Dominican Republic Minister Shot Dead In Office

Police close the gate of the Dominican Ministry of Environment headquarters after a shooting in Santo Domingo, on June 6. (Erika Santelices/AFP)



The Dominican Republic’s environment minister, Orlando Jorge Mera, was shot dead during a meeting on Monday by a businessman and longtime friend, who has been taken into custody, the government said.

A lawyer and politician, the 55-year-old Jorge Mera was the son of former president Salvador Jorge Blanco (1982-86), and had headed the environment ministry since mid-2020.

“The information we have at the moment indicates that this morning the environment minister lost his life after he was attacked with a firearm in his office,” said Homero Figueroa, the spokesman for the presidency.

“Miguel Cruz, who has been identified as the shooter, was a personal friend of the dead minister,” he said.

Figueroa said the suspect was in police custody and his motive was “under investigation.”

The alleged shooter used his friendship with the victim to gain access to a secure area where Jorge Mera was holding a regular meeting with his deputies, ministry sources told AFP.

According to a statement from Jorge Mera’s family, Cruz was “a childhood friend whom he received in his office.”

According to sources close to the investigation, Cruz and Jorge Mera had found themselves at loggerheads over environmental policy.

Jorge Mera had promised upon taking office in 2020 to work for the “responsible” use of natural resources, to protect ecosystems and slash pollution.

In a March interview with El Caribe and CDN, the minister said he had reported to the judiciary 2,300 cases of environmental permit violations, illegal cutting of trees and damage to mangroves.

Among those affected were active and retired military, police and business people.

The Acento website said seven gunshots were heard and shortly afterwards a heavily armed elite police unit entered the ministry.

Police did not immediately comment on the incident.

President Luis Abinader declared himself “deeply saddened” by the minister’s death, offering his condolences to the victims’ wife and children, while the environment ministry said it was “dismayed” by the attack.

Jorge Mera, who formed the Modern Revolutionary Party alongside Abinader, was president of the Dominican telecommunications institute from 2000 to 2004.

A lawyer, he had also worked as a television producer and presenter.

He came from a political family. His sister Dilia Jorge Mera is a deputy minister, his son Orlando Jorge Villegas is a legislator and his widow Patricia Villegas is the ambassador to Brazil.

Father Of Salsa Music, Johnny Pacheco, Dies At 85

Musician Johnny Pacheco attends the premiere of “El Cantante” at the 42nd street AMC Theatre on July 26, 2007 in New York City. PHOTO: Evan Agostini/Getty Images North America /Getty Images via AFP


Johnny Pacheco, the Dominican-born musician considered one of the fathers of salsa, died Monday at the age of 85 in New Jersey, his family said.

A musician, composer, and producer, Pacheco founded the Fania Records label, as well as the historic Fania All-Stars band, which included salsa icons Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon.

“With great pain in my soul and an emptiness in my heart I inform you that maestro Johnny Pacheco passed away this afternoon with great peace,” his wife, Cuqui Pacheco, said in a statement published on the musician’s official Facebook page.

“A thousand thanks for all your prayers and all the love you always gave him.”

Pacheco had been urgently hospitalized a few days ago for pneumonia.

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Born Juan Azarias Pacheco in Santiago de los Caballeros, in the northern Dominican Republic, on March 25, 1935, he emigrated to New York as a child with his family.

There, he studied at the Juilliard arts school and began his musical career in the 1950s. He rose to fame with his band Pacheco y Su Charanga.

He founded Fania Records in 1964 with attorney Gerald Masucci.

He recorded or composed more than 100 songs during his career, including “El Faisan” and “Quitate tu.”

“DEP (Rest In Peace) my dear friend and teacher,” Colon tweeted after Pacheco’s death was announced, calling his former bandmate “unique.”


Abinader Claims Victory In Dominican Republic Presidential Race

Handout photo released by Dominican opposition presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) Luis Abinader’s Press Office of him (R) giving the thumb up during a campaign rally in Santo Domingo on July 1, 2020. – General Elections will take place on July 5 in Dominican Republic. Juan VALENZUELA / Luis Abinader Press Office / AFP.


Opposition candidate Luis Abinader has claimed victory in the Dominican Republic’s presidential race after voters on Sunday braved a worsening coronavirus outbreak to cast their ballots for a new leader and legislature.

