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Dominica

The island's indigenous Arawak people were expelled or exterminated by Caribs in the 14th century. Columbus landed there in November 1493. Spanish ships frequently landed on Dominica during the 16th century, but fierce resistance by the Caribs discouraged Spain's efforts at settlement.

In 1635, France claimed Dominica. Shortly thereafter, French missionaries became the first European inhabitants of the island. Carib incursions continued, though, and in 1660, the French and British agreed that both Dominica and St. Vincent should be abandoned. Dominica was officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of British and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the 18th century.

Largely due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years' War, the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population, which was largely French. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure.

In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free nonwhites. Three Blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became the first and only British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most Black legislators were smallholders or merchants who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule.

In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one comprised of one-half elected members and one-half appointed. Planters allied with colonial administrators outmaneuvered the elected legislators on numerous occasions. In 1871, Dominica became part of the Leeward Island Federation. The power of the Black population progressively eroded. Crown Colony government was re-established in 1896. All political rights for the vast majority of the population were effectively curtailed. Development aid, offered as compensation for disenfranchisement, proved to have a negligible effect.

Following World War I, an upsurge of political consciousness throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the Representative Government Association. Marshaling public frustration with the lack of a voice in the governing of Dominica, this group won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward Island Administration and was governed as part of the Windwards until 1958, when it joined the short-lived West Indies Federation.

After the federation dissolved, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom in 1967 and formally took responsibility for its internal affairs. On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom.

Independence did little to solve problems stemming from centuries of economic underdevelopment, and in mid-1979, political discontent led to the formation of an interim government. It was replaced after the 1980 elections by a government led by the Dominica Freedom Party under Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean's first female prime minister. Chronic economic problems were compounded by the severe impact of hurricanes in 1979 and in 1980. By the end of the 1980s, the economy had made a healthy recovery, which weakened in the 1990s due to a decrease in banana prices.

In January 2000 elections, the Edison James United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the Dominican Labor Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P. "Rosie" Douglas. Douglas died after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles, who died in office in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced Charles as Prime Minister.

ECONOMY

Agriculture, with bananas as the principal crop, is still Dominica's economic mainstay. Banana production employs, directly or indirectly, upwards of one-third of the work force. This sector is highly vulnerable to weather conditions and to external events affecting commodity prices. In view of the European Union's (EU) phase-out of preferred access of bananas to its markets, agricultural diversification is a priority. Dominica has made some progress, with the export of small quantities of citrus fruits and vegetables and the introduction of coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mangoes, guavas, and papayas. Dominica also has had some success in increasing its manufactured exports, with soap as the primary product. Dominica also recently entered the offshore financial services market.

Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, development of tourism has been slow compared with that on neighboring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica's high, rugged mountains, rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it an attractive destination. Cruise ship stopovers have increased following the development of modern docking and waterfront facilities in the capital. Eco-tourism also is a growing industry on the island. Dominica is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency to all eight members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries. Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). In 2001, exports totaled $47.4 million, with the U.S. receiving nearly 9% of these exports. Dominica's imports totaled $100 million, 41% from the U.S. Dominica also is a member of the 14-member Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Like its Eastern Caribbean neighbors, the main priority of Dominica's foreign relations is economic development. The country maintains missions in Washington, New York, London, and Brussels and is represented jointly with other Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) members in Canada. Dominica also is a member of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the British Commonwealth. It became a member of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1978 and of the World Bank and Organization of American States (OAS) in 1979. Dominica had nearly 205,000 tourist visitors in 2002, with nearly 15,000 stay-over visitors from the U.S. Cruise ship passenger arrivals in 2002 totaled 136,859. It is estimated that 4,500 Americans reside in the country.

