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Daily News - Thursday, 29 May 2014

Santo Domingo Sheraton on the Malecon
President Danilo Medina and Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia were at the formal re-opening of the Santo Domingo Sheraton at the Malecon yesterday, Wednesday 28 May 2014. Hoteles Nacionales have made a US$20 million investment to restore the sea-fronting property to Sheraton chain standards. The hotel originally opened in 1977 as a Sheraton, but was then re-branded by Melia for many years. Hoteles Nacionales vice president Paula Lama hosted President Medina and government officials on a tour of the installations. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide's Sheraton and Westin Hotels' vice president of brand management for North America Robert Jacobs also spoke at the event.


Most modern cancer center in the Caribbean opens
The Ministry of Public Health has put the new Rosa Emilia Sanchez Perez de Tavares National Cancer Institute (INCART) into operation. The center, which was symbolically inaugurated at the end of the former President Leonel Fernandez government, has not been operational until now.

As reported, services will be phased in gradually over the next 12 months, and 30% will be offered initially.

First Lady Candida Montilla attended the opening together with Minister of Public Health Freddy Hidalgo.

The new center will provide free services to low-income patients, as well as services for insured patients and paying patients.

The Ministry of Public Health has an agreement with the Mount Sinai Cancer Hospital in New York for training the staff in the high technology being used. Mount Sinai Hospital's Bone Marrow Transplant director Stephanie Stoss came for the opening.

Miguel Pimentel Kareh of the Supervisory Office of Public Works of the Presidency (OISOE), which was in charge of the construction, said the delays in the start of operations were because of the changes that had to be made to the electricity systems in 25 departments.

The hospital will also be a teaching and research center.

Export bank to start with RD$10 billion capital
The Dominican Export Bank (Bandex) will start its operations with authorized social capital of RD$10 billion. A bill creating the new bank was sent to the Senate yesterday, 29 May 2014. The plan is for the new bank to proactively serve the export sector. Bandex is the evolution of the current National Bank for the Promotion of Housing and Production (BNFVP). South Korean government consultants are helping the Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD) with the new entity.


Foreigner Legalization Plan starts on Monday
The Medina administration has announced that the National Foreigner Legalization Plan will start in Santo Domingo, San Cristobal, La Altagracia (Higuey), Santiago and La Romana, the provinces with the largest immigrant populations, on Monday, 1 June 2014. The program to legalize all residents in the country is estimated to cost more than RD$1 billion. Minister of Interior and Police Jose Ramon Fadul, who is also the president of the National Immigration Council, said that offices for the program have been set up in 12 provincial governor's offices and at nine Central Electoral Board (JCE) centers. The centers will operate from 8am to 6pm.

The government expects to spend RD$1,400-RD$1,500 to legalize undocumented residents. There is no cost for the applicant to legalize their status. An estimated 500,000-700,000 people without legal status are living in the country.

Fadul said that documenting the Haitian immigrants would be most difficult, because most of them entered the Dominican Republic without any legal documentation.

The implementation of the plan was ordered by Constitutional Court Ruling 168-13 of September 2013 and is based on Immigration Law 285-04 and the ruling published 631-11.

Anyone who does not adhere to the legalization plan will face deportation in December 2015.

Downtown Punta Cana dolphinarium put on hold
The Ministry of Environment says that it has ordered the construction of the Dolphin Discovery park in the Downtown Punta Cana project to be halted. Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez said the measure was taken on Monday, 26 May after receiving reports from Ministry inspectors. The Ministry had authorized one location, but the builders chose another that would put the dolphin area too close to a discotheque, a gas station and a main road. The inspection was carried out after Diario Libre reported on the alleged irregularities in the park's construction on Tuesday, 27 May.

As reported in Diario Libre, during the visit Ministry of Environment inspectors were told that the dolphins were already in the country. But Minister Bautista Rojas says this cannot be the case, as the import has not yet been authorized. He said that the procedure stipulates that the dolphins can only be imported after the park is completed and the Ministry of Environment has verified that it meets specifications.


Business leaders ask legislators to make laws
The National Business Council (Conep) has called on Congressional legislators to fulfill their role as lawmakers. Manuel Diez Cabral made the comments when asked about the RD$176.9 million the deputies approved for themselves to distribute household goods to their constituents on Mother's Day. This is the latest scandal affecting the spendthrift legislators. Diez also expressed his support for the approval of the Law of Fiscal Responsibility that is set out in the National Development Strategy Law as a way of controlling wasteful government spending.

