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Daily News - Thursday, 04 September 2014

Senate annuls Loma Miranda National Park bill
The Senate has accepted the observations that President Danilo Medina made to the bill declaring Loma Miranda a national park. The senate annulled the bill yesterday, Wednesday 3 September 2014.

Only three senators voted against the annulment request presented by Medina n Euclides Sanchez (PLD-La Vega), Sonia Mateo (PLD-Dajabon) and Amable Aristy (PRSC-La Altagracia). 26 of 29 senators present voted to accept the observations on the bill made by the President.

Senator Reinaldo Pared Perez (PLD-National District) said that he trusted Medina's guarantees that no mining would be carried in the country without meeting environmental sustainability requirements.

Meanwhile, Minister of Environment Bautista Rojas said that the provisions in the national park bill for compensation for expropriated lands would not be enough. He said that the Ministry would receive barely RD$6 million if the 10% increase in charges on environmental permits were applied. The bill established that these funds would be used to pay for the expropriation.

He said he would propose that the government request an evaluation by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) specialists about mining in the mountain area. The Medina government had already requested an opinion from specialists from the UNDP, and they found that the environmental impact study that had been presented by Falcondo when requesting the mining permit was incomplete. He also said that at the time the Ministry of Environment had notified Falcondo that public opinion was not satisfied with the pace of environmental rehabilitation of Loma Peguera and Loma Ortega and because of those doubts they would exercise responsible mining.



Adozona backs annulment of new national park
The Dominican Association of Free Zones (Adozona) has gone on record in support of President Medina's decision to veto the bill that was passed with a majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and that had declared the Loma Miranda a national park. The national park category would ban mining and other commercial use of the mountain.

Adozona said the decision was responsible, sensible and balanced. It says the veto sends a positive sign from the point of view of juridical security and foreign investment.

In a statement signed by Adozona president Aquiles Bermudez, the free zone association stated that while the decision to veto this legislative initiative may not be popular in many sectors of national life, the President has acted responsibly in the face of a matter that could have unprecedented repercussions for the state and the national interest. Adozona says the veto is reasonable in view of the doubts expressed by the head of state regarding its compatibility with the Constitution and because it enters into conflict with international commitments taken on by the country in matters of protection of investments.

Adozona also supports the President Medina's recommendation to postpone any decision on Loma Miranda and regarding any other extension in the national territory with mining potential until the Legislative Branch issues the law as ordered by the Constitution for the Land Use Plan of the Republic, to maximize the protection of national resources to support responsible mining development as other nations in the world and the region have done.

Most business organizations have expressed their approval of the presidential veto.


Reducing illiteracy from 13% to 5%
National Literacy Plan technical team coordinator Pedro Julio Castellanos says that according to estimates there are now only 150,000 illiterate people in the Dominican Republic. At the start of the Medina administration the plan was begun to reach out to an estimated 851,000 illiterate people over the age of 15. Castellanos said that the objective was to reduce the adult illiteracy rate from 13% to 5%.

The literacy plan has mobilized university, churches, business, unions, community boards and non-governmental organizations in a nationwide drive to teach people to read and write. Most people who have learned to read and write are women over the age of 60.

He says the final group of illiterates is more difficult to reach because it includes people who think it is too late, and that they cannot learn because of their age and other reasons. He said that one of the misconceptions illiterate people have is that they are dumb. "Illiterates are not dumb, they just haven't had opportunities," he said.

Castellanos said that after more than a year and a half the program has reached out to 80% of illiterate women, and the remainder are in the 70-year-old age range.

He explained that reaching out to men has been more challenging. The success rate is 60%, and the estimates are that the remaining 40% are less than 40% and most live in urban areas.

He appealed to anyone who knows someone who cannot read and write, to convince them to join the program. He said friends and family are more effective than TV ads or prompting by strangers.

The plan also offers the graduates of the literacy program the opportunity of continuing their studies with a special flexible basic learning program designed by the Ministry of Education. Infotep is also accepting the graduates in their technical training programs.

"If we get at least half to get a basic education and then and continue on to high school, this will be a very different country," he said.

Castellanos was speaking on the Tu Derecho a Saber radio program on Rumba 98.5FM.


