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Daily News - Tuesday, 07 January 2014

Back to school and work
The Ministry of Education is calling for all students and teachers to return to school today, Tuesday 7 January after the long Christmas and New Year break. Minister Carlos Amarante Baret is urging the 2,710,832 students to get back to school as well as the teachers and administrative personnel.

There are 1,983,909 children and young people in public schools and polytechnics, 663,863 in the private sector and 63,061 in the semi-official sector.

Work in earnest also resumes across the country today.


Gustavo Montalvo heads DR team at Haiti talks
Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo is heading the Dominican delegation to the talks with their Haitian counterparts in Ouanaminthe today, Tuesday, 7 January. The Haitian town of Ouanaminthe (Juana Mendez) is a short distance from the northwestern border town of Dajabon.

In an official statement, Montalvo declared that the Dominican government seeks "a relationship built on trust so as to work together for the welfare of both peoples." He said he trusted that dialogue was the best way to find understanding between the DR and Haiti. He said that the topics to be covered are immigration, trade, environment, security and natural disasters.

In a recent editorial, Diario Libre executive editor Adriano Miguel Tejada described the Governmental Commission for the Bi-National Dialogue meeting as the Dominican Republic being taken to a "sacrificial altar". The Haitian government has been engaged in a mass media campaign for Dominican citizenship to Haitian immigrants. The Dominican government wants Haiti to cooperate by starting the paper trail by documenting its citizens in Haiti. For decades, most people who have migrated have done so without any paperwork whatsoever. The Haitian government insists on Dominican citizenship for anyone who can claim having been born in the Dominican Republic prior to the 2010 Constitution. Birth tourism to the Dominican Republic is big business, with organized tours and buses dropping off impoverished women at public hospitals.

Haiti Libre reports that the Haitian government will be represented by Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Richard Casimir, Commerce Minister Wilson Laleau, Interior Minister David Bazile and economist Nesmy Manigat.

The Dominican Commission, chaired by Gustavo Montalvo, Minister of the Presidency is composed of: Minister of Interior and Police Jose Ramon Fadul, Minister of Trade and Industry Jose del Castillo, Acting Minister of Foreign Relations Jose Manuel Trullols and legal advisor to the President Cesar Pina Toribio.

United Nations and the European Union representatives have been invited to the meeting. Other observers include representatives of the government of Venezuela and English-speaking Caribbean organization (Caricom), which have been vocal in their support for positions expressed by the government of Haiti.

Haiti Libre reports that the mandate of the Bilateral Commission is to find a consensus and acceptable solutions to matters of migration, trade, border security and bi-national markets. As reported in Haiti Libre, "Haitian and Dominican authorities have made a firm commitment to amicably resolve the various problems between the two countries".

As reported, the first of a series of meetings planned will serve essentially to define the working agenda of future meetings. The second meeting will be held in the Dominican Republic.

After years of a laissez-faire approach by the Dominican government, the new Constitutional Court issued the lengthy Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 upholding the common interpretation of "in transit" as non-legal immigrant that mainly affects immigrants from Haiti who have entered the DR without legal papers. This was confirmed in 2005 by a Supreme Court ruling. The government says that around 14,000 people of Haitian origin have been found to have been issued Dominican nationality irregularly and has proposed a path to correct this with the National Legalization Plan. People who have lived in the DR without papers for years need to go through the residency process and then apply for citizenship.

The plan also seeks to end the situation in which an underclass of people lives in the Dominican Republic without legal documentation, causing major bureaucratic and social problems. The Dominican government has benefitted illegal immigrants with social benefits such as free education and health services for many years, but it now seeks to legalize hundreds of thousands of people who have not secured their legal documents.

The Medina government has launched large-scale poverty reduction initiatives including the National Literacy Plan that seeks to teach more than 800,000 impoverished people to read and write in two years, the 4% of GDP for education, and the Immigration Legalization plan, a large-scale initiative to document all people living in the Dominican Republic with residency permits or citizenship papers.


Cross-border people trafficking up
Despite there being 25 military posts and border checkpoints, El Dia reports that people trafficking across the border continues on the rise. As reported the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border doubled in 2013. An estimated 30,000 Haitians now cross the border, for a total of around 360,000 a year. El Dia journalists interviewed senator Adriano Sanchez Roa who said that many traffickers are amassing fortunes. Reportedly, they charge RD$5,000 for every undocumented person they transport, and this generates around RD$150 million a month, RD$1.8 billion a year for the people smugglers.


