The Islamic Post Blog

Dominican Republic Bids a Farewell of Mixed Sentiments to U.S. Ambassador Fannin by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Robert Fannin was given full ceremony on his departure last month from his post as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, under the Bush Administration, in favor of a yet unnamed replacement to be posted by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island.
Although in the country a mere 13 months, Mr. Fannin vocally opposed  controversial legislation in the country which would have allowed the Dominican Air Force to shoot down suspected drug planes in flight over the country.
The Dominican Republic is a key entry and exit point for illicit material traveling from South America to Miami. Rogelio E. Guevara, Chief of Operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations in 2002 that the Dominican Republic is being used as a “command, control, and communications” centre for drug operations in the Caribbean, and is also used to store drugs, before onward shipment to Puerto Rico or the United States.
The U.S. State Department made its stance known via Ambassador Fannin, as well as in an official statement, that the Dominican Republic should not authorize the shooting down of aircraft suspected of carrying drugs, but should instead improve its internal policies against drug running by confiscating drug traffickers’ property at the least, (Dominican Today, reported late last year.) “ [It’s true,] we must clean up the National Police and the Armed Forces, because those things are unacceptable,” said President Fernandez earlier this month when being interviewed on El Dia.
However, problems with closing down the Dominican drug route do not stop inside the country. “Once a shipment of cocaine, whether smuggled from Haiti or the Dominican Republic by maritime, air, or commercial cargo, reaches Puerto Rico, it is unlikely to be subjected to further United States Customs inspections en route to the continental U.S.,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent Michael Vigil in testimony before Congress in 2000.
Hence, the dramatic step proposed in the Dominican Congress to stop drug traffickers’ invasion of Dominican air space. If the illicit product fails to reach Puerto Rico through the Dominican Republic, the traffickers might assume a different route. Other Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Peru, found a measure of success enforcing laws which allow authorities to down any plane violating territorial airspace and waters.
However, in the latter country, a plane of American missionaries, while in communication with one federal air tower, was shot down after not responding to the requests of another, in April of 2001. A seven-month old baby and her mother were killed, and three other Americans injured. Undoubtedly, this reinforces the argument of the State Department.
Nevertheless, Air force colonels, a local religious figure, numerous fiery editorials of journalists and ordinary honest Dominican businessmen, sanction the shooting down of planes. “It’s a disgrace,” said one cattle rancher. “Drugs are being brought into the country to destroy the people. Another country should not be able to speak regarding our own airspace.”
Top military and political officials face extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges, compounding political tensions in what is being termed the country’s largest drug case. While Dominican President, Leonel Fernandez, says he will approve all the extraditions, he laments what is perceived as a lack of aid, on America’s, part, to reduce drug trafficking coming out of the country, specifically his own unheeded requests to the U.S. embassy to assist in the purchasing of a radar, to detect drug-laden flights. “I’ve never understood that part… this should be a mutual cooperation,” he said. “The radar is not just to protect us, it will also protect you because you are also being affected by this,” the Dominican president concluded, when speaking to Diario Libre.


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