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Daily News - Monday, 29 December 2014

DR1 breaks for the New Year holidays
DR1 Daily News will not be regularly updated or mailed over most of the next few days of the Christmas and New Year holidays. While the digest will not be published on Tuesday, 30 December, Wednesday, 31 December, Thursday, 1 January and Friday, 2 January, the news will be compiled for the Monday, 5 January issue so that our readers can stay informed. Take note that Monday, 5 January is an official holiday in the Dominican Republic, celebrating Three Kings Day that actually falls on 6 January. Likewise, breaking news can be published on the DR1 Forums that are updated 24/7, see http://dr1.com/forums/forum.php

Readers can also make the most of the many Christmas and New Year events by following them on http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Happy New Year!

Car stickers expire 31 December 2014
As of 1pm on the last day of the year, all vehicles need to display the 2015 stickers. Car owners have had more than three months to secure the sticker known as the 'marbete.' As of the 31st, a RD$600 fine needs to be paid for renewal and only the DGII offices will be selling the document starting on the next working day, Tuesday 6 January 2015. Metropolitan Transport Authority agents are under orders to seize any vehicle using the roads without the permit. As of Friday, 26 December 2014, only 60% of vehicle owners had renewed the permit that costs on average RD$1,200.

AMET is also warning that it will seize motorcycles from motorcyclists driving without helmets and correct documentation.

Cuba opening seen as new opportunity for the DR
Dominican Foreign Minister Andres Navarro believes that the restoration of US-Cuban trade relations will benefit the Dominican Republic. He says the DR will benefit because the opening will put the travel world spotlight on the Caribbean and the DR could benefit from multi-destination opportunities.

Meanwhile, Alberto Caamano, business counselor at the Dominican Embassy in Cuba is counseling Dominican businesspeople that there are opportunities to do business in tourism, food products and services, as reported in Diario Libre on Monday, 22 December 2014. He says that a great deal of work needs to be done in Cuba before the infrastructure there is on a par with Dominican tourism. He said there would be time for Dominicans to be able to compete.

These are areas already exploited by Dominican companies. Nevertheless, if Cuba were to attract US tourists in large numbers, the expanded market would bring new opportunities.



Schlumberger to create Hydrocarbons Database
The Ministry of Energy and Mines has announced that Schlumberger Surenco, the Latin American affiliate of Schlumberger, has been awarded the tender to create the National Hydrocarbons Data Base (BNDH). Other participants in the tender were Halliburton, Baker-Hughes and Ecolog, as reported by the Ministry of Mines.

Schlumberger is regarded as the world's leading supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions to customers working in the oil and gas industry worldwide.

In the first resolution from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the database was declared of high interest. It will be used to attract oil extraction companies.

Tax exempt wage levels for 2015
The Tax Agency (DGII) has released the level of wages that will be tax exempt for 2015.

Employees making up to RD$399,923 in wages in the year will not pay income tax. That works out to around RD$33,326 a month, which is lower than in 2014. This is less than the RD$33,350 authorized for 2014.


89% of literacy target achieved
Bulletin No. 97 from the Quisqueya Literacy Plan under the Department of Special Programs of the Presidency (Digepep), dated 12 December 2014, reports that a total of 454,721 people learned to read and write this year, bringing the overall total since the program began at the start of the Medina administration in early 2013 to 758,769. This is 89% of the government target, which was set at 851,396 for this year.


Provisional parking for Colonial City
The Office of Supervisory Engineers of Public Works of the Presidency announced the opening of a provisional parking area in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. The parking area is in the Plazoleta Espana, on Calle Vicente Celestino Duarte with Atarazana. It can hold 200 vehicles, and another 100 will be soon available. The parking area will be open through the second week of January 2015 in time for increased demand during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Gerardo Ramirez is new Church liaison with government
The Medina administration (decree 486-14) has appointed Father Gerardo Ramirez Paniagua as the new liaison between the Catholic Church and the government. Father Ramirez was the chaplain of the Presidential Palace.

Earlier this month, Father Manuel Ruiz resigned following his disagreement with the President's position on abortion. Ruiz is remembered for heading a press conference that defended the innocence of papal nuncio Josef Wesolowski after he was accused of pedophilia.

Monsignor Gregorio Nicanor Pena Rodriguez said that the priest would continue to coordinate the position of the Catholic Church that rejects any kind of abortion. In a recent revision of the Penal Code, the Congress approved abortion in cases where the mother's life was at risk, as proven by scientific and technical means.

