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Daily News - Thursday, 01 May 2014

Medina calls for backing the Hopefor Initiative
President Danilo Medina has invited the countries of the Caribbean Region to join the Hopefor Initiative, describing climate change as one of the biggest threats facing the world. According to El Caribe, Hopefor is an international initiative aimed at improving coordination of regional emergency mechanisms, both civilian and military, in response to natural disasters. It is based on principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence and assistance and on the concept of neighbors helping neighbors. The initiative was launched in Qatar in 2010 with the objective of improving the use of military and Civil Defense resources in aid and rescue work during natural disasters. Medina was speaking during the VI Summit of Caribbean States in Merida, Mexico, yesterday Wednesday 30 April.

Battle over school fees
Minister of Education Carlos Amarante Baret has called on Parents' Associations at the country's private schools not to sit back and accept tuition increases. He stated that in order for any school fee hikes to be legal, they had to be approved by the school's Parents Association as well as the ministry. He added that through the Educational Centers Accreditation Department, the Ministry is the final arbiter on tuition at private schools. He told reporters from El Nuevo Diario and other newspapers that he would hold a meeting with representatives from private school Parents' Associations on 21 May. Amarante Baret also referred to a ministry document called "The Ministry of Education's position on the announced increases in tuition in private schools". The main points of the document include: No parent is obliged to accept a tuition increase that has not been approved by the Ministry of Education. This statement is followed by three conditions: Signed letter from the Parents' Association specifying the date of the meeting when the increase was agreed; a complete description of the size and coverage of the school, and a balance sheet of the school showing income and expenses for the previous year.

Private schools stand firm
The Association of Private Educational Institutions (Ainep) says it is not surprised at the reaction of the Minister of Education who they said was trying to pitch the people against the private schools. Minister of Education Amarante Baret said that the parents should "stand up and fight" against tuition increases. Ainep said that in reality they are the ones who should "stand up and fight" since they seem to be the only sort of enterprise that apparently does not have the right to readjust their costs (tuition) as if they were immune to inflation and as if their employees did not have the right to aspire to better salaries. In a letter sent to the editor of El Caribe, Ainep president Rafael H Rodriguez stressed the superiority of the private schools and he said that the ministry should be grateful for their quality. Claiming that the ministry is discriminating against private schools, the letter says that they are forced to comply with regulations that were drawn up "behind our backs" and without listening to their opinions, although the regulations say that they were consulted.

The strongly worded document sent to the newspaper said that they were questioning whether the ministry was trying to eliminate the private schools in order to build another 10,000 classrooms that the increased demand would require, "but they would never compete with us in quality, because we do not act under political principles, but under professional criteria." Ainep mentioned a study conducted several years ago that found that the cost per student in the public system was more expensive than in most of the private schools.

Migration repatriating Haitians returned from other countries
Haitians using the Dominican Republic as a bridge to South America are being returned under the terms of the Chicago Convention. According to Listin Diario, the Chicago Convention states that the governments of the signatory countries are obliged to receive foreigners who left their home countries but were not admitted into another nation. Haitians are using are using the Dominican Republic as a bridge to travel to South American countries, from where they are returned to the country through the Las Americas International Airport every day. A source at Migration told the newspaper that the DR is obliged to receive these people because they left from here, but Migration then repatriates them back to their own country. Although the Haitians are traveling as tourists, countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador reject them because they do not meet their entrance requirements. According to Listin Diario, this is usually because they do not have enough money.

As there are no visa requirements to travel to Ecuador, Bolivia or Peru, Haitians who enter the Dominican Republic on legal visas and are then recruited by unscrupulous people who send them on to these countries where almost all are rejected at the airport upon arrival. Many of these people are hoping to cross over into Brazil where construction is booming.

Incredible growth of informal jobs
The Dominican informal sector grew by 41.5% between 2000 and 2012, more than double the growth achieved by the formal sector. During the same period the formal sector registered a growth rate of 19.8%, according to research by the National Business Council (CONEP). The study, "The Impact of the Informal Sector in the Dominican Economy", found that while employment rates in the public sector grew 98.6% between 2010 and 2012, formal jobs in the private sector barely grew by 4.1%, during a period in which the Economically Active Populations increased by 32.5%. Between 2000 and 2012, the employees active in the public sector went from 271,000 to 506,000 (a growth rate of 86.5%) while the pensioners increased from 60,000 to 151,000 (a 153.8%). According to the research, in those 12 years, the informal sector reached 2.3 million jobs while the formal sector reached 1.7 million. The 2012 National Workforce Survey showed that 57.1% of the jobs in the country were informal, while 43% were formal. In this period 667,785 informal jobs were created. Because of this, the study points out that "the informal labor market has been of vital importance for job creation and supporting the country's economic activity."

