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Daily News - Thursday, 25 September 2014

President Medina calls for development and aid to Haiti
President Danilo Medina says that the people are at the center of Dominican government public policies. Medina wants a Dominican Republic that is a developed and prosperous country, where equal opportunity is not an ideal but an everyday reality.

Addressing the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday, 24 September 2014, President Medina said that a great national pact with education as the priority had been agreed on in order to achieve this goal. He recalled that in his administration the budget for public education has been doubled so that it is now at 4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He told the assembly that the greatest expansion of school infrastructure in our history has been achieved with the extra money for education. Medina also spoke of his pride in being able to announce that by the year's end, thanks to the hard work of thousands of volunteers, he expected to declare the Dominican Republic "free of illiteracy".

Medina spoke of progress in the area of health, including the elimination of charges at public hospitals. He said that each year around 450,000 affiliates have been added to the state subsidized health programs.

In parallel with this policy, Medina stated that his government is prioritizing support to small farmers. "We have been working for two years straight, visiting rural communities every week, listening to the community representatives and searching with them for solutions that range from supporting them with credit, to training and infrastructure," he said.

The President told his audience that thanks to these and other measures, poverty in the Dominican Republic has been reduced by six percentage points in the last 18 months, that means that 568,061 people have been taken out of poverty.

In his address to the UN, Medina also issued a call to the international community to help Haiti document its citizens in its own territory as well as the Dominican Republic. He stressed that documentation was the first and indispensable step towards enjoying a complete package of rights.

The President stressed that one of the main actions that his government carries out in order to strengthen Dominican sovereignty and guarantee the rights of the people who live in the country, is to provide them with the documentation to which they are entitled. "As you well know, many of these people are Haitians. And in order to normalize their status in the territory of the Dominican Republic, they must first have identity documents from their country of origin, which many, unfortunately, do not," he declared.


Medina meets George Soros in New York
President Danilo Medina met with business magnate and philanthropist George Soros on Tuesday, 23 September 2014, as part of his agenda in New York City where he traveled to attend the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations. As reported by the Presidency, Medina and Soros spent about half an hour discussing Soros' interest in the National Foreigner Legalization Plan, and Soros expressed his willingness to support initiatives aimed at providing Haitians with legal documentation. Most Haitians living in Haiti do not have legal documentation, which has caused major problems when they immigrate to the Dominican Republic where identity papers are required.

The Presidency said that Soros also showed an interest in the early childhood programs being implemented by the government. Medina described the program to build 100 daycare centers nationwide.

Administrative Minister of the Presidency Jose Ramon Peralta was also present at the meeting.

Hungarian-born Soros is considered to be among the world's 10 richest men, with a fortune estimated at more than US$24 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is the founder of the Open Society Foundations, a grant-making network that aims to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights and economic, legal and social reform.



Traders frustrated by slow Colonial City renovation
Residents and business owners in the Colonial City are experiencing the hardest of times. The reconstruction works have blocked streets with building materials that even prevent pedestrians from walking around the area. According to El Nuevo Diario, the renovation program that began in April 2012 has included 42 buildings and other infrastructure with more than US$35 million invested so far in the urban renewal project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Dominican government. The Ministry of Tourism is managing the project.

To catch of glimpse of what the Colonial City will look like once the project is completed, check out the southern section of Arzobispo Merino Street that is almost finished, with works now continuing on the section north of Calle El Conde.


FREE baseball in Santiago
After four consecutive years of complete success subsidizing beverages and foods in the Estadio Cibao, the Aguilas Cibaenas, with the support of several companies, made official an unprecedented action for baseball fans yesterday, Wednesday 24 September 2014: free access to the bleachers during the regular season.

Aguilas Cibaenas vice president and communications director, Juan Sanchez Peralta (Juanchy) made the announcement to the press, saying that the initiative was an expansion of the program in which several companies sell beverages and food at cost to attract fans to the ball park.

Sanchez Peralta said that the objective is for fans who would spend RD$200 while watching a game at the colmado to come to the stadium instead, where they can watch the game live with less expensive beverages and food.

He said that the first four years of the project have been a complete success, with the team maintaining the highest average attendance in the league. The first game at the Estadio Cibao this baseball season will be played on 19 October 2014, when the Gigantes visit the Aguilas in the Estadio Cibao at 5pm.

