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Daily News - Monday, 24 March 2014

President Medina announces longer school day for more students
During a visit to his home province of San Juan de la Maguana yesterday, Sunday 23 March, President Danilo Medina said that the government is working towards implementing the extended school day nationwide during the next academic year that starts in August. He stressed the importance of children being able to start the day at 8am and not leave until 4pm. He said this would help working parents and especially single parent-headed homes. New schools are being fitted with kitchen facilities. While the physical infrastructure may soon be in place, critics say that teachers and programs are lame.

El Nuevo Diario reports that the government is investing RD$52.78 billion in the construction of 16,309 new classrooms, most for the extended day program.



Tunneling for Metro 2 line extension
Two MKI tunneling machines will simultaneously excavate the underground section of the second part of the Metro Line 2 linking east and west Santo Domingo. One will be located at Carretera Mella with San Vicente de Paul Avenue and the other at Los Tres Brazos. The tunnel will connect the Puente de la 17 to Megacentro station, some four kilometers.

The machines will be tunneling 15-20 meters every 24 hours, announced Leonel Carrasco, spokesman for the Opret, the metro construction office.

The second subway line was initially scheduled to begin in Los Alcarrizos and end in San Luis, but budget limitations caused it to start at the Luperon avenue cloverleaf intersection on the Duarte Highway and stop before the Ozama River. Now it is planned to cross the river and reach the Megacentro shopping mall on the Mella Highway. Parts of the Gualey and La Barquita neighborhoods are being prepared to receive the increased passenger flow.

The new phase of the metro will add four kilometers to the route with stations at Los Tres Brazos, Fernando de Navarrete, Trina de Moya and the Megacentro. A river bus transport system is also planned to feed the Metro line.

While OPRET announces start of work on the extension, Diario Libre reports today that the electric escalators of several Metro stations are out of order. It mentions the stations Joaquin Balaguer, Francisco Alberto Caamano and Los Indios.


Senate President: Political Parties Bill to pass this year
Ruling PLD party secretary Reinaldo Pared Perez is optimistic that discussions within the party will lead to the passing of the Political Parties Bill during this legislature. In an official PLD statement, the politician, who has also announced his presidential pre-candidacy for the party, said the matter would be discussed at the next PLD Political Committee meeting.

The bill has been in Congress for more than 10 years. What has happened is that politicians express support for the bill when they are out of government, but then do nothing about it when they are in power.

As reported in El Dia, the law would oblige the political parties to elect new party directors every four years, directors would only be able to handpick 20% of the party's candidates, secret vote would be instituted for authorities and candidates, political parties need to have clear financial accountability systems, political primaries must be held to elect candidates, a five-month campaign period is set for pre-candidacies, individual contributions to finance candidates are limited, the winner of a position cannot be removed, abuse of government resources for pre-campaigns is banned, public works cannot be inaugurated six months before the election, among others.

US government defies Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13
Despite the Constitutional Court ruling 168-13 establishing that Juliana Eguis does not qualify for Dominican nationality on the grounds that her parents were in the Dominican Republic illegally, the US Consulate issued a humanitarian visa to Juliana Eguis on 20 March 2014 identifying her as a Dominican in the special visa. Eguis tried to travel to the US to attend an Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) hearing having only the US visa. Migration Department officers said she needed to present a passport to leave the country. She was accompanied by journalists when she tried to leave on a 5am JetBlue flight on Sunday, 23 March.

After receiving the US visa on 20 March, Eguis demanded a Dominican passport in a visit to the Passport Department with lawyers and media. When Listin Diario reporters interviewed Passport Department director Iris Guaba, she said it cannot be correctly said that Deguis was denied a passport when she never formally requested one. According to Guaba, Eguis did not make her application via the normal channels and did not submit the required documentation for applying for a Dominican passport. Instead she presented a photocopy of her birth certificate and of the humanitarian visa. Guaba said that the requirements included a legalized birth certificate and Dominican cedula. She said that only foreigners who have lost their passports or had them stolen were allowed to travel with an emergency travel document issued by their consulate.

"From the moment Deguis arrived at the Passports department... her lawyers were yelling out on one and another side and the journalists were requesting comments," said Guaba. She said that the scene created lots of confusion and she wondered whether the intention was to request the passport or to appear in the media, as reported in Listin Diario.

As reported, Eguis' lawyers had also notified the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the granting of the visa and demanded the Dominican passport.

El Dia quotes a US government official as saying that US Immigration Law allows for exceptions for issuing visas without a passport. The newspaper also reports that JetBlue had authorized Eguis' departure, but when she got to the Migration section, officers there said that she needed a Dominican passport to leave with that visa. Her lawyers Manuel de Jesus Dandre, Maria Martinez and Genaro Rincon were able to travel to the IACHR meeting.

The Foreign Relations Ministry's Human Rights Department director Radhys Abreu will represent the Dominican Republic at the hearing today, Monday, 24 March at 3pm.

