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Daily News - Friday, 16 May 2014

Feedback has been favorable over naturalization bill
Yesterday, Thursday 15 May the Presidency presented legislation to the Chamber of Deputies that could validate the status and documentation of people currently possessing incomplete or invalid documentation as Dominican citizens. In addition, the bill provides undocumented individuals born in the Dominican Republic to foreign parents a clear path to obtaining legal permanent residency and potential citizenship.

According to the government, the legislation is part of a wider push to enact a modern and transparent policy for registering national and immigrant residents that respects each person's contribution to Dominican society, while providing clarity to an outdated system.

Feedback has been positive in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, land from where most of the beneficiaries are from.

Diario Libre reports that after a long process in search of a consensus carried out by President Danilo Medina, the legislative proposal sent to Congress yesterday, in an attempt to regulate and naturalize the children of foreigners in the country, has the express support of several sectors, although there are dissident voices.

This dissidence is the case of the National Progressive Force (FNP), which feels that while the proposal respects the sentence from the Constitutional Tribunal, number 168-13, it also violates the Constitution over the fact that it orders the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to issue documentation to the children of foreigners who were illegally registered in the Civil Registry.

Nonetheless, constitutional lawyers Eduardo Jorge Prats, Olivo Rodriguez Huertas and Juan Miguel Castillo Pantaleon agreed on stressing the prudence of the proposal, because they believe that it respects both the Constitution of the Republic as well as the Constitutional Court ruling.

"We feel that the proposal is respectful both of the ruling 168-13 handed down by the Constitutional Court as well as the Constitution, since it deals with the institutional deficiencies that have affected a number of persons who were born in Dominican territory to foreign parents and who received documents that made them presume their Dominican nationality," commented Jorge Prats.

Le Nouvelliste of Haiti carries statements by Haiti ambassador in the Dominican Republic Fritz Cineas who has said that the bill carries "positive intentions" for the regularizing the status of affected persons. Moreover, Edwin Paraison, a former Haiti minister of Haitians living abroad, says the bill was a "salomonic answer" to give a juridical and political resolution to the situations created by Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13.




Explaining the naturalization bill sent to Congress on 15 May
In the letter to Congress regarding the status legalization bill presented yesterday, President Medina wrote: "This project is a historic opportunity to advance the construction of a country with true equality and social justice. A country without exclusion and without discrimination, in which fundamental human rights and respect for the laws of the Dominican Republic go hand in hand with the same goal: promoting the happiness of the people."

To explain the bill to the English-speaking world, the Dominican Embassy in Washington, D.C. said that it addresses two groups: people who were born and grew up in the Dominican Republic with irregular birth certificates due to their parents' lack of immigration status, and those born and living in the Dominican Republic to foreign parents without any form of documentation.

If approved as submitted to Congress, individuals officially registered as Dominicans, notwithstanding their parents' irregular status, will have their documents legalized and will enjoy all the benefits of Dominican citizenship. The Embassy explains that this action will allow for a fast, fair and final end to any uncertainty surrounding their situation. The exception will be individuals that incurred in knowing fraud to secure their Dominican documentation.

Undocumented individuals who are able to prove that they were born in the Dominican Republic will have the opportunity to register for a regular immigration status over a 90-day period. This group of people will now be able to enter the naturalization process and apply for citizenship after two years of regular residency status.

The Dominican Embassy explains that for decades, the Dominican Republic has experienced significant gaps in registration, documentation and identification of residents and foreigners. This is now addressed in the legislation.

"President Medina also wrote in the introductory letter, 'The fact that a large number of people can be born in the country who were not properly registered and therefore have no legal identity, reflects an unacceptable institutional weakness. Our government is committed to reversing this state of affairs, through concrete actions.'"

The bill was sent to Congress after extensive consultations with diverse sectors of society as well as the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, CARICOM and Haiti.

"We appreciate the international community's assistance as we proactively address the complexities of developing and implementing a modern migration policy," said Anibal de Castro, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United States. "The government is providing a practical solution that ensures the fundamental rights of all persons residing in the Dominican Republic, especially those born and raised in the country."

The bill now needs to be approved in the PLD ruling party-majority Congress. A ruling that will govern the application legislation still needs to be approved.

The Central Electoral Board (JCE), the body responsible for the Civil Registry of the Dominican Republic, will oversee an information campaign to ensure that everyone living in the country is aware of the new policies.

