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Daily News - Thursday, 06 March 2014

Bilateral talks with Haiti set to continue on 20 March
Minister of the Presidency Gustavo Montalvo has announced that the next round of bilateral talks with Haiti will take place Tuesday, 20 March in the city of Jacmel in Haiti, as reported in El Nuevo Diario. The talks, which will focus on trade, health, tourism and migration matters, follow up on the previous monthly meeting that took place in Jimani on 3 February.

The Minister of the Presidency says he is optimistic about the talks that are already bearing fruit. He said six bilateral agreements were signed at the previous meeting.

"We have established a constructive dialogue on matters that affect our peoples, seeking to find real and long standing solutions, always based on mutual respect to sovereignty. No one has doubts that being good neighbors is the way to go," he said.

He said the earlier date was postponed due to the upcoming visit to the Dominican Republic by US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife.


Vanessa Rubio of Mexico visits to discuss trade, backs Haiti-DR talks
Mexico's Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations, Vanessa Rubio Marquez visited Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso yesterday, Wednesday 5 March and offered to act as a mediator in the talks with Haiti. As reported, Rubio hailed the ongoing bilateral dialogue with Haiti. She said that Mexico believes in non-intervention and respects the talks, but at the same time offered her country's mediation to contribute to bringing the two nations closer together. The talks are set to continue on Tuesday, 20 March.

The minister highlighted the DR's good relations with Mexico. She said in the past 10 years bilateral trade has increased 160%, going from US$443 million to US$1.14 billion a year. She added that the DR is the main choice for Mexican investments in the Caribbean, with more than US$6.5 billion. She said that 91% of Mexican investments in the Caribbean have been made in the Dominican Republic. The three leading Mexican companies here are Claro (telecommunications), Cemex (cement) and Aerodom (airport management).

During her visit to the Ministry of Foreign Relations the deputy minister also met with her colleagues in the Dominican Republic, the deputy minister for foreign policy Alejandra Liriano, and the deputy minister for trade negotiations Cesar Dargam to discuss matters relating to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Ibero-American Summit and the Tuxtla Mechanism for Dialogue and Cooperation. A high level authority, the Tuxtla Mechanism is an instrument for the agreement, political dialogue, and cooperation in the field of integration and sustainable development, involving Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Dominican Republic.

The visiting Mexican government officer also discussed development projects in the framework of the Mesoamerica Project and the role of the Dominican Republic as president of the Special Fund for Cooperation for the Caribbean under the framework of the Association of Caribbean States. Also discussed were economic, trade and investment matters linked to aviation connections and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

There is some concern about how the TPP would disrupt existing intra-American integration arrangements, with some countries and trade blocs left out entirely. The TPP free trade agreement will unite 11 countries - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.


Central Bank meets with IMF
Central Bank governor Hector Valdez Albizu met with officials from the International Monetary Fund as part of their Post Program Monitoring process yesterday, Wednesday 5 March. Valdez spoke of the 4.1% growth in the GDP, which was above the IMF estimate for 2013 and the 3.9% inflation rate that was lower than predicted by the IMF. He also said that the forecasts for this year are for a 4.5% growth in GDP, relative stability in the exchange rate, and sufficient gross international reserves that guarantee at least three months of imports. IMF representative Przemek Gajdeczka said that the visit is aimed at examining the evolution of key aspects of the economy, budgetary execution and electricity sector performance.

One of the key issues is the growing public sector debt with local banks. Economist Alejandro Fernandez reports public sector borrowing in Dominican banks was RD$35.4 billion in 2011 and increased to RD$68.2 billion in the electoral year 2012. But it has continued to increase. He says government borrowing is now at RD$96.9 billion and 7.3% net public credit of banking assets, which is double the regional average of 3.5%.



Extended school day experiences
The new extended school day, which runs from 8am to 4pm, is forcing principals and teachers to innovate. The first four hours of the day usually go by normally, according to reporter Bethania Apolinar and photojournalist Jorge Cruz. In the first of their two-part series in Listin Diario, they report that the difficulties and the weaknesses in the new system become apparent after lunch. The lack of teachers has kept some schools from introducing the extended school day that is aimed at improving educational quality by adding more teaching hours.

The report shows that there is no doubt that this government initiative has revolutionized the experience, introducing everything from art to martial arts. The reporters found that the instructors of these new activities receive a stipend of merely RD$2,000 a month, which school administrators cover with the money received from leasing the school cafeterias. Some teachers are hoping that the Ministry of Education will formalize their appointments with a much better salary.

The reporters described how some of the teachers dealt with the new school day and how some of them are really tired at the end of the eight-hour day. One of the major issues is that dining facilities simply do not exist in many schools. In the school they visited, the "Republica Dominicana", only first to third grade students can eat in a single area, and the rest of the students have to eat in their classrooms. There is apparently no kitchen and the food for the 1,300 students and staff at the school is supplied by an outside service. The journalists questioned the quality of the equipment used to ship the food to the school, pointing out that the plastic containers do not give a good impression. Finally, they reported a severe lack of teachers for the extended school hours.


