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Daily News - Friday, 10 January 2014

Santiago bypass will be ready in February
Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo has confirmed that the long-awaited Santiago bypass highway will be ready in February. The inaugural date is scheduled for 22 or 26 February. Listin Diario reports that Minister Castillo inspected the works carried out by the Odebrecht-Estrella building consortium at an estimated cost of US$95 million. "This is a high quality work meeting all the international standards that will be the pride of the people of Santiago," he said, as reported in Listin Diario. He said that once the bypass is in use, the government would ensure that secondary roads and sidewalks are paved in the communities in the vicinity of the highway.


New electronic passport coming soon
The Department of Passports has announced that it will start issuing e-passports for Dominican nationals this year. The passports will ensure that documents are genuine and unaltered, which in turn allows the biometric information contained in e-passports to be reliable enough to automate some aspects of the border clearance process in the country and abroad. The e-passports will enable the country to enter the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD) system that has been established to support the global interoperability of e-passport validation and enhanced aviation security. Participants' passport issuing authorities can better engage border control authorities in participating countries in identifying and removing bogus documents from circulation.

The Dominican participation in the ICAO PKD will also make international travel easier for Dominicans. When a Dominican travels to another country using an e-passport, border officials will use the information downloaded from the ICAO PKD to confirm that the e-passport is authentic and has not been tampered with. This is expected to reduce the time of passport examination at points of entry and departure. The director of Passports Iris Antonia Guaba says that she hopes the measure will eliminate passport fraud. She said that 100 people were prosecuted for passport fraud in 2013. Guaba said that the system is being used in 102 countries. The system recognizes the bearer's signature, digital fingerprints and facial features, as opposed to the current passport that only registers the signature. The data is stored in a chip inserted in the passport. Guaba says the project, which is costing RD$1 billion, will be implemented within 18 months. It will meet all the OACI requirements and will include watermarks and the DOM inscription. She said the new passport was designed for enhanced aviation security and to combat international crime, drug trafficking and people smuggling. "These criminal organizations directly affect travel documents not only in the Dominican Republic but all over the world and oblige us to constantly adopt new technologies," she told El Dia. She said that with the old system they detect around 20-25 cases of passport fraud every month in 2013. The recent fraud reduction measures under the present system include the stipulation that passport photos must be taken at the Passport Office.

She said that the waiting time for processing a passport has been reduced from 50 minutes to 25 minutes, and VIP (delivered on the same day) issuing is reduced from three hours to an hour and a half. El Dia reports, however, that some people complained that they had waited for four hours. She said that the Passport Department processes 400-450 passports per day, with the peak time being December and January when up to 525 units are processed per day. She said that the department issues around 1,200 passports every day.


London Olympics architectural firm to build Puerto Plata port center
The UK company that was the London 2012 Games official engineering and design provider has been entrusted with the complete landside design, including architecture and engineering for the new Carnival Cruise two-berth Amber Cove Cruise Center in Maimon, west of Puerto Plata city. The US$65 million cruise port will have capacity for 10,000 people daily. The port is scheduled to be ready for the 2015 winter season.

Upon making the announcement, Atkins senior program manager Larry Levis said that the center would have 25 buildings with retail outlets and themed marketplaces along with dining and recreational amenities. He said that the project would feature design themes showcasing the fortified 16th century, the classical-colonial 18th century, and the Victorian late 19th century architectural styles emblematic of the city.

A transportation hub will enable visitors to explore the many interesting sites in the historic region.


Central Bank international net reserves up 36.6%
Central Bank international reserves reached their highest historic level in 2013, according to the Central Bank. The bank says that this is a result of a deliberate series of policies being implemented to stabilize currency. It reports that net international reserves closed at US$4.386 million, for an increase of 36.6%. This follows a decline of international net reserves in 2012 of 11.8%. 2012 was a year of change of government.


South Korea donates emergency safety system cameras
Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo has announced that the South Korean government has donated 180 video surveillance cameras to be used in the National System of Emergency and Security. The cameras will be part of the new initiative behind the start of the 911 call center. As reported in Listin Diario, some 1,300 cameras will be located at strategic points across the country. They will have high definition, infrared, night vision and will be resistant to impact, dust, water and inadequate manipulation. The cameras will be able to analyze crowds, count people, detect intruders, abandoned objects, the direction of vehicles, driver's license plate detection, manipulation of cameras, and other functions.