The country has a primarily agrarian, market-based economy and a population of 70,400. The economy continued to depend heavily on earnings from the declining banana industry. The Government's efforts to market the island as an ecotourism destination produced mixed results, with increases in arrivals by cruise ship passengers but a drop in over-night stays. There was a high external debt and an unemployment rate of approximately 23 percent. Gross domestic product was estimated to increase by 1.1 percent and inflation was estimated to be 2.4 percent. Unions have legally defined rights to organize workers and to bargain with employers. Workers exercised this right, particularly in the nonagricultural sectors of the economy, including in government service, and there also is recourse to mediation and arbitration by the Government. There are no export processing zones.

The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right in practice. The banana, coconut, and citrus fruit industries as well as port services are deemed essential services, which effectively prohibits workers in these sectors from going on strike. The International Labor Organization (ILO) considered this definition overly broad and repeatedly urged the Government to redefine essential services as those whose interruption would endanger the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population, or in the case of an acute national crisis. The ILO noted that existing legislation made it possible to stop a strike by compulsory arbitration and empowered the Minister to refer disputes to compulsory arbitration if in his or her opinion it concerns serious issues. The Industrial Relations Advisory Board, which is composed of union members, government representatives, and private businessmen, advised the Minister of Labor to amend this legislation and remove the coconut and citrus industries from the definition of essential services.In October, a court found in favor of the Government in the case brought forward by the Public Service Union (PSU) concerning the legality of government cost-cutting measures. The PSU appealed the decision to the Privy Council in London, and a decision was pending at year's end.

The law sets minimum wages for various categories of workers, but these were last revised in 1989. The minimum wage rate for some categories of workers (e.g., household employees) was as low as $0.37 (EC$1.00) per hour if meals were included. However, minimum wages for most workers ranged from $0.74 (EC$2.00) per hour for tourist industry workers to $1.11 (EC$3.00) per hour for occupations such as shop clerks. Minimum wages were not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. However, most workers (including domestic employees) earned more than the legislated minimum wage for their category. By year's end, the Government still had not acted on the 1998 recommendations of the Minimum Wage Advisory Board to increase wage levels. Labor laws provide that the Labor Commissioner may authorize the employment of a person with disabilities at a wage lower than the minimum rate in order to enable that person to be employed gainfully. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours in 5 days. The law provides overtime for work above the standard workweek; however, excessive overtime is not prohibited. The Employment Safety Act provides occupational health and safety regulations that are consistent with international standards. Inspectors from the Environmental Health Department of the Ministry of Health conduct health and safety inspections. The rarely used enforcement mechanism consists of inspections by the Department of Labor, which prescribe specific compliance measures, impose fines, and prosecute offenders. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment.

The Dominican economy depends on agriculture, primarily bananas, and remains highly vulnerable to climatic conditions and international economic developments. Production of bananas dropped precipitously in 2003, a major reason for the 1% decline in GDP. Tourism increased in 2003 as the government sought to promote Dominica as an "ecotourism" destination. Development of the tourism industry remains difficult, however, because of the rugged coastline, lack of beaches, and the absence of an international airport. The government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy in 2003 - including elimination of price controls, privatization of the state banana company, and tax increases - to address Dominica's economic crisis and to meet IMF targets. In order to diversify the island's production base the government is attempting to develop an offshore financial sector and is planning to construct an oil refinery on the eastern part of the island.

BELIEFS

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. Although churches are not required to register, they must do so to own property, and ministers of registered churches may have an easier time obtaining long-term work visas. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported difficulties receiving official government recognition. The Attorney General reportedly refused to register the church after receiving an unfavorable report on the matter from the Dominica Council of Churches. Despite evidence showing that the church was registered in other countries in the region, the issue was not resolved at year's end.

