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Daily News - Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Historic meeting between the DR, Haiti and EU in Punta Cana
President Danilo Medina received the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy for a historic trilateral meeting in Punta Cana yesterday, Tuesday 22 July 2014. They were all wearing "guayaberas" the Dominican casual elegance outfit that serves as both shirt and suit in tropical etiquette. News reports said that Martelly was the last to arrive, about an hour and a half after the scheduled 10am meeting time.

The Presidency reported that Medina, Martelly and Van Rompuy discussed the projects that the European Union is funding in both countries and assessed the possibilities of increasing development projects in both countries in support of good neighborliness and mutual respect.

President Medina said that Dominicans and Haitians have lived on the island of Hispaniola for generations and the two countries have a long shared history. He said that when looking to the future they should consolidate cooperation in politics, economy and security to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the whole Caribbean.

He went on to say that the meeting was based on their will to strengthen the bonds between the countries even further, that the European Union had been a long term partner of both countries, and that Van Rompuy's presence was tangible proof of the EU's commitment to provide aid, support and contribute to the success of their joint initiatives.

During his remarks following the talks, the European Council president announced that the European Union would match words with deeds by providing substantial financing support to binational cooperation in areas such as economic development, infrastructure links, public health and the environment. He said that the DR and Haiti have already reached bilateral agreements to improve security, combat drug trafficking, protect natural resources and stimulate trade.

"The European Union is ready to share its experience on migration, customs, border management, trade, health and the environment and continue providing assistance for the implementation of the agreements reached in the framework of the High Level Binational Dialogue."

President Medina asked for funding to build two border hospitals. Van Rompuy said that feasibility studies on joint infrastructure projects, including local health facilities, could be considered in the funding support.

Referring to the issue of granting Dominican naturalization to Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, most of whom have not secured legal documentation, he went on the record saying: "The European Union welcomes the adoption by the Dominican Congress of the special law regulating the status of people of foreign origin born in the Dominican Republic. This is an important step towards resolving a difficult and sensitive issue. I do not want to enter into a discussion on a question that goes to the heart of national sovereignty - and I did not do so today - but I think we all agree that it is a shared concern that requires a human solution."









First Lady backs mental health project
A project to help people with mental health problems and who are living on the streets will be open before the end of this year in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of Gualey, in the former Manolo Tavarez Justo Club that had fallen in disrepair and was known to be used as a hideout by criminals.

The "Psychosocial Rehabilitation Project for People with Psychiatric Disabilities" is coordinated by the office of First Lady Candida Montilla.

The existing building, which was donated by the National District local authority, will serve as a community center for people with mental health issues. It has a capacity to serve 200 people a month. Program director Martina Polanco said the premises are still very small and the government has not yet assigned them a budget.

The center will benefit people with mental health problems in the northern part of the city and will serve as a pilot project for similar centers in other areas of the city.


Progress on birth certificates for students
As part of the fulfillment of President Danilo Medina's pledge to issue birth certificates to 91,000 students in public schools by 2016, the Ministry of Education has announced that it has 40,000 applications for birth certificates ready for handover to the Central Electoral Board (JCE) to issue them.

The head of the Ministry of Education's Late Declarations Program, Nelson Salas, said that they have spent RD$60 million on economic support for parents who have not registered their children's births.


It could be chikungunya, but it could be dengue
Epidemiologist Mirna Jimenez of the Hugo Mendoza Pediatric Hospital is advising people to get tested for dengue fever before self-diagnosing the chikungunya virus. Chikungunya, which is now widespread in the country, can usually be treated with rehydration and bed rest and most sufferers do not need to be seen by a doctor. Many people are known to have experienced mild cases of the virus, attributed to stronger immune systems. Nevertheless, Dr. Jimenez says that symptoms of dengue and chikungunya are very similar, but dengue must be treated by a doctor as it is a more serious illness.

She also advised doctors to follow the Clinical Management Guide for Chikungunya distributed by the Ministry of Public Health. "The problem is that we often get carried away because what is prevailing now is chikungunya, forgetting there are other endemic diseases such as dengue also carried by mosquitos," she said.

She said that platelet counts will be low in both, but much lower in dengue. The manual helps doctors distinguish between both viruses and how to treat them.

Fellow epidemiologist Mercedes Castro also advised people with fever symptoms to see their doctors to confirm which illness they have.

