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Daily News - Thursday, 23 January 2014

Ministry of Education to spend billions on teacher training
Yesterday, Wednesday 22 January, Minister of Education Carlos Amarante Baret announced a plan to prepare, train and equip public schoolteachers at a cost of RD$2.33 billion this year. Studies show that one of the reasons for the low scores of Dominican students in standardized scholastic tests is the deficiency in training of public school teachers in general.

The initiative includes recruiting new teachers, in-service training for teachers and post-graduate degrees for teachers and administrators. The across-the-board program to provide a quality education will spend most of the money (RD$1.39 billion) on in-service programs for the nation's teaching corps. Teacher certification programs will cost another RD$70 million, and so on. Institutes under the ministry, such as the Salome Urena Higher Institute for Teacher Training, and the National Teacher Training Institute will provide bachelor's degrees and master's degrees for 20,495 of the nation's public schoolteachers. Candidates will be tested according to the guidelines established by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

A cleaner Colonial Zone
The city government of the National District has announced the purchase of four new garbage compacter trucks for service in the Colonial City. Mayor Roberto Salcedo said that the four trucks cost US$300,000 and can carry between two and three-and-a-half tons of refuse. Their use will be restricted to certain times so as not to disturb the commercial, social and cultural ambiance of the oldest city in the New World. These trucks are the first of eight that will be used to keep the area clean, and are designed to be able to handle the narrow streets of the historic area.

Morales returns to Foreign Relations
Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso returned to his desk at the Ministry of Foreign Relations yesterday, Wednesday 22 January, and reported to President Danilo Medina that he was back on the job. The minister was not available for questioning by reporters either at the Ministry or at the Presidential Palace. News reports say Morales spent some 20 minutes in the presidential offices and left by the private elevator to the parking lot.

Morales Troncoso has been absent from his post at the Ministry of Foreign Relations since September when he was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent treatment in the United States. His absence coincided with the worst international communications crisis the Dominican Republic has experienced, in the aftermath of Constitutional Court ruling 168-13 that orders the implementation of long-ignored constitutional and migratory mandates.

In his absence, Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo took on the role of Minister, with support from acting Minister Jose Manuel Trullols and Dominican ambassadors abroad.


De Castro replies to Joe Kennedy on immigration policies
The Dominican Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Anibal de Castro has expressed his appreciation to US Representative Joseph Kennedy III for drawing attention "to a key challenge we are proactively addressing n implementing a clear immigration policy." In the article, Kennedy comments that the government can work around the Constitutional Court Ruling that calls for the government to implement new immigration policies. "There have been indications from the government that they want the time and ability to implement the decision as a sovereign nation," he told the Bay State Banner in the interview.

Dominican ambassador De Castro comments: "The Government's new immigration policy will enable the Dominican Republic to meet its development challenges while continuing to work towards a prosperous, secure future for all of Hispaniola."

"We are working to implement a comprehensive immigration policy in an inclusive and transparent manner, one that respects both human rights and international agreements. The Dominican Republic is not the only country facing important challenges in migratory legislation - we appreciate the support of the international community, and our counterparts in Haiti, as we work to further the rights for all and enhance our country's safety and prosperity," writes De Castro in response to Kennedy.

"The ruling by the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court provides the opportunity for thousands of immigrants and their children to normalize immigration status in a way that protects their fundamental rights. This policy will also enhance our ability to combat human trafficking and improve border security," continues the ambassador.

De Castro writes: "The Dominican Government is proactively working to help facilitate the naturalization process and improve the condition for undocumented foreigners overall. For example, the Government will issue work and student visas, and a new Naturalization Law will solve the status of children of undocumented immigrants."

De Castro highlights that the Government will continue its commitment to respecting basic human rights and guaranteeing free public services to all persons within the Dominican Republic. He makes the point that the Dominican government spends 18% of its healthcare budget on providing services for the immigrant population, access to public schools for approximately 50,000 immigrant children, and protects workers of any nationality.



