Cabinet minister assassinated in his office in the Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Dominican Republic’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources — the son of a former president — was shot dead in his office by a close friend on Monday, the president’s office said in a statement.

Authorities said Orlando Jorge Mera was shot dead by Fausto Miguel de Jesús Cruz de la Mota, who was later arrested at a church dozens of blocks away after telling a priest he had committed a crime and handing him a gun.

Officials gave no motive for the shooting, and it wasn’t immediately clear if Cruz, 56, had an attorney.

“We express our deepest condolences,” President Luis Abinader’s office said.

When gunfire rang out late Monday morning, people in the street screamed and ducked for cover as those fleeing the building scaled a high fence, having first knocked over purses, backpacks and even a pair of shoes because the main gates of the building were locked.

Authorities said that in a phone conversation with Cruz while he was at church, he promised to turn himself in if they guaranteed he would not be killed.

Heavily armed police officers took him into custody at the church, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from the office where Jorge was shot.

When he was brought out, Cruz was wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest and kept his head mostly down when the goggles he was wearing slipped slightly down his nose. A bystander yelled, “You killed a good man! Murderer!”

The victim came from a powerful political family. Jorge was the son of former Dominican President Salvador Jorge Blanco, and his sister is Deputy Minister in the Abinader government. Jorge’s son is a legislator for the Modern Revolutionary Party, of which Jorge was a founding member.

The family issued a statement saying that Cruz had been friends with Jorge since they were children and that Jorge was shot multiple times.

“Our family forgives the person who did this. One of Orlando’s greatest legacies was not holding grudges,” it said.

Police and emergency officials stormed the office of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the capital, Santo Domingo, blocking entry as mourners gathered nearby. Jorge’s office was on the fourth floor of a building that also houses the Ministry of Tourism.

“We are concerned about the situation,” Jorge’s ministry said in a brief statement.

Bartolomé Pujals, executive director of the government’s innovation cabinet, wrote that he regretted the murder.

“His death is a tragedy,” said Pujals. “We Dominicans must come together to make a pact for peace and peaceful coexistence. No more violence.”

Jorge, a lawyer, was appointed Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources in August 2020.

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