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Daily News - Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Jose Tomas Perez sworn in as DR ambassador to US
President Danilo Medina swore in Jose Tomas Perez as ambassador to the United States at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Monday 15 December 2014. Perez takes over from Anibal de Castro who moves to the post of Dominican ambassador in Spain.

Perez is a former senator for the National District and also served as head of Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC). He has aspired to be the PLD Presidential candidate.

In an earlier interview with Diario Libre, Perez spoke of a productive diplomatic effort, of promoting foreign investment and defending the right the Dominican Republic has to its sovereignty. He said there is lots of confusion on the topic of human rights regarding the country. He said: "The country has a very clear and clean position on its international role, the issue of relations with Haiti and the phenomenon of illegal immigration that needs very open communication with international organizations so that the situation of the Dominican Republic can be clear."



President Medina hosts ex-President of Costa Rica
President Danilo Medina hosted a visit by former President of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres Olsen at the Presidential Palace yesterday, Monday 15 December 2014. As reported by the Presidency, Figueres congratulated Medina on the progress made in education in the Dominican Republic, especially the construction of new schools with the addition of 10,000 classrooms.

Talking to the press, Figueres also praised the launch of the new 911 emergency system, which has been so beneficial for the whole population. He added that the President's position on abortion, which allow for exceptions in certain cases, is the same as has been adopted today in most countries around the world.

He went on to say that he had been invited to the country by Andres Vanderhorst, director of the National Competitiveness Council to take part in a conference today, Tuesday 16 December 2014 along with Senator Reinaldo Pared Perez.


First identity cards to be handed over to new legal immigrants
The National Foreigners Regularization Plan, which has been in operation for over five months and expires at the end of June 2015, is now entering its second stage, which involves handing over identity cards to the applicants who have met the requirements.

According to the Deputy Minister of Interior and Police, Washington Gonzalez, around 300 people have now regularized their immigration status and will receive their identity cards.

So far 114,146 people have now had their biometric data taken and he said that was a more effective indicator of the success of the plan, rather than the number of identity cards issued.

Referring to comments by the Haitian ambassador in the country, Fritz Cineas, Gonzalez said it was too early to talk about extending the process, as there were still several months to go.


Export Promotion Bank sent to Senate
The Presidency has sent a bill for the creation of the National Export Bank (Bandex) to the Senate. The bank will be funded by government contributions that will start with RD$1 billion this year.

Women's group says changes to Penal Code respect 2010 Constitution
Yesterday, Monday, 15 December 2014, the press carried the news of the resignation of Father Manuel Ruiz as liaison between the Catholic Church and the Presidency on the grounds that the abortion debate was a ploy to open up the debate for broader changes in the 2010 Constitution. A debate of this nature, said Father Ruiz, could also lead to changes on the ban on consecutive reelection.

However, the Coalition for Women's Rights and Lives says that the decriminalization proposal in the cases of rape, incest and fetal malformation made by President Danilo Medina respects the Constitution.

Meanwhile, in a written notice, the Catholic Church Episcopate said that Father Ruiz had resigned for personal reasons that do not completely correspond to the criteria and position of Dominican bishops. The Episcopate says that Father Ruiz did not consult his colleagues before submitting his letter of resignation.

As reported in El Caribe, Monsignor Victor Masalles, Fathers Luis Rosario and Manuel Ruiz are the Catholic Church's strongest voices against decriminalizing abortion.

While the abortion debate has divided government officials, the Ministry of Public Health has expressed support for President Danilo Medina's position of decriminalizing abortion in the cases of rape, incest and fetal malformation.

It is seen as a public health issue, where wealthy women can travel abroad for an abortion, while poor women in these situations often end up on the country's too high maternal mortality statistics.



Abortion discussion becomes political
Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice (Finjus) president Servio Tulio Castanos, observes that the present debate on abortion, which has divided legislators in Congress, has become more political than one of health and religion. As reported in Diario Libre, Castanos speculated that the legislators would vote for the option that they perceive will cost them the least number of votes.

"Whatever they decide, it will have a political cost. If it is in favor, it will have a political cost, if it is against, it will have a political cost and that is what I perceive is prevailing in Congress, that the legislators are analyzing the cost they will have to pay," said Castanos.

The legislators are under pressure from the government and civil society to pass the observations to the Penal Code bill on decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal malformation, while the Catholic and Evangelical Christian churches are campaigning for the total criminalization of abortion to be maintained.

The Chamber of Deputies meets today, Tuesday 16 December 2014 to study the observations again. A two-thirds vote of the legislators is needed to override the veto of the President.

Santiago University highlights achievements
Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado is leaving the post of PUCMM rector after 44 years. He is being replaced by Father Ramon Alfredo de la Cruz from the Universidad Nordestana in San Francisco de Macoris.

