Former US Peace Corps Volunteers Ask State Department to End Military Aid to Dominican Republic

560 former US Peace Corps volunteers to the Dominican Republic have written a letter to the State Department asking that the United States suspend military aid to the Caribbean nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with its impoverished neighbor: Haiti.

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, urges the top US diplomat to "enforce the Leahy Amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act and annual Department of Defense appropriations."

Wilson Aracena/ Diario Libre
The Leahy Amendments, named after senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont -- who is also addressed in the letter -- stipulates that the US government be prevented from furnishing assistance: "Under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights." 

According to the letter, the Dominican government has a "disregard" for international law, aided by a "violent track record of Dominican security forces receiving funding and training from the United States."

The Dominican border forces -- CESFRONT -- were created with large help from the United States. The relationship is so deep that CESFRONT maintains an office in the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, where at times the US Border Patrol holds seminars. Todd Miller has described what he calls the US border-industrial complex as  "an overlooked manifestation of U.S. imperial policy in the post-9/11 era."

Since 2013, when the top tribunal in the Dominican Republic stripped of citizenship anyone not born to a citizen or legal resident all the way back to the year 1929 -- a decision which affected hundreds of thousands -- CESFRONT has received over 17 million dollars in direct financial aid. This is in addition to other types of assistance. 

In their letter, the former Peace Corps members highlight a 2014 decision by the  Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in which the Dominican Republic was censored for systematically kicking out: "Haitians and persons of Haitian descent based on discriminatory concepts, including collective expulsions."

The letter also points to a case of police brutality, in which a 31-year-old man was brutally beaten by National Police Officers who entered his home to carry out a deportation. The former Peace Corps volunteers concluded by requesting a meeting with US Assistant Secretary Jacobson, to further push for their cause of defunding CESFRONT. 

This letter is likely to stoke anger within Dominican society, where many individuals already suspect that foreign forces are trying to usurp Dominican sovereignty. Dominican pundits immediately began discussing a 2008 article by Robert L. Strauss for Foreign Policy, in which he wrote: "The Peace Corps has its share of deadbeats, philanderers, parasites, gamblers, and alcoholics. The problem is that the agency sends these people tens of thousands of miles from home and expects them to work responsibly with minimal supervision. Disasters logically result."