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Daily News - Wednesday, 05 February 2014

EU recognizes DR sovereignty on nationality and migration
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton issued a statement yesterday, Tuesday 4 February, in which she welcomed the Dominican Republic and Haiti's initiative to engage in regular dialogue on bi-national issues. The EU, United Nations, Caricom and Venezuela have been invited to these talks as observers. In the statement, Ashton says that the EU is ready to support the talks by sharing its experience on trade and customs facilitation, security, fight against drug trafficking, border management, migration policies and environmental protection.

"The European Union is convinced that open and constructive dialogue is the best way to strengthen bilateral relations and foster political stability and economic prosperity in both countries."

The statement also welcomes the Dominican government commitment "to take concrete measures to safeguard basic rights of persons of Haitian descent". At the same time it recognizes "the sovereign right of the Dominican Republic to determine its policies on nationality and migration, the European Union encourages a rapid implementation of the necessary measures in line with universal human rights standards."


Haiti commits to documenting its citizens
Prime Minister of Haiti Laurent Lamothe announced yesterday Tuesday 4 February that in three months the government of Haiti will start to deliver papers to its citizens so that they can adhere to the foreigner legalization plan in the Dominican Republic, as reported in Listin Diario. One of the biggest problems with the plan is that most Haitians who have migrated to the country do not have any legal documentation of origin, meaning they did not legally exist in Haiti and carried that status when moving to the DR. While being undocumented is common in Haiti, it has created major problems in the Dominican Republic as these legally unnamed people move ahead in life and have children in the country. The Dominican government has offered to issue Haitians with work permits, but requires applicants to have legal documentation from their place of origin to start the process.

Ministry of Environment takes over garbage dumps
The Ministry of Environment says that garbage disposal is a national emergency and its solution can no longer be delayed. The government has announced that as of now, the Ministry of Environment, not the city governments, will decide the location of garbage dumps. The Ministry announced the closure and permanent relocation of the five dumps located in Sanchez, Samana city and Las Terrenas in Samana, that of Puerto Plata city, and another in Guiri Guiri, La Altagracia province. The announcements were made as part of the Municipal Solid Waste Integrated Management Policy that inventoried more than 350 dumps nationwide. The plan is to reduce this total to 80 due to their negative impact on health, the environment and the image that the country presents to tourists. Domingo Contreras is advising the Ministry of Environment on solid wastes. As reported, the city government of Santo Domingo North and 20 other municipalities - Greater Santo Domingo, Higuey, La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris, Samana, Villa Altagracia, Bonao, Moca, San Francisco de Macoris, Cotui, La Vega, Constanza, Sabaneta, Mao, Bani, Azua, Barahona, San Juan de la Maguana, Yaguate, Villa Gonzalez and Miches - were given six months to submit a proposal on how they will manage their solid waste.

The city governments whose proposals are accepted by the Ministry will spend 36 months working with a specialist team from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to develop the plan.

The government ordered the construction of garbage dumps in Villa Altagracia, Bonao, Puerto Plata and Samana.



Dominicans say inflation and security are main problems
The latest Gallup-Hoy poll has found that Dominicans consider crime, the high cost of living, the lack of jobs and blackouts as the main problems affecting the country. According to more than 60% of respondents, crime and inflation are the two main difficulties the country faces. Blackouts are also considered a major problem. On average 72% of citizens say living in the DR is less safe than before.

Hoy quotes statistics from the Attorney General who reported that there were 1,463 murders from January to September 2013, including 450 crimes. The rest are linked to domestic violence, personal disputes or clashes with the Police. Most of these deaths occurred in the two largest cities, Greater Santo Domingo and Santiago. The poll says that residents in the north of the country feel the situation has worsened the most. There 78% say they feel less safe.

61% believe that the best way to reduce crime is to create jobs.

The poll was carried out from 24 to 28 January. 1,200 persons nationwide were consulted. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8%.


The excessive cost of the Samana highway
The Juan Pablo II toll highway from Santo Domingo to Samana continues to cost taxpayers too much with the state having to pay RD$2.27 billion last year, an increase of RD$933 million compared to the previous year. That highway was the first and last time that the Dominican government resorted to building a highway by concession.

