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Column 061713 Brewer

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Dominican Republic and Drug Smuggling via the Caribbean

By Jerry Brewer

To break the cycle of narcotics trafficking and the accompanying violence by organized criminals and gangs, as they increasingly (and once again) make end runs via the Caribbean Basin with drug routes to the U.S., Africa and Europe, affected nations must commit and task multilateral enforcement efforts.

Yet we will hear arm chair pundits once again call for drug legalization, as well as a primary focus of investing in education, prevention, and training “that gives youth hope beyond crime,” albeit an investment in youth is a necessary and viable course of action for the future.

The exception is for those who have progressed beyond youth, with many now in positions to compete as some of the wealthiest personalities in the world. Ironically, they diabolically set the bar on how to rise and achieve massive wealth quickly, and eliminate all those in their way that work to prevent them from achieving their offensives of death and terror for profit.

These moguls of evil transgression are entrenched in virtually every facet of crime that brings quick and easy wealth that is easily concealed through a myriad of international rogue financial conduits, as well as some rogue government facilitation. Global criminal networks corrupt and launder illicit proceeds. Fortunes are easily invested into ostensibly legitimate companies and real estate projects.

Many of the organized criminal and drug cartel principals that have been successfully interdicted, convicted, and sentenced to prison continue to benefit as family members and other front persons act to monitor, control, and enforce their agendas by proxy.

The Dominican Republic has been a frequent strategic conduit for drug trafficking that has impacted crime, violence and addiction in Puerto Rico and other neighboring nations of the Caribbean. Intense drug interdiction in those areas of the Caribbean cyclically, in the last couple of decades, forced South American drug trafficking to more direct routes to the U.S. via Central America. Intense focus there, in the last few years, bounces much of it back to the Caribbean in this vicious circle.

Venezuela became a major transit country for cocaine shipments under the former Hugo Chavez dictatorial rule. Corrupt Venezuelan military and National Guard personnel have been reported to facilitate both the FARC and other Colombian drug trafficking organizations. 

In 2011, a report by Venezuela’s anti-drug office stated that there was “a network of air routes between the Venezuelan border states of Apure and Zulia to destinations like the Dominican Republic and Haiti.”  As well, a Colombian drug trafficking organization run by Daniel Barrera moved tons of cocaine from the “Venezuelan Caribbean island of Margarita to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in recent years. Authorities confiscated US$2.7 million in drug money belonging to the organization in Puerto Rico in April 2010.”

With the Dominican Republic serving as a major transshipment point for South American drugs, it has also become :a transshipment point for ecstasy from the Netherlands and Belgium destined for the U.S. and Canada. Substantial money laundering activities in the Dominican Republic have been reported, as well as significant amphetamine consumption since 2008.

The Dominican Republic appears to have a capable force to protect its homeland. The military has a Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA) and a Specialized Port Security Corps (CESEP) to meet international security needs in these areas. In addition, the Secretary of the Armed Forces announced plans to form a specialized border corps (CESEF) and an enhanced Counter-Drug Directorate (DNCD). The National Police force has 32,000 agents. The police are not part of the Dominican armed forces, but share overlapping security functions.

In 2012, the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report found that of 144 countries, the Dominican Republic placed 144/144 in "wastefulness of government spending," and 142/144 in "diversion of public funds.”

Reported results of Dominican Republic counter-narcotics efforts have been sporadic. Last year Dominican authorities arrested members of a “bulk cash smuggling operation that had smuggled upwards of $350 million over 5 years” to Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela.

In 2011, the U.S. and Dominican Republic counter-narcotics agencies closed a drug trafficking organization “linked to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel that had laundered money in the Dominican Republic, United States, Jamaica, Venezuela, Colombia, and Canada.”

Aggressively combating corruption and increasing cooperative capacities to track the laundering of both corrupt and criminal proceeds is critically necessary. Cooperation must extend across borders. U.S. borders are also significantly impacted by transnational organized crime and its net proceeds.

Caribbean Basin security initiatives must be based on regional priorities. Combating the powerful crime networks and threats also requires government and political will to protect its homeland against organized criminal exploitation and the corruption of government and law enforcement officials. Combating impunity is equally critical. Unfortunately, many of these nations are virtually powerless to fight sophisticated criminal networks.

The Dominican Republic and its Caribbean neighbors require diligent vigilance.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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