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Daily News - Friday, 24 January 2014

The new Dominican ID card
The new identity card contracted by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) includes security features that include a hologram with a 3-D image of the national flag and the face of founding father Juan Pablo Duarte, as reported in Hoy today, Friday 24 January. The new cedula will be water resistant, and will not tear as easily as the current version. A four-color holographic image with micro characters will be inset. It also would have a unique number for each card with a bar code, along with other security details.

However, the card does not include a chip. The JCE says the DR does not have the technological platform for this. Special readers would need to be installed. Fingerprint details will not be included either. A past effort collected 4.2 million of 7 million cards that need to be issued. The including of the fingerprints was to reduce ID fraud.


Messe Berlin to recommend convention center location
During the Fitur Travel Trade Show in Madrid, Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia Fernandez announced that it had agreed with Messe of Berlin to update a 2008 study. Garcia Fernandez said that they reached an agreement with Messe general manager David Ruetz that the update would be ready within six months. Messe of Berlin will be studying possible locations for the convention center in addition to its recommendations following the 2008 research. In 2008 the Dominican government contracted the first study, which cost EUR119,000, to determine the best site for the convention center, its capacity, the type of businesses that should be included in the final design, and other aspects.

The initiative will involve government and private sector operators. "This is a project that has the full support of the government," said Garcia in Madrid.

He said the center is seen as a key element in the sustained growth of the sector. The DR received 4.6 million tourists last year who are said to have contributed US$5.08 billion to the economy.

Garcia said that there have been discussions about providing the city with a convention center for several years. He said that the recent improvements to the Colonial City and the new highways that make Santo Domingo more accessible to the millions of tourists visiting the East coast beach destinations mean this is even more important now.

David Ruetz says the convention center would create jobs and increase revenue for the country.

Messe Berlin operates Europe's largest congress center, the ICC Berlin.

At the Dominican Annual Travel Exchange (DATE) in 2013, Deputy Minister Radhames Martinez said that the government would build the center, but the private sector would be the operator. The plan is for the center to be completed before the end of the Medina administration in August 2016. Sans Souci Group has also proposed the construction of a convention center in eastern Santo Domingo.

Cost of building up 5.14% in 2013
The Direct Cost of the Construction of Housing (ICDV) index shows that the cost of building in the DR was up 5.14% in 2013. In December, the cost of building a house increased 0.24%, says ICDV. The index is published monthly by the National Statistics Office (ONE) with the support of the Builders and Housing Promoters Association (Acoprovi). In metropolitan Santo Domingo, power generation and the rising cost of wood are reported to be affecting construction. There were also increases in the cost of cement blocks, labor, electricity and carpentry, as reported in Diario Libre.

35% of credit card purchases are financed
For every RD$100 consumed with credit cards, RD$135 was financed, as reported in Diario Libre. Last year interest rates were on average 79.2% a year. This year the Superintendence of Banks has ordered a reduction in interest rates that are gradually declining to reach 54% by 2015. Central Bank statistics show that Dominican cardholders used their cards for transactions reaching RD$14.4 billion in 2013. Of this total, RD$19.53 billion was financed.

Diario Libre interviewed people and learned that in general many cardholders use their credit because they are unaware of the high cost and others because they have lost control over their spending.

One cardholder, Australia Santos, said that she has stopped using her cards because she would spend more than she should. I was a compulsive buyer," she said. Another said that she has a card but does not know the cut-off date or how much it pays in interest rate.

Another interviewee, Edwin Corporan, believes the cards are good when paid on time. Ricardo Mendez commented because of the high interest charged they were "robbery." But he said they are also an excellent purchasing medium and that he uses his card for online purchases. He said the trick was knowing how to use them.

The Superintendence of Banks has developed a personal finance management consumer education program.


Cibao-South highway would be lethal for water resources
A recent study by The Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic reveals that the building of the proposed Cibao-South highway that would cut through the Central Mountain Range is neither practical nor advisable. The field study found that building a highway through the mountain ranges would require cutting and there would be large movements of land, with the risk of landslides with sediments affecting the courses of the rivers and streams in the area, many of which feed the reservoirs of major dams. He mentioned the case of the Sabaneta Dam that generates 6.35 megawatts of power and irrigates 300,000 tareas of land. Other farm areas that would be affected include San Juan, Hato del Yaque, Sabaneta, La Maguana, and Juan de Herrera.

Environmentalist Eleuterio Martinez, who led the field work as a member of the Academy of Sciences, said that there is no way of crossing the Cordillera Central without irreversible damage to the country's main water sources.

Jose Manuel Mateo, coordinator of the Academy of Sciences Natural Sciences commission and director of Biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment also participated in the study.

The report by the Academy of Sciences analyzed the four highway construction proposals that have been made public. The details of a fifth proposal, made by the Ministry of Public Works, are not known. The funds for the highway would come from the tolls.

