VP Biden in Dominican Republic talks energy, crime

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with the leader of the Dominican Republic on Thursday for talks touching on energy security, crime-fighting, trade and citizenship rights.

Biden met with Dominican President Danilo Medina for about 40 minutes at the presidential palace in Santo Domingo before making brief remarks to reporters, who did not get a chance to ask questions. He was scheduled to lunch with Medina, visit a solar energy facility and meet with U.S. Embassy staff at their new building.

Biden and Medina said they discussed regional issues including energy security and the fight against drug traffickers and other transnational crime. According to U.S. officials, an estimated 6 percent of the cocaine bound for the United States passes through the Dominican Republic.

The vice president praised Medina for enacting legislation that will create a path to citizenship for people of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic. Biden congratulated the Dominican leader's administration for creating the law, describing it as a "bold step that required bold leadership."

Legislators recently approved Medina's legislation following an international outcry over a September court ruling stating that people born in the Dominican Republic to illegal migrants were not automatically entitled to citizenship, basically rending thousands of people stateless.

The court ruling aggravated longstanding tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola, and it led to widespread international condemnation.

Biden told reporters he planned to talk with the Dominican leader at lunch about the situation in Venezuela, where people who oppose their country's socialist-led government have protested since February. He said he and Medina had a "mutual interest in bringing greater political inclusion, stability, and protection of basic human rights beyond the issue of energy production and availability."

The vice president traveled to the Dominican Republic from Colombia, where he spoke by phone to new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and commended him for his commitment to move ahead with his peace plan for the embattled country.

Biden is scheduled to fly to Guatemala on Friday to close out his trip. His visit to the Dominican Republic was the first time that a U.S. vice president had visited the Caribbean country since Hubert Humphrey made the trip in 1966.

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