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Daily News - Monday, 24 November 2014

Navarro: Time to revise the IACHR
Foreign Minister Andres Navarro says it is time for regional bodies like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Commission of Human Rights to be revised. He commented that times have changed and that both these entities were created when dictatorships prevailed in Latin America. Speaking on the D'Agenda TV show with Hector Herrera Cabral, he said that it is natural and reasonable that at an international level some sectors should be discussing the possibility of those hemispheric organizations being revised and redesigned.

He said that the Dominican government is concerned over the interpretations that both the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have made of their role and the limits that should be established for exercising this.

Several regional states do not participate, including the United States and Caricom states. The IACHR is an independent organ of the OAS that was created in 1959 to monitor, to promote and protect human rights in the Americas.


Extended school days create new jobs
The government has contracted 426 small and medium-sized suppliers for lunch at public schools that have adopted the extended school day, as reported in El Caribe. National Institute of Student Welfare (Instituto Nacional de Bienestar Estudiantil) director Rene Jaquez says that in this school year they have delivered more than 661,000 food servings to these schools, reaching 55% of the public school population.

The Institute has contracted for lunch to be provided to 814,000 public school students. The contracts are worth RD$3.35 billion of RD$8.34 billion food contracts to public schools. The companies provide 600,000 lunch servings at the schools nationwide. In rural schools, 148 companies supply the raw ingredients.

Jaquez says that most of the companies were informal operators that are now working formally and operate with quality standards.

He said that in some cases, companies have almost doubled their numbers of employees. This has also had a trickle-down effect on other suppliers, such as those that assemble the school kitchens, sell propane gas, etc.

He says the government has been paying on time and this has encouraged companies to seek out the government as a client.

Jaquez says that for the next school year they will be distributing school uniforms during the vacation period. 87 companies are authorized to sell uniforms and school supplies to the government. The uniforms are distributed to students at the schools in the most impoverished areas. A budget of RD$513.4 billion is available for this item.

The official says they are prepared for growth.


911 responds to 200,000 cases in six months
Dispatchers have sent out 911 units to respond to 200,000 emergencies in the Greater Santo Domingo area since its start six months ago. The pilot program has been praised in both the DR and abroad. There are now plans to extend it to Santiago. As of January 2015, residents in Greater Santo Domingo will also be able to call the service to report cases of noise pollution.



More short courses to be added to UASD
The rector of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) has told Diario Libre that the university's greatest challenge is to introduce more short technical courses. Students with low grades would be encouraged to take this option. The courses would include careers in health, such as dieticians, radiology technicians and nursing aides, as well as in construction and farming.

He said the aim is to end the situation where some students spend as long as eight years enrolled at the university without graduating.

This will enable medical students to graduate with at least a technical level. "We need to give them the option because if we expel them, we are throwing them to crime," he commented. He said students with technical skills would find it easier to get jobs compared to some professionals.

He said that the pre-college studies are a big burden for the university because of the marked educational deficiencies in most of the students from public schools.

He commented that the university is graduating engineers that will never build a house. He concluded these students will be better off if they graduate as a skilled plumber, electrician or master builder, as these are skills that are in need.


Educating drivers
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) has announced the end of Road Safety Week during which more than 60,000 people were stopped for violating traffic laws. Instead of getting a fine they were given the opportunity to listen to the agents explain the laws that were broken. Last week, more than 20,000 flyers were distributed to encourage drivers to respect the law.


Health providers make too much
The president of the Association of Industries of Herrera and the Province of Santo Domingo (AEIH) Victor Castro has described the 167% yield obtained by pension plan administrators (AFPs) as of September 2014 as shameful and tantamount to robbery.

Castro said no legal company in the DR has such high profits, and it is genuine usury when the yield workers receive on these funds is considered.

"This is simply robbery and it is almost as if employees and employers worked to the point of exhaustion to maintain lazy slackers who in this case are the pension fund managers, who receive all privileges without making much of an effort," said the business leader.

He criticized Congress for the delay in reducing the commissions charged by the administrators that this year has represented RD$1.13 billion.


