Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2007
Source: Dominican Today (Dominican Republic)
Copyright: 2007 Dominican Today


Miami.- The Dominican Republic stands alone among the nations of the
Caribbean basin and Central America in effectively combating illegal
drug trafficking, an international expert said.

"Although the Dominican government has established effective security
strategies, it has not had international support in the fight against
this scourge," said Dr. Bruce Bagley, professor and director of the
University of Miami's Center for Latin American Studies.

According to Bagley, the war in Iraq has forced the U.S. government to
scale back its efforts to patrol the Caribbean region, which in turn
has resulted in an increase in narcotics trafficking.

"The United States has reduced its budget for patrolling the zone by
62 percent, meaning that, instead of receiving help from the
international community, the Dominican Republic finds itself more and
more isolated in its struggle against drug smuggling," said Bagley,
who added that the Caribbean nation has become a trafficking
destination and that Venezuela is among the departure points for
shipments from South America.

According to the U.S. Department of State's 2007 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the number of drug-smuggling
flights that left Venezuela for the island of Hispaniola rose by 167
percent from 2005 to 2006.

"Despite this increase in drug trafficking, we must recognize that the
Dominican government has implemented very positive security
strategies, and that these could even be extended to other countries
of the region with the same success that they've had in the Dominican
Republic," Bagley said.

The Dominican government in 2005 implemented the Democratic

Plan (PSD), a strategy that emphasizes citizen participation and
prevention as elements that contribute to reducing rates of violence
and enhancing the country's overall wellbeing.

With the formulation of this security plan, civil society's commitment
in the fight against drugs has been elevated to a level unforeseen a
short time ago. According to Maj. Gen. Rafael Radhames Ramirez
Ferreira, director of the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD),
50% of the drugs that were seized in the first quarter of the year
were done so with the help of the community.

The Dominican government has also announced plans to purchase eight
Brazilian Super Tucano jets*, which will be used to support efforts to
combat drug trafficking.

"The Dominicans have taken steps and have formulated plans to
strengthen their institutions and involve citizens in a struggle that
is a societal one. They're doing their part. Now what's needed is to
involve and seek commitments from the other countries of the region,"
Bagley said.

*Editor's note, the Tucano is a single-engine prop plane.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Steve Heath