President Medina's Letter to Congress (in Spanish) can be read here.

The proposed legislation (in Spanish) can be read here.

Poll shows support for Constitutional Court ruling 168-13
According to the latest Penn, Schoen & Berland opinion poll, 66% of Dominicans regardless of sex or age are in agreement with ruling 168-33 handed down by the Constitutional Court in reference to Dominican nationality and the regulations for children of illegal foreigners born in the country. 36% said they were "very much in agreement" with the ruling. The poll shows that 33% of those questioned are in disagreement. It stresses that 66% are in agreement, including the 36% that are very much in agreement with the Foreigner Status Legalization Plan that will fast-track normalizing legal status and documentation nationwide. 71% of those questioned said that they had some knowledge of the decision of the Constitutional Court.

DR-Haiti talks have improved things on border
The commander of the Specialized Border Security Corps (Cesfront) reported yesterday, Thursday 15 May that violence and other problems on the border have reached their lowest levels in years. General Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase said that apparently the fact that the two nations are in talks has also calmed down and normalized the situation along the border. According to El Caribe, although there are still some incidents, as in the case of any border anywhere in the world, the current situation is what the general describes as "routine". He added that there does not seem to be a massive movement of migrants and that the Haitian citizens who live in the border towns are "day laborers who come to work in farms, with cattle, and then return to their homes at night."

New 'cedula' for foreigners is a headache
The process for issuing the new 'cedula' - the identification and voter registration card required for daily life in the Dominican Republic - has become somewhat of a headache for many who swarmed the few offices equipped to deal with foreigners in the first days that the new ID card was being issued. According to Listin Diario, foreigners only have two locations where their IDs can be renewed: La Romana, and the main office located at the intersection of Romulo Betancourt and Luperon Avenue in Santo Domingo. Although there might be some inconveniences, the new ID card is free to everyone who resides in the country legally, according to Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Roberto Rosario.

Lots more schools for the National District and Santo Domingo province
President Danilo Medina attended the inaugurations of 20 new schools with a total of 384 classrooms for the extended school day system yesterday, Thursday 15 May. A total of 13,440 students will benefit from the new buildings in the schools that were either inaugurated or re-inaugurated after repairs and were opened by the President. These schools are the Maria Teresa Mirabal, Cruce de la Gina, Carmen Celia Balaguer, Ave Maria, Jose Francisco Pena Gomez, Higuero Abajo, Jardin de la Infancia, Los Mercedes, Antigua y Barbuda, Hato Nuevo and Altagracia Amelia Ricart primary schools. The Padre Segura and Union Panamericana and the Victor Pascual Aguero, Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Carlixta Estela Reyes secondary schools, as well as the Lilia Portalatin, Republica de Guyana, Profesora Marta Rosa Castillo de la Cruz primary schools and the Tecnico Profesional Movearte Center. The cost for all of these new/renewed schoolrooms was said to be RD$669 million. The schools are reported to be fully equipped with technology, kitchens and dining halls. According to El Caribe, Education Minister Carlos Amarante Baret reported that 2,071 new classrooms have been delivered to date.

3 million Internet accounts in the Dominican Republic
The digital divide in the Dominican Republic is gradually being reduced as more Dominicans get access to the Internet. Mirna Gonzalez of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) presented a report to the United Nations yesterday, Thursday 15 May, showing that there were 1.2 million Internet accounts in 2011, as reported in La Informacion. By 2013, this had increased to 3 million. Gonzalez estimated that 46% of people over the age of 12 are using the Internet, based on figures from the National Households Survey (Enhogar 2013).

Medina puts damper on spending
President Danilo Medina surprised his ministers and officials yesterday, Thursday 15 May, by issuing a memo that prohibits high-ranking officials from purchasing vehicles, remodeling their offices and purchasing equipment. The memo, which was signed by the Administrative Minister for the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, also limits travel overseas to just two people with prior approval from the ministry. The memo adds that this is the continuation of the government spending rationalization process. The PLD governments have been ranked tops in the world for wasteful spending by the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report.