Minister Gustavo Montalvo gave thanks to South Korean Ambassador Park Dong-sil who in person made the donation. Ambassador Dong-sil said he was pleased to be able to help with the implementation of the 911 National Emergency and Safety System and said that he would continue to provide support for the expansion of the system.


Big sales at shopping malls
The leading shopping malls are posting their January big sales. One of the leading Santo Domingo city shopping centers, Agora Mall on Lincoln and Kennedy avenues, is advertising its biggest mall-wide sales with discounts of up to 50% at most of its stores. Others advertising sales are Plaza Lama and Galerias 360.

Carnival will be on Maximo Gomez not the Malecon
The city government of Santo Domingo (AND) has announced the relocation of the Sunday carnival parades in February from Av. Jimenez Moya (Winston Churchill) to Av. Maximo Gomez from Av. 27 Febrero down to the Malecon (Av. George Washington). City council secretary general Andres Navarro said that Av. Maximo Gomez is wider and the Metro stations make it more easily accessible. He said the parades would flow north-south ending at the Malecon, as reported in Diario Libre.

2014 will be good year for industrial exports
A spokesman for the Santiago industrial free zones is forecasting that 2014 will be a good year for manufacturing for export. He said that prospects are that exports could surpass the US$5 billion exported in 2014. Luis Jose Bonilla Bojos, president of the Association of Free Zones of Santiago, told Hoy that production should increase in footwear, cigars, medical equipment, and at call centers, all areas where they are seeing much demand. He commented that the sector is hoping that a new free zone bill will pass in Congress with new incentives for the sustainability of the sector.


GoldQuest gold mining concession approved
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has granted GoldQuest a 725-hectare gold mining concession. The company announced yesterday, Thursday 9 January that the government had authorized the so-called Descansadero concession that is adjacent to its Romero Gold/Copper Project. The company has also commissioned a 3,000-line kilometer helicopter-borne geophysical survey covering its 100%-owned Tireo Project, that includes both the concessions that have been granted to the company and concessions that are under re-application.

"GoldQuest now has 6,750 hectares granted and 7,694 hectares pending, representing around 60 kilometers strike length of the highly prospective Tireo volcanic Formation, " commented Julio Espaillat, GoldQuest's CEO, "Geological knowledge and data from our Romero discoveries will provide valuable insight into further target selection, as we seek further gold and copper mineralization."


PLD internal vote 'like national election'
Political analysts are describing the ruling PLD's internal election as a battle for the control of the ruling party between former President Leonel Fernandez, who is the president of the PLD, and incumbent President Danilo Medina. Medina has a much higher popularity rating than the former President. Fernandez was President from 1996-2000, and from 2004-2012 and is said to have placed people he trusts in positions of control in all branches of government, including the legislative and the judicial branches. Fernandez is a possible candidate for the PLD in the presidential election, while Medina is not able to run for re-election as was ruled in the 2010 Constitution passed during the Fernandez government.

A report in El Caribe explains the importance of being a member of the Central Committee, an honorary position. This is because the members who are elected will choose the 10 new members of the influential Political Committee that will increase from 25 to 35 members. "Whoever has more followers in the Central Committee will dominate the Political Committee," reports El Caribe. Control of the Political Committee is vital because it is the body that decides who can or cannot be a presidential pre-candidate. The candidacies for senator, deputy, mayor, councilor and other popular electoral posts are decided by the vote of the Political Committee. Euclides Sanchez told El Caribe: "PLD members think that because they have high-ranking institutional posts they have a guarantee to occupy important political and electoral positions."

Furthermore, in less than two years, the PLD needs to vote on its national authorities n the president, secretary general, secretary of organization of the party. The members of the Central Committee will again serve an important role. In the previous Congress, the authorities decided to confirm all the authorities so that the party could concentrate on national elections and not be distracted by the internal election.

The ruling PLD party meets on Sunday, 12 January with the participation of a possible 2,626,756 party members who will vote to choose 168 new members of the Central Committee. They will vote at 1,329 polling stations set up nationwide, said Cesar Pina Toribio, president of the organizing committee of the VIII Norge Botello Congress. There will be 3,098 electoral tables nationwide and 390 electoral tables set up abroad. During the election 37 party posts at a national level will be decided among 538 candidates for the positions.