National Scholastics Tests lead 35% of 8th graders to drop out of school
The Federation of Parents with Children in Private Public Schools (FEDEPADRES) says that the Deputy Minister for Technical and Pedagogical Services, Luis Enrique Matos, is out of touch with what they described as the "traumas" caused by the Standardized National Tests in the students in the 8th grade and in their senior year. Juan Avila Abreu, the Federation president, regretted that 35% of 8th grade students end their studies because of the National Tests. The Federation is therefore asking President Danilo Medina to instruct Minister of Education Carlos Amarante Baret to eliminate the Standardized National Tests and design another evaluation system that is not so traumatic for the students. The Education Minister has defended the tests, saying that they help monitor the students' learning levels.

Dominican Euroclear-able bonds for 2015
For next year, the government "is considering" an issue of US$1 billion in bonds on the international markets, reported J.P. Morgan investment bank analyst Franco Uccelli, in his latest trip notes, from 27 August. However, this new placement will have the particularity that the Dominican Republic will make its "world debut" for having issued bonds in its own currency, the Dominican peso, on these markets.

According to Uccelli, the government expects "at least half" of the total issue to be made in pesos, but it will be done under the laws of New York, and will be free of tax obligations. The world debut of bonds in pesos will be "Euroclear-able" and all the flows associated with currency will be denominated in dollars, Uccelli reveals.

The Euroclear-able bonds are those that can be transferred and liquidated through Euro Clear, a company of financial services headquartered in Brussels that specializes in the liquidation of securities, transactions, as well as the custody and maintenance of these securities. The government hopes to attract foreign investors to purchase the new bonds.

3 million renew ID in four months
42% of Dominicans have their new ID and voting cards (cedulas). The Central Electoral Board (JCE) says that of a possible 6,978,538 eligible voters, they have received requests for the new card from 2,919,958 people, of whom 2,431,023 have already been issued the card through 31 August 2014. 274,378 cards are ready for printing and another 83,032 are being processed. 4,190,105 still need to request the new card. The process began on 21 April. The new card is required to vote in the May 2016 election.

According to the process stats, 1,722,486 citizens reported address changes, 1,405,573 added their blood type, 618,754 changed their occupation, and 146,359 their civil status.

2,673,085 people changed data in their ID. Of these, 2,338 were former military personnel who changed their status to civilian. 210 foreigners were issued IDs as naturalized Dominicans.

The requests also include non-voting identification cards for 53,369 military personnel and 11,203 foreigners.

Of the total eligible voters, 3,547,057 are women and 3,431,481 men. Of these 1,950,756 are between the ages of 16 and 29, 1,502,487 in the 30-39 age group, 1,341,289 are between 40 and 49 and 2,183,997 are over the age of 50.

JCE president Roberto Rosario says he expects that by December 2014, some five million Dominicans will have obtained their ID, or around 70%.

JCE will try for consensus on PRM
The president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE), Roberto Rosario, has revealed that this institution will seek a decision by consensus among the political parties in relation to the change of name of the Dominican Social Alliance (ASD) to the Majority Revolutionary Party (PRM). The new party will be made up of the main PRD dissidents. Several object to the term "majority", saying that it could mislead voters.

Rosario has instructed the secretary of the institution, Hilario Espineira, the director of Communications, Felix Reyna, and the director of elections, Joel Lantigua, to communicate with all the parties so that they can be more flexible in their positions.

He stated that if they do not obtain a consensus, the JCE would take the decision this month. "This has not happened until now. As long as I have been here, there was one occasion when the Plenary of the Board has gone in a totally contrary sense to the parties, because the parties could take a position that was foolish because they want to make life impossible for others," he said.

He added that the Plenary of the JCE has never taken a decision to change the name of political organizations without listening to the parties. "The Plenary has never taken a decision without consulting the parties, they make the greatest effort so that the decision which is taken after having listened to them."

Taiwan donates ambulances for 911 system
The government of Taiwan has announced a donation of 84 ambulances and 500 motorcycles, along with other contributions, to be used by the 911 National System for Emergency Care and Safety.

Taiwanese ambassador Thomas Hou Ping Fu told Corripio media group reporters that his country has also donated US$10 million for the construction of five centers of Comprehensive Care for Disabled (CAID), to benefit children up to 10 years of age with physical disabilities. He said the centers would be installed in Santiago, San Juan de la Maguana, Higuey and the National District. He also highlighted that Taiwanese investors were involved in a major footwear factory in the country.

US Southern Command praises Dominican pilots
An article in the US military publication highlights that the US-Dominican partnership "Sovereign Skies" has been effective in halting illegal drug flights to the Dominican Republic.