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in Dominica is medium compared to industrialized countries, with the important exception of murder. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Dominica. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Dominica will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 7.89 per 100,000 population for Dominica, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 19.72 for Dominica, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1999 was 80.20 for Dominica, 3.34 for Japan, and 147.36 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 682.39 for Dominica, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1999 was 1735.56 for Dominica, 206.01 for Japan, and 755.29 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 17.12 for Dominica, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA (data for Dominica were from 1998--no data reported in 1999). The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was 77.57 for Dominica, compared with 34.01 for Japan and 412.70 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 2603.33 for Dominica, compared with 1529.75 for Japan and 4184.24 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999)

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1998 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 11.85 to 7.89 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 33.4%. The rate for rape decreased from 51.35 to 19.72, an decrease of 61.6%. The rate of robbery increased from 65.84 to 80.20, an increase of 21.8%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 125.09 to 682.39, an increase of 444.5%. The rate for burglary decreased from 2018.59 to 1735.56, a decrease of 14.0%. No rate for larceny was reported for 1999 (see above note). The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 55.30 to 77.57, and increase of 40.3%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 2345.14 to 2603.33, an increase of 11.0% (note that data on larceny were omitted).

LEGAL SYSTEM

Dominica has a Westminster-style parliamentary government, and there are three political parties--the Dominica Labor Party (the majority party), the Dominica United Workers Party, and the Dominica Freedom Party. A president and prime minister make up the executive branch. Nominated by the prime minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition party, the president is elected for a 5-year term by the parliament. The president appoints as prime minister the leader of the majority party in the parliament and also appoints, on the prime minister's recommendation, members of the parliament from the ruling party as cabinet ministers. The prime minister and cabinet are responsible to the parliament and can be removed on a no-confidence vote. The unicameral parliament, called the House of Assembly, is composed of 21 regional representatives and nine senators. The regional representatives are elected by universal suffrage and, in turn, decide whether senators are to be elected or appointed. If appointed, five are chosen by the president with the advice of the prime minister and four with the advice of the opposition leader. If elected, it is by vote of the regional representatives. Elections for representatives and senators must be held at least every 5 years, although the prime minister can call elections any time. The last election was held in January 2000.

Dominica's legal system is based on English common law. There are three magistrate's courts, with appeals made to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and, ultimately, to the Privy Council in London. Councils elected by universal suffrage govern most towns. Supported largely by property taxation, the councils are responsible for the regulation of markets and sanitation and the maintenance of secondary roads and other municipal amenities. The island is also divided into 10 parishes, whose governance is unrelated to the town governments. Dominica is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister, a cabinet, and a unicameral legislative assembly. A president, nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition party, and elected for a 5-year term by the Parliament, was head of state with largely ceremonial powers. Prime Minister Pierre Charles' Dominica Labour Party (DLP) prevailed in generally free and fair elections in 2000. Following the sudden death of Prime Minister Charles on January 6, Members of Parliament appointed Roosevelt Skerrit as Prime Minister on January 8. The judiciary is independent.

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. Elections must be held at least every 5 years, although the Prime Minister can call elections at any time. The unicameral House of Assembly is composed of 21 parliamentary representatives and 9 senators. The representatives are elected by popular vote. The President appoints the senators; five senators are chosen with the advice of the Prime Minister and four with the advice of the opposition leader. In January 2000, the DLP won 10 seats in generally free and fair elections, defeating the United Workers' Party. DLP leader Roosevelt P. "Rosie" Douglas forged a majority coalition and served as Prime Minister until his death in October 2000. Pierre Charles subsequently was appointed Prime Minister and served until his death on January 6. On January 8, Parliament appointed Roosevelt Skerrit as the new Prime Minister. New elections should be held by July 2005.

Corruption was a moderate problem, although the country had not formulated an anti-corruption plan to address the problem.The law does not provide for public access to government information, and the Government did not provide such access in practice. There were 6 women in the 30-seat legislature: 2 elected parliamentary representatives and 4 senators appointed by the President. There were no women in the cabinet. The Parliamentary Representative for Indigenous People was a Carib Indian; he served concurrently as the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Carib affairs.