Bank Superintendence audit shows RD$111 million misused
The article was kindly phrased but the essence was that the Superintendent of Banks, Euclides Gutierrez, was not a very astute administrator of the funds at the Superintendence. An audit carried out on the Superintendence of Banks by the Chamber of Accounts during the election year of 2008 reveals that they were involved in a range of irregular or unusual practices that amounted to RD$111,784,000 million. According to the audit covering the period from the first of January to the end of December 2008, and whose final report was approved on 20 March 2014, they (the Superintendence) incurred in accounting deviations in social contributions, assistances and donations, they assigned projects without tenders, they made excessive payments for construction projects, insurance and completion bonds for these projects.

Regarding the financial help paid out, the audit revealed that the entity irregularly disbursed the sum of RD$65 million to individuals, non-profit institutions, donations for finishing projects and to decentralized government institutions, and the Chamber of Accounts feels this practice should be discontinued because it is not within the remit of the Superintendence of Banks. They also found that the engineering projects carried out by the institution, including schools, police stations, rural clinics, which amounted to RD$33,300,000 were handed out directly to just one contractor.

In addition, they detected overpayments in these projects amounting to RD$10,030,000, in which they found differences and duplications in disbursements paid in relation to work carried out. The payments made to the contractor for insurance and completion bonds for the projects for a total of RD$3,338,000 also were not justified. They also found that some projects were contracted for without having agreed upon the formalities, in which there were additional charges of more than 25% of the original total. The cited the cases of the entity's headquarter building, whose remodeling was contracted for RD$5,450,000 and which received an additional payment of 102.61%, or RD$5,592,921. And the repair and termination of the water treatment plant for the Club of the Superintendence of Banks, which was supposed to cost RD$3,900,000, received payment for overages which amounted to 48.5% of the original budget or RD$1,900,000. The institution reacted by saying that they had made the mistake of not adding up the contracts of the projects but that they had taken the corrective measures.

Traffic snarls along Gustavo Mejia Ricart
The Santo Domingo Water and Sewer Corporation (CAASD) has announced that starting at 6am this Saturday, 17 May, works will commence to change 60 linear meters of sewer pipes on Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenue, to resolve a "serious" backup of waste waters that is affecting the area. CAASD director Alejandro Montas said that due to the length of the stretch involved, traffic would be diverted for three days between Virgilio Diaz Ordonez and Maximo Aviles Blonda streets off the avenue, in the Julieta Morales neighborhood. Montas said that in order to ease traffic flow, the CAASD would receive support from the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET). He said that the CAASD technicians would replace 15-inch concrete sewer pipes with 16-inch PVC pipes in order to improve the sewer service.

Farmers say World Vision tricked them
Small-scale farmers in Tamayo, Bahoruco province, one of the poorest regions in the country, are saying that what the NGO World Vision International sold them in 2003 as a dream, has become a horrible nightmare for the community. According to the farmers, representatives of World Vision came to the community and offered a sponsorship program for extremely poor children, using funds the institution receives from all over the world. According to El Caribe, the World Vision project officers delivered small "Persian" lime trees, enough to plant on one and a half acres or three acres. "The idea was that in three years this donation would change our lives," said Juan Aquino, who received enough trees for 20 tareas or about three acres. "But we were fooled," he added. What they never knew was that when they signed for the receipt of the seedlings it was really a loan from the Microbusiness Development Investment Fund (FIME) of which World Vision was the only intermediary.

The program failed because the "experts" from World Vision who abandoned the project had failed to realize that the lime trees were not feasible for that area of the country. According to Aquino and others, the FIME is now collecting debts on what was originally a loan of RD$8000 or RD$16,000 (depending on whether it was for 1.5 acres or 3 acres) and with interest, the debts are now RD$124,600 and RD$248,280, respectively. To make things worse, FIME has embargoed all their accounts with the Agricultural Bank, so that they cannot harvest anything. In the community of El Granado, the World Vision office is seen as a "tricky institution" that often talks about donations that are never seen in the community.


Contract killer confesses in court
Francisco Carela Castro, one of the defendants in the case of the attempted murder of lawyer and journalist Jordi Veras, confessed during yesterday's hearing, Thursday 15 May that he and Adriano Roman planned the attempt where Veras was shot in the face as he was entering Channel 25 in June 2010. They planned the attempt to murder Jordi in the Rafey prison, on the orders of Miguelina Llaverias' former husband, Adriano Roman, according to statements by Francisco Carela Castro. In addition to Francisco and Adriano Roman, several others are in jail in connection with the case. Engels Carela Castro, Roberto Zabala Espinoza, Arturo Jose Ferreras, Franklin Gabriel Reinoso and Candy Caminero are all in preventive custody. In the middle of his statements, Franicisco Carela Castro asked Jordi for forgiveness as well as from his family for the harm he caused.

