SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) – Members of Venezuela’s leftist government and opposition leaders concluded a round of talks in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, failing to reach a deal to address the country’s political and economic crisis.
Saying they had made strides but needed more time, the parties announced another round of talks to begin in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 18.
The result prolongs the standoff between the government and the opposition, who have tried and failed for years to strike a pact. The two sides last met for talks in December.
Nevertheless, Dominican President Danilo Medina, who led the negotiations, expressed optimism about the progress made during the round.
“Although we have made extremely important advances, we still have pending matters that must be discussed,” he said at a press conference following the end of the talks.
Representatives from Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua also participated in the discussions.
The parties did not detail where they had made progress.
As millions of Venezuelans grapple with shortages of food and basic goods, the opposition leaders are demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accept humanitarian assistance from abroad, in addition to releasing several hundred jailed political activists.
“These days and hours of intense work are not enough to achieve what our people, the Venezuelan people, need to have an avenue, a path of hope,” said Julio Borges, who is the president of the country’s National Assembly that is controlled by the opposition, at the press conference.
For its part, the government wants the opposition’s help in pushing for the elimination of sanctions levied last year by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
Reporting by Jorge Pineda in SANTO DOMINGO; additional reporting by Julia Love and Sharay Angulo in MEXICO CITY; Editing by Christian Schmollinger
January 5, 2018 | 7:55 pm
“I know I made mistakes,” said the Dominican-born, wealthy and politically connected ophthalmologist from Palm Beach County to US District judge Kenneth Marra. “But it was always my intention to do everything possible to help my patients (…) I hope you can see the way to have mercy.”
Melgen’s brief statement capped five days of hearings to determine whether he would spend up to 30 years behind bars after he was convicted in April on 67 counts of health care fraud.
Apologizing to his “family, friends and the community,” the 63-year-old doctor also made a veiled reference to infidelity, which featured prominently in his recent influence peddling trial in New Jersey with his old friend, US senator Robert Menéndez.
“In my personal life, sometimes I got lost,” he said as his wife and 33-year-old daughter watched.
Due to the complex issues surrounding the case, Marra said he needs time to investigate before announcing his ruling. After making sure that prosecutors in New Jersey don’t have immediate plans to reprocess Melgen and Menéndez, he promised to hand down a quick ruling.
The New Jersey trial ended in Nov. when jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. It included allegations that in exchange for campaign contributions, the powerful Democrat pressed federal officials to help Melgen get foreign girlfriends into the US.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Authorities in the Dominican Republic say at least a dozen people have died and 21 more have been hospitalized after drinking homemade liquor containing methanol.
Officials say the first deaths occurred last week and the remaining people recently became sick after drinking the same liquor during funerals for the initial victims.
Health Secretary Altagracia Guzman said Tuesday that officials are trying to find the source of the liquor and no one has been arrested.
Authorities say that the deaths occurred near the border the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti and that an unknown number of people also died in Haiti.
The liquor is known as clairin and is made from sugarcane.
This story has been corrected to show that authorities say 21 people have been sickened.
LYNN — Ramfis Dominguez-Trujillo, well-known for being the grandson of a brutal Dominican Republic dictator, is vying to become president of the same country. But in direct contrast to his grandfather’s legacy, he says his intention is to make the country more democratic.
Dominguez-Trujillo, 47, stopped by Lynn on Sunday to speak to The Itemabout his 2020 presidential campaign, laying out his political platform — he talked about how to combat two of the biggest issues he sees facing the Dominican Republic, which are government corruption and national debt.
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy, whose current president is Danilo Medina. Dominican citizens residing abroad are able to vote in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election, according to online reports.
Dominguez-Trujillo is the grandson of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. The dictator is credited for his success in reducing foreign debt and fostering greater economic prosperity for the Dominican people. But his rule also included the murder of thousands of civilians and his order for the massacre of 20,000 Haitians.
Dominguez-Trujillo said his grandfather was essentially a “product of his time,” coming into power after a 60-year period of political instability in the Dominican Republic. He said his grandfather ruled when there were several other totalitarian governments or dictatorships in Latin America, including Colombia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. At the time, he said dictatorships were supported by the U.S. government.
