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Daily News - Monday, 03 February 2014

Medina optimistic energy problems will be solved by 2016
President Danilo Medina accepted the challenge of resolving the Dominican Republic's electricity problems by the end of his term in August 2016. He said his government is investing more than US$2 billion for this purpose. As reported in El Dia, President Medina believes that the two coal-fired generators sponsored by the government to increase generation will make the difference in tackling the high cost of generation. Medina made the comment during a visit to dairy farmers in Luperon, Puerto Plata yesterday, Sunday 2 February.

Meanwhile, the Electricity Industry Association (ADIE) said that in 2013 the power distributors purchased power from the generators at a price of 16.64 US$ per kilowatt/hour and sold it for 19.39 cents, with a profit margin of 2.75 per dollar per kilowatt/hour sold.

As reported, EdeEste purchased power at an average price of 13.30 and sold for 18.90, Edesur purchased at 18.09 on average and sold for around 20.35 US$ cents, and Edenorte purchased an average of 18.65 cents of the US and sold for an average 18.75.

The companies say that 60% of the power purchased was generated by water, coal or natural gas, according to executive vice president Milton Morrison in a press release from ADIE. Morrison says that the authorities should be more transparent about the reality of the problem.

"The public should know that while it is true that power should be generated using lower-cost fuels, it is also true that the principal problem is in the distribution that has sustained losses in the past 13 years that do not go below 30% because of deficiencies in the management that become losses," he said.

He said there are inefficiencies in the power distribution companies and that there is a need to "invest heavily in reducing distribution losses to optimal levels so that the system can be sustainable. There is inefficiency in the distributors, which need to be made efficient, both at a management level as well as in the cash flow. If the distributors do not collect then the system collapses financially and that is the reason why there is such a large electricity subsidy."

ADIE has expressed its concern that the government has accumulated up to six months arrears in payment with the generators.

President Medina backs Puerto Plata cattle ranchers, women's groups
President Danilo Medina was in Luperon in Puerto Plata province yesterday, Sunday 2 February where he visited cattle ranchers and women's enterprise groups. He announced RD$16 million in low-interest loans for the Luperon Cattle Ranchers Association to improve milk, cheese and yoghurt production. The loan repayments will be charged 0.41% monthly interest. Of the total, RD$10 million will be managed by the Special Fund for Farm Development (FEDA) and the rest through the Administrative Ministry of the Presidency.

During the visit, the Presidency announced that RD$43.6 million would be available for women's enterprise groups and for cattle ranchers in Jamao al Norte, in Espaillat province.

DR and Haiti meet at the border again
Jimani in the Dominican Republic will be the setting for today's meeting, Monday 3 February, between Dominican government and business representatives, and delegates from Haiti, in the presence of international observers. The talks are aimed at reaching agreements in the areas of environment, trade, fighting drug trafficking and crime as well as the sensitive issue of immigration.

Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo, who is heading the Dominican delegation, said that security, immigration and environment were high on the agenda. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is heading the Haitian delegation.

The Dominican government had adopted a laissez-faire approach towards immigration for many years, and even President Danilo Medina admitted that the government looked the other way where Haitians were concerned. However, Constitutional Court ruling 168-13 put an end to this by ordering the implementation of an immigration legalization plan that was passed by Congress in 2004 but was never implemented.

Pedro Verges of OAS answers Jamaica criticism on the legalization plan
The Dominican Ambassador to the Organization of American States Pedro Verges responded to a Jamaica Observer editorial published on 27 January 2014 whereby the publication said that giving the OAS chair to the Dominican Republic was "a colossal mistake."

The editorial criticized that "the ambassador's Government appears unwilling to convince the constitutional court to reverse its shameful ruling [Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13], we are left to wonder whether we can take him at his word". The editorialist was referring to statement by Verges upon assuming the OAS chair. Verges had said that the DR was engaged in a continuous process of institutional and democratic strengthening, "which will not rest for a second."

The editorialist wrote: "Given such outpouring of opposition to the court decision, and Santo Domingo's obvious stubbornness on the issue, the Dominican Republic, we insist, should not have been allowed the honour of taking the chair of the OAS, even as we acknowledge that the position rotates".

In his reply published on 2 February 2014, Ambassador Verges called for separating fact from fiction on the complex issue. He said the Dominican government is committed to guaranteeing fundamental rights and public services, including education and health care, regardless of the status of the person. He explained that the DR provides access to public schools for approximately 54,000 immigrant children without the need to provide any sort of documentation regardless of their legal status. And 18% of the nation's health care budget goes to servicing the immigrant population

He explained that the government is taking careful steps to implement a policy for registering both national and immigrant citizens.

"Despite these efforts, critics are quick to suggest that the Dominican Republic's executive branch could "convince" the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, to overturn its ruling. As is the case with any nation that respects the democratic principles of separation of powers and the rule of law, this course of action isn't plausible.

Furthermore, the very suggestion goes against the OAS mission of promoting democracy and institutionalization," he explained.

