The Dominican Republic’s geographical position makes it very attractive for international tourism and one of the most visited destinations in the Caribbean. But tourism is not the only thing it attracts; the country is also a magnet for transnational criminal organizations that launder money and smuggle drugs, arms, and people.
The situation worries Brigadier General Richard Vásquez Jiménez, deputy commanding general of the Dominican Air Force, who sat down with Diálogo to discuss topics related to security in his country and the importance of international cooperation in the fight against shared threats in Latin America. The interview was held during the Central American Air Chiefs Conference in Tucson, Arizona from December 12th–13th, 2016.
Only five months after assuming the position, Brig. Gen. Vásquez is convinced that sharing experiences among neighboring countries and joining efforts is important for eliminating transnational crime. That is why from the moment he took on this responsibility within the hierarchy of the Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Vásquez was committed to working as a team with members of his armed service and the region in general.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the Dominican Republic’s presence at the Central American Air Chiefs Conference?
Brigadier General Richard Vásquez Jimenez: In my capacity as deputy commanding general of the Dominican Armed Forces, and in representation of our commander general, Major General Luis Napoleón Payán Díaz, our presence at this conference stems from the judgment of the high command of the defense of our Dominican nation in the sense of supporting, within the framework of international relations and defense diplomacy, the efforts made to achieve regional, hemispheric, and global security. We have gathered here to share our experiences combating the risks and threats affecting us all, so that we can coordinate our efforts in confronting those risks and threats.
Diálogo: Does the Dominican Republic have a certain goal in particular for this annual conference?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: With our participation, we are seeking to fulfill our commitments and comply with international agreements that we have signed with partner nations to fight against non-state actors in international organized crime who put our security at risk at the global, hemispheric, and regional levels, as well as internally within our countries.
Diálogo: What are the most important security issues facing the Dominican Republic?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: The main security concerns for the Dominican Republic are based on the geographical position of our country, which attracts drug trafficking, money laundering, arms trafficking, and human trafficking, among other transnational organized crimes. The main factor that worries us is the lack of civilian security, which like in other countries in the region has to be confronted by members of the Armed Forces in support of the national police. A comprehensive civilian security plan has therefore been designed and put into effect among military and police institutions.
Diálogo: With the Dominican Republic’s experience in the fight against transnational crime, what type of regional cooperation, for example, does the country participate in to contribute toward a regional approach to resolve these problems?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: As part of the cooperation agreements we have as a nation in terms of security, we have a presence in the majority of bodies created to work in a combined manner among our nations. We also use our air resources to participate in different joint interdiction operations with the air forces of our regional partner nations, such as the Caribe exercise in Colombia and the Sovereign Skies exercise with the United States.
To collaborate we must also improve as armed forces and make an effort. We must improve our armed forces and make an effort to expand our participation, which is the attitude of our highest authority as the best way to cooperate in the fight against these threats.
Diálogo: Why are collaboration, teamwork, and cooperation among partner nations, including the United States, important for combating issues associated with transnational crime?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: In reality, the importance of this is based on the fact that non-state actors who make up the substructure and the configuration of these security threats act in a coordinated manner, foster friendships, and exchange information, data, and experiences to achieve their illegal goals. For that reason, our success in confronting them is dependent on us, as state military bodies, acting under joint and combined strategies as a nation. Also, we should encourage trust and friendship among our chiefs and commanders.
Diálogo: What type of collaborations does the Dominican Air Force have with the United States?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: We work both with the United States and with neighboring countries and partner countries in the fight against organized crime. We answer to directives at the national political level to work in national defense institutions and public security institutions, as well as with our counterparts abroad in a joint and coordinated manner. To confront transnational organized crime we have diverse operational plans which are carried out through exercises with public security organs, which have signed anti-crime agreements with their counterparts in other countries. We also carry out training in the United States and in different partner nations, and they also send their military members to our country to study and do training, which has resulted in the application of well-coordinated and synchronized doctrines, so that we can use our air resources in an integrated manner with other countries in the region.
Diálogo: How does the Dominican Air Force participate in the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym)?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: Within the framework of hemispheric security, the Dominican Air Force has an active presence and is integrated in the plans and actions that are created within the system as part of the fight against the different international security threats. These links through SICOFAA and the exchanges with partner air forces, which we have through SICOFAA, give us timely information and pertinent data, which has resulted in significant successes in the past and also in the present. We value the opportunity that SICOFAA has provided us greatly.
Diálogo: What is the importance of these types of joint systems for regional cooperation?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: Specifically, as I said before, the bonds of friendship among the different air forces of the hemisphere are united through this system. Through these bonds of friendship, we are able to exchange information, both on the different threats we have in common as nations, and in the way that each of our nations confronts these threats individually. These are experiences that we can gather and build on as a national force and apply in the future. Let's say that it is a system that calls on us, as partner air force institutions, to act under the same direction against the same threats that affect us.
Diálogo: Would you like to make any other comments or send an invitation to your partner countries?
Brig. Gen. Vásquez: Just to express to them that we should maintain this unity, this brotherhood among air forces since it is necessary for us to be able to confront shared threats that create unease today. Not only as countries of the hemisphere but also internally within our nation, in our nations, these threats are affecting us greatly in terms of citizen security.