Top Dominican Republic cops collared in drug bust

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Wednesday May 30, 2012 — High-ranking police officials in the National Drug Control Agency stand accused of providing security for drug traffickers in  the latest corruption case to hit the country as it tries to clean up its military and police.

The three officials were arrested alongside four men allegedly waiting for a drug shipment bound for Puerto Rico, agency chief Rolando Rosado disclosed.

The three accused have been suspended from duty, as have others who have been charged in drug-related corruption cases that have yielded dozens of arrests and dismissals in recent years.

“It’s a serious situation. The people have lost faith in the police,” said Tulio Castanos, vice president of the Institutional Justice Foundation, a non-governmental group that is helping government design and implement police department reforms.

Government statistics reveal that since 2009 more than 700 agents with the National Drug Control Agency, a combination of police officers and military personnel on loan, have been removed for a variety of crimes. Of those, 200 were suspected of involvement in drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, the national police force has expelled some 1,400 officers since 2010 for various alleged crimes, including ties to drug trafficking, spokesman Maximo Baez said.

Members of the police and all branches of the military have become ensnarled in drug investigations, including the recent involvement of a navy officer in charge of port security accused of attempting to smuggle more than 800 kilograms of cocaine to Spain on board a cargo vessel.

In another case, nearly 20 officials, the majority with the navy, were accused in 2008 of killing seven Colombian drug traffickers to steal 1.3 tons of cocaine. Five of those accused were sentenced to 30 years in jail, while three others received 20-year sentences.

In the first five months of this year, authorities have confiscated more than 4 tons of cocaine. They seized almost 7 tons in the whole of last year.

“The biggest concern is that in almost every seizure, officials were implicated,” according to a report by Citizen Involvement, a non-governmental organization that tracks corruption allegations in the Dominican Republic.

The government is now requiring members of the police and armed forces to pass polygraph and background tests. In addition, internal affairs units are regularly investigating corruption allegations and handing out punishments, which have been increasing along with the country’s role as a trans-shipment point for cocaine and other drugs bound for the United States and Europe.

The government’s attempt to address the situation comes amid growing concerns among the population about the way drug trafficking has seemed to take a central role in the country. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)