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Daily News - Monday, 13 October 2014

Altagracia Guzman is new Health Minister
President Danilo Medina has appointed the director of the state sector health provider Senasa, Altagracia Guzman Marcelino to replace Freddy Hidalgo at the helm of the Ministry of Public Health. This will be the second time she heads the department of health. Hidalgo had been in the post since the start of the Medina administration in August 2012.

President Medina also appointed a new hospital director, Dr. Jose Miguel Ferreras to replace Dr. Rosa Nieves Paulino. As part of a new focus on health issues, the Presidency announced measures to decentralize health services, proceeding as established by the General Health Law 42-01 and the Social Security Law 87-01.

Guzman headed the commission that investigated the most recent 11 deaths on a weekend at the Robert Reid Cabral Hospital, the country's leading pediatrics hospital. The story provoked widespread outrage after its initial publication by Listin Diario. It was also revealed that the high number of deaths was normal on weekends.

The media highlighted that the problems at the hospital are not new. While the commission mentioned medical negligence, the media focused on delays in implementing primary care programs to reduce the number of patients and the need for a much larger budget at the hospital. The situation in the country's public hospitals got worse when the Medina administration ordered a stop to the practice of charging patients a so-called "recovery fee" that enabled the hospitals to make ends meet.

A pediatrician, Guzman was appointed minister of Public Health in 1997 during the first PLD government, under then-President Leonel Fernandez.

She has six children and is married to Dr. Fernando Sanchez Martinez. She is a former president of the Dominican Medical Association (today CMD), a graduate in medicine from UASD and a former professor of pediatrics at the state university, with a specialty in Pediatrics at the Robert Reid Cabral Hospital. She also specialized in infectology in Mexico. She was involved in drafting the General Health Law 42-01, and was a legislator (PLD-National District for the ruling PLD party from 1994-97) where she chaired the chamber health commission.



Problems also affect Santiago children's hospital
Listin Diario, the newspaper that broke the story on the weekend deaths at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital now reports that the situation at the leading children's public hospital in Santiago, the Arturo Grullon is not much better. Hospital staff went on strike last week in demand of better working conditions, resulting in an agreement with then Minister of Public Health Freddy Hidalgo.

Legislators said that the budget assigned to the Ministry of Public Health is most likely to be increased in the review of the budget now underway.


DR opens new embassy offices in Jamaica
The Dominican Republic has moved its embassy to a new address at 85 Hope Road in Kingston. Jamaican Foreign Relations Minister Arnaldo Brown and Dominican Ambassador Jose Tomas Ares German headed the ceremony, which was also attended by Jamaican ambassador in the Dominican Republic, Paul Robotham.

Ambassador Ares Guzman said that the new location is part of the new plans for renewal of Dominican foreign relations that includes strengthening relationships with other Caribbean nations.


AMET will stop vehicles with tinted windows
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) has announced plans to stop all vehicles with tinted windows, with the exception of the front window. Tints need to allow for complete visibility of the inside of the vehicle. The director of Ground Transport (Direccion General de Transito Terrestre) Luis Estrella said that the measure, which is being introduced for both health and safety reasons, is included in Art. 156 of Law 241 on Transit.


Re-election topic is to distract Dominicans
The executive director of civil society group Citizenship Participation (Participacion Ciudadana) Rosalia Sosa speculates that all the talk about re-election is merely a ploy by the government to distract Dominicans from focusing on more pressing problems.

In her opinion, despite President Danilo Medina's high popularity, there are no conditions for yet another constitutional change.

Sosa made the statement after PLD director Ramon Ventura Camejo said that the party Political Committee should review proposals for a change in the 2010 Constitution to enable Medina to run for re-election. The PLD holds the majority in Congress.


Felix Bautista drops suit against Sunland book author
PLD senator Felix Bautista has reached an agreement with economist Jaime Aristy Escuder and lawyer Jose Alejandro Ayuso to drop the defamation suit following the publication of a book on the Sunland financing operation described in the "The Dark Side of Sun Land."

