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Daily News - Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Barry Clifford says he has found the Santa Maria wreck
The remains of the ship on which Christopher Columbus first came to the Americas, the Santa Maria, could have been found off the coast of Haiti after 500 years. If confirmed, this will be one of the world's most important underwater archaeological discoveries. The suspect ship is stuck on a reef only 10 to 15 feet beneath the water's surface.

Columbus would go on to build the first settlement in the New World in La Isabela, on the northwestern coast of the Dominican Republic.

A recent Barry Clifford expedition has experts 'confident' that the wreck found off the north coast of Haiti is the ship. The whereabouts of the 58-foot Santa Maria had never been known - until now.

The wreck was found off the northeastern coast of Haiti during an expedition led by Barry Clifford. Clifford is best known for discovering the remains of the complete 18th century pirate ship Whydah in 1984.

The Santa Maria was used as the flagship for the 1492 discovery expedition, along with the smaller ships remembered as La Nina and La Pinta.

"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," said Clifford.




Santo Domingo needs bigger water pipes
The director of the Santo Domingo Aqueducts and Sewerage Corporation (CAASD), Alejandro Montas, says that the city urgently needs to increase the size of water pipes if it is to be able to serve the growing population.

He spoke about irresponsible urban development in some neighborhoods where wells have been dug without authorization instead of linking to the main CAASD water network. He said this is leading to an inefficient water supply.

As an example he mentioned one area of the city where demand has increased by more than 1,000%, and they have had to change 8-inch pipes to 20-inch pipes at a cost of more than RD$400 million. The change, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, has led to a greatly improved water supply.

Montas went on to say that there has not been enough investment to keep up with the demand from the growing population and that people needed to understand that water has to be paid for.

The current cost of one cubic meter is RD$6 but this is subsidized because people are not used to paying for the service. He added that people were not used to using water efficiently as more than half is routinely wasted.


Mammoth investment in education gets good press in Germany
The doubling of government investment in pre-university education in the Dominican Republic is getting the country good press abroad. Germany's international broadcaster, Deutsche-Welle reports on the major investments being made to improve education.

"The Dominican Republic is the first country in the Caribbean to undertake a major education overhaul. In 2012, voters convinced all presidential candidates to promise - if elected - to double the education budget. Now President Danilo Medina is staking his reputation on education reform. The country will spend 4% of its GDP - almost two billion euros in 2014. Deputy Education Minister Luis Matos de la Rosa says the reform targets five problem areas.

"We can't say which part is the most important," de la Rosa told DW. "Everything is happening at the same time."

"Obviously first we need new spaces. We're also hiring people to fill these spaces, expanding preschool enrollment, teaching people to read and extending the school day," De la Rosa told DW.

DW points out the difficulties ahead, mentioning that so far all efforts aren't being funded equally. "Construction gets four times more money than teacher training and hiring," it points out.

DW writes that the Dominican government will build 28,000 new classrooms by 2016, but right now there aren't enough teachers for the classrooms they already have. Student-teacher ratios in schools with more than 500 students are 78:1 - this accounts for 68% of total enrollment for public schools.

The government is extending the school day to eight hours from five, aiming to have 80% of schools operating on an eight-hour day by 2016.


New mines minister wants better legislation and regulations
The recently appointed Minister of Energy and Mines, former legislator Pelegrin Castillo, is planning to draw up new mining policies for the Dominican Republic. He called for the support of political players and legislators to present better regulations. Castillo wants to attract major petroleum companies, but has been outspoken about the need for better legislation in this area. "We cannot work with the larger companies with the current weak institutional framework and regulations," he commented. He was speaking after making a courtesy visit to the Energy and Mines Commission at the Chamber of Deputies yesterday, Monday 12 May. He is the former chairman of the commission. Castillo said multiple and sectorial talks are needed to discuss concrete actions the Ministry will implement. "We are going to work to strengthen the institutionalism in the government sector," he said, as reported in El Dia.

Castillo stated that mountain farming, trading in wood and charcoal, use of pesticides and chemicals in farming, extraction of construction materials from rivers are greater threats to environment than mining.

Castillo refused to comment on the proposed mining of Loma Miranda.



Congressional security commission visits UN Department of Peacekeeping
The chairman of the Chamber of Deputies security and the armed forces committee, Elias Serulle has been to visit high-level executives at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Washington, D.C.

