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Daily News - Thursday, 06 February 2014

Azua bypass ready for November
The Minister of Public Works has announced that the Azua Bypass, under construction at a cost of RD$1.6 billion is scheduled for completion on 30 November this year. The new highway will shorten the time it takes to travel from Santo Domingo to Barahona. As reported in Hoy, Castillo said that it is expected to cut the time it takes to cross the city of Azua from 30 minutes at present to around seven to 10 minutes.

The Medina government has already completed the San Pedro and La Romana bypasses, and is making progress on the Santiago bypass.

JCE approves new ID card
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) Plenary approved the format of the new personal identity and voter registration card (cedula) yesterday evening, Wednesday 5 February. The card, which will be issued free of charge, will also be provided to minors and foreigners.

According to a press release from the JCE, the document will be available "in the first quarter of this year."

Copy Solution International is the contractor for the ID cards. The new card will be manufactured with a mixture of PVC and PET, using re-transfer printing technology. The card will also be biometric, both for fingerprinting as well as facial biometrics.

The electoral agency pointed out that they took into account the absence of a technology platform in the country that would permit a chip to be used as an information transmission and storage system, so that after accepting suggestions they decided on the gradual emission of the chip without any visual contact. In the future, the card could include a chip.

Another of the points dealt with by the JCE was the budget distribution to the political parties that totals RD$805 million this year, and will be disbursed to the 26 eligible parties in twelve installments.

Popularity high for President Medina
The latest Gallup-Hoy poll, conducted from 24-28 January with 1,200 people polled reveals that President Danilo Medina is the highest rated Dominican President since these polls started. A year and a half into his first term of government, 82% of respondents spoke highly of Medina's performance.

People trust Medina. The poll says that on average 84.7% of those polled trust the President. This includes a high of 92% in his home region of the southwest and a low of 85.5% in Greater Santo Domingo, with the largest population concentration.

The President enjoys this high level of popularity despite complaints about the tough economic situation, the increasing prices of basic products and the fact that there were more than 900 protests nationwide in 2013, most calling for improvements in public services. President Medina introduced strong economic measures to tackle the RD$187 billion financial deficit inherited from his predecessor, Leonel Fernandez.


DR presents its status legalization plan to UN
Dominican representatives presented "the most ambitious and comprehensive plan for foreigners in an irregular immigration situation to normalize their status of residency in the country with all legal guarantees" to the international community in Geneva yesterday, Wednesday 5 February.

The DR also presented a full report of the country's progress on human rights to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council as part of the proceedings of the 18th session of the organization.

The delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Alejandra Liriano and head of the Foreign Ministry's Human Rights Unit, Rhadys Abreu de Polanco.

After thanking the international community for their interest and contributions, Liriano said that she hoped that "this coherent, complete and efficient roadmap" in immigration regularization "may also be valuable for other countries in similar situations."

The Deputy Foreign Minister outlined the two-tiered government plan: the first tier, which corresponds to immigrants with irregular status; and the second, which refers to the situation of nationals who do not have their papers in order.

The first initiative is the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Immigration Status. According to this plan, foreigners with irregular immigration status will be able to normalize their situation, as long as they meet the established requirements.

"Just with this plan, during the next 14 months the Dominican Republic could normalize the immigration status of thousands of individuals from over 100 countries who are currently living in the country with irregular immigration status, putting an end to their uncertainty and irregularity", she added.

As specific measures, she announced that during the month of February the regional offices for immigration would be operational across the Dominican Republic to serve the beneficiaries of the regularization process. Also, starting this month a comprehensive outreach program will be implemented for the Plan.

The Deputy Foreign Minister emphasized that in the cases of immigrants with irregular status who are working and studying in the country, the Government has already promised to give them priority in granting work and student visas.

The Dominican Government also noted that, as guaranteed last November by Presidential Decree, deportations would be suspended during the implementation of the regularization process for those affected by the plan. "This decree is being scrupulously respected by the authorities," stated Liriano.

The second initiative is focused on resolving the irregular immigration status of the individuals born to undocumented parents registered in the Dominican Republic, and their descendants.

"It is important to note that this process does not affect all the children of immigrants born in the country, since those who have at least one legally resident parent are Dominicans", the Deputy Foreign Minister reminded.

Liriano reiterated "the firm stance" of the Dominican Government that "no person having Dominican nationality will be stripped of it".

The Dominican Government also emphasized its commitment to basic human rights for all individuals within its territory.