Dominican Republic should withdraw from Caricom
The head of the Roundtable of Commonwealth Countries in the Dominican Republic, Fernando Gonzalez Nicolas says Caricom leaders don't understand Dominican reality, as reported in the Jamaica Gleaner.

He said that the wording used by the prime ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad in their recent letters to President Danilo Medina show that those leaders don't realize that Dominicans are major buyers in Caricom among all of the Caribbean region's countries.

"Since 2012, Dominican Republic has imported the significant sum of US$1.6 billion in goods and products from Trinidad and other Caricom countries," the business leader said.

He said Dominican companies have made significant investments in Caricom countries.

"Since Dominican Republic is Caricom 's main trading partner in the region, the manner in which its leaders address their Dominican partner is strange for us," he said and noted that the Dominican Republic exported only around US$160 million to Caricom countries in 2012, a figure which he affirms is just 2.3% of the total Dominican exports.

In a statement, Gonzalez Nicolas urges Caricom leaders to study Dominican history better, its idiosyncrasies and its trade with its Hispaniola neighbor, Haiti".

He said he doesn't see the point of the Dominican Republic's ongoing bid to become an active Caricom member. "In our opinion it's pointless, both economically and politically."

He did suggest, however, stronger Caricom -Dominican Republic ties, noting that except for Trinidad and Jamaica, none of the countries in the regional bloc has an embassy in Santo Domingo. " Caricom leaders should reconsider the tone of the dialogue with the Dominican Republic, for the benefit of all countries, brothers and neighbors."


Constitutional Court upholds tax exemptions for border companies
The Constitutional Court has reaffirmed the validity of Decree 36-02 that authorizes tax exemptions for companies that are located in border provinces. The high court says that the tax exemptions that were authorized in Decree 10 January 2002 are in line with the Constitution and do not violate freedom of doing business, as reported in Diario Libre. The ruling, TC/0267/13, says that the tax incentives are aimed at stimulating the economy of the border provinces.


Countdown to reduced taxes begins
Corporate income tax will be 28% in 2015, down from the 29% companies need to pay on profits by March 2014. In 2016, the tax will drop by another 1%, and will remain at 27%.

The DGII confirms that 2014 is the last year for the 18% taxation on goods. In 2015, the ITBIS tax will be 16%. The tax will be lowered because more goods are being covered by the tax.

The tax law also establishes that this is the last year for the payment of the 1% on company assets. According to the law, this will be reduced to 0.5% in 2015 before being eliminated in 2016.

Meanwhile, leading chain stores (Plaza Lama, Bravo, Ole, Jumbo/Nacional) have announced they are giving their customers one month before applying increases in taxation ordered by the law on food products.

Film sector tax credits were RD$297 million for 2011-2013
In the first two years since the DGCine Law 108-10 was passed, the Dominican government has approved RD$297.18 in tax credits for Dominican-made movies. Former DGCine director Ellis Perez told El Dia that the RD$1.5 billion represented the total budgets of the films, not the tax exemptions. He said this is the total value, but many of these budgets have not yet been spent. Perez said that in the first two years that the film law has been in effect, the Inter-sectorial Council for the Promotion of the Movie Industry (CIPAC) approved RD$376.8 million in tax credits for films already completed from 2012-2013. He said the tax credit total needed to be validated by the government institutions involved in the process, including Hacienda and the Tax Department (DGII). Perez added that the companies would then receive incentives for the sum of RD$280.5 million in April 2014.

Perez, who directed the Cinema Department for its first two years, is now the Presidential filmmaking advisor. He was replaced by Yvette Marichal, former director of creativity and public relations for the Funglode Film Festival.


Identity fraud network to be installed
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito has announced the implementation of a network to interconnect the whole country with the public prosecution service. He said the connection would help tackle identity fraud. People are known to take on a separate identity when skipping bail and committing new crimes, as reported in Diario Libre. Dominguez Brito said that criminals have taken advantage of the absence of a single database. The new system will enable prosecutors to carry out more effective checks on individuals. He added that they are working on a broadband connection with Claro telecom, aimed at reducing impunity in the case of crimes committed.

