SOUTHCOM and the Dominican Republic Strengthen Cooperation in the Fight against Drug Trafficking
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo December 12, 2016Major General Pilot Luis Napoleón Payán Díaz, commander general of the Dominican Republic Air Force (FARD, per its Spanish acronym), met with U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Paul J. Rock Jr., U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) director of Strategy, Policy and Plans (J-5), to boost cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime networks. During his November 11th visit, Brig. Gen. Rock Jr. “familiarized himself with the needs of the Dominican Air Force, focusing on the operations that the military institution has carried out throughout the years in counter-narcotics operations,” FARD Colonel Pilot Regner G. Evins Feliz, aide to Commander General Payán Díaz, told Diálogo. The meeting was held at the Joint Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense in Santo Domingo. The senior military commanders discussed the importance of enhancing the training Dominican pilots receive in the use of night-vision goggles to strengthen nighttime activities against international drug trafficking, illegal migration, and arms smuggling. “The objective is to increase training opportunities for rotary-wing aircraft pilots— whether that is with specialists from the U.S. Army, Air Force, or other regional partners, such as Colombia,” Col. Evins said. “Night-vision technology and instruction is of the utmost importance for the Dominican Air Force, to provide support for the Navy or the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD, per its Spanish acronym) in the fight against drug trafficking, by moving land units during both day and by night,” Col. Evins said. The officers also discussed SOUTHCOM’s Military Assistance Program. The FARD expressed their need to improve maintenance and resource management to increase the operational readiness rate of the Dominican Republic Air Force helicopter fleet. “The performance of the FARD is reduced if they do not have aircraft ready to engage in the flight time required for strong results,” Daniel Pou, associate director of Latin American Social Sciences Institute in the Dominican Republic told Diálogo. The Caribbean country is considered an important transit point for illicit drugs originating in South America. The United States Government, in its 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy report, estimated that approximately six percent of all cocaine brought into the United States and Europe moves through the Dominican Republic. “Since 2008, the Dominican Air Force has impacted deterrence and managed to achieve a reduction in illicit air flights to zero,” Col. Evins said. “The main mission of the Dominican Air Force is to give support to the Dominican Republic’s Navy. Almost 100 percent of the leaders of criminal drug-smuggling organizations have moved to the sea. There are no borders for these organizations.” To strengthen security in the Caribbean country and throughout the region, the FARD is also working jointly with squadrons from other countries through the development of joint interdictions and trainings. These efforts at joint collaboration on regional security between the Dominican Armed Forces, the DNCD and SOUTHCOM are demonstrated through various programs such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. The United States cooperates with the Dominican Armed Forces and the DNCD in several areas by providing support, intelligence, training, and specialized equipment. “Cooperation between the Dominican Republic and the United States in terms of the military is pertinent, especially regarding the area of aeronautics, so the FARD can play a support role in terms of law enforcement,” said Pou “Cooperation is increasingly important because the Dominican Republic is a bridge for all this ill [drug trafficking], which has an impact on society. The main way to have greater effectiveness in combating international drug smuggling is to continue combining efforts, exchanging information, training together, and giving each other support,” said Col. Evins. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Dominican authorities highlighted the commitment of their government and Armed Forces to increase cooperation. “We are committed and we are going to make our best effort so that, by working together, we have the best results in the fight against drug trafficking and other transnational crimes,” concluded Col. Evins.