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Daily News - Thursday, 13 March 2014

Santo Domingo markets to be tourist attractions
Minister of Agriculture Jose Ramon Rodriguez has announced an ambitious plan to convert the Mercado Modelo and the Mercado Nuevo into modern farm produce centers and to promote them as tourist attractions. He told reporters from El Caribe that he was preparing the terms of reference for an international tender to remodel the two markets, saying that this project is part of the government's priorities during this administration. He said that the Mercado Modelo on Mella Street would become a specialized tourist center selling handicrafts, souvenirs and other items as well as good quality fruits and vegetables.

While originally a produce market, the Mercado Modelo is now the country's largest crafts market. Fruits and vegetables make up only a small part of the goods on sale at the market that is a short walk from Santo Domingo's Colonial City.

Governor's offices to receive legalization applications
The country's 32 provincial governors' offices will operate as reception centers for requests from undocumented foreigners who accept the National Foreigner Legalization Plan, which the government will implement in compliance with Law 151 on Immigration, Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 and Executive Branch Decree 327, as reported in Diario Libre. For this purpose, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) will set up civil registration stations and cedula stations in the governors' offices, and will provide trained personnel to enable more effective data collection. The Minister of Interior and Police, Jose Ramon Fadul and JCE president Roberto Rosario signed a cooperation agreement with the provincial governors yesterday, Wednesday 12 March at the Ministry of Interior and Police (MIP) headquarters.

Through the consulting stations whose installation will begin this month, according to Rosario, they will carry out searches and comparisons of biometric data of applicants' photographs and fingerprints.

Rosario added that the Board's role will be to gather the information and pass it on to the MIP and it will only be entered definitively into the Civil Registry once the applicant's status is established.

Decree 327 states that a foreigner has to show roots in the country; for example, having had children born here, studying here, knowing how to speak, read and write in Spanish, live at a permanent address, live with a Dominican, have no criminal background, and demonstrate links such as work or socio-economic status.

According to Rosario, nearly a million people with "irregular" status live in the country, mostly Haitians or their descendants.

Medina continues consultation on Naturalization Law
In a statement yesterday, Wednesday 12 March, President Danilo Medina announced that he is engaged in consultations on the Naturalization Law Bill that he plans to send to National Congress regarding people born to parents who are (or were) illegal immigrants in the country, as reported in Diario Libre.

"We have a sentence that obliges us, so we are going to find the best way possible for us to get out of this situation. We are consulting people who have knowledge of this, but in the coming days we will have some proposals for the bill," said the President.

Meanwhile, Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado said that the Executive Branch should be given more time to work out the legislative proposal. "They are working, nobody has thrown in the towel, we are going to wait for the proposal of the bill that the President said he would send to Congress," he stated.

Government wants labor and management consensus
Speaking yesterday, Wednesday 12 March, President Danilo Medina pledged to respect any consensus reached by management and labor representatives on the modification of the Labor Code.

He said that he did not understand why there is so much nervousness if they have still not reached an agreement. As he attended the wake for the father of the president of the Petroleum Refinery, Felix Jimenez at the Blandino Funeral Home, the President said that during the last election campaign, society requested a revision of the Labor Code, and once in government, he called on the sectors involved to recommend specialists for talks. He made it clear that in order to modify the Code, there are three parties, but basically two, which are labor and management, and that either of them and the administration can apply the veto.

"If they do not reach an agreement, they did not reach an agreement. They are going to hand the government the areas that the three parties involved in the talks can agree upon. We expect that they will reach an agreement in the areas where they can agree, and where there is no agreement, there will be no accord. It is as simple as that," he said.

Medina said that the people who are talking would reach an agreement and that the authorities will back any parts where there is consensus. When he was asked about the consequences of a modification of the Code that affects the workers, the President said: "The government's philosophy is to take care of the people, the only thing I am trying to do in this administration is to improve the material conditions and the living conditions of our people, that is why I am here and this is what I am doing."

Nothing definite on toll hikes
While the Minister of Public Works has said that there is no going back on the increases in tolls on the nation's highways, and the transport unions threaten to strike, President Danilo Medina said that nothing is definite yet. The President announced that the Minister of Public Works, Gonzalo Castillo would address the country on this issue soon. The President's statement came in response to reactions from a range of sectors opposed to the proposed 233.33% increase in toll charges.

