The Dominican Republic and the Shadow of American Tyranny

The Dominican Republic -- a Caribbean nation that in the 20th century was twice liberated from itself by American kinetic action and which was the recipient of over three decades of American-backed dictatorship -- has just taken another step back towards tyranny; the Dominican House of Representatives has just passed a bill which reforms the penal code, taking away large parts of its French character, and bringing it more in line with America's penal code.

After the attacks of September the 11th, the United States feared that hordes of Islamic extremists influenced by Al-Qaeda would try to infiltrate the Homeland through friendly, neighboring countries. To prevent Al-Qaeda from exploiting Haiti's status as a failed state to infiltrate the Dominican Republic and later the US, Washington helped create CESFRONT, militarizing the Dominican border in a manner described by Todd Miller as an "overlooked manifestation of U.S. imperial policy in the post-9/11 era." CESFRONT has such a close relationship with the US Border Patrol, that it maintains an office in the US embassy.

America's newest export: the police-industrial complex.
The US Border Patrol is a large proponent of drones, massive surveillance, and warrantless searches of vehicles and private belongings in areas spanning up to 100 miles from the border. In 2012, the US Department of Homeland Security began deploying drones over Dominican skies, with DHS secretary Janet Napolitano paying a personal visit to sign a cooperation agreement with Dominican authorities.

While US federal agencies help militarize the border of the Caribbean island, the New York Police Department maintains an office in Santo Domingo. NY Magazine went as far as claiming that the NYPD had created its own FBI and CIA and was waging the city's version of an international War on Terror. Cooperation between Santo Domingo authorities and the NYPD has kicked the Dominican Republic's police tactics into military overdrive. The police during  Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship (1930-1961) employed fewer military tactics, relying more on intelligence and infiltration, as opposed to raw force.

The Dominican Republic has fully welcomed America's 21st century model of policing. Police in combat helmets, military-grade armor, and carrying machine guns inside of their armored-vehicles is the peacetime force in the streets of America and her satellite states. One can only use the power of nightmares to imagine what these police forces would morph into if peace in the streets became a thing of the past.

Beyond embracing American police tactics, the Dominican House of Representatives is also busy modifying the Dominican penal code to be even more draconian. If passed by the Dominican Senate, the DR could soon: make pre-trial detention the norm rather the exception; do  away with the statute of limitations for many crimes; hinder a judge's power to suspend minor sentences; legalize double jeopardy; and increase the maximum cumulative prison sentence to 60 years -- with a maximum of 40 for murdering a woman, despite that just two weeks ago Reuters reported that the DR's murder rate was at its lowest level in more than a decade, a rate far lower than: the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and many other parts of the US.

As Reuters recently reported: "The administration of Dominican President Danilo Medina tightened security last year by calling in the military to patrol alongside the National Police. When the troops were first sent into the streets, Medina was criticized for militarizing policing. Residents complained about the unsettling presence of machine gun-wielding soldiers walking streets and building makeshift camps in city parks. But after witnessing a marked drop in crime, the government last month extended the order to keep soldiers in the street."

The crime rate has indeed decreased, but the economy has also stabilized. A standing army can and often does bring a temporary peace, but as history shows, it's only a matter of time until that peace is violently burned to ashes by tyranny. Though presidents of the Dominican Republic are barred from seeking re-election, it's possible that Medina's successor could use his 4 years in power to plunge the Dominican Republic into a deeper despotism than the one to which it is currently acclimating.