Puerto rico government

Cabinet minister in the Dominican Republic killed in his office

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

Authorities say 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 was not immediately clear whether Cruz, 56, had an attorney.

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

As gunfire rang out late Monday morning, people on the street shouted and took cover as those fleeing the building scaled a high fence after first throwing purses, bags backpacks and even a pair of shoes because the main doors of the building were locked.

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

Heavily armed police took him into custody at the church, which is about a 15-minute drive from the office where Jorge was shot.

When he was taken out, Cruz was wearing a helmet and body armor and kept his head down as the goggles he was wearing slid slightly down his nose. A passerby shouted, “You have 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 a deputy minister in the administration of Abinader. Jorge’s son is a legislator of the Modern Revolutionary Party, of which Jorge was a founding member.

The family released a statement saying that Cruz had been Jorge’s friend since childhood and that Jorge had been shot multiple times.

“Our family forgives whoever did this. One of Orlando’s greatest legacies was not holding grudges,” he said.

Police and emergency officials stormed the office of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the capital of Santo Domingo and barred 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 troubled by the situation,” Jorge’s ministry said in a brief statement.

Bartolomé Pujals, executive director of the government‘s Innovation Cabinet, wrote that he lamented the murder.

“His death is a tragedy,” Pujals said. “We Dominicans must come together to achieve a pact of peace and peaceful coexistence. More violence.

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

Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.