The Dominican Republic government has provided mechanisms to fast-track naturalization for people in Eguis' situation, but Eguis is holding out for automatic granting of citizenship arguing that she was born in the Dominican Republic.

El Dia's editorial today writes that identifying Deguis as a Dominican national despite the Constitutional Court ruling was "an excess" by the US government. "The United States is not entitled to blithely issue nationality of other countries," writes the editorialist. The director of El Dia is lawyer Rafael Molina Morillo, a former Dominican ambassador to the United States.






Chile's Eduardo Frei calls immigration a new 21st century reality
Former President of Chile Eduardo Frei says that more attention must be given to the immigration problem that he says is affecting Latin America, a situation he says has changed in the last few years. He said that Latin American countries needed to develop public policies on immigration to confront this "reality of the modern world."

As reported by the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Relations, Frei told Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso that "20, 30, 40 years ago this was not an issue in Latin America, but today it is. I am aware of the problem that the DR has, for example, but in Argentina there are more than a million from Bolivia, we have around 500,000 Latin American immigrants, including 250,000 Peruvians, there are Dominicans, Colombians, Argentineans. In Chile we have around 600,000-700,000 immigrants from all Latin America. We do not have a state policy in those cases because historically it was not a problem. But the time has come for each country, together to design policies to undertake this immigration reality as a reality of the 21st century, a reality of the modern world we cannot escape."

Frei said that institutions in each nation should find ways to resolve the problem. He said that solutions applied in one country would not necessarily work in another.

"There is a public policy and that has to work with the institutions that are capable of taking on that task as a public policy that is how to deal with this," he stated.


DR and Haiti drug chiefs meet to strengthen links against crime
The president of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) Major General Julio Cesar Souffront Velazquez and the chief of the Police of Haiti Godson Arelus have held a meeting at the agency in Santo Domingo to strengthen cooperation to fight drug trafficking cartels and organized crime on the island.

They agreed to improve logistics and communication to fight crime. Major General Souffront Velazquez placed the Canine Training Center (K-9), operational, logistics and training capacities at the service of the Haitians.


New foreign service controls hurting real diplomats
The Ministry of Foreign Relations is reported to be adopting measures to reduce wasteful spending. In the process, however, the real working diplomats are feeling the delays in payment.

As reported in Diario Libre, the plan is for payments to diplomats to be made through the Controller General Office in two monthly installments, one for wages and representation costs and the other for living and other expenses. The measure seeks to reduce payroll expenditure on the grounds that in some consulates and embassies more than 50% of appointees do not work regularly and are merely beneficiaries of political patronage. Diario Libre says that the measures, nevertheless, are affecting the finances of genuine working diplomats.

Diario Libre reports that the government's dilemma is that a large number of these political appointees are relatives of members of the Political Committee or Central Committee of the ruling PLD or closely associated with key members of the PRSC political party. Reportedly, there are "irritating privileges" of some "ghost diplomats" who receive three and four times their base wage of US$1,750 for other expenditures.

The diplomats have been requested to present their housing contracts in order to confirm they are living abroad. Ambassadors have also been asked to present a list of embassy staff members and their roles.


Employers and labor reps agree to restrict employee Internet use
In the ongoing discussions for the Labor Code revisions both employers and labor representatives are in agreement on restricting access to social networks during work hours. The point was included in Article 45 of the draft.

Government, employer and labor representative groups are discussing the draft. The government has said it will back items on which there is agreement.




Malecon heavy traffic ban still on hold
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) director General Juan Brown has told Diario Libre that they are waiting for authorization from the City Government of Santo Domingo (ADN) to restrict heavy traffic along the Malecon seafront boulevard from Maximo Gomez Avenue to Arzobispo Merino Street. He said they had started to ban traffic after resolution 11-2012 was issued in 2012, but the ADN told them that a consensus had not been reached. General Brown said they told AMET to wait for the beginning of a program to issue stickers to the trucks that would have permission to transit, but this never happened. Reportedly, only 95 trucks will be authorized to transit from Monday to Friday from 7am to 7pm, and Saturdays from 8am to 4pm.

Jobs, hard currency not enough to justify mining excesses, say manufacturers
The president of the Association of Industries of Herrera and the Province of Santo Domingo (AEIH), Victor Castro, is calling for the government to devise coherent mining policies that are adapted to the reality that this is an island made up of fragile ecosystems with already large environmental liabilities. Castro said that there needed to be master guidelines, agreed upon with society, before the start of operation of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. He said that universal mining parameters, such as those applied in continental countries cannot apply to the Dominican Republic because it is an island and because of its environmentally devastated neighbor. He said that mining grew 151% of GDP last year. "Is this the way to go? This needs to be defined," said Castro.

He said that a clear mining development framework, based on legality, environmental responsibility and social legitimacy would make any debates on the Loma Miranda case unnecessary.

"This cannot wait any longer because when one sees the concessions and exploration permits one can see a large part of the national geography is being compromised and that is dangerous without a mining development strategy," said the AEIH president.

