulate the movie-making industry in the country. On Tuesday, 31 December 2013, El Dia reported that 19 films already have release dates for 2014 and have RD$1.5 billion in tax credits approved by the government. The newspaper reports that another nine are on the drawing board for release in 2015. The report says that while before the film promotion law was passed movies cost RD$5 to RD$15 million to produce, films now cost more than RD$30 million and as much as RD$89 million that is budgeted for the production of a biopic of businessman Victor Mendez Capellan (Girasoles).

Prior to her appointment, Marichal served as director of public relations and marketing for the Global Foundation Film Festival (Funglode). She is a graduate with a Master of Science (MS) in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Studies from the University of San Francisco. She studied at Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo.

The daughter of Juan Marichal, the Dominican Republic's only Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame member, Yvette is married to Hector Anibal Estrella Pantaleon, son of Adalgisa Pantaleon, one of the female vocalists with Juan Luis Guerra 4-40 band.



Luis Lithgow is new consul in New York
President Danilo Medina has appointed Luis Lithgow, Dominican consul in New York City with Decree 387-13. In the same decree, he designated Francisco Antonio Cortorreal as the Dominican government's new permanent representative to the United Nations. He replaces Virgilio Alcantara. Both Lithgow and Cortorreal had served as alternate ambassadors to the UN based in New York City.

Santiago bypass "80% completed"
During a visit to Santiago yesterday, 1 January The Minister of Public Works and Communications Gonzalo Castillo and told reporters that three shifts are working on the Santiago bypass 24 hours a day. The new beltway will link the Duarte Highway and circle around the northern part of the city and link to the highway to Puerto Plata. The city has been waiting for this project to be completed for nearly 19 years. The minister said that the project is due for completion and inauguration by the end of February. The toll road, which is estimated to cost RD$100, is 24 kms long and has four lanes and 34 overpasses. The road is expected to cut driving time from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata by around half an hour (to around 2:30 hr) because travelers will no longer have to deal with traffic jams when crossing through the city of Santiago.


No increase in tax-exempt salaries
Once again the latest tax reform will affect salaried workers who pay taxes. As a result of the tax reform, the tax-exempt wage will remain at RD$33,325 per month for the next two years. This means that the salaries that had previously received an inflation adjustment will not get one until January 2016, if at all. The freeze on inflation adjustments was barely noticed when the tax reform was passed in 2012. According to Listin Diario, "the fiscal reform did not freeze or suspend the inflation adjustment for businesses. In other words, the companies can continue to adjust for inflation on inventories, depreciable assets, payments and capital goods..."


Tax hike will be felt by all
Although many establishments did not open their doors yesterday, Wednesday 1 January because of the New Year's festivities, the 8% to 11% increase in the Tax on the Transfer of Industrialized Goods and Services (ITBIS) is now in effect. This tax increase is being applied to the list of products that began to be subject to this tax last year as part of the latest tax reform. This increase in the ITBIS means that consumers of products like coffee, sugar, chocolate, yogurt, oil, butter and others will have to readjust their budgets due to the 3% increase that will now be applied to these items by commercial establishments under the mandate of this law. With the aim of reducing the impact of this increase at the beginning of the year, some of the major supermarket chains with branches throughout the country announced last week that they would absorb this tax increase from 8% to 11% for one month.

Nonetheless, a large number of establishments will apply the scaled increase, as ordered by the new fiscal law, which will cause an increase in the prices of some of the products in the basic family food basket: sugar, yogurt, butter, coffee and cooking oil. In order to provide an idea, it is estimated that the 8% to 11% increase in the ITBIS would represent less than an additional peso in the retail sales price for some products. A small package of coffee which as of yesterday, Wednesday 1 January was sold for RD$15, will go up RD$0.40 with the application of the ITBIS. In the meantime, sugar will go up between 55 and 70 cents from current prices of RD$20/lb for brown sugar and RD$25/lb for refined.

The increase in prices of alcoholic drinks is due to the fact that for this year the scaled ITBIS was planned for those items that were not covered by this tax before 2012. The tax will go from 8% to 11% in 2014 and to 13% in 2015 and to 16% in 2016. However, in addition, alcoholic beverages will also get a tax hike for each liter of pure alcohol. This means that malt beverages (except Malt Extracts) and wine from fresh grapes will pay a tax of RD$514.10 for each liter of pure alcohol rather than the RD$489 that they paid in 2013.

Bravo, Nacional, Jumbo, Plaza Lama and Ole supermarkets announced they would not apply the increase in January.




Talks to continue with Haiti on 7 January
The Presidency has announced the members of the High Level Commission who will take part in talks with Haiti. The commission will be chaired by Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo and its members will include Minister of Interior & Police Jose Ramon Fadul, Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose del Castillo Savinon, acting Minister of Foreign Relations Manuel Trullols and legal advisor to the President Cesar Pina Toribio. The first meeting is set for Tuesday 7 January in Ouanaminthe, Haiti where the commission is scheduled to discuss a range of issues, including immigration, commerce, environment, security and disasters. Representatives of the government of Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and Caricom will attend as observers.

