Dominican authorities say the increased seizures are one of a number of signs of progress against drug trafficking. Rolando Rosadao, director of the National Drug Control Agency, says the apparent elimination of clandestine drug flights is another. Nearly 200 smuggling planes from Venezuela and Colombia managed to land in 2007; last year, not one touched down thanks to the aerial surveillance provided by the U.S. and the acquisition of military aircraft from Brazil, he said.
Port security is a longstanding problem. A Spanish citizen arrested in Spain in March 2010, Arturo del Tiempo, was accused of smuggling 8 tons of cocaine to Spain in cargo ships, and is still awaiting trial there. Daniel Foote, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, said in a speech Tuesday to the Shipping Association that it remains a concern.
The two Dominican ports that account for nearly all of the shipping to the U.S. are Haina and Caucedo. But only Caucedo has a container cargo scanner to help U.S. and Dominican agents search for contraband as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s global Container Security Initiative.
Foote said that given the budget problems in the U.S., it is unlikely that the CSI program will be expanded to Haina, but that the U.S. wants to work with the Dominican government to improve security at the port and is looking at measures such as training dogs capable of detecting drugs, cash and explosives. Asked about the ICSSI contract at a speech, he declined to answer, saying the government does not get involved in contractual disputes.
Fox reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Associated Press writer Henry C. Jackson contributed from Washington.