Dominican Republic, Haiti to partner in counter-narcotics fight

By Dialogo
April 03, 2014



SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Top counter-narcotics
officials in the Dominican Republic and Haiti vowed to work more closely to combat
drug trafficking and money laundering on their shared Caribbean island, which
international drug cartels have increasingly targeted as a transshipment point.
President of the Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control Major Gen.
Julio César Souffront Velázquez and Haitian National Police Chief Godson Orelus met
in Santo Domingo on March 23, where they said they’d cooperate to solve shared
problems on Hispaniola.
Souffront Velázquez said Dominican officials are committed to assisting their
Haitian counterparts by providing logistical assistance, sharing strategy and
exchanging information about drug trafficking and other criminal activities.
With this “measure we are confident we can form a wall against the terrible
scourge of drugs that constantly threatens the peace and tranquility of our
Dominican and Haitian citizens,” he said.
In announcing the renewed cooperation, Souffront Velázquez said Haitian
officials would have access to several Dominican initiatives, including a training
academy for counter-narcotics agents, operational and logistical technologies and a
canine-training facility.
“In short, you can rely on all of our logistics capabilities for the
detection of drug shipments and of the cartels that are seeking to use our two
countries as a bridge for trafficking that creates this monster that harms our
citizens,” he told the visiting Haitian delegation. “We must be permanently
integrated in a joint effort with an insular view of the problem.”
Orelus said the Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) has
provided “unwavering generosity and goodwill … to help my country face this terrible
drug-trafficking and money-laundering” problem.
Souffront Velázquez and Orelus toured the DNCD facilities, including the
Department of International Cooperation, where Haiti is considering assigning an
agent permanently after a formal cooperation agreement is signed.
It’s not the first time the neighboring countries have vowed to work more
closely against drug trafficking. In 2012, the DNCD said it and arms of the
Dominican military, including the Air Force and naval units that track drug flights
and marine shipments, would share information with Haiti.
Cooperation between the two countries occupying a single island with a porous
border is increasingly important, as foreign narco-traffickers have started to move
more illicit drugs through the Caribbean.
Hispaniola is seen as the main transshipment hub for the region. Last year,
Dominican authorities confiscated a record of nearly 10 metric tons of cocaine,
topping the previous high for seizures in 2012, when they nabbed about nine metric
tons.
“You see the Mexican cartels playing an increasingly important role in the
Dominican Republic,” said Daurius Figueira, a professor at the University of West
Indies who studies the flow of drugs through the Caribbean and the presence of
Mexican cartels.
Figueira said that as Dominican-based criminal groups were dismantled,
Mexicans took over.
“They absorbed everything,” he said.
On the other hand, Figueira said Haitian criminal organizations are
increasingly involved in the Caribbean.
“The Caribbean players are drawn from Jamaican and Haitian gang land,” he
said.
The increase in drug trafficking in the Caribbean has been noted by U.S.
officials, who have seen a subtle shift in smuggling routes from the Central
America-Mexico corridor to the Antilles.
The commander of United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the
Florida-based unit of the U.S. military that works throughout Latin America, last
month testified before U.S. Congress that he was concerned about the increase in
drug trafficking through the Caribbean.
“We’ve seen an increase in the flow up the West Indies onward to two
locations, one being the Dominican Republic,” Gen. John F. Kelly said during a
briefing at the Pentagon. Once the drugs are in the Dominican Republic, “the cartels
ship it onward to Europe; or what’s priceless is if they can get it into Puerto
Rico.”
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