TSA prohibits Mining and Environment from issuing permits
The Higher Administrative Court (TSA) has stopped the Mining Department and the Ministry of the Environment from issuing permits to mine in the Loma Miranda area. According to Listin Diario, the date of 2 April was set for the hearings on an appeal against the Senate of the Republic, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Mining Department, in defense of the campaign against mining in Loma Miranda. The appeal was filed by Trajano Potentini, the president of the Justice and Transparency Foundation on behalf of Jose Marte Piantini, Ricardo de la Cruz Nieves and Consuelo Despradel who are the formal signatories of the petition. The TSA is the court in charge of matters pertaining to government contracting, including concessions, public service contracts and construction of works.

This is the second negative higher court decision that has been issued in response to Falcondo's bid for mining in Loma Miranda. Constitutional Court decision 167-13 last year confirmed a decision by the La Vega Third Penal Chamber of First Instance that ordered a halt to the Xstrata Nickel Falcondo works in Loma de Miranda.

Potentini said that the interest of a few could not be placed above the collective interest.



90% of private clinics are ready for ARS service
According to the Minister of Public Health, Freddy Hidalgo, some 90% of the country's private health centers are ready and have been approved for providing services to the Health Risk Administrators (ARS), the local HMOs that provide health coverage with providers under contract. Hidalgo pointed out that the centers would be inspected and monitored annually and that any facility that fails to meet the required standards would be notified and possibly closed down. Hidalgo was interviewed by Listin Diario reporters at the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Public Administration, designed to provide institutional strengthening to ten public hospitals and improve the quality of their service. The ten hospitals that have been prioritized are the Jose Maria Cabral y Baez Regional University Hospital, the Alejandro Cabral Regional Teaching Hospital, the Dario Contreras Traumatology Hospital, Luis E. Aybar and Francisco Moscoso Puello hospitals, the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital, the Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia Maternity Hospital, the Luis Morillo King Hospital in La Vega, the Jaime Mota Hospital in Barahona and the Antonio Musa Hospital in San Pedro de Macoris.

RD$2.2 billion to compensate for Samana road contract
The high cost of the tolls on the Samana road from Santo Domingo is a deterrent to more Dominicans visiting the northeastern destination. Nonetheless, the contract signed during the Leonel Fernandez administration establishes a minimum sum that the builder of the highway company, Autopista del Nordeste, needs to be paid. As a result, this year the government will pay RD$2.27 billion to the company for having fallen below the minimum, as indicated in the National Budget. Meanwhile, the Dominican government paid RD$1.34 billion in 2013 and US$1.83 billion in 2012, as reported in El Dia.

IMF says economy is better this year
The International Monetary Fund says that the economy has improved when compared to last year. The IMF representative in the country, Przmek Gajdeczka said that in general there is stronger growth, less deficit, a better foreign position and a lower inflation rate. The visiting mission is expected to post its statement this weekend, 15-16 March, as reported in El Caribe.

Attorney General says drug charges remain against ten
Speaking to El Nuevo Diario reporters yesterday, Wednesday 12 March, Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito stated that prosecutors would continue to pursue charges against the ten defendants involved in a drug trafficking case that includes the owner of Caribair Airlines, Rafael Senen Rosado Fermin. On Monday, 10 March, the ten defendants, who are accused of belonging to an international drug trafficking organization, were released on bail. Dominguez told reporters that he hopes that the defendants do not flee the country, saying that his department expects to continue their prosecution process.

More than enough lawyers
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Justice and the chairman of the Judicial Branch Council, Mariano German Mejia, revealed that in the Dominican Republic at present there is more than one lawyer for every square kilometer of territory. There are 48,442 square kilometers in the Dominican Republic. The magistrate estimated that with the newly sworn-in lawyers at the SCJ over the last few months, there are 53,000 lawyers, which is one lawyer for each 178 inhabitants, as reported in Diario Libre.

Participating in a panel discussion, "Analysis of the legislative proposal on the practice of law and notary public in the Dominican Republic", organized by the dean of the Law School at the Catholic University of Santo Domingo yesterday, Wednesday 12 March, he said the way people look at the legal profession has caused a visible overpopulation in the universities, exorbitantly multiplying the number and reducing, at the same time, the quality of the service over the last decades. German Mejia listed a series of factors that cause this situation, including inadequate training because of the national educational crisis. More universities are offering law degrees, but with no type of control and which the students do not attend regularly.