Abinader’s rivals and the outgoing president also recognized his win, which ends 16 years of unbroken rule by the Caribbean nation’s center-left Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

“We won, today we win, but we will never forget who we owe this victory to,” the 52-year-old businessman said from a platform before dozens of followers at his campaign headquarters in the capital Santo Domingo.

“We owe it to you, the Dominican people. That is why tonight we all won.”

According to data from the central electoral board after around 60 percent of ballots had been counted, Abinader gained around 1.2 million votes — around 53 percent.

The PLD’s candidate Gonzalo Castillo came second in a six-man field, with 838,000 votes — or 37 percent — according to the incomplete figures.

Castillo said the official count “shows that there is an irreversible trend and that from now on we have a president-elect… Our congratulations to Mr. Luis Abinader.”

Outgoing President Danilo Medina also accepted the businessman’s victory, tweeting his “congratulations to the new president-elect @LuisAbinader.”

Abinader’s win was is yet to be formally announced by the electoral board.

Gunfire outside a polling station in the capital left one person dead after an argument among opposing party activists turned violent, police said.

But elsewhere, voting appeared to progress smoothly, with few disruptions despite the extra virus precautions.

“It’s pretty fluid and very well organized. The truth is I didn’t expect it,” said Maribel Roman, a 47-year-old business consultant, as she waited for her turn to vote.

The election, which was pushed back from May 17, was held despite the epidemic’s explosive spread, with the number of new COVID-19 cases hitting a record high Sunday for a third consecutive day.

Medina, who could not seek another term under the country’s constitution, was forced to impose a national lockdown, easing it only last week as parties made a final drive for votes.

– ‘Change is coming’ –

Abinader had to suspend his campaign after testing positive for the coronavirus, but recovered sufficiently to lead a rally on Wednesday.

An observer team from the Organization of American States (OAS) monitored the vote, but its leader, former Chilean president Eduardo Frei, was unable to be present because of travel restrictions.

Some 7.5 million Dominicans were eligible to cast ballots in the election.

Also up for grabs are 32 senate seats, 190 seats in the lower house and 20 representatives to the Central American parliament.

– Corruption an issue –

“Change is coming and the PLD is going,” Abinader, who is considered a centrist, promised hundreds of his supporters at a closing rally Wednesday.

Corruption has been a key issue after protests in recent years over the involvement of local officials in the Latin America-wide Odebrecht graft scandal.

The Brazilian construction giant has admitted to doling out $92 million in bribes in the Dominican Republic in exchange for winning public works contracts.

The country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, ranks 137th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index.
– Virus fears –

Despite health protocols at polling stations, Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas said it would be “practically impossible” not to have fresh outbreaks of COVID-19.

The pandemic has already hit polling by the Republic’s 600,000 overseas voters — representing almost eight percent of the electoral roll.

Most live in the United States, Spain and Puerto Rico, where polling has been taking place. However, expatriates in Italy and Panama have not been authorized to vote because of coronavirus restrictions there.

The Dominican Republic is one of the strongest economies in the region, recording on average 6.3 percent growth a year between 2013 and 2018, according to the World Bank.

However, the Bank has warned that it is at risk of being pushed back into poverty because of the pandemic.


FIBA World Cup: D’Tigers To Play Canada, Dominican Republic Friendlies


In its quest to adequately prepare the D’Tigers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has lined up multiple grade-A friendlies against the Dominican Republic and Canada for the team.

D’Tigers two-legged encounter against the Dominican Republic will take place in Santo Domingo between July 19th and 25th before playing Canada in Quebec and Ontario between August 5th and 11th 2019.

According to arrangements put in place for the team, D’Tigers will open camp in the United States of America before moving to Canada.

Lagos will be the venue of the final phase of preparation with the Federation already in advanced talks with a yet to be announced World Cup-bound team for a 2-legged friendly.

NBBF President, Musa Kida, disclosed that the Federation is determined to give the team the best preparation that it can afford to ensure that the team does the nation proud in China when the World cup starts in August.

“We have locked down 2 grade A games with the Dominican Republic and Canada who will both be at the World Cup. These games alongside those we are still planning to organize when the team comes to Lagos, we believe, will provide quality tests for the team,” he stated.