POLICE

The Dominica Police--the only security force--was controlled by and responsive to the democratically elected Government. Some members of the security force committed human rights abuses. The 440-person police force was stretched thin and was understaffed by approximately 50 persons. Public complaints against the police are reviewed by the Deputy Police Commissioner, who initiates an investigation. After the investigation, a tribunal is formed to review the information and, if appropriate, it is referred to the DPP of the Police Service Commission for internal resolution. The Welfare Department has provided training on child abuse to the police Criminal Investigation Division, which handles these complaints. The police force last received human rights training 2 or 3 years ago.

DETENTION

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions. The Constitution requires that the authorities inform persons of the reasons for arrest within 24 hours after arrest and bring the detainee to court within 72 hours. This requirement generally was honored in practice; however, if the authorities are unable to bring a detainee to court within the requisite period, the detainee could be released and rearrested later. There is a functioning system of bail. Criminal detainees were provided prompt access to counsel and family members

COURTS

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. The judicial system is composed of a high court judge, 5 magistrates, and 10 magistrate courts located in police stations around the country. Appeals can be made to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The law provides for public trial before an independent, impartial court. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, are allowed legal counsel, and have the right to appeal. Courts provided free legal counsel to the indigent only in capital cases. There were no reports of political prisoners.

CORRECTIONS

Prison conditions were poor. The prison buildings were in disrepair, conditions remained unsanitary, and overcrowding was a serious problem. The State Prison held 290 prisoners in a facility designed for approximately 200. Female prisoners were held separately from male prisoners, and juveniles were segregated from adult inmates. Pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners, due to overcrowding and a lack of sufficient holding cells. The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, although no such visits were known to have occurred during the year.

WOMEN

Domestic violence cases were common. Government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including religious organizations, tried to address this problem. There was no family court to deal specifically with domestic violence issues. Women could bring charges against husbands for battery, and both the police and the courts prosecuted cases of rape and sexual assault, but there are no specific spousal abuse laws. All rape cases were handled solely by female police officers. The Department of Labor established a crisis response mechanism to assist women who were victims of domestic violence. The Welfare Department of the Ministry of Community Development assisted victims of abuse by finding temporary shelter, providing counseling to both parties, or recommending police action. The Welfare Department reported all cases of abuse to the police.

In 2001, a Protection Against Domestic Violence Act was enacted that allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order. The court may also order that the alleged perpetrator be removed from the home in order to allow the victims, usually women and children, to remain in the home while the matter was being investigated. Police enforcement of protective orders increased after enactment of this act and after officers received training in dealing with domestic abuse cases. The Dominica National Council of Women, an NGO, taught preventive education about domestic violence and maintained a shelter where counseling and mediation services were available daily and provided to approximately 150 persons. Due to a shortage of funding, the organization could only permit persons to stay at the shelter for several days at a time; however, if needed, further housing was provided in private homes for up to 3 weeks. The Catholic Church continued to be active in educating the public about domestic violence.

Sexual harassment was a problem.

While there was little open discrimination against women, property ownership continued to be deeded to "heads of households," who were usually males. When the male head of household dies without a will, the wife may not inherit the property or sell it, although she may live in it and pass it to her children. In the civil service, the law establishes fixed pay rates for specific jobs, whatever the gender of the incumbent. According to the Labor Department, many women in rural areas found it difficult to meet basic needs, at least in part owing to the decline in the banana export industry.

CHILDREN

The law stipulates that the Government should protect the rights of children to education and health care. Education was compulsory through the age of 16, and primary health care was available throughout the island.

Various laws enumerate children's rights, but their enforcement was hampered by lack of staffing in government agencies. There were nine staff members in the social welfare office that handled all welfare problems, including complaints of child abuse. The Welfare Department estimated that there were over 200 cases of child abuse during the year, compared with 189 in 2002. The Department also reported that through September there were 52 reports of child sex abuse, of which 21 involved incest. There was an increase in the number of child abuse cases in the Carib reservation. The Welfare Department believed that the increase in reported cases throughout the country was due to the Government's plan outlined in its Child Abuse Report and Procedures and a few highly publicized brutal child abuse cases, which greatly increased awareness of the problem.

Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape, incest) is 25 years' imprisonment, the normal sentence given was 5 to 7 years except in the case of murder. The age of consent for sexual relations is 16 years.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

In November, the Immigration and Passport Act was amended to state "a person is guilty of an offense of human trafficking if that person assists any other person to enter or leave Dominica in an unlawful manner." A person convicted of such an offense is liable for a fine of $37,500 (EC$100,000) and/or imprisonment of up to 7 years. There were reports that migrants were smuggled through Dominica to St. Maarten. There were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country. The country has an economic citizenship program that allows foreign investors to purchase passports through loosely monitored procedures requiring cash inflows ranging from $75,000 to $100,000 (EC$200,000 to EC$270,000) for a family of up to four persons. This process reportedly facilitated the illegal immigration of persons from China and other countries to North America. The Government refused to end the economic citizenship program, despite complaints from the Governments of Canada, Australia, and the United States. Since the beginning of the economic citizenship program in 1996, the Government estimated that over 700 applicants received citizenship. During the year, 15 persons purchased citizenship, compared with 85 in 2002.

DRUG TRAFFICKING

The Dominican Republic (DR) is a major transit country for South American drugs, mostly cocaine and heroin, moving to the United States and Europe. The Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR) continued to cooperate closely with the U.S. in counternarcotics matters. Last year (2003) saw a decrease in heroin and MDMA (ecstasy) seizures, an increase in cocaine interceptions, and continued good results of the extradition process. Negligible cooperation between the GODR and the Haitian police, and attempts to apply a strong anti-money laundering law to a notorious bank fraud case presented challenges to U.S. law enforcement assistance to the GODR. Although the GODR continued its efforts to combat corruption in 2003, corruption and weak governmental institutions remained an impediment to controlling the flow of illegal narcotics through the DR. In 2003, an estimated eight percent of the cocaine directed toward the U.S. flowed through Hispaniola, and nearly half this amount reached the DR's shores directly from South American sources. The DR is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

There is no significant cultivation, refining, or manufacturing of major illicit drugs in the DR. Dominican criminal organizations are increasingly involved in command and control of international drug trafficking operations, but the country's primary role in regional drug trafficking is as a transshipment hub. Seizures in 2003 continued to indicate that cocaine, heroin, and marijuana destined for the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Europe were being transshipped through the DR and its territorial waters. Ecstasy seized in the DR was most often being transported from Europe to the U.S. Puerto Rican authorities noted a decrease in drug smuggling via the ferries operating between Puerto Rico and the DR, probably due to the presence of a newly established counternarcotics canine unit at the Santo Domingo ferry terminal. However, USG authorities noted a new trend toward use of illegal migrant boats (yolas) to smuggle drugs to Puerto Rico.

Dominican nationals play a major role in the transshipment of drugs. Many "go-fast" crews in the Caribbean include Dominican nationals, mostly fishermen recruited from the local docks. The crews speak Spanish, the language of the source country smugglers; move easily throughout the Caribbean; and are recruited for very small amounts of money.

The DR is not a producer of precursor chemicals, but there is continued concern about their importation.

The DR-initiated bilateral intelligence-sharing and interdiction efforts with Haiti, begun after Operation Hurricane in 2001, were not continued in 2003. The DR has continued to participate in annual Caribbean-wide counternarcotics operations. The National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD), the law enforcement arm responsible for counternarcotics measures, and the National Drug Council (CND), the GODR's policy and planning organ, have adopted a computerized tracking system and are able to track seizures of assets in connection with drug-related offenses.

Following the collapse of BANINTER, the third-largest Dominican bank, the Dominican Government struggled to implement anti-money laundering legislation passed in 2002. (See the Money Laundering section of this report.)

In 2003, the GODR instituted training, with U.S. and other international support, that will help with implementation of the criminal procedures code, revised in 2003. The training will continue into 2004. This code changed the Dominican criminal system from a Napoleonic system, with a dossier of evidence evaluated by a judge, to an adversarial system of verbal process before a judge or a jury. The Mejia Administration and law enforcement leaders place importance on security and counternarcotics efforts. The DNCD increased its canine program to 30 dogs and handlers. All canine teams were recertified, and unit commanders were certified as dog team trainers. Security at the ferry terminal between the DR and Puerto Rico was upgraded.

