Corruption gains ground in Dominican Republic after acquittal in Los Tres Brazos case

Erika Santelices / AFP

Paris - Santo Domingo - 9 June 2022 — Joint press release: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH). Those involved in the Los Tres Brazos corruption case have been acquitted of all criminal charges brought against them — a decision that leaves hundreds of victims without redress. The decision was handed down on the same day that the Dominican Republic’s Environment Minister was assassinated for allegedly not cooperating in another corruption scheme.

On 6 June 2022, the judge of the Sixth Court of Instruction of the National District of the Dominican Republic, Juan Francisco Rodríguez Consoró, issued his decision to exonerate the 11 people charged in the Los Tres Brazos case from all responsibility, following the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to send them to trial for embezzlement and fraud against the Dominican State.

This case was intended to investigate and punish the sale for a derisory price of land in Los Tres Brazos sector in 2016 by the state company CORDE (Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Estatales) to the private company INFEPA-TITULATEC, "a case of extremely serious corruption" as described by the attorney general Jean Rodríguez in 2018. The Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH-RD), a member organisation of FIDH, became a plaintiff and civil party in the defence of the interests of all inhabitants of Los Tres Brazos.

"It is a sad day for the Dominican Republic. The decision by Justice Rodriguez Consoró hinders Los Tres Brazos residents’ more than six-year struggle for justice and deprives them of reparations for their losses, leaving the victims totally vulnerable regarding ownership of their property."

Jimena Reyes, head of FIDH's Americas desk

Los Tres Brazos has been the scene of informal settlements since the 1960s. The corruption scheme also allegedly took advantage of the particularly vulnerable condition of its inhabitants, requesting high fees with the promise of legal title to the land, which in reality indebted the settlers and facilitated evictions.

"This decision deals a fatal blow to the fight against administrative corruption in the country."

Dr Manuel María Mercedes Medina, national president of CNDH-RD

The judge’s ruling came hours after the assassination of the Environment Minister. The murder of Orlando Jorge Mera, the country’s Environment Minister, on 6 June 2022, by his friend Miguel Cruz, was also allegedly motivated by other acts of corruption to which the deceased did not contribute. Mr Cruz allegedly killed Jorge Mera because of the closure of the former’s company for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Mr Cruz allegedly expected special favours, such as the granting of environmental permits, for the support he had given to the Minister during the 2020 campaign.

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