“I’m a product of my surroundings as well,” Dominguez-Trujillo said. “I’m a product of the United States because I was born and raised here. So, I don’t know what dictatorships look like and I’ve never met my grandfather either. I was born nine years after the fall of his regime and I have never, nor will I ever support the negative aspects of his government.”
Dominguez-Trujillo was born in New York to Dominican parents and grew up in Miami. He said a huge frustration he had growing up was that he was unable to travel to the Dominican Republic because of prohibition placed on his family — the travel restriction was finally lifted after his uncle became the country’s president in 2000.
After he was able to travel to the Dominican Republic, Dominguez-Trujillo said he fell in love with the people and the country. He said he aims to make the country’s government a democracy, based on the model in the United States.
“We really want to take democracy back to the Dominican Republic (and) copy the system here in the United States, ” he said. “Right now, we have a centralization that works to the detriment of the people and the political system. We want to make sure the power is back in the hands of the people.”
Today, he said the Dominican Republic is a “democratic dictatorship,” which he sees as a corrupt system that doesn’t allow for the manifestation of a true democracy. He said his campaign has founded its own political party, the Democratic Party of Hope, a political project that he said was launched last week.
Dominguez-Trujillo said his party is not recognized by the Junta Central Electoral, the national organization that has to approve all of the country’s political parties, so he’ll be running under another recognized party for the time being.
A major problem Dominguez-Trujillo sees in the Dominican Republic is corruption. He said politicians buy people’s votes and many political parties exist to serve the government, exchanging money for political power.
Dominguez-Trujillo said he would separate the country’s three powers, the executive, legislative and judicial and give full autonomy to the judicial power so they can arrest government officials who have stolen money from the government.
Another plan, as he believes there isn’t “a single decent politician in the Dominican Republic,” would be to hire Dominicans from the diaspora, who have been educated in the United States, for government positions. His plan would also be to have a cabinet of 50 percent women, who he said are less likely to engage in corruption.
Another huge problem, he said, is the country’s indebtedness. He said the country needs to get back to its agricultural roots, which should be the driving force of the economy.
Some citizens living in the Dominican Republic may consider the presidential candidate a foreigner, but he said he knows the country better than any other politician, as he’s spent the last seven or eight years traveling “every single nook and cranny” of it.
“The reason that I’m so committed to this project is that when you read stories, you see newscasts, you see videos of the difficulties … the Dominican people are going through, it’s one thing. But when you live it, when you actually go into the countryside and you see little kids walking around barefoot and you see the difficulties that they have to overcome in order to get to school and receive a very poor level of education, you see the hunger and you see the strife and you see the misery, there is absolutely nothing that will change my mind and steer me away from this project because we are going to change the political landscape,” Dominguez-Trujillo said.
“It’s something that moves me very much because when you see the kinds of things that I’ve seen, you can’t turn your back on it.”
For some Dominicans, like Ruben Holguin, 30, of Lynn, the wounds from his grandfather’s dictatorship are still fresh. He said the country has made a lot of progress under its current president.
“Ramfis is a clown,” Holguin said. “He has a project (no political party). He downplays the fact that his grandfather was a dictator who killed thousands of people. The Dominican Republic is not ready for another Trujillo in our country … It’s a wound that’s still healing.”
But Juan Carlos, 42, of Lynn, is a supporter of the candidate.
“We really need a change for the Dominican Republic,” he said. “For the last 22 years, the past presidents haven’t done anything for the Dominican people. So, this guy, we like the future he promised for all Dominican people in the Dominican Republic and for the rest who live out of the Dominican Republic too.”
Carnival ships, like Carnival Conquest, have called as part of the ‘Carnival Journeys’ program
(Photo: Sansoucí Ports)
This year, for the first time, the Dominican Republic stands to crack 1m cruise passengers, spread among several ports—Amber Cove at Puerto Plata, La Romana/Catalina Island, Samaná, Cap Cana and the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo.
While Amber Cove is fueling the big growth and Cap Cana, new on the scene, is sparking interest, Santo Domingo has nearly doubled its passenger count in three years, from about 80,000 in the 2014/15 season to more than 150,000 projected in the current 2017/18 season.
‘We’re getting calls from many different lines. They’re giving Santo Domingo a second look after all the investments in the Colonial City,’ said Jaime Castillo, executive director of Sansoucí Ports. The company operates the Don Diego and Sansoucí terminals adjacent to the Colonial City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Last season, for example, Carnival Cruise Line came back for the first time in many years, with visits by Carnival Splendor and Carnival Conquest.