When business issues are discussed, representatives of each country will be invited.

"All hopes are that the talks will yield proposals and solutions for the welfare and development of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti," said the high-ranking government minister.


Maduro calls for wisdom in Haiti and DR impasse
When asked to comment on Venezuela's mediation role in the conflict between the Dominican Republic and Haiti by a Venezuelan journalist from the Ultimas Noticias media outlet, controversial Venezuelan President Maduro stated: "We are unconditional brothers of the people of Haiti, and whoever messes with the people of Haiti is messing with the Venezuelan people. They are our older brothers, our most beloved brothers and fortunately the Dominican Republic has shown wisdom and has established a work schedule as of now. We are going to appoint a special envoy and I am assessing who has the qualifications for genuinely providing help so that the obstacles are overcome and the Haitian people are guaranteed their fundamental rights, and there are guarantees for overcoming the differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic that have to be two brother peoples. We have to get over the historic obstacles that are left over from the old colonial times and that sometimes still persist, such as the oligarchy, the right, which is always trying to sow hatred against the people of Guyana, hatred against the people of Colombia, hatred against Latin America - anti-Bolivarian hate," he said.

Meanwhile, Dominican Presidential legal advisor Cesar Pina Toribio said that he preferred to focus on where Maduro said he backs the Dominican government in finding a solution to the problem. Pina says there is no retracting from the contents of the Constitutional Court ruling 168-13. He said that talks needed to continue, awareness of the delicate situation, and that the details should not separate the commissions of both countries in the search for a friendly solution in harmony with both parties. "The talks need to be directed to find mechanisms so that the DR can put into place, respecting and implementing the ruling, but that the matter can be resolved in a humanitarian manner, as President Medina has promised, but never unheeding the ruling," said Pina Toribio.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti are major beneficiaries of PetroCaribe, a preferential financing program for oil purchases from Venezuela.

Others, including news commentator Alfredo Freites, say that Maduro has disqualified himself from being a mediator between Haiti and the DR with this statement.




Reports of an increase in Haitian beggars in Santiago
The trafficking of Haitian migrants has increased at an alarming rate over the last two months in the Dominican Republic, and according to experts, they are not able to work and many are disabled. They include children, teenagers, disabled people, fugitives from Haitian justice and others who are strongly rejected by their own emigre community. And they are arriving en masse to the Dominican Republic, according to Rene Tarbulu Batiste, of the Human Rights and Civil Protection Organization of northeastern Haiti. He said that "most are taken to Santiago and other provinces in the Cibao region." Recently, disabled Haitians have been seen on the streets of Santiago, along with women and children. According to Haitian sources they are ostracized in their own country.


JCE: New ID card, reopen overseas offices and 2014 election timeline
Providing some seven million people on the voting lists with new personal identification and voter registration cards - "cedulas" - as well as re-opening the overseas offices are two of the major jobs facing the Central Electoral Board (JCE) in 2014. Another task they face is to work out the calendar for the 2016 elections. In addition to all this, the electoral agency also has to audit the children of foreign parents who are registered in the Civil Registry, in compliance with Ruling 168-13 issued by the Constitutional Court. According to Diario Libre, the JCE also has to get the Congress to modify the Electoral Law, continue the process of computerizing and obtaining biometric data at all its offices around the country, and continue the cleanup of the Civil Registry. They also will continue the registration of every citizen who has never obtained a cedula.

Pension funds want later retirement age
A legislative bill submitted by the Dominican Association of Pension Fund Administrators (ADAFP) modifies Article 45 of Law 87-01, which proposes to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65. It also establishes, however, that the contributor should have accumulated a fund that will permit him or her to enjoy a retirement equal to or higher than the minimum pension. Another option suggested by the ADAFP to the Senate Commission for Social Security, Labor, and Pensions, is for retirement at 60 providing the contributor has accumulated a fund that would allow him or her to enjoy a retirement income over 50% of the minimum pension. The association told Diario Libre that in the case of reaching 65 and not having a fund that would allow them to enjoy at least a minimum pension, the contributor would have the right to request the benefits from the Social Solidarity Fund, providing s/he fulfills the minimum number of payments established by the law.

Dominican student speaks at NYC mayor's inauguration
Lissette Ortiz, a student born in the Dominican Republic, made an impression when taking part in the inauguration ceremony for Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday, Wednesday 1 January. A Medgar Evers college senior (City University of New York), Ortiz introduced former President Bill Clinton, who swore in De Blasio. During her speech, Ortiz recounted, both in Spanish and in English how her mother had come to New York when she was three years old and how she did not see her again until twelve years later. She told the large audience: "We worked together, it was not easy and it still is not easy, but in this city the opportunities are unlimited." Ortiz lives in the Bronx and is planning a career in public administration. She underlined the fact that "families that face the same challenges as mine have the same opportunities." According to El Nuevo Diario, Ortiz called Clinton "the president of the world" and a "hero for millions, including in the Dominican Republic."


