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Daily News - Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tourism to increase by 8% in 2014
Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia is forecasting an 8% increase in tourism to the Dominican Republic in 2014. During a speech yesterday, Wednesday 26 March during the opening ceremony of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) in Punta Cana, organized by the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (Asonahores), the minister said that 2014 had got off to a great start. He forecast an "extraordinary" year for the industry. Garcia attributed part of this success to the Ministry of Tourism's advertising campaign overseas.

Medina gets support from PRD
President Danilo Medina has held separate meetings with the leaders of the two factions within the PRD opposition party, former President Hipolito Mejia and PRD president Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The consultations with political leaders and representatives of other sectors are aimed at reaching a consensus on the naturalization bill. Both Mejia and Vargas pledged their support for the President at the meetings that took place yesterday, Wednesday 26 March. Medina said that he has promised to send a draft to everyone with whom he has spoken. "We want the proposal we will send to Congress to have the support of influential members of Dominican society so that the proposal can be made, because there is no point in sending a bill that does not attain the desired results."

Former President Mejia offered Medina his support. "I am clear on my relations with Haiti, and what has happened with this problem. I offer my absolute and total support," he said. He added that he wanted to be part of the solution.

As soon as Medina left Mejia's house, he went to Miguel Vargas Maldonado's apartment where he spent an hour and thanked him for his understanding of the issues. Vargas Maldonado said that based on the President's explanations of the "Law of Recognition", (he never said 'Naturalization'), it appeared to be viable and adequate, but he did ask for the proposal in order to study it. He said that he would issue instructions to the PRD bloc of deputies in Congress for the legislation to be analyzed and assessed together with the party's legal advisors in order to find the solutions the circumstances deserve and merit.

Adriano Tejada: Politicians should play fair with High Courts
The editorial board chairman of the Constitutional Court Yearbook for 2013, lawyer and journalist Adriano Miguel Tejada has suggested that Dominican society is duty bound to ask social and political actors to play fair with the nation's High Courts. He stated that one thing is to obey or accept a decision that might be the result of human "failings" but to attack the institution or what it represents can never be tolerated. He said that he interprets the criticisms that have been leveled at the Constitutional Court as the natural fear of change that exists in human nature, saying it is not a demonstration that our political and social leaders do not have the moral stature to accept that the country is entering a new and revolutionary stage promoted by the new constitutional text.

Senate approves dozens of changes to PPC
The Senate of the Republic approved over 70 changes to the Penal Process Code yesterday, Wednesday 26 March. The modifications include authorizations to make injuries caused by domestic violence subject to public action and to allow judges of the First Instance to decide cases involving sentences of up to five years in prison. The legislation also involves deadlines for filing charges as well as the possibility of holding the Justice Department responsible for poor performance of its duties. One important point, according to El Nuevo Diario, is that judges can now authorize search warrants at night in cases involving drug trafficking, kidnapping or terrorism while at the same time withdrawing the authority of the National Police to search private residences in the absence of Justice Department officials or in urgent circumstances. Another major change that was approved by the Senate was the extension of preventive custody to 24 months in normal cases and to as much as 36 months in cases that are declared to be complex.

DR Army looks for SUV driver who fled
The Army's commanding general, Ruben Paulino Sem, reported yesterday morning, Wednesday 26 March that troops in Dajabon pursued and forced the stop of a white Infinity FX, but the driver fled the scene. When the vehicle was searched they found nearly 100 sacks of garlic weighing over a ton. Most newspaper reports say that this was contraband and that the border serves as a crossing point for bringing in such produce. One interesting point is that the people carrying out the contraband trade are now using luxury vehicles that would not normally be inspected because of its status. The vehicle's ownership was not revealed in the media reports on the incident.

CONEP says costs brake salaries
The upper crust of the nation's business community, as represented by the National Business Council (Conep), warned yesterday, Wednesday 26 March that they would leave no stone unturned in pursuit of a Labor Code reform in order to promote formal employment in the Dominican Republic. As reported in Listin Diario, Conep president Manuel Diez Cabral pointed out that there has been a lot of talk about the Code in recent times, but "what is not said is that we have a Labor Code of minorities" and that local companies have a labor burden of 69% during the first year. According to Diez, for each peso that a company pays, they have to find an additional 69 cents to cover immediate charges and contingencies, and that these labor costs put a brake on the growth of real salaries.

