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Daily News - Friday, 01 August 2014

Central American business representatives meet President Medina
President Danilo Medina received a group of leading businesspeople and manufacturers, members and directors of the Council of Directors of the Federation of Chambers and Associations of Central America (Fecaica) at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014. Their Dominican Republic counterparts also took part in the meeting.

Dominican Republic Industries Association (AIRD) president Ligia Bonetti said that the event was part of the annual meeting Dominican businesspeople have with their Central American colleagues. "We discussed the different challenges of industry with the President of the Republic, those that our countries have in common and those that we need to interact with the governments to stimulate this all-important sector," she said.

The visitors included the president of Fecaica, Abraham Bennaton, Carlos Enrique Rivera, Ana Morales, Aida Michelle Maduro, Juan Carlos Amador, Miguel Facusse, Fernando Garcia, Jorge Arriaza and Javier Zepeda.

The Dominican manufacturers were represented by Ligia Bonetti, Circe Almanzar, Carlos Fernandez, Julio Virgilio Brache, Richard Arostegui, Juan Jose Attias, Campos de Moya and Kai Schoenhals.

DGA head says "no turning back"
Customs Agency (DGA) director Fernando Fernandez Cedeno says that revoking the DGA decision to end the duty-free status of goods valued under US$200 imported via couriers is not an option. Local store owners have campaigned against the exoneration saying it created unfair competition.

Speaking on the Gobierno de la Manana talk show in response to claims that the disposition violated Decree 402-05, Fernandez said that the executive order had been misinterpreted. He said that the correct application of the decree would only establish that goods that meet rules of origin of DR-CAFTA would qualify for the tax exemption, not all goods under US$200. Fernandez also argued that Decree 402-05 violated the Customs Law. He stressed that the provision for US$200 duty-free imports is not established anywhere in the decree.

He estimated that the government would lose RD$5 billion in taxation revenues this year because of the duty-free imports.

Fernandez told reporters: "I'll leave this to the courts; I have no reason to discuss this. What I will say is that Customs regulates commerce across borders, and this is its mission by law and we are preventing this wrong from growing uncontrollably, since it is now out of control." Fernandez says that Internet purchases had increased by US$1 billion over recent years.

The US$200 duty-free tax provision was a godsend for consumers who could make the most of much better prices on the Internet compared to local stores.

Businessman Celso Marranzini blamed the couriers for the end to the facility. He said they had committed "abuses."

Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez spoke out in rejection of the DGA measure, and warned that it violated the Constitution. He said that the decision would seriously affect the middle class. "This measure violates the Constitution, because only the Congress of the Republic is authorized to establish or eliminate taxes," he said.

Meanwhile, Tommy Galan, who chairs the Senate Hacienda Commission, also rejected the DGA notice. He recalled that in 2012, President Medina revoked a provision in the tax reform that had taxed express shipments.





Lawyer explains why Customs Agency notice violates DR-CAFTA
In response to the Customs Agency notice that puts a stop to duty-free imports shipped by couriers valued at US$200 or less, the Dominican Couriers Association (Asodec) says that a government department resolution cannot revoke an executive order because of juridical hierarchy.

Asodec's legal advisor Laura Castellanos says that if the government removes duty-free status from express shipments, this would violate their expedited nature as defined in DR-CAFTA.

Article 5.7 of DR-CAFTA describes requirements for express shipments as follows:

Each Party shall adopt or maintain expedited customs procedures for express shipments while maintaining appropriate customs control and selection. These procedures shall: (a) provide a separate, expedited customs procedure for express shipments; (b) provide for the submission and processing of information necessary for the release of an express shipment before the express shipment arrives; (c) allow submission of a single manifest covering all goods contained in a shipment transported by an express shipment service, through, if possible, electronic means; (d) to the extent possible, provide for clearance of certain goods with a minimum of documentation; and 5-4 (e) under normal circumstances, provide for clearance of express shipments within six hours after submission of the necessary customs documents, provided the shipment has arrived.