New MLB offices at the Americana
Major League Baseball has opened a new office in the Dominican Republic on the 4th floor of the Ferreteria Americana on Av. John F. Kennedy in Santo Domingo. MLB head of operations Rob Manfred visited for the opening event. MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre, MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng, and MLB director of Dominican operations Rafael Oscar Perez were also present.

The overall mission of MLB's central office in the Dominican Republic is to facilitate and enhance the development of baseball operations in the Dominican Republic, ensure that the 30 MLB clubs that operate here are in compliance with laws and mandates of the DR and the rules of MLB, and effect change through sustainable projects that help to improve surrounding communities.

Manfred said that the office is an extension of the New York office. It covers an area of 1,139 sq. meters.

No guns in Chamber of Deputies
Chamber of Deputies president Abel Martinez has instructed the congressional security department to prevent deputies and visitors from entering the chamber with firearms. "As established by the regulations no deputy can enter with firearms. No deputy, nobody can, not even security, can enter here in the chamber with firearms," stated Martinez during an ordinary session of the Chamber.

He said that each block of deputies should designate the individuals who will enter the chamber in order to prevent situations that could get out of hand. He revealed that they have received complaints from deputies because citizens go to their desks to ask for something but "thank God" nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. He acknowledged that the use of the dining hall has escaped from the hands of security. "It is not a restaurant for family and friends," and he said that even the hotel where deputies from the provinces spend the night has received complaints and was considering rescinding the contract due to the violations. Deputy Eugenio Cedeno complained that their elevators and bathrooms were being used by unauthorized persons, while Marino Collante asked his colleagues not to degrade their positions, criticizing the fact that some leave the dining hall with take-out containers.

Corruption in Super Tucano jet purchase according to WSJ
United States and Brazilian authorities are investigating the sale of airplanes by Embraer SA, through bribes allegedly made to high-ranking military officers in the Dominican Republic and Argentina. Investigations into the purchase by the Dominican state of eight Super Tucano aircraft for US$92 million during the President Leonel Fernandez government have revealed that the Brazilian company could have incurred in bribery in order to push through the sale.

According to revelations in The Wall Street Journal and documents reviewed by the US Department of Justice, the prosecutors have found evidence that Embraer executives approved a US$3.5 million bribe for a high-ranking Dominican military officer. Colonel Carlos Piccini, who is now retired, was the Armed Forces projects director in 2008 after being expelled from the military for 10 years.

According to the newspaper, the investigations found that part of the US$3.4 million was given to an unnamed Dominican senator. The payment was supposedly made through a phantom company in Uruguay, according to the investigators.



Church awaits papal bull replacing Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez is awaiting a Papal Bull announcing his replacement as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Santo Domingo, reports El Caribe. "The Apostolic Nuncio, Jude Thaddeus Okolo, has completed the necessary consultations in each ecclesiastic province and the information gathered on the candidates to the position have been sent to the Holy See," reported the source. "What is certain is that Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez will be replaced this year and has already been told of this, since the Nuncio has consulted the Archbishop-elect and he accepted his choice."

Dominguez Brito dispute widespread use of arms by Haitians
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito has dismissed claims that many Haitians in this country are armed. "Neither with a legal permit nor in a general sense," he stated, in reply to a question about a warning from the Minister of Interior and Police, Jose Ramon Fadul, who said that all Haitians who possess illegal weapons would be disarmed of their firearms or knives. The AG referred to the incident in the 27 de Febrero barrio in Santo Domingo where a Haitian was killed, saying "a regrettable incident occurred, where apparently there was an excess and police abuse, and where also there was an unacceptable abuse against authority by a group of people."

He said that these people took actions that are not tolerated in a state of law. "This is to say, that there were two mistakes, two violations of the law and both have to be punished, this is my position." Dominguez Brito said that they could never permit stones to be thrown at the authorities. He also revealed the existence of information concerning an alleged "toll" (a Dominican euphemism for payoffs) and extortion by police agents, as reported in Diario Libre.

