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Daily News - Monday, 24 February 2014

Santiago gets its bypass
It took 19 years for the government to decide to just do it, and one year for the Medina administration to get it done. The Presidential inauguration ceremony for the US$130 million highway takes place today, Monday 24 February at 4pm. The Consorcio Ecovias built the 26km beltway that enables travelers to avoid crossing through the center of Santiago as in the past, as reported in Diario Libre. An estimated 10,000 vehicles a day are expected to circulate to and from Santiago along the highway, which has four lanes, 34 overpasses and two distributors, said Minister of Public Works Gonzalo Castillo on Saturday, 22 February. The toll will be RD$150 for the complete route but the larger trucks need to pay RD$600.

The route is welcomed by traffic to and from the south of Santiago headed to the northwest, northeastern and northern cities.

The Ministry recalled that the original 33.62km route was conceived in 1995 under the Joaquin Balaguer administration, but the project was abandoned during the subsequent Fernandez and Mejia governments. In 2004, during Fernandez's second term, the Mera Munoz & Fondeur, Yarull and Onka consortium working on the Canabacoa-Licey, Licey-Tamboril and Tamboril-Jacagua stretches but the bypass was abandoned once again. In 2009, under the Fernandez administration, there was another attempt by a Colombian company, Odinsa, but the construction did not move ahead.

Work would begin again in June 2013, less than a year after the start of the Medina administration, and was concluded in February.

Gonzalez Castillo said that they were also working on the expansion of the Navarrete-Puerto Plata highway, the extension of the Salvador Estrella Sadhala overpass, Juan Pablo Duarte and 27 de Febrero (Central) and Avenida Ecologica.

The government has also promised it will complete Santiago's Central Park that is to be built on the site of the old city airport.

Puerto Rican Secretary of State visits
Secretary of State of Puerto Rico David Bernier Rivera was in Santo Domingo over the weekend of 22-23 February for a meeting with Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso. As reported in El Caribe, the topics discussed included strengthening relations, economic and trade development, energy, culture, education and farm production.


Archeologists peek under Colonial City streets
A team of archeologists led by Greek consultant Agamemnon Gus Pantel is using new radar technology to monitor what is beneath the key 15th and 16th century streets of colonial Santo Domingo as part of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded US$30 million Colonial City urban renewal project.

The main focus is the area surrounding the Santo Domingo Cathedral, the center of the old city. Pantel said that culture encompasses what is below the city, too, especially because the urban renewal project has a macro-vision of the city. He pointed out that it is not an archaeological project, but a reconstruction and paving program that requires archaeological monitoring to ensure that information that could affect the construction is conserved and documented. The experts are using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that was also used to examine the area around the San Francisco Monastery. The system also helps with the installation of underground utilities pipes and cables prior to excavating.

Other archaeologists working on the team are Kent Schneider (Atlanta), Paola Schiappacasse (Puerto Rico), and geophysicist Dean Goodman (Los Angeles). In an interview for Listin Diario, they were accompanied by architect Alejandro Suarez, who is in charge of the street restoration project.

Suarez said that the information generated by the GPR is used to prepare a report as part of all the archaeological information compiled throughout the project. Once the first analysis is completed, the selected areas are studied using more traditional methods and excavations can begin within a month and a half. Dominican archaeologist Martha Roquel Aquino has been entrusted to advise on the archaeological finds.


Ozama River aquabuses to change city dwellers' lives
Aquabus routes are planned to be operational in a year, directly benefiting some 400,000 inhabitants, mainly on the east bank of the Ozama River, project general coordinator Patricia Cuevas told El Dia. People living in Los Manguitos, La Zurza, Simon Bolivar, Los Guandules on the western side, and residents of Los Tres Brazos Norte, La Nueva Barquita, La Barquita, Los Tres Brazos Sur, El Dique and Puerto Rico on the eastern side would be the main winners with the new transport system that will be integrated into the Santo Domingo Metro. The system consists of light catamarans operating on full day schedules, similar to that of the Metro. Each ferry would have capacity for 100 passengers and all together are expected to move 60,000 people a day.

The amphibian bus terminals will be set up near El Chachon de la Rubia up to the Sans Souci Port.

A report in El Dia says that residents of La Zurza, Los Mameyes, Barrio Puerto Rico, La Cienaga, Benavides, La Javilla, Los Reguindados, Simon Bolivar, Los Guandules, El Dique and Los Manguitos would benefit. Seven terminals are planned for Nueva Barquita, Los Tres Brazos Norte, El Dique, Juan Bosch Bridge and San Souci.