But on Friday, 1 August 2014, the director of the Customs Agency, Fernando Fernandez said that the Decree violated Customs Law. He said it had been misinterpreted and would only provide duty free imports for imports that meet US rules of origin under the DR-CAFTA agreement.




Tax Compliance Certificate now automated
The Tax Agency (DGII) has good news for taxpayers. As of today, Friday 1 August 2014 all contributors registered in the system can request online tax compliance certificates (Certificacion de Cumplimiento de Obligaciones Fiscales). The document is required for many transactions with the government.

Up until now, anyone requesting the certificate had to pay RD$300 at DGII offices and then wait 10 working days to get the document.

The DGII says that the service is now available 24/7 via their website and can be issued online in around five minutes.

A credit card payment is required for issuing the certificate online, and if the certificate cannot be issued, the RD$300 charge will not be applied.

Those who do not have a credit card to pay online, can do so by visiting the head offices of the DGII in Santo Domingo. Plans are to later offer the service at other branches of the DGII nationwide.

The DGII says they had been issuing around 4,940 certificates a day.

The new tax compliance certification does not require a signature or a stamp.


DGII closes small businesses in Las Terrenas
In its efforts to increase taxation revenues from outside of Santo Domingo and Santiago, the DGII closed down several key businesses in Las Terrenas, Samana this week. The DGII wants to increase tax revenues from residents in provinces outside Santo Domingo and Santiago, where most of the revenues at present are generated.


Water wasted and lost is 60% of water served
Incredible as it may seem, the National Water and Sewerage Institute (INAPA) is reporting that 60% of the water produced by the nation's aqueducts is lost either through broken pipes or careless waste by consumers. INAPA director Alberto Holguin says that only 14 of the country's 56 purification plants are working, 20 are being repaired and the rest are out of service. He said that the government is spending US$5 million on improving the coverage of treated water. He also said that billions are being invested in sewers and sewage treatment centers in places like San Cristobal, Azua, Neiba and Villa Vasquez. In a press release, the INAPA director said that 45% of the water agency investments are going towards sewers while back in 2012 only 5% was spent on sewers. The current water crisis is the worst since 1997, and citizens are being urged to conserve.

Fire in Valle Nuevo under control, but not out
The Ministry of the Environment announced yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014 that they had achieved complete control of the fire that had consumed part of the Juan Bautista Perez Rancier National Park in Valle Nuevo, Constanza for the past two weeks. As of yesterday all of the flames were out, thanks in part to the rain that fell in the area on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 July, and the work by the forest fire fighters and the volunteers from Constanza. Starting now, according to Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez, a commission of environmental specialist will be evaluating the damage caused by the fire that covered thousands of tareas of forest, mostly pine forest in the park. "Tomorrow (today, Friday 1 August) a satellite contract will provide an exact measurement and take two or three days to make the damage assessment," he said.

Rojas Gomez stated that despite the fact that they have the fire under control, the brigades are still in place because some trunks and stumps are still burning and could reignite the blaze. The Minister of the Environment was speaking at a press conference which was also attended by the Minister of Public Works, Gonzalo Castillo and the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force, Ruben Paulino Sem and Ramon Hernandez. Gonzalo Castillo told reporters how since Sunday, the Ministry of Public Works had provided 50 pieces of heavy and light equipment in order to open 28 kilometers of trails. Part of this equipment and personnel, which began to leave yesterday, will stay in place to continue improving the access roads in case of a future emergency.

PRD to ask Medina to modify regulations on naturalization
On Monday 4 August, the main opposition PRD party plans to send President Danilo Medina some observations and proposals for modification of the Regulations in Law 169-14, after concluding that they contain "errors and contradictions" that need to be rectified. PRD president Miguel Vargas pointed out yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014 that he would not reveal the content of the letter for reasons of ethics and respect, but he warned that they have maintained a "firm and invariable defense of the national sovereignty in the face of pressure from international agencies." He stated that any solution to the problems of immigration should be presented on the basis of respect for the Constitution, the General Immigration Law 285-04, and the Sentence 168-13 by the Constitutional Tribunal. The PRD commission that will take the letter to the Presidential Palace will be composed of the legal director, Salim Ibarra, spokesman Victor Gomez Casanova, and jurist Jose Miguel Vasquez.