Yesterday, 15 December 2014, he presented a report on achievements of the university from September 2013 to August 2014.

It reveals that the PUCMM University in Santiago spent RD$363.3 million on scientific and innovation research over that period. .

One of the main achievements was the registration of a patent for an invention produced at the Nanoscience Laboratory under the direction of Fabrice Piazza in the United States, Taiwan and a consortium of 148 countries including the Dominican Republic. It is the first ever patent to be registered by a Dominican educational establishment.

Rector Monsignor Nunez Collado also highlighted the introduction of new degrees in health, education and architecture and 16 new Master's courses and specialties.

In addition he said that 23 cooperation agreements had been signed with higher education institutions in Spain, France, United States, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada and the Dominican Republic.

He said that an agreement worth RD$50 million had also been signed with the Banco de Reservas to finance student tuition fees.


Transport fares to decrease
Two of the leading public transport unions, Conatra and Mochotran, have announced cuts of RD$5 to their fares on urban routes and up to RD$20 on inter-urban routes.

The transport associations agreed that drivers of vehicles using diesel and propane gas (LPG) have had considerable operational cost savings that they will now begin to pass on to passengers.

Conatra president, Antonio Marte said that there would be no changes in the fares charged by vehicles that use natural gas, as its price has not decreased.

This means Greater Santo Domingo fares on routes operated by Conatra and Mochotran affiliates will be reduced by RD$5. Conatra routes Santo Domingo to Higuey will cost RD$15 less, Santo Domingo-Pedernales RD$10 less, and Santo Domingo-Villa Altagracia RD$5 less.


Complaints about Dolphin Park
Several organizations have asked the Ministry of the Environment and the Public Prosecution Service for the Defense of the Environment to stop the construction and operation of a dolphin park owned by the Dolphin Discovery Group in the new Downtown Punta Cana complex. The groups claim that it is breaking the law. The request was made by the Dominican Academy of Sciences, the Dominican Marine Studies Foundation, Jaragua Group, the Institute of Lawyers for Environmental Protection and the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo.

They claim that the operation is violating the resolution that regulates the Management and Exhibition of Marine Mammals in Captivity, the Environmental law and the Protocol of the Cartagena Convention, which prohibits the hunting, capture and mistreatment of dolphins and the resolution on Protected Animals.

Two of the institutions state that they had already contacted the Ministry of the Environment, but as they have received no response they are now resorting to the Superior Administrative Court to settle the issue. They have had two hearings and a third is scheduled for today, Tuesday 16 December 2014.



PLD Central Committee has Christmas lunch
Former President Leonel Fernandez hosted a Christmas lunch for the members of the ruling PLD party's Central Committee yesterday, Monday 15 December 2014. The event commemorated 41 years since the party's foundation. Fernandez is the president of the ruling PLD political party.

The meeting took place at the time of an alleged split in the party over the issue of abortion. Last week a disagreement between party legislators in the Chamber of Deputies emerged when a presidential veto on the Penal Code article criminalizing all forms of abortion was being reviewed. The president of the chamber, Abel Martinez has rescheduled the discussions for today, Tuesday 16 December 2014.

The Political Committee has not met for several months. A review of several controversial issues is pending, including presidential reelection and accusations of corruption against some of its key members.


Political marketing conference
The 2016 presidential, congressional and municipal election campaign is set to start in 2015. In a timely move, the First International Political Communication Congress is being held this month. Political marketing and campaign strategy specialists will be attending the event scheduled for 21 December 2014. Carlos Azar, president of the advertising agency Cazar DDB that is organizing the event, said it is motivated by a desire to help develop quality political communications in the Dominican Republic.

Specialists Ana Laura Arroyo, Gisela Rubach, Guillermo Velasco and Memo Renteria from Mexico, Carlos Gutierrez from Spain, Daniel Ivoskus and Mario Riorda from Argentina and Gil Castillo from Brazil will share their experiences of electoral campaigns where they have advised presidential candidates and candidates for other posts.

Dominican social organizations and civil society will hold a panel discussion on "dirty campaigning" including Servio Tulio Castanos, executive vice president of the Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) and journalist Persio Maldonado, director of El Nuevo Diario.

Around 600-800 people are expected to attend.

Jorge Suncar and journalist Alicia Ortega will speak on the tone of the political campaign.

The central topics will include political marketing, innovation and creativity, social media, political advertising, women in politics and case studies of successful political campaigns.


Puerto Ricans want to live in DR
Golfris Tatis of the Dominican consulate in Puerto Rico has told El Nacional that there has been an increase in requests for residence and business visas from Puerto Ricans interested in relocating or opening branches in the Dominican Republic. She said that Puerto Ricans are seeking new horizons given the economic crisis that affects them at home. She said they are receiving around 10 requests every month. Likewise, illegal boat trips by Dominicans to Puerto Rico have declined in recent years. The main demand for boat trips now comes from Haitians seeking to take advantage of flexibility of US immigration laws for Haitians reaching US territory after the 2010 earthquake.