He said that the stability of rules of the game, certainty that investors require and for attracting capital for mining would be more viable if they rested on a coherent public policy that prevented delays in taking decisions and the surprises caused by circumstances, as reported in El Nuevo Diario. He said this would manage the environmental excesses on one hand and overprotection by environmentalists on the other. "We cannot conform to just attracting mining investment to create jobs and generate foreign exchange. The vision needs to be broader, thinking of future generations," said Castro.


Acoprovi: DGII poses obstacles to low-cost housing
The president of the Dominican Association of Builders and Promoters of House Construction (Acoprovi) complains that large-scale construction of low-cost housing promised by President Danilo Medina is not going ahead as planned because of obstacles imposed by the Department of Taxes (DGII). Fermin Acosta said that Law 189-11 for the Promotion of Mortgage Market and Trusts and its ruling establish that the DGII has to decline bonds for the construction of low-cost housing, but the institution has not yet done so.

Interviewed on Channel 11's D'Agenda program with Hector Herrera Cabral, Acosta said that the DGII was not upholding the disposition. He said that President Medina had to issue a decree so that the Ministry of Hacienda could issue the bonds given the obstacles of the DGII. Acosta also criticized the delays in the operation of the one-stop-shop for the paperwork for the application of the trust law. He said there is a deficit of almost one million dwellings.

He said some studies show that 70% of housing is informal, and does not meet minimum construction standards. Furthermore, he said that efforts were underway to increase the number of Dominicans working in construction, an area where Haitians have found hundreds of thousands of jobs. He said that the construction sector pays the highest minimum wage and Dominican and Haitian builders are paid the same for the same work.

He said it was an urban myth that engineers hire undocumented Haitian workers so that when payday arrives they can call in the Immigration authorities to deport them in order to avoid having to pay them.

Acosta also expressed doubts about the transparency of the funds that go to the Construction Worker Pension Funds. He said Acoprovi has asked the Controller General to explain whether the directors of the entity that has handled thousands of millions of pesos meet the requirements established by the law of annual reports. He said they have had no information on this. He said that the lack of transparency becomes double taxation for the sector. Acosta went on to say that several entities with links to the construction sector have requested that the Constitutional Court issue an act of violation of the Constitution by Law 6-86 that clashes with Law 87-01. By law 6-86 construction companies have to pay 1% of all works to the fund, but this is also discounted from the workers.


DR leads in handmade cigar exports
Victor Taveras, director of the National Tobacco Institute (Intabaco) says that hand- rolled cigar exports from the DR are world leaders. He said that of the top 25 brands, 11 are Dominican-made.

He said that exports would top US$600 million this year.

He estimated that this year 102,000 tareas (1 tarea = 629 square meters) of tobacco plantations would produce 200,000 quintals of tobacco this year, mainly for export.


Unemployed man wins RD$30 million lottery prize
Former hotel employee Miguel Orlando de los Santos Sosa was the happy winner of the RD$30 million Leidsa lotto prize last week. He bought the ticket at the Farmacia Ines II on Av. San Vicente de Paul in Santo Domingo East. He said he had been unemployed for two years and lived with a friend.

In addition to the RD$30 million prize, the company gave RD$100,000 to the owner of the business where the ticket was sold and RD$65,000 to the ticket vendor.

18-inch plantains farmed in Hato Mayor
In Los Cocos, some 15 kilometers from Hato Mayor, the capital of the province, farmer Zeferino Nunez has been successful in producing extra-big plantains, as reported in El Caribe. "Normally they are big, but these are 18 inches (46 centimeters) long and 21 centimeters wide. He said the production of the trees is abundant, yielding between five and 10 harvests. Nunez said he had planted 100 trees that grew well despite the drought affecting the area.


Beauty parlor owner kills thief
According to Police chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo, a beauty parlor owner, 39-year old Germania Francisca de Vasquez (Nathali) displayed heroism and bravery when she killed one of two men who robbed customers at her beauty parlor Nathalia at Calle Las Flores in Andres, Boca Chica. The deceased was identified as 31-year old Francisco Antonio Suero Montero.

Castro made the comments when answering a Hoy journalist's question during a Police event. Previously, he had been announcing the launch of the Community Youth Police at an event at the Club Mauricio Baez in Santo Domingo.

Vasquez used her Bersa caliber 9mm handgun that she carries legally. The other man escaped on a motorcycle. The thieves had entered the beauty parlor and had just robbed her customers. As they were leaving, the beauty parlor owner fired at Suero Montero to stop him, injuring him in the back. The Central Investigations Department (Dicrim) is investigating the case.

Upon making the report, Police chief Castro said that next month 1,200 new police patrols with 398 motorcycles would be on the streets to improve security.


Symphonic music and Anthony Rios
Dominican musicals producer Amaury Sanchez is arranging a symphonic music evening for the popular singer and composer of ballads Anthony Rios. The event will be staged on 28 and 29 March at 8:30pm at the National Theater in Santo Domingo. Rios will be accompanied by the 60-strong Santo Domingo Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerts are expected to sell out and a DVD and CD will be produced for sale.

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

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