The first three of 2014
A seventeen-year old was the mother of the first baby born in the New Year at the San Lorenzo Maternity Hospital in Los Mina. According to Listin Diario, she was soon followed by two other women who gave birth at other public health system maternity units. The young mother, Ruth Encarnacion, gave birth to her daughter Weslin just as the clock struck midnight. Ashley Dominguez Mercedes was born at the La Altagracia Maternity Hospital twelve minutes later and Dayhani Burgos arrived at the Dr. Reynaldo Almanzar Hospital in the Ciudad de la Salud at 12:35am. Two of the three births were C-sections. This is the third year in a row that a teenager has given birth to the first New Year's baby.

Diario Libre dedicates its first editorial of the year to urge for reflection on the high teenage pregnancy rate, describing it as "one of the most serious structural problems of our society... A pregnant teenager suffers more health problems as well as being exposed to increased mother and child mortality risks... The mother is more likely to leave school. And as a result her chances of educating herself and getting a job will be drastically reduced. Her family and social circle usually suffer serious consequences because many families still reject the situation and force the girl to leave the family home. The spouse chosen is usually as young as she is and the situation does not bode well for the future. Health, education, environment, work and housing... all are problems that are difficult to overcome. 22% of young Dominican girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have already become mothers. Imagine that."



Traffic accidents and fatalities were down
Twenty-six lives were lost over the year-end festivities for 2013 and the welcoming of 2014, all in traffic accidents, according to the Emergency Operations Center (COE). The agency's bulletin number 3 on the second phase of the Christmas operation called "For Dominican values and safety" reports that 734 people were injured, including 184 cases of alcohol poisoning (including 29 minors) and 25 of food poisonings, which brought the total number of victims to 157. The report shows that 550 traffic accidents were reported from Monday 30 December at 2pm until 8pm yesterday, Wednesday 1 January. Of these, at least 223 involved motorcycle riders.

COE director General Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia reported that this year including both the Christmas and New Year holiday periods there were 54 deaths, 1,250 reported persons injured. This compares to the previous year holiday totals of 50 deaths, and 1,062 reported injured persons. The 22 agencies and organizations that make up the COE deployed 34,225 people to the streets and highways to try and prevent accidents or incidents. The aid workers included Civil Defense brigades, doctors, paramedics, military and Police personnel, and search and rescue specialists.


Sonia Silvestre hospitalized
Dominican singer Sonia Silvestre spent the Christmas and New Year holidays in the hospital for a bacterial infection that caused severe anemia and affected the functioning of her kidneys, as reported in El Dia. She was treated in the intensive care unit of the Centro de Otorrinolaringologia located on Santo Domingo's Av. 27 de Febrero. Her head physician is Dr. Jose Maldonado who said she was admitted after suffering fever, nausea and vomiting.

The famous singer was on holiday from her post as minister counselor at the Dominican embassy in Cuba.


Alejandro Fernandez at the Quisqueya Ballpark
Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez (El Potrillo) is booked for a stop in Santo Domingo on his The Confidencias World Tour that is taking him to 19 countries. The Latin Grammy winning and multi-platinum selling Mexican superstar is promoting his new Confidencias album that debuted at #1 on the Bill Board Latin charts. The production has toured 11 major US cities prior to coming to Latin America. The Confidencias tour promises an unprecedented production from one of the most iconic voices in Mexican musical history. The dazzling show pays homage to Mexico via Fernandez's exceptional mariachi, orchestra and vocal prowess, featuring a collection of his greatest hits, including traditional "rancheras", pop hits and songs from the new album. The show features new musical arrangements and innovative technology including mobile structures in which more than 230 robotic lights dance along with a giant screen that brings to life breathtaking scenes from Mexico. The show is booked for Saturday, 22 March 2014 at 7:30pm at the Quisqueya Ball Park in Santo Domingo. Tickets are available through ticketexpress.com.do

Juan Luis Guerra, Alejandro Sanz and Robi Draco Rosa at Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana has announced a concert by Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra, Spaniard Alejandro Sanz and Puerto Rican Robi Draco Rosa on Saturday, 22 March 2014. The event will take place off the hotel's golf course area.

Russian DJ Zedd booked for Hard Rock in Punta Cana
Russian DJ Zedd, famous for his participation in Lady Gaga's ArtPop album, will perform at the Oro Disco of Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana on Sunday, 5 January.

Quadruple tie in baseball championship
The Dominican Winter Professional Baseball Championship resumes in Santo Domingo with all four teams tied to four wins and two losses. Games are being played through the 17th of the month, with off days (for games cancelled by rain) only on 7 and 13 January. The ballparks where games are taking place are in Santiago, Santo Domingo and San Francisco de Macoris. See the schedule at www.lidom.com/home/index.php/calendario

Final Standings of the First Phase
Team W-L Percentage GAMES BEHIND
*AGUILAS 4 - 2 .500 --
*ESCOGIDO 4 - 2 .500 --
*GIGANTES 4 - 2 .500 --
*LICEY 4 - 2 .500 --

For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

For commentaries on the news in the Dominican Republic, see www.dr1.com/forums

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