Aristy and Ayuso signed a 10-part agreement:

1) Jaime Aristy Escuder, author of "The Dark Side of the Sun Land," acknowledges that the book was not written with defamatory intent or in bad faith.

2) The parties acknowledge that the book was prepared using information available to date, mainly published in the media and testimonies.

3) Jaime Aristy Escuder, author of "The Dark Side of the Sun Land", recognizes that documents that became available after the publication clarified inaccuracies contained in the book and are aware of judicial decisions in the Dominican Republic, such as resolution 03093 that stated that "there has been no violation of any of the standards that would make them punishable."

4) The parties are made aware that a hearing carried out by the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors (CODIA), determined that works performed on the contract signed by the Dominican State with Sun Land for the UASD constructions were carried out at "reasonable market prices, taking into consideration the cost of equipment and technology."

5) The parties are made aware that, according to court decision 03093 "any evidence of criminal responsibility is discarded regarding officials responsible for the hiring and supervision of these works." The legal decision states that the Dominican state was not affected and on the contrary the works have been used for the social purposes for which they were designed.

6) The parties acknowledge that the legal process of "discovery" allowed that the information presented in the book be confirmed and clarified.

7) Jose Alejandro Ayuso stated that he wrote the foreword in the book "The Dark Side of the Sun Land" using its content and notes the statements and court decisions cited above.

8) The parties agree to end the litigation that was underway in Miami, Florida courts.

9) The parties desist from bringing any legal action in Dominican or foreign jurisdiction regarding the book or its content.

10) The Sun Land recognizes the validity of statements previously mentioned in this agreement, adheres to the same and agrees not to sue the Dominican state for this case.

Bautista sued Aristy and Ayuso after the book was released in Florida.

The announcement of the end of the suit coincides with media attention on the legal case against the senator being brought by Prosecutor General Francisco Dominguez Brito. Recently, the Attorney General Office announced it has placed a legal embargo on a large number of assets reportedly belonging to the Sociedad Inmobiliaria Rofi, SRL, of which senator Felix Bautista (PLD-San Juan de la Maguana) is the leading known shareholder. The move came as part of an investigation underway by the Specialized Prosecutors for Prosecution of Administrative Corruption (PEPCA). It includes the confiscation of 40 buildings with eight apartments each, a high-rise building with 16 floors and another with 14 floors. The list of 100 properties spans the country.

Diario Libre reported that the senator has submitted a legal recourse through the Supreme Court of Justice. Judge Frank Soto Sanchez is in charge of hearing the request.

Felix Bautista is the organizational secretary of the ruling PLD party and is known as one of former President Leonel Fernandez's closest aides. He is best known for his rags to riches story. In his first public worth statement upon entering government during the first Fernandez administration (1996-2000) he registered assets of half a million pesos, and when he was sworn in as senator in 2010 he declared RD$16 million in assets. Since 2014, the Prosecutor General Office says the preliminary research links the senator to more than RD$3 billion in assets in around 158 properties.





Biometric data captured on 74,775 immigrants
Interviewed by Julio Martinez Pozo on the Toque Final TV program, the Ministry of Interior and Police deputy minister for social affairs Washington Gonzalez Nina said that 74,775 foreigners have entered their biometric data at the 24 National Foreigner Legalization Plan offices. Most of them are undocumented Haitian immigrants.


Army top brass survive serious helicopter crash
Army chief Jose Matos de la Cruz and the director of military intelligence (G2) Victor Mercedes Cepeda, Commander of the Fifth Brigade of the Army based in Barahona General Milton de Jesus Frias Gomez, and pilot Rodriguez Romero survived a helicopter crash-landing in a rural area of Pedernales in the southwest of the country on Friday, 10 October 2014. The helicopter, which suffered major damage, had flown from the Army First Brigade at Km. 25 Duarte Highway in Santo Domingo.

The pilot and his passengers were taken to the Elio Fiallo public hospital in Pedernales.

