The head of the Dominican Republic’s anti-drug coordinating agency has criticized his country’s extradition treaty with the United States for allowing drug traffickers to keep their assets, echoing criticisms elsewhere in Latin America over the perceived leniency extradited criminals receive.
During a May 17 interview with television program D’AGENDA (see video below), Fidias Aristy, President of the Dominican Republic’s National Drug Council (CND), said extradition to the United States has become a reward bordering on impunity for drug traffickers.
Aristy stated that after serving short US prison sentences, drug traffickers are able to return to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the immense fortunes they accumulated through their illicit activities. According to Aristy, this is because the current extradition treaty with the United States keeps Dominican authorities from legally pursuing extradited criminals’ properties and other assets, effectively legalizing them and allowing drug traffickers to “flaunt” and “enjoy” their wealth once they are released from prison.
As an example, Aristy cited the recent case of Yubel Enrique Mendez, alias “Oreganito,” a convicted drug trafficker who spent only four-and-a-half years in a US prison before returning to the Dominican Republic, where his large fortune remained intact.
Although the United States and the Dominican Republic signed a new extradition treaty in January 2015, Aristy said the changes were superficial and failed to enable Dominican authorities to seize the assets of extradited drug traffickers.
During the interview, Aristy stated that in Colombia criminals used to say, “It’s better to die than be extradited to a US prison,” but now, Aristy feels, “it can be said that in the Dominican Republic and [Colombia] it is better to be extradited to the United States than anything else.”
InSight Crime Analysis
The extradition of drug traffickers to the United States has long been a contentious issue in Latin America.
In the past, critics in Colombia have complained that criminals receive lenient sentences in the United States in exchange for cooperating with authorities, rather than answering for their crimes at home. Indeed, as Aristy mentions in the interview, Colombian criminals — once fearful of extradition to the United States — have come to see extradition as an opportunity to obtain a reduced sentence.
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Nonetheless, for many Latin American governments the extradition of powerful criminals often serves as the best option given the weaknesses of some local judicial systems. The Dominican Republic is no exception to this, with a judicial system that has seen allegations of widespread corruption, and cases of security forces involved in drug trafficking.
Ultimately, while Aristy’s complaints that extradited drug traffickers are getting off easy may be legitimate, there is little to suggest Dominican criminals would avoid impunity and receive stricter punishment in their home country’s courts.