Said Verges: "Therefore, in response to the Court's ruling, the Government is implementing a process that protects fundamental rights while documenting and guaranteeing a legal status to each and every person living on Dominican soil. In doing so, we will also enhance our ability to combat human trafficking."

Verges stressed: "The Dominican Republic appreciates the support of the international community, as well as its key ally Haiti, as we embark on this complex process."



Peso depreciates to RD$43-US$1
On 16 January, Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu reported that the Bank's gross international reserves were at US$4.7 billion, a historic high for the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, by the end of January, the figure had dropped by US$527 million. At the same time the exchange rate with the US dollar has continued to slide, slowly but sustainably and for the first time in many years broke the RD$43-1 barrier. The Central Bank attributes the slide to seasonal variations.


Aviation agreement with Antigua
The Dominican Republic has signed an aviation agreement to transport passengers and cargo by airlines of Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic. Civil Aviation Board (JAC) President Luis Paulino Rodriguez Ariza said that the new agreement replaces an earlier version signed in 1994.

The agreement will enable airlines designated by each country to fly to all points in the national territory from anywhere in the other territory, exercise fifth and seventh freedom rights to intermediate points and beyond, according to a table on agreed upon routes.

The fifth freedom allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline's own country. It is the right to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country (and so on). The 'unofficial' seventh freedom is a variation of the fifth freedom and allows international services wholly outside of an airline's origin.

Dona Dede passes away
President Danilo Medina and former President Leonel Fernandez attended the wake for Belgica Adela Mirabal Reyes (Dona Dede) who died yesterday, Sunday 2 February. She had been hospitalized at the Centro de Medicina Avanzada Doctor Abel Gonzalez in Santo Domingo for respiratory troubles. She was 88. She will be buried in her hometown of Ojo de Agua in the Mirabal Sisters province today, Monday 3 February. Her wake was attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners at the Blandino Funeral Home in Santo Domingo from 1pm to 11pm.

She was the surviving sister of the four Mirabal sisters, best known as political dissidents during the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Her sisters, Minerva, Maria Teresa and Patria (The Butterflies) were returning from Puerto Plata on 25 November 1960 after visiting their husbands, who were political prisoners of the Trujillo dictatorship, when they were murdered. The murder marked a turning point and led to the decline of the Trujillo regime.

Dede Mirabal went on to raise her nieces and nephews who grew up as one family. They were Nelson Gonzalez Mirabal, Noris Gonzalez Mirabal and Raul Gonzalez Mirabal (Patria's children), Minou Tavarez Mirabal and Manolo Tavarez Mirabal (Minerva's children), and Jacqueline Guzman Mirabal (Maria Teresa's daughter).

In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly commemorated the sisters' legacy by designating 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in their honor.

Dona Dede devoted her later years to the conservation of her sisters' memory through the Hermanas Mirabal Museum House in Conuco, Salcedo that was founded in 1994.

She is survived by her son, Jaime David Fernandez, former Vice President of the Republic and current Minister of Sports and by Jaime Enrique Fernandez Mirabal. Another son, Jaime Rafael Fernandez Mirabal, passed away in November 2013.

A week of mourning has been declared in her native province of Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo), also renamed in honor of the sisters.




Banks issue 2.5 million credit cards
The Association of Commercial Banks (ABA) in the Dominican Republic says there are 2.5 million credit card holders from Dominican banks. This represents an increase of around 265,000 since last year. The estimated consumption using these credit cards up to November 2013 was RD$160 billion, up 10% compared to last year. ABA says that the increase in credit card use is because of security considerations for consumers who avoid carrying cash. Credit card users financed RD$21 billion using credit cards last year. The average interest rate was 68%.

Gallup-Hoy poll 2014
When Gallup-Hoy pollsters asked Dominicans about Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13, 55% said they had heard about the ruling, 35% said they had not heard of it, and only 0.7% said they had read the ruling. The poll was taken from 24-28 January, before the 30 January speech that brought the Constitutional Court ruling to the forefront when President Danilo Medina outlined its importance for the country and raised the issue of national sovereignty.

Six out of every 10 Dominicans do not think the Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 is anti-Haitian. Likewise, 68% think that Haitians who came to work in the sugar industry since 1929, despite not having legal documentation, should be favored by an amnesty that would legalize their stay. Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 establishes a path for citizenship for undocumented residents.

Nevertheless, the poll also found that 83% of Dominican citizens believe that the government should ban more Haitian immigrants from entering the country.

The poll asked who was to blame for the high number of illegal Haitian immigrants. Those polled were divided. 42.6% said that the government was to blame for letting them enter, 28% said that the Haitians were to blame as they were fleeing poverty in their own country, and 27.6% say that local business is to blame for hiring them.


Medical mission benefits children in DR
Sponsored by the Kansas City-based Medical Aid for Children of Latin America, doctors from the DR and US operated on 300 children with a range of malformations at the Padre Billini Hospital in the Colonial City. The free surgery mission fell under the 22nd Dominican-American Reconstructive Surgery Campaign.