Chamber of Deputies ratifies more loans
Yesterday afternoon, Tuesday 22 July 2014, the Chamber of Deputies ratified two loans for US$33 million and EUR5.2 million, to be used for building 3,000 homes for low-income families as part of the government's social program.

The first loan for US$33 million will go to the National Housing Institute (INVI) and the second to finance a water project in Los Botados, Yamasa, to be implemented by the National Drinking Water and Sewage Institute (INAPA).

The EUR5,274,247 loan came from Spain's Official Credit Institute (ICO) to be used for social programs.


Colombia wants trade agreement with DR
Colombia wants to sign a partial scope trade agreement with the DR, which would be similar to the agreement the DR has with Panama, allowing for specific items to enter the country duty-free.

The aim is to increase investments and trade, currently at US$232.5 million per year. Colombia also wants to sign an agreement to protect investment and is asking the Dominican authorities to activate talks.

ProExport Colombia Caribbean director Carlos Gonzalez points out that the Dominican Republic is the main destination for Colombian exports in the Caribbean, second in investment and the second favorite travel destination for Colombian tourists in the region.

Colombian exports to the DR in 2013 totaled US$188.7 million, and imports are worth US$43.8 million. A total of 39,890 Colombian tourists visited the country. Investments were estimated at US$113.1 million from 2000 to 2013.


Quisqueya Ball Park to honor Juan Marichal
The Chamber of Deputies has announced that it has added the name of Juan Marichal to the Quisqueya Ball Park. A bill approved this week names the ball park Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal to honor the only Dominican member of Major League Baseball's Cooperstown Hall of Fame. The name change was proposed by Senator Adriano Sanchez Roa. The bill now needs to be signed by President Danilo Medina and published.

The Dominican right-handed pitcher played for the San Francisco Giants for 14 of his 16 seasons in Major League Baseball. Marichal won more games than any other pitcher during the 1960s and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.


Surveillance cameras keep crime low in Santiago city center
Surveillance cameras hidden along Calle El Sol, the main shopping street in Santiago, are showing good results, reports Diario Libre. The former president of the Association of Stores of the Historic Center of Santiago (Asotisa) told Diario Libre that practically no robberies have occurred on Calle El Sol.

The Police Central Cibao command spokesman, Colonel Damian Arias said that a mapping exercise aimed at identifying crime hotspots in the city established that the Calle El Sol was one of the worst affected areas. A strategic location plan was designed with the storeowners and cameras were installed along with other measures aimed at reducing crime.

Arias said that as well as the cameras, police patrols have been reinforced in Santiago's historic center.

City Mayor Gilberto Serulle announced that they were liaising with companies to continue installing surveillance cameras in the city. He said the aim is to turn Santiago into one of the safest cities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Two helicopters to patrol border with Haiti
The Ministry of Defense has announced the purchase of two helicopters and 30 all-terrain vehicles, pickups and trucks to strengthen patrols on the border with Haiti. The equipment will bolster the work being carried out by the Specialized Land Border Corps (CESFRONT). Minister Sigfrido Pared Perez says that 1,500 Cesfront agents are now patrolling the border.

Pared said the concern is that the border is being used for firearms and drug trafficking.

He pointed out that the DR has a maritime border with the country that produces 90% of the cocaine in the world (Colombia), a land border with Haiti and a maritime border with Puerto Rico. He also mentioned that the DR receives five million tourists a year, making it a high-transit country. Pared Perez was being interviewed by journalists during a ceremony at the Senate yesterday, Tuesday 22 July 2014 in recognition of his institutional strengthening initiatives aimed at making the Armed Forces more humane and environmentally friendly. The minister is the brother of the Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez. A third brother, Carlos, is President Danilo Medina's personal assistant.


Financial Free Zone law gets stricter
The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill that modifies Law 480-08 on International Duty Free Financial Zones. As reported in Listin Diario, the changes were based on recommendations by the United States in order to make it difficult to make investments for laundering assets or drug trafficking money. The changes now ban anonymous accounts or accounts with fictitious names.

Chamber of Deputies financial commission member Marino Collante said the changes were aimed at protecting the country from receiving drug trafficking or money laundering illicit investments.

