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Daily News - Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Medina at Royalton and Memories hotel inaugurals
President Danilo Medina was in Punta Cana yesterday, Tuesday 25 March for the inauguration of two hotels and a water park in Punta Cana built at a cost of US$250 million. The Royalton Punta Cana and Memories Splash Punta Cana hotels, which have 1,010 rooms as well as 11 bars and eight restaurants, have been in operation since November. The water park is located at the Memories Splash Punta Cana.

Sunwing Travel Group president, Stephen Hunter, owner of the Diamond Hotel chain of Canada, said that the country's political and economic stability and quality of leadership had motivated them to make the investment. He congratulated President Medina for creating this business-friendly environment.

Hunter said the company's aviation division, Sunwing Airlines, operates 32 flights a week on average bringing more than US$130 million to the economy each year.

Speaking at the event, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia commented that there had been a 6% increase in travel numbers in January and February this year. He forecast a great year for the country.

The President was in Punta Cana also to participate in special events taking place for the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (26-29 March 2014). The Paradisus Palma Real Convention Center is the host for the event.



President agrees with Migration preventing Deguis from leaving
President Danilo Medina has defended the actions of the Dominican authorities in preventing Juliana Deguis from departing from the airport to the United States without a passport. Deguis presented a US special visa as her travel document. She was planning to attend an Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on her case in Washington, D.C. on Monday, 24 March. Depuis argues that she should be granted automatic Dominican citizenship because she was born in the country. Her case is the example used in the Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 for descendents of foreign immigrants who need to use the new fast-track path for applying for Dominican citizenship under the Foreigner Legalization Plan.

Speaking to journalists, Medina said the United States had the right to grant visas to whomever they want and it was the right of the Dominican Republic to apply local rules.

He commented that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has not sent him any accusations of supposed violations and that none have been identified. He said that they had come here and said they would submit their report but so far the report had not been received, and if they had sent one he had not seen it.

Commenting on his meeting with the United States ambassador James W. Brewster on Monday, 24 March, President Medina said that it had been arranged for two weeks ago and concerned several issues of common interest.


Start of audit of birth records
Central Electoral Board (JCE) Official Commission chairman Cesar Feliz has announced the start of an audit of the 60,869 birth records of foreigners since 1929 to comply with Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13.

The ruling allows for a year to carry out the audit that could be extended for another year. Two hundred and twenty people will work on the audit across the country.

The audit is part of the government initiative to legalize and document all residents in the Dominican Republic.


President meets Spanish princess
Yesterday, Tuesday 25 March, President Danilo Medina met Princess Elena, the eldest daughter of the King and Queen of Spain Juan Carlos and Sofia, in her capacity as the Cultural and Social Director of the Mapfre Foundation.

Princess Elena was received by the President and his wife, Candida Montilla, together with other members of the Foundation, and they will be holding a press conference today, Wednesday 26 March, to announce all the projects have planned for this year.



Electronic controls to reduce excess personnel at foreign missions
The Medina administration seems to have resorted to electronic controls in its attempts to discourage political patronage in the foreign service. Diario Libre reports that belt-tightening is underway at the bloated foreign service using electronic controls. Payments are now being made through the Ministry of Hacienda and not in lump sums through the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

Diario Libre reports that housing rental contracts are being required to justify expenditure. It mentions that some of the officials who received US$4,000 and US$6,000 a month would even go as far as to joke that they had their offices at the Banco de Reservas or the nearest ATM.

The government is continuing its process of harmonizing control systems under the Integrated System of Government Financial Administration (SIGEF).


South Koreans to invest in brewery
Executives from South Korea's Hitejinro Brewery have told President Danilo Medina of their interest in investing in the Dominican market to export beer. The venture would create jobs in the country.

They met with the President in the Presidential Palace yesterday, Tuesday 25 March together with the Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas.

At the press conference that followed, Montas said that they had a large-scale business producing alcoholic beverages in South Korea and they had been importing beer for a while through the Barcelo group.

Montas went on to say that maybe shortly we would see Barcelo beer in the shops here in the country and the plan was eventually to build a brewery in the Dominican Republic to not only supply the local market, but other countries in the region as well.

The president of Hitejinro brewery, Yang In Jip said that they were looking for a long-term relationship and wanted to increase the size of their operations in the country.

The participants in the meeting also included Hitejinro vice president You Bo-hyung, Latin American director Moon Byung Kyung, and Barcelo Group management board chairman Jose Miguel Barcelo.



Plan to stop people trafficking
The United States ambassador in the Dominican Republic, James Brewster has called on the community to unite to tackle the scourge of people trafficking.

He was speaking at a seminar on Best Practices in Investigation and International Cooperation to Combat Child Sex Tourism and Human Trafficking yesterday, Tuesday 25 March. The event was attended by Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito, National Police Chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo and Armada (Navy) Chief Vice Admiral Edwin Dominici Rosario.

The workshop at the Hotel Jaragua in Santo Domingo, sponsored by the US Embassy, sought to contribute to train local investigators in specialized forces in combating sex tourism, trafficking in persons and child exploitation.

Brewster highlighted the work carried out by the Dominican Public Prosecution service to combat these crimes, as well as the work of international organizations.

He went on to say that the United States had invested more than US$800 million internationally to help a range of countries in their fight against human trafficking.

Brewster said that over the past four years, the Dominican Republic had made significant progress in prevention work and victim protection as well as the judicial process, and pledged the support of the United States Embassy.