In a speech to the bi-monthly luncheon of the Dominican Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Construction Companies (Copymecom), Diez said that the current Labor Code was "rigid" and "unbalanced" and that it was also one of the major causes of informal employment and the disappearance of thousands of businesses. He said that in the last 12 years, for every formal job created 14 were produced in the informal sector and 50% of posts held by women in the industrial sector have disappeared. He said that this is a sign of a damaged economy that is incapable of generating quality employment and greater productivity.

DR diplomatic corps triple that of Mexico
The Dominican Republic's Foreign Service payroll is exorbitant when compared to much larger countries like Mexico or Argentina. For this reason, social scrutiny of the use that is being given to state resources at the Ministry of Foreign Relations has been increasing. Last year the ministry received a budget of RD$6.1 billion pesos. Two cases under the spotlight are the Dominican personnel accredited to Panama and Canada. Diario Libre says that in Panama the country has 14 minister counselors earning US$2,000 a month, 12 counselors receiving US$1,600, 16 vice-consuls with salaries of US$1,750, five assistants at US$920, four first class secretaries at US$1,400, one second class secretary at US$1,350, one at US$1,250, a cultural attache on a salary of US$1,200 and the ambassador at US$3,000. All costs the state US$92,200 a month, almost RD$4 million.

The report makes a comparison with Mexico, which has a total of 18 staff members at its consulate in New York, while the Dominican Republic has 36 vice-consuls, and 54 assistants. The Mexicans have 10 people accredited to their consulate in Miami, according to their Foreign Ministry webpage, while the Dominicans have 21 vice-consuls and 32 assistants. Argentina has 10 posts at their embassy in the United States, and just nine in Spain. In contrast, the Dominican Republic has 30 at its embassy in the United States and 211 in the consular service, including 95 vice-consuls, 102 assistants, 10 counselors, five minister counselors and six first class secretaries.

Ministry of Environment refuses permit to POP electricity barge
In a widely welcomed move yesterday, Wednesday 26 March, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources definitively prohibited the installation of a second electricity generator barge in the Cafemba Bay, Puerto Plata. The barge, with a 36.5-megawatt production capacity was to join another such craft, but the ministry established that it would have a negative impact on the local environment.

Environment Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez visited the tourist area accompanied by the mayor of Puerto Plata. Gomez also ordered the local authorities to fix up the garbage dump as soon as possible, for proper solid waste disposal.

The announcement of the prohibition of the barge was made during an event at the provincial governor's office for the public launch of a new book "Natural Protected Spaces of Puerto Plata". The book, published by Ministry of the Environment officials in the province, Carlos Heriberto Finke and Roberto Gomez Santana, is aimed at providing incentives for eco-tourism activities in the province.

Senate commission travels to Loma Miranda
Azua senator Rafael Calderon reports that the special commission that he chairs, which is studying the legislative proposal to declare Loma Miranda as a National Park, will be visiting the area today, Thursday 27 March. The legislator did not specify the exact time of this field visit, but he mentioned that all the commission members would be traveling in the morning.

He said that they formalized a request for opinions on this legislation yesterday, Wednesday 26 March, by sending letters to the Ministry of the Environment and the Legal Advisor to the Executive Branch. As the information and reports they have received so far has been contradictory, the commissioners have not been able to reach a firm opinion on the issue. He pointed out that while Environment Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez has stated publically that it is not possible to carry out a mining operation on Loma Miranda, he has yet to issue an opinion on the legislation for declaring the site a National Park.

Santiago protests over lack of security
Representatives of nearly three dozen barrios and communities in Santiago are calling for direct intervention by the local authorities and asking them to declare a state of emergency in the city. A demonstration was held yesterday, Wednesday 26 March, in response to the rising crime rate across the city, according to the leaders of the vigil outside the provincial governor's offices. The community activists signed a letter that was delivered to the press saying that the long blackouts and a lack of lighting were the best allies of crime. Group spokesman Gabriel Ventura said that as well as the electricity problems there were also health issues because of the large piles of uncollected garbage. Another community spokesman, Jose Francisco Consuegra, told El Caribe reporters that "the Edenorte blackouts are making it easy for criminals to commit robberies and muggings and are responsible for an increase in drug trafficking." Just over the weekend the social networks reported over 30 robberies and muggings while gang rivalries are reported to have taken the life of one victim.

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 at the National Theater in Santo Domingo tomorrow Friday 28 and Saturday 29 March. 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.

National Ballet season at Bellas Artes
The Dominican National Ballet will be performing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes from 4-6 April. Stars of the dance season are Herve Palito from France, Gentian Doda from Albania, and Dominican Awilda Polanco who are dancing in a show called Habitantes. Mercedes Morales made the announcement about the performances.


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

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