DR-Haiti: Twisting foreign relations concepts
Today's Diario Libre editorial, Wednesday 22 January, comments on the way that Haiti has taken advantage of the Dominican Republic's weak foreign relations institutions and policies to cover up its own major problems.

The executive editor of Diario Libre Adriano Miguel Tejada writes: "In international relations it is said that foreign policy of poor countries is a continuation of their domestic policies, and Haiti is a paradigmatic case of this. The current Haitian government should have organized elections in 2011, but has not done so to date. Instead it has exported its domestic crisis by using its favorite adversary as a target: the Dominican Republic, which in its traditional laissez faire stance has not known how to defend itself and how to unmask its bad neighbor.

"Haiti does not have education or health policies, but is able to hide its weaknesses by making allegations against the neighboring country, which generously takes in any citizen who enters (we acknowledge that local complicities are at fault on the border with Haiti), and instead is vociferously demanding the right to education and health for Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

"Haiti has not provided legal documentation to more than half of its population, but it demands not only that we provide legal identity for its nationals and their descendants, but that we also provide them with a privileged nationality n for having crossed the border illegally! Or for continuing the practice of not complying with the laws of this country that takes them in, by failing to declare their children before the corresponding authorities.

"So many concepts have been twisted, that a Haitian activist now says that the Dominican state "has to win the trust of the immigrants," when the opposite should be the case: the immigrants should have to prove that they deserve to reside in the country that takes them by respecting the laws.

But the government continues to be mute...


Central Bank provides more details on 2013 analysis
Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu has published a note on the Central Bank website providing more details behind last year's 4.1% GDP growth rate, the 3.88% inflation rate, the global surplus of US$938.5 million in the Balance of Payments, and record balance of Gross International Reserves of US$4.7 billion for year's end 2013. The Central Bank also reported a reduction in the deficit of the current account going from 6.7% in 2012 to 4.5% of GDP in 2013. It reported a depreciation of 5.6% of the Dominican peso.


Five companies collect 80% of insurance premiums
The Dominican Republic insurance market consists of 39 companies, but this diversity of participants hides the high concentration of their operations, where five insurance companies receive more than 80% of the premiums collected. Universal Insurance is the unquestioned leader in this market, with 25% of the premiums collected between January and October 2013. Universal is followed by Mapfre BHD, which has 16.57% of the premiums, after overtaking Banreservas, which collected 16.6% of the premiums in 2012 but later went down to 15.45% during the first 10 months of last year. In the country, Mapfre BHS is linked to the BHD Financial Center. In December, BHD and Banco Leon announced the fusion of all of their financial operations. One of the divisions of Banco Leon is Banca Seguros (Insurance), which sells life insurance, auto, business and a variety of personal insurance policies. It is possible to speculate that this fusion will concentrate the insurance market in the Dominican Republic even further and bring Mapfre Insurance closer to the sector leader, Universal.


Division of Santo Domingo province faces opposition
There appears to be widespread opposition to the further division of the province of Santo Domingo that had already been carved out from the province of San Cristobal. Deputy Maria Aracelis Duarte has proposed the creation of two new provinces honoring Founding Fathers Sanchez and Mella. This is the reenactment of a bill that has been rejected in the past. Critics say this will only create more red tape and government jobs.

Urban planner Erick Dorrejo told Diario Libre that the creation of new provinces does little to improve services and only creates an addition burden on the budget.

Former deputy and head of the National Council for State Reform, Tirso Mejia Ricart said that the government should focus its energies on the country's ten regions instead of creating more bureaucracies. Finally, the president of the Dominican Association of City Council Members (Asodore), Julian Roa, said that this was not the time to push for such an initiative since major legislation on Territorial Organization was still pending in the Chamber of Deputies.