The post of liaison comes with an SUV, driver, insurance, wage, gasoline allowance, check signing on projects approved by the President, parking at the Presidency, and an office at the Presidency, as Ruiz had made known in his letter of resignation.




Constitutional Court ratifies agreement with Bahamas
The Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic has confirmed the validity of the Basic Technical Cooperation Agreement between the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. The agreement promotes technical cooperation, regulates migration, trade and investment. The agreement also seeks to reduce illegal fishing.

The agreement was signed in Nassau, Bahamas on 24 July 2014. The approval of the agreement was issued in ruling 295-14.

The Constitutional Court ruled that non-regulated illegal fishing consists of illicit activities that include the capture of protected species, use of illegal fishing equipment and not observing capture quotas.

The court ruled that illegal fishing is an economic and environmental problem that affects sustainability of fishing and food safety and distorts markets.


Constitutional Court rules in favor of autonomous institutions
The Constitutional Court has released the Central Electoral Board (JCE) from being subject to government procurement rulings under the General Department for Procurement (DGCP), a dependency of the Ministry of Hacienda. The Constitutional Court ruling 305-14 indicates that no body of the Executive Branch can interfere in decisions by other public branches and autonomous constitutional bodies when they apply rules that do not affect the Constitution or the transparency with which they should carry out their work. The Constitutional Court says this does not mean they are exempt from controls.


Constitutional Court excludes forgery from naturalization beneficiaries
The Constitutional Court has issued ruling 309-14 establishing that anyone who incurs in forgery or identity theft or any other fraudulent activity linked to their citizenship cannot benefit from the provisions for naturalization under Law 169-14 in cases. The fraudulent act nevertheless needs to be attributable to the beneficiary. The decision was issued in response to a request made by Wander Reyes, who was irregularly issued Dominican documentation, but challenged the JCE's refusal to recognize these documents. The Constitutional Court explained that Reyes is precisely an example of the cases that Law 169-14 seeks to resolve, admitting weaknesses of the civil registry over the years in issuing Dominican legal documentation. The court orders the JCE to accept the documentation that Wander Reyes has received so far as valid.


Call for more local government involvement in tourism
Tourism expert Juan Llado highlights that if the Dominican Republic is to continue to succeed in competing with regional tourism destinations it needs to incorporate the municipalities as part of the tourism product. Writing in Diario Libre on the municipalities known for their tourism development, he says that the central government, has taken a leading role, while the private sector is mainly investing in hotel construction. He points to the slums that have developed alongside the boom in tourism and stresses the weak involvement of municipal and provincial authorities in land use planning and other areas. He urges more municipal involvement in Puerto Plata, Sosua, Cabarete in Puerto Plata, Samana city, Las Terrenas, Las Galeras in Samana, Boca Chica in Santo Domingo Province, Juan Dolio in San Pedro de Macoris, and Veron and Bayahibe in La Altagracia (Punta Cana). Next priority he says should be given to Luperon, Rio San Juan, Gaspar Hernandez and Cabrera on the North Coast, Jarabacoa and Constanza in the central province of La Vega, and to Boca de Yuma in La Altagracia, Guaycanes in San Pedro de Macoris, Salinas (Bani) and Nisibon, to the north of Punta Cana. Others that should follow are Montecristi, Nagua, Sanchez, Miches, Sabana de la Mar, Palmar de Ocoa, Paraiso, Palenque and Pedernales, states Llado.


USTDA backs clean energy projects in DR
Three electricity projects will benefit from US$1.6 million donated by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for clean energy solutions in the DR. US Ambassador James Brewster signed the agreements with Oscar Pachedo of OC-Seni, Roberto Herrera of Consorcio Energetico Punta Cana nMacao (CEPM), and Jose Hernandez Castanos, of Trace International. Nathan Younge, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean signed for the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). The US Embassy said the agreements seek to strengthen bilateral cooperation relations and increase clean energy production in the country.

The agreement with Trace will help fund solar energy installations for their customers. The agreement with the CEPM is a pilot for portable generation system for uninterrupted power supply to hospitals, hotels and other commercial customers.

USTDA is also backing the governmental Coordinating Organization of the National Interconnected Grid (OC-SENI) to assess technologies to improve reliability and control cost of the service of regulating frequency, monitoring and control of energy systems in real time. The project will assess the needs of the country's leading generation, transmission and distribution providers in the country.