Dominguez Brito said that the new 911 system will have an important citizen security component because it will enable fast access to background checks in the case of individuals caught committing a crime.

He predicts that homicide, femicide and kidnapping rates, which he described as one of the lowest in the American continent, will continue to decline. "The major concern continues to be thefts and muggings, especially by individuals riding motorcycles, targeting homes and pedestrians," he said. He said that another main challenge is to fight small-scale drug trafficking.


Queues for vehicle inspection stickers
Long lines of cars are still snaking around Santo Domingo's Quisqueya stadium where people are waiting to get their vehicle inspection stickers (revistas).

Some vehicle owners have been complaining that the process is too slow so now the authorities are only checking that the vehicle appears to be in a good condition from outside.

The deadline for obtaining the stickers has now been moved to the end of January.


Crime patrols to continue, murders down in December
Unified Command coordinator Major General Ramon Hernandez says that as the Quiet Christmas Plan 2013 draws to a close the government will reinforce normal patrols and maintain them in place. He said that at a meeting with the chief of the Police, Major Manuel Castro Castillo they evaluated the patrolling in Christmas and New Year that ends tomorrow, Wednesday 8 January. They say that the patrols have been successful and that violent acts were down 23%. In the provinces of Santo Domingo, Santiago and the National District crime was down 45% compared to 2012.

The Police say that there were 147 deaths in December, most involving shootings and stabbings. This is 46 fewer than in December 2012, when there were 193 homicides and 194 in 2011. The Police attribute the reduction to the 11,000 Armed Forces agents who were posted at key points in the capital city and provincial cities. There were 45 homicides in Santo Domingo, 42 in Santiago and 39 in San Francisco de Macoris. Of the total homicides, 89 involved firearms.



Berklee in Santo Domingo program begins
Starting today, Tuesday 7 January, budding Dominican musicians will be attending a series of master classes by teachers from the Berklee College of Music from Boston. The program begins at the Juan Francisco Garcia auditorium at the National Music Conservatory in Santo Domingo in a ceremony led by Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez. This is the first course Berklee in Santo Domingo. In the past five years, 31 Dominican students have studied at Berklee College of Music, many on scholarships. Last year, the Minister announced the local course to be able to reach out to even more talented Dominican musicians. The course will close with a concert with the participating student musicians on 12 January.


Poll shows third candidate ahead for PRD
PRD voters who may be tired of the stalemate between former President Hipolito Mejia and PRD party president Miguel Vargas have told the polling company Mercado y Cuantificaciones that they would prefer Luis Abinader to be the party's candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Abinader was Hipolito Mejia's vice presidential candidate in the 2012 election campaign. The poll numbers were Luis Abinader (48.2%), Hipolito Mejia (37.7%) and Miguel Vargas Maldonado (9.9%). The poll said, nevertheless, that 52.4% of party members see Hipolito Mejia as the leader of the party. 1,200 people were polled nationwide from 14 to 18 December.


1,438 Haitians attempted boat trips to Puerto Rico
In 2013, the Dominican Armada (Navy) arrested 2,619 people who attempted to reach Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic on illegal boat trips. Of this total, more than 50%, or 1,438 were Haitian nationals, 115 were Cubans, seven were Brazilians and 1,059 were Dominicans, including 74 said to be boat captains or trip organizers. Vice Admiral Edwin Dominici Rosario added that his agents had seized 8,483 kilos of cocaine during the year. The Armada also confiscated 208 boats that were being used for the illegal boat trips, as reported in El Dia.


DR femicide rate drops in 2013
Statistics from the Judicial Department show that there were fewer femicides in the Dominican Republic in 2013, as reported in El Dia. The figure for 2013 is 86, down from 103 in 2012. The department handled 47,283 domestic violence complaints in 2013. The statistical report lists the number of femicides by month: January (8), February (1), March (8), April (6), May (5), June (2), July (4), August (11), September (9), October (7), November (8) and as of 25 December (17), for a total of 86.


Chamber of Deputies president's niece murdered
The police report the suspected murder of 22-year old Karina Diaz Martinez who was found dead at the Villas del Sol motel on Avenida Rafael Vidal in Santiago. She is thought to have been murdered by 21-year old Erick Alberto Rodriguez Almonte who is reported to have subsequently committed suicide. Her uncle, Victor Martinez, said that the pair had ended a relationship several months ago. The murder is said to have occurred when they had an argument as they were entering the cabana. Diaz was also a niece of Chamber of Deputies president Abel Martinez. The bodies were sent to the Forensic Institute for the autopsy.


