The Dominican Republic is an important transit country for illicit drugs from South America destined for North America and Europe. The U.S. government estimates that approximately six percent of the cocaine transiting to North America and Europe transships through Hispaniola, much of it through the Dominican Republic. U.S. and Dominican analysts assess that maritime routes are the primary method of smuggling drugs into and out of the country and recent maritime interdiction operations validate this assessment. Drug trafficking organizations are using “go-fast” boats and commercial containers to smuggle drugs into and out of the Dominican Republic. The country is also experiencing an increase in narcotics-related violence, partially attributable to the practice of drug trafficking organizations paying local partners in narcotics rather than cash.
In order to combat the influence of drug traffickers, the Dominican Republic continued its cooperation with the U.S. government in 2013 to interdict illicit drugs and extradite criminals charged with narcotics-related crimes. The United States works actively with the Dominican Republic to plan and conduct international operations to seize illicit drugs and dismantle criminal organizations; however, corruption continues to hamper these efforts. The Dominican government conducts outreach efforts to warn youth about the dangers of drugs.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Cooperation remains strong between the Dominican government and the U.S. government in working to combat narcotics trafficking and related transnational crime. The U.S. government’s primary partners are the National Directorate for the Control of Drugs (DNCD); the Dominican National Police (DNP); the National Council on Drugs (CND); the Office of the Attorney General; and the Dominican Armed Forces. The DNCD and DNP continued to enhance their joint cooperation in 2013 with a focus on drug seizures. Dominican law enforcement and military units coordinated effectively, generating increased drug seizures, but there is room for improvement. The Dominican Specialized Corps for Port Security, working in conjunction with U.S. authorities and private port operators, initiated efforts to improve security at several ports. The participation of the Dominican government in the Cooperating Nations Information Exchange System and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and the Central America Integration System (SICA), enhanced relations with the United States and regional Caribbean partners. Dominican authorities continued joint efforts with the Haitian National Police to combat drug trafficking by increasing law enforcement cooperation and providing training.
The Dominican Republic is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. In 1985, the United States and the Dominican Republic signed an agreement on international narcotics control cooperation. The Dominican Republic signed and ratified the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement and has a maritime counter-drug agreement with the United States that entered into force in 1995. The United States-Dominican Extradition Treaty dates from 1909. In 2005, the Dominican Republic included judicial review in extradition matters to increase transparency. In 2012, the United States and the Dominican Republic entered into a Permanent Forfeited Asset-Sharing Agreement.
The United States continues to receive excellent cooperation from the DNCD’s Fugitive Surveillance/Apprehension Unit and other Dominican authorities. The Dominican Republic continues to be the fourth most active extradition partner to the United States. Although there is no formal bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty between the Dominican Republic and the United States, requests for judicial cooperation are made through formal and informal channels related to the multilateral law enforcement cooperation treaties and conventions to which the United States and the Dominican Republic are parties. The Dominican Republic processes U.S. requests for legal and judicial assistance in a timely manner.
2. Supply Reduction
Narcotics are seized throughout the country, but the majority of seizures are made through operations targeting vessels from South America. In 2013, Dominican authorities seized approximately 8.6 metric tons (MT) of cocaine, 54 kilograms (kg) of heroin, and 1.3 MT of marijuana. Following the significant increase in cocaine seizures in 2012, cocaine seizures remained steady in 2013. Marijuana is cultivated in the Dominican Republic for local consumption, and seizures are concentrated in the northwest and southwest provinces bordering Haiti.
Following successful air interdiction efforts by Dominican authorities and the dismantling of two major drug trafficking organizations in 2010, drug flights from South America to the Dominican Republic have all but disappeared and there have been no reported drug flights since then. However, illicit drugs remain available for local consumption and are transshipped to the United States and Europe, primarily through maritime routes. The DNCD and Dominican military officials cooperated with the United States and international partners in planning and conducting operations to interdict “go-fast” vessels attempting to deliver illicit narcotics to remote areas of the southern coast, as well as to interdict drugs exiting the Dominican Republic en route to the United States and other international destinations. One Dominican port, Caucedo, is certified under the Container Security Initiative (CSI), a U.S. initiative to help increase security for maritime containerized cargo shipped to the United States. However, the other 15 Dominican ports, including Rio Haina, the other major Dominican port handling container traffic destined for the United States, are not CSI certified. The DNCD is attempting to increase efforts to combat contraband at the ports.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
Local drug use is concentrated in tourist and major metropolitan areas, although drug use and associated violence in the larger provincial towns is not uncommon. The CND continued effective demand reduction efforts in 2013 with a wide range of sporting, cultural, and educational events and seminars designed to warn Dominican youth of the negative effects of drug use. Additionally, the CND placed numerous billboards and multimedia advertisements throughout the country warning youth against the use of illicit drugs. The CND and Ministry of Education developed the Strategic National University Plan on the Prevention and Use of Drugs, which the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission noted could be used by other nations as a model program. DNP continues to promote community-based policing as an effective way to deal with crime in local neighborhoods. Community policing events were well received and demonstrated a public desire for expansion of this program, prompting the DNP to develop a strategy to expand community based policing efforts.