Vargas said that he had consulted eminent legal experts on the regulations and he said that the letter addressed to the President includes copies for Interior and Police Minister Jose Ramon Fadul, Central Electoral Board (JCE) president Roberto Rosario, Director General of Immigration Jose Ricardo Taveras, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, and the Reverend Fidel Lorenzo, the president of the Dominican Council of Evangelical Unity.

US embassy working to restore visa system
While the new United States Consulate and Embassy on Republic of Colombia Avenue in Santo Domingo's Arroyo Hondo sector looks spanking new, the computer problems affecting the issuing of non-resident visas persist. The office of Consular Affairs is working towards restoring the Non-Immigrant Visa System whose collapse caused the emission of passports and visas to be suspended.

The news was published online at www.travel.state.gov and has all the last minute information.

Apparently last week the State Department introduced some changes that were supposed to optimize the system's performance. They said that high priority cases such as immigrant visas and adoptions are being processed.

In the meantime, new passports for citizens are taking between four and six weeks. The explanation for all this was that the consular officials are not permitted to issue visas that are not "approved by our database system, so that some embassies and consulates will have to temporarily limit their appointments and reschedule interviews."

Where to go to check crime stats in the Dominican Republic
The Ministry of Interior and Police has set up an online crime and citizen security observatory (Observatorio de Seguridad Ciudadana). The section within its website provides a map on crime by provinces in the Dominican Republic and publishes bulletins with crime statistics updated through September 2013. Visitors to the site can read statistics on homicides, vehicle thefts and theft reports. Stats on crime are provided for 2012 and 2013.

The observatory, which was created by Decree 358-12, has received funding from the multilateral organizations.


Catholic priest declared 83 Haitian children as his
With Naturalization Law 169-14 ordering the issuing of Dominican citizenship for humanitarian reasons to those who the JCE has determined these were irregularly issued to, the case of Roman Catholic priest Joseph Vigny Bellerive is making headlines again.

The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has brought back into the media the case of the Roman Catholic priest who declared as his 83 children of Haitian mothers who did not have any legal documentation at the time of the birth declaration. The file on the case says that Mao-based priest Joseph Vigny Bellerive used the ID 21475, series 34, that Ana Maria Fermin of the JCE's old ID department says did not belong to him. Of the 83 birth declarations carried out at the civil registry in Mao, there is a repetition of the same document for the issuing of multiple civil registries. Several of those declared constantly request the document for different purposes. She said that at the time the priest explained that the people did not have legal documentation and he took responsibility for them. A 2005 news story in Diario Libre reports that the priest moved to the United States.

The case made headlines in 2005 when it was first known that the priest had declared the children before the JCE officers in Mao.






Chief not for disarmament but for more control
The Chief of Police, Major General Manuel Castro Castillo is calling for more control on the carrying and possession of firearms, as well as the revision of Law 36 that covers these issues. The aim is to penalize people who use weapons illegally with prison sentences. "What's more, when they are well known criminals with criminal backgrounds, they have to be sent straight to prison in order to be able to discourage the use of firearms," he stressed, speaking yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014. Castro Castillo recalled that a major proportion of the violence and crime that occur in the country have the use of firearms as a common denominator.

The Attorney General of the Republic Francisco Dominguez Brito recently issued a report that revealed that 576 people had been killed by firearms between January and June 2014. This information rekindled the debate on general disarmament.

Questioned on the issue, Castro Castillo declared: "In all countries, the possession of firearms is allowed, but there must be controls so that weapons are not carried in places where it is not permitted to have them." He also argued that the process of providing licenses to carry and possess firearms should be stricter.