Milciades Mejia, president of the Academy of Sciences, said the reports were sent to the ministries of Environment and Public Works for comments, but they have not received official responses from these.

President Danilo Medina has been a vocal supporter of the highway, announcing that construction would start this year.

Opponents to the highway construction say that the government would be better off repairing already existing alternative routes that connect the Cibao with the south.

There is speculation that the highway would open the way for mining activities in the mountain area.


DR ambassador clarifies immigration policy to Miami Herald readers
Dominican ambassador to the United States Anibal de Castro has published an opinion piece in the Miami Herald explaining the scope of the country's new immigration policy.

"Unfortunately, much of the debate about the Dominican Republic's approach has been characterized by inaccurate or imprecise information. Rumors, which are untrue, abound of deportations and de-nationalizations (neither has happened). Given all the disinformation circulating on this issue, we need to carefully examine what has and has not happened since the court ruling," he states.

He writes that in September 2013 the highest court in the DR ruled that those living in the country who could not prove their legal status would be given the opportunity to normalize their immigration status. He points out that a sizable portion of the Dominican population that lacks documentation as well as undocumented people from more than 120 countries who are residing in the Dominican Republic, including a significant number of immigrants of Haitian descent, would benefit.

"In response to the ruling, the Dominican government created a Regularization Plan to positively improve the condition of these undocumented people. The plan provides for a temporary status that will lead to the acquisition of a permanent residency, a temporary residency or a non-resident visa, in accordance with each individual's conditions," he writes in the opinion piece published in The Miami Herald.


PLD is to blame for not passing Political Party Bill
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Roberto Rosario has blamed the ruling PLD party for the delays in the approval of the Law of Political Parties. The law seeks to regulate the operation of political parties. The bill has been in Congress for several years. Prior to reaching power politicians have said they will lobby for Congress to pass it, but once in office they have looked the other way.

Rosario, himself regarded as the PLD party man among the JCE judges and who had the strong support of former President Leonel Fernandez for the position as president of the organization, blamed the party on the grounds that it holds the majority in Congress and has done nothing to the effect of moving the bill.

Rosario insisted that "if that law is not approved it will be their responsibility". He urged President Danilo Medina to use his leadership and fulfill his promise. "The government party is the main responsible for passing or not of the Bill of Political Parties, he said as reported in the press.

Rosario said that last year Medina, PLD party president Leonel Fernandez and the presidents of the PRSC and the PRD, Carlos Morales Troncoso and Miguel Vargas Maldonado, all pledged to take actions to pass the law in the first quarter of this year. Rosario said that it is time "that we move from words to action and pass the political party bill."

"It would appear that we are playing to reciprocally fool ourselves and leave the DR without a health political party system," he said. "It has always been that whoever is out wants it approved, but whoever is in does not want it approved," he said. He said that the country has parties that are strong but not "healthy."

Rosario was speaking at the inaugural ceremony for an international workshop, "Primary elections in Latin America and the Dominican Republic: experience, balance and prospects."


Morales explains why he opted out of PRSC presidency
Politics first, or so it seems. In his first statement to the press after four months of leave of absence from his role as Minister of Foreign Relations, Carlos Morales Troncoso has explained why he chose not to run for re-election as president of the PRSC Party, which in recent years has been a close PLD ally. He said he declined in order to make room for new generations and to be an independent arbiter of the process to choose the new leaders of the party in the Sunday 26 January election.

"It is time for the new generations to take control of our beloved party and new energies to contribute to strengthening our organization," said Carlos Morales Troncoso in a brief press statement circulated by the PRSC on Thursday morning, 23 January.

Yesterday was Morales Troncoso first day back at the Ministry of Foreign Relations after a medical leave of absence that began in September 2013. Morales was treated for leukemia in the US.

"The party is working on changes to its bylaws," he said, adding that he believed it was best for the young members of the party to be responsible for applying the changes to modernize the organization. "We have a historical political legacy left by President Joaquin Balaguer and it is time for new blood to take over the leadership of our party and its commitment to the most vulnerable sectors of Dominican society," said the PRSC leader.


Fernandez to be sworn in to Parlacen
Former President Leonel Fernandez will be sworn in to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) on 31 January in Guatemala, where the organization is based. Fernandez is also president of the ruling PLD.

The Central American Parliament is made up of 20 representatives from member states in Central America and the Dominican Republic. It establishes that the presidents of member countries will be elected to the organization after the end of their term of office. During the term the members of parliament enjoy immunity and privileges.

The organization has been criticized for spending a lot and providing few results to regional integration. Parlacen is comprised of 20 lawmakers from each of the member countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, as well as Mexico, Chile and Brazil are regional observers. Taiwan, Spain, Germany and Japan are extra-regional observers. Costa Rica declined membership in the organization that is known for its spending rather than for its achievements.


