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Daily News - Monday, 30 June 2014

Medina calls for more work, less welfare
President Medina downplayed the benefits of government-issued welfare cards and encouraged poor people to become productive during a visit to Constanza yesterday, Sunday 29 June 2014.

During his visit, Medina urged a woman who asked him for a government Solidarity welfare card to become productive instead of asking for state handouts. The Solidarity card program was created during the former administration under Leonel Fernandez. His wife Margarita Cedeno, who is now Vice President, has continued to manage these programs.

President Medina asked the Constanza woman if she had land to farm and she said yes. "I want you to produce, not to be given. The more you earn, the happier we will be," said the President.

During his visit to the community of La Paloma in Constanza, President Medina announced low-cost government financing to flower and leek growers to help them to expand their farming areas and install packaging plants. He met with the local Flower Growers and Farmers Association and encouraged farmers who are not association members to join collective activities in order to receive government support. The government approved financing at 5% annual interest through the Special Fund for Farm Development (FEDA) under the Presidency of the Republic. President Medina stressed that these are loans that must be repaid.

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President Medina to Panama Presidential inauguration?
The government of Panama has announced they are expecting President Danilo Medina in Panama tomorrow, Tuesday, 1 July 2014 to attend the inaugural ceremony for Panama's President-elect Juan Carlos Varela. Varela was elected for the 2014-2019 term. The Presidency in the Dominican Republic has not announced the trip.

The Presidency of Panama says it is expecting eight regional heads of government who have confirmed their attendance, including the presidents of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Costa Rica's Luis Guillermo Solis, Guatemala's Otto Perez Molina, and El Salvador's Salvador Sanchez Ceren, as well as Haiti's Michel Martelly. The list also includes US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy and the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou. The inauguration ceremony will be held at the Rommel Fernandez football stadium in Panama City, in the presence of around 18,000 people.

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More free zone industries
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC) and the president of the National Free Zones Council (CNZFE) have announced the approval of permits for installing eight new free zone factories. On Friday 27 June 2014, Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose del Castillo Savinon said that the new manufacturing plants would create 2,120 jobs and generate exports worth more than US$11 million. A total of RD$548.3 million will be spent on building the factories. He also announced that the government had authorized the construction of two new free zone parks with an investment of RD$123.3 million, 876 new jobs and export revenues of US$295.4 million. The new manufacturing plants will be located in Santo Domingo (Los Alcarrizos, San Isidro, Itabo), Puerto Plata, San Cristobal, San Pedro de Macoris, Puerto Plata, and San Pedro de Macoris provinces.

Tax head wants Dominicans to pay more property taxes
The director general of the Tax Agency (DGII) Guarocuya Felix says that total property taxes (IPI) paid in the Dominican Republic are "insignificant." He proposed that the discussion of the fiscal pact that was suggested as part of the National Development Strategy Law should start with an overhaul of the national property registry. Felix commented that in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, property taxes amount to 2.8% of the Gross Domestic Product, and in Latin America in general it is 0.8% of the region. However, the IPI in the Dominican Republic is only RD$1.36 billion, or around US$35 million out of a total GDP of US$58 billion, as reported in Listin Diario.

Energy and Mines minister proposes to reduce energy vulnerability
New Minister of Energy and Mines Pelegrin Castillo Seman says there is serious energy vulnerability in the Dominican Republic. Castillo stated that the DR has a daily consumption of 140,000 barrels of petroleum that has to be imported, and of which 80% are by-products, as reported in Diario Libre. But it only has a week's reserve of liquid fuels, 12 days worth of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and 21 days of liquid natural gas. He accepted that the numbers do not take into account some private storage facilities, but stressed that reserves still are at a critical level in a region that is full of risks and volatilities. Castillo added that to make matters worse, the country's energy storage infrastructure is concentrated along the south coast, between San Pedro de Macoris and Ocoa Bay, a hurricane-prone area.

He noted that this concentration is "against all recommendations by experts and policy guidelines drawn up over the last 30 years."

The comments were made during a talk on natural gas held on Tuesday 24 June 2014 organized by the Commonwealth Round Table and the Dominican Electricity Industry Association.

During the meeting, Castillo proposed that the State should focus on energy security through an active land and sea exploration policy, in addition to continuing the energy matrix diversification process, pushing for the reconversion to natural gas for the existing generators and the installation of high efficiency coal-fired plants.

Mortgage interest rate averages 10.79%
According to Central Bank statistics, the average mortgage-lending rate is now at 10.79%. The average lending rate for preferential loans is 10.47%, with the lowest loans at 8.51% and highs at 12.23% for the period of 1 to 26 June 2014.

This is lower than rates in May, when the average was 10.73%. It is also lower than in June of 2013 (10.69%) and June 2012 (11.84%), as reported in Listin Diario.