Serulle held meetings with the assistant secretary general for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, under-secretary-general for the Department of Field Support, Ameerah Haq, under-secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, and other high-ranking personnel.

Serulle presented the progress the country had made in security matters, as a member of the UN, and discussed the political situation, Haiti and its impact on the Dominican Republic.

He acknowledged the work carried out by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and their role in conflict zones.

The Dominican delegation that accompanied Serulle included the Senator for San Jose de Ocoa, Carlos Castillo, who is the chairman of the Senate Defense and National Security Committee, Brigadier General Julio Florian Perez, Permanent Military Adviser for the UN in the Dominican Republic, Brigadier General Francisco A. Ovalle Pichardo, Director of the Center for Peace Operations and Humanitarian Aid to the Dominican Armed Forces and other officials and government representatives.


No need for special visa to go to Curacao
The tourism offices of Curacao, Aruba and Saint Martin have announced that Dominicans who have a visa for the United States, Canada or the European Union will be able to visit Curacao, Aruba or St. Martin without an additional visa. The measure has been in effect since 14 April 2014.

According to the Minister of Economic Development in Curacao, Stanley Palm, this will assist with cultural, tourist and commercial interchange between the countries.

Curacao is considered to be a jewel of the Caribbean as, although it is small, it has more than 35 paradise beaches, a "live and let live" way of life and unrivalled European architecture.


Penn & Shoen poll says Leonel is best hope for PLD
According to a survey carried out by Penn, Schoen and Berland for Grupo SIN, at the present time, former President Leonel Fernandez of the PLD has the best chance of beating his PRD rival in the upcoming May 2016 presidential election. Other candidates are National District senator Reinaldo Pared Perez, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas and Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia.

As far as the PRD is concerned Hipolito Mejia and Luis Abinader are seen as much stronger candidates than Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

The study showed that Leonel Fernandez would beat Vargas Maldonado 51% to 26%, with 23% saying they would not vote. He would beat Hipolito Mejia by a reduced margin, 48% to 42% and Luis Abinader by 48% to 42% as well.

Reinaldo Pared would beat Vargas Maldonado by 49% to 29%, but it would be much closer against Hipolito Mejia (45% to 44%) and Abinader (46% to 44%). Francisco Javier Garcia would also beat Vargas Maldonado (49% to 31%) but would lose to Mejia and Abinader.


Dominicans average in WHO alcohol consumption report
The Dominican Republic is included in the World Health Organization (WHO) global rankings on alcohol and health 2014. The status report presents a comprehensive overview of the global, regional and country alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, health consequences and policy responses in WHO member states. The report was launched in Geneva yesterday, Monday 12 May 2014 during the second meeting of the global network of WHO national counterparts for implementation of the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

The DR is listed with a 6.9 liters alcohol per capita consumption for people over the age of 15. This compares to Chile, the highest ranking country in the Americas with 9.6 liters per capita, Argentina (9.3), Venezuela (8.9), Paraguay (8.8), Brazil (8.7), Peru (8.1), Panama (8), Uruguay (7.6), and Ecuador and Mexico (7.2).

A breakdown of alcoholic beverages (2010) in 3% wine, 43% spirits and 54% beer.

The report states that the DR government has been lax in implementing policies to reduce local alcohol consumption. The policies and interventions to reduce alcohol consumption implemented by the Dominican government only include the excise tax, establishment of 18 years as a national legal minimum age for sales of alcoholic beverages and restrictions on sales of alcoholic beverages.


Husband and wife sent to jail in lover murder case
What is known so far is that this is a case where a jealous wife allegedly paid contract killers to eliminate her husband's lover. The case complicated when the contracted murderers mistakenly shot another person.

Yesterday, Monday 12 May, husband-lawyer Julio Cepeda Urena was sent to San Pedro de Macoris prison for a year on remand, charged with covering up for his wife and obstructing the investigation into the murders of two young women, Natasha Teresa Sing German and Suleika Flores Guzman. The sentence was handed down by Judge Julio de los Santos in Santo Domingo. Sing German was a niece of the Dominican Medical Association president.

Cepeda's lawyer, Fernando Perez Volquez, said they would appeal as his client was innocent and has always cooperated with authorities to clarify the case. He went on to say that Cepeda Urena did not know that his gun was used in the crimes.

His wife, Sanhys Dotel Ramirez, also a lawyer, was sent to Najayo women's prison.

