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Daily News - Wednesday, 26 February 2014

DR1 breaks for Independence Day holiday
DR1 Daily News will not be updated tomorrow, Thursday, 27 February on the occasion of the 27 of February Independence Day holiday. News will be compiled for the Friday, 28 February issue that will focus mainly on the speech as well as comments and reactions to the speech.

Medina will give State of the Nation address on 27 February
President Danilo Medina will speak to the nation tomorrow, Thursday 27 February, as he presents the Independence Day state of the nation address. He will be speaking from the National Congress in the presence of legislators and diplomats.

Administrative Minister of the Presidency said that in the speech Medina will concentrate on describing the works the government has executed to date. He said that citizens could expect an eventful speech. Medina's first address was made in 2013 after he had been in government for only six months. Peralta said that Medina has been meeting the promises made during the electoral campaign in regards to small business, agriculture, education, rural communities and the people.

President meets Florida Commission
President Danilo Medina has hosted a delegation from Florida, as part of a visit by Enterprise Florida to develop more Dominican business with the state of Florida.

Gray Swoope, Secretary of the Florida Commerce group and CEO of Enterprise Florida, Ananth Prasad, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Barbara Sharief, Miami's Broward County mayor, headed the delegation.

Also present at the meeting yesterday, Tuesday 25 February were the Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy Daniel Foote, Alan Becker of Becker & Poliakoff, Park Brady of St. Joe Company, Frederick Leonhardt of Gray Robinson, vice chancellor of Keiser University Belinda Keiser, Florida Power & Light Company president Eric Silagy, and Florida Ports Council chair Val Schwec, among others.

Jean-Alain Rodriguez, executive director of the Center for Exports and Investment in the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), and the general consul in Miami, Oscar Amaury Rios De Padua were among those who represented the Dominican government.

Around 130 people representing more than 32 companies and leading investors from Florida came for the meetings. The DR is ranked ninth on the list of Florida's top ten trading partners by value in 2012, when total trade was worth US$5.5 billion. Dominican exports to Florida totaled US$2.45 billion.



President sends message to nation
President Danilo Medina sent a message to the Dominican people yesterday, Tuesday 25 February to mark the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Matias Ramon Mella, one of the nation's Founding Fathers.

Yesterday was also Armed Forces Day and Medina said that it was a happy coincidence that both fell on the same date, which is a day for congratulating all the members of the country's military forces.

He said that they had promised to honor and safeguard the country's democracy and its interests and that the nation should recognize the armed forces' dedication to maintaining peace and security, which is what the citizens require.


Improved water quality keeps disease at check
The Minister of Public Health, Freddy Hidalgo says that water quality in the National District had helped the province of Santo Domingo and the National District to prevent a cholera outbreak.

Speaking at an inauguration of a modern water testing and control laboratory belonging to the Santo Domingo Corporation for Water and Sewers (CAASD) yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, he said that thanks to the work of CAASD director Alejandro Montas in the area of water improvement, there had not been that many cases of cholera in Greater Santo Domingo.

He went on to say that the new laboratory would enable the quality of the water to be even better and prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Montas said that water quality in the National District and Santo Domingo Province had improved by more than 50% and he was striving to achieve a 100% improvement before the end of his time in office.


Medina administration backs Loma Miranda mining
Administrative Minister of the Presidency Jose Ramon Peralta has come out in support of mining in the country. Speaking yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, he declared he was in favor of mining in the Loma Miranda area in Monsenor Nouel province. He said it was unlikely that President Danilo Medina would refer to the matter in his 27 February address to the nation. The Ministry of Environment has to issue the company with the necessary permits before the proposed mining can proceed. The Ministry had requested the opinion of United Nations experts who indicated that the environmental impact assessment supplied by Falcondo was not complete. At the same time, the UNDP representative said the country had to decide if it wanted to be a mining nation.

Massive march pro mining in Bonao
Thousands of people marched in Bonao yesterday, Tuesday 25 February demanding that the Environment Ministry give the relevant permission for mining to go ahead in Loma Miranda.

The march received massive support from local residents, businesspeople, shopkeepers, politicians and local authorities who attributed the economic crisis in the area due to the closure of dozens of businesses and the lack of jobs to the closure of the Falcondo Xstrata nickel mine last year and the consequent loss of their income of around RD$40 million a month which they spent in local businesses.

Nine out of 10 of the mayors in the province, Deputy Maria Mercedes Fernandez and Senator Felix Nova Paulino took part in the demonstration that was only rivaled in size by a demonstration on 5 May 1989 when the people of Bonao took to the streets to ask for wage increases and a healthy environment.

