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Dominican Republic Table of Contents

Dominican Republic


The government did not publish statistics on the national incidence of crime, but the daily newspapers of Santo Domingo regularly reported criminal acts. The crimes enumerated ran the gamut from murder, rape, and robbery to fraud, counterfeiting, and extortion. According to the newspapers, rural crime accounted for only a small portion of the total. Crime in urban areas was believed to have risen during the 1980s as a result of growing unemployment, pervasive underemployment, and migration from rural to urban areas (see Urbanization , ch. 2; Labor , ch. 3). One manifestation of urban crime was criminal activity by juvenile street gangs. This problem was deemed sufficiently serious in 1988 to merit a campaign that targeted juvenile delinquents for detention.

Crimes associated with narcotics presented a growing problem in the 1980s, as drug traffickers attempted to use the Dominican Republic as a transshipment point between various Latin American countries and the United States. The police were on the front line of the war against drugs, but elements of the military took part as well. The navy, for instance, intercepted several boats carrying cocaine and marijuana during the late 1970s, and air force patrols were given the task of spotting seaborne drug traffickers. In 1988 the government created the National Economic Council for the Control of Drugs to coordinate domestic and international narcotics programs and to integrate the efforts of all police and military elements involved in antinarcotics activities.

Corruption among government officials was another problem given special attention by the government, as well as by the press. This attention reflected a widespread public perception, buttressed by documented accounts in the press, that corruption was pervasive in several spheres of official life. Successive governments had stated their intention to bring offenders to trial. Although several such proceedings had resulted, the perception persisted that corruption continued unabated.

The government's prosecution of some former officials had itself been tainted by charges that political persecution, not a desire for justice, was behind certain indictments. Such charges were made most forcefully in 1987, when former president Jorge and several top members of the armed forces leadership in his administration were charged with fraud in connection with weapons purchases. Jorge, in the United States for medical treatment at the time, was sentenced in absentia to twenty years in prison and was fined several million pesos. He returned to the nation in late 1988 to appeal his conviction. His trial was still underway as of mid-1989.

Data as of December 1989