The U.S. ambassador Raul Yzaguirre said today that the Dominican Republic is moving toward a perfect democracy, but also faces the challenge of complying with the rule of law and confronting corruption, according to the newspaper Listín Diario.
Yzaguirre spoke about the urgent need for the Caribbean country to fight corruption, while participating as a guest speaker at the annual Thanksgiving Day celebration held at the American Chamber of Commerce in the country (AmCham-DR).
“It is the challenge of establishing the rule of law and confront corruption.”
Yzaguirre cited the example of Singapore, a nation similar to the Dominican Republic, which has managed to become a model globally and is the envy of many at an international level.
As a possible solution, the U.S. diplomat mentioned the case of a U.S. multinational company that faced obstacles to establish itself in the country, despite the help of the embassy and meetings at the “highest level.” The company finally said the embassy would not recommend its establishment in the Dominican Republic.
U.S. Ambassador Yzaguirre asked for more controls in ports
Yzaguirre spoke with Diario Libre about the proposed installation of X-rays in the ports of the country. The diplomat said that the U.S. government support doing everything possible to prevent the flow of drugs through the country.
“We will increase the efforts and resources to address the drug issue. It’s a serious problem and we recognize that although the Dominican Republic is not the highest hub for the transhipment of drugs, when we start to control the flow in Central America, the trend is a diversion to the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic,” he said to the newspaper Diario Libre.
The lack of control in the seaports of the Dominican Republic poses a major threat to the national security interests of United States as the country has emerged as the center of drug trafficking in the Caribbean.
The current system in place to control the shipments through the Dominican Republic is inadequate and as a result it has generated a lot of criticism from the U.S. Congress and the European countries.
With the same inspections system in place, the increase of violence and criminal activities will affect dramatically the tourism industry of the Dominican Republic and spread the image of the country as unfriendly toward international companies.
The meeting with the US Ambassador at the Dominican American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAMDR) was held a few weeks after this organization requested of the Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, that he cancel the contract with an American company that has the license to establish a system of digitalization of containers at one third of the current price.
US officials point out that if the Dominican government continues to maintain the same poor system of control in the seaports, the Dominican Republic will continue to be unprepared to fight against the traffic of drugs headed to the United States and Europe, therby increasing the national security threat to the region and the US.
The weak and insufficient control in the seaports
Controlling the inspections in the seaports is so important that powerful Dominican groups with media connections are lobbying the new government of President Danilo Medina to maintain the same weak and inadequate control system that is less effective and more expensive than the one proposed by Border Support Services, Inc., an American company.
Ten years ago, then-president Hipolito Mejia and the Dominican Congress approved a “contract-law” to give the company ICSSI tha management of the inspections, including use of the most advanced screening technology.
ICSSI was bought this year by the US company Border Support Services with the support of an executive order signed by President Leonel Fernandez.
The “contract-law” has not been executed and the Border Support Services is trying to negotiate its implementation with prices below the same services currently provided in Puerto Rico and other countries.
Also, a special commission created by President Fernandez gave the green light to Border Support Services to start the inspections with a range of prices below the original prices of ICCSI and the current fees.
Border Support Services has proposed to charge around $50 per container with the most advanced technology in the world provided by the company Smiths Detection, which will allow the inspection of 150 containers per hour. The container without merchandise would cost $25 within a very competitive range of prices.
The current system, run by the company DP World, is charging more than $200 per container and for the most part is done by “visual inspection,” but only to the empty containers without any merchandise and with a small penetration of 140 millimeters, less than half of the system proposed by the Border Support Services, according to Smiths Detection.
The screening machines now in place, donated by the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, can inspect no more than 50 containers per hour. The system currently in place cannot detect the shipment of illicit drugs and other dangerous goods, according to several specialists.
The status quo opens the door to Dominican import companies to avoid paying taxes and paves the way for drug traffickers to operate in a country where the consumption of drugs have increased considerably.
Disclaimer: The Chairman of VOXXI, Salomon Melgen, has an ownership stake in ICSSI.