This money goes to the Colombian company, Autopista del Nordeste that was awarded the concession contract during the President Leonel Fernandez government to manage the tollbooths for 30 years. The contract stipulates that when traffic falls below estimates the government needs to pay the difference. The rising cost of the tolls is a deterrent to Dominicans traveling to Samana on the highway.

Traveling to Samana and back from Santo Domingo on the toll road now costs RD$1,876.00 at the four tollbooths.

The new fees are RD$53 at the first toll booth, for cars and SUVs, RD$174 at the second, RD$204 at the third and RD$507 at the fourth. Minibuses pay RD$106, RD$344, RD$423 and RD$1,032.

Buses and trucks with two axles will pay RD$133, RD$458, RD$550 and RD$1,345, and with three or more axles RD$199, RD$635, RD$780 and RD$1,901.

Motorcyclists do not pay to cross the tolls.


Minister threatens to crack down on strikers
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Jose del Castillo Savinon, has announced that he will intervene in the event of another strike by the members of the National Association of Fuel Outlets (Anadegas).

He said that strikes in important and necessary sectors such as fuel sales are prohibited by the Constitution and other laws and if it happens again the Ministry will have no other option but to intervene to ensure that fuel is available to businesses and other consumers.

Yesterday, Tuesday 4 February, Anadegas stations were closed from 6am to 2pm, which the Minister described as 'an abuse', whilst inviting them to talks with the authorities.

Castillo Savinon said that this 'blackmail' was penalizing the Dominican consumer and against the law.

Anadegas said that they were giving the government until the middle of next week to respond to their demands after being received at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Tuesday 4 February by Deputy Minister Henry Molina, before their march to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.


National strike called for shops
The Traders Federation (FDC) has confirmed that today, Wednesday 4 February and tomorrow Thursday 5 February all of their members will be on strike in protest against the proposed installation of tax printers and the increase in the ITBIS sales tax.

However, they said they would cancel the strike if President Danilo Medina intervenes to say that the government is prepared to talk.

Federation president Ivan Garcia estimated that around 100,000 wholesalers, hardware stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other establishments would be closed nationwide.

He said that the tax printers were too expensive for the shopkeepers, they did do not know how they worked and that they were looking to protect consumers.

Hoy newspaper reports that while FDC has called shop owners to strike, the president of the National Association of Retailers (Fenepro) Agustin Penalo said the strike would failed and motivated that talks continue with the government.

First reports on Wednesday say that businesses closed in Bonao, not so in Barahona and Santiago.



Mobile wallet launched
The DR's first 'mobile wallet' was launched by Orange and Banco Popular yesterday, Tuesday 4 February. M-peso is a mobile money initiative created to allow access to financial services for the bottom of the pyramid, which represent 72% of the Dominican population (9.4 million, 2010 census). The product was launched after six months of preparation and roughly eight months after the regulators published the framework for virtual prepaid cards and branchless banking.

Orange m-peso is a prepaid mobile wallet emitted by Banco Popular and linked to the customer's mobile number. Through this innovation Dominicans can combine a telephone plan with a mobile wallet in a few simple steps, a first in the country.

The product was developed by GCS International who previously developed mobile payment products such as tPago, a solution that links bank accounts and credit cards to a mobile phone and enables merchant payments, airtime top-up, bill payment and person-to-person transfers between multiple financial institutions. tPago was launched in July 2010 and to this date the product has penetrated 25% of the banking population in just 3.5 years. In this timeframe the product has amassed more than 432 thousand subscribers by the end of 2013, and 13.7 million transactions, making it the most successful mobile payments product in the region.


Golf driving range for the Malecon
The Dominican Golf Federation (Fedogolf) has announced the construction of a golf driving range near the Santo Domingo heliport, on the Malecon. Federation president Juan Cohen says that the academy is key to attracting more young Dominicans and seniors to playing golf. He made the announcement when interviewed on the Deporte Global program on Radio Funglode, produced by Gilberto Soriano. The golf driving range will be built together with the city government of the National District (ADN).

