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Interview with Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz, Minister of Defense of the Dominican Republic:

Interview with Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz, Minister of Defense of the Dominican Republic:

By Dialogo
January 24, 2011


Diálogo:
What are the Dominican Republic’s goals and priorities with regard to issues of national security and sovereignty right now?

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
The chief objective is to guarantee the defense of our national objectives in matters of national security, strengthening the security system, because in this way we’re able to more effectively confront challenges such as drug trafficking, illegal immigration, terrorism, environmental degradation, and all kinds of illicit trafficking. We also have to strengthen our legal and regulatory framework in order to strengthen the joint institutional structures of the Armed Forces, raise our operational level, and improve the institutional system of military intelligence, so that it can better support operations and better confront threats. Another aspect is to continue supporting the national police, in order to build a much more effective system of citizen security.

Diálogo:
What is the Armed Forces’ role in confronting the threat of illicit trafficking?

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
For the Armed Forces, the fight against illicit trafficking is a national high-priority objective and is a duty hallowed by the Constitution of the Republic. It’s our duty to confront transnational criminal activities that affect the country and its inhabitants. That is to say that we have to be strong and combat illicit trafficking of all kinds: drug trafficking, transnational crimes, arms trafficking, and human trafficking.

Diálogo:
Many countries in the region are studying the possibility of changing their constitutions precisely in order to allow the army to play a role that has belonged to the police until now.

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
For us, this is defined. We have the Armed Forces for defense and the police for public safety, but at any time when there’s an emergency situation, if the president so determines, we can act and support the national police. We even have a task force, Ciutran (Ciudad Tranquila [Peaceful City]), that supports the national police, especially at night.

Diálogo:
How has illicit trafficking affected your country?

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
Illicit trafficking in all its aspects is an evil that has affected not only the Dominican Republic, but all the countries of the world and of the region, including the United States, because crime corrodes families and brings insecurity. The Dominican Republic has invested large sums to counteract drug-trafficking organizations and has also established a good level of cooperation with other institutions, such as the state security agencies and the courts and public prosecutors. This has resulted in our being able to combat transnational crime and drug trafficking more effectively.

Diálogo:
What more should be done in order to combat these threats?

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
Despite the fact that we have some resources for the fight, such as the exchange of information, we have to continue with international support, because it’s not true that a country on its own can effectively combat a threat like illicit drug trafficking.

Diálogo:
What are the benefits of working with the United States and other nations to confront this regional threat and others like it?

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
The Armed Forces have resolved to be more active in the international arena in order to benefit from the experiences and capabilities of the United States and of other countries in the region. To this degree, we’ll be able to be much more effective, because despite the fact that there is a firm and decisive political will in the Dominican government to confront these plagues, we’ve benefited from support in the exchange of information and in training. For us historically, in our relationship with the United States on matters having to do with the Armed Forces and other institutions, the benefits have been extraordinary. Working with the United States has been very, very beneficial.

Diálogo:
What is your opinion on the effectiveness of the established parameters for combating the problems of crime and violence related to illicit trafficking in the Caribbean, the parameters promoted by the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative?

(Implemented by the United States, the CARICOM member countries, and the Dominican Republic in May 2010)

Gen. Joaquin V. Perez Feliz:
The initiative is very interesting and has borne a lot of fruit for us, because it’s been demonstrated that no country on its own can successfully confront the threat of illicit trafficking and organized crime. The Dominican Republic is firmly supporting this initiative, to the point that we’ve participated in all the meetings and have placed our own plans at the initiative’s disposition. Hence the significance that the framework of shared responsibility with the United States and all the countries in the region has, because it’s going to be much more effective to combat drug trafficking, transnational crime, arms trafficking, and illicit trafficking. We’re fully on board with President Barack Obama’s initiative.

Thanks to the support of the Dominican government and President Lionel Fernández, we in the Dominican Republic have currently reduced the network of illicit-trafficking flights considerably. We’re making progress, and we have the political will to continue constantly improving in the fight against illicit trafficking, which is threatening the region and the world.





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