Crime & Justice

Mass held in honor of slain Dominican environment minister at National Palace

Santo Domingo, Jun 7 (EFE).- A Mass was held here Tuesday at a chapel inside the National Palace for Environment and Natural Resources Minister Orlando Jorge Mera, a day after he was shot dead at his office by a close personal friend.

That ceremony attended by President Luis Abinader and other senior officials marked the start of the funeral proceedings for the 55-year-old politician, who will lie in state until Wednesday at a funeral home in Santo Domingo.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Abinader expressed his condolences to the politician’s family and recalled that the two studied together at the same high school and were both founding members of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) eight years ago.

The head of state described his slain minister, son of former President Salvador Jorge Blanco, as a “tireless consensus-seeker” who “always had a smile on his face even at the worst of times.”

“These are very sad moments for all of us,” not only because of the death of a friend and colleague but also because of the circumstances in which his death occurred, Abinader said next to the flag-draped coffin.

The president paid tribute to the personality of the late Jorge Mera, who is survived by his wife, the Dominican ambassador to Brazil, Patricia Villegas, and their two children – Patricia Victoria Jorge Villegas and lawmaker Orlando Jorge Villegas.

Jorge Mera experienced “moments of joy” but also endured “great challenges and pain,” Abinader said in apparent reference to the legal woes of his father, ex-President Salvador Jorge Blanco, who was sentenced in the late 1980s to 23 years in prison for corruption (the conviction was overturned in 2001).

Abinader, who was forced to delay his trip to Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas because of the murder, said life in public office comes with “challenges and dangers” but that Jorge Mera “never feared them.”

The environment minister was gunned down in his office on Monday in an attack perpetrated by a childhood friend identified as Miguel Cruz, who has been arrested and has already confessed to the murder.

Authorities are continuing to investigate the homicide, the motive for which has not yet been revealed.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s Mass, the son of Jorge Mera said Cruz was one “of the few personal friends” of his father and that he does not know what “went through his head” in committing the crime. EFE

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