Dominican Republic (DR) is a major transit country for illicit narcotics originating from South America en route to the United States and Europe. Illicit drugs arrive in DR via air and sea. Small civil aircraft carrying an average of 350 to 1,000 kilograms (kg) per flight originate from Venezuela. Maritime deliveries arrive via go-fast boats, privately owned fishing and recreational boats, and cargo containers. The majority of these originate in the Maracaibo area of Venezuela and the Colombian Guajira Peninsula.
For drugs en-route to North America and Europe, cocaine especially, a substantial number of illicit drug flights from Venezuela to Hispaniola drop their loads over the DR and its territorial waters. In 2009, for the first time, the Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR) made several large seizures of pseudoephedrine, a methamphetamine precursor, transiting from Asia to Central America. In addition to the drug transit problem, the DR is experiencing an increasing domestic drug problem that has affected the youth of the country and led to increased drug-related violent crimes.
Improvements in domestic law enforcement capabilities and cooperation between the Dominican National Police (DNP) and the National Directorate for the Control of Drugs (DNCD) were evident during 2009 with an increased focus on fighting corruption and money laundering activities. However, endemic corruption at all levels of the GODR and throughout private sector special interest groups still hinders efforts to counternarcotics smuggling, money laundering, migrant smuggling and a wide variety of other criminal activities.
The United States through Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) provides equipment and training to: enhance law enforcement investigation and interdiction capabilities, implement reforms to professionalize its police and establish community policing projects in high risk barrios that have shown positive trends in crime reduction in those areas. U.S. assistance also supports drug and explosive detection canine units; the DNCD’s vetted Sensitive Investigation Unit (SIU) and Tactical Response Team; expanded DNCD computer training, database expansion and systems maintenance support; as well as improved DNCD capability to detect drugs smuggled through airports and anti-money laundering investigative capability. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) participates in joint counternarcotics and illegal migrant operations, including the use of mobile biometrics to identify and prosecute criminals transiting the Mona Passage between the DR and Puerto Rico. In addition, the USCG supports subject-matter expert exchange conferences aimed at improving coordination in maritime interdictions, improving and coordinating collaborative efforts of mutual search and rescue resources, and enhancing port security in the DR.
In February 2010, a letter of agreement was signed obligating $10 million in funding contributing to the increase of the interception and surveillance capability of the Dominican Republic against narcotics trafficking operations, especially air shipments. Through this agreement, the United States will upgrade a minimum of two Dominican Air Force UH-II helicopters. U.S. efforts will support safety certification; the crew will be trained in the use of night vision instruments; and spare parts will be provided.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides assistance to strengthen the DR’s justice system, with a particular focus on effective implementation of the Criminal Procedures Code to ensure proper acquisition, storage, and handling of evidence and adherence to reasonable time limits for prosecuting cases.