Local September 15, 2016 | 11:48 am

More questions into firing of Dominican competition watchdog chief

Santo Domingo.- The removal of Michelle Cohen as head ofthe Competitiveness watchdog Pro-Competencia came just days after the National BusinessCouncil (CONEP) unleashed its fury in response to the entity’s release of threestudies that reveal anticompetitive and monopolistic practices in the beer,drugs and insurance markets.

Appointed in March 2013, Cohen was abruptly fired by theChamber of Deputies on Tuesday, two years before concluding the five-year term whichthe Competition Defense Law 42-08 stipulates.

And although the law specifies the causes that justify thedismissal from that post, ranging from absence on six consecutive sessions tofraudulent and illegal actions, the Consumer Rights Foundation (Fundecom) notesthat Cohen “isn’t known as having commit any of the aforementioned offenses orhad been reprimanded by the Board to proceed with her dismissal in the illegal mannerwhich has been done."

"This is a decision pressured by the monopolistic andoligopolistic groups that control certain segments of the national market and fearbaring their high profits and type of behavior," Fundecom said.

No explanation

The lawyer and politician Bartolome Pujals also believesthat her dismissal also stemmed from the studies which he affirms affect importantbusiness sectors to exercise harmful practices.

He said it’s striking that the dismissal came after the CONEPrebuked the reports, “not in substance, but the form.” He said that thatfunction should’ve been a task for the entity’s executive director, who should’vebeen appointed in 2011.

He noted however that no other member of the Board was removed,nor anyone appointed to fill the vacant post of director.

"Here there’s no competition for the lack of theExecutive Director and what little Pro-Competencia could do (studies) wasopposed by business sectors. It’s a clear sign that they’ve prevented theappointment of the official," Pujals said.

Big Business’ wrath

The CONEP rejected Pro-Competencia studies and statements,claiming they weren’t presented by an Executive Director.

It said the studies prepared by independent consultantsEsteban Greco, Jaime Aristy Escuder and Diego Petrecolla had "no validity,"despite funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and otherinternational organizations. "We reject any pronouncement derived from actionsoutside the Constitution and the law, which aim to discredit the businesssector."

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