The report states that in 2010, illegal drugs were being flown into the Dominican Republic at an alarming rate of more than 130 illegal flights per year with drug runners taking off in small, private planes from South America, mainly Venezuela, landing at remote strips near the Dominican coastline and offloading their illegal cargo. After the drugs were handed over, the pilot would be airborne and heading back for South America in a matter of minutes. This scenario repeated itself about every 72 hours. The drugs were imported with the purpose of exporting them to Europe, Central and North America.

As reported, the goals of Sovereign Skies were first to help the Dominican air force regain Dominican air sovereignty, second, to expand training in maritime interdiction operations, and third, to encourage all of the partner nations in the region toward a common aim, using similar tactics and hand-over procedures to find, track and stop illicit drug traffic.

It writes that the Dominican government decided to use the A-29B Super Tucano. The aircraft was deemed to be fast enough to intercept civilian aircraft suspected of trafficking illegal drugs, but also capable of flying slowly and loitering in an area long enough to track and monitor suspect aircraft. It can also be outfitted with surveillance equipment capable of operating in infrared or night vision modes.

Dominican air force pilots were trained in a military base at Columbia, South Carolina as part of the program.

As reported, the Sovereign Skies Program has yielded impressive results with a reduction of an average of 130 illicit air tracks per annum to zero illicit air tracks in more than three years. Additionally, the A-29Bs have aided in multiple sea-based intercepts resulting in the capture of an estimated 2,000 pounds of illegal substances worth upwards of US$22.5 million.

The military publication article states: "The Dominicans took it upon themselves to stem illicit trafficking and regain control of their airspace". It points out that the US and Colombia simply helped the initiatives thrive. Work has continued with the initial cadre training new A-29B pilots at a steady pace. This, it states, has led the Dominican government to regain air sovereignty for the country and serves as the example for the region on bringing illicit air traffic to a decisive halt.


Province of Santo Domingo only has 70 prosecutors
The Prosecutors Office for the province of Santo Domingo operates with only 70 of the 213 prosecutors needed for serving a population that now totals over 2.5 million. Nevertheless, according to the chief prosecutor Olga Dina Llaverias, the shortage of prosecutors does not keep her office from working to provide protection for the citizens. Dina Llaverias took part in the weekly luncheon meeting sponsored by El Caribe Multimedia, where she was interviewed by Osvaldo Santana and other reporters. The chief prosecutor for the province of Santo Domingo said that despite precarious conditions when it comes to salaries, healthcare and life insurance, a team of prosecutors continue to serve the people as they deal with homicide, drug trafficking, robberies and other violent crimes, as reported in El Nuevo Diario.

San Cristobal mayor accused of corruption
The Specialized Public Prosecution Office for Fighting Administrative Corruption (PEPCA) has intervened the San Cristobal city government for suspected corruption following a series of complaints. PEPCA director Laura Guerrero Pelletier said that they are seeing evidence of corruption in Mayor Raul Mondesi's administration. Mondesi is a former MLB player turned politician for the opposition PRD party. He subsequently left the PRD and ran as candidate for senator on the ruling PLD party ticket in the 2012 election. He was elected mayor in 2010 after serving as a legislator (PLD-San Cristobal) for several years.

Guerrero Pelletier said her office intervened with the aim of gathering documents relevant to the investigation and possible penal proceeding. The move is also backed by audits by the Chamber of Accounts, the government body that monitors government financial management.


Wesolowski victims hearing set for November
The Third Court of Instruction of the National District has postponed the hearing of evidence against former papal nuncio Josef Wesolowski, accused of pedophilia, until 5 November. Testimonies from a 13 and 17-year old boy are due to be given during the hearing. In the case, the former priest will be represented by a government-appointed lawyer. The two minors did not appear in the first hearing without giving explanations. Their mothers reported that Wesolowski had paid them for sexual favors at the Montesinos Park in the Colonial City in Santo Domingo. Public prosecutors say that when the investigation was opened, the former papal nuncio traveled to the Vatican to avoid questioning.

National District prosecutor Yeni Berenice Reynoso is in favor of trying the former priest in the country, unlike Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito who would prefer the hearing to take place in the former nuncio's home country, Poland, and has been cooperating with the authorities there. Wesolowski can only be tried once for the crimes of pedophilia. The Polish judiciary has already opened a case against another Polish priest who worked in Santiago community of Juncalito, Fr. Wojciech Gil, who was known to be close to the formal nuncio, and is also accused of pedophilia and left for Poland after being included in an investigative journalism TV report that also mentioned his links to the former papal nuncio.