The DNCD led a multi-year, U.S. Government-supported effort to share data among Dominican law enforcement agencies and to make information available on demand by field officers. No multinational counternarcotics exercises were conducted during 2003.

There is no known cultivation of coca or opium poppy in the DR. Cannabis is grown on a small scale for local consumption. The GODR's investigations into possible in-country manufacture of MDMA (Ecstasy) have produced no definitive evidence of such activity.

The DNCD maintained its seizure rate, interdicting body-carried heroin and cocaine in the DR's international airports and larger quantities from vehicles and buildings. Through December 2003, with cooperation and assistance of the U.S. DEA, the DNCD seized 1,338 kilograms of cocaine, 59 kilograms of heroin, 51,965 units of MDMA (Ecstasy), and 1174 pounds of marijuana. Puerto Rican authorities seized 2,039 kilograms of cocaine as a direct result of intelligence supplied by the DNCD and the Santo Domingo DEA office. The DNCD continued to focus interdiction operations on the drug-transit routes in the DR's territorial waters along the northern border and on its land border crossings with Haiti, while attempting to prevent airdrops and sea delivery of illicit narcotics to remote areas. The DNCD and their DEA counterparts concentrated increasingly on investigations leading to takedown of large criminal organizations operating on an international level, and several rings were broken up as a result.

In 2003, drugs were easily accessible for local consumption in most metropolitan areas. Growing numbers of tourists from Europe, the United States, and Canada provided a customer base for local drug sales, especially at beachfront vacation resorts. Traffickers often used drugs to pay low-level couriers and distributors. Increased local consumption has strained treatment resources for drug-related addition and HIV.

The DNCD made 3929 drug-related arrests in 2003; of these, 3692 were Dominican nationals and 237 were foreigners. There were 227 fewer drug-related arrests in 2003 than in 2002 and 62 fewer foreigners were among those arrested on drug charges than in 2002.

Most significant seizures were made on land, in the big cities. There were some seizures made at the Haitian border in 2003, but quantities seized were limited. While the number of seizures made in Dominican airports was high, the actual amount of drugs seized was small. Only 9 percent of the total cocaine and 61 percent of the total heroin seized in the Dominican Republic was seized in the airports. Seizures of Ecstasy were more successful in airports, resulting in 77 percent of all Ecstasy pills seized in the DR. Maritime seizures remain a challenge for the DR, especially drugs hidden in commercial vessels for shipment to the U.S. and/or Europe.

The U.S.-Dominican Extradition Treaty dates from 1909. Extradition of nationals is not mandated under the treaty, and for many years Dominican legislation barred the extradition of Dominican nationals. Former President Fernandez signed legislation in 1998 allowing the extradition of Dominican nationals. In March 2000, the U.S. Marshals Service assigned two marshals temporarily to the DR. They received excellent cooperation from the DNCD's special Section for Fugitive Surveillance and other relevant Dominican authorities in locating fugitives and returning them to the U.S. to face justice. The marshals were withdrawn in 2002, then returned permanently during 2003.

President Mejia's administration maintained its record of cooperation in 2003, and the GODR extradited 17 Dominicans to the U.S. during the year. The DNCD arrested 20 fugitives in 2003 in response to U.S. extradition requests. The National Police, working with the FBI, arrested and extradited two drug-related subjects. Eight individuals are now in custody pending extradition to the U.S.

In December 2003, with no fanfare, one of six persons arrested in the "Joselito.com" case and awaiting deportation to the U.S. was released on orders of the Dominican Attorney General. In response to Embassy protests, the Attorney General cited supposed inadequacies in the extradition request package. At year's end, President Mejia was aware of USG concerns, but no further action had been taken.