JCE helps PRSC with assembly
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) Plenary has started the process of supervision of the PRSC assembly set for this Sunday, 26 January in order to elect more than 600 party posts. Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 22 January JCE president Roberto Rosario chaired a working session with PRSC interim president Joaquin Ricardo Garcia, general secretary Ramon Rogelio Genao, organizational secretary Maximo Castro Silverio, electoral affairs coordinator Domingo Placido, and Tacito Perdomo, the party delegate at the JCE.

During the meeting it was decided that JCE inspectors would draw up the act of the closure of registration of candidates who will take part in the election assembly. They also agreed to hold another meeting today, Thursday 23 January, but just between the JCE and PRSC specialists in order to begin the process of verifying the voting rolls, composed of just over 2,000 members, and which could include duplicate names or deceased people. Yesterday morning, Wednesday 22 January, Alexandra Izquierdo was registered as a candidate for the party vice-presidency and Miguel Bogaert as a candidate for the post of organizational secretary.

Nevertheless, Diario Libre reports that last night at the deadline for registering the candidates, Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso was not registered as a candidate for the party presidency. The candidates who have registered for the presidency were Josecito Hazim, Amable Aristy Castro, Quique Antun and Guillermo Martinez.

PRD celebrates anniversary with more division
The celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the PRD was a vivid reflection of the obvious split in its leadership. The events that took place yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 22 January, put former President Hipolito Mejia on one side and party president Miguel Vargas on the other side, as if it were a boxing ring. The former President attended a Mass at the Las Mercedes Church in the Colonial City, which began at 4pm and from there a procession led by Eligio Jaquez, Guido Gomez Mazara, Tony Raful, Tony Pena Guaba, and other leading party members went to the Altar of the Homeland where they laid a floral tribute. "I think that the convention has to take place in the context of transparency and honesty, not with elements who are followers of that guy (Vargas), who are mostly there to collect money. It should be something agreed upon, a consensus, serious, or to the contrary there will be great and serious problems," warned Mejia before laying the wreath. Meanwhile, Vargas concentrated his commemorative activities on the remodeled PRD National House located on Jimenez Moya Avenue, one hour later.

According to Listin Diario, while Mejia and his group were laying a wreath of white flowers at the Altar, Vargas was doing the same thing but on the esplanade in front of the PRD House at the foot of a statue of late party leader Jose Francisco Pena Gomez, which was unveiled in December after the house was remodeled. After his speech and after a speech by Fulgencio Espinal - who accused Milagros Ortiz Bosch of "defaming Miguel" by complaining of irregularities when he was obtaining a loan for US$15 million in order to "divert the political discourse" - Vargas answered questions from reporters. "Did you invite the other party?" asked one reporter. "We invited all of the PRD rank and file, all of the PRD," answered Vargas. "Did you invite Mejia?" she insisted. "Hipolito Mejia is not in the PRD," declared Vargas.

Medina not well informed regarding public safety
Political scientist Daniel Pou said yesterday Wednesday 22 January that the members of President Danilo Medina's inner circle are giving him "false information on the public safety issue." Pou said that agencies such as "the National Police, the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior and the Police" do not have a real strategic plan for fighting crime. During an interview on a radio show, the political scientist said that Danilo Medina "is not an expert on the issue and his ministers have led the President to have a poor focus on the problem because something fundamental is missing: there is no cohesion between the authorities and the citizenry". As reported in El Nuevo Diario, Pou says that the President will have little to show in terms of public safety statistics when he addresses Congress on 27 February.

DA has tried 446 police and military in 15 months
A total of 446 members of the military forces and the National Police have been tried by the District Attorney for the National District over the past 15 months. The statistics cover the last quarter of 2012 and all of 2013. According to El Nuevo Diario, Yeni Berenice Reynoso reported that 61% of the agents who were charged were from the National Police and the remaining 41% were from the ranks of the military forces. According to the report the most common offenses were beatings and injuries (34%), threats (21%), abuse of authority (18%), illegal restraint or arrests (7%), robberies (6%), homicide (3%), attempted homicide (2%) and other problems (8%). So far in 2014 seven members of the Police and Armed Forces have been sent to prison.

