Dominican Republic’s Indirect Participation with Operation Martillo and Support for CSII
By Dialogo May 15, 2014
On March 23 the Dominican Republic and Haiti agreed to strengthen their cooperation, in order to disrupt the Sinaloa Cartel and other transnational criminal organizations that operate in the Caribbean region, since drug traffickers continue to increase their activities in the region due to its strategic position on the map.
Operation Martillo is one of the U.S. Government’s comprehensive actions to avoid the use of the Central American isthmus as an illicit route for drugs, weapons, and money trafficking –scourge that directly affects the Dominican Republic because of its key location on the map, even though it does not officially participate in the operation.
To discuss this and other issues, Diálogo met with Major General Pedro A. Cáceres Chestaro, Dominican Deputy Minister of Defense for Military Affairs, during the ninth edition of the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC), held in Guatemala City, in April 2014.
DIÁLOGO: Although the Dominican Republic does not officially participate in Operation Martillo, what is its indirect contribution to this effort?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: It is true that we are really not a part of Operation Martillo. However, you know that the importance of the Dominican Republic is determined by its geostrategic position. This forces us to increase our efforts in order to thwart illicit trafficking in our area. Understandably, this contributes to Operation Martillo and causes us to interact and exchange information with our sister nations; partner nations in the area.
DIÁLOGO: ... and the United States...
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: Yes, certainly. Our main partner is the United States, and through the United States Southern Command, specifically JIATF-South (Joint Interagency Task Force-South), we are able to receive early warnings regarding people trying to enter our territory.
DIÁLOGO: In relation to the acquisition of military equipment, are there any other tools that the Dominican Republic is considering, as in the case of the Brazilian Super Tucano aircraft in recent years?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: Thanks to the purchase of the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, we saw that the number of aircraft attempting enter our country has decreased. In other words, we have been very successful with these aircraft. Also, we are integrating other technology for the defense of our territory, such as radars. Currently, we are in the bidding phase for a few command and control centers, as well as communications centers, in different areas of our Ministry of Defense.
DIÁLOGO: Speaking of radars, what is the country’s position regarding the Cooperative Situational Information Integration (CSII) system for countering information exchange in illicit trafficking, which is currently under development by SOUTHCOM?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: We are part of this project. We are one of the creators of this system, because we have signed the memorandum. As a matter of fact, the Dominican Republic was one of the first countries to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CSII system. We support and are committed to the AIS (Automatic Identification System), which is now ending with great results. That is why we have a lot of faith in the CSII system and we are also willing to work on it.
DIÁLOGO: There is a general tendency in the region for the military to have more participation in humanitarian assistance operations in case of a natural disaster and with regard to asymmetric threats, especially drug trafficking. What is the Dominican Republic's stand on this issue?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: You know that natural disasters are one of our threats. We lie atop faults that might provoke telluric movements, in addition to our very active hurricane season. That has forced us to focus on the different roles we play; based on this, we have trained and continue to train and work persistently to increase our efficiency levels against these.
DIÁLOGO: So, you agree with military participation in untraditional roles?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: Of course. It has been many years since the armed forces had to change their mentality and roles when other untraditional threats arose, but because we have to work in defense and security, this causes us to work and train to be prepared for anything that might arise, we have a very wide range of activities we focus on.
DIÁLOGO: The country’s geostrategic position is appealing to drug traffickers. Do you think that preventing drug trafficking in the Dominican territory is the main challenge for the Dominican Armed Forces?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: Yes. The first thing we need to understand is where we are located, and continue working based on that, as we have been doing, and increase our efforts to improve defense and national security.
DIÁLOGO: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MAJOR GENERAL CÁCERES CHESTARO: We praise this conference (CENTSEC) because, as we mentioned, it gives us the opportunity to know, study, and see the full scope of all the challenges and common threats we have in the region. This will undoubtedly increase security levels. And this will allow our citizens to live without fear. We welcome everything that might contribute to national peace, as has also been declared by our President, Danilo Medina, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and the National Police of the Dominican Republic. Likewise, Admiral Pared Pérez has also been working for this purpose.