Dominican Official Blames Drug Woes on Foreign Criminal Groups

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A top anti-narcotics official in the Dominican Republic has claimed that foreign mafias and cartels are at fault for the Dominican Republic’s drug problems.

In a July 16 announcement, Dominican drug czar Marino Castillo claimed that the rise in drug consumption and trafficking in the Dominican Republic is partially due to the influence of foreign criminal organizations. According to Terra Colombia, Castillo blamed organized crime groups like the Russian mafia, as well as Mexican cartels like Sinaloa, for some of the country’s drug problems.

The presidential advisor went on to explain that the Dominican government is making efforts to counter drug trafficking, including purchasing sophisticated radar from Israel to track boats used in drug smuggling.

Castillo made a similar claim in February 2011, when he alleged that the Russian and Italian mafias were investing in real estate properties in the Caribbean country.

InSight Crime Analysis

There is evidence to back Castillo’s claims. In July 2011, Dominican authorities arrested a Mexican trafficker who allegedly worked for the Sinaloa Cartel, indicating that the Mexican group may have some presence in the country. Moreover, in 2007 the International Relations and Security Network, which is funded by the Swiss Department for Defence (DDPS) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, reported that the Italian mafia was using several businesses in the Dominican Republic as fronts for drug trafficking.

However, in regard to Castillo’s claim about the Russian mafia, the only open source evidence of the group operating in the Caribbean is over 10 years old. In the 1990s, the Russian mafia had been reported to be involved in money laundering and drug smuggling schemes with Colombian drug traffickers and the Italian mafia.

Castillo’s statements may be intended to direct attention and blame away from the country’s problems with crime and corruption. The Dominican Republic’s homicide rate is roughly three times that of the United States and it struggles with corruption, ranking it 129th out of 183 countries on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Index.

With governments in Mexico and Central America cracking down on criminal activity, Caribbean countries provide an increasingly appealing alternative for drug traffickers. The US State Department has warned that use of the Caribbean smuggling routes could potentially rise, and the presence of foreign traffickers in the Dominican Republic could be evidence of this.

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