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Daily News - Tuesday, 17 June 2014

President and Vice President attending SICA Forum
President Danilo Medina and Vice President Margarita Cedeno will inaugurate the Latin American Forum for Social Protection today, Tuesday 17 June as part of the work of the System of Central American Integration (SICA).

The event will take place through Wednesday, 18 June at the Sheraton Hotel in Santo Domingo, sponsored by the Government of Taiwan, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank (WB), the European Union (EU) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).


President Medina congratulates new Colombian President
President Danilo Medina has congratulated his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos following his victory in his country's presidential elections on Sunday 15 June, and said that he hopes his time in office will increase peace and relationships between the two countries.

President Medina spoke to Santos on the telephone yesterday, Monday 16 June and sent a letter of congratulations via the Ministry of Foreign Relations in the name of the government, the Dominican people and himself.


Only 100 people qualified so far
Minister of Interior and Police Jose Ramon Fadul has reiterated his call to the Haitian authorities to provide greater support to the process of issuing legal documentation to their nationals. He says that since the start of the foreigner nationalization plan, 31,000 foreigners have applied, of whom 97% are Haitian. Only 100 of the applicants have the required documentation, which is a birth certificate or passport from their country of origin. Fadul said that 5,900 applicants had submitted some of the documents they need in order to regularize their status but most have none at all.

Since the plan started on 2 June 2014, the main complaint from Haitian immigrants has been that the Haitian Embassy in the Dominican Republic is charging between US$50 to issue birth certificates and US$80 for passports, which they cannot afford.

Fadul added that Haiti should provide more help to their nationals. Nevertheless, he said the Dominican government could not interfere in internal Haitian politics. "Most of the Haitians who want to regularize their status have no documentation and the Dominican state cannot give them this - only Haiti can," he stated.

He emphasized that the Haitian government should make a stronger effort to help its people, saying that the Dominican government was offering the regularization service free of charge. All the Haitians need is to present their documents from their country of origin. Haitians living in the Dominican Republic have urged the Haitian government to issue Haitian passports in the Dominican Republic, as is done in the Haitian mission in Washington, D.C. The Dominican Republic is the foreign nation where most Haitians live. At present, Haitians who request their passports here need to wait around three months to receive the document.

The application process ends on 15 May 2015. Fadul warned that they would not change the timeframe established for completing the regularization process and once it was over the migration policy would enter a new phase when every foreigner in the country must have the correct documents or face deportation.




Juliana Deguis Pierre gets birth certificate
Juliana Deguis Pierre received her birth certificate at the Central Electoral Board (JCE) yesterday, Monday 16 June, as reported in Listin Diario. The daughter of undocumented Haitian immigrants, she was born in the Dominican Republic. Deguis is in the spotlight after being used as a test case for people who did not lawfully qualify for automatic citizenship at birth as explained in detail in Constitutional Court ruling 168-13. To qualify, the applicant needs to have been born to foreigners with legal status in the country. But Naturalization Law 169-14 ordered that there be that will be allowed to keep the documentation as Dominican nationals, despite not qualifying according to the Constitutional Court ruling 168-13.

While she received a copy of the birth certificate that is in the Dominican civil registry system, the JCE did not authorize the issuing of her cedula (ID/Voter card) saying that this was a separate process because she was the daughter of undocumented foreigners.



The Haiti-DR wall
The idea originally came from the Haitians themselves when they started building a wall in order to prevent contraband from the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government wants to charge more import taxes.

Today's Diario Libre back page editorial, Tuesday 17 June, makes light of the first statements by the country's newest legislator, Marino Vinicio Castillo, who proposed the construction of a border wall between the two countries. The En Buena Tinta editorial writer comments that it is all nonsense. "The Berlin Wall had to be toppled, and people jump over the Mexican wall in sandals. How would we fund the construction if the DR can't bear any more loans?" asks the writer. "And it is foolish to do what others are doing on their own, and the Haitians, without known reasons, already took the initiative."

"Even, in their case, it would be good because they would employ their own people. And if they have work on that side, would not try to cross the Masacre River, let alone the wall. And the ILO (International Labor Organization), as a multilateral organization, or the international community, could monitor to ensure there is neither exploitation nor abuse, as would be the case if this were a Dominican project."