The GODR cooperates with USG agencies, including the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Marshals Service on counternarcotics and fugitive matters.

The DNCD housed and manned the DEA-sponsored Caribbean Center for Drug Information (CDI) at its facilities in Santo Domingo. An increasing number of Caribbean countries have found the CDI's intelligence analysis services useful and are now frequent contributors of new information.

The Dominican Navy received six renovated patrol craft and two newly constructed 115-foot patrol ships, supplied under a U.S. $25 million commercial contract with a U.S. company, and plans were made to incorporate these vessels into multilateral counternarcotics and antimigration patrol activities. The GODR does not, as a matter of government policy, encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotics, psychotropic drugs, and other controlled substances, nor does it contribute to drug-related money laundering.

Dominican institutions remain vulnerable to influence by interest groups or individuals with money to spend, including narcotics traffickers. The GODR has not convicted any senior government official for engaging in, encouraging, or in any way facilitating the illicit production or distribution of illicit drugs or controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Legislation remains pending that would strengthen enforcement of a 1979 law that requires senior appointed civil service and elected officials to file financial disclosure statements. In what may be a regional model for transparency and an indication of the seriousness of the Dominican judiciary to uphold the ethical quality of employees, the sworn financial disclosure statements for all Dominican judges can be found online. Nonetheless, an effective system to verify these statements has not yet been implemented and there are no sanctions for false statements.

The GODR is a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and in 2001 signed the consensus agreement on establishing a mechanism to evaluate compliance with the Convention.

The DNCD conducted 79 youth events in various cities and neighborhoods, from basketball tournaments to chess matches, reaching over 200,000 young people to encourage competitive and recreational activities as better choices than drug abuse. A non-governmental organization, Foundation for Life (FUNVIDA), published with USG assistance a book entitled "Schools Without Drugs" and distributed it gratis at several neighborhood meetings in the capital area.

The DR and the U.S. have a bilateral agreement on international narcotics control cooperation. In May 2003, the DR entered into three comprehensive bilateral agreements, on Cooperation in Maritime Migration Law Enforcement, Maritime Counter-Drug Operations, and Search and Rescue, granting permanent overflight provisions in all three agreements for the respective operations. The three agreements concluded a long bilateral effort to secure permanent overflight provisions; previous agreements provided only annual provisions. In addition, the Maritime Counter-Drug Agreement broadened the scope of operations agreed to by the parties. The DR was an active participant in the negotiations that resulted in a Caribbean regional maritime counternarcotics agreement.

In 2002, the DR became the first country in the Western Hemisphere to sign an Article 98 agreement exempting U.S. military personnel in the DR from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In 2001, the U.S. and the DR exchanged instruments of ratification of the Treaty for the Return of Stolen or Embezzled Vehicles. Attempts to implement the treaty have been hampered by organizational weaknesses within the Dominican bureaucracy, and in 2003 no vehicles were repatriated under this treaty.

The DR has signed but not ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms.

Cocaine and heroin trafficking, money laundering, institutional corruption, and reform of the judicial system remain the United States' primary counternarcotics concerns in the DR. The USG and the GODR cooperate to develop Dominican institutions that can interdict and seize narcotics shipments and conduct effective investigations leading to arrests, prosecutions, and convictions. The USG will continue to urge the GODR to improve its asset forfeiture procedures and its capacity to regulate financial institutions, develop and maintain strict controls on precursor chemicals, and improve its demand reduction programs.

During 2003, the U.S. provided essential equipment and training to expand the counternarcotics canine units, supported the DNCD's vetted special investigation unit and border intelligence units, provided radio equipment to facilitate communications along the DR's border with Haiti, and funded assessments of airport and port security against narcotics trafficking and terrorism. The U.S. delivered three harbor patrol craft and a fully refurbished go-fast boat, previously captured from drug smugglers, to the Dominican Navy. The U.S. also assisted the Dominican Navy in planning for a complete maintenance and training program for its maritime assets. The cornerstone of this effort is the reopening of the Navy's training and maintenance school, closed in 1997. The first step, establishment of a Navy maintenance command, was completed in 2003.