As a matter of policy, the Dominican government does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production, processing, or distribution of narcotics, psychotropic drugs and other controlled substances, or condone money laundering activities; however, corruption remains endemic at all levels of Dominican society. The government does not implement anti-corruption laws effectively, and officials frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Dominican law enforcement, military, and government officials are often accused of a range of corrupt activities including narcotics trafficking, money laundering, extrajudicial killing, and other crimes.
The Dominican government pursued efforts to reduce corruption in several areas, including continued focus on developing internal affairs units, and changing the venue of judicial proceedings when necessary. In 2012, the DNCD created a polygraph team to vet DNCD personnel working in sensitive positions and dismissed those who failed the test. Over the first 10 months of 2013, the DNCD had removed 186 members for criminal activity, improper behavior, and violations of the Code of Conduct as a result of polygraph examinations and internal affairs investigations. Over the first 10 months of 2013, the DNP Internal Affairs Directorate conducted 1,192 investigations of alleged police misconduct related to the excessive use of force, death threats, and police corruption that led to the dismissal of 149 officers and sanctions for 420 other officers. In addition, 559 cases were referred to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
Recognizing that corruption in the Dominican Republic adversely affects programs ranging from promoting economic growth to combating drug and other forms of illicit trafficking, the Dominican government asked multilateral organizations, the United States, and other donor nations to help address the issue, creating the Participatory Anticorruption Initiative (IPAC). The government has implemented many of the IPAC’s 30 recommendations, and several became part of the Dominican Republic National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP), presented in April 2012 at the OGP High-Level Summit in Brazil.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U. S. Policy Initiatives
The United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting Dominican citizens, primarily through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI is a security partnership between the United States and Caribbean nations that seeks to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and citizen security, and promote social justice. With CBSI funds, the United States government implements programs designed to enhance existing Dominican law enforcement capabilities by improving technical and professional abilities to conduct investigations, to enable effective prosecution, and to coordinate and participate in counternarcotics efforts with the United States and neighboring countries’ law enforcement agencies. The United States is also working with Dominican officials to develop an effective anti-money laundering agency. The U.S. law enforcement community has strong relationships with its Dominican colleagues, as evidenced by the extradition or deportation of 31 fugitives to the United States in 2012, and 29 through the first 10 months of 2013.
The United States provided equipment and training to increase the capabilities of various Dominican law enforcement entities including support for the DNCD drug-detection canine units, and other specialized DNCD investigative and reactive units. The United States also enhanced DNCD’s computer training, database expansion, and systems maintenance support. The United States is also supporting an initiative to increase security at the ports of Haina and Caucedo, the two busiest Dominican ports, and in 2013 provided training in maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, port security, crisis management and professional development for the Dominican Navy’s officer and enlisted corps. In addition, the U.S. Southern Command provides tactical training, equipment, and other assistance to both the DNCD and Dominican military involved in illicit trafficking interdiction.
The United States continues to assist the DNP with its transformation into a professional, civilian-oriented organization by providing training at the entry and officer levels. In 2013, the Dominican Republic joined a U.S.-supported regional security plan whereby the Colombian National Police provides training and advice to police forces in other countries in the region. This trilateral initiative is expected to train 1,000 DNP officers per year at all levels – from basic handcuffing techniques to advanced investigation techniques and strategic planning. In addition, the Dominican government has two Police Organic Law proposals pending that, if passed, would bring about significant institutional changes to the DNP. The Dominican Republic continues to work towards passing legislative proposals related to illegal enrichment and anti-corruption by public officials. Efforts to strengthen the infrastructure of the Financial Analysis Unit remain ongoing.
The United States continues to support the Dominican Republic's efforts to establish a transparent and effective justice sector. U.S. assistance promotes justice sector reforms by strengthening Dominican government capacity to manage and prosecute complex money laundering, fraud, public corruption and illicit trafficking cases, as well as to establish internal controls to prevent corruption. The United States works with the Offices of the Attorney General, Prosecutorial Training School, Judiciary, Public Ministry, Public Defense, Supreme Court of Justice, and Constitutional Tribunal. In partnership with the Dominican government, U.S. assistance improves service delivery at the district level by strengthening coordination between prosecutors, judges, public defenders and the DNP in processing cases and resolving obstacles to effective caseload management. As part of CBSI, U.S. assistance also strengthens Dominican civil society coalitions for citizen security and criminal justice reform, and provides technical assistance for the development and passage of a new organic law on police reform.
U.S. assistance also helps to strengthen leadership, strategic planning, and human resources management capacity within the DNP. The United States supports the advancement of operational reforms established under the IPAC, which serves as the overall donor framework for anticorruption programming in the Dominican Republic. IPAC works to strengthen transparency and reduce corruption in key areas of public service delivery such as national budget execution, procurement and audit, education, health, water, and energy. The Dominican Republic’s participation in the Open Government Partnership also serves to reinforce these efforts under IPAC.
Combating pervasive corruption, restoring public confidence in law enforcement entities and the judiciary, addressing maritime illicit narcotics smuggling, and combating rising levels of narcotics-fueled violence remain among the challenges facing the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic’s highly successful aerial interdiction efforts since 2010 demonstrate that Dominican institutions have the capacity and will to stem the flow of drugs into the country. Similar maritime interdiction efforts will be necessary to effectively combat increasing narcotics trafficking by sea. The Dominican government must continue to improve its efforts to build a coherent, multifaceted counternarcotics program. Key to that effort will be increased domestic cooperation between the DNP, DNCD, and military units combined with greater cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries in the region.