Swiss man murdered in robbery
Peter Walter Muller is the 66-year old Swiss national identified as the victim of a suspected armed robbery in the parking lot of Red Grill restaurant on Lope de Vega and Max Henriquez Urena avenues in Santo Domingo. The crime took place in the presence of his Dominican wife and their seven-year old son. Muller was taken to the nearby Abel Gonzalez clinic, but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. As reported in Diario Libre, one of the restaurant waiters, Juan Andres Moscoso, said that the assailants attempted to take money from Muller and he resisted and was shot. Later news reports say that he had withdrawn US$10,000 from a bank prior to arriving at the restaurant. The employee said that Muller was a frequent customer at the restaurant.

Police agents have caught two of the assailants involved in the robbery. Police spokesman Colonel Jacobo Mateo Moquete said that they have identified two further suspects in the attempted robbery and that the Police have retrieved the weapon that fired the fatal shot.

Assistant Prosecutor Dante Castillo reports that the accused are Ruben Aquiles Olivo Lora, Daniel Celado de la Rosa and Alfredo Espin Valenzuela. The lawyer for the accused has asked the court to delay the decision on remand until the three have been examined by a doctor as they claim they were mistreated by the authorities in order to extract confessions.

In a statement issued by her lawyer, the victim's widow Ana Beato Ramirez said that she is hoping for justice and that the accused men will be given the maximum sentence.

Another person thought to be involved in the crime was known as "Luis El Taxista" who left the scene and has not been found.


Samana fraudster arrested
Members of the Intelligence branch of the Specialized Tourist Security Corps (Cestur) have arrested a young man in Santiago on accusations of defrauding dozens of tourists over the Internet during 2013.

According to the report, Darlin Jose Teodoro Joaquin, aged 24, set up a website for illegally selling tourist packages in the Balcones Tourist Complex in Las Terrenas province. The tourists would send him large sums of money in dollars and euros and would then discover they had no reservations.

He was found in possession of eight credit cards as well as personal and identity documents.

He used to be employed as the head of reception at the luxury resort and was being sought by the police who had an arrest warrant issued in Samana.

He was sent to prison for three months on remand.


Green alert weather warning
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has declared a green alert for the Atlantic coast from Cabo Engano to Manzanillo and from Cabo Engano to Pedernales along the Caribbean coast due to the wind and abnormally high wave activity.

The COE is advising small and medium sized boats to stay in port and beachgoers to take care due to the abnormally high waves.


Pengbian Sang & Retro Jazz at Terrazas del Meson
Pengbian Sang & Retro Jazz is booked for the Terrazas del Meson de la Cava in Santo Domingo on Saturday, 11 January. The concert will include many of their greatest hits. Tickets: RD$600. 9pm. Av. Mirador Sur No. 1. Tickets: Tel 809 930-1840 and 829 586-9177.

Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute
Guitarist Alfredo Balcacer and the Crossfire band will be playing a tribute to legendary blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan as of 7pm this evening, Tuesday, 7 January. Vaughan is known for merging blues and rock in the 1980s, developing his own style influenced by Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Rush. Crossfire band members are guitarists Alfredo Balcacer, Giuseppe Bonarelli, bass player Gustavo (Cuquito) More, Jv Oliver on drums, Christian Pichardo, vocals. Guitarists Javier (Javielo) Vargas, Luis Payan, Tito Fuzz and Andres Aybar will also take the stage. Enjoy the memorable songs including Texas Flood, Pride'n Joy, Life Without You, Crossfire, Love Struck Baby, The Sky is Crying, The House is Rockin' and Little Girl. Av. Mirador del Sur in Santo Domingo.

Rosario Dynasty Concert at Teatro la Fiesta
A memorable concert with the Rosario merengue-making family is booked for the Teatro La Fiesta at the Hotel Jaragua in Santo Domingo on Thursday, 20 February at 8:30pm. Rafa, Tono Rosario, and their brothers Luis and Tony will be together on stage as part of the Rosario Dynasty Concert. This is a Cesar Suarez Jr. production. Tickets for sale at ticketexpress.com.do

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

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