Judge orders arrest of policeman who killed Haitian in 27 de Febrero barrio
National District judge Margarita Cristo Cristo has sent 52-year old second police lieutenant Jose Manuel Suriel Diaz to three months' preventive custody in La Victoria Jail. Suriel is accused of murdering Haitian Jassainte Cedyeu during an incident in the 27 de Febrero barrio in Santo Domingo.

Orlando Santos of the Attorney General office's internal affairs department presented the accusation, which states that police agent Santo Vicente Ibet Rosario, accompanied by the accused, arrived at Calle 15 at the corner with Calle 16 in the 27 de Febrero neighborhood on a motorized unit and upon seeing the victim engaged in unauthorized gambling games with other Haitians, dismounted with the "alleged intention" of advising them to cease the illegal practice.

At the time, the group ambushed the police agents who fired a warning shot that was ignored by the attackers, leading to a struggle between the agents and the Haitians, which resulted in the shot that killed Cedyeu, as reported in El Dia.

The authorities are also investigating claims that other Haitians in the area violently prevented the authorities from taking the body for the mandatory autopsy.

Six killed in two police shootouts
Four of nine alleged criminals traveling in two vehicles were killed in a shootout with police after they reportedly resisted arrest yesterday, Wednesday 24 September 2014. The incident occurred in El Indio, in the San Francisco de Macoris province, near Madre Vieja in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province (Nagua). Two of the alleged criminals were carrying Dominican Army and Armada identification cards, but the authorities say they were probably false. Two revolvers and an automatic pistol, two Kevlar vests with the National Police logo, police uniforms, ten tie wraps (used to bind hands), and four black caps were found in the possession of the deceased.

In another incident that occurred at the entrance to a business known as Casa Blanca in Monte Adentro on the highway between Santiago and Licey, two other criminals wanted for several crimes were shot dead in a confusing incident. Versions of the shooting vary with some witnesses saying the deceased were victims of a rival gang and other reports pointing at police agents from the Criminal Investigations Department. The two men, Eduardo Enrique Bonilla Vega (El Menor), 18, and Jean Carlos Andres Rodriguez, 22, are thought to be fellow gang members of Juan Manuel Taveras (Chucho) who was killed on Sunday 21 September 2014 while being pursued for stealing a motorcycle.

Authorities and Church agree on arrest
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito has described the house arrest that the Vatican has imposed on the former papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, who is accused of pederasty, as "an act of justice."

"We wish to stress the importance of this punishment for the Dominican Republic," he said. Dominguez Brito said that crimes such as those attributed to the former dean of the diplomatic corps merit drastic punishment. Dominguez Brito emphasized the cooperation of the Attorney General office with the Vatican state as well as Polish authorities, in the process of investigation into sexual abuse of vulnerable minors.

He said that according to the Vienna Convention, the process would take place in the Vatican. He said that cooperation between the Dominican State and the Vatican was what had led to the decision against Wesolowski. He recalled that all of the documents requested were sent overseas, where a judge of Instruction from the Vatican collected the evidence. "If necessary, there will be a presence of the Justice Department on any scenario, both in this as well as any other case such as that of Poland."

Wesolowski faces a maximum sentence of seven years in jail when the trial is held later this year or in early 2015.

Wesolowski served as papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to August 2013 when he left the country abruptly, just as TV investigative reports focusing on pederasty in the Dominican Republic were about to be aired. The international press has been covering the story, as Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Catholic cleric to be arrested in connection with this type of crime.



Betibu, 1,000 Times Good Night and Ida at film festival
The Fine Arts Novocentro Film Festival opened Tuesday, 23 September 2014 with "Yo soy la salsa," a film by Andres Vanderhorst, directed by Manuel Villalona.

The film festival continues through 8 October 2014 and some 50 films will be shown. Several of the films have already won awards in festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, Cesar, Goya, San Sebastian, Havana and Cartagena.

The films include:

Betibu, a police thriller (Argentina, director Miguel Cohan), 1,000 Times Good Night (Norway, director Erik Poppe), Cantinflas and Libertador, representing Mexico and Venezuela in the 2015 Oscars foreign language competition, and "Ida" a drama (Poland director Pawel Pawlikowski).

Six short films by talented Dominicans will be competing this year and the winner will attend the Havana Film Festival in December 2014.

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

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