HomeNewsAnalysisDrug Arrests in Dominican Show Troubling Commercial-Military Ties
ANALYSIS

Drug Arrests in Dominican Show Troubling Commercial-Military Ties

CARIBBEAN / 2 OCT 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Anti-narcotics authorities in the Dominican Republic announced they had dismantled a drug trafficking ring that used commercial airplanes to smuggle cocaine from Venezuela to the Caribbean, shining a light on a dark alliance between military personnel and legitimate business interests.

The National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) announced the arrest of 15 people, including Rafael Rosado Fermin, the owner of domestic airline Caribair. Among the detainees are three members of the military, including an Air Force lieutenant, an Army lieutenant colonel and a sergeant major. A former police officer was also taken into custody, according to Hoy newspaper.

The other detainees include several Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans.

The head of the DNCD said that the trafficking ring was based out of a local airport in the town of Constanza, some 150 kilometers from the capital, Santo Domingo. The traffickers would send aircraft to the western state of Apure in Venezuela to pick up cocaine shipments. Then fly to the Dominican Republic.

Six airplanes were also seized as part of the law enforcement operation. 

According to the AP, the DNCD said that the investigation into the trafficking ring began in 2011 with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). But the arrests were made after authorities began investigating a plane crash near Constanza on September 27, which killed both the pilot and the passenger on board. The crash was ruled a mechanical accident, and led to the arrest of the three suspected military officials involved in the trafficking ring. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

The Dominican Republic is an important transit point for cocaine smuggled through the Caribbean. However what makes this case alarming is that, according to the US State Department, the most frequently used routes are maritime ones. The Dominican Republic reported only one suspected drug flight from South America in 2011, compared to the 11 suspected flights in 2010. The recent dismantling of this trafficking ring is one indication that aerial routes to Venezuela are still being used by drug traffickers.

Dominican Republic has taken action to try and discourage drug flights, passing a law last year that would require small planes to purchase their fuel from the DNCD. This could help explain the high number of officials captured as part of this law enforcement operation.

The island also has credited the usage of its modernized Air Force fleet, including eight Super Tucano warplanes, with driving drug flights away from the Caribbean island. The Air Force even once declared that the number of drug flights entering the country was reduced to zero.

But as these recent arrests show, drug traffickers may still be using the airspace with the complicity of business and security officials. These flights, therefore, were technically authorized making this ring more difficult to dismantle. 

The US is certainly worried about the Caribbean, but also appears focused on sea traffic. The US Department of Homeland Security has said it intends to begin drone flights over the 1,000 mile stretch of ocean between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, mainly intended to monitor go-fast boats and other vessels. 

The captures also solidify theories around Venezuelan trafficking routes. Apure province, which borders Colombia, was serving as a pickup and embarkation point. As the New York Times reported earlier this year, low-flying drug flights and airstrips are common sights in Apure, while Venezuelan authorities frequently report large-scale cocaine seizures here.

Colombian rebel groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are both based in Apure and are involved in the cocaine trade, selling shipments to Colombian traffickers or to corrupt factions of the Venezuelan security forces.  

Finally, the fact that the owner of an airline businesses and several mid-ranking members of the security forces were alleged collaborators in the drug trafficking ring points to the corrupting power of the drug trade in the Dominican Republic. Last year the police fired 360 officers for corruption, while the DNCD dismissed 84 employees, according to the US State Department. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 OCT 2016

New evidence from a high-reaching drug trafficking trial has directly implicated immediate relatives of Venezuela's president and his wife, in…

CARIBBEAN / 10 JAN 2017

The case of a group of bank robbers in the Dominican Republic headed by a former member of the military…

COLOMBIA / 28 APR 2015

Half of all car parts sold in Colombia come from stolen vehicles, and that's just one segment of a transnational…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…