Chamber sends Political Parties Bill to commission
The Chamber of Deputies sent the Bill on Political Parties and Groups to a special commission for study yesterday, Wednesday 5 March. These laws, which expired in the previous legislative session, are the same laws that were being studied by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) Commission chaired by Santo Domingo province deputy Karen Ricardo. Hoy and other newspapers also reported that leading civil society organizations like the Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) are urging the passage of these bills in order to make the political processes more transparent and accountable.

Court declares public defender rules unconstitutional
The First Collegiate Tribunal of Santiago has declared the General Instruction of the Office of the Public Defender (ONDP) to be unconstitutional because it denies the assignment of lawyers to defendants who are considered to be economically solvent. The judge sent the case file of defendant Adriano Roman to the Public Defenders, who had refused to assign him a lawyer for his defense in the trial in which he is accused of criminal intent against Jordi Veras.

The sentence makes not of the dispositions in articles 6, 69, 176, and 177 of the Constitution, which establish, among other thing, that all persons and agencies that exercise public functions are subject to it (the Constitution), besides the fact that any law, decree, resolution, regulation or act contrary to the Constitution is null and void.

The General Instruction of the ONDP, signed by its director Laura Hernandez Roman, orders that service not be provided to persons who are solvent, which would be a violation of Article 5 of Law 277-04 that creates the National Service of Public Defense, which establishes that: "The National Council of the Public Defense will determine through regulation, the mechanisms, criteria and rates applicable to persons of confirmed economic solvency that are required or who have been provided the service." This would also be in violations of articles 111 through 115 and 116 of the Penal Process Code regarding the rights of the defendant and the appointment of a defender.

Celebrating Independence Day in India
Dominican ambassador Hans Dannenberg, his staff and the Dominican community in India hosted 300 guests for the celebration of the 170th anniversary of Dominican Independence in New Delhi. Diplomats, Indian government officials, business executives were there to toast for the Dominican Republic at a New Delhi hotel. For the occasion, the embassy invited Dominican saxophonist Sandy Gabriel who played a solo with the national anthems of the Dominican Republic and India to the delight of the guests. Later the guests enjoyed a tasting of famous Dominican rums and cigars that are gradually penetrating the Indian market through the backing of the Dominican embassy. They also enjoyed merengue, bachata and other tropical beats throughout the evening.

"We are working for better relations between our peoples and cultures, but also to conquer a market of a billion potential consumers for our most emblematic products, including tourism," said the ambassador, as reported in Prensa Latina.

Business confidence on the rise
The Manufacturing Confidence Index shows a positive trend by going from 54.7% in the third quarter of 2013 to 57.6%. The same trend was reflected in the Business Confidence Index that went from 48.2% to 53.4%. Nonetheless, according to a report in Hoy, manufacturing sector leaders say that persisting restrictions are affecting production and business. This includes the low level of economic activity (spending), the tax burdens, and the high electricity costs and problems with supply. They also mention the price of fuel, unfair competition, and contraband, the cost of raw materials, imports and labor.

The results were published in the Manufacturing Circumstances Survey covering the fourth quarter of 2013 and conducted by the Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD).

The report quotes the polled manufacturers as saying that confidence was improving, especially perceptions of investment climate. While there was some positive news in the survey, there were also some not-so-positive perceptions in reference to the international situation and the behavior of the Dominican economy, both with negative numbers.

Eggs dearer, most articles stable
"Right now eggs are expensive, because over the last two weeks they went up by about RD$800 per thousand. A hundred eggs are now selling for RD$450 the large size and the mediums go for RD$430, which is to say the unit will be reaching the consumer at six pesos," stated Carlos Mercedes, the secretary general of the National District Egg Distributors Association. During a trip through the New Market on Duarte Ave - the principal supplier of the capital - Diario Libre reporters could see that some basic consumer products had increased in price and others had remained stable. Mercedes said that egg farmers had increased their prices by RD$800 per thousand over the past two weeks, and planned to increase the price even further, on the grounds that the Haitian market will now return to buying eggs.

One Mercado Nuevo trader, Andres Mateo Cespedes, said that the prices of rice, beans and cooking oil have remained stable for the last two months in his place of business. "Rice is at RD$18, the "Campo" rice is at RD$22, there are beans at RD$33 and RD$34 and a gallon of cooking oil is at RD$280," he said. Nevertheless, Bienvenido Taveras, of "Casa Willy", said that the price of rice has not gone up now, but that a month ago it went up RD$200 for a 125 pound sack. "After they increased it, sales have fallen a lot because rice was at 20 pesos a pound and when you tell a customer that it is 22 pesos a pound, he walks right out the door," he said. Salted cod increased from RD$105 a pound to RD$108, but herring has remained the same at 85 pesos per pound, said Taveras, adding that "milk is normal, it has not gone up in price this month."