Meanwhile, Minister of Interior and Police described the proposal for the wall as "absurd" and said that what was needed is a wall of legality. Minister of Defense Sigfrido Pared Perez has also described it as "utopian," but was in favor of it being built in certain key areas.

Leading Church figures are divided on the issue. Monsignor Jose Dolores Grullon, bishop of San Juan de la Maguana and Elias Pina says it is a shameful idea, but Archbishop of Santiago, Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio is in favor of its complete or partial construction.



President Medina appoints new consuls to Haiti
President Danilo Medina has appointed Francisco Gustavo Lembert Cano as Dominican consul in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, taking over from Eunice Jimeno.

He also appointed Maximo Felix as Dominican consul in Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti, taking over from Francisco Alberto Jimenez Sena.

Finally, Emely Cruz Ramirez becomes deputy Ambassador affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Relations.


Electricity pact should decide on contracts
Herrera and Santo Domingo Province Industries Association (AEIH) president Victor Castro says that the government should not sign an agreement aimed at extending its Cogentrix contract to 20 years. Cogentrix is a power plant that is turned off because it costs the government less to pay non-generation penalty than to take on the operating cost. The holders of the concession for converting it to natural gas want to extend the contract, which is due to expire in eight years, to 20 years. Castro says, however, that the discussions should be part of the Electricity Pact that has been convened for public and private discussions in the framework of the National Development Strategy. "The negotiation of that contract would be an element of noise and mistrust in the discussions to reach the pact," argued Castro, as reported in Diario Libre. He called for the government to develop a democratic and participative process in order to find solutions to the serious electricity situation. He said that the Economic and Social Council should take all the decisions regarding power generation. "We are surprised that [the government] is trying to seduce public opinion with the advantages of gas generation to extend the contract in a discretionary way limited to a two-part negotiation, the CDEEE and CESPEM, prior to the Electricity Pact discussions." The promoters of the natural gas operation want to extend the Congentrix contract to 20 years when it is due to expire in eight years. He said the decree convening the Electricity Pact is almost ready and the discussions should start shortly.


Government must save more
Businesspeople and economists in the Dominican Republic are reiterating their call on the government to make savings in their internal spending, as a way of reducing the need to take on more debt. They say that wasteful spending by the PLD administrations has led the country to owe 50% of its Gross Domestic Product. An editorial in Hoy newspaper today, Tuesday 17 June, highlights the need for reducing political patronage, rationalizing government spending, and cutting large unnecessary payrolls.


Tourism industry protests reduction in funds for infrastructure
On 18 March, President Danilo Medina changed the distribution of the taxation on tourists arriving in the country, as reported in Diario Libre. The original purpose of the funds was to finance infrastructure and the Ministry of Tourism was responsible for managing the funds. However, on 18 March, through Decree 99-14, President Medina ordered that US$0.50 of the funds charged to incoming and outgoing passengers should be transferred to the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC). The decree establishes that IDAC will now receive US$5.50 for each passenger, instead of US$5. Now US$3.25 is assigned to the Tourism Infrastructure Funds Executive Committee (CEIZTUR) that used to receive US$4 per passenger. Before this, US$7 of the US$15 charged to passengers was allocated to the Ministry of Tourism (MITUR) and US$5 to IDAC.

Diario Libre reports that each of 5,163,682 passengers arriving at Dominican airports, including residents and non-resident nationals and foreigners, is charged US$15. This meant US$77.4 million in 2013. In 2013, IDAC received RD$2.5 billion of which 79.3% (RD$1.9 billion) went towards paying the 1,970 employees on their payroll as of December. IDAC is responsible for regulating, certifying, surveillance and promoting aviation, as well as air navigation services and aviation operational safety.

National Association of Hotels & Tourism (Asonahores) president Luis Emilio Rodriguez Amiama wrote to President Danilo Medina on 10 April 2014 expressing his "institutional concern" and highlighting the importance of the fund for tourism infrastructure. Rodriguez pointed out that IDAC's budgetary needs could never be proportionally higher or comparable to the demands of the tourism sector in general. Rodriguez said that in addition to the US$5 fee, IDAC also charges airlines and users for other services, which should guarantee all the resources to maintain the infrastructure and aviation for adequate air navigation.

