International Drug Ring Busted in Dominican Republic

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Officials broke up an international drug trafficking ring in the Dominican Republic, providing yet another indication of the country’s growing role in the trafficking of drugs through the Caribbean.

According to Agencia EFE, a joint operation between the anti-drug agency of the Dominican Republic and the US Coast Guard on the morning of December 10 led to the seizure of ten parcels of cocaine from a boat off the southeastern coast.  Authorities said that another 800 kilograms had been tossed overboard before their arrival.

A Colombian citizen was captured along with the intercepted shipment, while three others, including one Dominican and two suspects of unknown nationality were arrested in separate raids in the capital of Santo Domingo.

Police have identified the Dominican as Jose Calderon Rijo, alias “La Araña,” and say he led the group that trafficked Colombian cocaine through the Caribbean, while posing as an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry.

InSight Crime Analysis

In response to heightened security along the US-Mexico border, traffickers have begun to rely more heavily on sea routes through the Caribbean, along which the Dominican Republic is a key transit point. A US Congressional report released in September found that the amount of drugs passing through the Caribbean is once more the rise, though it is still nowhere near its peak in the 1980s, when some 80 percent of US-bound cocaine went through the region. Another contributor to this trend is the United States military’s implentation of so-called Operation Martillo in February 2012, which has raised pressure on criminal enterprises in Central America and made the Caribbean route more attractive.

Much of this traffic is headed by foreign criminal groups. In 2012 alone, Dominican authorities arrested traffickers from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and even the Czech Republic. The identification of La Araña as the head of this international network, however, goes against this trend. It also contradicts the claim made in July by Dominican drug czar Marino Castillo, who said that foreigners were almost to blame for the country’s security problems.

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