DR and New Zealand establish formal diplomatic relations
The Dominican Republic and New Zealand signed a protocol for formal bilateral diplomatic relations on Sunday, 29 June 2014, based on a mutual desire for development, friendship and cooperation between the two countries. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who was visiting the DR last week to attend the Central American Integration System (SICA) summit of regional presidents, signed for New Zealand and his counterpart, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso for the Dominican Republic.

Ambassadors will now be appointed to be accredited by each country.

Morales said that New Zealand and the Dominican Republic could be great partners, especially in areas like farming (agriculture and livestock) and renewable energy.

Minister McCully said that scholarships would be offered to Dominican students and announced that a non-resident ambassador would be appointed.

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Business should not accommodate Electricity Pact to their interests, says AEIH
Herrera and Santo Domingo Province Industries Association (AEIH) president Victor Castro has criticized business groups for trying to accommodate the Electricity Pact to their interests.

Recently, large power groups have announced agreements with the government prior to the start of the electricity pact discussions. The pact was mandated by the National Development Strategy Law.

Castro says that private sector representatives want to exclude certain stakeholders from the discussions on the grounds that they might generate conflicts. He adds that powerful groups want to adjust the pact to their own interests.

Castro said that the electricity pact should be based on the national collective interests and called for a general commitment in a democratic process without exclusions. "That dangerous trend towards limiting participation, so that discussions are closed in order to impose their own interests, could affect the legitimacy of the electricity pact," he commented.

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Unigold and Everton advance in gold mining in Dominican Republic
At a time when environmentalists and the general public are strongly opposed to Falcondo Xstrata mining in Loma de Miranda, two international gold mining firms, Unigold and Everton, have announced that they are making progress in their gold exploration programs.

Unigold has announced a focused exploration drilling program on the Neita Concession and that field crews are mobilizing to drill the Loma de Montazo target in their quest to confirm gold mining potential in the north-central area of the country. Loma de Montazo is located near the Candelones trend where an inferred mineral resource of 39.5 million tonnes averaging 1.6 g/t gold for 2 million ounces of gold has already been identified.

The company also announced local scale mapping is in progress at Km. 6, Mariano Cestero and Valle Nuevo. Unigold has also completed trenching at Cerro Berro, Cerro Simon, Jimenez and Cruz de Cabrera targets, as reported by the company.

At the same time, Everton Resources announced that its exploration continues.

Everton says it has completed a diamond core drill program at the Ampliacion Pueblo Viejo property and reports that several intervals of anomalous gold, copper, silver and pathfinder elements were encountered.

The company also reported it is advancing on its Ponton concession (100% Everton), where planning is underway for line cutting and an Induced Polarization ("IP") survey to be conducted once government permission is granted. The timeline is for a drill program to be carried out later this year.

As reported by the company, previous Everton work on the concession has identified interesting gold mineralization in soil anomalies within the area to be surveyed with IP. These surficial anomalies will be targeted by the proposed drill program.

On 1 April 2014 Everton announced the successful acquisition of options on six Dominican mining concessions.

In a related story, Fidel Santana, presidential candidate for the Frente Amplio, said that the town of Cotui is the best example of how mining areas do not benefit from the industry. He said the town is neglected, with no sewage system, and high unemployment and few opportunities for its people.

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Forbes Mexico publishes list of wealthiest Dominicans
According to a list published in the latest issue of Forbes Mexico magazine, the top 10 millionaires in the Dominican Republic are: 53-year old Felipe A. Vicini Lluberes (Grupo Vicini), 80-year old Jose Luis Corripio Estrada, of Corripio (Grupo Corripio), 76-year old Jose Miguel Bonetti Guerra (Sociedad Industrial Dominicana), 80-year old Jose Augusto Cesar Leon Asensio (Grupo Leon), Manuel Alejandro Grullon Vinas (Grupo Popular), 70-year old Frank Rafael Rainieri Marranzini (Grupo Puntacana), 52-year old Manuel de Jesus Estrella Cruz (Grupo Estrella), 48-year old Carlos Jose Marti Garden (Marti Petroleum Group), 49-year old Jose Miguel Gonzalez Cuadra (Grupo Centro Cuesta Nacional) and 67-year old Felix Maria Garcia Castellanos (Grupo Linda).

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Vatican defrocks papal nuncio accused of sexually abusing boys
The big question now is whether the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis will take real action against sexual abuse by priests.

In an unprecedented move, on Friday, 27 June 2014 it was announced that former Vatican papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic 65-year old Josef Wesolowski had been defrocked, the highest penalty under canon law. Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Church official ever to be investigated for child abuse. He could be arrested.

Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito, whose office compiled evidence in the case, says the decision makes it possible for Wesolowski to face ordinary justice. But Dominguez Brito says that the case needs to be heard abroad because the DR is a signatory of the Vienna Convention that establishes that cases against persons with diplomatic status at the time of the crime should be heard in the state that the person represented, in this case the Vatican.

The defrocking means the archbishop can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a priest. He is accused of sexual abuse of minors, with evidence of specific cases compiled in Santo Domingo.