The bill had already been approved by the Senate and now passes to the Presidency for signing and publishing into law. The bill was originally passed during the Leonel Fernandez government.

Collante said the law was never applied because the US authorities believed that it allowed for laundering of drug money and would attract capitals of dubious origins.


Illegal firearm problem
The Minister of Defense Admiral Sigfrido Pared Perez says that the high number of firearms in the country is a main contributing factor to violence and crime.

He said that the problem is the lack of regulation and that 98% of the homicides and woundings that occur in the country are carried out with illegal firearms.

Pared Perez said that only 2% of murders were carried out with legal weapons, some of which were due to domestic violence.

He reminded that measures to ban the import of firearms had not achieved their objective of reducing the murder rate.


Capotillo is the most violent neighborhood
According to the National Police, Capotillo is the most violent neighborhood in Santo Domingo with 84 violent deaths so far this year including minors and at least nine women.

Other neighborhoods on the most violent list include Simon Bolivar, La Canita, Los Guandules and Guachupita.

In Simon Bolivar, gangs fighting over drug sales points have caused 52 homicides so far this year.

In Capotillo, residents are complaining that the main problem is the sale and consumption of drugs and several gangs fighting over control, and that every night they hear gunshots so they all have to lock themselves in their houses early.

According to the police, In the first week of this month, Aristides del Rosario (Ari), Amilcar Santana (El Viejo), and another man only known as "El Cojo", were all shot and were all known drug dealers.

A 15-year old boy, Wilkin Araujo (Manilon) was also killed recently, in a shootout which left four men and a 14-year old boy wounded.

A gang fight resulted in the death of Pablo Rosario, "El Monstruo", Marina Santos and a man simply known as Berto.

Evangelical pastor Leoncio Santiago has accused the police of being responsible for the dominance of crime in Capotillo and called on the chief of police to replace all the officers there as they are friends with the criminals.

He said the biggest problem is that young people see drug dealing as their future and that is preventing the development of Capotillo.

Similar concerns affect the residents of Simon Bolivar, who say that the authorities are doing nothing, just making empty promises and again many of the young people belong to gangs.


Fires in Constanza
A forest fire has been burning for a week in Valle Nuevo in Constanza and hundreds of firefighters are on the scene, but the blaze has already destroyed more than a thousand tareas of forest areas on the mountain. The fire began in the afternoon of last Tuesday, 15 July 2014 but has been burning out of control even though firefighters from La Vega, Santo Domingo and San Juan de la Maguana have working around the clock to try and put it out.

According to the Ministry of Environment, strong winds and the drought are contributing to the blaze but they think that it is now being extinguished and expressed hope that the task will be completed by Thursday.

Constanza fire brigade chief Major Rafael Quiroz told Diario Libre that they do not have the right equipment to fight large fires


Professional tennis tournaments coming to the DR
The Dominican Tennis Federation (Fedotenis) has announced a professional tennis tournament in the country this December that will count towards the world rankings. Prize money will be $45,000 over three events.

Fedotenis president Persio Maldonado said the first event, from 1 to 6 December 2014, would be hosted by the Santiago Tennis Association, with 64 players competing. The tournament director will be Gustavo Gomez.

The second will be held at the Santo Domingo Tennis Club on 8 to 13 December with 128 players and the tournament director will be Mrs. Fernandez de Garcia and the third at the Pabellon de Tenis del Parque del Este again in Santo Domingo on 15 to 20 December.

The events will be supervised by the International Tennis Federation.


Fausto Cepeda at Plaza de Espana
The Ministry of Culture and the Alcazar de Colon Museum are sponsoring a concert with lyrical singer Fausto Cepeda on the esplanade of the Plaza de Espana in Santo Domingo's Colonial City, against the backdrop of the Columbus Alcazar. The concert, "Anthology of Latin American Songs," will start at 8pm This is a production by Cepeda himself who will sing famous boleros from the DR, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico. He will be accompanied by a live orchestra.

Santo Domingo Theater Festival continues
The Santo Domingo International Theater Festival continues in Santo Domingo today, Wednesday 23 July 2014 with productions from Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, Venezuela and the United States (New York.)

Now in its eighth year, the festival is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. Performances are taking place at several venues in Santo Domingo for an admission fee of just RD$100. See the schedule through 26 July 2014 at:


For more on ongoing and upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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