The U.S. has funded training to the DNCD Fugitive Surveillance Unit, helping it locate, apprehend, and extradite individuals wanted on criminal charges in the United States. Enhanced computer training, database expansion, and systems maintenance support were provided to the DNCD.

The Dominican Navy and Air Force have a direct communications agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard's regional operations center (GANTSEC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dominican Navy vessels have participated in numerous maritime drug seizures.

USAID's "Strengthened Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights" program continues to work with the Dominican court and prosecutorial system to improve the administration of justice, enhance access to justice, and support anticorruption programs. Improvements achieved to date include speedier, more transparent judicial processes managed by better-trained, technically competent, and ethical judges who insist upon stricter adherence to due process. The USAID program continued to provide training to prosecutors in basic criminal justice and prosecutorial skills. Several high-profile investigations are ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (DOJ/OPDAT) provided two weeks of training to prosecutors and investigators on basics of money laundering.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security worked closely with Dominican business associations to establish a Dominican chapter of the Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition (BASC). This voluntary alliance of manufacturers, transport companies, and related private sector entities has agreed to meet stringent security standards to prevent smuggling by means of their operations and to receive surprise inspections at any time. The BASC approach has proven successful in other Latin countries in minimizing contraband and promoting honest business activity.

A third privately owned airport, at La Romana, joined those at Punta Cana and Santiago in upgrading counternarcotics measures, including co-funding with the USG a DNCD canine unit.

The U.S. is planning to deploy a mobile training team for the DNCD's border units and provide increased support for Dominican naval patrols of the Mona Passage.

With U.S. Customs leadership and DEA support, the Port Authority improved security at the formerly chaotic Santo Domingo terminal of the ferry to Puerto Rico. An ongoing project has improved passenger processing and established controls to detect and prevent smuggling of drugs and other contraband. U.S. Customs also advised the owners of the new Caucedo container terminal, which began limited operations in December.

The DEA-funded CDI at DNCD headquarters now permits real-time sharing and analysis of narcotics-related intelligence among all the nations of the Caribbean Basin. Similar centers are established in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia.

USG training programs have also targeted the DR military's intelligence units in order to improve their capacity to analyze, detect and interdict narcotics shipments. Two military officers received counternarcotics training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The immediate U.S. goal remains helping to institutionalize judicial reform and good governance. The DR and U.S. are working to build coherent counternarcotics programs that can resist the pressures of corruption and can address new challenges brought by innovative narcotics trafficking organizations.

The USG and the GODR will continue strengthening drug control cooperation through sharing of information and developing closer working relations among principal agencies. The United States will continue to provide training and equipment for the DNCD, focusing its attention on the information technology and intelligence exchange necessary to disrupt narcotics smuggling at Dominican land and sea borders and at airports. Support for the retraining and re-certification of the DNCD canine units will continue, as will establishment of new canine units in cooperation with DNCD. The DNCD's fugitive investigation teams will continue to receive hands-on U.S. support for their efforts pursuing Dominican fugitives from U.S. justice seeking refuge in the DR. The USG will continue to provide support to Dominican government and private sector counternarcotics efforts, including provision of specialized technical equipment and support of business and civil society demand reduction efforts.

USAID and the DOJ/OPDAT will provide further training to prosecutors and investigators, increasing their professionalism and ensuring that they are prepared to implement the new Criminal Procedures Code when it becomes effective in 2004. U.S. support for civil society's and the Mejia administration's efforts to curb corruption will continue, regardless of the outcome of 2004 presidential elections, through U.S.-funded programs to strengthen the Attorney General's Anticorruption Prosecution Department and through monitoring and reporting compliance with the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

The USG will continue to work closely with the Anti-Money Laundering Commission to ensure full implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by Makini Cunningham, Ernesto Garcia, Jim Gutierrez, and Kathrina Pestano

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