The high-ranking officers were reportedly on a routine inspection trip as part of new efforts for improving patrols of the Dominican border with Haiti. Recently, the army has reported arrests for people smuggling and contraband at the border.

The Ministry of Defense has attributed the crash to mechanical failure when the Bell OH-58 tried to land.

As reported, the helicopter suffered major damage. The tail boom chopped off just forward of the stabilizer and at the root attachment. Photos show that the helicopter broke up into several parts.



Cigarettes confiscated on border
On Friday 10 October 2014 the National Police reported the seizure of 190 boxes of Capital brand cigarettes with 10,000 units in each box that had been smuggled into the country. The cigarettes were stored in a private home on Prolongacion Desiderio Arias corner Dr. Defillo in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of Bella Vista. 39-year old Victor Alejandro Zoquiel Cabrera, who was on the premises at the time, was arrested. The cigarettes, believed to have been imported from Haiti, have an estimated sale value of RD$9.5 million. Smuggled cigarettes are sold for around three pesos less than the regular brands.


Violent crimes among Haitians spread fear
A report in Listin Diario today, Monday 13 October 2014, points to extreme violence in growing numbers of crimes that are said to involve Haitians, mostly against their compatriots. The newspaper reports that this year, more than 30 brutal murders have affected Dominican neighborhoods, spreading fear among residents. The victims were murdered with machetes, knives, pipes, sticks, firearms, while others were beheaded, dismembered, limbs mutilated, or were burned or strangled. The victims include elderly people and babies, and teachers who were knifed, raped and strangled. The machete is the weapon of choice for these crimes that are attributed mainly to jealousy, robbery, revenge and rape.

The newspaper publishes a long list of incidents involving Haitians from Police reports.


None injured in small plane accident at Punta Cana International
Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) reports there were no injuries in the landing difficulties experienced by an Air Century (ACSA) Jet Stream plane that landed at the airport around 8:45pm on Sunday, 12 October 2014. The plane arrived from San Juan in Puerto Rico. The airport reported the plane experienced an incident that caused it to leave the runway and catch fire. The airport emergency equipment responded to prevent major safety problems at the airport.


DR fifth in the FIVB World Championship
The Dominican Republic national women's volleyball team tied for fifth place with Russia in the FIVB World Championship 2014 that ended on Sunday, 12 October 2014 in Milan, Italy with a win by the United States (ranked 2nd in the world). China (ranked 5th) was second, and Brazil (ranked 1st) was third, followed by Italy (ranked 4th), Russia (ranked 5th) and the Dominican Republic (ranked 10th), which tied for fifth.

In its final game against Brazil, the DR ended 25-19 25-21 24n17. The scores are impressive considering that the Dominican women scored seven more points against Brazil than the powerhouse of China (ranked 5th in the world) that had lost to Brazil 25-19, 25-16, 25n15 days earlier. The Dominican women earned the title of "Queens of the Caribbean" and "the surprise" of the tournament for their consistent wins.

The FIVB World Championship is regarded as the second most important volleyball tournament in the world. It is the oldest and most prestigious of all the international events organized by the International Volleyball Federation.



All eyes on tropical storm Gonzalo
Rains are forecast for the Dominican Republic as a tropical wave approaches, mainly affecting the northeast and southeast. Next, tropical storm Gonzalo is forecast to cross Puerto Rico and then convert to hurricane status as it moves north. As a result, the east coast of the Dominican Republic could be affected by heavy rains and high surf from the passage of hurricane Gonzalo as of Wednesday, 15 October 2014, say weather forecasters.

It is expected to pass more than 250 km from the coast but should be monitored closely. The storm could affect flights to the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico and travelers should keep in close contact with the airlines.

For background on hurricanes in the Dominican Republic and links to follow the storm, see http://dr1.com/weather/hurricanes.shtml

US Embassy reaches out to Puerto Plata expats
The US consulate is inviting US citizens living in Puerto Plata to a meeting with US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James (Wally) Brewster on Wednesday, 15 October at 10am at the Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club, Cofresi Beach, Puerto Plata.