Evans Paul nominated Prime Minister Haiti
President Michel Martelly has nominated the former mayor of Port-au-Prince, Evans Paul to be the next Prime Minister. Paul ran for President in 2006. He needs to be approved by the legislature by 12 January 2015. If this does not occur, Martelly will automatically become prime minister and will rule Haiti by decree, as all members of both houses will expire.

Last week Martelly appointed Florence Duperval Guillaume, who had served as public health minister, as interim Prime Minister

Evans will replace Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who resigned on 14 December along with his cabinet amidst violent protests in the capital over the failure to hold the legislative elections.

Elections for a majority of Senate seats have been due since 2011.

DR delegates Wesolowski case to the Vatican
Gisela Cueto, in charge of extradition at the Attorney General Office, says that the competent jurisdiction to try former papal nuncio Josef Wesolowski is the Vatican, not the Polish authorities. Earlier this month, the Polish legal authorities complained that their Dominican counterparts had not delivered the documentation for them to open the case against Wesolowski in Poland. The Dominican legal authorities have cooperated with the Polish authorities in the case against Father Wojciech Gil who was parish priest in Juncalito, Santiago province and is accused of pedophilia.

The local law enforcement authorities clarified that Wesolowski cannot be judged twice and have delegated the trial to the Vatican. The Vatican has a long track record of lenience in pedophilia cases over the ages. Former papal nuncio Josef Wesolowski is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic clergy to be accused of sexual abuse.

Coastal fishermen arrested near Montecristi
The Dominican Armada (Navy) has announced the arrest of 14 people (eight Haitians and six Dominicans) accused of illegal fishing in coastal waters off Montecristi. Vice Admiral Edmundo Nestor Felix Pimentel said the fishermen used equipment to capture marine species during their breeding season. The Armada confiscated the fishing boats and said they would continue to clamp down on illegal fishing off the coasts of Puerto Plata, Samana and Sabana de la Mar.


Theft worth millions affects many people's Christmas gifts
Customs warehouse No. 5 at the Las Americas International Airport was vandalized on Christmas Eve or the early hours of Christmas morning, affecting many Christmas gifts for people who had shipped the goods to the DR via courier. The theft primarily affects imported items valued at more than US$200 shipped via couriers. Many of the items in the warehouse were waiting to clear customs and most of these would have benefitted from the zero tax exemption for the holidays.

The Police Central Criminal Investigations Department (Dicrim) said that the entrance doors showed no sign of a break-in and it appeared that the thieves had used the keys to enter. The thefts are thought to have occurred on the night of the 24th and the early hours of 25 December.

The Police initially said the perpetrators could have had copies of the keys to the warehouse, or someone could have hidden inside.

The space is used by more than 15 courier companies.

Diario Libre reports that 18 employees at the Las Americas International Airport are under investigation. There were no surveillance cameras in the warehouse area. The space is used to store laptops, smart phones, tablets, clothing, plasma TVs, home appliances, and even food sent by Dominican residents in the US to their relatives and friends at home.

The Dominican Association of Courier Companies (Asodec) said that the robbery was "another retaliation," as reported in Diario Libre. Asodec complained that it is the latest incident in the dispute between Customs and the courier companies. The Customs Department and local business owners are challenging a law that allows tax-free import of merchandise under US$200. Diario Libre says that customers of Taino Express and Pick N'Send were affected by the theft of several items including laptops, smart phones and tablets.

Diario Libre reports that the merchandise is insured and the companies will reimburse the purchase price or authorize the repurchase of the item at their expense in advance of their making the claim to the insurance company.





23 deaths over Christmas holidays
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) reports 23 traffic deaths during the Christmas holidays. This is fewer than in 2013 when there were 28 deaths. But this year, the number of injured went up, with 762 people injured compared to 517 in 2013. The figures cover the period from 23 December at 2pm to 25 December at 6pm.

The COE reported 353 traffic accidents, of which 220 involved motorcyclists. Motorcyclists were involved in 16 of the deaths. 135 people were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, including a seven-year old boy. In total, 17 cases of minors with alcohol poisoning were reported.

Six pals, now all dead
22-year old Jonas Alejandro Paulino Frias, the only one of six friends to survive the blaze of the mini-van in which they traveled from a party in Santo Domingo to Boca Chica beach in the early hours of Sunday 21 December, died of his severe burn wounds on Christmas day.

The other victims were 22-year old Juan Albert Pereira Paulino, 21-year old Samantha Jimenez, 24-year old Carmen Leticia Pineda, 24-year old Esterling Rafael Garcia and 29- year old Victor Manuel Mercedes, who is believed to have been driving the vehicle when the accident occurred at Km. 17 of the Las Americas Expressway.