More deaths at the hands of security forces
In a reversal of last year's downward trend, the deaths at the hands of state security forces, popularly known as "exchanges of gunfire", increased in the first half of the year. A report by the Public Safety Observation Commission, released yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014, found that in the first six months of this year, 87 people were killed by members of the police, while during the same period last year the total was 77. The report says that, 169 people were killed by state forces in all of 2013, while in 2012 the number was 296, a reduction of 127 cases.

During the semester there were also some 200 deaths by unknown hands. In general terms, the Public Safety Observation Commission registered 1,203 violent deaths including 906 homicides and 297 suicides. In this case there was a 5.2% reduction from the first half of 2013, with a total of 1,269 violent deaths: 971 homicides and 298 suicides. They also listed 1,129 accidental deaths: 901 in traffic accidents, 146 by drowning and 82 by electrocution. When it comes to robberies, the numbers were said to reflect an increase in reporting. This year there have been 5,402 against 5,376 during the same period last year.

Helicopter refitted to fight drug traffickers
The National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) says a modern helicopter with an infrared system will join the local fight against drug traffickers. The Bell Huey Super Plus is an old army helicopter that was refitted with new turbines and high technology at a cost of US$1.8 million. The DNCD contributed US$724,000 and the Army made up the difference, said DNCD chief Major General Julio Cesar Souffront. He said the helicopter would be used to locate drug traffickers on land and sea.


Luis Alvarez Renta released from jail
Business advisor Luis Alvarez Renta was released from jail yesterday, Thursday 31 July 2014 by the Supreme Court of Justice that accepted that he had already served his 10-year jail sentence in the Baninter banking fraud case. The Second Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court agreed that the time he had been hospitalized should be considered as part of his time served in jail.



Tropical Storm Bertha welcome in the Caribbean
A tropical storm with maximum winds at 75kph and moving at 31kph is expected to affect the east, northeast and northern coasts of the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

A watch has already been issued for neighboring Puerto Rico.

Moving on a west-northwest track, Tropical Storm Bertha would be the first to affect the Dominican Republic this Atlantic Hurricane Season. This is only the second named storm so far this year.

The director of the National Weather Office (Onamet), Gloria Ceballos says gusty winds and heavy rains will not be extreme when crossing by the Dominican Republic. She said the heavier rains would fall in the mountain areas. These would be especially welcome in areas such as Constanza, where drought has created conditions for forest fires. On the whole, the downpours are expected to do much more good than harm in a drought-affected Caribbean region.

Forecasters say the storm will pass off the coast of Punta Cana continuing on its west-northwest trek towards the north, passing off the coast of Puerto Plata on the early morning of Sunday, 3 August.



Victor Estrella loses to Santiago Giraldo
33-year old Dominican tennis player Victor Estrella (ranked 87th) failed to reach the quarter-finals on Thursday, 31 July 2014 after losing 6-2, 6-0 to 34th ranked Santiago Giraldo of Colombia. Estrella had won his two previous games.


Omar Molina's Genetica at the Museum of Royal Houses
The Ministry of Culture is sponsoring the individual exhibit of plastic artist Omar Molina at the Museo de las Casas Reales on Calle Las Damas in the Colonial City. The exhibit is open from Friday, 1 August 2014 through 15 August and features 23 drawings and paintings in different techniques. The exhibit is open during Museum hours, 9am to 5pm.

Merengue Festival on Santo Domingo's Malecon
Weather permitting, the Santo Domingo Merengue and Caribbean Beats Festival means live bands will be playing at the Malecon's Plaza Juan Baron. The program for Friday, 1 August is Miriam Cruz, Chiquito Team Band, Krisspy and Chimbala. On Saturday, 2 August, Los Hermanos Rosario, Yiyo Sarante, Kinito Mendez and Mozart La Para will have everyone dancing to merengue, salsa and urban tropical music.

This year's festival, sponsored by Brugal Rum and the Ministry of Tourism is dedicated to Frank Cruz and Vinicio Franco.

The Ministry of Tourism is also organizing similar events in Puerto Plata in September and Punta Cana in November, with more details on venues, dates and performers to be announced.


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

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