The demonstrators asked the Ministry and the President not to declare Loma Miranda a National Park saying that they had a right to work to be able to make an honest living and live in peace.


Peruvian special needs expert honored
President Danilo Medina has awarded Dr. Liliana Mayo Ortega, founder and director general of the Ann Sullivan Center of Peru (CASP) the Heraldic Order of Christopher Columbus.

Mayo Ortega was invited to the country by First Lady Candida Montilla de Medina to share her experience on caring for children with special needs, and to strengthen links between the Ann Sullivan Center and the Integrated Care Center for Disabilities (CAID) in the Dominican Republic.

The ceremony took place at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Tuesday 25 February in the presence of First Lady Candida Montilla de Medina and Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo.


83% of formal jobs created by the Dominican government
The Inter-American Business Association (Asine) says that the nation needs to consider the situation where 83% of the formal jobs created from 2000-2012 were created by the Dominican government. Spokesman Leonel Castellanos says that the government's role should be to encourage investment, not generate jobs. During a talk on inheritance and tax implications yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, Castellanos also expressed his concern at the fact that 60% of the Dominican workforce is in the informal sector, saying that this informality means a larger tax burden is placed on the formal companies, as reported in Listin Diario.

Thousands of these government jobs have been created in plush offices that the private sector cannot afford.

High production costs affect Dominican exports
The executive vice president of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce, Fernando Ferran, says that the Dominican Republic needs to reduce its production costs for companies to be in a better position to compete. He commented that the high electricity and transport costs, and unskilled labor are some of the obstacles to Dominican exports. Ferran said that more investment in infrastructure and technology was needed to improve the quality of goods made in the Dominican Republic, as reported in Listin Diario.

UNPHU medicine school agreement with Columbia University
The School of Medicine at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo has announced the signing of an agreement with Columbia University in New York City for academic cooperation programs including student exchanges and joint research. The program also allows for clinical rotations between both universities. Graduating students will work 4-12 weeks, medical specialty students five weeks, and there will be practices at clinics associated to UNPHU and at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital, plus cultural immersion programs. The UNPHU also has programs with other international centers of higher learning, including Tufts University, Boston University, University of Massachusetts (USA), Universidad de Barcelona, Universidad de Sevilla (Spain), Universidad Javierana (Colombia), Universidad de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico), and Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (Monterrey, Mexico).

Taking Our Faith or Our Territory?
After news sources in Dajabon reported on the activities of the "Tomando Nuestro Territorio" (TNT) or "Taking Our Territory" group in Dominican border towns with Haiti, further inquiries are raising more questions than answers.

In a commentary published in acento.com.do yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, the former Haitian consul in the Dominican Republic Edwin Paraison denied that the campaign was about the fusion of the island of Hispaniola and said that TNT was an evangelical group. However, he did not give any explanations into the religious aspect of the campaign.

But the president of the Council of Evangelical Churches (CODUE), Fidel Lorenzo said that the TNT campaign was not an evangelical initiative and demanded that former consul Paraison explain the campaign's true intentions to the Dominican people.

Minister of Defense Sigrido Pared Perez said that if it is a religious group, it should be called "Taking our Faith," not "our Territory." He described it as "a confrontation with the Dominican Republic."

"We reject their pretense of using religious principles to justify it," he said. "They want to disguise this campaign using religion, which is risible. When talking about religious matters you do not have to recover territory, but recover faith, recover principles, not instigate to occupy territory," said Pared Perez who headed several events on the occasion of Armed Forces Day yesterday, Tuesday 25 February.

An editorial in Diario Libre speculates that the group's strategy may be to provoke confrontations. It says that Dominican authorities are aware of the situation, but do not dare act for many reasons, one being to avoid stirring up an international feeding frenzy.

"The former consul is abusing local hospitality and a member of the government should tell him so," comments the editorial in Diario Libre.

On Tuesday Minister of Interior and Police Jose Ramon Fadul expressed concern about the campaign that is being promoted and supported by Haitian groups in the country. He said the authorities are following the group. El Nuevo Diario reports that Tomando Nuestro Territorio has held marches in Elias Pina, Dajabon and Higuey, areas with large Haitian immigrant populations.

Radio commentator Alvarito Arvelo commented: "It is a cynical, abusive and criminal way of saying that the island is theirs. They are saying: You rebelled, took our island and now we will take our territory, what is ours!" In his morning talk show, Arvelo warned that it could "incite Dominican fanatics to harm Haitians who are wearing the t-shirts and vice-versa, generating a kind of civil war... Whoever is sponsoring this should be tied up and thrown out of the country... Now to the situation between both countries you add this shameless, malicious and satanic action," said the popular commentator.