1,250 kilos of cocaine seized off Saona Island
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) has announced the confiscation of 1,250 kilos of cocaine yesterday, Wednesday 22 January on a speedboat bound for Saona Island. The Puerto Rico-based US Coast Guard participated in the arrest of three Colombians and a Dominican. The DNCD said the operation took place at 5:15pm when the four individuals, suspected to have come from South America, were on board the craft with 42 packages of cocaine. The group leader was identified as Colombian Gallardo Gonzalez Limberto. DNCD spokesman Miguel Medina said the Puerto Rico coast guard service was in contact with the DNCD when the shipment laden with cocaine headed for the Dominican coast between San Pedro and Saona Island. The men were arrested and were taken to Tampa, Florida to face US justice.


Two thousand stranded at airports by storms
Aerodom, which manages the Las Americas, Puerto Plata and Samana airports reports that flights are back to normal today, Thursday, 22 January. The airport recommends double checking flights with their website or the airline to ensure that the flight is on time and will happen.

The polar vortex and the resulting massive snowstorms had left around two thousand passengers stranded at airports such as Las Americas in Santo Domingo and Gregorio Luperon in Puerto Plata. According to El Nuevo Diario, 22 flights have been cancelled over the past two days. The number of 2,000 passengers affected was provided by sources at the Immigration office and some airlines at AILA. The newspaper also reported that dozens of Dominicans returning to the country were left stranded at airports in New Jersey and New York due to the storm that dumped as much as 18 inches of snow on parts of the area from New York to Boston.




Independence Tour starts 20 February
Fourteen local cycling teams and several from abroad, including Canada, Colombia, Guadeloupe and the United States, have confirmed their participation in the 35th Independence Cycling Tour. The leading event of its kind in the Caribbean, the annual tour is divided into eight stages that take cyclists on a 1,010km trip all throughout the country. This year, for the first time, cyclists will travel to San Juan de la Maguana, hometown of President Danilo Medina. The event takes place from 20 to 28 February. Dominicans celebrate Independence Day on the 27th. The president of the Dominican Cycling Federation, Jorge Blas Diaz said that the first leg of the competition starts at 9am from Independence Park in Santo Domingo's Colonial City from where cyclists will take off to cover the 146km stretch to San Pedro de Macoris in the southeast.

The second leg departs at 9am on 21 February from Santo Domingo to Samana (140 km). The third stretch is from Samana to Sanchez and San Francisco de Macoris (136 km). The fourth is a turnaround the Avenida Monumental in Santiago. The fifth takes cyclists to Moca, La Vega, Jarabacoa and Constanza (95 km). The sixth takes cyclists on tour from La Vega to Villa Altagracia and then to Santo Domingo (79 km) in the morning, to compete against the clock in the Mirador del Sur Park in the afternoon (20 km). The seventh stretch is San Cristobal-Bani-Azua-San Juan, a distance of 162 km. The eighth is along the Quinto Centenario expressway (96 km.)


Baseball Roundup: Licey takes 3-0 lead in Final Play-off
The Tigres del Licey, a team that struggled to make the Round Robin portion of the Dominican Winter League Championship, and which had to win a play-off game in order to reach the final play-off series, is now in the "catbird seat" with a three games to none advantage over the mighty Leones del Escogido in this best-of-nine series.

The Tigres won in the ninth inning last night, Wednesday 22 January with a double off of stellar reliever Fernando Rodney of the Leones, which drove in the winning run scored by Erick Aybar. Aybar had been hit by a pitch and then stole second base.

The three straight victories by the Tigres del Licey mean that they just have to win two of the next six games on the calendar. Once again, the capital city's "eternal rivals" will take the field at 7:30 this evening, Thursday 23 January at the venerable Quisqueya Ballpark in Santo Domingo.

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

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