Domain extinction bill studied in Senate
A bill for domain extinction submitted by senators Adriano Sanchez Roa, Julio Cesar Valentin and Charlie Mariotti is currently under study in the Senate. The bill is known by its name in Spanish "Proyecto de Ley sobre Juicios de Extincion de Dominio para el Decomiso Civil de Bienes Ilicitos."

A court order would be required for an expropriation to take place. The state prosecution service, nevertheless, would be responsible for carrying out an inventory and safeguarding the assets to prevent them from being transferred to third parties during the hearing process.

Recently drug traffickers who have made plea bargains in the United States have returned to claim millions of dollars worth of assets after serving short sentences. The bill would allow the state to expropriate goods acquired with illicitly obtained money. The bill would also attack administrative corruption. As drafted, it would be applicable to all government officials, both elected and appointed, whether or not they have worked for autonomous, civilian or military institutions. It will also affect spouses and other relatives.



Attorney General wants hold on sale of alleged Felix Bautista assets
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito and special prosecutor for administrative corruption Laura Guerrero Pelletier are warning property title registrars in the National District and Santiago to hold back from implementing an order issued by special judge of instruction of the Supreme Court of Justice Frank Soto to lift the restraints for sale on 35 properties said to belong to senator and PLD party organizational secretary Felix Bautista.

In a sheriff notification, Dominguez Brito said that the term for appealing judge Soto's decision has not expired and that the implementation of the court order is thus suspended during this term while the corresponding jurisdiction studies the matter.

Dominguez Brito says that the restraints were registered during the ongoing investigation into "serious acts of corruption and asset laundering" that affect the properties alleged to have been illicitly acquired by Felix Bautista.



The good life of an extradited drug dealer
A report in El Dia today, Monday 24 November 2014, focuses on the good life drug traffickers can continue to enjoy after returning to the Dominican Republic following deportation from the US where their cases were heard.

El Dia reports that the people who had risked their lives to ensure the arrest of the criminals are now experiencing frustration and concern for their safety, and they feel cheated.

Most of the big criminals are free after serving minimal jail terms, and return as billionaires with fortunes that have been washed by the same court proceedings and have no cases pending with the Dominican judiciary. This is the case of figures including Jose Arismendy Almonte Pena (Joselito.com), the Bourdier brothers, Ramon Elias Tavarez Lebren (a court ordered his assets worth more than RD$200 million to be returned to him), Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo and associates, Bienvenido Ernesto Guevara Diaz, five of the eight who were convicted in the Jose Figueroa Agosto case, and former Naval officer Carlos Valdez Beltre (Calitos Atropu).

El Dia reported that the group has recovered assets worth more than RD$4 billion now at their full disposal.

El Dia reports that by the end of 2015, others who will be released to enjoy their drug-secured fortunes are Antonio del Rosario Puente (Tono Lena) and Yubel Enrique Mendez Mendez (Oreganito). In the case of Oreganito, the Attorney General office assessed his fortune at RD$5 billion-RD$10 billion.

As reported, in the case of Paulino Castillo, when he was extradited to the US in 2005, the Dominican authorities had valued his fortune at RD$1.2 billion and in the plea bargain with the US judiciary he delivered assets worth US$14.5 million or RD$520 million, meaning that he is still owns RD$600 million.

Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito has urged Congress to pass the Domain Extinction Bill to end these situations where criminals keep illicitly acquired wealth.


Senate employs 1,660, has only 32 senators
The Senate of the Dominican Republic has a payroll of 1,660 including the 32 senators. They earn RD$24.5 million in taxpayer money every month, as reported in Diario Libre. Of the total, the 32 senators receive monthly checks for RD$2,822,500. Support staff makes the rest.

The ruling PLD party holds all of the senator seats with the exception of Amable Aristy Castro for La Altagracia and Felix Vasquez for Sanchez Ramirez, who both represent the PRSC.


Banco Peravia closed
The Superintendence of Banks has announced the dissolution of the Banco Peravia de Ahorro y Credito SA. Diario Libre reports that the bank started operations as Banco Peravia in August 1987. The Superintendence of Banks instructed account and financial certificate holders to visit the bank as of 25 November 2014 to validate them.