These were part of ‘Carnival Journeys,’ longer cruises that go to places outside the regular Fun Ship routes. Carnival doesn’t have many Santo Domingo calls, but ‘when people go, it’s highly rated,’ according to the line’s Terry Thornton, SVP port operations, guest care and Carnival international. ‘It’s a good experience. There’s a great diversity of shore excursion opportunities. Also, if people want to explore on their own, there are great restaurants and shopping. The nightlife is great.’
This season TUI Cruises’ newest ship, Mein Schiff 6, will visit, and Holland America Line is returning after a gap, with Prinsendam. Marella Cruises’ Celebration and Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sea recently called, and Oceania Cruises’ Insignia plans an overnight stay on Dec. 30 as part of a Cuba voyage.
Pullmantur has been making partial turnarounds for several years. This year Zenith is operating full turnarounds from Sansoucí terminal, part of a two-week butterfly program with two different seven-night itineraries.
Sansoucí Ports works with the airport to expedite ground handling, and the cruise terminal offers 18 check-in counters and provisioning capabilities for 25 containers at the same time. Castillo said a third of the Pullmantur passengers come from Spain, a third from Latin America and the rest are from the DR.
Ships on transit calls typically dock at Don Diego, alongside the walled Colonial City, for gorgeous views over the Alcázar de Colón (the palace of Viceroy Don Diego de Colón, son of Christopher Columbus). Ships docking at Sansoucí terminal on the other side of the river get shuttles into the Colonial City, or it’s a 15-minute walk.
According to the UNESCO inscription, Santo Domingo, founded in 1498, became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas. It was laid out on a grid pattern that became the model for almost all town planners in the New World.
It was the first permanent establishment of the New World and capital of the West Indies, ‘the place of departure for the spread of European culture and the conquest of the continent.’ From there ‘conquerors such as Ponce de León, Juan de Esquivel, Herman Cortés, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Alonso de Ojeda and many others departed in search of new lands.’
In recent years a $30m Inter-American Development Bank loan served as the seed capital for improvements and beautification to make the Colonial City more visitor-friendly. Works include widening sidewalks, putting cables underground, making facilities more accessible and reducing traffic. According to Castillo, this attracted $100m in private investments, and the IDB is going to expand the program by putting in another $100m to reach more areas.
At the same time, airlift to Las Américas International Airport has increased, and new roadworks between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana and Santo Domingo and Samaná have shaved hours from transit times, making a wider range of destinations more accessible overland. Today the drive between the capital and Punta Cana takes two hours.
‘All of this is good for the Colonial City,’ Castillo said. Not only are cruise calls up, but tourists from Punta Cana are able to visit.
Santo Domingo is a river port and Sansoucí owns its own dredging equipment to meet ships’ requirements. Updated bathymetric charts are posted at Sansouci.com.do. This year, instead of 10 meters, a depth of 10.5 meters is being maintained, and Castillo noted ‘we’re looking to improve next year as well.’
The largest vessels calling currently are close to 300 meters in length, and Sansoucí will look to expand for ships close to 320 meters.
The European-US mix is shifting, with the US lines rising to about 40% now. Though Santo Domingo’s strongest assets are culture and history, ‘since [attracting] more American lines, we have to make the experience as fun as possible for those passengers looking for fun and adventure,’ Castillo said.
Some initiatives include costumed characters to welcome passengers and live music and dancing in the parks and plazas of the Colonial City. There are nature tours, a dozen golf courses and, within a 40-minute drive, beaches. A wine tour—rare in the Caribbean—is within a two-hour drive or, much faster, by helicopter.
Tours can be customized. Some luxury lines have offered painting classes with a famous Dominican painter and cooking classes with a noted Dominican chef. Sansoucí works with tour operators and has its own destination services division to help tailor programs.
Castillo added that security is in place, with a tourism police force that’s been established for years and special attention when ships are in port.
The latest Business Research & Economic Advisors study for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association found 80% of cruiser were visiting the Dominican Republic for the first time.
‘We have to be sure their first impression is good,’ Castillo said.
He’s not ready to share numbers for 2018/19 but said the DR overall is well positioned for cruising: ‘The country is in a good moment. Most ports, if not all, are growing.’
Posted 12 December 2017
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