The Dominican Republic strengthened its borders to counter transnational crime, with troops from the Army, Navy, and Air Force joining the Border Fence Task Force (FTCF, in Spanish), an elite group created to bolster security and curb narcotrafficking and smuggling.
The unit now has more checkpoints and increased patrols. According to the Dominican Drug Control Directorate (DNCD, in Spanish), interagency efforts have helped the country seize more than 30 tons of drugs in 2019.
“We guarantee border security and control by increasing the number of checkpoints, as well as short- and long-range patrols, in coordination with FTCF and the other government agencies,” Dominican Minister of Defense Army Lieutenant General Rubén Darío Paulino Sem told Diálogo. “Border areas will be safeguarded around the clock.”
FTCF was created in mid-2018, and currently has 1,200 elements to protect the 994 miles of land and maritime borders. “This unit, coordinated by the Army, consists of three important teams: Alfa, Bravo, and Charlie. Our personnel rotates every 21 days,” Major General Estanislao Gonell Regalado, commander of the Dominican Army, told Diálogo. “Interagency work is key, and that’s why we included agents of the National Civil Police’s Counter-narcotics Central Directorate.”
Narcotrafficking networks in the Caribbean Sea operate differently from those in the Pacific Ocean. “It’s not very common to see semisubmersibles here, as most drugs are taken in ultra-fast vessels or arrive through the piers,” Army Brigadier General Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase, head of Joint Operations for the Dominican Ministry of Defense, told Diálogo. “Marijuana enters through the west, from Caribbean countries, while cocaine enters via the south, coming from Venezuela and Colombia. This is because we are among the countries that are closer to the United States and the European Union by sea.”
FTCF consists of interagency task groups that cover every province in the country, “with cutting-edge equipment and infrastructure to combat crime,” Maj. Gen. Gonell said. “For example, in Enriquillo municipality, in the southeast part of the island, we built a pier and a heliport with sophisticated technology for maritime and air operations.”
Interagency forces also work in seven other cities. “But Enriquillo is a benchmark in the organization and modernization of checkpoints and interdiction posts, in the fight and prosecution of illicit operations, especially narcotrafficking,” Lt. Gen. Sem added.
On January 20, between the cities of Boca Chica and La Romana, in Santo Domingo province, DNCD dismantled an international narcotrafficking ring that recruited foreigners to use them as mules. The next day, authorities conducted operations in 212 locations, where they detained 323 people and seized drugs, weapons, and vehicles.
“We recognize the ongoing support of U.S. Southern Command,” said Maj. Gen. Gonell. “Especially for providing equipment and training in different areas to counter international narcotrafficking networks and their operations.”