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Dominican Republic - Military Doctrine

In the Caribbean, only Cuba has a larger military force. The armed forces have as their primary mission the defense of the nation's territorial integrity. However, the country faced no credible external threat, and the military served more as an internal security force, working with the National Police and the narcotics police to maintain domestic order, to combat the increasingly serious problem of narcotics trafficking, and to control contraband and illegal immigration from Haiti.

The primary mission of the Dominican armed forces is the territorial defense of the nation. The secondary mission is to aid the national police during civil disturbances. Duties also include interdicting narcotics, controlling the entrance of illegal immigrants, and assisting in domestic civic action programs.

No valid purpose exists for armed forces structured to defend the Dominican Republic's security because the country faces no foreseeable external military threat. The principal justification for the military establishment is the containment of possible civil unrest. The military is thus largely organized as an internal security force. The armed forces also constitute a principal line of defense against international drug trafficking. However, in spite of help from the United States, the flow of narcotics has not been stemmed because of equipment and budget limitations as well as insufficiently motivated personnel.

The Dominican armed forces is active in domestic politics and wary of potential insurgent activity. However, except for a few, easily contained guerrilla operations in the mountains, the Dominican Republic has been free of insurgency problems for more than 20 years. Instability resulting from poor economic conditions is a greater threat. In recent years, the country has experienced a series of strikes and violent demonstrations by labor unions and student organizations.

By tradition, the Dominican Republic's armed forces have been active in the competition for national political power and have often functioned as a praetorian guard for the government holding power. The turbulent period of the early 1960s led to three coups against the civilian government by the military leadership. Violence between reformist and conservative military elements brought the country close to civil war in 1965, and intervention by the United States was required to restore order. However, it appeared that during the 1970s and the 1980s, successive governments were able to reduce the military's former role in national political life as self-appointed final arbiter of public policy.

By the late 1980s, the stature of the armed forces had been reduced to that of an important interest group competing with other such groups for power and influence within the nation's increasingly pluralistic political system.

It might be premature, however, to conclude that the goal of developing an institutionalized and apolitical military establishment had been completely realized. Individual military officers continued to exert considerable political influence, and armed forces units continued to be employed overtly during political campaigns.

Nevertheless, the military's explicit support of civilian governments during the 1980s, and particularly ofJoaquin Balaguer Ricardo, who served as president between 1986 and 1996, suggested that the armed forces had accepted the principle of civilian control. The military leadership benefited financially during Balaguer's rule, but could not act independently of the president. Balaguer's successor, Leonel Fernandez Reyna, began his term by dismissing or retiring many generals in what was seen as part of an effort to restore higher standards to a military institution whose standards had slackened under Balaguer.

Although the Dominican Republic no longer faces a domestic insurgency threat, popular economic discontent has resulted in frequent protests and strikes that occasionally have become violent, resulting in injuries and some deaths. Soldiers are routinely assigned to help the police and have sometimes been accused of excessive force in clashes with demonstrators.

Most of these disturbances are rooted in despair over the constant deterioration of living conditions for ordinary citizens as well as a decline in the level and quality of public services. The country's security forces often have been called upon to prevent violence and disturbances in connection with political campaigns and elections by measures that included detentions of antigovernment figures.

No known terrorist groups are active in the country. Minor acts of violence such as rock throwing and burning tires in the streets are common during public demonstrations. Such violence tends to occur during the weeks leading up to elections, and often takes place at Santo Domingo University or during labor union activities.

Several Haitian groups, including the Reunited Militant Front (FMR), the Combined Revolutionary Movement for the Protection of the National Territory (KMB), and violent elements of the Revolutionary Front for the Advancement of the Haitian People (FRAPH) reportedly operate from clandestine facilities within the Dominican Republic.

Despite political stability since 1965, Dominican politics remain volatile, particularly during elections. Left-wing political extremism continues. Partisans of all parties are capable of violence and corruption at election time, but no group is known to be planning a government overthrow. Sporadic periods of political unrest will likely continue. Although the reduced capabilities of the military limit effectiveness in maintaining order, demonstrations are not expected to affect government stability.

Drug trafficking in the Dominican Republic is a result of the countrys geographic position in the Caribbean and structured criminal organizations that operate in Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic is used as a transshipment point for cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other drugs into the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Europe. Increasing amounts of other drugs, such as ecstasy, are being moved through the country from Europe to the United States and Puerto Rico.

Commercial and non-commercial maritime vessels are the preferred mode of drug transport, but there have also been significant illegal substance seizures at Dominican airports. Small boats bring drugs in through unprotected coastline areas or drop drugs near the shore for pickup and onward shipment. Smaller quantities of drugs are carried on cruise ships or commercial airlines. When drug shipments enter the country, they are sent to the destination market via export containers, speedboats, mail, courier, or mules.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the Dominican Republic armed forces. The secretary of state for the armed forces, who is a cabinet member, oversees the military. The armed forces are made up of army, navy, and air force personnel. The Minister of Armed Forces directs the military, Airport Security Authority and Civil Aviation, Port Security Authority, and Border Security Corps.

The National Police (PN), the National Department of Investigations (DNI), the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), and the military (army, air force, and navy) form the security forces. The Ministry of Interior and Police oversees the National Police, Tourist Police, and Metro Police. The National Department of Intelligence and the National Drug Control Directorate, which have personnel from both police and armed forces, report directly to the president.

The special operations unit, a special forces group called Cascos Negros (Black Helmets), has 1,000 personnel. This government-controlled unit surveils domestic or foreign groups suspected of espionage or inciting internal disorder. This unit also cooperates with the National Department of Investigations (DNI), which is under the direct control of the president. DNI has investigative but not arrest authority.

Although the security forces generally are responsive to civilian authority, there were instances in which members of the security forces, principally the National Police, acted independently of government authority or control. Members of the National Police, and to a more limited extent the military, continued to commit serious human rights abuses.

Police operated in a dangerous environment. Gun ownership was widespread, and crime and homicides were common, especially in urban areas. The Attorney Generals Office reported 74 extrajudicial killings through June 2016, of which it prosecuted 18 cases. Authorities fired or prosecuted police officers found to have acted outside of established police procedures. The Internal Affairs Unit investigated charges of gross misconduct by members of the National Police. These cases involved physical or verbal aggression, threats, improper use of a firearm, muggings, and theft.

The Dominican Republic's military capabilities surpass Haiti's, but the Dominicans are aware of Haitis ability to raise large armies. Consequently, the Dominican Republic's conventional military planning has focused on border security and protection of the valleys that provide entry from Haiti.

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