As reported in Diario Libre, the Superintendence has been empowered by the Monetary Board to investigate whether the present situation of insufficient solvency (identified at more than 50%) has involved irregular actions by bank directors, shareholders or board members, in which case, they would be taken to court.


A safe Christmas
National Police Chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo has announced that extra measures are being taken to ensure public safety during the Christmas holidays. "Quiet Christmas 2014" is the name of the operation that begins on 3 December to prevent traffic accidents and crime.

Major General Castro says they are working in close coordination with the Ministry of Armed Forces to reduce crime. Police will be posted at main shopping avenues, along with a series of other measures.


Puerto Plata has natural conditions for SWAC
Cold Seawater Air Conditioning would work off the coast from Puerto Plata, according to a new studied funded by the French Development Agency. SWAC systems are already working in Honolulu, Aruba and Curacao.

The new technology makes use of available deep seawater to replace energy-intensive central refrigeration systems that cool chilled water to provide air conditioning. There is an initial system installation cost, but afterwards, the cost of running A/C is very low. Makai Ocean Engineering, a company that is spearheading the technology worldwide, has carried out a study in the Dominican Republic that found that Puerto Plata has a competitive edge over Punta Cana, where the technology would not work.

The Hawaii-based firm has identified eight sites in the Caribbean where the technology could be implemented n Puerto Plata, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Santo Domingo, Las Americas International Airport, Basse Terre and Fort de France.

As reported in Diario Libre, Puerto Plata was ranked first because the required depths are 4.5 km off the coast meaning less investment in piping. The system would also work off the Bahia de Neyba and the Laguna de Oviedo in the southwest.

Makai estimates the cost of installing the system in Puerto Plata at US$68.5 million and US$100 million in Montego Bay. The savings for hotels and condominiums in the area would be around US$15 million and the investment would be recovered in four and a half years.



Environmental violation affects Hispaniolan solenodon
Diario Libre reports today, Monday 24 November 2014, that the Ministry of Environment provincial department in Pedernales awarded a permit for farming of 200 tareas that fell within the limits of the National Jaragua Park in an area known to be inhabited by the Hispaniolan solenodon and other key species. After an initial investigation, the provincial director and person in charge of forestry resources were suspended without wages while an investigation into the case is carried out. The permit had authorized hand cutting of the area, but instead some 100 tareas in Las Mercedes were set ablaze and the habitat of hutias and solenodons was damaged. This is part of an area where researchers from the local Ornithological Society of Hispaniola and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust from the United Kingdom have conducted important research into the habitat of these endangered species.

Ministry of Environment prosecutor Israel Trinidad said that important flora species had been affected. The permit was issued on 30 July at a cost of RD$10,000 to Manuel Herasme Mercedes. Diario Libre reports that press reports in 2006 linked the farm owner to a case of depredation inside the Lake Enriquillo National Park.


The Sporting Life Cup in Casa de Campo
The first Dominican Republic F1 Futures of the International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit starts today, Monday 24 November 2014 at the La Terraza tennis center at Casa de Campo in La Romana.

The event offers emerging talents a chance at making it into professional tennis. Playing for the Dominican Republic are Pedro Munoz Veras, William Kirkman, Jesus Nolasco and Jesus Francisco Felix. Tennis players from the Netherlands, Canada, Russia, US, Argentina, Chile, Spain and France, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico will also be playing.

The players will receive the Sporting Life Cup, US$15,000 in cash prizes and 27 points for the Association of Tennis Professionals ranking.

The event is coordinated in the DR by the Dominican Tennis Federation (Fedotenis) and the Association of the La Romana Tennis Association.



All's Well at Teatro Guloya
Teatro Guloya in Santo Domingo's Colonial City presents "All's Well" (Todo esta bien), directed by Claudio Rivera this Friday, 28 and Saturday 29 November 2014 at 8:30pm, and on Sunday, 30 November at 6:30pm. General admission is RD$500 and RD$400 for students with ID.

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

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