Asonahores executive vice president Arturo Villanueva says that the President has not yet replied to the letter. Diario Libre reports that IDAC director Alejandro Herrera has not been available for comment.


Energy, bilateral and regional discussions on US Vice President's agenda
United States Vice President Joe Biden will be in Santo Domingo tomorrow, Wednesday 18 June for the formal opening of the new US Embassy compound. Biden is visiting on the third leg of a Latin American trip that is also taking him to Brazil and Colombia.

This will be the US Vice President's first trip to the Dominican Republic.

The US government says that the Vice President's agenda for his meeting with President Medina includes number of bilateral and regional issues.

The US and the DR have close ties. In an official release, the US government says:

"More than 1.5 million Dominicans and their descendants live in the United States. Over 250,000 US citizens live in the Dominican Republic. And about a million and a half US tourists visit every year. And as a signatory of the Central American Dominican Republic FTA, we enjoy close trade ties with the DR. The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country, but it also currently holds the presidency of SICA, the Central American Integration System, which provides an opportunity for the Vice President to discuss issues of a regional character, whether it's energy security or our joint efforts to combat transnational crime. And during his visit there, he'll place special emphasis on the energy security throughout the Caribbean, bringing with him some new ideas on how the United States can contribute to advancing the o or improving the energy picture across the Caribbean."


Take a taxi to the US Embassy
The United States Embassy in the Dominican Republic has started operating from its new site at Av. Republica de Colombia in the Arroyo Hondo area of northern Santo Domingo.

Whilst some of its first visitors said that procedures are now much better and faster than before, others complained that many of the same problems that affected the older site persist. For instance, there is still a lack of parking area, bathrooms and waiting areas for the people accompanying visitors to the embassy who must remain outside.

A report says that a parking lot that charges RD$100 has been set up but it is a considerable distance from the compound.

In addition there has been an increase in traffic jams in the area. According to reports, the Ministry of Public Works is repairing roads in the area around the new embassy site.


Thousands of pigs destroyed
Seven outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in the country since November 2013 have resulted in the deaths of more than 26,000 piglets, as reported online by The Pig Site.

A recent report outlines seven outbreaks of PED in several districts in the centre of the country starting between November 2013 and 25 May 2014.

A total of 308,177 pigs were affected, of which 39,042 showed symptoms and 26,070 died - all reported to be piglets less than two weeks old; 20,691 of the mortalities were on one farm alone in the Santiago region.

The usual control measures have been applied: quarantine, movement control inside the country and disinfection of infected premises. Vaccination is prohibited but affected animals have been treated for their symptoms.

All the outbreaks are now described as 'resolved'.


Bracelet won't stop chikungunya
National Tropical Disease Control Center (Cencet) director Jose Manuel Puello has warned that wearing of a citronella bracelet to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes may be creating false hopes amongst the public.

The "super bands" repellents are being distributed in several parts of Santo Domingo and supposedly stop the wearer from being bitten.

But Puello said that there is no scientific proof that the bracelets help to prevent dengue and chikungunya and said people should stick to the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry. They include reducing the vector by using chlorine in water tanks and eliminating mosquito-breeding areas. He said that a 55 gallon tank, which many Dominicans used to store water, could produce 80 to 120 mosquitoes a day and people should put chlorine or bleach in the tank twice a week to prevent it being used as a mosquito breeding ground.


Stop washing chicken
Consumers have been advised not to wash raw chicken as it increases the risk of food poisoning.

The British Food Standards Authority (FSA) has warned that washing raw chicken before cooking it increases the incidence of the campylobacter bacteria on hands, work surfaces, clothes and kitchen implements.

The FSA made the warning having discovered that in the Dominican Republic 44% of the population wash chicken before cooking it, either to wash away any dirt of germs or simply because they have always washed it.

Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, especially for tourists. It usually occurs when people eat raw poultry, uncooked vegetables or unpasteurized milk and can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.