Haitian history teaches that the entire island is named Haiti. The Dominican Republic celebrates gaining its independence from Haiti tomorrow, Wednesday 27 February.







Driver with US$500,000 in Porsche set free
After releasing businessman Eduardo Andres Massanet Martinez yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, National District judge Jose Alejandro Vargas said that the Public Prosecution service did not present sufficient proof that he was linked to money laundering.

Vargas said that although the National District prosecutor had asked for the accused to be placed on remand in jail, being in possession of money was not in itself a crime in the Dominican Republic.

The court also heard that legally authorized transcriptions of telephone calls did not prove the accused was linked to drug trafficking.

At the hearing, the accused admitted that he had the US$499,440 in cash in his Porsche Cayenne but he said it was from his business selling clothes and shoes and he had the receipts from the bank where he purchased the dollars and other proof verified by Customs, to show the merchandise came from Panama and China.

He said that he had never had any problems with the law, his companies were properly registered and the authorities had made a mistake not only with him but also with his family; that they had three stores and that as far as he knew it was not illegal to withdraw money from the bank.

At the hearing his lawyer rejected the prosecutor's demand for protective custody, saying that his client should either go free or be released on bail, but not to prevent him leaving the country as he had to travel abroad often on business.

According to El Dia, the DNCD president and the Attorney General both criticized the judge's decision, saying that the prosecution service would appeal as they felt there was sufficient proof.

Meanwhile, it appears that Massanet Martinez also held the rank of Police Sergeant. PN spokesman Jacobo Mateo Moquete said that an order had been issued to dismiss him from the post.

El Dia reports that the DNCD delayed notifying the press of Massanet's arrest until his release a week later.





Man accused of kidnapping and murder arrested in Cabrera
Police in Cabrera have arrested a man who held a family hostage for several hours. Wilkin Taveras Hernandez (Morenito), 25, then confessed to the killing of Dutch woman Richtje Van Someren in July last year.

He was arrested after entering the home of Swiss national Rudolph Kenneth Roher and holding his wife and five children hostage whilst Roher went to the bank to withdraw RD$700,000 to pay the ransom for his family. Police conducted a successful negotiation and all were released unharmed.


San Francisco mayor to be arrested for corruption
The Attorney General's office has secured a warrant for the arrest of the mayor of San Francisco de Macoris, Felix Manuel Rodriguez Grullon, for alleged administrative corruption to the tune of more than RD$100 million.

Via the Specialized Persecution of Administrative Corruption Unit (PEPCA) headed by Judge Laura Guerrero, the AG's office also asked for arrest warrants for the council's Finance Director and Treasurer Fior Daliza Genao Hernandez, as well as Jerson Nerys Lizardo Perez, the former head of the mayor's payroll.

In a press release, Guerrero said that the irregularities, discovered during an audit, included forging documents, perversion of justice, embezzlement, extortion, abuse of trust, and criminal association.

The statement went on to say that an investigation by the Public Prosecution service found that during the January 2007 to November 2011 period the accused perpetrated electronic fraud to the payroll for around RD$25 million. Several other discrepancies involving payroll and construction payments were also highlighted.


French pilots call for boycott due to delayed court case
Yesterday, Tuesday 25 February, France's main pilots' union, SNPL France Alpa called for French commercial airline pilots to boycott the Dominican Republic in protest at the 11-month detention of two colleagues in jail on drug smuggling charges.

The union's president, Yves Deshayes, said that on Tuesday two Air France pilots said they would not fly to Santo Domingo, and had to be replaced.

The union launched the action in support of two pilots, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, who were arrested on 20 March 2013 when Dominican anti-narcotics officials discovered 700 kilos of cocaine in their plane.

The aircraft, a Falcon 50 private jet owned by a French millionaire owner of a chain of opticians, Alain Afflelou, was under charter at the time to a company based in southeast France.

The two pilots have been kept in detention since, pending trial. The union says a court hearing to begin proceedings against them and nearly 40 other drug trafficking suspects has been delayed six times.


Luguelin Santos: Athlete of the Year
The Dominican Olympic Committee has chosen runner Luguelin Santos as the Athlete of the Year 2013. This is the second time the 20-year old London Olympics silver medalist has won the award. He received the award at the ceremony at the Hotel Jaragua yesterday, Tuesday 25 February.

