A series of large-scale drug raids across the Dominican Republic is now zooming in on smaller trafficking hotspots, just months after one of the country's former top traffickers pleaded guilty in the United States.
Launched on the morning of June 13, Operation Halcón IV mobilized 1,350 security officials who swept through several towns and raided half a dozen prisons.
The focus was a drug trafficking network headed by Joel Ambioris Pimentel García, alias “la J,” an alleged Dominican cocaine trafficker currently residing in Spain.
“Investigations link him to dozens of violent deaths in several northern provinces of the Dominican Republic,” the Attorney General’s office stated. Pimentel is also believed to have made recent threats against Attorney-General Miriam Germán Brito, claiming he could have her son killed, local media sources have reported.
The raids resulted in 10 arrests, the seizure of 18 vehicles, weapons and cocaine, and over $110,000 in cash.
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Notably, Halcón IV follows the downfall of the Caribbean’s foremost kingpin, Dominican drug trafficker César Peralta, alias “El Abusador.”
Peralta conspired with South American drug traffickers to ship tons of cocaine to the US and Europe through the Dominican Republic. He was extradited to the US in 2021 and is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to drug trafficking crimes in November 2022.
Since Peralta’s capture, Dominican authorities have continued to crack down on organized criminal structures across the country. However, whether this will impact the flow of drugs through the country remains to be seen.
One target of the raid, for example, was the northern region of Cibao, where authorities have made regular seizures of cocaine set to be exported, as well as increasing quantities of marijuana shipped from the United States.
Despite operations against them in the past, criminal groups in Cibao have remained powerful, maintaining high levels of sophistication and corrupting politicians and security forces, according to Daniel Pou, a Dominican security expert.
“They come, they arrest, they take people, they sentence them, but the group resurfaces, renews itself each time, with greater speed and greater power,” he told InSight Crime. But these raids were making a difference, according to Pou, as he claimed previous operations have not targeted criminal groups in Cibao due to their economic and political influence.
Operation Halcón IV is the latest ambitious law enforcement operation targeting organized crime under the administration of President Luis Abinader. A series of over 100 raids nationwide in 2021 targeted a drug trafficking network that allegedly used lavish proceeds to buy various properties and fund campaigns for legislators.
The US has also supported these moves by targeting top Dominican traffickers, including issuing sanctions on José Calderón Rijo in December 2022. Calderón Rijo is believed to run one of the most significant drug trafficking operations in the Caribbean, according to the US Treasury Department.