Leonel Fernandez in Bahrain
A release from the government in Bahrain indicates that former President Leonel Fernandez recently visited Manama, Bahrain where he met with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, at the Sakhir Palace. As reported, the King welcomed the former Dominican President and discussed friendship and cooperation relations between the two countries and ways of developing them in all fields for the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.


Police rescues children involved in drug trafficking
In the past two months alone, the Police has removed at least 30 children from drug trafficking, including a two-year old boy who had been recruited. Children are frequently used to operate drug selling points and deliver crack, cocaine and marijuana to customers. Dominican law is protective of children and penalties are reduced for them. In this past four days, Police Anti-Drug Department officers (Dican) arrested four children during drug operations in Santiago and Greater Santo Domingo. The most dramatic of the cases involved a teenage boy who lived alone in the patio of his grandfather's house and was forced to sell drugs day and night, according to Police spokesman Colonel Jacobo Mateo Moquete. The minor was found to have 22 portions of marihuana weighing 73.3 grams, and 57 portions of crack weighing 26.1 grams in his pockets. "This is the largest amount of drugs found on a minor," said Colonel Carlos Fernandez Valerio of Dican. He said the boy had never gone to school and says he doesn't know the whereabouts of his parents. The grandfather denied knowing that his grandson was forced to sell drugs. The Police said the teenager does not dare reveal who his bosses were.

On the same day, Dican agents arrested a 16-year old in Villa Liberacion in Bonao with 12 portions of marijuana weighing 84.6 grams.

As reported in Listin Diario, relatives fear that they or their families could be murdered if the drug traffickers suspect they have been told on. However, the Dican chief says there have been cases where the parents of the children themselves make them sell the drugs. Fernandez Valerio said that children found selling drugs receive special treatment and efforts are made to remove them from drug selling through government social entities.

The Attorney General office reveals that between 2012 and 2013 a total of 156 minors were arrested in connection with drug cases, but not all are receiving help.

Diario Libre has been running a series of articles on the involvement of children in the drug trafficking trade.


US returns drug traffickers
84.4% of Dominicans who were deported during 2013 had been sentenced for drug trafficking, according to information supplied by the US government. Of 2,456 deported, 2,073 had served drug sentences, as reported in Diario Libre.

Of the 2,073, 1,407 were sentenced to 15, 10, 8, 6 or 5 years in prison in several states. The group includes 28 women charged with drug trafficking in the US. Charges for the other 383 are for identity forgery, illegal entry, failure to meet childcare or alimony support, arson, murder, rape or drunk driving, or other traffic violation sentences.

This year, 160 Dominicans have been deported after fulfilling their sentences.

Of these 38 were accused of drug sentences, while another 116 were deported for illegal residence, which airport authorities say is a new record for this reason.

Diario Libre says that the US deportations could reach 5,000 this year.


Four investigated for death of German in Sosua
Police chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo says that four people, including two women are being investigated in the case of the death of a 48-year old German resident Dirc Weber in Puerto Plata province. Weber, who owned several properties in the area, had been missing since Saturday, 18 January. Castro says they suspect the reason for the crime was that he was collecting a property debt. Weber was found dead under a bed in a room in an apartment located in Playa Laguna, Sosua with blows to the head, back and other parts of the body. His burned-out vehicle was found on the Sosua-Cabarete highway.

Escogido wins its first game in playoffs
Stellar pitching by Evan MacLane for the first six innings and a two-run homerun by Carlos Santana are credited with the Leones del Escogido's first victory in the playoffs. It was a tight game that ended 6-5. The playoffs are now 3-1 in favor of the Tigres del Licey that had won the first three games. The game was delayed due to the heavy rains falling in Santo Domingo. It began around 9pm and ended at 1am.

The fifth game of the five wins of nine games series is set for tonight at 7:30pm at the Quisqueya ballpark.

Cuban players make a difference in Licey victories
Licey has plugged into the strengths of Cuban ballplayers. Cuba has been admitted to play in the Caribbean Series in February.

Felix Perez, Ronnier Mustelier, Francisley Bueno and Yuniesky Maya are among the Cuban players playing for the Tigres del Licey. Perez comments: "In Cuba we play a hot ball, but you have to have lots of respect for Dominican ball," as reported. He said he had played in Mexico and Venezuela, but that nothing compares to Dominican ball playing. He says the fans make all the difference. "The fans here really have a good time at the ballpark. It is wonderful to watch how much they enjoy themselves.

According to Maya, this is a difficult league. "Almost all the best ball players are from this country and that is why you have to train and prepare to be constant," he said.


Sunday carnival on the Maximo Gomez
Santo Domingo carnival organizer Jose Miguel Martinez says that this year's parades will take place on Sunday 9, 16 and 23 along Av. Maximo Gomez between Jose Contreras Avenue and the Malecon (Av. George Washington). He said 85 groups have already booked their participation.

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

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