The Dominican Republic’s Model Prison Reforms
Gone are the satellite dishes that once crowded the prison rooftop, feeding signals to flat-screen TVs in the private suites for which drug lords and other wealthy inmates used to pay upwards of $25,000.
In their place classrooms are being constructed, creating more space for the prison to reach its goal of zero percent illiteracy and offer university-level courses.
The transformation of Najayo prison, long a symbol of the overcrowding and corruption that plagues Latin American jails, is part of a dramatic overhaul that has reshaped the Dominican Republic’s penitentiary system.
Read more at Reuters.
Drug Traffickers Returning to Caribbean
More of the cocaine smuggled to the United States is passing through the Caribbean, officials said, representing a shift in which drug traffickers are returning to a region they largely abandoned decades ago.
A full 14 percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. was trafficked through the Caribbean in the first half of 2013, double the 7 percent that came through the region during the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
“What we’re seeing is that traffickers are increasing the amount of cocaine in each” shipment, said Vito S. Guarino, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Caribbean division, based in Puerto Rico.
Dominican Republic’s “empty bottles” dominate foreign service
Diplomatic postings make for some of the cushiest jobs in many poor countries, but the Dominican Republic’s foreign service appears to have few rivals in the Americas when it comes to political cronyism and wasted taxpayers’ money.
A count of diplomats provided by the government of the small Caribbean country lists 77 people on the payroll for its mission to the United Nations, 63 in New York and 14 in Switzerland. But the U.N. “Blue Book” of accredited personnel shows only 37.
Governments regularly give diplomatic posts to political supporters, yet the number of accredited diplomats for the nation of 10 million people, to the U.N. in New York dwarfs other countries in the region.
Read more at Reuters.
The Tale of Two Malls: How the Dominican Republic Benefits from Venezuelan Capital Flight
Hugo Chávez, who died in March, antagonized private businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, spurring them to take their money elsewhere — leaving Venezuela struggling to attract investment to fix its crumbling infrastructure.
Not only has money failed to come in, but Barclays Capital, an international investment bank, estimates companies have taken some $150 billion out of the country since currency exchange controls were instituted a decade ago. In part, they were supposed to prevent capital flight. An average of $20 billion a year has been sent abroad over the past five years.
Caribbean countries selling citizenship
Selling passports is a way for the cash-strapped nation to raise money and has helped transform an economy once dependent on sugar cane. But as the program has grown, so have allegations of abuse. Just last month the US Treasury Department raised concerns that St. Kitts had issued passports to three Iranian men who were using the documents to allegedly help Iranian banks launder millions of dollars. The negative attention has some calling for better regulations, or even an end to the program.
Nevertheless, the money St. Kitts has made from the program has spurred other countries – from Malta to Bulgaria – to start their own. In the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Grenada have followed St. Kitts’ lead, and others are considering similar programs.
Read more at the Christian Science Monitor.
Dominican Republic: World’s Most Dangerous Roads for Drivers
Widespread disregard for personal safety and obeying the rules of the road has helped contribute to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranking this Caribbean nation of 10 million as the world’s most dangerous country for drivers. The 2013 report found there were 41.7 motoring deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, nudging it ahead of Thailand.
Dominican officials are trying to change a system that has allowed – some say even encouraged – a culture of indifference toward traffic rules and road safety. A proposed law, expected to be voted on by the lower chamber of congress in the coming weeks, would overhaul traffic agencies and put in place a campaign to incorporate driver education into school curriculums.
Read more in The Guardian
Venezuela’s Personal Jesus
Depending on whom you asked, Chávez was a blessing or a dictator, a cult leader or a charismatic politician of the people, a president dedicated to his socialist cause or a megalomaniac dedicated to building his ego. Supporters considered embalming him, putting his body under a glass tomb and displaying it for generations to come, a la Eva Péron, Lenin and Mao Tse-tung. Detractors said they’d go nowhere near his funeral, let alone stop for a moment of silence. His supporters think he’s something equal to Jesus. His opponents think he’s gone to hell.
Read more at The Revealer
The Man Behind Sen. Menendez’s Troubles
In recent years, the containers have become one of the favored methods for drug traffickers operating in the Dominican Republic, security officials say. Perhaps that’s because the country’s sole X-ray machine scans less than 5% of the containers.
Efforts to solve that problem are at the root of a growing scandal surrounding a powerful U.S. Senator, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a high-flying Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, who is among the Democratic Party’s biggest donors.
Read more at TIME.com
A new era of scrutiny for tax havens.
When Google established its international tax scheme, it followed a path well worn by other multinational companies. The company booked its sales from outside the U.S. at its international headquarters in Ireland. Most of that profit was then sent on to the Netherlands, largely free of tax. From there, the money went on to a well-known tax haven, the sunny islands of Bermuda. By the time the technology giant parked its money there, it had reduced its foreign tax bill to the low single digits. The scheme, known in tax avoidance circles as the “Double Irish” with a “Dutch Sandwich,” helped Google save billions in taxes. Last year, for example, Google registered $4 billion in sales in the United Kingdom, but only paid $10 million in taxes in that European country.