In the case, Natasha Sing German was killed first, in a case of mistaken identity. Nevertheless, the contract killers struck again, and murdered the suspect intended target, Suleika Flores Guzman.

Jonny Sencion Gomez (Pay), Jesus Manuel Mendoza (El Patron) and Francys Alexander Fermin Gonzalez were remanded to the La Victoria jail, accused of planning the murders of Natasha Teresa Sing German and Suleika Flores Guzman, which were contracted to Amaury Soriano Garcia and Luis Abel Perez, both also sent to preventive custody in La Victoria last week. As reported, they were paid RD$400,000 to kill Suleika, but when they killed the wrong woman, they were hired again for an additional RD$400,000 to eliminate Dotel's husband's lover, according to the prosecutor's file. Amauris Soriano Garcia (El Nevado) is said to have been the man who shot the women, while Luis Abel Perez (Luisito) drove the motorcycle they were riding when they committed the crimes.



Pakistanis released thanks to legal loophole
Judge Margarita Cristo Cristo has ordered the immediate release of three Pakistanis, Mahmood Majeed Khan, Junaid Khan and Rehman Khan Niazi who were accused of being involved in a people smuggling ring, but whose arrest was carried out illegally.

Their Dominican associate, Alfonso Fernandez Tirado, will have his remand case heard on 15 May.

According to assistant prosecutor Luis Arias Encarnacion, the Pakistanis were arrested in a house, but there was a fundamental error in the way the raid was carried out, and the arrest was ruled to be illegal.

Majeed Khan was allegedly using the Dominican Republic as a jumping off point for sending people to the United States and Canada using false documentation provided by people working for the State and had previously completed a jail sentence in the United States for the same crime.


Drugs found at Haina port
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) has confiscated 330 packets of cocaine or heroin at the Haina Oriental port. The consignment was found in eight nylon sacks inside a container on a ship that had arrived from the Colombian port of Barranquilla.

DNCD spokesman Miguel Medina said that the boat was called Warnow Whale and that they had inspected some 70 containers. He went on to say that no one had been arrested so far but that they were continuing their investigations.

The drugs were sent to the National Institute of Forensic Science to establish the type of drug and the exact weight.


Fugitive El Salvador President may be in the DR
The Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (ADOCCO) has warned that a former President of El Salvador, Francisco Flores, who is accused of corruption, could be in the Dominican Republic on the run from the authorities in his country where there is a warrant for his arrest issued on 6 May.

ADOCCO said that they have information from a reliable source that Francisco Flores first went to Panama and is now in the Dominican Republic in a tourist area where he owns property.

Flores, who was president of El Salvador from 1999 to 2004, is accused of defrauding his country of some US$15 million, specifically gained from the government of Taiwan.

Flores admitted that his Taiwanese former counterpart, Chen Shui-bian, who has been in prison in his country since 2009 for corruption, had provided millions of dollars worth of aid but that the funds had been spent on public works in El Salvador, including post-earthquake reconstruction.


Murders in Navarrete suspect drugs case
According to police, yesterday, Monday 12 May, several masked men executed three men who were supposedly selling drugs in Navarrete.

The victims are Jose Dias Pena, 37, one man only known as Coco, and Yinmi Balbum, a Haitian national. The incident took place in the 27 Febrero neighborhood and so far there have been no arrests.

In a separate incident, the body of a police sergeant major was discovered at kilometer 13 on the Las Americas highway. Franklin Guzman Encarnacion's hands and feet had been tied up and he had been shot in the back.

The police believe he was shot on Sunday night, 11 May or early Monday morning.


Rain to continue
A low-pressure system over the north east of the country is moving slowly towards the north west and causing cloudy conditions and rain in the afternoons with a chance of thunderstorms, especially in the south east, south west, north east and north west, central mountain area and the border zone.

There will be high pressure across the country over the next few days but there are still likely to bring showers and storms across the country.


Angela Carrasco in concert with Pachy Carrasco
Well remembered for her lovely voice, Dominican singer Angela Carrasco ("Carino Mio") who has been living in Madrid for around 25 years, will be back in Santo Domingo for a bossa nova arranged concert with her nephew Pachy Carrasco of Bossa & Pop group on 16 May at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

"This will be a reunion with my country's people, for whom I have not sung for a long time and for which I am doubly pleased to work together with my nephew Pachy, who I think is one of the most talented musicians on the planet," she said. Wason Brazoban will be the opening act.


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

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