Dominican Republic Strengthens its Military to Confront Organized Crime

Dominican Republic Strengthens its Military to Confront Organized Crime

By Dialogo
February 13, 2013

Interview with Dominican Army Commander, Major General Pedro Antonio Cáceres Chestaro, Deputy Minister of the Dominican Republic Armed Forces

In terms of surface and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean. Its strategic geographic location places the island in a privileged position, which is not only attractive to tourists and foreign investments, but also to organized crime. In an interview with Diálogo during the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC), held in Miami, Florida, in December 2012, Major General Pedro Antonio Cáceres Chestaro spoke about the security challenges he faces as Deputy Minister of the Armed Forces, as well as the legislative and structural changes expected to take place in his country.

Diálogo: General Cáceres Chestaro, what are the most significant achievements accomplished by the Dominican Armed Forces in 2012?

Major General Pedro Antonio Cáceres Chestaro: As for significant achievements, we can mention the improvements in joint operations, organizational structures and our judiciary system, which resulted from the different legislative proposals on Security and Defense presented by the National Congress, such as the Armed Forces’ Organic Law, the Intelligence National System Law, the Comprehensive Social Security Law, and the Peacekeeping Operations Law.

Diálogo: Has the military cooperation between the Dominican Republic and the United States contributed to these achievements in any way?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: The United States, through the Southern Command, constitutes a partner of vital importance to us. Their cooperation is crucial for the execution of multiple plans that resulted in various contributions in equipment and training, hence strengthening human and material capabilities of the Armed Forces. As a result, the level of training and development, obtained by our personnel in U.S. schools and military centers has been strengthened, as in the case of WHINSEC and CHDS for top level courses in National Defense and Security. We also developed a series of joint exercises aimed at helping people in need, as in the case of the New Horizons [humanitarian assistance exercise]. With regard to training, there are permanent teams working with our personnel in the fields of special operations, civil affairs and intelligence through the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S), with early execution and awareness on illicit actions. In all these cases, logistical support, exchange of doctrine procedures, and lessons learned provide strength and preparedness to the Forces’ operational capacity.

Diálogo: In mid-2012, the Minister of the Dominican Republic Armed Forces started a process to reform the institution. What changes can be anticipated, and what are the expectations of this process?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: Admiral Sigfrido Pared Pérez has presented his management plan within the strategic plan for the Armed Forces 2012-2015, with very positive changes on the operational capability of the force and the wellbeing of soldiers. The Commission for the Armed Forces Reform and Modernization has also been strengthened, with the optimization of the Defense and Security capability, which will implement internal control standards for resources that will pave the road for a departmental culture aimed at planning, assessment and positive results.

Diálogo: What is the Dominican Republic’s role in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), involving Caribbean nations, and in the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC)?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: We are founding partners in this fortunate initiative, so we are constantly trying to integrate the objectives of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative by properly identifying common challenges and threats, knowing that transnational criminals are very clever and take advantage of any weakness we may show. Thus, it is important for us to remain united and vigilant against organized crime.

In regards to the CFAC, it is a conference that shows that our relationship is mature and has kept us working side by side in the area of operations and intelligence, and also in strengthening relations through the exchange of instructors, officer and cadet participation in schools and academies, the establishment of regional centers in partner nations supported by the existing strengths of those countries, as in the case of the Guatemalan Peacekeeping Operations Regional Command, the Honduran Humanitarian Assistance Regional Center, the Salvadoran Counter Terrorist Regional Center, the Nicaraguan Demining Regional Center, and the Dominican Republic’s CFAC Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights Regional Center, which strengthens measures to promote trust among partner nations.

Diálogo: What security advancements are taking place with Haiti?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: The Dominican Armed Forces maintain and increase interaction and information exchange with internal security organizations from Haiti through the Haitian Ministry of Interior and their Armed Forces, by interacting with our Land Border Security Specialized Corps. With regard to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), we have always kept good relations in terms of communication, information exchange, and cooperation, which was very valuable after the earthquake in January 2010.

Diálogo: What is the opinion of the Armed Forces minister regarding the Dominican Republic’s possible participation in peacekeeping missions in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: The minister’s opinion has always been favorable, and his initiative to introduce the bill on Dominican troop participation as a UN member in peacekeeping operations into the National Congress is proof of that, as well as the importance he has conferred on the peacekeeping unit, and the strength and dynamism given to the School of Peacekeeping Operations since 2010. Officially created in October 2012, the school has generated very positive results, offering courses such as the Peacekeeping Basic Course, Peacekeeping Operations Instructor course, Peacekeeping Special Operations Senior Staff course, Peacekeeping Operations Military Observer course, and the War Correspondent and Peacekeeping Operations Leader course.

Diálogo: The theme of CANSEC 2013 deals with the importance of preserving the Armed Forces’ resources in our countries, especially during these times of economic challenges. What specific steps are you taking in this sense?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: We give paramount importance to the preservation of our resources, and we manage them in the most appropriate way. We direct [the resources] to optimizing Security and Defense capabilities and the implementation of basic internal control within the Dominican State. Furthermore, the next revision of the Dominican Armed Forces’ Joint Doctrine, performed every five years, represents an opportunity of improvement for the existing methods and of implementing those that will significantly contribute to the use and maintenance of equipment.

Diálogo: Your country has made important investments during the last year, for example, the purchase of Super Tucano aircrafts, pilot training in Brazil and Colombia, as well as the acquisition of airborne radars. Are there any other important investments planned for 2013?

Maj. Gen. Cáceres: The defense program including Super Tucano aircrafts and radars is part of an integral system aimed at strengthening national security; to protect our land, maritime and air borders and appropriately confront those threats that challenge us. The president has manifested a strong interest in national security, the acquisition and installation of security equipment by the Armed Forces for use in the Command, Control, Communications and Technologies Center, which will cover the different military components and specialized corps. At the same time, he has authorized the minister to proceed with installing of the equipment. The acquisition of sensors and devices to increase awareness levels has been set as top priority in the 2010-2030 national development strategy. These devices will improve our response capacity and prevent our jurisdiction areas from being used for illicit activities.