Santiago doctor murdered
Police are investigating the death of a doctor who worked at the cancer unit at the Presidente Estrella Urena social security public hospital in Santiago after he was found dead in a trunk of a vehicle located halfway between La Vega and Bonao on the Duarte Highway. The victim was identified as Jose Alcantara Then.

The body was found scorched and had been gagged.

His wife, physician Lissette Guerrero asked the Police to conduct in-depth investigations. She said her husband was a good man, had no problems with anyone, and was dedicated to his profession and to saving lives. She said he would go from the house to the hospital and would occasionally attend cockfighting arenas. She said cockfighting was his passion.

Police Criminal Investigation Division Officers are investigating the case.


Is Miley Cyrus challenging her DR concert ban?
A report in E! News says that Miley Cyrus has filed papers in a Dominican court claiming that the entertainment and radio commission (CNEPR) ban on her show in Santo Domingo on 13 September 2014 as part of her Bangerz Tour violates the Constitution. The CNEPR banned the concert on the grounds that the pop singer is known to perform acts in her show that go against morals and customs that are punishable by Dominican law.

A source told E! News: "Miley wants to defend artistic expression for all artists."

Cyrus is scheduled to perform in Puerto Rico on 11 September, prior to heading for Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.


DR loses to US 106-71 in Fiba Championship
The Dominican national men's basketball team, ranked 26th in the world, put up a good fight to lose to the USA team 106-71 in Bilbao, Spain during the FIBA World Championship. The DR today goes up against Turkey, ranked 7th in the world.

The DR hopes to be one of 16 teams playing in the second round eliminatory. Of the 16 teams, nine have already qualified -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Greece, Lithuania, Senegal, Slovenia, tournament hosts Spain and defending champions USA. The next round starts on Saturday, 6 September in Barcelona and Madrid.

The DR plays in Group C where only the USA has qualified for the second round. The second, third and fourth place need to be determined on Thursday, 4 September 2014.

The Dominican Republic can finish in second place if the team beats Turkey and if the USA beats Ukraine. If the DR loses the game to Turkey and Ukraine also loses to the US, the DR will finish in third or fourth place.

The final game of Turkey vs. Dominican Republic can be seen in the DR on Channel 21 at 3:30pm and then in the evening at 9pm.

Dominican-born Mary Joe Fernandez honored by US Tennis Association
On Monday, 1 September 2014, the United States Tennis Association awarded Dominican-born 43-year old Mary Joe Fernandez its 2014 USTA President's Award at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The USTA President's Award is given to people who contribute exemplary service to the public interest of the sport of tennis.

"Mary Joe Fernandez is truly one of the game's greats and has been a major contributor in our efforts to grow the game," said David Haggerty, USTA chairman of the board and president, in a statement.

Mary Joe Fernandez is the Dominican born player who has reached the highest ranking in tennis. She is also the only Dominican to have won gold and bronze medals in an Olympic Games, albeit competing for the United States. The daughter of a Spanish father and a Cuban mother, she grew up in Miami, Florida.

She began playing at the professional level at the age of 14, and was the youngest player to win a main draw match in 1985.

As a player, Fernandez was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in both singles and doubles, and won seven WTA singles titles n including the 1996 French Open and the 1991 Australian Open. She also won three Olympic medals: two golds in women's doubles (Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996), and one bronze in singles (1992). She also served as the US women's team captain in the 2012 London Olympics.

She lives with her husband, Tony Godsick, and their two children, Isabella and Nicholas, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Invest in the DR at the JW Marriott
The Center for Export and Investment "Invest in the Dominican Republic" forum opens today, Thursday 4 September 2014 with the attendance of President Danilo Medina at the new meetings facilities at the JW Marriott. CEI-RD says that participants from more than 30 countries have registered. "This is a one of its kind event in the Caribbean and Latin America that proposes to make investment the vector of growth in the Dominican Republic and contribute so that major international companies can learn more about our country and its advantages, this being the greatest effort to promote investment carried out so far," said Jean-Alain Rodriguez, director of the CEI-RD.

The forum will take place today and tomorrow, 4 and 5 September 2014.


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

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