Assassination of Orlando Jorge Mera, the guardian of the environment in the Dominican Republic | International | The USA Print

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Orlando Jorge Mera in an image from May 18.
Orlando Jorge Mera in an image from May 18.Alexander Arias (AP)

Those who knew Orlando Jorge Mera, the Environment Minister assassinated in his office in Santo Domingo at the age of 55, define him as a kind and energetic person whose pulse did not shake when enforcing the laws to protect the nature of the Dominican Republic. Also as someone calm and conciliatory, who was not afraid of conflict, but faced problems. That trait of his character was demonstrated until the end when on Monday morning he received Miguel Cruz in his office, a childhood friend with whom he studied and with whom he appears in numerous photographs distributed these days, but who ended up taking his life. multiple shots.

De Cruz, the 56-year-old man now detained and who fled after committing the crime to a church where he confessed to a priest who had killed another man, it is known that he owns two companies, the Armería Miguel Gun Shop and the Constructora Cruz de la Mota y Asociados. Although the authorities have not yet reported on the possible causes of the murder, according to information published by the local media, the businessman had had to paralyze an operation to extract materials for his cement plant in a river in the Cibao region, in the north of the country, for not complying with environmental regulations. And that is what, now it is intuited, led him first to argue with his friend and then to shoot him with the weapon that he had hidden when entering the ministry headquarters and that, after confessing the crime, he handed over to the priest. This Tuesday, with the country in mourning and shocked by the event, many question the security flaws that allowed the attacker to enter the government building armed.

Environmental defenders see in the murder one more example of the vulnerability of environmentalists in Latin America who, according to the international organization Global Witness, is the most dangerous region in the world for those who protect nature. “If something like this can happen to someone like a minister, then what is left for us, who are more ordinary citizens, who deal with many of the same issues, people and interests,” asks Maximiliano Bello, from the Mission Blue organization.

An international expert in the protection of the oceans, Bello had been working with the minister for months on an environmental project that they planned to announce soon. “We were working on several fronts and he was very excited about everything we were doing. It was very close, ”he recalls in a telephone conversation with EL PAÍS. “He was super friendly, affable, interested in protecting the environment, with a lot of ambition, without resentment. It’s refreshing, when you’re working with high-level politicians, to go to a place where they’re pushing you to protect the ocean. He was convinced and what he wanted was: ‘Now, let’s do it,’ he adds.

A lover of sports, racing and beekeeping, Orlando Jorge Mera was a member of a family with a long political tradition in the Dominican Republic. Son of former president Jorge Blanco, who governed the country between 1982 and 1986, his widow is the ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Brazil; his sister, deputy minister of Innovation, Transparency and Citizen Attention; and one of his sons, deputy. Born in Santiago de los Caballeros and a lawyer by profession, Jorge Mera was one of the founders of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) and presided over the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications between 2000 and 2004. In his multifaceted career he was also a professor and producer and presenter of a television program, where he recently interviewed the Spanish politician José Bono, as can be seen in one of his latest messages posted on the social network Twitter.

In August 2020, he was appointed Minister of the Environment by President Luis Abinader and began what, without knowing it, would be his last mission. According to Bello, the figure of Jorge Mera was widely respected both in his country and among his peers in the region. But if something defined his work, it is that he did not give his arm to twist before anyone. “If someone was breaking the law, he was doing everything he could to make it so. He started an innumerable number of processes, he took a lot of people to jail for not complying with the norm and he had a very clear position regarding that which I imagine generated a lot of rejection in some of the people who were not complying “, Add.

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the digital medium Accent He assures that, since he was appointed Minister of the Environment, he had brought more than 2,000 people and companies to justice for not complying with environmental laws, including powerful people such as ex-military, active military, high-ranking businessmen and police officers. However, the environmentalist Bello assures that in none of his many conversations did he say that he was afraid or make any comment about having received threats.

This Tuesday, at a mass celebrated in the San Rafael Chapel of the National Palace in honor of the late minister, President Luis Abinader reaffirmed that idea: “The changes that have taken place in recent years entail many challenges and dangers that Orlando has never faced. I was afraid of him,” he said. His office colleagues, for his part, have remembered him in recent days for the integrity that they say defined his role. “We lose a friend, a guide, the most conciliatory of negotiators in favor of our planet. A management relentlessly attached to the framework worthy of the law that called us to protect with passion is also lost, ”she wrote on her Twitter account Milagros Camps, the head of the Department of International Cooperation in the Ministry of the Environment. “I will always miss him and honor his legacy. It was a true honor to be his deputy minister.”

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