Procurement will look into Chamber of Deputies purchases
The government Procurement Department (Direccion General de Contrataciones Publicas) has told Diario Libre that the RD$176.9 million purchase of household goods by the Chamber of Deputies is under investigation. The purchases were made from 19 authorized government vendors. Yocasta Guzman said that they would be verifying the locations of the vendor companies after visits from Diario Libre journalists showed that many of their premises did not correspond with the registered addresses. Guzman announced that they would do so with all the 42,000 government suppliers, by matching them with the DGII tax records.

She said that of RD$192 billion in purchases for 2014, more than RD$38 billion needs to be allocated to small businesses.

Public charity is not a function of the deputies, but is a common practice, with payments known to have been assigned to the deputies in Easter (for the traditional sweet bean dish), before the start of the school year (for backpacks for students), Christmas and other occasions.

Two women arrested for hoax call to airport
Minister of Defense Admiral Sigfrido Pared Perez says that two women have been arrested in connection with the hoax calls claiming there was a bomb on board a Jetairfly flight from Brussels. He said the National Investigations Department (DNI) was investigating the case.

An unidentified source told Diario Libre that two women, aged 18 and 52, from the Villa Mella and Sabana Perdida areas of northern Santo Domingo are under investigation. The calls were received at 3pm and another around 8pm on Tuesday, 27 May, leading to the activation of the airport emergency systems. Around five flights suffered long delays.

Sigfrido Pared Perez speaks out for Captain Miguel Ferreras
Minister of Defense Sigfrido Pared Perez has defended Police Captain Miguel Ferreras Bonifacio who according to news reports, is to be prosecuted for the death of Luis Morillo de los Santos. Witnesses say that Morillo robbed a woman who had just taken out RD$741,835 from a bank. To stop the robbery, Captain Ferreras shot at Morillo and injured Carlos Andres Hernandez who was with him on the motorcycle. The Police recovered a gun carried by the assailants and the woman's handbag containing the money and two cell phones (an iPhone 5 and a Blackberry). Pared Perez said that the police captain had acted correctly. "It was the Dominican state responding to an offense against a correct citizen." He added, however, that it would be appropriate to carry out an investigation. The murder occurred on Monday, 26 May in Urbanizacion Fernandez, near Winston Churchill Avenue in Santo Domingo.

Diario Libre has published photos of the shooting. A witness described how the armed man had attacked the woman and when he noticed a police officer was nearby, he shot at him. The policeman then returned fire, killing the assailant.


Where were you during the earthquake?
The UASD Seismic Institute says that the earthquake that shook the Dominican Republic yesterday, Wednesday 28 May, registered 6 on the Richter scale. The Puerto Rico Seismic Network reported that the earthquake felt at 5:15pm in the eastern region of the Dominican Republic was of a 5.8 magnitude. The epicenter is said to have been 38 kilometers off the coast of Boca de Yuma in La Altagracia province, at a depth of 91 km.

It is not known to have caused any damage. It was felt strongly in nearby Punta Cana, La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris and Santo Domingo, but was strong enough to be perceived nationwide.

The shake was long and caused people to run out of their high rises and office buildings.

Diario Libre reports that a session was underway in the Senate but was not interrupted. At Agora Mall many shoppers said the long shake made them think the Metro was passing under the mall. El Dia reports that the metro continued normal operations.



Dominican women win two Pan Am Weightlifting golds
Candida Vasquez and Georgina Silvestre won two gold medals in the 48-pound category at the start of the Pan American Weightlifting Championships in the Parque del Este weightlifting venue yesterday, Wednesday 28 May. The Pan Am Championship is a qualifier for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. The sports event began on 26 May and continues through 2 June 2014. Athletes from 25 countries are competing for 125 country-slots (69 men, 56 women) in the Toronto games.


Movie Festival at Cinemateca
Eurocine 2014 starts today, Thursday 29 May at the Plaza de la Cultura movie house in Santo Domingo, and will run through 11 June. Comedies and drama from a European cinema selection premiering in the country will be on the Cinemateca screen. Admission is free.

The festival is being sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, the European Union delegation and Cinemateca Dominicana.

The films will be screened at 7:30pm from Tuesday to Sunday. On Saturday there will be youth-oriented films at 5:30 and 7:30pm.

See the list of films at http://cinematecadominicana.blogspot.com

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

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