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Daily News - Friday, 21 February 2014

US$3.3 million airport surveillance systems for Las Americas and La Isabela
President Danilo Medina was at the Las Americas International Airport yesterday, Thursday 20 February for the inauguration of a modern real-time video surveillance center for both Las Americas and La Isabela Airports in Greater Santo Domingo. The Specialized Airport Security and Civil Aviation Corps (CESAC) will be managing the center. New installations have been built behind the Las Americas International Airport to house the center, which was equipped with US$3.3 million worth of donations from Taiwan. Taiwanese ambassador Thomas Ping-Fu Hou said that the system raises Dominican airports to international quality standards, an important guarantee for the government's stated target of 10 million tourists a year.

CESAC director General Miguel Paulino Espinal spoke of the new levels of security the system will provide. He commented that it was the first time a President of the Republic had visited the institution in its 17 years of operation.

The launch of the new system coincides with the United States Homeland Security Department bulletin issued on Wednesday, 19 February warning airlines of possible attempts to attack passenger jets using explosives packed in shoes.

The US is recommending stepping up security for passengers departing to US airports.


Santiago bypass opens to public 15 years after initial announcement
As of tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, drivers heading from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata will no longer have to negotiate traffic jams in Santiago, the country's second largest city. The Ministry of Public Works announced that the bypass would be open for public use starting at 6am tomorrow. The formal inauguration is set for Monday, 24 February at 4pm. On that day, the road will be closed at noon for the ceremony but will reopen on Tuesday, 25 February at 6am.

Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo also encouraged drivers to observe the many works of art that have been placed alongside the highway.

He congratulated Brazilian company Odebrecht and the Grupo Estrella for their fast completion of the highway.

The highway was initially announced 15 years ago, but successive governments delayed its implementation.

Castillo said that the government is advanced on the completing the Santo Domingo, Azua, after finishing bypasses to San Pedro and La Romana in the east.

A tender is due to be announced in May for the bypass for Bani. The highways considerably reduce passenger and cargo costs. The Medina administration has moved ahead with the bypasses that divert traffic out of the city centers.

DR poverty doubles in 13 years despite 50% growth
Sustained growth does not equal poverty reduction, as World Bank statistics recently released for the Dominican Republic are confirming. The per capita GDP increased by almost 50% from 2000 to 2011, but World Bank statistics show while 32% of the Dominican population was poor in 2000, today an estimated 40.4% are poor. The average for Latin America and the Caribbean is 27%.

The DR Equity Assessment Overview report says that social mobility in the DR is low, with less than 2% of the population moving up, compared to 41% in the region. The report indicates that from 2000 to 2011, more than 19% of Dominicans experienced a worsened economic status.

The report also shows that real wages have declined by 27% over the past 10 years, despite productivity increasing.

The World Bank urges fairer, efficient and sustainable taxation, building of transparent and efficient government institutions that promote economic and social inclusion, improvements in the investment climate and stimulating entrepreneurs and job creation.

The report says that the growth sectors of tourism, manufacturing, telecommunications and financial services have not generated the jobs that were expected. It mentions that most of the jobs that have been created are for unskilled workers in the informal sector.

The poverty situation in the Dominican Republic is worsened by the mass immigration of poor people from Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. A very large number of immigrants from Haiti entered the country during this period, increasing even more in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

See a copy of the report in Spanish at dr1.com/premium/news/2014/DR_Equity_Assessment_OverviewSp.pdf

Proposed family code changes allows use of mother's or father's last name
A Family Code bill presented by Vice President Margarita Cedeno to President Danilo Medina would allow children to receive their mother's last name instead of their father's, as is currently the case. The bill also proposes that single mothers may declare their children with the name of whoever they designate as the father, but the latter needs to be notified prior to the birth declaration. This would start a process to verify the child's true paternity. The bill also touches upon equal rights in the management of family assets.

Public Health disputes high maternal mortality rate
The Ministry of Public Health is disputing findings published in a recent follow-up report on the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals in the Dominican Republic. Speaking at the presentation the report yesterday, Thursday 20 February, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Juan Temistocles Montas said the country has made progress towards eradicating hunger, has been able to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, increase forest cover and reduce emissions of gases that damage the ozone levels. Conversely, the report also establishes that greater efforts are needed for creating decent jobs, universalizing elementary education, reducing maternal-child mortality and implementing sustainable development principles.

The report states that 107 mothers die per every 100,000 live births in the country and that there is an under-registration rate of 25%. Deputy Minister of Public Health Nelson Rodriguez disputed the 107 deaths and the 25% under-registration figures. He said this was not possible, because 97% of pregnant women in the Dominican Republic give birth in hospitals, and a maternal death is an event that does not go unnoticed in any community. He said their statistics showed that there are around 80 deaths per 100,000 live births. He said the under-registry rate was closer to 3-4%.

Scholarships to study Mandarin and masters in Taiwan
The Embassy of Taiwan in the Dominican Republic is offering scholarships for studying Mandarin in a first year in Taiwan followed by a Masters degree or doctoral studies. The programs start in September. The scholarships, available to Dominican nationals with at least a high school degree, are for study in Taiwan in Mandarin or English. The students will receive about US$847 a month stipend for undergraduate studies and US$1,016 a month stipend for graduate studies.