The complete list of the athletes of the year is:

Wilsaida Diaz (Chess), Andres Alfonseca (Archery), Luguelin Santos (Athletics), Nelson Javier (Badminton), Jack Michael Martinez (Basketball), Irigina Alexandra Pop (Handball), Victor Manuel Mendez (Baseball), Yenebier Adelina Guillen (Boxing), Aumi Guerra (Bowling), Nelson Ismael Sanchez (Cycling), Maria Gabriela Brugal (Equestrian), Rossy Felix Lara (Fencing), Julio Santos (Golf), Yelandy Contreras (Football), Yamilet Pena (Gymnastics), Michael Alesander Lopez (Hockey), Wander Mateo (Judo), Maria Dimitrova (Karate), Yuderqui Maridalia Conreras (Weightlifting), Ramon Garcia (Wrestling), Frandier Gomez (Swimming), Mauricio Garcia (Skating), Yacil Valera (Pentathlon), Luis Perez (Racquetball), Alexander Conception (Rowing), Rosaury Perez (Softball), Jose Manuel Henriquez (Surfing), Disnanci Polanco (Taekwondo), Victor Manuel Estrella (Tennis), Eva Brito (Table tennis), Sergio Pinero (Skeet), Guillermo Flaquer (Sailing), Arnerys Vargas (Volleyball) and Eric Smith (Wushu).

27 of February shopping weekend
Major stores in the DR are advertising a shopping weekend for Thursday, 27 February, the Independence holiday, and all throughout the weekend. Plaza Lama is promising its sales will be similar to those of the very successful Black Friday (in November), Office Depot is advertisings its traditional sales for all shoppers who show up very early, and Corripio is promoting 27% off all its white appliances. La Sirena megastore and Arbaje Soni furniture store are advertising out of the ordinary sales.

National Folk Dance show
As of 7pm this evening, Wednesday 26 February, 30 dancers from the National Folk Dancing troupe will take the stage of Santo Domingo's Plaza de Espana, outside the Columbus Palace, the Alcazar, for the "We are Dominican" show showcasing the traditions, songs, and Dominican beats. First dancer and choreographer Elizabeth Crooke, director of the dance group, says the show presents the company's new image. The show will go on an international tour starting in July.

Elton John, Chavon fund-raiser and John Walker & Sons Voyager at Casa de Campo
This is a big weekend for Casa de Campo and Altos de Chavon. Legendary pop superstar Elton John will be singing at the Altos de Chavon amphitheater on Friday, 28 February.

Prior to the concert, from 6 to 9pm, The Gallery at Altos de Chavon is inviting the public to its silent auction of student and faculty art and works by former artists-in-residence. The event is sponsored by the Altos de Chavon Cultural Center Foundation, a US 501©(3) public charity registered in Washington, D.C. that supports donations to worthy students at the Altos de Chavon School of Design. An evening of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and live music to benefit The Scholarship Fund is scheduled. Donations at the door are US$50 or RD$2,200 per person. For details, contact Martha Victoria [email protected] or Tel 809 523-8470/8011 from 8:30 to 4:30pm.

Then on 1 March, anyone visiting La Romana for the concert can also drop by the Casa de Campo Marina to see the John Walker & Sons Voyager, the John Walker & Sons whisky brand museum-ship. This is the same 183-foot yacht that can be seen in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall. The ship will be at the Marina Casa de Campo from the 1-5 March when several events are planned with invitations sent out as part of the promotion of premium Scotch whisky labels.

Music at the Plaza Juan Baron on the Malecon
The Ministry of Culture is presenting the Festival Ali-Bandas with the participation of Dominican, Haitian and Venezuelan music groups at the Plaza Juan Baron in Santo Domingo. The show celebrates Independence Day, 27 February and music starts at 5pm. La Chiling Band from Haiti, Parranda de Liliam from Venezuela and Ali-Bandas from the Dominican Republic are performing along with street music groups from several barrios all around the country, including the La Villa Banda from Villa Consuelo, Biomega de Mambo from Villa Francisca, Albaba por Pasion from Villas Agricolas, Kiko y su Big Band from Villa Maria, El Yuatallon from Sabana Perdida, Pedro Thompson y los Abusadores del Mambo from Los Mina, La Choco Banda from Constanza, and La Banda de los Guloyas from San Pedro de Macoris.

Fireworks show at Avenida del Puerto
Sergio Vargas and Eddy Herrera will bring the music to the Let's Light up the Nation show in celebration of Dominican Independence Day this Thursday, 27 of February at the Avenida del Puerto in Santo Domingo. Merengue and fireworks will be the stars of the evening that is sponsored by the brewers of Presidente beer, the Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana and the Jupiter fireworks company. Juan Portes, general manager of Jupiter, said that the 30,000 pyrotechnic effects will seem to dance to the beat of merengue.

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

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