Facing US and UK Pressure, Dominican Foreign Ministry Solicited Foreign Funds to Conduct "Secret Study without Knowledge of Congress," Leaked Cables Divulge

On the 22nd of May, 2007, the Dominican President approved law 66-07, declaring that the Dominican Republic was an "archipelagic" nation, and as such entitled to an expansion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In 2014, the large-circulation El Nacional daily described the law as being one of the most important in Dominican history since the 1929 accord which clearly demarcated the Dominico-Haitian borderlands.  El Nacional also reported that it was a law that had not been fully implemented and that neither scholarly nor official texts had incorporated this new "administrative reality."

Recently examined documents leaked by former US Army Private Chelsea Manning reveal that the United States and the United Kingdom took serious issue with what one cable describes as an "expansive" and "unilateral" declaration on behalf of the Dominican government, perhaps explaining why this new "administrative reality" has not been fully promulgated by the current ruling party, the PLD. [1]

Dominican Archipelago
On the 18th of October, 2007, the United States and the United Kingdom filed a joint protest with the Dominican Foreign Ministry, meeting with Chief of Staff Jose Manuel Trullols, who immediately agreed to bring up their concerns with then-President Leonel Fernandez. The UK Ambassador complained that law 66-07 infringed upon UK territorial waters, bumping into Turks & Caicos, and the US delegation complained that it intruded into Puerto Rican waters. 

The way that things were worded, the implicit threat was made by the US that the US Coast Guard could use force against Dominican vessels, telling Trullols that it was "conceivable to imagine the U.S. Coast Guard boarding a Dominican flag fishing boat in what is now considered part of the expanded Dominican EEZ, which is also considered territorial waters of the U.S., resulting in an international incident."

Pelegrin Castillo
Trullols apologized, saying little could be done since the law had already been signed into place. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had anticipated protests, and told the US and UK demarche that the initiative had been promulgated by that "nut," referring to Representative Pelegrin Castillo of the National Progressive Force -- the main far-right party in the Dominican Republic. Pelegrin Castillo was responsible for the law's introduction and passage, Trullols contended.

Although Juan Bosch, the founder of the PLD, promised not to speak about Dominican leaders with foreigners -- something which current President Danilo Medina has reiterated he also does -- it appears that this PLD pledge does not extend to employees of the Foreign Ministry.

In a phone call two months later, in December of 2007, the Dominican Foreign Minister, Morales Troncoso, again reiterated to US Ambassador Robert Fanning that the law was promulgated by that "nut," Pelegrin Castillo. [2] At around the same time that the Dominican Congress approved law 66-07 clarifying the country's EEZ, Pelegrin Castillo also introduced a "shoot-down law,"  authorizing the shooting down of planes suspected of trafficking drugs.

Vincho Castillo
The US took issue with the law, and Pelegrin's father, Vincho Castillo -- who was drug czar during the Fernandez administration -- delivered a speech criticizing the US for hampering the Dominican Republic's drug-frighting efforts. In a brief pull-aside by the US Ambassador, the President of the Dominican Republic was told in his own country to "come to us privately" if there are "concerns regarding our counter-narcotics cooperation." So critical was the US of the shoot-down law and of Castillo's speech that the US Ambassador says he would have walked out in protest if he had been present.

President Fernandez towed the Juan Bosch line and didn't say anything about the Castillo father/son right-wing duo. Nonetheless, Morales Troncoso of the Foreign Ministry would later tell the US Embassy that Fernandez had a "difficult" relationship with "The Vinchos," as the Castillo political dynasty is called. The US continued applying pressure against the expansion of the Dominican EEZ.

In December of 2008, a demarche from the UK, the US, and Japan met with Chief of Staff Trullols, who affirmed that: "The Foreign Ministry opposed this law [66-07] and is trying to take action without the knowledge of Congress because of the 'explosive nature' of the archipelagic state bill's sponsor, Representative Pelegrin Castillo." Trullols basically went short of saying that he was afraid of Pelegrin Castillo, because of his wrath, and relaying that during a meeting to discuss law 66-07, Pelegrin started shouting at him.

Jose Manuel Trullols
Trullols agreed to conduct a secret study that would allow the president to challenge the law's legality, and that if Representative Castillo were to find out, he would "explode." Yes, a member of the Dominican Foreign Ministry thinks it is appropriate to not only conduct secret studies without knowledge of Congress, but to also ask for international funding for that secret study, with Trullols telling the US that a Canadian company could conduct the study, "but would charge close to USD 40,000." Trullols then asked "whether the three nations might be able to assist with funding, as the condition of secrecy prohibits the Foreign Ministry from seeking congressional funding." [4]

A 2009 cable indicates that although the US did not agree to pay for the study when asked, somebody did, with Trullols saying that a Canadian cartographer had been hired to "review the factual nature" of claims that the Dominican Republic is not an archipelago. [5]

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 [Warning to US personnel: public disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.]