Papal Nuncio Okolo stood up by fellow diplomats
Arguing that the Dominican Constitution only recognizes different sex marriages and that the husband of US ambassador James Brewster is registered in the Ministry of Foreign Relations as a "dependent" and not a spouse, Papal Nuncio Jude Thaddeus Okolo did not invite Brewster's husband, Bob Satawake, to a planned cocktail reception for diplomats in honor of President Danilo Medina. The event had to be cancelled when fellow ambassadors caught on to what had happened and chose to not attend. In a 22 January letter to Okolo, who is the dean of the diplomatic service, British ambassador Steven Fisher reportedly explained he would not attend, indicating that the decision not to invite the US ambassador's husband was unjustified discrimination against a member of the diplomatic corps. He had suggested to Okolo on 18 January that all be included in the invitation.


Three Haitians die off Bavaro when their boat capsized
The head of the Armada (Navy) Edwin Dominici reported yesterday, Thursday 20 February that at least three people died and another 12 were rescued alive when their boat capsized off the east coast of the Dominican Republic. The boat was reportedly stolen from a tourism company in the area. An estimated 20 Haitians were on board, who had reportedly paid upwards of US$1,000 for the clandestine trip to Puerto Rico. Dominici said that all passengers on board were Haitian. According to survivors, the boat left the Bavaro shore at dawn on Wednesday, 19 February and capsized five nautical miles off the coast.

UK helping with Dominican police training
Experts from the United Kingdom are working with the National Police to improve criminal investigation skills in areas including forensic science, crime scene, forgery, homicide and theft, the Police reported yesterday, Thursday 20 February. A press release from Police Chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo says that forensic and crime scene investigators and trainers Paul Dearing, John Bowler and Nick Fowler had evaluated the police officers who would receive international training in the DR and abroad. In the press release, Castro said that police officers had traveled for training in Europe, the US, and Central and South America. The press release was issued after attorney general Francisco Dominguez Brito called for enhance efforts to improve the skills of the police.

Drug traffickers kept RD$6 million Dominican police payroll
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito says that Cristian Pozo (El Matatan) who was recently arrested for possession of cocaine, maintained a RD$6 million a month payroll for San Cristobal police protection for several years, as reported in Listin Diario. Dominguez Brito said that investigations were ongoing to establish whether the entire San Cristobal police force was benefiting from these payments. El Matatan was arrested after a two-month intelligence operation by the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD). Dominguez was speaking during the opening of a new prosecutor's office in Invivienda, in Santo Domingo East yesterday, Thursday 20 February.

Dominguez Brito said it was unfortunate that police officers, whose role is to pursue criminals, should become their allies.

Dominguez said that efforts would continue to close down drug trafficking operations.

El Matatan was arrested in possession of two packages of a white power presumed to be cocaine.


Marcotte pulls ahead in last 700m of Independence cycling route
Cycling for Smart Stop of the United States, Gedimias Kaupas (Inteja) and Rob Britton (SSC) left out the Dominican squad taking the first three places of the 141 km first phase from Santo Domingo to San Pedro and back, of the 1,010km Independence Cycling Tour underway throughout the Dominican Republic. He clocked in for 3 hours 8 minutes and 8 seconds. 2013 Colombian defending champion Edwin Sanchez (Formesan) was fourth. As reported, Marcotte held his lead right from the half mark, but his last 700-meter dash decided the event.

As reported in Diario Libre, a Cuban cycling analyst attributed the local team's poor performance to the fact that Dominican cyclists have not been participating in international competitions.

The second stage is run today and takes cyclists to Samana, a 177 km route.

The competition is a UCI race.

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.)

Celebrate Freddy Ginebra's 70th birthday
Casa de Teatro's founder and inspiration, Freddy Ginebra is celebrating his 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the institution with a Carnival of Dominican Artists event at Casa de Teatro in Santo Domingo's Colonial City today, Friday 21 February. The event is a fund-raiser for the institution. Tickets at the door are RD$3,000 and RD$5,000 for couples, all included.

Carnival arts and crafts fair at Columbus Park
Do not miss the III Carnival 2014 Arts and Crafts Fair at the Columbus Park in Santo Domingo's Colonial City. The fair is open from 9am to 10pm through Sunday 23 February. All sorts of crafts with carnival and folk themes will be sold. The fair features the work of 35 artisans from provinces across the country for a great variety of items.

Master of the Ocean in Cabarete
Wave action returns to Cabarete this year as some of the best surfers, kite surfers, windsurfers and stand-up paddle surfing athletes compete in the annual Master of the Ocean event, which starts this weekend. 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 from Spain, Germany, the US, Puerto Rico, Italy and Scandinavian countries are taking part. The competitions start on Saturday 22 and continue through Thursday 27 February.

Casa de Campo Marina Carnival 2014
Casa de Campo's traditional Carnival celebration is scheduled for Saturday, 22 February at the Marina de Casa de Campo at 4pm. This event complements the traditional Sunday afternoon carnival celebrations in La Vega, Bonao, Santiago and Puerto Plata. Area restaurants are advertising US$32 dinner packages for the event.

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

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