As examples, she cited that the government spends 18% of its healthcare budget on serving the immigrant population, and that approximately 36,000 children of immigrants are enrolled in public schools across the country, without having to provide any documentation, and regardless of their legal status. Furthermore, she added that Dominican labor laws protect workers of any nationality, regardless of their legal status, and that labor courts issue decisions without prejudice to those immigrants whose rights have been violated, according to Dominican law.


Anibal de Castro on DR nationality and migration issues
Dominican Embassy in Washington, D.C. has been active explaining the Dominican Republic's focus on migration issues that had been postponed for years. The country now seeks to implement initiatives to legalize undocumented residents, including those that qualify for Dominican nationality and those that will be extended foreign resident status, student or work permits. The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Americas Program hosted Dominican ambassador Anibal de Castro to the United States for a discussion on how the nations can build a more constructive relationship moving forward. See the interview in Spanish at http://csis.org/multimedia/audio-conversation-he-anibal-de-castro

Traders end strike to continue talks
The Dominican Traders Federation (FDC) said yesterday, Wednesday 5 February that 99% of the businesses affiliated to the entity closed their doors in support of the commercial strike to demand that the government extend the deadline for the installation of the fiscal (tax) printers in businesses. The official deadline was 31 December. After declaring the day of protest a success and stating that the closure of close to 100,000 businesses all over the country "meant a loss to the state of RD$1.5 billion pesos," FDC president Ivan Garcia announced the suspension of the continuation of the strike, which had been called for 48 hours. The idea is to provide a cooling-off period and "allow for an opportunity for negotiation," with the Executive Branch.

He announced that they would hold a national meeting of traders next week, which he hopes will "report to them and to the country that we have reached a satisfactory agreement." In the capital, businesses on Duarte Avenue and in Villa Consuelo, as well as Herrera were 70% to 90% closed in accordance with the 48-hour strike call by the FDC. The strike was in demand of the postponement of the deadline for the installation of the tax printers by the businesses and for the government to revoke the ITBIS (sales tax) increase from 8% to 11%. At the Mercado Nuevo in Villas Agricolas, about 90% of trading stopped during the early hours of the morning, with the exception of small-scale fruits and vegetables sellers, who said that they were out looking "for their daily bread," while saying that they supported the strike.

Ex-CODIA chief explains school delays
Teodoro Tejada, a former president of the Dominican College of Architects, Engineers and Surveyors (CODIA) told El Caribe reporters yesterday, Wednesday 5 February that a lack of planning and excess bureaucracy at the Ministry of Education is delaying the completion of 20,000 schoolrooms on schedule. The construction expert called on President Medina to have the funds transferred to the Ministry of Public Works and to the Office of Supervising Engineers for State Projects (OISOE) in order to prevent delays in payments for the completed work. He said that if the deepening bureaucracy at the Ministry of Education continues it will be impossible to deliver the 20,000 classrooms on time this year.

Most port investment is private
The ports of the Dominican Republic receive very little funding from the Dominican government and most improvements are privately financed. This is true of Sans Souci, Azua and Haina as well as San Pedro de Macoris. Another example is the new tourist facility at Maimon, Puerto Plata where Carnival Corporations is investing millions in a facility that is supposed to open this year. Under questioning by reporters from Listin Diario, the director of the Dominican Port Authority, Ramon Rivas, said that the reformation of the National Port System is a major priority for the country since nearly 5,000 ships dock at Dominican ports, bringing over 25,000,000 tons of cargo and over a million containers.

Harsh reality: Uneducated workforce
Of the working population of the country, 46% only have a primary school education or no education at all, according to an October 2013 labor market survey conducted by the Central Bank. University degree holders represent 22% of the 3,174,975 people who make up the country's workforce. Nonetheless, the 46% figure represents some progress compared to the 54% rate registered in a similar survey in 2005. The "Study of Demand for Technicians/Professionals: Attributes that they should have for the companies" reveals that deficient academic training and weaknesses in leadership and management skills are the main problems faced by companies when hiring new people.

Danilo goes seven for eight
The group headed by President Danilo Medina within the ruling PLD obtained the majority of votes for membership positions on the party's influential Political Committee. The Political Committee is responsible for most important decisions within the party.

The eight chosen by vote were Minister of Hacienda Simon Lizardo, deputy Miriam Cabral, Santo Domingo East mayor Juan de los Santos, executive vice president of the Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE) Ruben Jimenez Bichara, former attorney general Radhames Jimenez, deputy Yomaira (Lucia) Medina, President Medina's personal assistant Carlos Pared Perez and Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo. Of this group, only Radhames Jimenez is said to be a strong supporter of former President Fernandez. Vice President Margarita Cedeno and president of the Chamber of Deputies Abel Martinez were promoted to the Political Committee for the total of 10 new members.