In the meantime, Mario Breton, who appeared as a witness in the trial, stated that he served as the intermediary between the killers who attempted to extort RD$3 million from Jordi's father, lawyer Ramon Antonio (Negro) Veras, in exchange for information on the attempted murder, which the jurist refused to pay. Negro Veras seemed pleased with the defendant's statement in the murder plot, "The truth about the attempted murder of my son has started to come out, the country had the right to learn the truth about the incident," he said. Judge Annely Torres, presiding the First Collegiate Tribunal of the Judicial District for Santiago, set the continuation of the trial against the network of contract killers for today, Friday 16 May, at 10am. The short postponement was due to a petition by the Justice Department because of the absence of a witness in the case. The presiding judge of the tribunal ordered a warrant issued against the witnesses who left the courtroom yesterday.


Cell phone robbery high
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) reports that so far this year there have been reports of 78,000 stolen or lost cell phones. Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Antonio Bido Garcia, in charge of cell phone theft at the National Police recommended that if a cell phone is lost or stolen, the owner should only deactivate the chip. INDOTEL resolution 137-09 created the Denied Serials System that puts a stop to the activation of stolen or lost equipment. Nevertheless, he said that the measure makes it difficult to recover the equipment.

If someone loses their cell phone or it is stolen, the procedure is to report it to the service provider so that the data can be registered at the Denied Serials System. The phone companies need to contact the System prior to activation.

The equipment is tracked through the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity or IMEI that assigns a unique electronic serial number to each mobile phone. Nevertheless, Bido Garcia said that the police had recently dismantled a network that was changing the unique numbers in stolen cell phones.

No buyers for drug lords' goods
Only three people showed up for a public auction of more than 90 assets seized from drug traffickers in the Dominican Republic yesterday, Thursday 15 May. One buyer, Francisco Michel, was able to purchase a 50-foot catamaran that was seized in La Romana. He paid US$256,000 for the vessel, about US$50,000 more than the reserve price. The other successful buyer was Augustin Lopez, who purchased a house in Bani for RD$3.7 million. More than 90 items, including properties that used to belong to former drug barons Jose David Figueroa Agosto and Quirino Castillo went under the hammer with no offers. The National Money Laundering Committee says it will put them up for a second auction at a future date.

Recycling at 360 shopping mall
Galeria 360 in Santo Domingo is presenting Recicla 360, an event at the mall from 15 to 18 May featuring fun ideas and initiatives for recycling. Unique items for sale will showcase alternative solutions and a lot of creativity.

Oliver! - the musical at the National Theater
JAM Academy presents the British musical Oliver! based on the Charles Dickens classic novel Oliver Twist at the National Theater in Santo Domingo on 6, 7, 8 June. As it seeks to attract a younger audience, the show will be staged at 7:30pm, an hour earlier than the usual 8:30pm time at the National Theater. This is a production by Elizabeth Lenhart. Megan Sanchez will play the part of Oliver. Other key actors are Annabelle Aquino (the Artful Dodger), Joaquin Ruiz (Fagin) and Francesca Yarull/Laura Pernas (Nancy).

Maestro Dante Cucurullo is responsible for the music.

Julio Iglesias at Hard Rock Punta Cana
If you are a Julio Iglesias fan, head for Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana where he will be playing a greatest hits concert on 7 June at the Fillmore Hall, which has a capacity for 3,000 people.

Iglesias on 15 May performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London to great reviews. "There can be no denying Julio Iglesias's charisma. Even at 70, the sheer magnetism of the old Spanish idol had his audience in raptures," writes the reviewer of the concert in The Telegraph.

The Hard Rock concert is a production by Pav Events and Producciones George Nader. The producers say that the audience will be able to enjoy the comfort of an indoor venue. The Spanish singer-songwriter, who has a home in Punta Cana, has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide. Tickets for the concert are RD$4,000, RD$6,000 and RD$11,000 and are being sold at Uepa Tickets/Movie Max in Santo Domingo.


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

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