Top Story — Three prosecutors and 21 police officers in the Dominican Republic — among them a former anti-narcotics unit director — were accused of failing to report and subsequently profiting off of more than one ton of cocaine seized. One dozen suspects have been arrested, as ordered by the court, while the rest remain at large.
“In one way or another,” General Prosecutor Francisco Dominguez said, “they became drug traffickers.” Dominguez added that, “this type of situation is unacceptable.”
The missing cocaine was confiscated during three separate drug seizures, the largest of which took place in September near Santo Domingo and comprised 950 kilograms (2,000 pounds) of the narcotic.
Authorities are investigating the extent to which the drugs were either sold or returned to the drug traffickers in exchange for bribes. Dominguez stated that some of the money made during the alleged transactions has already been turned over by certain suspects.
Officials began their investigation after Police Chief Manuel Castro became aware of missing quantities of the drug in December.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, about six percent of the cocaine entering North America and Europe pass through the island of Hispaniola, mostly crossing the Dominican Republic, making the Caribbean country a major transit country for drugs originating in South America.
Drug traffickers are increasingly using the Caribbean as a drug route, foregoing Mexico as the country experiences crackdowns and violent disputes between rival cartels. Shipments are often brought to the Dominican Republic before moving on to Puerto Rico, where goods can move from the territory to the continental U.S. without being subject to customs inspection, according to InSight crime.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
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- The released Cuban spy who Obama “hailed as one of Washington’s most valuable assets,” is now in the U.S. and “doing fine” according to his sister.
- Protestors in Mexico demanded to be let in to an army base in the town of Iguala, Mexico in order to search for the 43 students who went missing in September, saying that they refuse to give up their search efforts until it is proven that the students are dead.
- Following Haitian President Michel Martelly’s failure to incorporate a key opposition bloc into election negotiations, Haiti’s parliament dissolved on Tuesday after a deal aiming to extend parliamentary terms amid the country’s political crisis fell through.
- Ten Cuban dissidents released in the past week were interviewed by The Associated Press, with the majority praising the political detente and expressing optimism for new opportunities for activism within Cuba, while a few maintain little tangible change will occur.
- A week after appearing in court on a stretcher to answer genocide charges, former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt missed a hearing on Tuesday, prompting a judge to order an investigation into the health of the 88-year-old, who was convicted in 2013 of ordering the deaths of more than 1,700 people, a ruling that was later overturned.
- The mayor of Guatemala City on Monday made a Facebook post warning that circuses traveling to the capital are no longer allowed to use animals due to concerns of abuse, a measure also enacted by Mexico City last year.
- Echoing the guerrilla group’s earlier warnings, a negotiator for Colombia’s FARC said on Tuesday that the rebels will continue to observe their one-sided truce so long as they are not attacked by the military, which has not been ordered by President Juan Manuel Santos to halt offensive operations despite his increasingly conciliatory tone.
- The ratings agency Moody’s on Tuesday downgraded Venezuela’s credit score, citing an increased risk of default due to falling oil prices and further moving the country’s bonds into junk status.
- That credit downgrade came a day after Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles called for street protests citing a “state of emergency,” a notable development given the fact that Capriles declined to support the demonstrations that rocked the country in 2014.
- To help spur economic growth after a disappointing 2014, Peru’s government announced it will help fund $7 billion worth of private infrastructure projects, including a new perimeter highway surrounding the capital Lima.
- In the latest sign of its commitment to cut spending, Brazil’s government on Tuesday signaled it would not release any funds to bail out electric utilities, making it likely that consumers will bear the brunt of rising costs.
- In Brazil, it will become illegal in May for a football player to be owned by anyone other than their own club, a policy change bringing the country in line with a FIFA regulation that is also flouted in several other Latin American leagues and Portugal.
- As concerns mount over the risk of droughts, Chile’s important copper mining sector is forecast to increase its use of water by two-thirds over the next ten years, highlighting the rising environmental impact of the practice that is nonetheless crucial to the country’s economy.