Sugarcane workers demanding pensions again
Thousands of former sugarcane workers, some of whom had spent 50 years in the cane fields, assembled outside Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo yesterday, Wednesday 5 March to ask President Danilo Medina to emit a third decree for a pension increase to at least RD$10,000 per month. Group representatives told reporters from El Nuevo Diario that 22,000 cane workers had lost their jobs when many sugar mills closed or where mechanical sugar cane harvesters replaced their work. They added that workers at La Romana and the Vicini sugar mills were excluded from social security benefits. According to the workers, although they have a medical history of workplace accidents, they are denied social security services at the Salvador B. Gautier Social Security Hospital.

They reminded reporters that thanks to presidential decrees 245-12 and 666-12, over 4,000 sugarcane workers have received a pension.

Haitian used fake DR identification to testify in IACHR Court
A Haitian immigrant who sued the country before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights used forged documents to register the birth of three people and to vote in the last five elections, says the Central Electoral Board. On Tuesday, 4 March the Central Electoral Board (JCE) accused him of using false documents to establish his Dominican nationality. The complaint filed with the District Attorney of the National District, Yeni Berenice Reynoso, by JCE president Roberto Rosario, says that the accused, William Medina Ferreras, used his forged ID to vote in the elections of 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. "In addition to using this identification, William Medina Ferreras registered the births of Carolina Medina Perez, Luis Ney Medina Perez and Awilda Medina Perez," the complaint reads.

In October 2013, Medina Ferreras, 47, told the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that he lived in the border town of Oviedo, in the southwestern province of Pedernales, and that one early morning some 14 years ago, military agents and an immigration official arrived at his house and detained him "accusing him of being a Haitian." He said that despite being Dominican, he was deported to Haiti together with his family in 2000, where he had to beg in order to survive.

His case remains in the files known as "Tide Mendez and others vs. Dominican Republic" which refers to the expulsion of 27 people, an action said to be a sample of the racial discrimination in the Dominican Republic and alleged human rights violations during roundups and mass deportations in the 1990s.

The case file says that the birth certificate obtained illegally by the defendant indicates a birth registration in the Civil Registry Office in Cabral.

The JCE filed a civil suit on Tuesday, 4 March and asked the District Attorney for the National District to investigate the defendant and anyone else who may be implicated, in order to send them to justice. The institution demanded payments for damages and loss, provisionally estimated at a total of RD$1 million, as well as the application of the corresponding penal sanctions.

Customs seizes US$1.2 million in TV sets
Customs agents have discovered US$1.18 million dollars hidden in three television sets, and according to acento.com.do they found another US$116,000 in bags of rice and dog food sent in a container from New York City. The money, in small denominations (1,5,10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar bills) was stuffed into plastic bags placed inside the three television sets. The container was sent by the "Embarque M. Calvo" company out of the Bronx. The money has now been deposited in the National Treasury.

According to El Nuevo Diario, specialized personnel from the Department of Customs Intelligence sent to Puerto Plata from Santo Domingo made the discovery with support from other agencies.

Lots of Dominicans in Grapefruit League
Throughout Florida the Major League teams are preparing for the coming season, and 77 Dominican ballplayers are on their 40 man rosters, as reported in El Caribe. Headliners like David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista are generally known around many households. Some teams, such as Boston and Washington have as few as just two Dominicans on their rosters, but other such as Pittsburgh have as many as 10. The Grapefruit League - the informal gathering and "friendly" pre-season games that used to include almost all of baseball - has been around for 126 years. Teams like the Atlanta Braves have been in Florida since 1904. And while distances in the Florida Peninsula can be great, like a trip between Jupiter (St. Louis Cardinals) and Disney World (Atlanta Braves), can take as long as four and a half hours, there are also alternatives like the 15-minute ride between Dunedin and Clearwater to see the Phillies and Bluejays. Some towns even have two teams, such as Fort Myers (Redsox and Twins).

Playa Dorada Cigar Night on 21 March
It's time to book to attend the Playa Dorada cigar extravaganza. This is the time to combine Puerto Plata's natural attractions with a great people experience and great cigars at the Playa Dorada's Caribbean Cigar Night. The event is sponsored by leading rum and cigar producers.

This year's event takes place on 21 March at the Blue Jack Tar Beach Club in Playa Dorada.

The RD$4,500 ticket includes admission, dinner, drinks, gift pack, raffles and great cigars. An optional companion ticket at the moment of purchase of the main ticket is available but does not include the gift packet or the raffles ticket.

The event is a benefit for the Hogar Casa Albergue de Martina, a local orphanage for girls. Sponsors this year are El Catador (wines and spirits) and Brugal rum. Cigar sponsors are Tabacalera Fuente, Davidoff, La Aurora, General Cigar, Corporacion Cigar Export, Tabacalera de Garcia, Matasa and La Flor Dominicana.

To book, contact the Playa Dorada Hotel Association at Tel 809 320-3133 or Blue JackTar at Tel 809 320-3800. Or email them at [email protected] or see their website at www.cigarnightpop.com

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

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