Speaking at the seminar, Dominguez Brito said that the flow of people trafficking from the Dominican Republic was the greatest in the Caribbean, according to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. He announced that a new temporary home has been prepared for children who are exploited as beggars on city streets, as reported in Diario Libre.




Shuffling border staff reduces corruption, says chief
The Dominican Army chief, Major General Ruben Dario Paulino Sem, says that measures aimed at controlling illegal immigration on the border with Haiti have resulted in the repatriation of 10,000 Haitians who had entered the country illegally. Paulino Sem said that personnel posted on border crossing points are changed every 15 days so as to prevent them from establishing ties that make them prone to illegal actions. He said that 36 out of 76 border stations have been eliminated, leaving around 40 located on the roads leading from the border to the nearest main cities.

EU stresses DR's strategic role in Central America
Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Morales Troncoso met with the director for the Americas of the European External Action Service Roland Shafer, yesterday, Tuesday 25 March. Shafer praised the strategic role the Dominican Republic plays as liaison between countries in Central America and the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum). He stressed that the country could play a leading role in strengthening regional integration, security initiatives and improving cooperation with this block of countries.

"The European Union sees the Dominican Republic as a strategic partner that can be the liaison, the bridge between the two regions," said Schafer. Given that the Dominican Republic is an active participant in the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Cariforum it can contribute to strengthen common initiatives in security, trade and natural disaster mitigation.

The Dominican Republic was also represented at the meeting by deputy ministers Jose Manuel Trullols and Cesar Dargam. Alberto Navarro, head of the European Union delegation in the country and the ambassadors of the United Kingdom Steven Fisher, France, Blandine Kreiss, and Germany, Victoria Zimmermann were also among the participants.


Chikungunya virus prevention measures announced
Minister of Public Health Freddy Hidalgo has announced that the Chikungunya virus is now in the country. The disease is flu-like but less virulent than dengue.

He said that hundreds of fever cases have been reported in Nagua, San Cristobal and San Pedro de Macoris that show all the signs of the disease.

He said that they are doing all the necessary research and testing and hope to be able to confirm whether it is the virus or not today, Wednesday 26 March.

The chikungunya virus is transmitted by the same mosquito as dengue, with similar symptoms, but the fever and the pain are less intense. There is no vaccination. The symptoms are fever, rash, fatigue and vomiting as well as muscular pain, which can last weeks in severe cases.

Measures for preventing chikungunya virus infection include the use of insect repellent, protective clothing, and staying in areas with screens in order to avoid being bitten by the virus-carrying vector.


Toyota Prado SUVs for UASD university staff
Being employed at the state university UASD also seems to come with the perk of tax-exempt Toyota Prado SUVs. The news went public after the state university authorities confirmed to acento.com.do that the Customs Department (DGA) had prevented the import of the vehicles in the name of the university with tax exemptions. The vehicles are part of a consignment of 50 Prado SUVs. The Department of Customs says these are not utilitarian vehicles.

The vehicles were purchased during the Banco de Reservas Vehicle Trade show in 2013. Banco de Reservas, the state bank, was to finance the purchases. As reported in acento.com.do, university representatives said that only the rector, Ivan Grullon, could comment on the matter.

The Acento story reveals that UASD employees have been authorized to make a 10% deposit and the remaining 90% was to be financed by the bank under a contract with the university.


Dominican-American jailed for terrorism
A US-citizen of Dominican origin, Jose Pimentel, has been sentenced to 16 years in jail by a New York judge after being found guilty of possessing a weapon to be used for terrorism

Pimentel, aged 29, said to be a 'lone wolf' associated to Al Qaeda, did not speak when the sentence was read out.

Pimentel was arrested on 19 November 2011, accused of making bombs and was formally indicted on 1 March 2012 for arms possession with intent to use for terrorist ends, supporting terrorism and possession of explosives.

Pimentel originally said he was innocent, but changed his plea to guilty to avoid life imprisonment.


Peruvian drug mule arrested
The National Investigations Department (DNI) has arrested a Peruvian citizen, Christopher Lewis Sopla Martinez, at Punta Cana International Airport with ten packets of cocaine weighing around 14.5 kilograms.

DNI director Major General Maximo William Munoz Delgado said that Sopla Martinez had been recruited by a drug trafficking network operating in South American countries and said they were continuing their investigations.


Paul Austerlitz's kind of jazz in Santo Domingo
The Paul Austerlitz Dominican Ensemble will be playing its blend of Latin and Caribbean music from the Dominican Republic, mixing jazz, merengue, folklore and popular religious styles in concerts sponsored by the US Embassy. They will be playing on Wednesday, 2 April at Las Terrazas del Meson in Santo Domingo at 8pm. Austerlitz will also give a free concert on Thursday, 3 April at the Politecnico Loyola in San Cristobal at 6pm and another on Friday, 4 April at the auditorium of the Centro Cultural Mauricio Baez in Santo Domingo at 7pm. He will give a master class at the National Conservatory of Music. Austerlitz is a musician, composer, ethnomusicologist, saxophonist and clarinetist who has carried out extensive research into traditional music of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He will be playing with his quintet of Dominican musicians: Jose Duluc on percussion and vocals, Julio Figueroa on percussion and vocals, Wellington Valenzuela drums, Hector Santana contrabass and Gustavo Rodriguez piano.


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

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