The State Sugar Council (CEA) has been for decades a source of riches for just a few persons with strong ties to the government in power. Land is an issue of life and death for many who have perished in the fight for it. The new administration of Luis Abinader has announced that it will fuse the operations of the CEA into the National Assets Agency (Bienes Nacionales). He also announced the sale of assets to individuals will be discontinued
Very few persons understand the extent of the lands belonging to the CEA. Back in 1961, at the fall of the Trujillo dictatorship, 16 sugar mills were running in the Dominican Republic. Of these, 12 belonged to the dictator Trujillo himself, three to the Vicini family and one to the South Puerto Rican Sugar Company. Those 12 sugar mills pretty much covered the provinces of San Cristobal and Monte Plata, San Pedro de Macoris, Barahona, Puerto Plata, Valverde, and much of what is today the province of Santo Domingo.
Created in 1966 just days after Joaquin Balaguer was inaugurated, the CEA was charged with managing the nation’s sugar production, at the time one of the largest contributors to the United States market.
In 2019, the death of three persons in San Pedro de Macoris revealed the depth of the corruption regarding the sale of these government lands. The San Pedro de Macoris case was particularly gruesome. Jose Rodriguez shot and killed two persons Leo Martinez, a journalist, and Luis Manuel Medina, a radio host, while they were in a live transmission on Facebook. He later committed suicide. The incident revolved around lands that Rodriguez had purchased from the CEA but were later deeded to another person.
The San Pedro de Macoris incident brought into the open the clear violation of a decree issued by President Danilo Medina in 2006 that had prohibited the sale, usufruct, permutation, donation or any other cession of the CEA lands.
The sale of these lands has always been questioned, and one case in particular is the case of the Duquesa landfill. The Lujan Corporation insists that they have the titles to 1,392 tareas (about 87 hectares), they say were purchased for RD$82 million from the CEA. Although the Sugar Council filed a lawsuit for the land’s return, it only bounced around the courts for two years and finally, the courts said that the case had no merit if the CEA did not file the right papers. The CEA is bloated with patronage jobs for the party in power.
Read more in Spanish:
26 July 2020