He added that there are more lawyers per inhabitant and per square kilometer, weaker ethics, as a consequence of the increasingly evident loss of values. "There is an absence of standards that establish corrective punishments for poor work in the practice of the profession," he said. These causes, he said, justified modifications in the system of training and in access to practice of the legal profession. He said that it was enough to mention several cases in which the First Chamber and the Plenary of the high court had declared the plaintiffs' petitions inadmissible because the briefs were so confusing and deficient that they could not be considered.

He added that deficiencies in training have also been reflected in the Competitions for Candidates for Justices of the Peace organized by the Judicial Branch. German Mejia revealed that from 2001 to date, 4,725 applications have been received but barely 248 have managed to get through the process. "Statistically speaking we are looking at 5.2%." He concluded by saying that at present, the law profession is one of the most popular at the universities and most in demand by students.

Cuba accuses US of extraterritorial violations
The Embassy of Cuba in the Dominican Republic claims that the United States government, in what it describes as a gross violation of international law, is making an extraterritorial application of US laws against Cuba. In a statement, the Cuban embassy says that the measures taken against them include the suspension of fuel supplies by Shell to Cubana de Aviacion airplanes at Las Americas International Airport, as well as the refusal of branches of Scotiabank to provide services to members of the diplomatic mission and Cuban legal residents in the Dominican Republic.

The latest measure was when retailer Pricemart cancelled their diplomatic mission's membership, according to the press release.

The Embassy accuses the US of extraterritorial application of the blockade, describing it as a cruel and obsolete policy that has been widely condemned by the international community for more than 20 years and that seriously damages Cuba but also affects the interests and sovereign rights of third countries and is a source of constant trade and financial conflicts.


Japan donates RD$50 million for education
The Embassy of Japan will be donating US$1,159,484 (around RD$50 million pesos) to non-governmental organizations that work in the provinces. The funds will be used to build schools nationwide.

Japanese Ambassador Soichi Sato said that the donation seeks to contribute to the development of Dominican society and is a way of strengthening the links of friendship and cooperation between both countries.

The NGOs that will benefit include Fundacion Sur Futuro (southwest), Patronato Benefico Oriental (La Romana), Congregacion Madres Dominicas de Nuestra Senora del Santo Rosario, Radio Santa Maria (La Vega), Centro Educativo San Jose (Montecristi), and Accion Evangelizadora Catolica (Santo Domingo Este).

India works to open Embassy in Santo Domingo
The Ambassador of India for the Dominican Republic Chinthapally Rajasekhar told Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso yesterday, Wednesday 12 March, that his government is planning to open an embassy in the Dominican Republic. He said that India seeks to promote increased trade. As reported in Diario Libre, the ambassador said, "We recognize that the Dominican Republic is the society, the nation with the most dynamic economy in the Caribbean, mainly in trade, and we are interested in that aspect." He said the volume of trade is at US$100 million a year, but that it can be increased.

World War II guns found in La Romana
Three Browning machine guns, caliber 50mm were found in an airplane wing that was about to be melted by a La Romana scrap metal company. The guns were found by divers off Saona Island and were sold as scrap metal. The Criminal Investigations Department (DICRIM), called in by the metal scrap company to investigate the guns, determined that the plane was a Mustang P-51 used in the Second World War. The guns are Browning machine guns, caliber 50mm, M-2, numbers 705353, 1259439 and 409331.

As reported in Diario Libre, the plane's wing was sold to the scrap metal company for RD$60,000. The metal scrap company owner Pedro Irrizary told investigators that he found the guns when dismantling the wing and reported them to DICRIM, which sent the investigators. He also reported the discovery to prosecutor Jose Polanco in La Romana.


Carlos Vives coming for Soberano Awards
Prepare to tune in to watch the Soberano Awards on Tuesday evening, 18 March with a performance by Colombian star Carlos Vives, as well as by Bonny Cepeda, Vakero, Mozart, Nathalie, Raulin, Johnny Ventura, El Canario, Oscar de Leon, Rafael Solano, and Toque Profundo. See: Premiosoberano.com

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

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