Listin Diario highlights how the party's internal election has undergone a process similar to national elections. There has been speculation that many of the candidates who are in government posts have been using state resources for their campaigns. But Listin Diario reports there have been no formal complaints.

PLD organizational secretary, controversial senator Felix Bautista gave details to the press on the procedure yesterday, Thursday 9 January. He said that during the campaign 970 candidates would be contesting the 168 positions in the Central Committee, 538 of which are at a national level and 432 at a local level. The candidates to be voted are 37 in the national vote, for which there are 538 contenders. This includes 86 at a local level with 432 contenders; 15 in the sectional level and 30 positions that are reserved for the influential Political Committee for a total of 168 members.

The vote count will take place at the Olympic Center Volleyball Pavilion.

Nationwide, public schools will be used as voting stations and polling will open at 8am and end at 5pm. The first vote count bulletin will be issued at 9pm.

In a statement to Diario Libre, Bautista denied that the differences between Medina and Fernandez would affect the election process. He said that Fernandez and Medina are more united than ever, adding that then-President Fernandez took it upon himself to campaign for Medina and that was why the party won the election.





Birth tourism big at Cabral y Baez hospital
The director of the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez public hospital in Santiago, Rolando Baez, has expressed his concern that there has been an increase in the number of pregnant Haitian women arriving to the Santiago hospital in critical conditions. The public hospital offers free services to all patients. The director said that of on some days, of 10 women who give birth, eight are from Haiti and arrive with complications that require treatment in the intensive care unit. "These women often arrive in a life- and-death condition," he said during a press conference yesterday, Thursday 9 January. He said that most of the Haitian women arrive without having undergone prenatal tests, which makes things difficult for the attending physicians. He said that the hospital statistics showed that 26% of the women who give birth at the hospital are Haitians who make the trip through the border for this purpose.

He said that in 2013, services were provided to 25,022 foreigners, and most of them were Haitian. He said that 12,226 patients from Haiti underwent lab tests at the hospital. 3,994 Haitians arrived at the emergency room requiring immediate attention.


Attention to increase in armed robberies
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito told the press yesterday, Thursday 9 January that while percentages of homicides and femicides are down for 2013, the authorities are very concerned with the high rates of robberies and muggings. Speaking to the press at the Presidential Palace after attending a meeting of the National Security Council, Dominguez Brito said robberies and muggings continue to be great challenges for the authorities. He said that robberies were being committed by young men between the ages of 19 and 21 to buy RD$8,000 shoes, or to spend on alcohol and drugs.

He mentioned the recent cases of an Italian couple attacked while walking to their hotel in Boca Chica. The couple, Mario Feloquiario, 63, and Francesca Bumi are recovering at the Plaza de la Salud Hospital. The thieves stole the couple's camera and wallet containing EUR50 and documents. The Police are investigating the case.

Dominguez Brito said that the increased patrolling would continue. "New strategies will be added and new technology will be used, he said. He said the installation of the camera surveillance system is delayed because the planning is taking time.

Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo, Police chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo, and Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) director Juan Brown, also attended the meeting, as reported in Listin Diario.

Last week, the intensified patrols helped the police to promptly capture two armed men who had just shot a Swiss customer at the Red Grill restaurant on Lope de Vega Avenue in Santo Domingo.



Why drug baron Figueroa Agosto's lover is still in jail
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito says that the agreement that Sobeida Felix Morel, the former lover of Puerto Rican drug baron Jose David Figueroa Agosto, signed with former District Attorney Alejandro Moscoso Segarra did not meet all legal requirements to be binding. Felix Morel signed a deal under which she provided inside information in exchange for a reduced sentence of five years and agreement from the prosecutors that she only serves half of the sentence. "That was not an agreement that the Public Prosecution needs to honor. The law establishes that agreements of this nature must be ratified by a judge and this procedure was not followed in that case, said Dominguez Brito. According to the AG, Moscoso Segarra simply gave his word for the specific jurisdiction of the National District to make the efforts to that effect, but that was all that was established. Dominguez Brito went on to say that the Procedures Penal Code establishes three kinds of agreements: conditional suspension of the procedure, abbreviation penal judging and full or partial, all of which need to be validated by a judge.