Cuevas said that in addition to improving mobility for the residents of Greater Santo Domingo, the new waterbus system would improve living conditions in the Ozama River basin.


Roberto Rosario pushes Political Parties bill
With the support of the Catholic Bishops in the Dominican Republic, Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Roberto Rosario is pressing for the Political Parties Bill to be passed. The bill has been ignored in Congress by all governments. As reported in Diario Libre, Rosario said that he has begun a campaign to get more people to motivate politicians to move forward with the passing of the bill.

Rosario said the vote in the presidential, legislative and municipal election of 2016 will be manual, but the electronic vote-counting systems will be improved, and voting hours will be reduced to 7am to 5pm, compared to 6am to 6pm in the past. He said the JCE would only issue a first and last bulletin in 2016.

He announced the reopening of JCE offices in the US cities of New York, Miami and Boston in March.

Bonao Chamber of Commerce seeks to replace mining jobs
Business leaders in Bonao are advocating the idea of using the abandoned Bonao Free Zone industrial installations to install packaging plants for produce from the many farm nurseries in the area, as reported in Hoy. The Bonao Chamber of Commerce members point out that 14 industrial plants have been closed for five years, which could create hundreds of jobs if the idea is put into action. Speaking for the entity, Jacobo Paulino said that the investment needed would be to purchase the equipment. He said this could be a mixed private-public investment. Luis Rosado, vice president of the Chamber, said that Bonao's strategic central location is ideal for transport because it is near the ports of Haina and Puerto Plata, and Santiago airport.

Paulino and Rosado said that unemployment is 30% in the area, double the rate in the rest of the country. The area has been affected by the closure of Falcondo operations due to dropping nickel prices, and this affects trade in Bonao.

Paulino and Rosado said they were working on the design of a Strategic Plan for Monsenor Nouel province in order to identify and involve the people of Bonao in the solutions.

The Bonao area produces rice, coffee and cacao, and dairy products. The area also has potential as a cultural and ecotourism destination, with the Candido Bido museum, the Cristian Tiburcio arts house, and the work of the Santos de Palo. The province's natural attractions include the Jima waterfalls, the Blanco mountains, the Coffee Route, the watering holes of Fula and El Camellon (Masipedro), and the Rincon and Hatillo dams. The business leaders also mentioned that the province had the largest number of rivers in the country.


Phillip Morris Dominicana plants tobacco for cigarette manufacturing
Philip Morris Dominicana says it invested more than RD$121 million in 2013, of which RD$85 million went to training and financing of tobacco producers in the provinces of Santiago, Montecristi and Valverde. The company said that in the past seven years some 26,000 tareas (1 tareas = 629 square meters) of Burley tobacco (Tabaco rubio), to be sold to the company for the manufacture of cigarettes. The company spent RD$36 million on tobacco purchases in the country.

Government adds more employees to CDEEE payroll
The Public Electricity Corporation (CDEEE) corporate unit payroll has increased from 754 employees in August 2012 at the start of executive vice president Ruben Jimenez Bichara to 934 at present. This means the corporate payroll has increased from RD$32.7 million to RD$41.8 million.

Max Puig proposes tax-deductible severance fund
Former Minister of Labor Max Puig has proposed that the tax rules should be modified to enable companies to create a reserve for employees, which would be tax deductible. If a company creates such a fund today it would have to pay taxes on the fund that would be regarded as savings and profit. Puig recommended that the reserve to pay severance should be treated as a company expense.

UAE investment bank proposed to fund LAC projects
At a meeting in La Romana over the weekend of 22-23 February the Council on Arab Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (CARLAC) advocated facilitating investment and trade between the two regions, principally in large-scale projects in farming, agro-industry, food security, tourism and universities, according to former President Leonel Fernandez who is the president of the new international organization. He spoke at the end of the inaugural meeting of the international forum that was created in 2010 during a meeting between Fernandez and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan who is the United Arab Emirates Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development. The initiatives they are proposing include a new investment bank that would be an alliance between Arab and Latin American countries, as reported in Listin Diario.


Private security has 30,000 men in DR
The Dominican Security Enterprises Association (ADEINSC) says that their members represent 70% of the private watchmen companies with 30,000 men and women working in security. The members of ADEINSC bill 300,000 hours a day nationwide for security services. They estimate that the crime rate is 35% lower thanks to their contribution. The organization was founded in 1982.

