Ministry of Environment controversy divides those who back the old style of politics and those who want change

The talk of the town over the weekend was the controversy Minister of Environment Miguel Ceara Hatton started when he stated during an El Dia Channel 11 Telesistema TV interview with Edith Febles that President Luis Abinader had given him precise instructions to put an end to the mafia structure that permeated the Ministry of Environment, the can of worms revealed after the death of former Minister Orlando Jorge Mera. Ceara Hatton confirmed during the TV interview that gangs and little gangs were operating in the institution at different levels.

Ceara Hatton had served as Minister of Economy of the Abinader administration since day one. A technocrat, he was President Abinader’s choice to replace Orlando Jorge Mera, who had been murdered by a close friend who, on grounds of being a political contributor, sought a permit that violated the rules.

After little more than 10 months on the job, Ceara Hatton said in the interview that he is still reviewing the structure on a daily basis because he finds “everything,” including people who charge tolls to businessmen of up to one million pesos.

On the TV program he said he had already removed 600 persons who were on the payroll who it was confirmed did not work at the Ministry and a journalist who got paid more than RD$1 million a month.

Ceara Hatton has been in the media with lots of criticism to his actions or not actions. The removing of the mafia structure and decisions being taken that counter business interests could be the reasons behind the intensification of calls for his removal from the position.

The Minister entered the position in July 2022 and supporters argue it has taken him time to get into a roll understanding the complexities of the position and the many conflicts of interest and pressures the Minister receives from outside and in controlling his staff to comply with the laws.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Environment is hard pressed to fund its real needs, such as protecting the environment that means hiring forest rangers and paying these better. It means fighting forest fires in these times of drought. It means spending on professional staff that can process the many requests the Ministry of Environment deals with.

During the interview with Telesistema Channel 11, Ceara Hatton had stated he had removed 600 persons on the payroll of the Ministry of Environment who nobody knew who they were but they were paid RD$10,000 to RD$100,000 a month at the Ministry after who they responded to could not be found at the ministry. Ceara Hatton also mentioned that a TV host with a show with low rankings was receiving a monthly payment of upwards of RD$1 million from the Ministry.

The so-called political patronage jobs resulted in his being blasted by ruling Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) high ranking politician, Alfredo Pacheco, who is president of the Chamber of Deputies

Pacheco on his Twitter account stated the remarks by Ceara Hatton were irresponsible and abusive and was not a man deserving of respect.

Sunday TV host Guillermo Gomez understood he was who the Minister had mentioned and lashed back talking about the payments being a way to retribute people who had contributed to the party win in 2020 elections.

Ceara Hatton has also been criticized for not taking strong stands and actions by environmental activists. His position is a difficult one, as environmental permits are needed for thousands of business activities, from mining to building a commercial mall or hotel.

Over the weekend, the media and social media were filled with discussions and statements of those who backed the position taken by Ceara Hatton of removing political appointees from his payroll.

Ines Aizpun of Diario Libre said the controversy was more than environmental discussions about clientelism and its impact on the country’s development of the corrupt practice that is used to buy votes. She wrote about the supernumerary payrolls, parallel accounting, hidden consultancy contracts, unnecessary jobs, and how many still believe that social peace has a price and this is it.

The Academy of Science, which gathers many of the country’s leading environmentalists, has come forth backing Ceara Hatton. The SOH Conservation has also gone public backing Ceara Hatton, as many other institutions. Lissy Sanchez, coordinator for the civil society movement, Participacion Ciudadana, said it was sad that the ruling PRM political party, instead of uniting behind the statements of Ceara Hatton against corruption, had taken the stand calling for his removal.

In a public letter addressed to Ceara Hatton, Participación Ciudadana reminds Ceara Hatton “that he is not alone in the difficult mission of confronting the private interests that have opposed any measure aimed at preserving our natural resources.” In the letter, she acknowledges the “spurious interests, mafias, abuses and threats” that converge around the management of the environment.

The PC stated that courage to change things is most needed at the Ministry, especially when confronting sectors of all social levels and above all those who have accumulated fortunes at the expense of pollution and depredation of the environment and natural resources.

Participación Ciudadana praised the work of the official, who is a recognized economist and academic.

“We all know that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is one of the state agencies that has been used for decades to place hundreds of militants of the party in power and even nominees of private persons, an action that becomes an act of corruption because they do not perform any work for the Dominican State,” PC said in the letter to the minister.

For this reason, the PC emphasized that the constant attacks, the attempts to disqualify him and the pressures to remove him from office do not come as a surprise.

In recent days, Ceara Hatton has been the target of a barrage of criticism and attacks from officials and leaders of the ruling Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) after he revealed in the program El Día to journalists Edith Febles and German Marte that he found in the ministry “bands and gangs” that negotiated with environmental permits and that he had had to cancel 600 people who appeared on the payroll, but did not perform any function, they did not even have bosses.

Ceara Hatton also said in that interview that a well-known journalist had been assigned a payroll of one and a half million pesos and that he had forbidden this. The following day, journalist Guillermo Gómez, producer of Aeromundo, admitted that the official was referring to the official, but said that the money was not for his benefit but for “people who had worked for the triumph of President Luis Abinader”. Gómez called Ceara Hatton a “scoundrel and a coward.”

On the same day, the president of the Chamber of Deputies and top PRM leader, Alfredo Pacheco, called the minister an abuser for the cancellation of PRM members. Meanwhile, the party’s secretary general and mayor of the Capital, Carolina Mejía, described Ceara Hatton’s statements as unfortunate.

The Mayor of Santo Domingo Carolina Mejía said that people should find the way to, through good actions build, not destroy. Yet, her father, former President Hipolito Mejia stated: I believe in transparency and things have to be said. “Everyone has the right to say what he wants to say,” he said.

Also coming forth in defense of the Minister were Altagracia Salazar of (Sin Maquillaje and El Patio) and Diana Lora (Esta Noche con Mariasela) blasted the PRM politicians saying in a nutshell, they were all about the old style of doing politics, when the people who had voted them into power had precisely voted against political patronage.

Journalist Jean Michel Caroit, correspondent for Le Monde, tweeted that Miguel Ceara Hatton had the backing of civil society in his efforts to put an end to corrupt practices that put in danger the defense of the environment and efforts to combat permits that could affect national security issues, such as the scarcities of water for the population.

Environmental reporter Marvin Cid of Diario Libre, the newspaper that has reported the most on ecological issues, strongly backed the efforts of Minister Miguel Ceara Hatton in doing right at the Ministry, in his Twitter account.

Follow the story:
Telesistema Channel 11 – El Dia – Edith Febles
N Digital
N Digital
Listin Diario
Altagracia Salazar – El Patio
Altagracia Salazar Sin Maquillaje – 16:30 minute
Diario Libre
Diario Libre
Noticias SIN
Listin Diario
Esta Noche Mariasela – min 1;53
Listin Diario
N Digital
El Dia
Statements of Mayor Carolina Mejia
Alfredo Freites in Listin Diario

Diario Libre Ines Aizpun editorial

22 May 2023