Dominican Republic cabinet minister shot dead in office

Orlando Jorge Mera, 55, was holding a meeting at the time of the attack. At least six shots were heard

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Tuesday, June 07, 2022, 08:37 AM IST
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Dominican Secretary for Commerce and Industry Sonia Guzman, right, talks to the media accompanied by Orlando Jorge Mera, at the presidential palace in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, March 16, 2004 | AP

The Dominican Republic’s minister of the environment and natural resources — the son of a former president — was shot to death in his office by a close friend Monday, the office of the president said in a statement.

Orlando Jorge Mera, 55, was holding a meeting at the time of the attack. At least six shots were heard.

A presidential spokesman identified the assailant as Miguel Cruz, describing him as a childhood friend of the minister.

He is now in custody. The motive for the shooting remains unclear.

In a statement, Mr Jorge Mera's family said he had been shot multiple times by a man he was friends with since childhood.

"Our family forgives the person who did this. One of Orlando's greatest legacies was to not hold grudges," the family said.

Bartolomé Pujals, executive director of the government's Cabinet of Innovation, lamented the killing.

"His death is a tragedy," Pujals said. "We Dominicans have to come together to achieve a pact for peace and peaceful coexistence. No more violence."

Jorge, the son of former Dominican President Salvador Jorge Blanco, had been minister of the environment and natural resources since August 2020.

The Dominican Republic has become a trans-shipment point for Colombian drugs destined for Europe as well as the United States and Canada. Money-laundering via the Dominican Republic is favored by Colombian drug cartels for the ease of illicit financial transactions.

In 2004, it was estimated that 8% of all cocaine smuggled into the United States had come through the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic responded with increased efforts to seize drug shipments, arrest and extradite those involved, and combat money-laundering.

The often light treatment of violent criminals has been a continuous source of local controversy. In April 2010, five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, shot and killed two taxi drivers and killed another five by forcing them to drink drain-cleaning acid. On September 24, 2010, the teens were sentenced to prison terms of three to five years, despite the protests of the taxi drivers' families.

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