US citizens will be also able to meet with embassy representatives from US Citizenship and Immigration Service, Social Security Administration, Foreign Commercial Service, and American Citizen Services that will be present to provide information about their services and answer general questions.

The Embassy is requesting that those attending notify their attendance by emailing: [email protected] with name and passport number before 5pm on Tuesday, 14 October 2014. Reservations for the event may also be made by calling the Puerto Plata Consular Agency at 809 586-8017, 809 586-4204, or 809 586-8023.

The Embassy says that attendees should arrive at the Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club by 9:45am on Wednesday and present their US passport in order to enter. The meeting will be held in the resort's main administrative building in the third floor restaurant.


India Gastronomy Festival at Santo Domingo Hilton
The Embassy of India in the Dominican Republic is holding an India Gastronomical Festival at the Santo Domingo Hilton this week (13-17 Friday October). Indian Ambassador Chinthapally Rajasekhar and India's honorary consul in the Dominican Republic Campos de Moya are inviting food lovers to sample the flavors of Indian cuisine.

Duke of Veragua to lecture on Columbus' navigation skills
The European Studies Center at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra at its Santo Domingo campus is inviting the public to a master talk by Duke of Veragua, direct descendant of Christopher Columbus on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 at 6pm (Salon Octagonal AO-3, Edificio A, Av. Abraham Lincoln, Campus Santo Tomas de Aquino).

Cristobal Colon de Carvajal, the Duke of Veragua will give a detailed presentation on historical topics and the skills and art of navigation in the 15th and 16th centuries, as part of a series of talks on "The Enigma of the Origin of Christopher Columbus".

EFE 75th anniversary photos opens at MAM
As part of the celebrations of "Spain", an exhibition of photographs by EFE staff, to mark the Spanish international news agency's 75th anniversary, opens at the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo today, Monday 13 October 2014. The photographs focus on events in Spain and Latin America throughout the lifetime of the Spanish news service. Minister of Culture Jose Antonio Rodriguez, EFE president Jose Antonio Vera and Spanish Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Jaime Lacadena will be attending the opening ceremony.

"EFE, 75 years in photos" is a tribute to the agency's journalistic mission, a silent and often anonymous task that has contributed to society's understanding of current events in a professional, rigorous and truthful way.

The exhibition features 75 images by photographers working for the news agency, 50 of which depict historic world events and 25 of which are devoted exclusively to the Dominican Republic, where EFE has maintained a bureau for about 40 years.

One of the historic events depicted in the public exhibition will be the 23 October 1940 meeting between Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and Germany's Adolf Hitler in Hendaye near the French-Spanish border.

It also displays photos of Latin American cultural figures - including Mexican actor Mario Moreno ("Cantinflas"), Cuban singer Celia Cruz, and Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Other images will depict the killing of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and Nicaragua's devastating 1972 earthquake.

Sports personalities and political figures - such as former Cuban President Fidel Castro - and other leaders are also part of the exhibition.

The photos also cover current affairs, with President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic.

The exhibition is part of the month-long cultural events program (25 September through 30 October 2014) sponsored by the Embassy of Spain in Santo Domingo. Other highlights include Spanish films, theater, sport, dance, fashion, gastronomy and lectures on Spanish history.

Spanish Ambassador Jaime Lacadena says that the aim is to celebrate the ties that unite Dominicans and Spaniards. The Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in the Dominican Republic, Casa de Espana and Spanish Embassy organizations are taking part in the events.

Covi Quintana, Maridalia, Victor Victor and Pamel Mancebo
Hard Rock Cafe at the Blue Mall in Santo Domingo presents Covi Quintana and her special guests this evening, Monday, 13 October 2014. Maridalia Hernandez (ballads), Victor Victor (ballads and bachata) and Pamel Mancebo (ballads) starting at 8pm. Free admission.

Listen to their music at:





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

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