Christian Science Monitor reports on the Colonial City facelift
The current issue of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the Colonial City renewal works underway now that the attraction is less than 2.5 hours away from the country's main beach area, Punta Cana. The report by Ezra Fieser says that the government is carrying out the ambitious revitalization project in an attempt to convert the colonial-era city into a destination, and create a pedestrian-friendly street design in a city overrun by motorbikes and microbuses.

It points out that while the Dominican Republic is the most visited country in the Caribbean, less than 10% of the nearly five million tourists who visit come to Santo Domingo. "The push to increase visits to the city is part of a government plan to position the country as more than just a beach vacation, by highlighting its culture and history," writes the journalist.

The Christian Science Monitor report continues: "Urban planners believe that a reinvented colonial city can serve as a model that balances the automobile and the pedestrian. "You can't just pretend the automobile doesn't exist," says Agamemnon "Gus" Pantel, an archaeologist who oversaw digs in San Juan and is now working on a study in Santo Domingo. "But what you can do is find a way to bring harmony that respects pedestrians."


Flights cancelled due to snowstorm
The Dominican Airports Association (Aerodom) has announced that six flights to the United States have been cancelled today, Wednesday 5 February due to the severe snowstorm affecting the northeastern US.

The cancelled flights are Jet Blue and Delta to New York, and United Airlines to New Jersey all from Las Americas International Airport. So far flights from Puerto Plata and Samana are due to leave normally.

Passengers leaving for the United States are advised to contact the airline before departing for the airport to check on possible delays or cancellations.


British citizen jailed for murder
Nicole Reyes, a 38-year old British woman, was ordered to serve 12 years in prison yesterday, Tuesday 4 February, after being convicted of killing her husband, Jorge, who was Dominican, by deliberately running him over.

Reyes claimed her husband died when she accidentally hit his motorcycle as he swerved out of the way of an oncoming car in July 2012.

Her mother, Jeanette Clements who traveled from Wales for the trial, says that the family intends to appeal the verdict and is meeting with the British Embassy.

Nicole first came to the country on holiday and later took a holiday rep job with Thomas Cook where she met Jorge, a coconut salesman.

As reported in the British press, Nicole and Jorge's relationship ended in tragedy when he was killed as they drove home one evening. He had been riding his Yamaha 125 motorcycle alongside her Toyota SUV when she ran him over.

The sentence was passed following a two-and-a-half-hour hearing in Puerto Plata.

A spokesman for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We can confirm a British national was arrested in the Dominican Republic on July 10, 2012. We are providing consular assistance."


Minister of Culture sings at Casa de Teatro
Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez has announced that every Friday in February, March and April he will be appearing on stage at Casa de Teatro, Colonial Santo Domingo's legendary cultural center. He had taken a break from regular performances since his appointment to the Medina administration in August 2012. "The minister is a singer-composer who needs to be on a stage to sing and express his feelings," he said. He said that he would be accompanied by his friends Guy Frometa playing drums, Jeremias King on bass and Luis Payan on guitar. He is best known for his versions of "Para Quererte," "Como un Bolero," "Vive", "Puedo," "Somos amantes de la paz," and many others. Rodriguez also expressed his pride in the recent announcement of 190 cultural projects nationwide. He said they would become genuine tools for promoting the cultural change Dominican society would like to see, as reported in Listin Diario.


DR loses to Venezuela in Caribbean Series
The team representing the Dominican Republic, the Tigres del Licey lost to the Navegantes de Magallanes of Venezuela last night, Tuesday 4 February. To qualify for the next round in the Caribbean Series taking place in Isla Margarita, Venezuela, the DR now needs to defeat Mexico in the game scheduled for this afternoon, Wednesday 5 February, starting at 3:30pm.


Team W-L Percentage DIF
Venezuela 3 - 3 1.000 ---
Mexico 3 - 2 0.666 1.0
DR 3 - 1 0.333 2.0
Puerto Rico 3 - 1 0.333 2.0
Cuba 4 - 1 0.250 2.5

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