Previously, Cedeno and Martinez had been members ex-officio as the Vice President of the Republic and the president of the Chamber of Deputies respectively.

Lizardo obtained 386 votes (64.23%), Cabral, 382 (63.56%), Jimenez achieved 363 votes (60.40%), De los Santos, 355 (59.07%), Jimenez Bichara had 353 (58.74%), Medina, 329 (54.74%), Pared Perez, 310 (51.58%), and Castillo 296 (49.25%).

The new members were sworn in by party president Leonel Fernandez at a ceremony at the Hotel Magna 365 (former Melia) in Santo Domingo yesterday, Wednesday 5 February.

Court convicts one and releases four in Francina case
The Second Collegiate Court of the Penal Chamber of the Court of the First Instance of the National District has sentenced one of the men accused of causing the injuries that cost young engineer Francina Hungria her sight during an armed robbery to a 30-year jail term. The shooting occurred in Santo Domingo's Ensanche Piantini on 23 November 2012. The court discharged the other four defendants. The maximum sentence was imposed on Jose Manuel Vidal Feliz (Menin) by a majority vote of judges Sarah Veras Almanzar, presiding, Ingrid Fernandez and Yissell Soto. On the other hand, despite the dissident vote by Magistrate Veras Almanzar, the panel discharged Jose Manuel Ariea Mejia (Bacan), Melvin Perez (Bululo). Jose Miguel Mora Acosta (Antonio or El Gordo) and Celso Gonzalez Montero (Nariz). Upon reading the motives of the majority vote to discharge the four defendants, Magistrate Fernandez argued that the Justice Department did not provide the evidence to justify a sentence for the defendants.

"It is a regrettable and unfounded decision. The judges neither took into account nor evaluated the evidence provided by the Justice Department harmoniously or based on the maximum experience and sound judgment," said the District Attorney of the National District, Yeni Berenice Reynoso, who announced that she would appeal. The Prosecutor's office said that Vidal Feliz, who was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison and Arias Mejia, who was discharged, are the perpetrators of the crime, while the others stayed inside their vehicle on the lookout until the crime was committed.

Latest storm causes more havoc at AILA and POP
Some sixteen flights to and from the northeast of the United States were cancelled yesterday, Wednesday 5 February as a result of the latest "Polar vortex", a new/old term for the jet stream that brings very cold air into contact with humid air from the south and causes huge snowfalls along its path. According to Listin Diario, 2,500 passengers were stranded at Puerto Plata's Gregorio Luperon and Santo Domingo's Las Americas international airports. JetBlue, United and Delta were the airlines most affected by the snowstorm that blanketed the New York-New Jersey area. The airport authorities are advising all travelers to consult their airlines for the latest information on flights to the United States before leaving their homes or places of residence.

Master of the Ocean in Cabarete
Wave action returns to Cabarete this year as some of the best surfers, kitesurfers, windsurfers and stand-up paddle surfing athletes compete in the annual Master of the Ocean event. The wind conditions in Cabarete allow for each competitor to have their own separate area on the beach for the competitions. Now in its 12th year, some 40 competitors are expected from Spain, Germany, the US, Puerto Rico, Italy and Scandinavian countries. The competitions will take place 22-27 February.


Romantic songs concert at Bellas Artes
Puerto Rican soprano Melliangee Perez and Dominican tenor Edgar Perez will be at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Santo Domingo on Sunday, 9 February at 6pm for an evening of Latin romantic songs. This is a production by Sociedad ProArte Latinoamericana. The lyrical singers will be accompanied by the Dominican Philharmonic Orchestra. Tickets at the Bellas Artes box office.

DR makes it to Caribbean Series semifinals
The Dominican Republic's baseball team, the Tigres del Licey just made it to the semi-finals of the Caribbean Series. Puerto Rico defeated Venezuela 5-4. Cuba was eliminated.

The DR defeated Mexico 7-6 last night, Wednesday 5 February to end the first part of the championship 2-2. The other teams in the semifinals are Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

The DR matches Mexico at 8:30pm (Dominican time) today, Thursday 6 February. On Friday, 7 February Puerto Rico matches Venezuela. The Saturday 8 February playoff games will be decided by the winners of these games.

While for years the winner of the Caribbean Series has been decided by a double round-robin, the program was changed this year to allow for Cuba's entry. The new format this year has each team playing each other once, followed by two semifinals and a championship game.



Team W-L Percentage DIF
Venezuela 3 - 1 1.000 ---
Mexico 2 - 2 0.500 1.5
DR 2 - 2 0.333 1.5
Puerto Rico 2 - 2 0.333 2.0
Cuba 1 - 3 0.250 2.5

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

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