SANTO DOMINGO — Elías Enmanuel Núñez is an ex-cop on the run.
The former lieutenant with the Dominican Republic’s National Police anti-narcotics unit accused his supervisors of protecting drug dealers and stealing dope. He was fired, threatened with death, and officially logged as one of the 5,000 crooked police officers, soldiers or anti-narcotics agents sacked in the past three years.
“I would arrest a drug dealer for having however many kilos of cocaine, and the next day the drugs I seized would be gone, and the guy would be back on his corner,” Núñez told The Miami Herald. “I did not offer myself to that kind of thing, and now I can’t even get a job as a security guard.”
Núñez eventually went public, and the colonels in question were suspended. They are among thousands of law enforcement officers that Dominican authorities acknowledge have become hit men, thieves or drug traffickers. Many formed business partnerships with the Dominican drug dealers and Colombian cartels that move massive amounts of cocaine by land and sea through the island of Hispaniola.
As more Colombian drugs move through the Dominican Republic on their way to Europe and the United States, traffickers have corrupted the very institutions charged with keeping them at bay, destabilizing already weak agencies plagued by low pay and graft.
Entire trafficking networks have been dismantled from within the armed forces, National Police and the country’s specialized quasi-military anti-drug corps. More than 20 percent of the National Drug Control Directorate, the country’s equivalent of the DEA, was fired last year, underscoring the need for massive reform in a country where U.S. anti-drug aid has dwindled.
“There is no question that most of the heavy lifting in drug trafficking in the Dominican Republic is being done by the military: They are the ones who facilitate the entry of drugs,” said Miami attorney Joaquin Perez, who represents traffickers. “They get a commission, in the form of drugs, and then find someone to sell it.”