More than 500 Dominican officials have been purged from the country’s police and military in the last five years for ties to drug trafficking groups, a worrying sign for the island as it appears to be growing in importance to traffickers.
Between 2007 and 2012, 516 police and military officials were dismissed from their jobs for helping drug smugglers, according to Hoy newspaper. The majority came from the national police and air force, followed by the army and marines.
A number of the arrested officials were caught attempting to transport narcotics at docks, ports, and border crossings with Haiti. More than 100 had been working with the country’s Specialized Airport Security Corps (CESA).
According to Hoy’s report, many of those caught while working for CESA had received their posts with the help of the drug groups’ influence, and some of them had criminal records.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Dominican Republic is an important transit point for drugs trafficked through the Caribbean from South America. Though only around 5 percent of US-bound cocaine transits through the Caribbean, recent indicators suggest that increased pressure in the isthmus has caused drug routes to increasingly shift back to the Caribbean. This is supported by figures from the US Military’s Southern Command, which recorded an increase in aerial and maritime trafficking activity last year through the Caribbean. Dominican authorities seized a record of more than 8 tons of cocaine last year.
In addition to the Dominican Republic’s police and military involvement in the drug trade, there have been recent indications of drug groups’ ties to seemingly legitimate business enterprises. Earlier this month, three air force officials and the owner of a domestic airline carrier were arrested as part of a smuggling ring that transported drugs between Venezuela and an airport 150 kilometers from the country’s capital.
Especially troubling in Hoy’s report is the number of airport officials arrested for their role in drug smuggling. In March this year, the US State Department listed maritime trafficking as its main focus in Dominican anti-drug efforts, listing only one suspected drug flight for 2011. The arrest numbers released by Hoy, combined with the uncovering of the airport trafficking ring, suggest that many Dominican drug flights may have gone undetected.