The Vatican announcement comes shortly after Monsignor Victor Masalles reported that he had seen Wesolowski walking around freely on the streets of Rome. It follows the visit of President Danilo Medina to Rome where he held a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Commenting on the Vatican decision last week, President Medina told the local press that Pope Francis had mentioned that he was expecting the former papal nuncio to receive the maximum Vatican penalty.

The defrocking technically makes it possible for Wesolowski to lose Vatican protection and he could stand trial in ordinary justice. While there was proof of the pedophilia charges, at the time Wesolowski was protected by the local Catholic Church and left the country using his diplomatic immunity. The pedophilia charges have also been reviewed by the Polish judiciary.

Wesolowski left the country surreptitiously on 21 August 2013 as investigative journalists were homing in on him as a follow up to pedophile charges against another Polish priest in the country, Wojciech Gil (known as Father Alberto), who has been accused of sexually abusing altar boys in his rural parish in Santiago. An investigative TV video showed both Wojciech and the nuncio cavorting with young boys in a Juan Dolio beach home.

As reported, the defrocking was proposed after a hearing before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which took place in the Vatican. Wesolowski has two months to appeal. The New York Times reported that Wesolowski still faces a criminal trial by the Vatican because, as a diplomat, he is a citizen of the Vatican city-state. As reported in the New York Times, it would be the first such trial held under new rules for criminal procedures implemented by the Vatican last year and a test of Pope Francis' stated resolve to turn a page on the long-running Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals.

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Bayaguana major turns himself in for criminal investigation
On Sunday, 29 June 2014 the mayor of Bayaguana, Nelson Sosa (Opi) turned himself in to the authorities after an arrest warrant for him was issued. He is suspected of being the mastermind behind the murder of council member Renato Castillo, according to Police spokesman colonel Jacobo Mateo Moquete. Castillo had cooperated with an investigation carried out by the Chamber of Accounts that found RD$15 million worth of irregularities in his city government. The Police said four other men are under arrest. Castillo was shot dead in a Monte Plata colmado on Wednesday, 25 June 2014. The preliminary Police report says that Central Criminal Investigation Department (DICRIM) agents and a state prosecutor seized firearms, a motorcycle and a SUV that are thought to have been used in the murder.

Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito said via his Twitter account that the preliminary investigations had led to the suspicion that the mayor of Bayaguana was involved in Castillo's murder.

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Haitians make up majority in illegal boat trips to Puerto Rico
Vice Admiral Edwin Dominici Rosario, chief of the Armada (Navy), says that naval intelligence officers have arrested 3,252 people so far this year, including 1,815 Haitians, 1,256 Dominicans, 174 Cubans, and seven Brazilians attempting illegal boat crossings to Puerto Rico. Navy spokesman Captain Juan Pablo Sandoval Garcia said that this past weekend alone (28-29 June 2014) M-2 agents arrested 21 people, including 10 Haitians, in the Boqueron area of La Romana, together with nine Dominicans who were planning to enter Puerto Rico illegally.

Student dies when being in the wrong place
A 21-year old student from La Caleta, Boca Chica was killed when the driver of a vehicle lost control and slammed into him on Winston Churchill Avenue in Santo Domingo yesterday, Sunday 29 June 2014. The deceased was walking on the sidewalk to take a bus at the OMSA stop at John F. Kennedy Avenue near the intersection with Winston Churchill Avenue. According to witnesses, Luis David Ulysses Jimenez was dragged along when a Toyota Corolla driven by Teodoro Hernandez Perez swerved onto the sidewalk. Jimenez was slammed into an electricity post. He was a student of marketing at the Universidad del Caribe and worked at Ten Dominicana. He was taken to the Marcelino Velez hospital by a 911 system ambulance, but his injuries were too serious.

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Fashion Week in Santo Domingo
Fashion fans should drop by the new Embassy Suites Hotel by Hilton at Silversun Gallery at Tiradentes and Gustavo Mejia Ricart avenues in Santo Domingo. The hotel is hosting the Dominican Republic Fashion Week 2014 organized by designer Jorge Diep. The event will take place from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 5 July 2014 with runway shows by international designers including Edwing D'Angelo (USA), Adrian Alicea, Pipo Pere and Lisa Thon (Puerto Rico), Vicent Blasco (Spain), Pineda Covalin (Mexico), Rosita Hurtado (Bolivia) and Hernan Zajar (Colombia).

The designers representing the Dominican Republic are Carolina Socias, Arcadio Diaz, Marisol Henriquez, Damaris Rubio, Cristian Lagares, Jailene Perez, Jorge David and emerging Dominican designers Yokasty Pena, Yuddy Morel and Ibelisse Castro.

'Knock, Knock' at the National Theater
The Colegio Escuela Nueva has announced it will be staging the play "Knock, knock... Deseas pasar?" at the main hall of Santo Domingo's National Theater on Sunday, 6 July at 7pm. Some 50 students from the school will take part in the musical written by Laura Ameliz Nunez and directed by Estefany Pina. The musical was first performed at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 2010, when it was directed by Wendy Queliz.

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

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