It can last for a few days but can cause death especially amongst children and the elderly.

FSA president Catherine Brown says that people should wash their hands after touching raw chicken and make sure it is completely cooked. She called for an end to washing the chicken before cooking it as drops of water that come off the chicken can contain the bacteria, causing cross-contamination.


Arrested with gold bars
Customs agents have arrested a foreigner in possession of several gold bars at the Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperon International Airport.

The unnamed foreigner is linked to the case in la Mulata III in Sosua, when several Germans were detained and one killed, following a raid by the authorities.

Customs authorities have said they are continuing their investigations to see if anyone else is linked to the case but in the meantime they have not released any other details or the name of the arrested person.


Drug kingpin arrested in Moca
National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) spokesman Miguel Medina says that over the weekend of 14-15 June the DNCD and the Public Prosecution Service confiscated 29 new vehicles from Auto Modelo on kilometer 15 of the Santiago-Moca road.

The dealership is owned by Geovanny Antonio Rodriguez Abreu alias Georgy, who is believed to be one of the heads of a drug network with links to New York and other US cities.

They also confiscated an industrial unit, a speedboat, and two homes, presumed to belong to Rodriguez Abreu and another man identified as Jose Francisco Garcia Almonte (El Pelu), who was also arrested in connection with the confiscation of thousands of dollars in Gurabo, Santiago.

According to the DNCD, the network was involved in sending drugs to the US and France from several airports and seaports in the Dominican Republic concealed in consignments of vegetable produce.


Dominican architect wins Madrid award for poetry
Jose Enrique Delmonte Sone, better known for his work in architecture (professor, author, working architect) has won the Madrid 2014 Book Fair Ibero-American Poetry Award. He won the prize for his poetry book, "Once palabras que mueven tu mundo". The award took into account the poetry's depth and mastery of language and capacity to provoke new feelings in the theme of love that open new possibilities for expression and strengthen links between Spanish-speaking nations.


Dominicans in semi-finals of Pan American volleyball cup
The Dominican Republic and the United States national women's volleyball teams have secured spots in the semifinals of the XIII Women's Volleyball Pan American Cup. The Dominican women made the semi-finals following a straight set (25-22, 25-14, 25-22) victory over Canada when playing in Mexico City on Sunday, 15 June 2014. The Dominican women reached the semi-finals with a 5-0 win-loss record while the Canadians fell to a 3-2 mark.

The winners held a 10-4 difference in the blocking category and a slight margin in aces 6-5. They also had 36 kills to 31 by the losers.

Norceca reported that Bethania de la Cruz paced the balanced Dominican Republic offense with 15 points, followed by Yonkaira Pena who finished with 12. Brittney Page and Marisa Field had 12 and 8 points, respectively, for Canada.

"It was our best game of the preliminary round," said Dominican Republic's Coach Marcos Kwiek. "We served well and organized our blocking and the defense. We have achieved our first goal that was winning the pool."

"It was not our best game as we didn't serve well and couldn't use our best element which is the blocking," said Canada's coach Arn Ludwig. "If you don't have a good blocking against a team like Dominican Republic you don't have a chance."

"We didn't have good services and were not able to recover until the third set," Page said. "We played good in the third set but it was not enough."

The team's second most difficult challenge in the first round was against Peru, when the Dominican team won in five sets (25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 15-12) in Pool A of the XIII Women's Volleyball Pan American Cup on Saturday, 14 June.



Barbarella at Quisqueya Ball Park
Barbarella by Presidente 2014 is the electronic music event at the Quisqueya Ball Park in Santo Domingo on Wednesday, 18 June. The electronic music extravaganza sponsored by Presidente beer is now in its fourth year.

Performing this year are DJs Steve Angello and Hardwell with appearances by All Night and Manners. This is a chance to hear them play "I Love It" that reached 7th place on Billboard's Hot 100 list. The lineup for Barbarella also includes Australians Miriam and Olivia Nervo, Dimitri Egas & Like Mike from Belgium, Irish DJ Dyro and DJ Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman).

The DR is represented by Local Superheroes (Omar Andino and Joseant Hidalgo).

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

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