POLITICS

In D.R. political circles, mum is the word on corruption allegations contained in Menendez indictment

Social groups and organizations in the Dominican Republic are demanding answers from the government in regard to the Robert Menendez-Salomon Melgen case, which has a series of connections with the island.

Last week’s indictment points at Sen. Menendez alleged abuse of power when using his influence to benefit his friend and donor, Miami-based ophthalmologist Dr. Melgen. In presenting the case, the accusing party quotes several emails and documents — one of them labeling former Customs Director Rafael Camilo, closely tied to the ruling party, as “highly corrupt.”

A week later, the allegations contained in the indictment have not been addressed within political circles or by the mainstream media.

A can of worms has been opened but apparently they are not going anywhere.

“Mainstream media outlets in D.R. are heavily influenced by the government; others are directly controlled by it,” said Jose Luis Taveras, president of the non-profit organization Fundacion Masada. “Traditional media outlets are accomplices, trying to bury the story,” he added.

He said that former President Leonel Fernandez and President Medina, both from the PLD party, are deliberately quiet, apparently expecting that silence will eventually make the controversy go away.

“It was to be expected. The PLD is still the ruling party, the same interests have persisted for the last 12 years, not much has changed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the organization Santiago Somos Todos is urging the Procuraduria General (an equivalent to the Department of Justice) to open an investigation into the Dominican connection of the Menendez-Melgen case.

“The Attorney General should instruct its anti-corruption department to open an inquiry, not only about these corruption allegations, but also to determine the real circumstances in which an unbalanced and onerous contract was awarded and later approved”, said Mario Tejada, president of SST, referring to the contract between the Dominican government and Melgen’s ICSSI, now in litigation, which made the wealthy Miami doctor the exclusive provider of cargo screening equipment to the country's ports.

Fox News Latino reached out to the media office at the Dominican Presidency for comment, but the spokesperson’s office refused to provide a comment or written statement.

Jose Ramon Peralta and Gustavo Montalvo, two high-ranking officials from President Medina's circle, did not respond to our request for a statement either.

Over at the Senate, even members of the Justice Commission said they were not aware of the allegations against Camilo and Dominican officials.

One of them, PLD’s Senator Julio Cesar Valentin, stated that nobody has brought up the subject in Congress and acknowledged that he himself was not aware of the accusations.

“What we should be asking ourselves is why was Robert Menendez interested and intervening in an internal matter for the Dominican Republic,” he said.

Another member of the ruling party, former Santiago District Attorney Raul Martinez, said he did not know the details – nor the allegations of Dominican corrupt officials – contained in the Menendez-Melgen indictment.

However, he described Camilo as “an honorable man.”

“I know him and trust him both as a PLD member and a citizen … He has a long tradition of public service and conducted a good administration at Customs.”

José E. Devarez is a freelancer reporter living in Santo Domingo.

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