DA receives dozens of complaints on TelexFree
The District Attorney of the National District, Yeni Berenice Reynoso, says that more than 20 people have filed complaints for alleged fraud against the pyramid scheme promoted by a company called TelexFree. She said that the plaintiffs belong to jurisdictions of the National District, the province of Santo Domingo and others. She told Diario Libre reporters that this was a very small number in relation to the total who have been cheated. It is estimated that 150,000 people were clients of the Ponzi scheme. She said that the authorities believe that they began recruiting people through a church called "El Nuevo Amanecer" (the New Dawn), in La Romana. She stated that the Santiago district attorneys have also been contacted by victims asking about the procedure for placing their complaints.

She called on citizens who have been swindled by TelexFree not to wait very long before complaining. "We do not see any chance, within the judicial framework, that the company can continue operating in the Dominican Republic after this investigation." Although she refrained from identifying the plaintiffs, she said that the amounts varied from between RD$61,000 and US$300. She said it was painful to listen to the ordeals described by the victims, who took out loans, sold businesses and invested their life savings. "We are carrying out the investigation and the District Attorney and the Prosecutors are focused on the possibility of recovering assets." She said that as a result, she is also investigating the issue of money laundering.

Chikungunya is here to stay: it is an epidemic
The chikungunya virus has reached the category of epidemic, so the population must clean up their homes and surroundings, with the aim of keeping the disease under control. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative Lilian Reneau-Vernon says that the health authorities are acting properly, and that it is up to citizens and state institutions, as well as the local authorities to join forces to maintain the hygiene practices aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. She told Diario Libre reporters that there is no need to be alarmed, but that it was essential to learn about the disease in order to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Chikungunya is caused by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same one that transmits dengue fever, and its symptoms include fever, pain in the joints and skin eruptions. It is rarely serious. According to Reneau-Vernon, education is the only way to halt the progress of the disease, which first appeared in the country in January after dozens of cases were reported in several Caribbean islands. Meanwhile, after visiting the public hospital in Haina, where the viral infection is affecting a large number of people, Public Health Minister Freddy Hidalgo said that in order to prevent this disease as well as dengue, citizens must take on the elimination of the mosquito breeding grounds as part of the culture.

Witness killed by hitmen
The Chief of the National Police Major General Manuel Castro Castillo confirmed yesterday, Wednesday 30 April that Jose Francisco Duran de Castro, who was ambushed and shot dead on Tuesday morning, 29 April, was killed by a man accused of a murder committed in 2009 and where two others were also wounded.

Castro Castillo said that the victim, Duran de Castro, and another man that he did not name, had been threatened by the killer not to appear at the trial, "the other man stopped attending, but Duran de Castro did not stop testifying and they carried out their threats." The Police have identified Manuel Osiris Quinones de la Rosa (El Bambino) and Junior Francisco Feliz Feliz, who the police chief called upon to give themselves up any way they choose, in order to be questioned about the case and to proceed with the consequences. Moreover the two men are accused due to their involvement in an armed robbery, committed in the dawn hours of 19 December 2010 in the Simon Bolivar barrio, in which a delivery driver, Carlos Manuel Coronado, was killed and Jose Ramon Martin Mendez, the colmado owner, was wounded, an incident in which Duran de Castro was a witness for the prosecution during the trial.

On Tuesday morning, 29 April, Duran de Castro was riddled with bullet wounds after being shot by one of three men who were traveling on two motorcycles and who surprised him as he was getting out of a gray Mitsubishi pickup truck outside the "La Colmenita" school.

Police Chief Manuel Castro Castillo told Listin Diario reporters that the mastermind of this crime was Quinones de la Rosa. He also said that he could not understand how a person already convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison was out on the streets after another court changed the sentence. "It is unfortunate that an individual who has been sentenced to 30 years for homicide, and who is also charged with other crimes, could be free to commit another horrible crime."

Jorge Pineda at the Museo de Arte Moderno
Only a couple more days are left to catch what has been described as the most exceptional exhibition so far this year at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo. Jorge Pineda's "After all, tomorrow is another day", featuring 20 of his works is being held in coordination with the MAM and the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM). The exhibit opened on 6 March and continues through Saturday 3 May. The exhibit includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations. MAM director Maria Elena Ditren said that Pineda has achieved a balance between ethics and aesthetics in his works. Pineda has also exhibited in Madrid, Valencia, Gijon, Lima and New York. His works are in collections at the MUSAC, DA2 (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Salamanca), IVAM (Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno), Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Casa de Americas, Osaka Museum of Contemporary Art, Centro Leon and the MAM.

The exhibit was first shown at the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (7 Feb - 1 May 2013).

The exhibition is open to the general public through Saturday 3 May, 9am to 5pm. The Museum is on Av. Pedro Henriquez Urena, Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo.

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

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