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Kida revealed that though the choices of campsites in the USA and Canada have not been made due to quality of facilities, playing personnel and funds.

According to him, agreements have been concluded with the Canadian and Dominican Republic Basketball Federations for the games.

Meanwhile, the team is also registered to participate in a friendly tournament featuring some teams that will take part in the Mundial in China between 21st and 26th of August.

The Nigerian team led by Alex Nwora is drawn in Group B alongside Argentina, Russia and Korea with all its group games to be played in Wuhan. The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will take place between August 30th of and 16th of September 2019.

50-year old pugilist returns to contention after 21 years

Mark Weinman, a highly touted hard punching 154lber out of New York who fought  in the mid and late 1980’s returns to the ring for the first time in 21 years at age 50, this Friday, September 7th.

Weinman, known as the “Hebrew Hammer” ran up 11 straight victories including 9 KO’s with a Mike Tyson like fury in his attack, before back-to-back losses in 1987 ended his career.

An attempted comeback 4 years later in 1991 again ended in a setback as Weinman was stopped on his feet in a bout he was winning with 30 seconds left in the final round.  His final career record was 11-3 with 9 KO’s.

Weinman, a former Spanish Golden Gloves champion, three-time PAL Champion (Police Athletic League) and New York Golden Gloves Open Finalist, was hailed by New York’s boxing media as a future champ. He fought on major boxing cards at Madison Square Garden and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Weinman said “I feel fresh; I had only 14 pro fights so I’m not shop-worn.  I can still punch like a mule.  I have been training for this comeback since the summer of 2011 and have boxed over 500 rounds.  My left hook is back and there are no weight problems anymore. My stamina feels great.”

Weinman’s opponent will be Elvis “El Burrito” Martinez, a 36 year old journeyman from the Dominican Republic with 43 pro bouts under his belt. The fight is contracted at 165lbs weight limit.

Weinman’s manager Steve Tannenbaum tells us, “Mark looked like the goods. He had a great left hook to the body which you don’t see fighters throw anymore. And along with being able to pop, he had a big heart.

“Maybe like George Foreman during the second chapter of his career, Weinman will be a more relaxed fighter and pace himself better in the ring. I think he can be dangerous for anybody in the middle weight division.”

Obama declares state of emergency on areas affected by storm

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, following the Storm Isaac that threatened to hit the area.

According to the BBC reports, Isaac is heading for New Orleans, possibly as early as Tuesday night, nearly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Isaac killed at least 24 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The storm also caused flooding and damage in the Caribbean.

Late on Monday, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned Isaac could reach category two strength, with top winds of 100mph (160km/h). The forecast was revised up from category one.

President Obama approved Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration, making available federal funds for recovery activities such as clearing debris.

The governors of Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama declared emergencies in their states.

The Republican governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have cancelled their trips to their party’s convention to focus on disaster prevention efforts.

The weather officials warned that Isaac is already a large storm and could bring significant damage to areas within hundreds of miles of its center.

The NHC said that at 20:00 EDT (20:00 GMT) on Monday, Isaac was centered about 230 miles (370km) south-east of the mouth of the Mississippi river, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70mph (110km/h).

The storm is moving forward at about 10mph and storm winds extend out about 205 miles from the center.

The NHC warned that wind speeds could reach between 96-110mph before the storm makes landfall.

Evacuations have already been ordered for some low-lying Louisiana parishes and parts of coastal Alabama.

Wednesday will be the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which strengthened in the Gulf to a category five storm, before weakening to category three by the time it reached New Orleans.

Federal officials said the levees around New Orleans are now equipped to handle storms stronger than Isaac.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, “It’s a much more robust system than what it was when Katrina came ashore,”

Fugate also said that Isaac was not just a New Orleans storm.

“This is a Gulf Coast storm. Some of the heaviest impact may be in Alabama and Mississippi,” he said.

Vehicles were left at New Orleans on the highway heading west for Baton Rouge on Monday, as people made their way to higher ground.

A hurricane warning is already in effect for some 300 miles of the Gulf Coast in four states from Louisiana to Florida, with lower-level warnings issued for many areas along Florida’s west coast.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida said 60,000 people were already without power as a result of the storm.