Dominican Republic Strengthens Its Air and Sea Defenses Against Drug Traffickers

DIÁLOGO VOLUME 22 NO. 4 — With its ability to deliver a combination of  rockets, missiles and bombs, the Brazilian-made Super Tucano has become the most feared guardian of the Dominican Republic’s airspace.  Visitors to San Isidro Air Base, located 25 kilometers east  of Santo Domingo, like to be photographed near the aircraft, and the civilian population expresses admiration when the sleek  turboprops cross the Caribbean sky during special demonstrations. The aircraft’s signature is the drawing of a voracious shark mouth on its pointed nose.

The Super Tucanos have been a key weapon in the fight against drug trafficking since they were delivered in 2010. Prior to that, illicit aircraft loaded with up to 600 kilograms of cocaine landed almost every day on roads accessing the country’s vast sugarcane fields and other clandestine airstrips, Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo of the Dominican Republic National Police and director of the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD, for its Spanish acronym) told Diálogo.

Before 2010, approximately 90,000 kilograms of cocaine entered the Dominican Republic by air and about 45,000 kilograms by sea. The drug planes avoided Puerto Rico due to its advanced defense systems, Maj. Gen. Rosado said. That all changed when the Super Tucanos entered service. With the purchase of eight Super Tucanos by the government for more than $93 million, the number of illegal flights was reduced to practically zero by 2011.

“When the air fleet became operational, illicit flights were completely eliminated; traffickers do not dare bring a plane to the Dominican Republic,” said Maj. Gen. Rosado. “If they enter our airspace, they will be at the hands of the Super Tucano aircraft.”