Earlier this week, the judge of the Second Penal Court of the National District turned down an appeal filed by Felix Morel. The appeal called for the Justice Department to honor the plea deal it signed with the inmate, who is serving a five-year sentence for money laundering. Defense lawyer Felix Portes said that he would take action against the Justice Department, including a suit brought before the Higher Administrative Tribunal and the formal opposition to the sale of any assets belonging to Felix Morel. Judge Franny Gonzalez told Listin Diario reporters that the appeal should have been filed in the Constitutional Court.


9-year old beheaded by stepfather
The Police have arrested a Haitian national accused of beheading his 9-year old stepson Kenquen Louis. According to the Police, the man killed the boy because he believed the boy's mother had sold her soul to the devil. The Police said the man would be sent to justice today. Identified as Haitian national Manuel Bastian, the 60- year old man admitted to the murder. The boy died of machete wounds to his neck, head and left hand. The body was found in a farm located in San Cristobal. Reportedly, when he made the killing Bastian was looking for his common-law wife 40-year old Anita Louis, and concluded that she had been to a witch who had cast a spell on him. He told the Police when he could not find the woman at their house he killed her son in revenge.

Will Pedro Martinez be the next Dominican Baseball Hall of Famer?
As Sammy Sosa is no longer being considered for the list of players eligible for the Major League Baseball Hall of Famers at Cooperstown, hopes are high that Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez may be the next to join San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal when the vote takes place in 2015. Sosa is the only player in MLB history with three seasons of 60 or more homeruns. However, the steroid controversy scandal tainted Sosa's possibilities, as happened to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens who had the numbers to reach Cooperstown in 2013 during their first year of eligibility.

The Hall of Fame future eligible list for 2015 includes Martinez and his brother Ramon. Players who are eligible have played 10 seasons of Major League Baseball and have been retired from for five full seasons.


Escogido continues to lead in Baseball championship
With a 3-2 victory against city rival Tigres del Licey last night, Thursday 9 January, the Leones del Escogido maintain a good three-game difference in the round robin. The second phase of the Winter Professional Baseball Championship continues this weekend and the games are crucial for the defining of the playoff teams. While the Escogido has a difference of three games, the other three teams (Tigres del Licey, Gigantes del Cibao and Aguilas Cibaenas) are head-to-head. Games are scheduled for 10, 11 and 12 January, a break on Monday, and then the final four days of play will be the 14, 15, 16, 17 January.

* Friday, 10 January:
Quisqueya Ball Park (Santo Domingo): Gigantes vs. Licey at 7:30pm
Cibao Ballpark (Santiago): Escogido vs. Aguilas at 7:30pm

* Saturday, 11 January:
Quisqueya Ball Park (Santo Domingo): Gigantes vs. Escogido at 5pm
Cibao Ballpark (Santiago): Licey vs. Aguilas at 7:30pm.

* Sunday, 12 January:
Quisqueya Ballpark (Santo Domingo): Aguilas vs. Licey at 5pm
Julian Javier Ballpark (San Francisco de Macoris): Escogido vs. Gigantes

Final Standings of the Round Robin
ESCOGIDO 8 - 2 .800 --
LICEY 5 - 6 .455 3.0
GIGANTES 5 - 6 .455 3.0
AGUILAS 4 - 7 .364 3.5

Berklee student concert at the National Conservatory
Dominican musicians attending the Master Classes hosted by visiting teachers from Berklee College will be playing a concert on Saturday, 11 January at the Juan Francisco Garcia hall of the National Music Conservatory in Santo Domingo. A second concert will take place at 3pm with an orchestra made up of 150 students who are participating in the classes. The concerts are free.

Tickets selling fast for Elton John concert
If you are planning to go, don't put off buying tickets to the Elton John Greatest Hits concert set for Friday, 28 February at the Altos de Chavon amphitheater in La Romana. General admission is US$140 (RD$5,950) but there are pricier ticket categories up to US$500 per seat. The legendary performer has concerts scheduled for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and France during 2014 and this is his only announced Latin American show. The concert starts at 8pm.

The event coincides with Independence Day celebrations in the Dominican Republic. Tickets are for sale at Uepa tickets (Movie Max) in Santo Domingo, La Cadena supermarket on Abraham Lincoln or at Jumbo and Nacional supermarkets. They can be purchased online at http://uepa.com/event.aspx?id=36872#.Us_jfRZ6VUQ


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 Tuesday, 14 January. The concert will include many of their best hits. Tickets: RD$600. 7:30pm. Av. Mirador Sur No. 1. Tickets: Tel 809 930-1840 and 829 586-9177.

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

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