Dominican Republic seized record amount of cocaine in 2013
By Dialogo January 08, 2014
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican authorities incinerated more than 11 metric tons of narcotics in 2013, including a record amount of cocaine, in what the attorney general said was the result of better coordination among agencies fighting an increase in drug smuggling through the Caribbean nation.
In confiscating nearly 10 metric tons of cocaine, the country topped the record it set for seizures in 2012, when it nabbed around nine metric tons.
Dominican Attorney General Francisco Domínguez Brito said 2013 was marked by work from the nation’s various law enforcement and counter-narcotics agencies.
“We have managed to strengthen coordination in all matters, in investigations and in prosecutions, and this has allowed us to strike blows against drug trafficking and drug dealing, as well as money laundering,” he said in a prepared statement.
On Dec. 30, Brito’s office announced the final of 52 controlled incinerations of illicit drugs seized during the year. The National Forensic Science Institute (INACIF) said it registered 11.2 metric tons of illicit drugs confiscated and destroyed. Of that total, 88% – or 9.875 metric tons – was cocaine. Marijuana, crack and heroin represented the balance.
The weekly incinerations concluded for the year on Dec. 28, according to INACIF. The 2013 seizures marked another record year of confiscations for Dominican law enforcement agencies.
In 2012, agents confiscated just over 10 metric tons of illicit drugs, with nearly nine tons being cocaine. In 2011, officials seized 6.7 metric tons of cocaine, up from 4.85 metric tons in 2010.
The steady rise in seizures in recent years is a sign that drug traffickers are increasingly targeting Dominican shorelines to ship South American cocaine to markets in the United States and Europe. Authorities have warned that the ongoing conflicts between criminal organizations and authorities in Central America and Mexico are pushing more smuggling to the Caribbean, a once popular transit route that was largely abandoned years ago.
The Dominican Republic remains the largest transshipment point in the Caribbean, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, which provides assistance to Dominican counter-narcotics agencies.
While Dominican authorities nearly have eliminated the use of small drug flights – which once bombarded the shorelines and fields with regular cocaine drops – drug traffickers increasingly have turned to maritime channels. Speedboats and small fishing vessels have been found carrying major shipments of drugs from South America.
In October, authorities carried out a raid in Punta Salina, near the southeastern city of Baní, seizing 1,110 kilograms of cocaine. In the same area months earlier in March, agents busted a smuggling operation and caught 1,860 kilograms of the drug in the Ocoa Bay that had been shipped from Colombia through Venezuela by go-fast boat.
In the same bay in May, agents took down a 1,500-kilogram shipment and arrested a Dominican allegedly involved in the operation.
What’s more, Dominican authorities have found evidence that Mexican drug cartels are using the country as a type of regional logistics hub, or warehouse, for storing and moving cocaine.
In September, authorities discovered and dismantled for the first time a cocaine-processing laboratory on a ranch west of the capital, Santo Domingo. Along with equipment for processing drugs, authorities seized 230 kilograms of cocaine, police said.
Analysts saw that evidence as another worrisome sign that international criminal elements were establishing themselves in the country. Brito said for that reason it remains important that the National Drug Control Office, Defense Ministry, police and prosecutors coordinate activities.
“We will continue working together under a joint strategy. We already have said that under no circumstances will we allow drug lords and organized criminal groups to operate with impunity in our territory,” he said. “We will be consistent in this regard.”