Air France plane makes emergency landing
An Air France passenger jet travelling to Paris from Santo Domingo, made an emergency landing in Ireland after chili peppers set off the fire alarm during the transatlantic flight

The flight crew declared an emergency after the alarm went off in the cargo hold and the plane landed at Shannon Airport resulting in passengers being delayed for hours. But reports say there was no fire at all and the alarm sounded because of the heat from the peppers

It was the third time this year that a shipment of organic material has set off an aircraft alarm and forced a flight to divert to Shannon Airport.

The Air France plane was met by firefighters and paramedics after landing safely at Shannon.

Fire crews inspected the cargo hold and found no evidence of a fire.


Serial rapist arrested in San Cristobal
San Cristobal judge Jose Perez Medina has imposed one year of preventive custody on 25-year old Alexander Laque de la Rosa (Gipi) accused of raping eight women in Barsequillo, Haina. The rapist would break in to houses in the early morning, beat up the women, who were mostly single, rape them, and rob them. The man was identified by his victims and the case was presented by the Attorney General Office in San Cristobal's Sexual Violence Unit, as reported in Diario Libre.

Dominican goes voluntarily to the United States
Another Dominican requested for extradition by the United States has agreed to go there voluntarily to respond to charges of distributing one or more kilos of heroin in a Pennsylvania court. Jose Juan Acosta Then, also known as Jose Uzeta, Jose Juan and Ricardo Enmanuel Gonzalez Perez, 46, appeared before the Supreme Court of Justice, presided by Judges Frank Soto, Esther Agelan Casasnovas and Juan Hiroito Reyes, to say he would go voluntarily to the United States.

He was deported from Texas some time in 2005 or 2006 and was arrested by agents from the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) during a raid in Cotui, Sanchez Ramirez province.


Massive international drug haul
According to Interpol, a huge two-week operation by Interpol in Central America and the Caribbean has netted 27.5 tons of drugs and saw 50 illegal drug labs and almost 20 jungle airstrips destroyed.

Operation Lionfish II also led to the arrest of 422 people and the seizure of a semi-submersible boat and two light aircraft used to transport drugs and weapons.

Part of Interpol's efforts to combat the most violent organized crime groups in the region, the operation ran from December 1 to 12 and involved 39 countries and territories.

The drug haul included US$1.3 billion worth of cocaine as well as large amounts of cannabis and heroin.

Two unnamed individuals on Interpol's global most-wanted list were arrested in the Dominican Republic and Peru for arms and weapons trafficking.

Some 100 weapons, 7.6 tons of chemical precursors and US$2.2 million in cash were also seized.

Lionfish II was partly backed financially and operationally by the French interior ministry along with the cooperation of countries including Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, United States, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Interpol is headquartered in the French city of Lyon.



Dominican Republic F4 Futures tennis at Parque del Este
Dominican Republic F4 Futures, an International Tennis Federation Circuit Futures tournament, is taking place at the outdoor hard courts of the Parque del Este in eastern Santo Domingo.

32 singles players and 16 doubles players are playing from 15 December 2014 at the Centro de Tenis Parque del Este.

During the event, many players will try to repeat the success of Victor Estrella, who made it through a similar tournament and is now ranked among the top 100 of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

As reported, those to watch include Brazil's Fabiano de Paula, a 26-year-old who plays double-handed off both sides and currently sits at 243 in the rankings, leads the Dom D4 Parque del Este field. De Paula possesses nine career ITF Futures singles titles as well as 11 doubles titles and is fresh from winning the Dominican Republic F2 and Dominican Republican F3 titles in the past two weeks, defeating Albert Alcaraz Ivorra and Hugo Dellien respectively in the finals.

The field also features four wildcards from the Dominican Republic hoping to follow in Estrella Burgos's footsteps. As reported in Live Tennis, in an interesting twist, top seed de Paula will meet the player he defeated in the Dominican Republic F2 final two weeks ago in the first round n Spain's Albert Alcaraz Ivorra, a 19-year-old eager to claim his first Futures title at the Dominican Republic F4 Futures.


Christmas Lights in Santo Domingo
Stroll in awe through the Bright Christmas Park (Parque de las Luces) at the Parque Iberoamericano on Av. Bolivar at the corner with Av. Alma Mater, and then watch the famous Nutcracker Christmas show at the park's Brillante Navidad Amphitheater at 8pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends. The show, which opened on 1 December 2014, continues until 6 January 2015.

This is the second season that the Bright Christmas lights spectacular has been held at the Parque Iberoamericano. The Santo Domingo city government lights up the park with the installation of 27 million multicolored lights over an area of 13,000 square meters.

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

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