The friends' tragic death sent a chilling reminder to all Dominicans to take care over the holidays with drinking and driving.


Lopez Mendez brothers die in clash with SWAT
Brothers 24-year old Omar and 20-year old Cesar Alejandro Lopez Mendez were killed in a SWAT Police operation on Saturday, 27 December 2014. They had been hiding in a house in Pedro Brand, off Km. 24 of the Duarte Highway. They are accused of murdering two police agents and other civilians and were being actively sought by the Police. The brothers resisted arrest. As reported in the press, the SWAT operation took four hours. Police Chief Major General Manuel Castro Castillo said that the Police would not be intimidated in its fight against the law by criminals. He said the brothers had a long track record of contract killings, drug trafficking, armed robbery and other crimes. Two women and two little girls who were at the house were rescued unharmed. He said the women are under arrest and are being questioned about their connection with the brothers. The brothers were buried in Moca, where they lived with their parents, psychologist Cecilia Maria Mendez and farmer Oscar Lopez.


Starlin Castro in Montecristi shootout
Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was questioned by the Montecristi prosecutors but later released after a shooting on Saturday 27 December in which six people were injured and one man, Jeremias Jerez, was killed at the Ocean Club nightclub in Castro's hometown of Montecristi . His brother, Jeffrey Castro was arrested. Starlin Castro said he was there but was not involved in the incident. Police spokesman Jacobo Mateo said that Castro's house was searched and the investigation is ongoing.



Baseball round robin update
No less than Manny Ramirez, of Boston Red Sox fame, was the player who gave the Aguilas Cibaenas the edge in their Sunday, 28 December 2014 game at the La Romana Francisco Micheli stadium against the homeclub Toros in the round robin between the Aguilas, Estrellas, Toros and Gigantes in the Dominican Winter Professional Baseball League. Another Cibao team, the Gigantes defeated the Estrellas on Sunday to lead the tournament after winning their first two outings. There will be games tonight, Monday, 29 December 2014 (Aguilas vs. Estrellas-San Pedro de Macoris, and Toros vs. Gigantes-San Francisco de Macoris) and on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 (Estrellas vs. Aguilas in Santiago and Gigantes vs. Toros in La Romana). The league will take the New Year break on 31 December and 1 January to resume playing on Friday, 2 January 2015.

See the schedule at http://www.lidom.com/home/index.php/calendario

GIGANTES 2 - 2 1.000 --
AGUILAS 2 - 1 .500 1.0
ESTRELLAS 2 - 1 .500 1.0
TOROS 2 - 0 .000 2.0

Sandy Gabriel & Pop Jazz Ensemble
Visit the Colonial City this evening, Monday 29 December 2014 and enjoy good jazz music by Sandy Gabriel & Pop Jazz Ensemble at the Cafe Bar of Casa de Teatro in Santo Domingo's Colonial City. Guest performer is Cristal Marie. Tickets are RD$700.

Conjunto Quisqueya at Hard Rock Cafe
The popular Puerto Rico merengue group is booked for a concert at Hard Rock Cafe Santo Domingo this evening, Monday 29 December 2014 as part of their 40th anniversary tour of the Dominican Republic. The group was highly popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

Villalona, Tono and Raulin at Jet Set
This evening, Monday, 29 December 2014 is the date for a show by Fernando Villalona, Tono Rosario and Raulin Rodriguez at the Jet Set Club on Av. Independencia in Santo Domingo.

New Year party at the Sheraton
Bonny Cepeda and Divas will join Sergio Vargas, Fernando Villalona, Kiko el Presidente, Chiquito Team Band, Conjunto Quisqueya, Ruby Perez, Steffany Constanza and Silvio Mora for a night of non-stop dancing at the Santo Domingo Sheraton on New Year's Eve. The price is RD$3,500 in advance. The show will be televised on Telesistema and TeleAntillas.

New Year Party at the Hotel Embajador
Urban musicians Vakero and Mozart La Para plus popular DJs are booked for the 31 December 2014 party at the Hotel Embajador in Santo Domingo.

Dinner and dancing at Cane Restaurant
Buffet for RD$1,380 at Cane Restaurant on Av. Gustavo Mejia Ricart in Santo Domingo for this New Year's Eve, 31 December 2014. Dance the night away with DJ Eshmier (no cover) and a sancocho in the early morning. Bring your own wines and serve with us for RD$500. For reservations, call 809 683-5660 or 809 368-2200.

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

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