The Dominican Fundacion Renacer is also sponsoring the event. The program began today, Monday, 3 February and will end on Friday, 14 February, said Fundacion Renacer president Dr. Miguel Cotes. He said the goal is to perform around 35 surgeries per day. Most cases involve cleft lips/palates and cranio-facial deformities, burn scar contractures or deformities, hand problems, congenital ear deformities and a range of tumors and keloid scars.

Riverboat on the Ozama
Domingo Contreras, who represents the commission working on the urban renewal of the Ozama River area, says that the projects include the start of a passenger commuter boat on the Ozama River, as reported in Diario Libre. Contreras said that some 60,000 passengers could be transported from the start. He said that the Aquabus mini ferries, which will connect to the Metro of Santo Domingo, would be attractive to all local residents.

La Barquita Urban Rescue Commission president Jose Miguel Gonzalez Cuadra said that the project would be ready no later than May 2016, at the end of the Medina government term. The project is located in La Javilla, Sabana Perdida, in Santo Domingo North municipality. He said that housing, a church, technical high school, daycare center, police station, civil defense station, an IT training center, and even a cock-fighting arena would be built for the relocated residents. Some 1,800 families that have been identified as living in vulnerable areas will be relocated.


Juan Cimarron, Los Haitises' caveman
Today's Diario Libre Monday 3 February reports on the case of "Juan Cimarron," estimated to be about 43 years old, a true 21st century man of the jungle. The newspaper says he was born in the trees and plains of the National Park Los Haitises where he lives a nomadic life and roams barefoot and naked despite the weather. Diario Libre journalists observed him living "like a caveman. He makes fires to heat liquid by rubbing two stones together." According to local people, his family abandoned him when they were evicted when people were ordered to leave the park in 1991, during the Joaquin Balaguer government.

Local residents told Diario Libre journalists that the public health authorities should rescue him. "This man could live a civilized life. He is a nomad because no one has helped him," said Juan Castillo, a farmer who said he has had to defend his crops from Juan Cimarron.


Canadian shot in Puerto Plata
26 schoolchildren, school staff and parent chaperones from Canada cut short their school trip in Puerto Plata a day after arrival after their Canadian host was shot during an attempted robbery. They were in the country to volunteer at the Casa Martina girls' orphanage from Thursday 30 January to Friday 7 February. Their host was seriously injured by gunshots when trying to stop the robbery in La Rinconada. None of the visitors were injured, but several witnessed the shooting. The group left on Saturday, 1 February.

Local media identified the victim as 64-year-old Lef Welehmann. According to reports he is now in a critical condition at the Centro Medico Cabarete.

Puerto Plata Digital reported that the crime occurred when the group was sleeping and Welehmann discovered two masked men trying to steal from the Canadians. He confronted the thieves who shot at him before fleeing.






DR moves up in Davis Cup Americas Group
The Dominican Republic Davis Cup team advanced in the Americas Group Zone I by defeating Uruguay 4-0 on Saturday 1 February. A fifth game on Sunday 2 February was suspended because of bad weather.

This is the Dominican team's best ever result in the Davis Cup championship. The team won the right to play a second round on 4-6 April facing Colombia. Brazil and Ecuador will also play in the second round. The winner of the two matches then will play for the right to make it to the exclusive World Group.

The Dominican team was made up by top players Victor Estrella and Jose (Bebo) Hernandez. The Dominican team also included Jose Olivares, Manuel Castellanos, William Kirkman and Armando Gandini.



Guatemala wins Futsal cup
The DR lost 7-3 to Guatemala that landed the Grand Prix Futbol Sala held at the Volleyball pavilion of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo over the weekend of 1-2 February. The team had defeated Cuba, 7-4, while Cuba had defeated Haiti.

National District Football Association president Adalberto Rodriguez said: "We passed the test, in organization as well as in competition... We know that baseball is the national sport, but football has lots of space to grow and become the most popular sport," he said, as reported in Hoy.

The Grand Prix opened on Saturday, 1 February.

DR loses to Puerto Rico in baseball, plays Cuba today
In day three of Caribbean Series baseball championship, the Dominican Republic will face Cuba as it seeks to win its first game. The game starts at 3:30pm today, Monday 3 February.

DR lost their first game to Puerto Rico, 7-6 on Saturday afternoon, 1 February. The DR had gotten off to a good start with a seemingly safe 6-1 lead, but then lost in extra innings. Cuba, playing in the regional championship for the first time in many decades, also succumbed. A five-run rally midway through the game resulted in Mexico, the previous year championship titleholder, winning 9-4 over the Cubans.

A five-run rally midway through the game lifted Mexico, the current Caribbean Series Champions, over the Cuban team. Mexico defeated Cuba 9-4. On Sunday, 2 February Mexico defeated Puerto Rico (6-3).

This afternoon, the DR will match Cuba at 3:30pm. Venezuela will then match Mexico.


Final Standings of the First Phase
Team W-L Percentage
Mexico 2 - 0 1.000
Puerto Rico 1 - 1 .500
Venezuela 0 - 0 --
Cuba 0 - 1 0.000
DR 0 - 1 0.000

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

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