Victor Manuel Crispin Zorrilla made the statements on Friday, 21 February when visiting Minister of Defense Sigfrido Pared Perez with an ADESINC commission.


High cost of IDs in Haiti creates undocumented nation
While in the Dominican Republic ID documents (cedulas) are free, they are expensive in Haiti. In an interview in Diario Libre, Roberto Rosaio said that more than 50% of Haiti's population does not have any legal documentation. "If they do not have documents there, it is going to be difficult to document them," he stated. He said that Haiti does not issue a single document to its citizens free of charge, even though this is what they are demanding that the Dominican government should be doing with their nationals. He said that if Haiti documented its nationals, it would help them obtain access to work, study or residence visas. He said that in the cases of citizens who do not have documents but can prove they were born in the DR, they would be able to apply for the naturalization process.

PRD split gathers speed
The two main factions of the PRD met separately over the weekend of 22-23 February. Party president Miguel Vargas Maldonado chaired the directors meeting at the Casa Nacional del PRD to choose the party authorities for 2014-2018. Organizing committee president Julio Marinez said the 1,300 delegates elected the following candidates: Jose Fernando Perez Volquez representing the lawyers, Tito Ramirez, representing barrios and Hugo Batista, representing doctors. Jorge Ramirez, sports; Julio de Pena, professionals; Samuel Pena, engineers; Cesar Soto, unions.

Miguel Vargas Maldonado said that the internal election process would continue, with the last vote on 27 July for the election of the new president, general secretary and organizational secretary.

Meanwhile, former President Hipolito Mejia and his vice presidential candidate Luis Abinader held a dissident faction meeting at the Club Los Prados in Santo Domingo. At the meeting, suspended PRD organizational secretary Geanilda Vasquez stated that the so-called Convergencia would be used to form the provincial structures.

Other key members of the Hipolito Mejia faction include:

Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Andres Bautista, Tony Pena Guaba, Jesus Vasquez, Geanilda Vazquez, Rafael Subervi Bonilla, Jean Luis Rodriguez, Janet Camilo and Roberto Fulcar.


25,428 people in Dominican jails
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito says that in the past 10 years the number of people in jail has increased beyond proportion. "As of the start of the new Penal Procedures Code, the number of people in jail has grown and the trend is for more increases." He said that the La Victoria jail has had as many of 8,000 inmates and the stats on people in jail was 25,428 at year's end of 2013. He said in 2002, the total number of people in jail was 16,569. There are 36 jails in the DR, including 16 that are operating using the new jail model. But most people jail, or 16,271 men and 203 women are in traditional model jails.


Study in Great Britain
The UK Embassy in the Dominican Republic is holding a UK Education Fair at the Santo Domingo Hilton Hotel. The event will take place 4-6 March and is free. Seven UK universities are taking part seeking to facilitate and introduce Dominican students to UK higher learning centers. They are Edinburgh Napier University, Middlesex University, Newcastle University, University College London, University of Portsmouth, University of Warwick and University of Wolverhampton.

The UK Embassy says that representatives from the universities have been making contact with local universities for bilateral collaboration programs. They are also meeting with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology to offer their masters and doctoral study programs.

The event will take place at the Tobago-Bahamas room at the Hilton Hotel, from 4-6 March from 4 to 9pm. It is sponsored by the UK Embassy in Santo Domingo and UK Trade and Investment.

2013 Nobel Prize winner James E. Rothman to give talk
"My Life in Science" is the name of the talk that James E. Rothman of the University of Yale in Connecticut, USA, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine will give today, Monday 24 February, at the Juan Bosch auditorium of the Pedro Henriquez Urena National Library in Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo. The event is being organized by the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel).

Rothman won the Nobel Prize jointly in 2013 with Randy W. Schekman ?and Thomas C. Sudhoffor their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells. Rothman is credited with unraveling the protein machinery that allows vesicles to fuse with their targets to permit transfer of cargo.


Franco de Vita at Altos de Chavon
Venezuelan singer-songwriter Franco de Vita is booked for a show at the Altos de Chavon amphitheater in La Romana on Saturday, 19 April. This is part of his "Vuelve en Primera Fila" world tour. Tickets are for sale at Movie Max, Supermercados Nacional and Jumbo for US$60 general admission, US$110 VIP, US$160 special guests and US$230 front stage.

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

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